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Dec 23, 2009 06:48 AM

China Spree Tours ... or any others.

I'm thinking of making the jump and traveling to China on a 2-week vacation. China Spree seems like it offers a pretty good deal on going where I want to. That said, I'm kind of leery of tours in general, especially the thought of being offered dumbed-down Westernized food.

Has anyone had experience with this company? What did they think of the food options?

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  1. When my husband and I travel as part of a tour group, we deliberately look for options that offer the fewest lunches and dinners included as part of the package. With the exception of the last day in Shanghai, your meals are all included. That suggests that this tour operator is trying to appeal to risk averse travelers, folks who are unwilling to venture to any restaurant independently. Taking that a step further, the restaurants, or, more specifically, the menus may be among the most cautious. On the basis of food alone, and in spite of the appealing itinerary, I'd keep looking at other tour providers or be prepared to venture out on your own occasionally in spite of the fact that you've paid for essentially all your meals.

    1. My guess is that you could go on this trip and break away from the group for dinner on your own. Food is really, really, cheap, so it's not like it will cost you a lot, especially if you want to explore non-touristy places. It seems like in most cases you will be having dinner in the city where you're staying, so it should be easy to venture off on your own. And cabs are dirt cheap, so you can go off to entirely different neighborhoods and get a better 'sense of place' instead of just sticking to the most touristed route. I am almost positive it will drive you crazy just to stick with the group meals all the time, and you'll really miss out on a lot of deliciousness.

      PS - does anyone really need to be 'guided' around Shanghai?

      3 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        Aside from the big cities, I'd say it's probably impossible for anyone to "break away" from a tour. Tour schedules are usually very tight. You get to hotels around 7 or even later, and have early wake up calls. If food is very important, one should really do independent touring.

        1. re: PeterL

          I want to amend my reply as I have gone on several organized tours of China. One of the main concerns of tour guides is the safety of tour members. They are obsessive about counting heads at every turn, as people do get lost. I am sure they would be very concerned about tour members who want to break away to do their own thing. That would just add to their headaches. Except for free times specified I would not recommend breaking away from the tour.

          BTW this tour sounds interesting and goes to places that I have not been before.

          1. re: PeterL

            You may be right. If 'breaking away' sounds like an interesting option to the OP, it's best to check with the tour company before booking.

      2. Hi. We are also currently considering China Spree, and spending a lot of time investigating other China tours, and have the same apprehensions re; food. All the tours seem to have a lackluster food experience. A pity. China Spree offer three levels of tours and their "Affordable Luxury" claims to focus on culinary experiences.. this option raises the price by approx 50%, over the "First Class" (touristy meal) option. I toyed with the idea of going w/ the Culinary trip, but as price matters to us this year, we have just decided to accept the trade offs, try to break away whenever we can, use our free evenings and afternoons....Please let me know if you learn of any other tour company
        that has a better reputation for food... Happy trails.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Nyum

          A meal at Yang's Fry Dumplings is something like 5 Yuan or 75 cents. Maybe you should consider going independent instead of on a tour.

          1. re: Steve

            Unfortunately Yang's is not in any city except Shanghai. You can get some pretty bad meals if you don't know the city.

            1. re: PeterL

              "You can get some pretty bad meals if you don't know the city."

              Absolutely right. That's what you're here for. I'm sure you could give the OP some good advice if they decide to go it on their own.

              The problem with group tour food is that you do chance the possibility of coming back from China thinking that Chinese food is no better (or maybe worse) than what you can find at home. That would be unfortunate. One solution is to book major cities on your own (and eat with the advice of Chowhounds), and leave excursions up to a tour company. Booking interior China flights through and hotels through is no more difficult than booking flights and hotels in the US.

              Unfortunately, I can't give the OP any advice on group tours because I am allergic to them.

              Here is the e-mail address for the tour guide I used. She is a young Tibetan woman based out of Chengdu. This is a different location than your China Spree tour, but I imagine no less spectacular with the Giant Buddha of Leshan, Mt Emei and the South Sichuan Bamboo Sea to visit, among other places.


              1. re: Steve

                if you book Chinese domestic flights on kayak, you are getting ripped off. Its far better to book on a dedicated Chinese travel site like elong or ctrip (both with English language pages) or if you can find a friend to help, through the Chinese language only kayak equivalent, qunar. All of these will save a lot over kayak's prices.

                1. re: modernleifeng

                  You may be right. It's always a good thing to check ctrip and elong. I did for my trip, but those sites are notorious for having major problems. In some cases the prices are the same through Kayak.

          2. re: Nyum

            We have used Silk Road Travels of Hong Kong ( to organize individual tours of China. They are not that expensive for custom tours. However, I think that if you specifically request a culinary trip, that would definitely add to the cost. Or, you are ask for no dinners and just plan your own meals.

          3. That's an insane 14 day tour, it has you hitting too many cities in that time that you'll constantly feel like you're on the move and missing so much. Further, for Beijing-Xian-Shanghai (and even Guilin/Yangshuo), this is such a heavily traveled route by foreigners that you'd have no problem doing it independently and for a lot less than you would on a tour.

            The food options will not give you a real chance to sample the best of Chinese food and will be designed to satisfy the largest common denominator and also are often likely to be fairly cheap/average restaurants that the tour group has deals with so that you don't even get good versions of the classic dishes.

            1. This reply maybe too late, but I will reply regarding my experience with China Spree.

              I chose the 14-Day China's Best Treasures Tour, and I had a marvelous time.

              Regarding the food. Breakfast at the hotel was superb, especially the Marriott Beijing City Wall, Suzhou Garden Hotel, and the Pullman Skyway, there were times I thought I was on a cruise ship. The other hotels provided well, but the selection was just larger at the ones I mentioned. There was salad, vegetables, fruits, danish, cereals, yogurt, milk, soy, western, dim sum, sushi rice, and so and and so forth, and I made sure I tried everything. Lunch and dinner was always local and we ate with the city/town folks, which I really enjoyed because I was smack in the middle of them. The food was always served on a Lazy Susan. We never sat with the same people constantly, we always mixed it up. I enjoyed the food, especially the vegetables (I am not a vegetarian), because I think it is more healthy than steak and potatoes, and since I was in China, I made it a goal to eat like the Chinese. I can actually see why Asians are petite people, it's because of what they eat.

              When we were on our own for meals, it was kind of hard choosing from a menu because of the language barrier. We ate western once, which was KFC, they had a menu picture, and my mother chose her meal, and when it arrived to our surprise, it was a kiddie meal with toy included. The second time we decided to eat on our own, we ate at a Chinese/Thai place and started to order things that looked appealing based on the picture. Well we ordered fish, but the fish came in a boil filled with liquid and it actually looked like soup, until we realized it was nothing but oil. We were taken aback, and actually wished our tour guide was with us, because they hand picked all the food we ate during the 2 weeks we were there, and now we had become dependent. After spending 185 yuan we were still hungry, and looked for a grocery store to buy junk food.

              Any way here is my testimonial regarding my experience on my trip with China Spree.


              Thanks for reading.