China with Access China Tours

My wife, Shirley, and I wanted to revisit southwest China and try some new places, too. After consulting guidebooks, especially Lonely Planet, we drew up a list of places we thought we could fit into a trip of two weeks or so.

Then we contacted Access China Tours (522 Seventh St., Ste. 380, New Westminster, B.C., V3M 5T5, Canada; 800/788-1399 or www., which we’d seen recommended by readers in ITN. In a short time, they responded with an itinerary that they adapted to our requests. For example, instead of planned meals at hotels, we preferred to venture out to restaurants on our own wherever we were.

For our tour, July 30-Aug. 14, ’05, Access China arranged for all of our air tickets within China. A guide met us promptly at every airport when we arrived and took us back in plenty of time for departure. Hotels were booked in every place we needed one. Every day we had a guide and most days a driver as well.

The whole trip was quite successful and reasonably priced, at $6,860 for the two of us (not including international airfare and most meals, which we got on our own). Anyone planning an independent tour in China should certainly consider getting in touch with Access China Tours.

In addition, I’d like to report that several places that were difficult to visit in the past are now easily accessible by new highways. Outside of Chengdu one can reach the Sanxingdui archaeological site quite easily.

In Chongqing, guides want to take you to Chiang Kai-shek’s house, a so-called “artists’ village” and other places. The museum for the Three Gorges Dam is worthwhile. More important is a short drive to Dazu, where two sites have well-preserved Buddhist carvings — some of the best in China! And we were charmed by several days in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Town Lijiang.

Note: the fine examples of early bronze work that used to be in the Provincial Museum in Kunming are no longer there, and the museum itself is not very interesting. The best pieces were sent to the Forbidden City Museum in Beijing, but some of the lesser pieces, still good, are in the Jin Dian museum on the outskirts of Kunming.