Crazy Chengdu Floods
The biggest flood within 50 years hit Chengdu, China hard recently. But some moments are so heartwarming.
Pic 9 is an indoor view of Pengzhou City Health Bureau.
Since I started Jenny's Shanghai Tours one of the major challenges is how to explain China's policies to short-term visitors who don't have a longer term Chinese Visitor's Visa. In a series of three blog articles, I'll attempt to describe the different visas for various situations and some guidance on what you should do. This article describes the visa process overall. The following two blog posts will focus on the two primary purposes for getting a short term visa, 1) via the airports when you may have an 8 to 24 (or more) hour layover before another flight and 2) when you're entering a Chinese port via a cruise ship stopping in Shanghai, Tianjin or other port city.
The Overall Chinese Visa Process
It seems there is some confusion related to getting a transit visa during your stay in Shanghai to allow you to enter China. There are several ways to get visas to enter China from a cruise ship:
1) Apply for a visitors visa in advance of your trip through your embassy or a visa service. These are usually good for at least a year and allows you multiple entries;
2) Some large tour companies, including those who run the tours for your cruise ship, are able to get Visa exemptions, this allows you to take the tours offered by these companies in any ports that they enter, usually these are 15-day exemptions. Your cruise ship tour leader will typically get this exemption on your behalf.
3) You can get a 24/144hour transit visa if you meet the guidelines of entering China from one country, and leaving to another country and staying longer than 144 hours. You must also be holding a valid passport that doesn't expire for 6 months and be from one of 53 qualifying countries. This is the type of visa that many of our short stay (layover) customers use and requires each individual to go to the customs office before exiting the ship to get the transit visa. They are free, but require you to show your passport and cruise ship itinerary. You don't need to show that you are taking a tour when you exit, but sometimes this can help you get the visa to prove that you are leaving for a purpose and will return to the cruise ship.
Please note that, as you can imagine, your cruise company would like you to use their services, and they are authorized to provide group visa exemptions. However, you also have the right to exit the cruise ship to explore on your, enjoy dinner with a friend, or book a a tour with a private tour company such as Jenny's.
If you are uncomfortable with any pressure the cruise ship is applying to keep you on the ship or using their services it is understandable. If you wish to cancel your tour with Jenny's, please let me know as soon as possible, but we have found that getting a transit visa is rarely a problem if you follow the process.
Thanks so much for understanding and please let me know what questions this may raise.
My Small Part to Help with a GoFundMe Campaign...
The good news is that as of Feb. 10th, 2020, the Situation Reports published by the World Health Organization (WHO) (probably the only data I really trust) seems to show that the epidemic is starting to become under control with the number of new cases reported daily slowing down, a bit.
Butt we still have a journey ahead of us and I personally felt a need to do something! To help my friends and so many others struggling in Wuhan and other infected areas, I wanted to create awareness and hopefully a bit of money, I started a GoFundMe Campaign: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-wuhan-defeat-coronavirus
I started this campaign to have an online place where people can go who want to help people struggling in Wuhan, China. This week, I am going to the streets of Charlotte, NC, to share the situation and ask for help in person as well since I feel it is important to act in order to help my country.
We all know that the NCP (New CoronaVirus Pneumonia ) is dramatically affecting China seriously, especially Wuhan. I have spent 3 years of my youth in Wuhan as a Vocational School Student and learned to love the city and the people. They are all fighters and deserve the best treatment and support we can provide.
Later when I was fighting to survive in Shanghai I was able to use my experience and education from Wuhan to become an English Speaking Tour guide. Since then I started a tour company in Shanghai in 2016 to share China's history and culture with international travelers from all over the world. This Virus has hit our business hard as well as the whole travel industry, but nothing compared to how it's affecting the individual lives of those who are seeing its effects every day.
I want to do at least a little to help and asking for your help as well. Together, we'll get through this faster, healthier and more humanely.
Can you please do what you can to help? Join me.
One Amazing Hotel near Shanghai
The InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland
From Wikipedia: "The hotel is designed in an "S" shape utilizing a convex to concave form.The architects' vision is one of sequential hanging gardens that will produce the effect of a green hill extending down the face of the quarry. Both the quarry's rock face and the wings of the blocks of guest rooms are projected to surround an atrium within the hotel. The vertical atrium made of glass will (above the hotel) is intended to symbolise an artificial "waterfall."
I know there are many more than three things to do in Shanghai, but these are three pictures I received from customers this week and had to share :) The three things they did were:
1) Buy amazing custom traditional Chinese dresses. This mother/daughter team was able to take home a great souvenir of custom dresses they had made in the fabric market near the Bund. They were measured and had their dresses made within one day (they can deliver them to your hotel to make it easy :)
2) Kissing through through the portals of Yuyuan Garden. These three couples did something that was unthinkable a few hundred years ago. In fact, the two different corridors were designed so that men and woman didn't walk together, but separately and with a barrier between them! Now you can take those same steps along the different corridors and kiss your partner through the adjoining openings without repercussions :) And get a great picture!
3) Travel at over 430KPH! These guys are enjoying their ride on the Maglev (Magnetic Elevated train) that goes from Longyang Rd metro stop to PVG International Airport. As you can see in the picture they are currently going at 431 kph (or about 270MPH) and it's almost too smooth as they have absolutely no fear of standing and just relaxing as we snap this picture.
All for now! What is the one cool thing you've done in China? I'd love to hear about it and post a pic with your story. We hope to see you in China soon!
China Isn't What it Used to Be
I recently saw a travel site describe what tourists can expect and things to do in China and felt I just had to respond. They pointed out (correctly) that China offers a range of "main attractions" such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Terracotta Warriors, acrobats, shopping, pandas, ancient instrumental music and Chinese opera, food and a diverse landscape. Of course, this is all true and are all wonderful experiences to enjoy and learn about the history and culture of China. But we at Jenny's Shanghai Tours believe China is so much more!
We encourage you to explore these historic sites, but also take time to appreciate our modern China and Shanghai is by far the best place to experience this. From the world's second tallest building (Shanghai Tower) to our 400kph Maglev to modern art, Shanghai provides a wealth of understanding about the current and even future direction not just of Shanghai, but China overall. With over 450 international companies Asian headquarters in China it's also a metropolitan hub of east meets west that adds unique cuisine, showcases for innovation from the world's largest Starbucks to automated robotic coffee shops.
When planning your visit to China, let Jenny design a tour for you that provides a full exploration of our history, culture and even future that matches your interests. We look forward to seeing you soon!
It was a pleasure to spend some time with our guides at our first (annual?) team building. We had a great 3 days enjoying the facilities and even found some time to talk about business. Nian Huan Wan is buddhist-style resort with a range of shopping, restaurants and activities. We debated if our international visitors would enjoy it... the short answer was "yes!" but the longer answer is that there are so many other things to do in China and given the distance from Shanghai and other spots, it's probably not a priority. But if you have an extended stay in China and want a great place to relax, it is worth the visit.
With so much information on the internet about tours and operators, I thought I'd take a moment to reflect on what makes a great customer when visiting China :) While we love to work with all kinds of people, there some attributes of great customers that make us literally jump for joy. (Yes, that's me and some of our team in the pic :)
Here are five characteristics of customers that we absolutely love:
1) They share their needs and timing upfront! We often get a request like this, "I need a three day tour in April." That's nice, but with timing, interests, budget, guide availability, etc. it's difficult to recommend an itinerary that works for you. The more you tell us, the better we can do (and the better price since it saves so much time!)
2) They let us do our job :) We love to develop custom itineraries, but every once in awhile a customer will "over research" and want to design every hour and route of a tour. We love when you're actively involved, especially when you have specific interests! But we hand-craft our China tours to get the route and timing just right and the whole purpose of a custom tour is to stay flexible to learn, enjoy and refine as you go!
3) They understand the itineraries are flexible. Often we must tweak a tour itinerary in real-time based on everything from traffic patterns, site hours or even the weather. So while we always have an itinerary ready to make sure you (and we) have the day planned, sometimes we need to modify... and of course we'll explain why and keep you informed along the way.
4) They don't over negotiate the price. We know price is important! And of course that's the number one factor many people use in choosing a tour or provider. While we do our best to keep prices low, it's sometimes hard to match the lowest prices you find on the web. Many tours have "hidden" shopping, built in commissions, use guides with no experience, etc. These are games we don't play. We honestly provide the guides at the best prices we can and if we go lower, it leaves us no room to extend the tour a bit if needed, take that extra taxi ride or any other little expenses that come up during a tour the might prevent us from providing the best experience for you.
5) They are open to trying new things! This is usually not a problem... but hey China is different. Sometimes you'll need to use a toilet that is "non-western," accept a restaurant that is colder than you might expect or be served food that does not look familiar. We try our best to accommodate every need and comfort, but sometimes it's easier for all to accept things that are different... or even a little uncomfortable... and that's what travel and learning about other cultures is all about :)
I hope this does not come across as a lecture. We love all of our customers and sometimes the most difficult customers challenge us to be better and help us improve and grow. I hope to see you in China soon.
Don't Be Shy, Just Try!
When my daughters first started learning English (as well as myself!) they were scared to actually use their words with real foreigners since they would be embarrassed. I would always tell them, "Don't be shy, just try!"
I offer the same advice to you my dear visitors. To get you started, below are ten words that will get you far in China. When you try to speak the language a bit, everyone you meet from taxi drivers to shopkeepers will smile and treat you just a little bit better.
A quick intro to Chinese. Mandarin uses four different tones, so the same word might have four different meanings depending on how you say it. Looking at the pic above:
Tone 1: High tone - ma = mother
Tone 2: Rising - ma = hemp
Tone 3: Falling/rising - ma =horse
Tone 4: Falling - ma =scold
So if you say it wrong, you might think you're saying "My mother visits tomorrow," but actually saying "My horse visits tomorrow." Sounds crazy, right? But don't worry.. Don't be shy, just try!
Here are the ten words/phrases:
For a little deeper exploration of Chinese, try these sites:
There are so many videos and websites... don't be shy... just Google!
I hope to see you soon in China and we can help you practice.
You often hear the chant at sports rallies, "We're number 1! We're number 1!" It's a goal most companies (and sports teams) aspire to. But we're number 2! At least on Tripadvisor :) I'm so proud to reach this level after only two years of providing tours to Shanghai and now Beijing, Hangzhou and Xian. We couldn't have achieved this without amazing customers that take the time to share their feedback... especially those that provide honest criticism we can use to keep improving.
Just like most companies, we started at the bottom and had to claw our way up the charts by proving the best customer service we can, the most awesome guides in China and affordable prices. While of course, #1 is nice and if it happens I'm sure I'll be equally proud... for myself, my amazing guides and our professional drivers. But I'm also happy to stay at #2! I know that if we reached number 1, all of a sudden the rest of the 168 competitors would go after us! It might cause us to lose focus, lower our prices to point where our customers suffer, or worst, wasting time or even taking unethical routes to chase reviews. There is a Chinese saying, "The number 1 is first to get their head chopped off."
Right now I'm content just providing great tours and helping every customer enjoy their time in China. If for some reason we fall, to #3 or below, it will just give us more incentive to do better and if we stay at #2 forever, I would be honored. Another Chinese saying is, "Gao chu bu sheng han (高处不胜寒)" which means, "It's always cold at the top" and I love staying warm :)
Yep. There's Only One Jenny
I often get the question, "How many Jenny's are there?" I always take this as a complement since this question usually comes up when I respond super fast or at weird hours and the customer is surprised. I just thought I'd take a minute to let you, our dear visitor, know that there is just one Jenny (I'm the one in the center of the picture on one of my first tours :). I do work long hours since as an entrepreneur, you must stay on top of things. But it's OK, I love what I do and always happy to help visitors have the perfect tour in China.
So if you're wondering who is answering the phone or answering your emails... it's little 'ol me... the one and only Jenny :)
Why Use a Tour Guide?
A question that many travelers ask is, "Why do I need a tour guide?" Especially with all of the online tools and map applications, you could just design your own tour and enjoy the sites. That's true for some travelers, especially if you're on a super tight budget. But here are five reasons a tour guide may be a good idea in China.
These are just a few of the reasons to use a tour guide! We hope to see you in Shanghai soon. If you'd like to get a quote, book a tour or just learn more about us, contact us. While we love comments, we don't see these fast enough to respond to you quicklyl!
When we provide tours to customers visiting Shanghai, we strive to make everything as smooth as possible. Many of the things we do such as scope out restaurants, plan the best routes to sites and order cars in advance are not even seen by the customer. But regardless of how much we plan, there are some things that are out of our control. This is especially true when you consider that one goal we have for customers (and they usually desire) is to provide as authentic of a local experience as possible.
When you visit, here are some that may seem unexpected to you, but something that we see regularly and ask you to plan for:
Working with a tour guide is two-way relationship. Our guides are super-flexible and are happy to change itineraries at any moment, but we also ask that visitors understand that not everything is in our control. We hope to see you in Shanghai soon!
We just led customers to visit the Blackstone Magic Bar located in the Cloud Nine shopping area for the first time this week. This intimate magic show is an impressive way to enjoy close-up magic by two professional magicians. The experience starts in their quaint, but eclectic bar located directly in front of the theater. The bartender does a great job of mixing some unique cocktails that you can choose from a variety of options. As you enjoy your drink, you can typically chat with the bar manager or even meet the magicians as they prepare to amaze you.
The theater itself is small with only about 35 seats, each with a close-up view of the magic. If you sit by the "stage," you'll be guaranteed to participate and be part of the show. Our evening featured two magicians with different styles. Our first magician was Jay who wowed our group with mysteriously moving coins, making money appear out of citrus and some extreme slight-of-hands tricks. The second magician, Elliot from Belgium, continued to surprise us with a variety of card tricks, mind-reading and at one point conjuring up live fish from a rolled up picture of fish, all connected with good humor. You'll also get to take home a magic feat of your own! This gift (and the drink) is part of the entrance fee and you can even learn the secret and practice your skills after the show.
The Blackstone Magic Bar is located at 1018 Changning Rd, ZhongShan GongYuan, Changning Qu, Shanghai, China, 200000. This magic show is well worth it! We can help you get tickets or add this activity to any tour as a magical end to your evening in Shanghai.
We get a lot of visitors who want to add a trip to Hangzhou to their itinerary and for good reasons. It's a beautiful and historic town rich in scenery. We added our Hangzhou Incredible Highlights over a year ago to share some of the popular spots, but we believe there is so much more to see... and customers often left feeling they didn't get a complete picture of Hangzhou. So we just added our latest tour: Hangzhou Grand Canal and Heritage Tour.
This tour is unique because it goes deeper into the culture and history of Hangzhou with visits to two historic streets blocks of Dadou and Qiaxi Roads with their amazing ancient building, narrow streets and... well.. they're just cool. The highlight of the tour is 1000 year-old Grand Canal boat ride. You'll see some incredible sites along the way, but the 7 arches of this ancient bridge is a great site itself. I hope the next time you come visit, you'll try this new tour with us!
It's wonderful to meet such a diversity of people on this job! I know China does not a have a great reputation of accepting the gay community, but we're working on it! There are actually a wide range of LGBT activities that range from bars to the Shanghai Queer Film Festival. It's probably not as large a set of activities as you would expect in a city of 25 million people, but it's growing! For our part, I'm glad we can help people find the things they find most interesting to them.
For some more up to date LGTB activities, some ideas from South China Morning Post:
Thanks for letting me share this sweet video of you guys! We hope to see you in Shanghai again soon.
With the Chinese New Year behind us, it's time to look forward to spring... and that means flowers! Shanghai is full of beautiful scenes where flowers of all kinds from tulips to cherry blossoms can be found.
Chinese Firecrackers Anyone?
Chinese ages and birthdays can be a little hard to explain to non-Chinese people. First, we use the Chinese calendar, which typically has 353, 354 or 355 days instead of the western calendar of 365 days. Instead of a leap day added to the calendar every 4 years, we add a leap month about every 3 years.
If this isn't confusing enough, the Chinese start counting age from the time you are conceived, not born, so every Chinese is one year old at birth and then adds to their age each Chinese New Year instead of their actual birthday. To learn your age based on the Chinese calendar, click here for a nifty tool to do so.
I had the pleasure of visiting the world's largest coffee shop today. Yes, it's a Starbucks in Puxi part of Shanghai. I wasn't sure it was the world's biggest, but found this New York Times article to prove it :) And when you go here, it's HUGE... and amazing. Love coffee? Come visit and we'd be happy to add this to your tour... or just point you in the right direction. You can't miss it!
Our Swedish visitors from Biträdande Projekledare Next Step Group has the opportunity to learn Tai Chi from the master, Grandmom Long. They had hoped to do this in Fuxing Park, which would have been fantastic, but since it was raining, we moved it to the Thai Boxing Training Center. This was a lot of fun and I had the chance to participate too! Great fun and good exercise. Coming to Shanghai and interested in learning about this Tai Chi? We'd be happy to set this up for you too...and hopefully it won't be raining! :)
We're honored to have been featured in Josh Summer's TravelChinaCheaper! He clearly appreciates a good deal and great guides who focus on giving customers great experiences :)
Check out his article on "7 Under-appreciated Tourist Stops in Shanghai, China."
Feel free to spend hundreds of renminbi to take an elevator to the top of China’s tallest building (at least the tallest building for now), but if I were you, I would consider budgeting some time to explore some of the lesser-known destinations in Shanghai.
Sometimes it’s fun to find your own way around Shanghai and I know most budget travelers to China will opt for this route, but when it comes to history and culture, I often advise friends to spend a little cash on a local guide to provide context to what you’re seeing. In Shanghai, there are companies like Jenny’s Shanghai Tours that can provide a memorable look around Shanghai that you’ll completely miss out on your own.
Whichever you decide, here are seven of my favorite, what I’ll call “under-appreciated destinations” in Shanghai, China. Enjoy!
#1 Meander Through “Old Shanghai”
While you’re making a visit to the well-known Yuyuan Garden in Shanghai, budget some time to meander through “Old Shanghai”. This is a district that is filled with 100 year old homes, traditional neighborhoods and infinite stories.
The good news is that Old Shanghai is easy for visitors to find and free to walk around. There’s plenty of history hidden within these alleys: walled up homes, weird markings on the wall, etc. So fascinating! If you have learned Chinese, stop and talk with the locals. If you can’t speak Mandarin Chinese, consider walking through with a local friend or guide. You’ll love this place so much more!
Read more here...
We know plans change... It's Ok.
When I started Jenny's Shanghai Tours, we followed a fairly common industry practice of asking for a deposit and then charging cancellation fees if customers cancelled their tour within 7 days of their tour date. This made sense for us (and others) since we need to reserve a great car and one of our awesome guides... and if a customer cancels, they may not get to work that day. But this was not always friendly to our customers! So we changed our policy to be more customer friendly because we want to be known as having the best tour service in China... and it's just a nice thing to do.
We still ask for a deposit of 20% to 50% depending on your tour and group, but now our super friendly cancellation policy should help ease your mind that if something happens, you won't lose your deposit!
See the table below to learn about our new policy.
Today, Thursday, December 7th, 2017 at 10:30 EST, Deepa gave us our 222nd 5-star review! This is something to celebrate. We want to thank Deepa and all our wonderful customers who took the time and energy to give us their heartfelt thoughts and feedback. When we started Jenny’s Shanghai Tours, we weren't sure we could get to 100 reviews and of course prayed most of them would be 5-stars. Hitting 222 has been a dream.
To reach this goal, we are so proud of our team! They all have such a positive life goal and always try to provide a best local experience for all our customers. It’s such a joy to work with them every day.
222 may not be significant to foreigners, but for Chinese this is a lucky number! Why?
We wish everybody a Merry Christmas and look forward to seeing you in China soon.
Jenny is a professional tour operator in Shanghai, China. She provides custom English-spoken tours to visitors from all over the world.
Enjoy tips to visit Shanghai and call us to develop your perfect tour +86 186 2171 9434
Contact us to discuss your custom tour!