I spent 4 days with Qing, which was preceded by probably 6 months of emails. I’ll start from the beginning…
Qing was recommended to me by a friend. I was told that she was incredible and I shouldn’t consider anyone else. Boy was my friend right. From the moment I wrote to Qing inquiring into her availability to our departure from Beijing, I couldn’t have been more pleased. I’m a little high maintenance and she promptly and politely responded to my emails in nearly perfect English. She didn’t even blink when I kept asking her to change things or to add things. This made the planning process much easier than I could have imagined.
Then, the arrival in Beijing. Qing arranged an airport transport which was super convenient–I would recommend all of her guests do this. The guide found us in the hectic Beijing airport and helped us navigate the way out. It was still hectic with him given the crowds, but I can’t imagine trying to navigate the airport and a taxi on my own. Moreover, the price was super reasonable (only slightly more than a regular taxi but well worth the moderate price increase).
Then, on day 1, Qing met us exactly on time as planned with a huge smile on her face. For me, being in my late 20s, it was pretty great to have someone who was my age who I can now say is my friend, but I have no doubt that she would be great with families (she has an almost 3 year old boy) or even older folks. She consulted with us each day (morning in afternoon) regarding what we’d be doing and asked whether we wanted to add anything. She was on time. She knows SO much about every site you see. She anticipated nearly all of our questions, and even when she didn’t anticipate them, she always had an answer. Given how hot it was, she would always be aware of the heat and make sure we were well hydrated and try to give us “story time” before arriving at the location to minimize the time we spent in the sun (I sunburn easily and she was super conscious of this). It truly made things better because I can’t imagine how miserable all those tourists sitting and listening to their guides in the hot sun were–we were able to learn what we needed to know about the sites and then walk through them at our own pace without having to feel like we were going to pass out from the heat.
Not only did Qing have a great grasp on the history of Beijing, she also has a great grasp on the food! Qing took us to some truly wonderful local spots that we never would have found without her. And even if we had, we never would have been able to eat there because we wouldn’t have known how to order. Because of this, we were able to try a wide variety of Chinese food. This also cut down on our food costs. For example, one day, our lunch for 5 was $22. Are you kidding!! And, it was amazing. It really doesn’t get better than that.
I also want to talk about her husband because he deserves a shout out–occasionally, you will be so lucky to have her husband as your driver (I100% recommend a car, especially in the summer because it is SO hot). His English is not nearly as good as Qing’s, but he more than gets by. He has a wonderful sense of humor and personality that makes the trip even more enjoyable than it would be with just Qing. We really felt like welcome friends because of the two of them.
Lastly, we also felt like family. In one of my many emails to Qing, I had told her that we wanted to learn how to make dumplings. Immediately she offered to take us to her home to have her mother teach us. This was the most special part of a three week trip (only 4 full days in Beijing). Qing and her mom took us to the market to buy all the ingredients and then taught us how to make traditional pork and cabbage dumplings. I haven’t yet tried this at home, but I can’t wait! Not only did we learn to cook, but we also really felt like family. We had the opportunity to eat with her, her son (who is insanely cute), her mom, and her mother in law. Even though her mom and mother in law don’t speak English, they really embraced us as their friends.
I wouldn’t exchange this opportunity for the world and am so grateful that we spent these days with Qing.