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Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

by SandiM Online Now May 8, 2009 at 9:05 PM

Does anyone know if Alvin is still offering tours of Bejing? I can't remember his last name nor his email addy but I got it from this site 4 years ago and he was a great tour guide with great rates! Any help? Thanks!

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  • lindyz's Profile Photo

    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 8, 2009 at 10:58 PM

    Hi Sandi,
    Im assuming this is the Alvin you are talking about - I got his email address from this forum a few weeks ago, cant remember who it was who recommended him though, but Im sure it would be the same one.

    alvinbenton@yahoo.com

    Anyway, hope that helps. Im going to China for the first time this September, and have got some great tips and recommendations from people on the forum. When are you going there?

    Lindy

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 9, 2009 at 5:37 AM

    Lindy-I'll be there in September too! I used Alvin 4 years ago for my Great Wall adventures and he was funny and nice. Lately I haven't seen his name used in the forums that's why I wondered if he was still around giving tours. I will email him and see if he responds. Are you sure it's yahoo.com and not hotmail.com? I seem to recall he had a hotmail in there, somewhere...could be wrong...thanks!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 9, 2009 at 5:19 PM

    Sandi, that is definitely the email address that was on the forum, so let me know if it is the same one, cos we were planning to use him as well, and you can let me know if he is still doing it.
    So ... when will you be there in September? My friend and I arrive in Beijing on September 6 and staying for 6 nites - maybe we could meet up???
    Lindy

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 9, 2009 at 11:03 PM

    Too funny, Lindy! My mother and I are arriving on September 6 as well. We are in Beijing for a total of 3 nights. Our schedule is pretty tight, but meeting up with you sounds like a blast! We are staying at the Bamboo Garden Hotel (it's in the Hutongs, and apparently highly rated! They are even picking us up from the airport!). I will email Alvin tonight and see what's up.

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 9, 2009 at 11:58 PM

    Yes ... that is quite a coincidence eh?! Our flight gets to the airport very early that morning, about 6am I think, and we have a transfer organised to the Hotel. We are doing an overnight flight from Sydney which leaves here at about 8pm. Never done an overnight flight into Asia, usually all the ones coming back home to Sydney are overnite, so we thought we would give this a go. I realise we will be tired when we arrive, but at least we havent wasted a whole day just flying - that was our logic anyway!
    We are staying at the "New Century Grand Hotel", apparently its in a good location, but I have not been able to actually pinpoint it on a map to verify that yet! We got a great deal, its 5 star and for a twin room I think we are paying about70 each per night. Its our only real splurge on Hotels in China, so Im looking fwd to it. Our other Hotels are 3 and 4 star. In Xian we are staying at the Canaan International, in Guilin at the FuBo Hotel and in Shanghai at the A-Live Design Hotel. We have 19 nites in China and it averages out to43AUD per person per nite - how amazingly cheap is that!?
    Anyway, Im looking fwd to hearing about your reply from Alvin, and if it is in fact the same guy you were looking for, so make sure you post your answer. I agree, it would be fun to meet up, so we may have to try and organise that. I am travelling with a girlfriend of mine - a "girl" friend - NOT a "girlfriend"!!! We have been asked if we are partners, but, we are both married with children, its just that we prefer to travel with each other!!!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by stevemt Online Now May 10, 2009 at 12:27 AM

    Can you let me know as well if the is the Alvin, as I am in Beijing 14/7 for a few days and would consider using him also.

    Thanks a bunch - STEVE

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  • SandiM's Profile Photo

    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 10, 2009 at 8:30 PM

    Update: I emailed Alvin at the addy given last night. 24hrs later, still no reply. I'm not too worried--usually it takes a couple of days before I hear anything from him. I will post the answer HERE once I hear (if I hear). Lindy--we chose the Lijiang Waterfall Hotel in Guilin as you can get a great view of the river on the higher floors. In Shanghai, we booked the Manhattan Business Hotel, which is quite near 'the Bund' (a great viewspot!). I also booked a night on top of the Huangshan Mountain--the Beihai Hotel. Sure hope my mother and I will make it to the top of that! We plan to get from place to place by overnight train. Total stay is 13 nights. Ha ha boy we'll be tired! Ok I'll keep you posted about Alvin. I sure hope he's still active.

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 10, 2009 at 9:02 PM

    Sandi,
    We are doing one o'nite train trip - from Beijing to Xian. Im told its about90AUD - tickets can be bought about 5 days in advance, we will get our Hotel to do this, as Im also told it can be quite confusing trying to buy your tickets yourself at the train station. Its the Z19 train, we are getting the soft-sleeper tickets, it leaves BJ at 8.28pm and arrives in Xian at 7.58am. We have never done a train trip, so somewhat looking fwd to this one! Our other transfers b/n cities are flying with China Southern, the 2 flights are booked already, we will get our train tickets when we get to BJ.

    Yes ... please do post here about Alvin. It seems you are not the only one ....
    .... SEEKING THE COMPANY OF ALVIN!!!!!!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 10, 2009 at 9:09 PM

    Soft-sleeper and try for the lower bunk. The upper bunk is a doozy to get into! ha ha I tried and scraped my leg--owie!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 11, 2009 at 9:51 PM

    ALVIN HAS BEEN FOUND! Yes, he is at the yahoo.com addy. I e-chatted with him and booked him for September 7, Lindy. I also let him know that you would possibly be emailing him to set up soemthing as well. He is charging me 650RMB for a tour to Mutianyu. To me, it's reasonable. 2 years ago he only charged me 400RMB but he didn't know I'd get him up early 5am to haul my butt out to a section of the Great Wall just to take sunrise photos. Oh, that was an adventure, that's for sure. I guess he remembered that and upped the price a bit! ha ha it's all good. Remember to keep me posted! I do have email on this site!

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  • lindyz's Profile Photo

    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 11, 2009 at 10:14 PM

    Sandi ... that is fantastic!! Im glad the Alvin I bookmarked was in fact "THE ALVIN YOU WERE LOOKING FOR!!!" I shall email him very soon and book him in. We were also going to go to Mutianyu. So, you said the 650rmb for the day, how many hours roughly would that be? And how do you get there? Does he also have a driver or do you go via public transport? I dont know, all this is new (and exciting!) to me! And your price the 650 is for the both of you, not 650 each? Sorry about all the q's - but if you can give me a rough idea of how it all works then Ill email him with my details. I know a few people on here have recommended him, so he must be good!

    Now ... we will have to work towards meeting up on one of the 3 days you are in BJ - that would be fun and my first VT meet!!!

    Please keep me posted on anything "Alvin"!!!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 11, 2009 at 10:16 PM

    HEY ... just wanted to let EVERYONE know that as of this morning I have advanced in the world - I AM NOW A SILVER STAR MEMBER!!! Well ... I was quite excited about that, seeing as Ive only been a member for a few months. I have now joined your league Sandi!

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  • Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by gamma28 Online Now May 12, 2009 at 4:35 AM

    CONGRATULATIONS!!

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  • SandiM's Profile Photo

    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 12, 2009 at 5:54 AM

    Hi Lindy! Well, I when I responded to Alvin's email I asked him to clarify that the 650RMB was indeed for both of us (mom and I). Yet to hear back. Alvin now boasts of having 2 vehicles. When I first went with him, he only had 1. He asked me to choose between the 'some comfort' car and the 'comfort' car. ha ha not sure what to make of that! He spent the entire day with me, and will only go to the places you want to go (meaning, he won't divert to all those shops where you end up spending your money!). Just email him with as detailed an itinerary as possible. He even suggested a dinner of Peking duck afterwards! (of course, it's not included in the price, I'm sure!). Perhaps that's where we can meet up, if all goes well?

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 12, 2009 at 7:53 PM

    Thanx Sandi ... a dinner of Peking Duck with you, your mother and Alvin on the eve of September 7th - ITS A DATE!!!!! That would be fantastic. I will email him soon and probably organise our Wall Trip for either the 8th or 9th September. So ... to clarify ... the 650rmb ... does that cover it all, ie. does he come with a driver that we have to pay also? Or does he drive himself? We would like to spend as much time as possible at the Wall, so we were going to plan to be there all day. Someone did suggest to fit in the Summer Palace on our way home, but because we have 6 nites in Beijing, I would like to allow at least half a day just to do the Summer Palace, on a separate day. Do you think that allowing a whole day just to do the wall at Mutianyu is too much, or can you do and see everything you want to in half a day??? So many q's - sorry about that, but Im guessing you would know cos youve been there before. We are happy to allow a full day for the wall and half day for summer palace, and we would probably hire Alvin again to do the Summer palace.

    Anyway, once again, good to talk to you, and hopefully we will get to meet up in BJ!!

    PS. please check out my homepage, I added a poem to it at the bottom today...

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 13, 2009 at 11:12 AM

    Lindy, you will need to email Alvin to hammer down the price. Who knows? perhaps his rates for me will be different from what he offers you. He does the driving. His understanding of the English language is pretty good, too. I did 2 sections of the Great Wall on one day, so I'm hoping I can do Mutianyu in 1/2 day (my mother will likely be too tired for more than that!). 4 months to go!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 13, 2009 at 2:25 PM

    So Sandi ... did you do Mutianyu and Badaling in the one day? That is actually what I had wanted to do and wondered would it be possible? If only, just to compare the 2. Most people will tell you to try and avoid Badaling, because it is too crowded and touristy, but I recon it would be good to see both, as I said just to compare.

    OK ... so I will see what price he gives me. I will email him today.

    A question rather off topic - what currency will you take into China? My friend I am going with said she had been told NOT to take AUD$, but rather to take either US$ or euro, for what reason I dont know. I guess maybe you get a better exchange rate. DOES ANYONE KNOW THE ANSWER TO THIS ONE?????

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 14, 2009 at 10:30 PM

    Sandi,
    Ive just emailed Alvin, asking for a price for a full day at Great Wall, doing both Mutianyu and Badaling in one day. Also price for half day tour to the Summer Palace.

    So, I will let you know what he comes back with!

    We will have to stay in touch b/n now and then for our Peking Duck rendezvous!!!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 16, 2009 at 3:28 PM

    Alvin has replied, and Im now attempting to finalise an itinery and a price! I will let you know what happens. He seems very keen and friendly, its a nice feeling to book someone that has come highly recommended.

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by stevemt Online Now May 16, 2009 at 3:43 PM

    Have just emailed Alvin asking for a price for a trip to the wall either 1/2 or full day, will let you all know the reply when it arrives and any other details (for 1 person)

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 17, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    Sandi and Steve ...

    We have secured Alvin!!! Full day to Mutianyu, plus Lama Temple plus acrobatic show at night for 650rmb for 2 people.

    Also half day to Summer Palace for 200rmb for 2 people.

    I think these prices are very reasonable, and as he has come highly recommended, we are happy to pay them.

    Steve ... let me know how you go!

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  • Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by gamma28 Online Now May 18, 2009 at 4:20 AM

    Found Alvin (Chinese name Jiang) He's organizing a touring day for me in July. He sounds wonderful- flexible and happy to set up the day the way I want. Can get tickets to Acrobats and Chinese Opera very reasonably.

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  • Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by gamma28 Online Now May 18, 2009 at 4:22 AM

    In most places, I use a bank card to take money out in the local currency. Doing that eliminates exchange fees and I get a better rate.

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  • Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by gamma28 Online Now May 18, 2009 at 4:28 AM

    One more thought- check out www.localnoodles.com It's an ex-pat site in English about Beijing food, nightlife, etc.

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 19, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    Lindy--I've been out of touch for a while (I was in Seattle, WA USA for a Cheese Festival!). Yes, it's a great price for Alvin! I usually take Renminbi (cash) when I go to China. US$ won't get you far neither will AUD. You'd just have to exchange it at a bank anyway, even if you bring travellers checks. I don't recall seeing a bank (open) in Beijing? That one will be up to you, I'm afraid! Whatever you feel safest with!

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 19, 2009 at 3:29 PM

    Sandi ... I was beginning to think you had disappeared - maybe gone on a holiday?????
    Yeh, very happy with Alvin, his prices and his quick email replies. The Wall day is all booked, Im just waiting for him to get back to me on the Summer Palace day. If he cant take us, I dont think it will be a drama, we will just get a taxi there I guess.
    Anyway, we should try and keep in touch b/n now and September, it would be fun to meet up in Beijing.

    Lindy

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by SandiM Online Now May 19, 2009 at 8:34 PM

    I agree! Got your email addy (thanks!) and will keep in touch (I'm sure we'll both be asking more China questions on this site in the future--such a huge helpful resource!)

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by sugarpuff Online Now May 21, 2009 at 10:13 PM

    Sandi and Lindy..this was fun reading all your posts! It certainly sounds like you're going to have a great time here! I have not used Alvin mainly because I have lived here and so know how to get around on my own, but I have certainly seen a lot of other VTers use him, so I'm pretty sure you're in good hands, and if Sandi has used him 4 years ago then you know exactly what to expect, which makes a change and will also be a relief!

    650RMB for a day to Mutianyu certainly sounds like a good deal..I normally see around 800RMB for a van/car for a day out there, so that's great. I usually take the public bus which comes to the grand total of about 50RMB return, but for that you need to change bus to minivan and speak Chinese,so I don't recommend that unless you're up for a challenge!

    Lindy, glad you're not doing Badaling and Mutianyu in the same day. They're in two totally different sections of Beijing and you'd waste a lot of time spent on the road instead of enjoying yourself elsewhere.

    To get to the Summer Palace is very easy and will be cheaper than with a tour guide. A taxi should not be any more than 40-50RMB one way from downtown and once you're there its just a case of walking around the HUGE grounds and reading the signs as you go.

    Can I also suggest if you have the time to visit Jingshan Park BEFORE the Forbidden City (its directly opposite the north gate of the FC) as you can walk up to the pagoda on top of the hill and get the most fantastic view of the FC and the whole surrounding streets of Beijing. Then work your way from north to south of the FC and finish by coming out onto Tiananmen Square. An area I recently went to at the south of Tiananmen Square, called Qianmen (it's in my Things to do Tips) is really beautiful and a great look at what Beijing used to look like! That would pretty much be a day in itself...a lot of walking!

    If you need any other insider tips from a 'local' please do not hesitate to email me or continue writing in this thread!

    Victoria

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by lindyz Online Now May 21, 2009 at 11:28 PM

    Victoria,
    thanx so much for all your helpful info, if I have any q's on BJ I will email you, as you certainly sound like you have all the answers!!
    Ive just had a quick look at your travel pages, they are great with lots of helpful tips and pics, so I will go over them in detail and note some stuff before we go. You have been to some amazing places you are very lucky, and you also seem to love your job, which makes a huge difference to just generally enjoying life!
    HA HA but one place you havent been to is Australia!? Yes, there is plenty to see and do here, but sadly, its usually cheaper for me to holiday in Asia.
    Im glad you think our price of 650rmb to Mutianyu is a good price, its hard for me to know if weve got a good deal or have been ripped off! It wasnt my original plan to do 2 sections of the wall in one day, but Sandi said she had done it, so I just thought it may be an option. But then Alvin talked me out of it, he said we would be too tired! Our price of 650rmb also includes stopping at Lama temple on the way home and a night at Chinese acrobatic show (not tickets obviuously, but transport - yes)
    Anyway, thanx for your post again. Lindy

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    Re: Tour Guide--Seeking Alvin!

    by sugarpuff Online Now May 22, 2009 at 1:37 AM

    Im trying to update my Beijing pages as I realised there are so many restaurants and fun things to do that I just havent written about it and so several of my tips are a little out of date! Anyway, its a while until you come so I should have lovely polished tips up for grabs by then!

    And yes a stop off at the other two places is great. I think in general they charge by the amount of kms you drive and usually its about 800yuan for 100km, but I know its a different story when you throw in the Wall as part of the excursion. I think he might be cheaper as he knows he gets a lot of business from VT and also I think he doubles up as the driver sometimes.

    Happy researching!

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