When I was communicating with the tour service, I let them know that I wanted a competent Beijing tour guide that could carry on a good English conversation. I would be traveling by myself and needed someone that I can interact with, not just show me the sights. I requested that he knows something about movie making and that he versed in the history of the Western powers in China. I had interest in the Foreign Legation area due to a family friend that served there.
Well, I have to say that the tour company exceeded my expectations. They gave me a wonderful guide who referred to himself as Mr. Brian. Well, Mr. Brian had a different name in Chinese, but to make it easy on my foreign Western tongue, he requested that I referred to him as Mr. Brian. Now his real name is Fán Qìng Bīn. I looked it up recently in a Chinese dictionary. My best guess is that it meant something similar to “refined blessing field”. Ha ha. I am quite sure that I got that wrong. Sorry, Mr Brian.
To say that he was chatty is true. And his English was very good. He had actually spent time working on a movie set, so he was able to relate to my love of film production. He also knew a considerable amount the interaction of China with the foreign powers early in the 20th century. We had quite a fun time as I knew some things about the old Foreign Legation area that he did not, but he was able to point out several things that I did not know. It was a mutual teaching experience, and we both came away enriched by the experience.
Now he, Mr. Brian, is a feng shui expert. I really did not know anything about the practice of feng shui and how it affected Chinese life. Over two days, I learned a lot about Yin and Yang, and how they relate to everything from the orientation of buildings, to the selection of colors, to the preparation of food. There was, of course, much more to learn, but Mr. Brian gave me a good foundation.
I also found that Mr. Brian was quite flexible. I wanted to go see a hot pot restaurant, but that was not part of my tour package. Mr. Brian, to aid me in my travel experience, came back to my hotel after the end of our daily tour, and took me to one of the best hot pot restaurants in Beijing. Of course, not being part of the tour package, it was a separate expense. But it sure was worth it.
He also proved himself to be quite flexible in conducting the tour. I had expressed to him my interest in the last Emperor. Mr. Brian modified my tour inside the Forbidden City to make sure that I would be able to see the living quarters and small museum set up to commemorate the last Emperor of China, Puyi. Most visitors touring the Forbidden City would completely miss that area.
If you really want a great Beijing tour guide that is engaging, knowledgeable, and interested in you having a good experience, then you want Mr. Brian. When working with the tour company, see if Mr. Brian is available for your tour. Give them his Chinese name, Fán Qìng Bīn. You won’t regret it.
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