I attended the 5 day tour and our tour guide (Harry) was awesome! He genuinely cared about our well being and included everyone. He also knows a lot of the best views at each location and provides good explanation of history. It helps if you speak Mandarin as it is a bilingual tour, but you can get away with just English.
The itinerary is well planned out and we saw some beautiful sights and scenes. Long hours on the bus but very worth it. Bring some medication if you get carsick. I traveled alone, but met a lot of other fun young people and had a huge room all to myself (2 beds). Note that the drop off location for each tour differs based on the length of your trip. I started in Las Vegas but was dropped off in Utah and had to book another flight afterwards--just as a heads up!
FLYING SIXTY HOURS IN A BUS!
It has been a week since I returned after a six-day trip to Yellowstone National Park and other natural wonders in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. The more I talk about it on a one-to-one basis, a kind of guilt palls over me for not sharing it with others. It is not for posting any bragging points - I am way past it, as my 75th birth year approaches. Also, I am not going to talk about the places I saw, as there are far more descriptions with beautiful pictures of those places. I do not post pictures for the same reason!
Well, the trip was neither by air nor I drove/rode in a car. It was in tourist bus. In the United States, during the last 40-50 years, passenger trains are associated with old people, and traveling in buses with the indigent ones and the unsafe and unhygienic. It is not true anymore. The bus was owned by a tour company. Its seats were very comfortable, wider, more leg room than business class airline seats, and had charging outlets for electronic gadgets.
I could sit with cross legs - like sitting in the comfort of my home - read, write, or just gaze out and contemplate at life. It was a 56-seater, but we were a group of 38 - 30 Chinese and 8 Indians. Yes, no other ethnic variety. Reason perhaps, is that the tour company is owned by a Chinese woman, and besides, it's smart marketing and sales.
How did we think of a bus trip in the first place? Three months ago, Pramod and I took one-day bus trip to Grand Canyon. I have been to Grand Canyon a dozen times, but I am always ready to go. Such places or overachievers project newness from the same spot and angle. It is their magnitude that the mind cannot comprehend in a given moment. The natural beauty changes every second with light and shade. The trip cost us $85 per person. In driving to Grand Canyon, the gas cost alone is more, and the stress of driving is worse. That is how, we decided to take another bus trip.
How much did this cost? $530 per person includes hotel stay (in the inns next to the highways), breakfasts, tips, and admission in 4 national parks. You can't beat this price. On the website, reviews were all good. Incidentally, a returning Indian couple told us that there was nothing negative about this trip - just to follow guide's instructions!
Now, how was a typical day? The bus started off at 5:00AM, 5:30AM, 6:00AM, 6:30AM, and 8:00AM. The day was always 13+ hours long, except the last one. After every hour, it stopped for sightseeing, restroom breaks, or for a bite. There was a small toilet inside the bus too, and I used it twice as my bladder could not hold 18-oz beer. I also carried 6 Oz of rum for sipping at dinner time in order to keep the intestines disinfected. Health wise, I remained perfect - did not miss my morning routine of pranayama. Oh yes, I did take a shot from my asthma inhaler before going to bed and an aspirin on reaching Brian Head at 12,000 feet elevation.
It was 34 years ago that I saw Yellowstone. There are tremendous improvements in the Park. The lines at the registers of the gift shops and coffee shops were so long at this time of the year when schools and colleges were open! In contrast, the Horseshoe Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Valley of Monuments - all inside the Navajo Indian reservation, are hardly known to the world. However, they just blew my mind, as I saw them for the first time. Essentially, it is a tale of two cultures.
I am glad that I didn't carry my laptop, as there was literally no time left out for it. Instead, I used notes in my iPhone. A real impressive feature of this trip was the hotel check in - in 2-3 minutes, 38 people were checked in. The guide did it! Time was not wasted anywhere, thus optimizing sightseeing.
On this trip, besides Pramod, his wife was also there. During this trip, I probably had more conversation with him than ever before. I did not know him as a husband, and his wife in different settings. The United States daily life is so grooved, deterministic, and routine that years go by without any change.
I am so glad that we discovered this bus trip, as I saw equally within and without!
7 day/6 night Tour of Yellowstone/Utah Canyons
Summary? AWESOME!!! And what made it awesome was our tour guide, Bruce Chang, and our driver, Sky! I will call them the dynamic duo! Bruce informed of us the plan each morning and then as we went. No matter the length of the trek per day, we stopped every 2 to 3 hours for leg stretch/potty break. And, of course, we stopped for lunch. We usually got to the hotel by around 7:00pm.
Bruce's extensive knowledge, history...of details about each of the areas we entered is incredible. His knowledge brought the trip to life...feeling a part of each site. He translated in English and Mandarin...with passion and enthusiasm. I don't know how he kept his energy so high. He is amazing!
THE BUS: Brand new, well air conditioned, great view from windows, shades could be pulled if you it got too warm or bright. Potty on the bus but it is encouraged not to use it unless it was an emergency. Stops were often enough that we didn't have to use it. The seats would be great for two small to average size people. I am overweight and so was my sister so it was a bit snug. THAT is our problem though not the bus.
THE HOTELS: Each night was a different hotel until we hit Las Vegas. Red Lion was great (two different locations, two different nights). Two nights were a bit "rustic"... Considering the location, it was fine (Montana town and inside Bryce Canyon town). Two nights at the Luxor which was great!! Luxor does not provide coffee makers or wi-fi. We brought our own so...it was fine for us.
THE FOOD: Most of the passengers were of Asian descent. At each lunch stop, we could choose a Chinese buffet or any restaurant in the surrounding shopping center. The Chinese food was rather healthy and good. I have never really experienced Chinese food and found I like it. Breakfast and dinner was on our own.
ADDITIONAL COSTS: Meals, activity in Las Vegas, gratuity for the tour guide (Bruce and Sky- worth every dollar).
- Don't expect long hikes at any of the locations. Expect time to experience them, take pictures and then go to the next place...which is often prettier than the one before. It feels like 'not enough time'...but looking back...it was.
- Bring your own coffee maker, snack and breakfast food.
- Bring an extra charger for your camera or phone.. You are out and about for long days at a time.
- Bring a battery operated fan for the aisle seat. Can get warm.
- Bring clothes for warmer climate. You can buy a sweatshirt if you need it.
My goal was to see states I had not seen (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah). The trek:
California - Nevada - Idaho (Sleep) - Wyoming - Montana (sleep) - Wyoming - Idaho (sleep) - Utah (sleep) - Arizona - Nevada (sleep x 2)- California
I would do this trip again...or choose this company for future sight seeing! My sister and I will take these memories into our senior years with smiles! Thank you, Bruce and Sky for your warmth, humor, energy and knowledge!
Great tour! I liked it very much. We saw so many spectacular sights. It was clear, guide was good. The best hotel was Comfort Inn in Idaho Falls. The only dissatisfaction, there was promised $100 bonus package (Stratosphere Tower, buffet, etc.), I did not get anything of this. It was a profanation. But it was removed from the description of the tour now.