We make our way by the very modern Chengdu subway system to the stop that is our meeting place. We make sure we're early (the 30-minute ride involves one transfer and costs about 40 cents each), and even have time to inspect beverage machines.
We meet our attractive young guide, Ling, who introduces us to the other eight members of our tour.
There is a family group of seven from Norway: two brothers, their wives, two teenage sons, and one 12-year-old daughter adopted from China. All speak quite fluent English and are very friendly.
The other "outsider" is Jason, a young New Yorker who has been working in accounting in Hong Kong for a year and has impressively picked up some Mandarin, also very personable.
Ling gives us a couple of fritter-like snacks on a stick from a stand and off we go to enter our four-passenger three tuk-tuk convoy to ride to our first stop.