Sounds like they really wanted to create a new type of questing experience for the players instead of force feeding them everything in A-B fashion, and the characters and ground-mount-only actually made sense in this content, since you actually had to explore to find your content.
Moreover, sounds a lot more mysterious and interesting to discover a land than taran'zhu busting in your face going "No no you're stupid and I'm smart, I'll keep reminding you of this every other quest hub, and this is the sha btw", right from the start of the expansion.
I wish they would have left the zone as it is described in this article, I think it would have made a lot more people accept pandaria more, since as they say, first impression matters. Lorewalker Cho appearing more as a testing, wise old pandaren instead of benevolent Santa Clause figure also sounds like something that should have been in pandaria early on.
Oh, and I also happened to stumble upon something called the "Pandyr":
Jesus christ, why was THAT concept scrapped?