1. Hong Kong Museum of History
For a whistle-stop overview of the territory’s archaeology, natural history, ethnography and local history, this museum is well worth a visit, not only to learn more about the subject but also to understand how Hong Kong (Hong Kong travel is a must when you visit China) presents its history to itself and the world.
‘The Hong Kong Story’ takes visitors on a fascinating walk through the territory’s past via eight galleries, starting with the natural environment and prehistoric Hong Kong – about 6000 years ago, give or take a lunar year – and ending with the territory’s return to China in 1997. You’ll encounter replicas of village dwellings; traditional Chinese costumes and beds; a re-creation of an entire arcaded street in Central from 1881, including an old Chinese medicine shop; a tram from 1913; and film footage of WWII, including recent interviews with Chinese and foreigners taken prisoner by the Japanese.
Free guided tours of the museum are available in English at 10.30am and 2.30pm on Saturday and Sunday.
2. Hong Kong Disneyland
One of America's most famous cultural exports finally landed in Hong Kong in late 2005. It's divided into four main areas – Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland and Tomorrowland – but don't expect too much. This is a very small-scale Disney franchise (although there are plans to expand it) with a solitary real adrenaline- inducing roller coaster ride (Space Mountain), while the rest of the park is made up of tamer attractions and of course is rammed with outlets selling Disney merchandise and fast food. It is one of must-see Hong Kong tourist attractions.
There's plenty for younger children to enjoy, including the full complement of Disney characters patrolling the park and the odd show re-creating great Disney moments from films such as Pirates of the Caribbean, but take teenagers along and you may face a mutiny. The resurgent Ocean Park offers vastly more variety, thrills and amusement for all ages.
Disneyland is linked by rail with the MTR at the new futuristic Sunny Bay station on the Tung Chung line; passengers just cross the platform to board the dedicated train for Disneyland Resort station and the theme park. Journey times from Central/Kowloon/Tsing Yi stations are 10/21/24 minutes. Check the website for opening times, as they alter from month to month.
You should not miss these two for your Hong Kong tour packages.
Once the great grey heart of China’s communist regime, Beijing now boasts colourful districts that mix historic buildings with contemporary art and design to explore for your affordable China tours. Here are three places to plug into this hip new side of the Chinese capital.
798 Art District
The harsh industrial landscape of this East-German-built military factory area has been transformed into Beijing’s artiest district. Giant red dinosaurs stare down onto the main street while pop-up design displays showcase the latest Beijing look. 798 Art District (named after one of the factories) is packed with galleries, studios, workshops and trendy shops and cafes.
Simply wander the streets, and take your pick of the galleries. Most open by 11am and don’t close before 5pm (many open longer). They range from the prestigious UCCA with some serious international art to Enjoy Art Museum (2 Jiuxianqiao Lu) with a wall full of contemporary prints (at very reasonable prices) and Woman in Love showcasing some excellent female artists.
Several of the galleries have their own cafes and there are plenty of independent eateries, mostly small, intimate and stylish – perfect places to chill out for a bit. If you are into ceramics, try Teapose, or on a nice day sit outside at C. Café (798 Zhonger Jie). In the evenings, At Café (4 Jiuxianqiao Lu), with its pizza oven, designer interior (with chopped-through brick wall) and outside tables perfectly placed for people watching, really is where it’s at.
If you fancy staying the night here, there is just one hotel, the achingly hip boutique Grace Hotel (even the soap is organic goji berry).
Not so long ago Beijing was a maze of narrow alleys flanked by traditional Chinese courtyard housing. These hutongs (very featured only to see in Beijing and is an important part of local China tourism) were the residential heart of the city. In the last couple of decades China’s modernisation has swept most of the tiny, intimate, car-unfriendly hutongs away, replacing them with high-rise concrete and glass. In Gulou however, the hutongs have survived to transform into one of the coolest areas of Beijing.
The main road, Gulou Dongdajie (not a hutong) starts off with shops full of electronics and electric guitars. It slowly morphs into something more like London’s Camden Lock – an area of vintage clothes and trinkets, offbeat boutiques and cafes. To either side are hutongs – some hung with red paper lanterns – bustling with bicycles, rickshaws and motorcycles, residents lounging about and a meandering crowd of shoppers and browsers.
Small independent shops sell everything from leather to lighters, cashmere to candy floss, calligraphic bookmarks to novelty socks, pandas (on everything) to a pig in Red Army uniform. There is a bar crawl’s worth of quirky little drinking holes. Start off with a cocktail at cosy little Mai Bar (40 Beiluoguxiang) or a whisky at wood-panelled Amilal (48 Shoubi Hutong, behind 66 Gulou Dongdajie). And if you need a snack (and have a stomach for not-perfectly-hygienic Chinese eateries) drop into Wang Pangzi’s Donkey Burgers (80 Gulou West Street). As the Chinese saying goes, ‘in heaven there is dragon meat, on earth donkey meat’.
In the heart of the capital near Tiananmen Square, Dashilan is tipped to be the next designer area of Beijing (impressive destination for best tours of China). The creatives of the capital are trying to save its historic hutong buildings – including some gems of Chinese Art Deco – by filling them with contemporary art, fashion and design.
The area was the centre of Beijing’s Imperial-era commerce from at least the Ming dynasty, serving the neighbouring Imperial City (The Forbidden City) where commerce was not allowed. Dashilan’s brands adorned the heads of court officials and the feet of royalty. It became the capital’s red light district too and its West End/Broadway. It was home to Beijing’s first cinema (1905) which is still functioning (Da Guan Lou Cinema, Dashilan Street). Inside there is a small exhibition about the origins of Chinese cinema and a lively cafe.
Dashilan lies just west of Qianmen – the broad street that runs south from Tiananmen Square. Historic Qianmen was bulldozed before the Olympics and rebuilt as a neater modern copy of itself. Now home to Starbucks, Uniqlo et al, it has focused the historically-minded on protecting the neighbouring area.
Drop into the little corner wine shop (Men Kuang Hutong), open since 1900, to taste traditional ergotou (strong rice wine) or relax at the cafe at 37 Dashilan West Street (there is no English name), a jumble of wooden tables, dressers, clocks, bird-cages and photos of old Beijing (for sale). A Spoonful of Sugar (59 Tie Shu Xie Jie) has just opened as an ‘upcycling’ art workshop (creating new from old) and gallery-shop.
Obtain more other information on Beijing via China tour guide
My favourite spots of Hong Kong sightseeing
Cococabana serves wonderful Mediterranean food on Deep Water Bay beach - ideal for a long, lazy and delicious lunch or dinner.
The cheapest and most impressive view of Hong Kong is from the Star Ferry which crosses the harbour from Kowloon to Hong Kong Island and costs approximately 20p a trip. The iconic Hong Kong skyline never fails to impress and shows off the constant development of this ever-changing city.
Lunch on the IFC Terrace, with views of The Peak and harbour. A perfect spot for sunbathing during lunch, whilst grabbing a sarnie or salad with friends.
Hiking across Dragon’s Back and down onto Shek O beach before downing cold beers and eating at the local alfresco Chinese and Thai Seafood restaurant.
Feather Boa is a super chilled bar with a great lounge atmosphere. I always recommend trying the strawberry daiquiri: only one though as they are so strong!
Happy Foot for a spot of reflexology after a long day. A cheap and cheerful traditional Chinese foot pampering parlour.
Taking a friend for a game of ping pong at Tazmanian Ballroom on Tuesdays – this plush and welcoming bar is perfect for early evening drinks on a colder evening.
Dragon-I for its all-you-can-eat HKD 150 dim sum lunches but also, more importantly, the nightclub in the evenings.
Favourite spots in Asia-Pacific
Macau. Go see House of Dancing Water included in your Hong Kong tour packages – a spectacular production by Franco Dragone featuring a dive pool for the stunts.
Beijing. Just jump on a plane, and explore the local hutongs. Stay at The Opposite House, a perfect weekend getaway where you can soak up some of the culture in the art district.
Four Seasons Tented Camp in Chiang Rai, Thailand, which overlooks the bamboo forests of the Golden Triangle and the Mekong. You can watch the view while wallowing in the copper bathtubs, after a day of training the camp’s elephants.
Soaking up the rays on the private island of Amanpulo and swimming with the sea turtles in the Philippines. A slice of paradise.
For more others about Hong Kong, you can click Hong Kong travel guide.
My deep-rooted interest in Hong Kong stems from old ties with its colonial past. My pioneering great, great grandfather worked here as the chairman of HSBC from 1876 to 1902 and this subconscious affair of the heart finally took off when I travelled to Hong Kong for the first time last November.
On a stopover to Vietnam and Cambodia, I stayed with old travelling buddies and was astounded by the unique East-meets-West vibe of the so-called “Fragrant Harbour”: my first introduction to the city involved a trip out to the Po Toi islands on a local junk boat to gorge on seafood, followed by cocktails at the chic and sleek Café Grey overlooking the harbour. Within 24 hours I was planning my escape to Hong Kong.
A couple of weeks later, I was at an engagement party and talking to a former flatmate about Hong Kong. It turned out that I wasn't the only one thinking about it, as I found out that Quintessentially, the luxury lifestyle group, was planning to launch there later in the year. One meeting later, and my one-way ticket was booked.
On arrival at Hong Kong airport for Hong Kong tours, the efficiency never fails to amaze visitors or inhabitants alike: 25 minutes and you’re in the centre of the city. But finding my new home wasn’t so easy! My pregnant friend and I had to battle with my three bags and many flights of stairs in the old Chinese building which is now my home. I’ll never forget her look of horror at the tiny space - about a third of the size of my old London flat, which was by no means large! The obligatory transparent bathroom doors caused much amusement, until I broke my nose during one of my first weeks by walking into them.
Flats might be small comparative to the UK and you certainly pay the price for living on Hong Kong Island, but the mentality in Hong Kong is to work hard, play hard, so the reality is that you’re hardly in your flat but to sleep. I relish my precious time in the very contemporary and creative space - I love the fact it’s totally different to my old cluttered London style of living. Plus, the Sai Ying Pun area in Hong Kong is very up and coming. One particular acquaintance describes it as the Shoreditch of Hong Kong - I think this is an exaggeration but an amusing one that I certainly repeat when friends back in the UK ask about life here.
My new office is in the more happening spot of Sheung Wan, which is a short walk away - fine at this time of year but astoundingly draining in the middle of summer when there is 90 per cent humidity. Sometimes I’m tempted to ride the escalator that takes you up the hillside of Hong Kong Island (houses many Hong Kong tourist attractions) - and which runs alongside the stairs I climb as part of my commute - just for some relief from the elements.
The weather is ever changeable but usually beautifully warm, so I love that weekends involve a plethora of outdoor activities: from hiking on the sub-tropical trails, beach or boat action or perhaps a short flight to explore all that Asia-Pacific has to offer.
Weekend breaks so far have included the Philippines, Beijing (one of best destination for last minute China travel deals), Shanghai, Sanya, Singapore, Macau and Thailand as well as longer holidays to India and Europe (usually for weddings). And there's a trip to Japan in the pipeline too. There is also much to discover in and around Hong Kong and transport is so easy that last minute plans are the norm.
Getting involved with the expat community was a comfortable leap of faith as there are plenty of people to scoop you up and firm friends are quickly made in Hong Kong - they end up being part of your Asian family. Expats know what it’s like to arrive in this vibrant city, which makes for an immediate natural understanding.
What is unique about Hong Kong is the international influence: it’s a young city full of fascinating people. Due to its speedy development and entrepreneurial spirit, it attracts an eclectic mix of individuals and that’s what makes it exciting - here, anything and everything seems possible.
After I had gingerly filled my Thermos with boiling water at the end of the corridor, I got into bed. The pillowcase and quilt rustled in a way that suggested satisfactory laundering. The train ran on through the powerful dark outside. A film about Mao’s Long March was being shown on a small screen at the end of the bunk.
“Gu Yue,” remarked Susie, from the next berth, pointing to the actor who had made an entire career (84 films) out of playing Mao. We agreed that the resemblance was remarkable.
By dawn, in Henan province (which houses many historical and cultural sites for China vacation deals), there was fog lying on fields of harvested corn that might have been painted by Monet – if Monet had included gigantic pylons and the shadow of a pulsating horizon in his landscapes. After we crossed the Yellow River, into China’s heartland, people sprouted so close to the railway that when a mother fanned a child vigorously on her doorstep I blinked.
“Small factories,” Susie remarked, at Cixian. They had been sprawling for mile after dusty mile along the line while we chatted on our bunks.
She had enjoyed Sydney for a decade. But had returned home to her parents, with a daily commute of several hours by bus through Beijing’s traffic. When I asked why she had returned, Susie simply said, “I don’t want to be alone.”
The T98 reached Beijing West station on the dot of 2.50pm. We had lived together for 24 hours; and within minutes of exiting, we had dispersed into our separate lives.
I picked up my Tibetan permit from Wilson, of China Travel Services, who stated, “I think Tibet gives you the best impression of China.” I asked Wilson if he had been to Tibet and he said not yet, he would prefer to visit Hong Kong (learn more via Hong Kong travel guide) first.
At exactly 9.30pm, the Lhasa train left Beijing West station. In the compartment, three Chinese men lined up, politely, on one lower bunk and I smiled at them from the other. I produced my Hong Kong Permanent Resident ID card as reassurance. But I knew that it wasn’t enough and what they would be puzzling over was: why is she travelling by herself?
Giving the four of us time to adjust, I went for a stroll along the train. Its very existence had been deemed impossible because of the terrain, the altitude and the climate. There were signs in three languages – Tibetan, simplified Chinese and English (although announcements were in Mandarin only); and there were a few Tibetan symbols (the endless knot, the double-fish) dangling from the ceiling of the dining-car; and there were the much-publicised outlets above each bed for oxygen, which would offset the effects of altitude sickness.
But apart from that, it was an ordinary intercity Chinese train with – half an hour after departure – no soap in the washroom dispensers, a blocked sink and half an inch of water slopping to and fro on the floor of the Western loo. “They can engineer railtrack across permafrost, but they can’t find a mop,” as one traveller put it.
By morning, the view outside the window once more was of the mist and yellow earth of China’s heart, as the train dipped south. In the dining car, I talked to a German technician working in Shanghai. He had understood that there would be showers (there aren’t). He had thought there would be two-berth compartments (there aren’t). Three Canadians nearby had been hoping there would be an observation-car to sit in (there isn’t).
A group of Koreans who had booked a tour under the impression that smoking was banned because of the extra oxygen on board had found themselves in the chaotic fug of the six-berth compartments. When I went to visit them again, later, I fell into conversation with a Chinese woman who turned out to be the aunt of someone I knew in Hong Kong; she was wandering through the carriages looking for a relatively usable loo.
By late morning, according to the digital temperature reading in the dining-car, it was 32 degrees beyond the air-conditioned window. One of the men in my compartment had fetched in a group of friends from next door, including a young woman called Liu Ming who spoke some English. We crammed together on the bottom bunks, cracking watermelon seeds and using an iPhone to translate difficult words: traffic survey, red dates, potato starch. These latter characters had been written on a huge sign we had passed, encouraging productivity.
“Do you feel lonely?” asked Liu Ming. “You are by yourself; Chinese people don’t do this.”
I looked around – there were now seven of us on the two lower berths – and laughed and said no, I definitely wasn’t feeling lonely.
I had wondered why they were going to Lhasa (very popular destination for many adventure-lover to have best tours of China). Except they weren’t: Liu Ming, and two others, were getting out in Xining, and the rest at Geermu (Golmud on my map), both in Qinghai province. On this train, itself proof of it, you had the constant sense of China insinuating itself farther and farther into improbable places.
Out here, factories weren’t small – they were vast, with odd tentacles as if a troupe of giant octopuses had beached themselves in a desert. And these were the Han interlopers: an affable presence on the bunks, chewing corn-on-the-cob and inspecting the snack-cart (cigarettes and spiced donkey) as it was wheeled past the door.
“Maybe I come with you to Lhasa,” Liu Ming said, shyly, and her friends laughed.
But you don’t have to go to Lhasa to see Tibetans. They were in Hard Seat, at the back of the train. Getting there meant stepping over a Muslim man, asleep on a prayer mat in a doorway, and into a hinterland where China’s minorities had set up camp: the Muslims in white caps and veils, the Tibetans in turquoise knuckle-dusters and coral-beaded braids. Each time I visited, crunching over the seed-husks on the floor, the Tibetans shouted and shook hands and guffawed (and days later, outside the Potala Palace – another husk – I heard a joyful yell from those same pilgrims, smiling and waving, as they passed by).
Beneath that noise, however, what you heard was a silence. I spent considerable time dandling babies, but when one Tibetan woman patted her seat and I sat alongside, our voices soon dropped and, finally, we spoke in whispers. We talked about Tibetan outposts in India; and when I murmured the Dalai Lama’s name, she gave a tiny hiss of warning. “Keep Quiet” said one of the train’s trilingual signs, under a child’s image of a bed with a horizontal figure in it; and we did.
By nightfall, we were climbing. The railway attendant handed out leaflets entitled “Plateau Travel Information”, warning of health side-effects, which everyone had to sign. At 3.30am, when we stopped at Geermu (9,281ft/2,829m), my heart was already giving little Riverdance leaps. The departing passengers left a gleaming spoor of discarded slippers; you could track them up the twilit corridor. A clutch of shadows was crossing the windy platform outside, hunched under the swaying lights. A few wispy trees shivered. That suddenly felt like a quintessential train-travel moment: the land’s abrupt change, the cold, even the railway sign – Exit West – made me inexplicably happy.
And in the morning, a yak stood outside the window. Then another, then another. Tibet had taken over – with its grass lands, its marmots, its prayer-flags, its skeins of rain and distant ice-cone-mountains – over night. Snow-fences lined the track. Beyond them were occasional stone clusters of dwellings, under frayed Chinese flags, desolate even in early autumn. It was seven degrees.
At breakfast, passengers compared levels of queasiness and by midmorning, when we passed Tanggula, (16,627ft/5,068m), the highest railway station in the world, some people were on their bunks on oxygen or throwing up in the washrooms. When I went to check out Hard Seat, the Chinese had their heads in their hands while the Tibetans continued chatting, airily unconcerned. I was light-headed, but it seemed the perfect way to acclimatise: lying flat, with a Thermos of green tea, while the scenery did all the work.
There were no observation stops, though. That was another myth about the train. I had to make an effort to grab the names and altitudes of the stations as we whisked through. The only time we halted, at Naqu (14,806ft/4,513m), a guard stood in the doorway. Against the grey sky, the station’s name was picked out in two enormous golden, simplified characters; the Tibetan script stood above them, smaller, definitely complicated.
What are they building here? I wrote that down in my notebook at Naqu, as the train passed a huge (empty) roundabout with lengthy strips of (empty) road petering out in grassland. Ugly, I wrote at Sang Xiang (15,331ft/4,673m) and at Gu Lu (15,331ft/4,673m) the grim scrappiness of pylons and tarpaulin was only relieved by a child in a red jumper running along a stone wall.
You had to lift your eyes from that in order to see the region’s beauty: the variegated lakes and peaks, the massive caverns of weather systems that came and went. In any language, it felt like a guilty happiness: the simple pleasure of the train journey offset by the complicated fact that it existed.
I was in Hard Seat when I saw the first military trucks outside Lhasa. I was talking to one of the Tibetan women, who cupped her hand in front of her mouth as if she wanted to capture her words before they flew away into the thin air and betrayed her. She had just insisted I take her rosary beads.
The grasslands had given way to cultivated fields, and the trucks ran alongside the stooks drying in the sun. After a while, the fields gave way to roads, then tiled buildings, then shops, then car showrooms – the classic Chinese sprawl.
In the distance, on its hill, framed within a lattice of cranes, I could just see the Potala Palace. That, 4,060 miles/6,500km later, marked journey’s end. But soon the track curved, and it disappeared behind the newer buildings. “Just like Hong Kong,” someone remarked, and I said, “No. Not yet.”
Fionnuala McHugh travelled with the help of CTS Horizons (020 7868 5590; www.ctshorizons.com). It can arrange a seven-night package with one night in Beijing, two on the “Roof of the World” train and four in Lhasa for ￡985 per person sharing. This includes accommodation in four-star and five-star hotels and in a four-berth soft sleeper on the train, some meals, transfers and guided visits to the principal sights in Lhasa.
Hong Kong to Beijing: 1,550 miles/2,475km.
Beijing to Lhasa: 2,540 miles/4,064km.
Hong Kong to Beijing: 23hr 30 min.
Beijing to Lhasa:45hr 8 min.
Hong Kong to Beijing (soft sleeper): ￡90
Beijing to Lhasa (soft sleeper): ￡122)
Buffet or banquet?
Not bad as far as railway fare goes, but basic. Bring instant noodles if you're worried.
Yes, if you get a bottom berth. Slightly more problematic, during the day, if you're in a top berth.
Time to read
Alexandra David-Neel's My Journey to Lhasa. She was the first European woman to enter the city, and she's an inspiring travel companion.
Time to listen to
Your fellow passengers – someone, somewhere, will want to practise English with you.
When to go
Late spring or early autumn.
Make sure you pack
A Thermos, a map of China, snacks to share, antibacterial hand gel – and lots of loo paper.
Remember that you should get travel permit to Tibet beforehand which need your China visa.
Tibet has reopened after a month’s closure to tourists. Fionnuala McHugh reports on a railway journey of more than 4,000 miles that is now possible again – all the way from Hong Kong (Hong Kong travel is an indispensable when visiting China) to Lhasa.
It takes two trains to get from Hong Kong to Lhasa – to go from China’s Special Administrative Region in the south to its Tibetan Autonomous Region in the far west. Of course you can fly – also two separate journeys – but the last time I flew to Beijing, a month earlier, the front page of China Daily was reporting the previous evening’s plane crash in Heilongjiang (42 dead).
Inside the paper, there were details of a nine-day traffic jam on the Beijing-Tibet Expressway: truck drivers sat on the road in the August heat, playing cards and eating instant noodles, exactly as if they had been on a Chinese train, except no one was going anywhere.
And so I took the T98 from Hong Kong to Beijing (which is the hot and must-see city for China tour deals) (1,550 miles/2,475km – in 23 hours and 30 minutes), in order to take the T27 from Beijing to Lhasa (2,540m/4,064km – in 45 hours and eight minutes). It was September, autumn in China’s north, yet still so humid in Hong Kong that the mainlanders fanned themselves as they waited to board at Kowloon station, and in my four-berth soft sleeper a young woman produced a colourful box labelled “Body Dampness Expelled Granules”.
Her name was Susie, from Beijing, and she had been staying with relatives in Hong Kong, “Such a Western city,” she said. “Different from China.”
But our fellow passengers – two Turkish women, a mother and grown-up daughter, who were stuffing bags and suitcases into every corner of the compartment as if arranging dumplings in a steamer – said, “To us, Hong Kong is very Chinese.”
Shortly afterwards, before the leaves had settled to the bottom of my first cup of green tea, as we crossed the Shenzhen river that officially separates Hong Kong from the rest of China, Susie said, looking out of the window, “Different atmosphere!”
It’s true. Immediately, the giant neon words on the skyline shift shape (Hong Kong still uses the traditional characters that, after 1949, Mao simplified in the rest of China), the traffic jams are on the opposite side of the road, men squat along the platforms coddling cigarettes, and the sky turns a powdery grey. We were on a through-train, so there was no immigration halt at the frontier; but the Chinese border had emphatically announced itself.
Everyone changed into the free slippers, and I shook out a map – printed by 1206 Factory of the People’s Liberation Army – that I had bought in a foreign-language bookstore years ago. Over in the west, there was a long, red, dotted line running south through black dots (for desert) and blue dashes (for swamps), from Nanshankhou to Lhasa (holy and most-visited travel city for China best tours). Railway Under Construction, said the legend. You could look at that geological Morse code and think, it’ll take for ever. But the line was finished in 2006.
I pointed to Lhasa. The Turkish women smiled and nodded. Tibet, however, was thousands of miles away, ungraspable; they were more interested in learning about Susie. What personal freedoms, for example, did she have? Could she talk freely about human rights? Susie looked alarmed.
“I am just the home person!” she cried. “I go to my work; in the evenings I am with my family. I don’t know about these things.”
Then what, asked the Turkish mother, did Chinese people think of the Turkish people? Susie had mentioned that she had studied business administration in Sydney. Now she said, “I meet some Armenians in Australia, when they talk about Turkey they always use this word” – she hesitated, then said – “massacre? To do with killing?”Leyla, the daughter, repeated this rapidly in Turkish. After that, her mother spoke for a long time, quivering a little, about statistics and historical truth, while China’s21st-century metropolises got on with slicing and thrusting their way past, in sunlit flashes of steel and glass.
By late afternoon, despite air-conditioning, that sun was toasting our compartment. What with the net curtains and antimacassars and fake flowers, and the female attendants who accessorise their military look with big navy bows in their hair, intercity train travel in China can resemble an unusual cross between the set of Upstairs, Downstairs and a Fifties Sino-propaganda film; in the T98’s dining-car, the waitresses marched indignantly to and fro in frilly aprons, like parlourmaids trained by the People’s Liberation Army.
“How is gender equality in China?” asked Leyla, as she perused the photographs on the menu, trying to decide what looked least like pork. I said Mao had famously stated that women hold up half the sky (although you only have to glance at official photographs of Chinese state-gatherings to realise that any female sky-holding is mostly being done offstage) and Leyla said her impression was that Chinese women weren’t threatened by lustful men. “I don’t feel I would be hassled.”
And that’s one of the pleasures of Chinese trains, especially for a foreign woman travelling alone. On the whole, it feels as safe and as sociable as a sleepover with people whose names you just don’t happen to know. It is a happy experience for my popular China tours.
Later, I changed into my pyjamas and wandered up and down the corridor. There was a six-day-old baby in the compartment next to ours, tightly wrapped in a pink blanket and laid out in the middle of the lower bunk like a delicious offering of dim sum; there was a ring of cardplayers two compartments along, laughing and groaning over piles of yuan; there was a line of teeth-brushers and hawkers and spitters in the washrooms; there were early snorers and late snackers.
Supernatural the intersection of hall and the intersection of valley and natural scenic spot, lie within the boundaries of Huairou, from 60 of Beijing, it is Huairou first natural scenic spot opening to the outside world. Combine mountains and rivers, river, grotesque peak, spectacular rocky peak and the ancient Great Wall (must-see for last minute China travel deals) together here, an environment is peaceful, have no Land of Peach Blossoms like interference, celestial mirror free from contamination, the scenery is graceful, the well-known wild goose with the pure and fresh air perches in the river and pierces through the whole district expensively, water quality is pure, the flowing water is constant. Natural dragon s pool, mandarin duck s pool, crocodile s pool, waterside town are wide, so clear that you can see to the bottom.
Supernatural hall valley and mountain peak of natural scenic spot are dangerously steep but optional for your popular China travel package, it succeeds in the spectacular rocky peak. Bodhisattva s cap model is peculiar, tower into the clouds, fire the imagination; Superb craftsmanships such as hawk s mouth peak, camel mountain range, supernatural tortoise stone, phoenix s platform, stone crowd,etc., remarkably true to life, of infinite interest afford the greatest delight.
The supernatural hall valley was the fortress of capital city and its environs in history, it is intact to build in bright Wan site of castle for stationing troops over the years, go through the ancient Great Wall by vicissitudes, the strong wind still exists, has sought deep and remotely and visited anciently and offered the good place to people to have best tours of China.
Startling Tragic incident of dragon s pool,Have recorded Anti-Japanese War period takes place in a phase of miserable history of the important beauty spot dragons pool, here Tragic incident of dragon s pool Built up in the ruin Tragic incident of dragon s pool Monument. Base of patriotism educational activities of the teenagers that this beauty spot has already list and name as municipal Youth League committees of Youth League committees and districts been.
For convenience the masses of visitors, the company open the outdoor bathing place of sandy beach, goes angling the field, bonfire field and field and roasts the field in the scenic spot; Have built service facilities such as restaurant, guest room, item department,etc., and run the people s valley tourist activity, visitor can the board and lodging savour the honest local conditions and customs in the peasant family.
For more others in Beijing, you can visit travel China guide.
The Silk Road was not actually a road. It was not paved. It was not even a single route.
The Silk Road was a name given to any route that led across China to Rome. It was a 4000-mile trip. At one end was China starting from Xian (now you can have Xian tour). At the other end was Rome.
Each had something the other wanted. Rome had gold and silver and precious gems. China had silk and spices and ivory.
Ideas also traveled along the Silk Road (now the famous travel route in China for best tours of China), ideas that affected everyone.
The Romans were not surprised to hear of another great civilization hidden over the mountains. They had been looking for “the Silk People” for a long time.
The Romans discovered pieces of silk from some of the people they conquered. Silk quickly became popular in Rome. But it was scarce. The Romans wanted more silk. But they did not know who was making this wonderful material.
The Romans tried to find the traders as they came into the towns and villages. But the traders hid from the Roman soldiers. They knew they had nothing to tell them. They did not know who was making the silk. They only traded for the silk. They traveled a short way along the silk road and traded with the people they found.
In frustration, the Romans sent out parties of soldiers to follow the Silk Road, and find the source, the people who were making the silk. Most of the soldiers never returned. Those who did reported they could not find a way through the desert. They had to turn back.
It was incredibly dangerous to have a Silk Road tour. You faced desolate white-hot sand dunes in the desert, forbidding mountains, brutal winds, and poisonous snakes. There was one nice section, called the Gansu Corridor, a relatively fertile strip that ran along the base of one of the mountains. To reach this strip, you had to cross the desert or the mountains. And of course, there were always bandits and pirates.
Even the traders did not make the whole trip. They worked in relays. Each trader would go a certain distance, exchange their goods for other goods, and hopefully return. The next would move along the road, trade, and hopefully return. There were three main routes, and all were dangerous.
Northern Route – Westward to Black Sea
Central Route – Westward to Persia, Mediterranean Sea, Rome
Southern Route – Westward to Iran, India
The Silk Road took caravans to the farthest extent of the Han Empire. Sections of the Great Wall were built along the northern side of the Gansu Corridor to try and prevent bandits from the north from harming the trade.
Over the centuries, the Silk Road developed a civilization of its own. Where possible, the Silk Road became lined with huge temples and booming cities. It became far easier to travel the road for China vacation deals. But it was never easy. There were still vast stretches of deserts and mountains to cross, with no city or water in sight.
Travelling along the Silk Route (or "Silk Road" if you prefer) can seem a daunting prospect. Huge distances, high altitude and remoteness can put off many travellers. But we tend to find that those who do travel along the Silk Road are scratching an itch - they literally have to go. For me the obsession started with reading Peter Hopkirk's books "Foreign Devils on the Silk Road" and "The Great Game", both classics. I knew then, at the tender age of 15, that one day I would be heading out to Bukhara, Kashgar and the Tien Shan mountains.
So, how do you design the perfect trip? Here are some top tips to get you started your Silk Road tour.
1) Read around the subject. Peter Hopkirk, Colin Thubron and Robert Byron have all written classics about this region, and some of the memoirs are quite fascinating too - particularly Reginald Teague-Jones' The Spy Who Disappeared and FM Bailey's Mission To Tashkent. Reading these books helps you understand how all the historical and cultural strands come together in Central Asia, and the sights that are most relevant to your interests.
2) Pivot in Kashgar. Kashgar's market is an everyday market, but on Sundays it is bigger and more varied, and the livestock market - incredible for photography - really gets going. Everyone wants to see it usually, so use that as a fixed point around which to design the rest of the trip. Count backwards to tell you when you should start your trip in Beijing/Xian (where you can start your Xian tours), and forwards to see when you'll finish in Tashkent.
3) Don't forget the mountains. Many travellers along the Silk Route will try to spend more time in Samarkand, Bukhara, Kashgar, Turpan and Khiva than in the countryside. However the scenery is the crucial backdrop, and totally unmissable. The most common piece of feedback we receive is of regret that more time wasn't spent in Kyrgyzstan, for example. It is painful to watch a truly stunning country pass by the window of your car - stay longer and stretch your legs.
4) "The best things in life are free". They certainly are, and the Silk Route (famous travel route included in the packages of China best tours) is no exception. Once you've got yourself to your yurt in the mountains, take some time to explore on foot, and enjoy the company of your hosts. In Samarkand try walking from the Registan to the Shah-i-Zindah and then through the old town, up the hill to the Russian district. In Bukhara go to Kalon Square at about 1630 to get the best light, and very few tourists, then walk from the square south and slightly to the east, through the old white-washed houses, to the Labi Hauz. When you drive from Samarkand to Tashkent try to stop in Urgut and get a free glimpse of what a real Central Asian market looks like.?
5) Eat local. Most hotels will do reasonable food, but restaurants can be very hit and miss in Central Asia. The best food is always served in private homes. In Kashgar it's easier to find great street food. The two best meals I have had in Central Asia were not in hotels or restaurants. The first was a fantastic shahlyk (barbecued lamb) with warm Uighur bread - simple, filling and very tasty. The second was lunch in a yurt in Kyrgyzstan. The jam and honey were simply unbelievable.
You can obtain others in China, you can check out China travel guide.
Travels in China
They reached the Khan's capitals and were warmly welcomed. The winter capital was then called Khanbalik or Canbulac, meaning the Khan's camp; it later grew into Beijing. The summer capital was Northwest of Beijing across the Great Wall (must-visit for your last minute China travel deals), near a town Polo called Kaimenfu. The palace itself was Shangtu or Xanadu.
By the time the Polos reached China the second time, the Khan had subjugated Southern China, which the book calls "Manzi." However, he needed officials to help rule it and did not yet trust the newly-conquered Chinese. Along with many others, Marco became an official of the empire, a job that soon had him traveling over large parts of China. The provinces mentioned are modern Shanxi, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan. Marco visited many cities along the way; here are his comments on some.
A place has iron and coal and makes steel for manufacture of the Emperor's army equipments;
It was a noble, rich, and powerful realm of silk, gold trade and industry, as well as army equipments, where you can have Xian tour;
In former days a rich and noble city where the Kings who reigned there were very great and wealthy.
Through the midst of the city runs a large river where has a great quantity of fish and merchants carry the quantities of merchandize up and down the river.
Tebet, there people have a language of their own and they delight to hang it round the necks of their women and of their idols. Among them, you find the best enchanters and astrologers; they have plenty of fine woollens and other stuffs and mastiff dogs as bigs as donkeys.
The people are of sundry kinds who have wheat and rice in plenty but never wheaten bread.
Ningxia & Gansu
The Tangut or Western Xia were a people of largely Tibetan ancestry, originally from Western Sichuan. For several hundred years before the Mongol conquest there had a Buddhist kingdom, independent but paying tribute to the Sung Emperor. It was centered in what is now Ningxia, but at its peak it was much larger than Ningxia and was quite rich. It was the first non-Chinese kingdom one entered going West on the Silk Road. There are Tangut royal tombs near Yinchuan, their capital. Much of the art in the Buddhist grottoes at Dunhuang is from the Western Xia.
the city of Cambaluc hath such a multitude of houses, and such a vast population inside the walls and outside, that it seems quite past all possibility.
Cascar constituted a kingdom of beautiful gardens, vineyards, fine estates and cottons from where many merchants go forth about the world on trading journeys. Kashgar is a must-see for your Silk Road travel.
Chinangli is a city of Cathay. There runs through the city a great and wide river, on which a large traffic in silk goods and spices and other costly merchandize passes up and down.
Suju is a very great and noble city producing silk, gold brocade and other stuffs in great quantities; where merchants, traders and most skilful craftsmen are of great wealth but no soldiers at all. Yang-chau is Yangzhou, together with Suzhou governed by Jiangsu.
Passing a number of towns and villages, you arrive at the most noble city of Kinsay where has twelve guilds of the different crafts, and that each guild had 12,000 houses; each of these houses contains at least 12 men. There is a lake surrounding by many erected beautiful palaces and mansions.
Now Fuju is a city seat of great trade and great manufactures. There a great river flows through the city and many ships are built and launched upon the river. Enormous quantities of sugar are made and a great traffic in pearls and precious stones there. For many ships of India come to these parts bringing many merchants who traffic about the Isles of the Indies. Mawei, just outside Fuzhou, still builds ships. Many of the ships and crew for Zheng He's great voyages of the 1400s came from this area.
Now these cities are very modern and keep some historical relics to develop its local China tourism.
Marco Polo (1254–1324) was an Italian merchant traveler from the Republic of Venice whose travels are recorded in Livres des merveilles du monde, a book which did much to introduce Europeans to Central Asia and China. He learned the mercantile trade from his father and uncle, Niccolo and Maffeo, who traveled through Asia, and apparently met Kublai Khan. In 1269, they returned to Venice to meet Marco for the first time. The three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa; Marco was imprisoned, and dictated his stories to a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy merchant, married and had three children. He died in 1324, and was buried in San Lorenzo.
The Travels of Marco Polo
The book is a 13th-century travelogue written down by Rustichello da Pisa from stories told by Marco Polo, describing Polo's travels through Asia, Persia, China, and Indonesia between 1276 and 1291 and his experiences at the court of the Mongol leader Kublai Khan.
Some skeptics have wondered if Marco Polo actually went to East of Kashgar (now the famous city for Silk Road tours) or he perhaps wrote his book based on hearsay & tales of central China for the reasons that there was no the Mongol or Chinese names but only Persian names for places and no mention about the Great Wall of China, Chinese characters, chopsticks, or footbinding and more Chinese symbols. However, Mongol records indicats someone named Polo was indeed there and Polo's Kinsay (which Yule and Cordier call Hang-Chau-Fu) is Hangzhou.
Whatever the purpose of Polo's tales was to impress others with tales of his high esteem for an advanced civilization or for other reason, his travel idea probably was to create an oriental handbook for crusaders, western merchants, essentially a text on weights, measures and distances. Marco Polo pioneering journey inspired Christopher Columbus and many other travellers passion toward the East.
The First Trip East
Istanbul - Sudak - Bokhara - Samarkand - Kashgar - Turfan - Xanadu - Beijing (must-see for China tour deals)
Niccolo and Maffeo brothers set out from Constantinople (modern Istanbul) in 1260, and sailed across the Black Sea to Soldaia in the Crimea. Today the city is called Sudak and is in the Ukraine. Soldaia was a largely Greek city at that time and routinely traded with various Mediterranean ports.
Today, Bokhara and Samarkand are cities in Uzbekistan, and Balkh is a town with some interesting ruins in Northern Afghanistan. The Persian empire was once much larger than modern Iran, including much of what we now call Central Asia. The brothers lived in Bokhara for three years and became fluent in Persian.
In Bokhara, they learned that the Great Khan, Kublai- grandson of Genghis and, at least in theory, overlord of all Mongols- had never met a European and had expressed curiosity about and goodwill toward them. So they went on, traveling via Samarkand, Kashgar, Turfan and Hami (the Northern branch of the Silk Road) to his summer capital in Xanadu (now it is listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site making contribution to local China tourism) somewhat Northwest of modern Beijing. The Khan received them warmly and sent them back West with letters for the Pope, expressions of friendship and requests for missionaries and scholars.
The Second Trip
The brothers went back to Acre, this time with young Marco, and then up to Jerusalem to get some oil from the holy sepulchre which the Khan had requested.
They then set off East again without a papal reply to the Khan's letters. The Khan also invited scholars and missionaries from other places - Tibetan Buddhists and Persian Muslims - and those had a great effect on China.
Their route was indirect, setting out from the Mediterranean port of Laias, North to Armenia and Georgia, then to Mosul in what is now Iraq, then into Persia (now known as Iran) via Tabriz, Yazd and Kerman to Hormuz. The book talks of Damascus and Baghdad, but it is doubtful they actually visited those cities.
The original plan was to take a ship East from Hormuz, but after reaching Hormuz they decided to swing North instead. Marco would later come to Hormuz by sea, taking the Maritime Silk Road on his return journey.
The three men went back to Kerman and on to Persia's Eastern province of Khorasan. This put them on the main Silk Road route. The branch they took involved going Northeast to Balkh, then Southeast toward Kashmir and finally North to reach Khotan in what is now Xinjiang. The major routes today are the Khyber Pass from Afghanistan into Pakistan and the Karakoram Highway North to China, but the Polos' exact route is unclear. They may have taken lesser-known passes such as the route through Ladakh.
The brothers had taken the Northern branch of the Silk Road (now it is the famous travel route included in the China best tours) around the Kalimakan Desert on the previous trip. This time, the first city they reached in what is now China was Khotan, in the middle of the Southern branch, so naturally they continued East on that branch.
If you are a shop-a-holic, then you'll find shopping in China has a lot to offer after your last minute China travel deals, if you go searching for it. You may need to ask the right questions to find the kind of venue or experience you are looking for. Be prepared to barter. Learn some Chinese or take someone Chinese along with you.
Tip: every place that you go to - ask for a business card. That way, the next time you want to go there, you can simply show the business card to the taxi driver. It makes life much easier and you gain a lot of personal independence. In China you can easily buy wallet size business card holders. I kept all my business cards in this, in my handbag, and was able to go anywhere I wanted to go without asking for help or someone to translate for me.
Shopping in China - Downtown
In China, everywhere is downtown. It is not like the west, where we separate the single-family dwellings from the business and shopping areas. In China, on the ground level, is store after store after store of small privately owned shops. Every neighbourhood has it is own market.
In most cities in China, and in Hong Kong (Hong Kong travel guide), products are usually found grouped together in districts. So if you wanted furniture, you would go to the furniture district. If you needed office supplies you would go to the office supply district. If you needed fabric, you would go to the fabric district.
Department Store Shopping in China
There is usually a specific downtown area where you will find at least one main department store and a market. In the department stores, you pay the price shown on the ticket. There is no bartering. Department stores are very generalized, carrying everything from shoes to appliances. They will have a lot of products – but maybe available in only one style or one color. When you make a purchase – it is generally not returnable. There is seldom a guarantee. There are no fitting rooms to try on clothes. Women go shopping with a tape measure and generally just know their size when they see it.
Bartering in the Market and Small Shops
Generally, you can barter down about 30% off the price quoted – however, if you are a foreigner – they may double the price quoted and try to make some money off you. So, for the first little while, when shopping in China, it is best to take someone Chinese with you, or know the going prices before you decide to barter. It is considered in bad taste to barter a good deal and then walk away without purchasing it. However, some of the best bartering happens when you decide that the price is just too high and you don’t want it that badly, you turn and walk away, and then the store owner comes running after you and concedes to the price you originally wanted. Best to learn a little Chinese - especially numbers, currency, and how to say "too expensive" (tai gui le)
Shopping in China for Fakes and Knock-offs
There is a lot of fake stuff for sale in China, so the Chinese tend to trust a department store just a little more than a local retailer – for purchases of value – like a cell phones, name brand watches, TVs or computers. However, even department stores can be selling fakes. I thought I was being safe by paying about $100 Canadian for a brand name watch in a big Chinese department store. However, about a year later, the casing for the watch was totally tarnished. I had better luck with $5.00 watches that could be bought on any street corner. My husband bought a very expensive cell phone from a large retailer, only to find out it was fake and that the battery only lasted one day at a time. Shopping in China has it's high moments when you find a bargain and low moments when you realize you've been cheated.
Downtown Shanghai has an export market that is full of knock-offs at fantastic prices. You can buy high end knock-offs and low-end look-a-likes. The high end knock-offs you pay much more for – but the quality is good and it is quite difficult to tell if it is real or not. I purchased Channel leather wallets and Tommy Bahama’s shirts at ridiculous prices and they were very good quality products.
Shopping in China's Shopping Centers and Walking Streets
In the large coastal cities like Shanghai, Beijing (must-see for your China vacation deals), Guangzhou and many others, you will find high-end malls with brand name retail stores. Hong Kong is full of these high-end glitzy malls. Most larger cities also have a walking street of shops – which is always a favourite place to spend several hours looking for a bargain.
Shopping in China - Export Markets
In Shanghai,Guangzhou and Shenzhen, there are several export markets, where you can find things produced for export, but not generally found in the Chinese shops. Here, things can be bought at wholesale prices. Fabric markets can be huge – some several acres in size – servicing the garment industry. It is not usually open to the general public and purchases made in the market are usually made by the bolt. However, if you go there and act like a foreign buyer, you can tell them you are making samples and need only a few yards. They will usually allow you to buy. My husband owned a garment factory – so I had a business card from his factory printed up for myself. When I showed my business card, they were always helpful. You can design your own business cards for just a few dollars in China – and voila – suddenly you are a fashion designer shopping in the world’s largest selection of fabrics! Then you take your fabric to a tailor to have it made into whatever you choose. The tailor needs only a picture – they require no pattern to work from. They simply take your measurements and can give you what you want during your popular China tours.
Shopping in China - Food Markets
For most of inland China – most of the grocery shopping is done at the local market as opposed to the supermarket. The local market is dirty, wet and full of stalls selling everything from fresh local vegetables, homemade tofu, and eggs, to live poultry and dogs ready for slaughter. There are also lots of dried medicinal type foods available.
You won’t find a nice sliced pork chop or a roast here. You might buy a whole chicken, and the stall owner will take his cleaver and chop it up into a hundred pieced for you so it is ready for you to cook in your wok – with head and feet in a bag on the side. Beef comes ready cooked as a small roast that sliced and added to noodles or stir-fry dishes.
Situated in the western border area of Hunan Province (famoust travel destination for China vacation deals), Fenghuang Ancient City is a famous historic and cultural city. It was ever praised as the most beautiful city in China by Rewi Alley, a renowned author in New Zealand.
Fenghuang Ancient City was originally built in the early Qing Dynasty and maintains its initial appearance after three hundred years of vicissitude. At present, the eastern and northern gate towers are well preserved. Classical characteristics can be found everywhere, including streets paved with bluestone blocks in the city, timber-frame stilted house at the riverside, as well as Zhaoyang (Rising Sun) Palace, Tianwang (Heaven Gods) Temple, Dacheng Palace, Wanshou (Longevity) Palace and other buildings.The ancient city is very famous among tourists for their best tours of China.
Fenghuang Ancient City is divided into two parts: the old town and the new town. The old one leans against hills and faces the crystal-clear Tuojiang River flowing through the city. A rampart built of red sandstones stands by the riverside, and the Nanhua Mountain adds radiance to the age-old gate tower. The gate tower was built in the Qing Dynasty, with the rusted iron gate still retaining its imposing presence as usual. Over the vast river is a narrow wooden bridge with a stone pier. It is so narrow that two persons walking towards each other have to pass sideways. However, it was the only passage leading to the outside world. Outside the city there are Nanhuashan National Forest Park, Huangsiqiao Ancient Town built in the Tang Dynasty, the world-famous South Great Wall and other scenic spots making contribution to China tourism.
Being endowed with beautiful scenery, Fenghuang Ancient City is also a famous historic and cultural city. From time immemorial, lots of virtuous and outstanding persons have been cultivated in the western area of Hunan Province. Among them is the great literary master Shen Congwen, who ever depicted in his works an incomparably beautiful world in the west of Hunan Province. It is based on Fenghuang Ancient City that this beautiful world was described. His works have been translated into many foreign languages, by virtue of which large quantities of readers around the world are deeply attracted by the elegant scenery and rustic folkway described in the work. For more about others, you can check out China guide.
China's Xian is known as the home of the Terracotta Warriors (one of famous Xian attractions), one of the world's most renowned archaelogical finds. Many tours just take in the warriors before moving on, but we think there's a lot more to Xian than that.?
The Hanyangling tombs are a must. The reign of Emperor?Qin Shihuangdi, whom the Terracotta Warriors were built for, marked the highpoint of dynastic power. His successor?Emperor Liu Qi was less powerful and this is reflected in his Hanyangling tombs, which contain smaller figurines than the life size figures of the Terracotta Warriors. Mercifully though, the Hanyangling tombs are far less visited than the Terracotta Warriors, so a visit here is a good opportunity to delve a little deeper into Chinese history without hoards of visitors to contend with.
Xian was also the start of the Silk Road tours - from here Silk travelled across Asia to the merchants and markets of Europe. While the silk museum in the city is little more than an excuse to flog you silk, what is of interest is what came along the Silk Road in the opposite direction - Islam. Xian still has a thriving Muslim community, complete with Chinese style mosques, and a stroll around the bustling Muslim quarter is fascinating.
Elsewhere, Xian also has one of China's best museums - the Shaanxi Museum - as well as well preserved city walls which are good to stroll along, or cycle round for those with a little more energy. ?When you visit Xian for your China travel deals, you should not miss the above-mentioned
Urumqui is the largest city in Western China and is the most remote major city in the world with a distance of 1,400 miles to the nearest sea. The city has exploded in modernization over the past 200 years due to its wealth in mining and oil production and makes an excellent base from which to explore Xinjiang, an optional destination for your China vacation deals, the largest province in China.
Delve into the area’s rich history by taking history tours through the Xinjiang Museum, or the Xinjiang Silk Road Museum for your Silk Road travel. Wander around the 130-year-old Erdaoqiao market and discover troves of ethnic foods and handcrafts as well as dancers and a variety of fun activities. Touring Erdaoqiao market at night is particularly exciting as the entire scene is illuminated with colorful lights.
Enjoy the serenity of the People’s Park, or venture to nearby Red Hill Park which contains an amusement park, a Buddhist temple and Red Hill which is crowned with a nine-storey tall red brick pagoda.
Trip to the beautiful Mount Nan Pastures and Terai Camp and join Kazakh herdsmen on horseback tours as they herd livestock through a landscape of green grass fields and snow-covered mountains. Then join the family for a traditional exotic dinner and a night spent in their traditional yurt. Partake of majestic views at Heavenly Lake, observe the diverse population of butterflies in Urumqi Butterfly Valley and enjoy the photogenic scenes and lively aroma of the Huocheng County Lavender Planting Base which is a must-see for your best tours of China.
Turpan is only a two hour drive from Urumqi and can easily be incorporated into a day trip.
Yantze River tour will put you in the middle of the most breathtakingly scenery that China has to offer. The longest river in China and the third longest in the world, the Yangtze originates from glacial flow in the Tibetan Plateau and winds through southern, central and eastern China before arriving at Shanghai and spilling into the East China Sea.
Three Gorges Cruise
The most popular cruise routes are to the Three Gorges area which consists of the Qutang, Wu and Xiling gorges. Qutang Gorge is narrow and awesome to glide through with cliffs towering on either side and its narrowest expanse being only 100 meters.
Wu Gorge possesses the steepest cliffs which shoot into the sky more than 900 meters at spots. Wu presents 12 jetting peaks such as Peak of the Immortals, Goddess Peak and the famous Fairy Peak.
Xiling Gorge is the longest of the three. Erected in the middle of Wu Gorge is Three Gorges Dam which is the largest hydro-electric power station in the world and must-see for your affordable China tours. Cruise ships dock at the base of the dam and tour buses take you to the top for an amazing view of the area.
Three Gorge cruises either run upstream from Yichang to Chongqing or downstream from Chongqing to Yichang. There are several variances in the two cruise schedules. The upstream cruise takes an extra day (5 days compared to 4) to traverse and there are small differences in shore excursions. However, upstream tours typically have lower rates than downstream cruises.
The best time to take your luxury Yangtze River Cruises is in the spring (April/May), or in autumn (September/October) due to the comfortable weather in these months. However, better deals and lower crowds can be enjoyed during other months.
Other Yangtze River Experiences
Following are other experiences which you can enjoy on Three Gorges cruises and other deluxe cruise excursions along the Yangtze and its tributaries.
Take some extra time to ascend Jar Hill and behold the majesty of Three Gorges Dam from an elevated viewing platform which provides an even better view of the area. Explore Ghost City (Fengdu) which is where the souls of the dead must come to register. The legend states that depending on their life’s deeds, they will either be rewarded for good, or severely punished for wrongdoing. The town contains temples and extravagant statues of both demons and gods and is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery.
Behold Badong which sits between Xiling and Wu Gorges and is a vibrant distribution center for getting goods to and from Sichuan and Hubei provinces. Take a small excursion up the Jia Ling River to the ancient village of Ci Qi Kou which was a prominent porcelain producer during the dynasties of both Ming and Qing.
Stop off at Chongqing which is the famous travel city for your top 10 China tours and enjoy a walking tour through the Chongqing Zoo which houses over 2,000 animals with the Panda House being the obvious main attraction. This is an excellent side trip for those traveling with children as the zoo also contains a fairground for children, roller skating area, performance areas, learning centers, restaurants and more.
Chongqing city also offers visitors its impressive South Hot Spring Park which contains such fascinations as Fairy Cave, Bamboo Rock as well as the Great Spring Scenic Area. The springs are surrounded by natural beauty and the 20 hectare area is an oasis of bliss within Chongqing.
Discover Baidicheng, or White Emperor Town, along the northern end of Qutang Gorge and famous town in China and one of must-see for your travel to China. The town’s 2,000-year-old history provides a wealth of sights to gaze on. Many of China’s famous poets sought inspiration in Baidicheng and, thus, it has become known as the "City of Immortal Poetry."
Embark on an additional broad beamed river boat up the Shennong Stream which empties into the Wu Gorge. Pass through Parrot Gorge, Longchang Gorge and Mianzhu Gorge, all clothed in lush vegetation alive with monkeys, wild goats, parrots and other creatures.
Located in Gyacha of Lhoka,130km northeast of Tsetang, Lhamo Nhatso is the most legendary lake in Tibetan area and an optional attraction for your China vacation deals.
Lhamo Nhatso means "auspicious heavenly mother lake" or "numinous mother lake" in Tibetan. Standing at an elevation of 5,100m, the skeleton-shaped holy lake is gracefully embraced at the foot of the mountains and looks much like a mirror.
As an alpine fresh water lake, the surface keeps on freezing up about 7 months. After its thaw in summer, fantastic and mysterious scenes appear from time to time, red clouds gathering in the sky, waves coming up without wind, strange sounds heard...
Though with an area of only about 1sqkm, the lake takes a special position in reincarnation system of Tibetan Buddhism and it is revered by Buddhists, where visions on the surface of the water are believed to contain prophecies. Regents searching for the next incarnations of high lamas come here for clues and Dalai Lamas have traditionally visited for hints about the future.
Numerous Buddhist disciples make a pilgrimage here from April to June of each Tibetan calendar. It is said that people can see their future life from the reflections of the lake. The 4th year of ZhengDe, Ming Dynasty (1509AD), Qukejiesi was built nearby by Gedun Gyatso, the Second Dalai Lama, which added more views to the unique views of the plateau.
Best time to go: early May to late August
Getting there & away
Though it's very inconvenient to reach Lake Lhamo Nhatso, it's still worth a?visit for the beautiful scenery and the legend. Most travelers charter a jeep from Lhasa all the way down and visit a few other places in Shannan Region before Lhamo Nhatso. If you are travelling on your own by bus, you may need to take the route
Lhasa(famous destination included in the top 10 China tour packages)-->Tsedang-->Gyacha-->Lhamo Nhatso
Take a Lhasa to Tsedang bus in front of Bakhor square for Y40, the earliest one departing at 8:30am, arriving in 2.5hrs.
A daily bus runs from Tsetang to Gyacha for Y70, departing at 8:30am, the 128km journey takes 6~7hrs on a harsh road. A chartered minibus may leave when full for Y80~90 per person.
After arriving at Gyacha, you can take a minibus from the bus station to Cuijiu village, which?stops at the foot of the mountain pass?of the?Lake for?￥(unit for China money)32. The bumpy riding takes around 3 hours. From there, you need to walk?uphill to the mountain pass of 5200m high for about 30 minutes, where the sacred lake is just in front of you.
Entry Ticket: ￥50
Most travellers stay overnight at Gyacha county. Minzheng Binguan is the best hostel available?in town. ￥100/std. rm?with hot shower.? There are a few restaurants along the main road, just facing to the hostel.
For more information, you can check out China tour guide.
Day 1 Arrive Beijing On arrival in Beijing, you will be met & transferred by our professional English speaking China tour guide to your hotel. Enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure.
Day 2 Beijing (B/L) Buffet breakfast at hotel. Full day city excursion to Tiananmen Square-the largest square in the world, Forbidden City-imperial palace of Ming and Qing Dynasty, and the Summer Palace with Lunch at good local restaurants. You can choose the Chinese Kungfu show as optional in the evening. The Tian’anmen Square: The largest city square in the world. The Forbidden City: the imperial palace for the Ming and Qing with a history of around 600 years. The Summer Palace: the best-preserved imperial garden in China.
Day 3 Beijing (B/L/D) Buffet breakfast at hotel followed by full day trip to the Great Wall at Badaling, the Ming Tombs and the Sacred Way with lunch at local Chinese restaurant. Peking Roasted Duck Dinner.
The Great Wall: the symbol of China and Climbing the Great Wall you can pass visitors from all over the world, and hear conversations in almost every language The Ming Tombs: Consisting of mausoleums of 13 Ming emperors, is one of the largest imperial necropolises in China. The Sacred Way: The way stood on both sides with marvelous stone sculptures by which means the road leading to heaven.
Day 4 Beijing/Xian (B/L/D) Buffet breakfast at hotel, visit Temple of Heaven-here ancient emperors prayed for good harvest, then explore old town of Beijing(visit Hutong by rickshaw), lunch at the Hutong family followed by transfer to the airport for flight to Xian-the ancient capital of China, starting point for Silk Road tour. Upon arrival meet and transfer the hotel. Dumpling Dinner with dumplings making demonstration at a good dumpling restaurant.
Hutong: A hutong is a unique form of community that exists only in China. If you are fed up with high buildings and wide streets, enter Beijing’s hutongs then. Here, you will find "Hutong Culture". The Temple of Heaven: The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations.
Day 5 Xian (B/L) Buffet breakfast at hotel. Full day excursion to world famous Terracotta Warriors and Horses with circle movie showed before returning to the city for visit of the big wild Goose Pagoda and the Grand Mosque. Lunch at good local restaurant. You can choose the Tang Dynasty Dinner Show as optional in the evening (highly recommended, as it is the best show in China).
The Terracotta Warriors and Horses: The most significant archeological excavations of the 20th century, the army of terra-cotta warriors and the bronze chariots entombed in vast underground vaults at emperor Qin’s tomb. The Tang Dynasty Dinner & Show: The show that presents the palace dances and sings in the Tang Dynasty. The Big wild Goose Pagoda: It is one of the city’s most distinctive and outstanding landmarks, possibly the most beautiful building left in Xi’an today and one of must-see Xian attractions. The Great Mosque: It is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China
Day 6 Xi’an/Chongqing (B/L) Buffet breakfast at hotel. then visit Shaanxi Historical Museum, Ancient City Wall. Lunch at local good restaurant followed by transfer to the airport for flight to Chongqing . Arrive at Chongqing, you will be met at the airport & transferred to board your deluxe cruise ship for the Three Gorges river journey.
The Provincial Museum: Which is one of the best Museum in China and where you can learn a lot about the 5,000 year brilliant history of China. The Ancient City Wall: Xian City Wall was constructed in the early Ming Dynasty on the basis of the Imperial City of Chang An (Everlasting Peace) of the Tang Dynasty.
Day 7 Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D) Depart Chongqing 8:00am. Shore excursion at Fengdu.
Fengdu: known as the "Ghost City" and is a place for punishing the devil and awarding the good.
Day 8 Yangtze Cruise (B/L/D) Pass through the magnificent Qutang Gorge, and beautiful Wu Gorge a. Shore excursion to the Baidi City(optional tour). Transfer to a small sampan to cruise the Shennong Stream.
Qutang Gorge: the first of the three gorges of the Yangtze River on, and the one that is famous for its sheer and spectacular precipices. Wu Gorge: the most beautiful section of the Yangtze River, The gorge was also known to be as dangerous as it is beautiful. Shennong Stream: a tributary of the Yangtze River which you can have Yantze River tour, a sampan tour in Shennong Stream will allow you to experience a high speed adventure.
Day 9 Yangtze Cruise/Yichang/Shanghai (B/L) Visit the Three Gorges Dam. Arrives in Yichang. Be transferred to the airport for your flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival meet and transfer to Hotel.
Three Gorges Dam: the largest water conservancy project ever under taken by human being is now being built at Sandouping in the middle of Xiling Gorge.
Day10 Shanghai (B/L) Buffet breakfast at hotel. Full day city tour with visit to the Yu Garden, the "Bund", Nanjing Road and the Jade Buddha Temple with lunch at local Chinese restaurant. You can choose the Acrobatic Show as optional in the evening.
Yu Garden: a place of peace and comfort in the heart of bustling Shanghai, dates back to the fabled Ming Dynasty. The Jade Buddha Temple: The most famous Buddhist temple in Shanghai. The Bund: known as a miniature museum of international architecture with dozens of high buildings standing along the shore. Nanjing Road: the longest commercial street in China, lined with big department and specialty stores, upscale boutiques, and a variety of fine restaurants, enjoying the reputation of "China’s No.1 Street".
Day 11 Shanghai (B) Free for Shopping or You can choose the full day Suzhou Tour as optional in this day.
Itinerary Shanghai/Suzhou/Shanghai (B/L) Buffet breakfast at hotel. Full day trip by coach or train to Suzhou where you will visit Garden of the Master of the Nets, Lingering Garden and Silk Factory with lunch at good local restaurants. Afternoon, boat trip on the ancient canal in Suzhou. Back to Shanghai in the evening.
Garden of the Master of the Nets: Suzhou is famous for its the Gardens. Garden of the Master of the Nets is an elaborate succession of small gardens. In the garden you would marvel at this unique architecture art. Lingering Garden: It is the best preserved among all the Suzhou gardens. Silk Factory: Suzhou is also famous for its silk production. In the factory you can see how the silk is processed from the silk worm to the final woven cloth. Ancient Canal: which is 1,764 km (about 1200 miles) in length, is the longest man-made waterway as well as being the greatest in ancient China.
Day 12 Shanghai/Departure(B) Buffet breakfast at hotel. Free until transfer to the airport for flight to the next destination. End of service.
The Yangtze river is important to the cultural origins of southern China and you can experience via Yantze River tour. Human activity was found in the Three Gorges area as far back as 7 thousand years ago, initiating debate over the origin of the Chinese people. In the Spring and Autumn Period, Ba and Shu were located in the western part of the river, covering modern Sichuan, Chongqing, and western Hubei; Chu was located in the central part of river, corresponding to Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, and southern Anhui. Wu and Yue were located in the eastern part of the river, now Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai. Although the Yellow River region was richer and more developed at that time, the milder climate and more peaceful environment made the Yangtze river area more suitable for agriculture.
From the Han Dynasty, the region of the Yangtze river became more and more important in China's economy. The establishment of irrigation systems (the most famous one is Dujiangyan, northwest of Chengdu, built during the Warring States period) made agriculture very stable and productive. Early in the Qing dynasty, the region called "Jiangnan" (that includes the southern part of Jiangsu which is the most famous destination for China vacation deals, the northern part of Zhejiang, and the southeastern part of Anhui) provided 1/3-1/2 of the nation's revenues.
Historically, the Yangtze became the political boundary between north China and south China several times (see History of China) because of the difficulty of crossing the river. Many battles took place along the river, the most famous being the Battle of Red Cliffs in 208 AD during the Three Kingdoms period.
Politically, Nanjing was the capital of China several times, although most of the time its territory only covered the southeastern part of China, such as the Wu kingdom in the Three Kingdoms period, the Eastern Jin Dynasty, and smaller countries in the Northern and Southern Dynasties and Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms periods. Only the Ming occupied most parts of China from their capital at Nanjing, though it later moved capital to Beijing, the capital of China and the hot travel destination for top 10 China tours. The ROC capital was located in Nanjing in the periods 1911-1912, 1927-1937, 1945-1949.
Fairytale World Jiuzhaigou Valley is a renowned fairy tale world with its original and mysterious scenery. Its water seems like silver chains and rainbows, giving the plain forests and valleys on the plateau its standout charm. With grass and flowers rarely seen changing with the season, it serves as a wonderful summer resort for your China tour deals.
Tips: see its water, waterfall and forest as well as spend a summer holiday.
Clear streams converge to create a quiet lake, with gentle breeze blowing over the shinning water surface and plants at the lake bottom swaying, offering a picturesque fairytale world.
Seated in the southwest of Qinhuangdao, Hebei province, Beidaihe, with its long and zigzag beach and verdant trees, is a noted scenic spot for summer. Eagle Point Pavilion, alongside its seashore, is honored as one of the top nine places in China to enjoy the sunrise. Tips: enjoy the sunrise, play in the water and sand as well as spend a summer holiday.
Visitors who spend a summer holiday here are so attracted by the beautiful sunset that they all stop to enjoy or take photos.
Situated in the triangle area of Yunnan, Sichuan and Tibet, the northwestern part of Yunnan province, Shangri-La is a pure land that maintains its natural ecology and ethnic traditional culture intact, rarely seen on Earth and always contained in the China best tours. This is a true heaven where you can run after the wind, talk to the birds and see isolated scenery, an ideal place for listening to your heart, especially during July and August.
Tips: spend a summer holiday, take photos, see the snow-capped mountains and forests
As the highest mountain in Northeast China, it is world renowned for its fascinating scenery. Due to the influence of vertical changes in mountainous terrain, there are four zones of landscapes, including the temperate zone and the frigid zone, from its foot to the top, which is rarely seen. It is one of must-see for your summer popular China tours.
Tips: climb the mountain, see the forest, Tianchi and unique landforms and creatures as well as spend a summer holiday.
Located among karst geography, Guilin is noted for its clear waters, superb caves, unique stones and green mountains, which is integrated into Lijiang River and its surrounding rural landscape. There is some truth to the saying, “Guilin’s scenery is the best in the world.”
There are natural wonders like tunnels of wind, thunder, lightning and fog in the “Ridge of Central China”. There are also icicles, ice arrows, icing and ice towers in various shapes showing dazzling and cool light in the mysterious ice caves. Nothing is better than feeling the cool air here in the scorching summer.
Tips: see rare landforms, ice caves and spend a summer holiday.
The above-mentioned attractions have made great contribution to China tourism.
Top 5: Taichung, Taiwan
Located in Taiwan, Taichung is the third largest city on the island in terms of population, after Taipei and Kaohsiung. With the Taiwan Strait in the west and the Central Mountain Range in the east, the city features splendid mountains, tranquil lakes, beautiful wetlands and fantastic downtown sceneries.
Top 4: Huizhou, Guangdong
Located in the southeast of Guangdong Province, Huizhou is neighbor to Shenzhen and Hong Kong which is the best destination included in the packages of last minute China travel deals. Settled between Dayawan Bay of the South China Sea and Luofu Mountain, the local scenic areas are varied - mountains, rivers, sea and forests. Huizhou is the headquarter of many famous Chinese enterprises, especially electronics and IT companies, including TCL, Desay Corp., and Huayang General Electronic.
Top 3: Jinhua, Zhejiang
Jinhua is situated in the central part of Zhejiang Province, with Quzhou in the west and Shaoxing and Hangzhou which is the must-see and included in the top 10 China tour packages in the north. Featuring a charming landscape and a rich cultural heritage, the city was named as one of the National Historical and Cultural Cities of China by the State Council in 2007. In 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011 and 2012, Jinhua was included in the Top 10 Livable City Ranking.
Top 2: Zhuhai, Guangdong
Lying at the southwest tip of the Pearl River Delta in Guangdong Province, Zhuhai is one of the five Special Economic Zones in China, and a neighbor of Hong Kong (learn more about it via Hong Kong travel guide) and Macau. Consisting of 146 islets, the city is called "City of Islands" and "City of Romance". In recent years, Zhuhai has experienced an impressive economic growth, especially in the electronics, garment and home appliances industries.
Top 1: Weihai, Shandong
Weihai, situated in the easternmost part of Shandong Province, is surrounded by the Yellow Sea in the north, east and south. Enjoying a temperate continental monsoon climate, the city has no chilly winter and sweltering summer. In October 6, 2003, Weihai became the first city in China to receive the Habitat Scroll of Honor Award issued by the United Nations.
For more others, check out China travel guide.
In the boundless desolate Gobi desert stand the ruins of the ancient city of Gaochang, shining like a resplendent precious stone inlaid in the barren desert and shining on the Silk Road, now is famous travel route for Silk Road travel. Gaochang is located at the foot of the Flaming Mountain, about 46 kilometers southeast of Turpan. Withstanding the test of time and weather, the ancient city of Gaochang, and the ancient city of Jiaohe, are the best-preserved ruins of the ancient cities in China.
The ancient city of Gaochang was built as a garrison town in the first century B.C., initially called Gaochang Wall, and later renamed Kharakhoja, Kocho or King City. It was a key point along the Silk Road. During the successive dynasties, it was ruled as Gaochang Prefecture which is an optional destination for China tour deals, Gaochang Kingdom and West Prefecture. By the 14th century, the city was damaged and abandoned due to warfare between Mongolian aristocrats and Uigurs. After 2,000 years, the weather-beaten ancient city still displays its past greatness and glory even though the walls are incomplete the magnificent outline remains.
The ruins are an irregular square, covering an area of about 2,200,000 sq meters. The layout is similar to that of Chang'an City in the Tang Dynasty.The city is composed of three sections: an outer city, an inner city and a palace city. The outer city with a perimeter of 5.4 kilometers, is enclosed by a city wall of 12 meters thick and 11.5 meters high, and built with tamped earth. Nine city gates are located in the four cardinal points: three in the South, and two in each of the other directions. The gates in the west are the best preserved. In the southwestern and southeastern parts of the outer city you can find two temples ruins. The temple in the southwestern corner consists of a gate, a courtyard, a sermon hall, a sutra depository and monks' abodes. The southeastern temple consists of a polygonal tower and a worship grotto, where splendid murals remain well preserved.
The inner city, situated right in the middle of the outer city, has a perimeter of 3 kilometers. The western and southern parts of the city walls are well preserved. The eastern and southern parts were badly damaged, only with the northeastern highlands and the southeastern earthen platforms are still visible. No trace of the inner city's gates remain. You can learn a lot here to color your best tours of China.
The Palace City is located in the north of the inner city, sharing its southern wall with the inner city and northern wall with the outer city. It is a rectangle with a perimeter of 700 meters. Within the city, many large cornerstones remains are still visible, with an average height of 3.5 meters to 4 meters. These cornerstones are relics of a 4-storied palace. An irregular adobe square standing in a high earthen platform is called "Khan's Castle", which was the imperial residence.
As one of the key points along the Silk Road, the ancient city of Gaochang was also a sanctuary of world religious culture. Xuanzhuang, a well-known Buddhist monk in the Tang Dynasty about which you can learn more via China guide stopped here and delivered lectures on his way to India. Today, the remains standing here remind us of the grandeur and prosperity of the ancient city.
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