I recently went on a famil trip to China with Nexus holidays in March for seven days.
We flew China Eastern Airlines which is a Chinese based Airline. The airline is 3 ½ star and caters for the Chinese market predominantly. Each seat had a movie screen behind the seat with plenty of movie choices in English. The airline magazine was in Chinese and meals are all Chinese. Both Beijing and Shanghai airports are very modern with many facilities.
We stayed at the Four Points Sheraton in Beijing and the Wyndham Bund East Hotel in Shanghai. Both are 5 star hotels although not centrally located are close to shops and essentials.
The tour I completed was the Classic China tour with Nexus holidays. On arriving at Beijing Airport we were met by our Chinese National guide at the airport and transferred to the hotel. The journey from the airport was 40 minutes in a comfortable bus which was heated as it was quite cold on arrival.
The rooms at the Sheraton Four Points were quite large with large bathrooms with a bath and separate shower. My room had tea and coffee making facilities, fridge and I was able to have plunger coffee every morning before breakfast. The pillows and Doona were so soft and the bed was so comfortable. The buffet breakfast had a huge selection and plenty of Western as well as Asian options to choose from. The hotel is situated on the ring road 4. The city is in ring road 1 and about 40 minutes away. There is a large shopping centre in walking distance to the hotel and it is easy to get taxis to anywhere from the hotel.
We visited the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I was in awe of the size of Tiananmen Square with soldiers marching everywhere. This evening we enjoyed a Peking duck dinner and the Dynasty Mask Show which was 1 hour in length and well worth seeing. The costumes, dancing and the scenery were amazing.
The following day was an early start to visit the Great Wall of China. Our hotel is in the North East of Beijing so the Badling area is the closest and travelling time was 1 ½ hours. There are more remote areas that you can visit the wall but this can take 4-5 hours to get to and I would recommend staying overnight, but hotels in this region would be fairly basic. We stopped off at a Jade factory en-route and were shown around. The prices were very over inflated. We did not visit many tourist shops on our trip.
On arrival at Badling area we walked up the Wall and in parts it was quite steep and the steps were very uneven. We finished the day at the Summer Palace a lovely serene retreat of the Emperors in the middle of Beijing. The Lake and Place grounds were very beautiful.
This evening a few of us chose to catch a taxi to the Beijing Olympic village which is lit up at night and the best time to view. The stadiums were lit up in various colours and it was truly spectacular and we just wandered around the Olympic village for free. There were a few people flying kites and selling various things. During the day you can visit the pavilions but it is not as spectacular as night time.
The following day we headed to the old part of Beijing and enjoyed Rickshaw rides. This area is called the Hutong area one of the only areas left where buildings are preserved and are low rise. This area is also very touristy with many bars and westernised restaurants.
After lunch we headed to the main shopping area in Beijing and we also found snack Street where many unusual foods are for sale including scorpion, snake and starfish. Afterwards we visited the Silk Market a tourist shopping centre with floors of the usual wares from shoes, t shirts, souvenirs and much more. This is a place where you get to test your bargaining skills.
This morning we transferred to the airport and flew to Shanghai. The domestic flight was with China Eastern and the plane was very modern and we were offered a drink and a snack inflight. The flight took approx. 2 hours.
The rooms at the Wyndham Bund East were very large with large bathrooms with a bath and separate shower. The Bath had a TV at the end. My room had tea and coffee making facilities, minibar, TV and large desk. The buffet breakfast had a huge selection and plenty of Western as well as Asian options to choose from. The hotel is situated in the old area of Pudong. There is a large shopping centre in walking distance to the hotel and it is easy to get taxis to anywhere from the hotel. Downtown Shanghai is only 10-15 minutes away in a taxi.
I found Shanghai to be very a modern city with many skyscrapers. The traffic is a little less congested compared to Beijing. Nanjing road is the main shopping area which is very busy with many of the high end brands. The Bund is a short distance from here and the river. The Bund has many European style buildings and you could be mistaken for being somewhere in Europe. It is worth taking a river cruise along the river at night as the buildings are well lit up and the Bund looks spectacular. But do choose a clear night.
We visited an Acrobatic show which was another highlight of my trip. The acts just leave you in awe.
The following day we headed to the Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower which used to be one of the highest buildings in Shanghai until 2007. We took the lift to the lookout but the weather was a little foggy today but on a good day the view would be spectacular. Afterwards we enjoyed a lunch at a restaurant with traditional dumplings near the Yuan gardens. After lunch we headed into the Yuyuan Gardens for a walk around the lovely traditional Chinese gardens and then spent some free time shopping in the area nearby. This area has many shops and is quite touristy.
All our meals except breakfast were at Chinese restaurants. KFC, McDonalds and Pizza hut are everywhere in China. We were offered beer and soft drink at all our lunch and dinners. Wine was not easy to find unless you visited an expensive Western hotel, especially white wine.
Our guides all spoke excellent English and were very knowledgeable about the areas we visited. March is a good time to visit although quite cool first thing in the morning and at night but it’s pleasant during the day when you are sightseeing. June – August would be very hot and not so comfortable especially climbing the Great Wall.
The tour was quite busy and we did a lot of walking every day. I found the tour to be very interesting, with knowledgeable guides, was well organised and we made the most of our time and I felt I saw everything that was worth seeing.
I enjoyed my time in China and would recommend a tour rather than going it alone as language can be a problem as English is still not widely spoken. Having a tour guide that was knowledgeable about each city made it a very easy and hassle free holiday.