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Shanghai and Neighbors Tour 8 days

Tour Code: CHT-107
Departure Date: You choose
Destinations: Shanghai / Suzhou / Huangshan / Hangzhou / Shanghai
Tour Price: from $1067
Tour Feature:Land tour + well selected hotel + domestic flights/trains, Private Guided with your own English speaking guide (otherwise specified), your own driver at your own pace and schedule.

Day by Day Itinerary

Day 1
Place & Transport: Arrive in Shanghai, Flight not included
Today’s Activities: Airport to Hotel Transfer (Shanghai)

Day 2
Place & Transport: Shanghai to Suzhou, Train No. D444 (Shanghai Railway Station – Suzhou Railway Station) Dep 17:35 – Arr 18:11
Today’s Activities: Hotel to Train station Transfer (Shanghai), Train station to Hotel Transfer (Suzhou), Yuyuan Garden, Yuyuan Market, Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, The Shanghai World Financial Center, Julong Silk Exhibition
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Old Shanghai Restaurant

- Yuyuan Garden: Located at a very busy marketplace in a complex of traditional-style buildings, backing onto Yu Gardens, you can find everything there from popular local snacks and food, crafts, antiques and souvenirs to Starbucks, teahouses and some great restaurants. There is a small (reconstructed) Temple (Chenghuang: Temple of the City Gods) in there as well.

- Yuyuan Market: Located next to the Yuyuan Garden and also known today as the City God Temple, it was built in the fifteenth century during the Ming Dynasty. The City God Temple is a Taoist temple which is composed of many halls such as the Grand Hall, Middle Hall, Bedroom Palace, Star Gods Hall and etc. The City God Temple has a great influence on the residents of Shanghai. The religious festivals of the temple are considered to be the festivals for all Shanghai people.

- Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall: A short walk across Renmin Square from the Shanghai Museum, this is a fascinating insight into Shanghai’s future. The 2nd floor has a giant walkaround model of the city, and other floors have great displays, interactive exhibitions and walkthroughs of aspects such as the ports, greening, leisure etc.

- The Shanghai World Financial Center: The Shanghai World Financial Center is a super tall skyscraper. It is a mixed use skyscraper, which will consist of offices, hotels, conference rooms, observation decks, and shopping malls on the lower floors. The hotel component has 175 rooms and suites and goes by the name: The Park Hyatt, Shanghai. On September 14, 2007, the skyscraper reached 492.3 meters (1,615.2 ft) and became the tallest structure on mainland China, including Hong Kong, as well as the world’s third tallest building (including unfinished ones), after the Burj Dubai and Taipei 101.

- Old Shanghai Restaurant: Old Shanghai Restaurant is a old and famous local restaurant which serves typical Shanghai Food as well as different flavors from other parts of China.

- Julong Silk Exhibition: Julong Silk Exhibition is a window into Suzhou Maowang embroidery group situated Shanghai. There are two exhibitions where you can see how silk is produced from the silk cocoons and turned into the fabric. It has become a popular spot for foreign tourists looking for authentic, quality products.
Address: Dagu Road, Shanghai

Day 3
Place & Transport: Suzhou to Overnight train, Train No. N418/N419 (Suzhou Railway Station – Huangshan Railway Station) Dep 23:39 – Arr 10:00
Today’s Activities: Hotel to Train station Transfer (Suzhou), The Grand Canal, Lingering Garden, Humble Administrators Garden, Tiger Hill
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Yangyang Dumpling Restaurant

- The Grand Canal: The Grand Canal ranks alongside the Great Wall of China as the country’s greatest engineering achievement and it is the longest man-made waterway in the world. Cruising on the Canal, you can see the local peoples’ life.

Known as the land of rice and fish, Suzhou city has a network of picturesque lakes and canals both large and small, which all link in eventually to the Grand Canal. The view from the little boats that ply the smaller canals is enchanting, whilst the traffic on the Grand Canal reminds you of Suzhou that it was the original source of the ‘sea’ silk road.

- Lingering Garden: Suzhou is famous for its gardens.Lingering Garden is an elaborate succession of small gardens. Lingering in a garden you will marvel at its unique architecture and art. It is located on No.338 Liuyuan Road, Suzhou City. Designed to “linger” through the generations, with a succession of small beautifully landscaped gardens, pools and pavements and a pavilion for each season. It has wonderful covered walkways, carved corridors, elaborately shaped doorways and perfect viewpoints for a variety of perspectives on this special garden.

- Humble Administrators Garden: The garden is the best representative of Chinese classical gardens, constructed in the Ming dynasty,which focuses on a central pond with pavilions, terraces, chambers, and towers located nearby, the garden is divided into three parts: the eastern, middle and western parts.At 5 hectares the largest of these beautiful gardens, it is one of the most famous one. It provides everyone with pleasure. Don’t miss the Garden Museum – actually don’t miss any of this lovely place. Tourists may wear comfortable shoes, as there’s a lot of walking here.

- Tiger Hill: Tiger Hill, known also as Surging Sea Hill, is a large hillock, standing 36 meters high and covering an area of some 14,100 square meters. Going up to the hill, you will find a number of historical sites, including some from 2,500 years ago, which are as old as the Suzhou city. It is a beautiful park around the hillock where, according to legend, King Wu was buried in 514BC, guarded by a white tiger. A gentle climb passes attractive historic spots, each with own tale such as Sword Testing Rock, Miss Wu’s Tomb, Sword Spring, 1000 People Rock, to the leaning pagoda at the top. Tourists may walk down past tea bushes to the pretty canal and wooden boats. Horse-drawn or electric carts may travel some of the paths.

- Yangyang Dumpling Restaurant: Originally established as a dumpling factory, Yangyang has developed into a restaurant serving diversified cuisine. Combining traditional delicacies with western-style food, Yangyang has been recognized by overseas tourist magazines.

Day 4
Place & Transport: Overnight train to Huangshan
Today’s Activities: Train station to Hotel Transfer (Huangshan), Hongcun Village, Xidi Village, huangshan museum
Meals: Chinese Lunch at Leigang villa

- Hongcun Village: It’s located in the place which is about 10 kilometers off the northeast part of Yixian County. An ancient town over 800 years old leaning against Mt. Huangshan, it is folded in the fog of the Mt. which makes it look like a river and mountain picture. It enjoys the reputation of “The Chinese town in the pictures”. Especially, the whole town distributes like a cow, which made it one of the wonders in the world culture heritage. The famous film “Crouching Tiger” was made here. Surrounded by a picturesque moat with bridges to the village and a half-moon shaped pond in the centre, this is a favourite haunt of artists, and students often stay with local families to paint here. Laid out to represent a buffalo, it is one of the prettiest places in the area, known as the Chinese town in the pictures and has been listed by UNESCO for its beauty and largely undeveloped traditional streets and houses. Various halls, dwellings and an old school are open to visitors.

- Xidi Village: Xidi is located at the foot of Mt. Huangshan. It’s 54 kilometers away from Huangshan City.First built 900 years ago in Song Dynasty with UNESCO, its traditional architecture is well preserved. The buildings and the street patterns, reflect the socio-economic structure of an enduring period of Chinese history. Don’t miss the large memorial archway.

- Leigang villa: “chinese-style food and local food ,leigang restaurant is situate on the top of the leigang hill .Here, clean air, beautiful environment, pleasant scenery.It is surrounded by bamboo forest and peach tree.Standing on the hill,you can do a bird’s eye view to the whole Hongcun village. ”

- huangshan museum: Huangshan museum is the biggest comprehensive exhibition in Huangshan. It showcases products of all types including ink stone, Hui-style ink, paintings, Hui-style carvings, ancient books, old porcelain. It has become a popular spot for foreign tourists looking for authentic, quality Hui-style products.
Address: No.24 huishang, huangshan City

Day 5
Place & Transport: Huangshan
Today’s Activities: Yungu Cable Car, Yellow Mountain
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch

- Yungu Cable Car: You can enjoy the scenery along the way to the yellow mountain by cable car.

- Yellow Mountain: Located in the south of Anhui Province, with an area of about 1,200 square kilometers, known as “the loveliest mountain in China”,famous for magnificent scenery whatever the season: granite peaks piercing the clouds, strangely shaped rocks and gnarled trees, hot springs, waterfalls, wonderful outlooks and over 1500 plant species. No traffic within the core area of about 150 square kilometres, accessible by cable car or on foot. Many enticing walks of all grades, all include some steps.

Day 6
Place & Transport: Huangshan to Hangzhou
Today’s Activities: Hotel to bus station Transfer (Huangshan), Express bus station to Hotel Transfer (Hangzhou), Yungu Cable Car
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at U.B.C Coffee

- Yungu Cable Car: You can enjoy the scenery along the way to the yellow mountain by cable car.

- U.B.C Coffee: Located nearby the Old Street, U.B.C Coffee is well decorated with a cozy environment. The restaurant serves western food and Business Package. It also caters to a variety of cuisine, including Western-style cakes, coffee, steak, etc.

Day 7
Place & Transport: Hangzhou to Shanghai, Train No. D680 (Hangzhou Railway Station – Shanghai South Railway Station) Dep 18:18 – Arr 19:36
Today’s Activities: Hotel to Train station Transfer (Hangzhou), Train station to Hotel Transfer (Shanghai), Lingyin Temple, Meijiawu Tea Plantation, The West Lake(including the Island on the lake), Meijiawu Village
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Tianxinglou Restaurant

- Lingyin Temple: Lingyin Temple is one of the ten most famous ancient Buddhist temples in China. It also houses various Buddhist literature and treasures situated in front of the Temple, and is famous for its more than 470 stone carvings of Buddhist figures, which dated from the 10th to 14th centuries.

- Meijiawu Tea Plantation: Tea village is seated at the hinterland of West Lake Park and it boasts the most important tea production basis. Here you are in an original natural environment, just relax your feelings and enjoy the special tea culture, taste the fragrant tea while appreciating the beautiful village scenery.

- The West Lake(including the Island on the lake): West Lake has an area of 5.6 square kilometers (2.2 square miles) and is the symbol of Hangzhou which lies on its banks and is a place of tranquility. A visit to Fairy Island is worth it to see on of the Ten Best Views of West Lake – Three Pools Mirroring the Moon. The occasional pagoda and Chinese-style arched bridges add atmosphere to the tree-lined walkways, verdant islands and hills make West Lake a very special part of any China experience.

- Tianxinglou Restaurant: Hangzhou Tianxianglou is the biggest hotel on the GaoYin Street and has a unique elegance and antique flavor. It is famous throughout China for it’s Hangzhou style dishes.

- Meijiawu Village: Meijiawu Village is located in the western part of West Lake scenic area. It has a history of over 600 years. Situated among lush green hills, it is a rustic, natural scenic spot. Visitors can have a tea culture experience by learning tea picking and processing. It also showcases tea products of all kinds including jasmine tea, Dragon Well tea, green tea, black tea, and wulong tea. Address: No.1 South Meiling Road

Day 8
Place & Transport: Depart Shanghai, Flight not included
Today’s Activities: Hotel to airport Transfer (Shanghai)
Meals: Breakfast

Price Inclusions:
* Entrance Fees:
To scenic spots as listed in the itinerary.
* Meals:
All meals as specified in the itinerary.
If the restaurant indicated is not available on the day, your guide will arrange another restaurant from our list of approved restaurants. Breakfast is a western style buffet.
* Private Transfers:
Transfers between airports, hotels and scenic spots while sightseeing in Beijing by private air conditioned vehicle with a driver and english-speaking guide (as listed above).
Your comfort is our priority!
* Guide:
As outlined in the itinerary an english-speaking guide and driver will be provided, who will remain with you throughout your time in that city.
* Hotels:
Hotel fees are based on two people sharing one room with twin beds.
All hotels as listed in the above itinerary serve daily western or Chinese breakfast. All rooms are air-conditioned with private facilities.
* Service Charge & Government Taxes:
* Luggage Transfers:
Between airports and hotels.
* Arrangements:
The tour cost includes planning, handling, operational and communication charges.

Price Exclusions:
* Personal Expenses:
Expenses of a purely personal nature such as laundry, drinks, fax, telephone calls, optional activities, sightseeing or meals which are not included in the tour itinerary.
* Meals:
Any meals which are not specified in the tour itinerary.
* Single Room Supplement?

Essence of China Tour 8 days

Tour Code: CHT-1
Departure Date: You choose
Destinations: Beijing / Xian / Shanghai
Tour Price: from $1224
Tour Feature:Land tour + well selected hotel + domestic flights/trains, Private Guided with your own English speaking guide (otherwise specified), your own driver at your own pace and schedule.

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Day by Day Itinerary

Day 1
Place & Transport: Arrive in Beijing, Flight not included
Today’s Activities: Airport to Hotel Transfer (Beijing)
Detailed Itinerary: Beijing is a city of amazing contrasts – an ancient capital with some incredible historical sites and a bustling modern metropolis that successfully hosted the 2008 Olympics. After arriving in Beijing, you will be met and transferred you to your Hotel. The guide will give you tips on local restaurants that we recommend and shopping in streets nearby. The rest of the day is free to rest to recover from jetlag or explore Beijing on your own.

Day 2
Place & Transport: Beijing
Forbidden CityToday’s Activities: Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Treasure Houses, Short Hutong Tour in Xicheng District, Lizexiang Pearl Store
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Courtyard 7 Restaurant
Detailed Itinerary: After breakfast visit Tian’anmen Square, the symbol of Beijing and one of highlights of any Beijing tour. A walk in the Square will help discover the many points of interest. There is much to see.

The Forbidden City is the destination for the afternoon. The Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties governed China for over 500 years for this the largest palace in the world. It is the “must see” in Beijing. The Treasure Houses hold all kinds of treasure owned by Qing dynasty royalty and give great insight into the daily life of the royal families.

Lunch is at Courtyard 7 Restaurant near the Hutong area. Its rustic Chinese design gives it real charm. This serves restaurant provides new modern French dishes as well as Chinese cuisine.

Then make the short trip back to the Hutong area where a rickshaw awaits to ride through the narrow alleys and passages. A visit to a local family is included then a walk over the Silver Ingot Bridge (Yinding Bridge) to hear the explanation about the different thresholds that mark the entry to the courtyard houses.

Day 3
Place & Transport: Beijing
Mutianyu Great WallToday’s Activities: Temple of Heaven, Mutianyu Great Wall(with round way cable car), Cloisonne Factory
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Xin Shuang Quan Restaurant, Chinese Dinner at Roasted Duck at Fangzhuang
Detailed Itinerary: First visit Temple of Heaven. It is the place where emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties would offer sacrifice to heaven and pray for good harvests. You can see thousand of local people doing morning exercises including Tai Chi, dancing and Shuttlecock kicking.

Lunch is at Xin Shuang Quan Restaurant near Mutianyu Great Wall. This garden style restaurant serves farmhouse dishes, specializing in rainbow trout, sturgeon and salmon.

After that we will visit the Great Wall – Mutianyu Section which is less crowed than other sections. It is surrounded by wonderful landscape and has a rarely seen structure formed by three connected watch towers and the cable car provides a safe comfortable assent and decent. Dinner is at Quanjude, which is renowned for Beijing roasted duck.

Day 4
Place & Transport: Beijing to Xian, Flight No. TBA
Today’s Activities: Hotel to airport Transfer (Beijing), Airport to Hotel Transfer (Xian), Summer Palace
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Beijing Ba guo bu yi Restaurant
Detailed Itinerary: The Summer Palace is equally famous as the Forbidden City. It is the best preserved and the largest imperial garden in China. A much-loved summer retreat of the Imperial families, the beautifully landscaped gardens, halls, pavilions and corridors are designed to be in harmony with the lake and rivers in which they are set.

Lunch is at Beijing Ba guo bu yi Restaurant in the city center. It serves some of the heartiest and most authentic Sichuan fare in town and has traditional Chinese style decoration.

Transfer to the airport for the flight to Xi’an after lunch. Upon arrival in Xi’an, transfer to hotel.

Day 5
Place & Transport: Xian
Terracotta Warriors and HorsesToday’s Activities: The Terracotta Warriors and Horses, Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Chongde Handmade Pottery Factory
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at A Wa Shan Zhai Restaurant(Qinling Branch)
Detailed Itinerary: After breakfast in the hotel, set off to the incredible 2000 year-old Terra cotta warriors. The Warriors are part of the underground tomb of the Emperor Qin. There are well over 7000 figures in full battle array and battle formation in several large pits. Many of the figures – soldiers, archers, horses and chariots have been restored. The repairs and excavations continue at the site where you can see both repaired and broken warriors in a truly impressive display.

Lunch is at A Wa Shan Zhai Restaurant nearby the Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses. It specializes in Hunan and Sichuan cuisine and has a nationwide reputation for the quality of their food.

In the afternoon, visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda where widely renowned Master Xuanzang (Monk Tripitaka) stored his collection of classic Buddhist artifacts originally brought from India. It is the symbol of the ancient capital city – Xi’an.

Day 6
Place & Transport: Xian to Shanghai, Flight No. TBA
Today’s Activities: Hotel to airport Transfer (Xian), Airport to Hotel Transfer (Shanghai), Shaanxi Provincial Museum, Xian City Wall with Bicycle, Muslim Street
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Qianzhou Restaurant(Xiao Yanta Branch)
Detailed Itinerary: Spend the morning at one of the best museums in China – the Shaanxi Historical Museum. Among the 400,000 items on display are treasures from many Dynasties including magnificent bronzes and porcelain, many of which have never been on permanent display before.

Lunch is at Qianzhou Restaurant in the city center. The specialties are of ancient origin from the Tang Dynasty and leave customers with great culinary memories.

After the lunch, drive to the old City Wall. The walls, ramparts, gates and watchtowers form one of the oldest and most complete city defenses still in existence. Built in the 13th century on the foundations of the original Tang Forbidden City, it surrounds the city center. Walk, rent a bike or take an electric cart around the full 14km circuit, which has great views of the city on either side.

Later, drive to the Muslim sector. A 500 meters long avenue paved with bluestones is dotted with unique stalls, souvenir shops, cafe and bars. After that, fly to Shanghai and on arrival in Shanghai, transferred to the hotel.

Day 7
Place & Transport: Shanghai
World Financial CenterToday’s Activities: Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, The Shanghai World Financial Center, Yuyuan Market, Yuyuan Garden, The Bund, Shanghai Hua Ling Silk Exhibition Hall
Meals: Breakfast, Chinese Lunch at Old Shanghai Restaurant
Detailed Itinerary: We start the day by visiting Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall which is much more interesting and impressive that its sounds. It tells the story of growth of the metropolis, explains her foundation, development and future in 2-3hours. Then we head to the famous Oriental TV Tower (also known as the Pearl Tower, for its distinctive shape). The second highest viewing platform provides wonderful views over Shanghai and the Huang Pu River, and those with a good head for heights can choose to buy a ticket to continue on to the very top. In the afternoon, we take a relaxing walk to the lovely old Yuyuan Garden, the most famous garden in Shanghai which is decorated by beautiful pavilions, miniature lakes, bridges and rock formations. It is also a shopper’s paradise with many small shops, often housed in authentic historic structures, carrying everything from furniture to porcelain.

Day 8
Place & Transport: Depart Shanghai, Flight not included
Today’s Activities: Hotel to airport Transfer (Shanghai)
Meals: Breakfast
Detailed Itinerary: Transfer to the airport ready for your departure. We wish you have a pleasant journey home and thank you for using with China Highlights – Discovery your way.

Price Inclusions:
* Entrance Fees:
To scenic spots as listed in the itinerary.
* Meals:
All meals as specified in the itinerary.
If the restaurant indicated is not available on the day, your guide will arrange another restaurant from our list of approved restaurants. Breakfast is a western style buffet.
* Private Transfers:
Transfers between airports, hotels and scenic spots while sightseeing in Beijing by private air conditioned vehicle with a driver and english-speaking guide (as listed above).
Your comfort is our priority!
* Guide:
As outlined in the itinerary an english-speaking guide and driver will be provided, who will remain with you throughout your time in that city.
* Hotels:
Hotel fees are based on two people sharing one room with twin beds.
All hotels as listed in the above itinerary serve daily western or Chinese breakfast. All rooms are air-conditioned with private facilities.
* Service Charge & Government Taxes:
* Luggage Transfers:
Between airports and hotels.
* Arrangements:
The tour cost includes planning, handling, operational and communication charges.

Price Exclusions:
* Personal Expenses:
Expenses of a purely personal nature such as laundry, drinks, fax, telephone calls, optional activities, sightseeing or meals which are not included in the tour itinerary.
* Meals:
Any meals which are not specified in the tour itinerary.
* Single Room Supplement?

Chinese Food for Travelers: A Guide for the Western Palate

Beijing boasts more than 30,000 restaurants in the metropolitan area. What can a traveler expect when it comes to Chinese food? China’s cuisine offerings provide temptations for those with a light stomach to those who will try anything…once. FoodTrekker.com has identified some menu choices for those traveling to China, along with a cheat sheat for those not looking for suprises.

BEIJING BASICS

According to FoodTrekker.com, some of the culinary offerings in Beijing may seem unexpected or unusual to the Western palate. For the adventurous traveler, they might enjoy sampling some of these true Chinese delicacies.

* Giant steamed dumpling filled with soup (type of soup varies, usually a kind of mutton or beef stock and often loaded with MSG)
* Hot pot (usually served in a ying yang shape bowl with half spicy, and half seafood based soup)
* Freshly-made tofu
* Fresh water chestnuts on a stick
* Steamed buns
* Cup of tea (green or black)
* Ludagun (a rolled pastry made of soy bean flour)

FOR THE MORE ADVENTUROUS
* Roast duck (sometimes served complete with head, wings and feet)
* Raw sea urchin
* Donkey meat stew
* Duck bone soup
* Braised sea cucumber
* Stinky Tofu [Chou Dofu] (only the authentic versions are truly stinky)
* Braised Chicken Feet
* Fat Head Fish Soup [Peng Tou Yu Tang]

TOP 10 SURVIVOR DISHES

FoodTrekker.com has created the following cheat sheet for the timid diner.

1. Gung Bao ji Ding: Kung Pao chicken done the right way. Spicy, lots of peanuts, chicken squares, carrots, and usually another vegetable
2. Di San Xian: Mild eggplant with potato, onions and brown sauce (can be a little heavy for summer)
3. Yu Xiang Xiezi: Eggplant in fish sauce with carrots, mushrooms and other vegetables. Popular with Westerners. Ask for Yu Xian Ro Si if you want it made with spicy pork strips instead of eggplant.
4. Baozi: Steamed dumplings. Usually available for breakfast everywhere. Look for large steaming bamboo vats in the early morning.
5. Xi Hong Shi Chao Dan: Tomato with Scrambled eggs. While this sounds like a breakfast dish to a Westerner, it is served at any time. The tomato sauce makes it slightly sweet. Popular with Westerners.
6. Chao Mian Pian: Xinjiang joint fried noodle dish. Close as you can get to home-style Italian pasta.
7. Suan La Tu Do si: Sweet and Sour Potato strips.
8. Qing Chao Xi Lan Hua: Broccoli with garlic sauce.
9. La Mian: Fried noodles (when you are tired of experimenting)
10. Ba si xiang jiao: Warm battered banana with sweet syrup. Take a piece and dip into the water provided, watch it solidify, and then eat. Unusual and flavorful.

Top Dining Spots in Beijing

Experimenting with Chinese cuisine can be overwhelming, but it’s still worth it.

Top 5 Dining Street Locations in Beijing:

  1. Gui Street, near Dongzhimennei Dajie, in the Dongcheng District, is the largest and most famous food street in Beijing. Here you will find seafood specialties such as spicy lobster, spicy crab, pepper and chili prawns, and poached fish in pungent sauce.
  2. Wangfujing Snack Street, is south of Haoyou Department Store, near Wangfujing Business Street, in the Dongcheng District. Snack on crossing bridge rice noodles, smelled bean curd, sticky fruit on bamboo skewers and Xinjiang lamb skewers. If you’re really adventurous, sample the scorpion kebabs.
  3. Donghuamen Market, north of Donganmen Street in Dongcheng District, appeals to the senses. Try stretched noodles, fish ball soup, smelly bean curds, muttons, prawns, silkworms skewered and grilled, boiled dumplings and caramelized fruits on sticks.
  4. Longfusi Snack street, north of Dongsi Longfu Mansion, in the Dongcheng District is the place to try soymilk, fried dough rings, sausage or fried squid. Sweetened baked wheaten cake is a traditional treat here.

Top 5 Restaurant Recommendations in Beijing:

  1. Laitai Food Street, located across from Lady’s Street, is the newest food street in the city. Here you can sample foods from different regions and cultures: Cantonese, Sichuan, Japanese, Korean, Turkey, and Thai.
  2. Fangshan Imperial Restaurant at 1 Wenjin Jie, serves Court Cuisine, based upon 600-year-old-plus recipes favored by China’s former emperors in the Ming and King dynasties. This is a true dining experience, rich with ceremony, and with the option for an eight, 10, 12 or 36 course dinner.
  3. Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant, at 32 Qianmen Dajie, was founded in 1864, and is famous for its namesake dish. The chefs prepare roast duck on an open-door wood oven fueled by wood from fruit trees.
  4. Donglaishun Restaurant, near Tian’anmen Square, has been in business 100 years. Its signature dish, the lamb hot pot, is a staple among the Muslim communities of northern China. The restaurant also offers a variety of fried dishes including quick-fried mutton, minced chicken meat, roasted gigot and roasted duck, as well as flavored snacks such as butter fried cake and sweet walnut soup.
  5. Du Yi Chu Shao Mai on Qianmen Street, has been serving Beijing for 300 years and it is still a top spot among locals. The most popular dish is Shao Mai, steamed dumplings with the dough gathered at the top, and stuffed with vegetables or meat.
  6. LAN, on the 4th Floor at LG Twin Towers, Jianguomenwai Avenue, Chaoyang District, is one of the hottest, trendiest spots in Beijing, complete with Philippe Stark decor and 35 private dining rooms. There is a selection of meals from around the world that will appeal to all tastes.


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The Forest of Stone Steles Museum

With over 3,000 years of recorded history maybe it should not be surprising that China has a museum containing nearly 3,000 pieces of inscribed stone. Those stones are called steles, which is a small monolith with carved writings or low-relief sculpture on one face. Like many things in China, these particular examples are extraordinary.

The museum is located in downtown Xi’an on Sanxue Street. The examples of Chinese calligraphy housed there have been lovingly gathered and cared for over many centuries. There are over 2,000 engraved tablets from the Han dynasty alone.

Originally constructed in 1078AD, the museum is now a labyrinth of six corridors, seven rooms and eight pavilions holding the huge collection. It is unique among storehouses of artifacts in its concentration on this one art.

The collection grew as samples were added over the centuries from the Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Extensively renovated in 1937, the museum and contents took on the present shape.

Chinese calligraphy has been practiced for over 5,000 years and many of its finest examples are housed in the museum. Among many top notch works, there is the Cao Quan stele, written in Han script in 185AD. Others of immense historical importance are also part of the collection, such as the Nestorian stele and the Monk Bu Kong.

The steles from Langya originate from Lin Xi during the Eastern Jin dynasty in the early 4th century. They provide evidence of the changes in Chinese calligraphy that were beginning during that time. Elegant, yet forceful, these samples influenced many generations of carvers.

Many of the steles are as important for their calligraphy as their content. The Chinese language is pictographic – its symbols are not just letters as English or Roman languages are. Like Egyptian hieroglyphics, they have an artistic element as well. Through the ages, many of these stones show variations in style that make them works of art in written language, as well as historical documents. The Ouyang Xun steles are examples of this.

Some steles are commemorative plaques praising some great man. Some are religious texts. The 12 Confucian Classics, carved around 837AD, guided much of those practicing the religion in feudal times. The Book of Changes, the Book of Rites and others were not merely displays of art for the idle rich, but sacred texts that defined a philosophy for millions. In the 2nd Exhibition Hall similar steles are stored constituting the Holy Buddhist Scriptures.

Epitaphs, stories, scriptures and other forms of writing show that the Forest of Stone Steles Museum is more than just a collection of ancient lithographic oddities. It is a treasure trove of the history of a complex people and their culture down through the ages.

The Forbidden City

Like China itself, the Imperial Palace in Beijing has come a long way in 600 years. Once the home of Emperors of one of the oldest civilizations on Earth, it now houses a Starbucks. Fortunately, alongside the encroaching commercial enterprises, the terrible grandeur of those bygone empires has been preserved within its massive walls.

The more than 800 buildings comprising the complex were first constructed in the early 15th century as a home, center of government and fortress for the Ming, and later Qing, emperors. For 500 years, until the establishment of the short-lived Chinese Republic in 1912, the grounds were the center of Chinese power.

The popular description for the Imperial Palace, Forbidden City, derives from the royal rule forbidding entrance to any but the royal retinue. Violation of the rule brought a sentence of death. That era is long gone, happily, and the palace is now one of the world’s most popular tourist attractions.

And there is enough to see here at Zijin Cheng in Beijing to occupy all of a short vacation.

Covering 720,000 square meters (178 acres), and surrounded by ten meter (33ft) high walls, there are seventeen palaces. Surrounding the grounds are several Royal gardens. The colorful gardens are a perfect complement to the palaces themselves, as the Royal yellow dominates their rooftops.

Entrance is either through the north wall or the south wall. At the southern end is the Meridian Gate at the infamous Tiananmen Square. The northern entrance is via the Gate of the Divine Might, which faces Jingshan Park. The distance between the two is nearly a kilometer.

Within that space is the Outer Court encompassing three halls, once used for coronations and Imperial weddings. Given China’s turbulent history the names are deeply ironic. The Hall of Supreme Harmony, which leads to the Imperial library, is just one example.

The Inner Court, on the northern and eastern end, holds another three halls that were used for daily administration of the country. Within the court is the Palace of Heavenly Purity, near the residence of the Emperor and his family and servants. Also at the northern end is one of the main Imperial gardens, home to many trees that are centuries old.

Within the walls are housed rare treasures collected over the centuries. Among these are a collection of unusual timepieces held in the Hall of Clocks. The Chinese were among the world’s leading artisans and clockmakers, owing to their (for the time) advanced level of science and mathematics.

The Palace Museum, one of the more popular attractions, holds over a million artifacts, both rare and unusual. Everything from Royal robes to unique porcelain are displayed. Earthenware from the Stone Age, bronzes and jade artifacts from the Shang and Zhou dynasties, and pottery tomb figurines from the Han are part of the collection. Ancient and more modern paintings adorn the walls, along with scrolls and samples of calligraphy from down the centuries.

The Forbidden City in Beijing is only one of the many attractions of this ancient and dynamic city. But no visit to the capital of China would be complete without a day spent here.

The Ba Hanging Coffins

The Ba Hanging Coffins

Most ancient civilizations buried their dead under the ground, a few burned them on pyres. But there are some that placed bodies of the dead in coffins and hung the coffins on a precipice.

Examples of the latter can be found in many locations throughout China. Some of those are placed on wooden beams projecting out from rock, others are on the rocks themselves. Still others are merely placed in caves high up a cliff face. Some were even suspended on wooden stakes above the ground or stuck into the cliff face.

Coffins have been found from 18 counties in various provinces, some containing hundreds of samples. The age of some preserved artifacts ranges over 13 centuries from the Jin Dynasty (265AD-420AD) to the Ming Dynasty (1368AD-1644AD). But the practice dates much further back. Archaeologists have found hanging coffins in Wuyi Mountain from as far back as the Zhou Dynasty (1027BC-777BC).

One of the most well-known examples are the Ba Hanging Coffins of the Three Gorges. Some of these are – or soon will be – lost forever as the waters of the river rise. That change was brought about by the Three Gorges River dam project which is flooding sections that were previously high above the river’s surface.

Most of these contain the remains of Ba peoples, an ancient ethnic Chinese group centered around what is now Yibin City. When buried, the wooden coffin – many containing weapons, food containers and decorated with Tiger carvings – would be placed high up the cliff face. These people are believed to be among the original engineers and workers of China’s famed Silk Road.

Preserved examples of the coffins can be found in various museums around the country. Dozens are housed in the Yibin Museum in Gong Xian. Others can be seen in Wuyi in the Fujian Province. Still more are stored in Yingtan City in Jiang Xi. And, for a while, viewing the Ba Hanging Coffins of the Three Gorges is possible as part of one of the many tours down the river.

The Ba culture survived for over 3,000 years but the last known descendant is believed to have died out as recently as 400 years ago though the funeral practice ended centuries earlier. The earliest known example of their funeral practices is believed to be one dating 2,500 years ago found at Three Gorges.

Why this ancient people began this practice, or what significance it may have had for them, is not known. Some believe that suspending the body high above the ground confered honor. It isn’t even known with certainty how they achieved some of the engineering feats involved in placing coffins so far up a cliff, distant from the top of the mountain.

But whatever the answers to these questions are, the Ba Hanging Coffins continue to fascinate visitors to China generation after generation. Come find out why.

Shanghai, Manhattan of China

Shanghai is a dynamic city, doing business at top speed and enjoying everything the new China has built.

There is more construction in Shanghai right now than in Manhattan, despite the fact that this Chinese business capital is much older. Hordes of cranes swing girders over the head of the population below all day. Given that the population is approaching 20 million, that’s a lot of girders. But there’s much more for tourists to do than watching buildings being built.

At one time Shanghai was the center of China’s opium trade. But the days of thieves and prostitutes are long gone. Shanghai, called the ‘City on the Sea’ has evolved. It now boasts the country’s stock market and is one of the world’s major financial centers.

If offers one of the world’s largest hotels, excellent dining and incomparable shopping. High-priced boutiques offer goods even a Parisian would not turn a nose up at. Givenchy, Lagerfeld and many more have stores here.

The Bund (Wai Tan) is a very popular sight in Shanghai. The name may sound German, but the area has a very international flavor. There are neo-classical buildings and a waterfront promenade full of busy locals and happy visitors.

Tourists rub shoulders with the street vendors in front of the Nisshin Kisen Kaisha Shipping building, built in 1925. The 7th floor restaurant is a local favorite. Others favor the roof terrace restaurant at the 1916 Union Assurance building. You can enjoy a breathtaking view of Pudong, where much of the major activity takes place.

Xintiandi is another of Shanghai’s many refurbished areas. It now offers upscale clubs and restaurants, but it still retains the aura of its 19th century architecture. You’ll be treated like visiting royalty.

The Yu Yuan Gardens have been receiving visitors for four centuries. And they remain one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. There are five acres of botanical treasures on display.

After a few hours spent viewing some of China’s ancient history, tourists may want to see a modern example of Shanghai’s creativity: The Oriental Pearl Tower (Dong Fang Ming Zhu). Visitors get a spectacular view of the city from the top of one of the world’s tallest broadcasting towers. It’s open day and night and the view is worth seeing both times.

The Shanghai Museum is one of the city’s more recent additions. Built in 1996, it offers 11 modern galleries full of both contemporary and ancient objects. There are bronzes, ceramics, jade and furniture from the Ming dynasty. The sculpture collection is particularly impressive.

Shanghai sits alongside the Yangtze River and there are tours down that mammoth waterway that offer one of the best views of the city. You’ll be competing for river space with lots of other boats, though. Shanghai is one of the busiest cargo ports in the world.

There are many other sights available not far from the dock. Ten Thousand-Flower Pavilion, the Grand Rockery and the Hall of Jade Magnificence are all well attended. Each is a great spot to take a break from all the activity.

Macau, City of Portugal and China

One doesn’t usually picture China and think of Europe. Yet there is one region of this Asian powerhouse that definitely fits that image: Macau. Sometimes called Macao, this peninsula less than 62km from Hong Kong is second only to that great city in its western aspect. For over 300 years, until just a few years ago, it was dominated by the Portuguese. Churches, museums and much more show that influence.

One of Macau’s great, old church’s is just ruins now: The Ruins of St. Paul’s. Built in 1602, it was run by Jesuits for generations. Made of taipa and wood, the main portion was burned in an 1835 fire. Though only the front stone facade remains standing, there is still ample evidence of what was once a magnificent structure. Well worth a look when you visit this fascinating city.

But one church first built around the same time is still very much in existence. St. Augustine’s Church, named after one of the founders of the Catholic church, was first erected in 1586. The present building dates from 1814 and houses a number of worthy sights. The high altar clad in marble is only one. The magnificent colonnades are still another. But one of the chief attractions is a statue of Jesus at the center of the altar.

The Guia Fort and Lighthouse is another popular tourist destination, and for good reason. Completed in 1638, it is located at the highest point in Macau. Though much of what was once an island has been flattened over the centuries, with the land becoming connected to the mainland, it nestles up against one of the few high hills of the region. It once housed a barracks and ammunition dump, but every part is worth a look, the lighthouse in particular.

The Macau Maritime Museum is a must see, given the strong influence of the sea on this coastal city. Opened just over 20 years ago, it is believed to be sited on the original landing point of the Portuguese who grew to dominate the island. There are numerous displays of Chinese and Portuguese history, a combination you won’t find anywhere else.

But probably the most common attraction, and one of the finest, is the many casinos housed on Macau. There are dozens of gambling houses and, unlike some in parts of Asia, are meticulously maintained. They’re colorful, cheerful and provide Vegas-style excitement.

Located at the mouth of the Pearl River delta, the casinos dot the area with delights to be found nowhere else in this well-known tourist destination. Filled with visitors both from Asia and Europe, as well as locals, here’s where the nighttime action is in Macau.

Come find out for yourself how this jewel off the coast of China has transformed itself from the shady, crime-ridden image found in old films into a modern playground where East meets West.