The www.CRUISE.co.uk team bring you the third and final instalment of “Fully Escorted China With The Great Wall And Nine Village’s Valley,” – the exclusive Bucket List Cruise tour which takes you through the delights of Asia and shows you a side of the Orient never seen before.
The first instalment of the cruise (which you can read about here) took you through the Dazu stone carvings, to meet China’s iconic pandas, see the Leshan Buddha and travel back to the prehistoric era of dinosaurs.
The second instalment (which you can read about here) showed you the beauty of mainland China as you visited the Nine Village’s Valley, viewed scenic lakes, waterfalls and mountains, trekked along the Great Wall and saw some of the most impressive feats of Chinese engineering.
But there’s still one more instalment of the tour left to go…
Day 15 – Beijing
On part two of your tour you visited Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace but there is still so much more to see in this vast, fast paced metropolis.
On your return to Beijing, why not go to a local tea ceremony and try all the different local varieties as a local explains to you how and where the varieties are grown. If you fancy some food, why not dine at a traditional Beijing noodle house afterwards?
Top Tip: We’d recommend the teahouse inside the Bell and Drum Tower as you can tour the two ancient buildings in old Beijing and listen to the bells tolling. They also have an extensive gift shop with many types of tea for you to take home. You can read more about what it’s like to visit this ancient tea house here!
Next, you could visit the Olympic Stadium and catch a glimpse of the famous Crow’s Nest building or The Cube or you could even join in a Tai Chi lesson in one of Beijing’s many parks and exercise like a local!
Board Your Ship
Day fifteen is the day you’ve been waiting for – after your escorted land tour you’ll be transferred to the port from Beijing to board your ship, the Sapphire Princess.
You’ll enjoy seventeen nights in total on the Sapphire Princess, relaxing in comfort on a vessel that has a range of five restaurants, a theatre, and an assortment of lounges to relax in, a lotus spa and a variety of entertainment.
The ship holds 2,670 passengers, allowing it to be large enough to provide plenty of facilities whilst not overwhelming guests with hordes of other passengers.
A past passenger of Princess elaborated on their experience on-board the Sapphire Princess: “The coffee shop was a great “chill out” zone after a hard-day’s sightseeing or sunbathing. We used the coffee card we purchased enjoying a cappuccino or a refreshing iced coffee and indulging in one of the deliciously tempting sweet treats while listening to live music… This was a truly relaxing and memorable holiday. Well done Princess and thank you, we’ll definitely be back.” You can read more about Wright’s experience here.
After you’ve settled in on-board you’ll then have a day at sea before you arrive at your first port of call allowing you to sit back, and relax… Have a drink in one of the lounges, catch a show in the theatre, have a treatment in the spa or simply go for a dip in the pool. The choice is yours!
Top tip: Make sure you check out the “Movies Under the Stars” outdoor movie theatre, as you can watch films streamed on deck and you curl up on sun loungers with blankets!
Day 17 – Busan, South Korea
Your second cruise stop is in Busan, South Korea. The country’s second city is a laid back port of call with impressive temples, beautiful mountain ranges, hot springs and beaches.
Once off the ship the foodies amongst you should head to the local fish market to see and taste the range of local delicacies. Those brave enough can try the local dish of sashimi, which is the Korean version of Sushi. It’s meant to be served with plenty of garlic and chilli, so load up your plate and give it a try!
The more cautious amongst you could try the food court at Shinsegae Mall and the range of traditional sushi, Mongolian grill (which is a bit like a stir fry) and sweet and savoury crepes instead. For something a little more indulgent, try the Mexican hot chocolate or range of cocoa goodies at Bellaluna, the famed chocolatier.
If you aren’t interested in trying the local food, then nearby are picturesque, charming villages with roads full of fantastic street art. Gamcheon Culture Village is full of vibrant street murals and houses painted in pretty pastel colours.
The area was redeveloped by art students in 2009 and has since become famous for its street art that spills from houses to staircases to alley walls. It’s the kind of beautiful street art that really has to be seen to be appreciated!
For more beautiful views, a trek to the top of Geumjeong Mountain gives you a stunning panoramic view of the city below. If you don’t want to spend the hours walking you can cheat and get the cable car to the top instead!
Top tip: Visit in the afternoon if you are visiting Geumjeong on a weekend, as weekend mornings is the mountains busiest time for hikers!
For a more relaxed afternoon, hit the beach at Haeundae, which is also South Korea’s most famous beach. The 2km stretch of sand is a favourite for families and those wanting to rent floats and sunbeds.
Day 18 – Nagasaki, Japan
The city of Nagasaki offers gorgeous views of the mountains and has influences from many cultures including The Netherlands, China and Portugal.
To really experience the heart of the city you should venture through Glover Gardens and see the Japanese parks with its lush plants of pine trees and lilies, 19th century buildings, coffee shops and fish ponds. The gardens give you a panoramic view of the surrounding city and gives you a glimpse into Japanese history as you learn about the Scottish Glover family who built the original gardens.
Another quiet spot in the city is the shrine to Confucius, which is one of the few shrines to him to have been built outside of China. The shrine has paid tribute to the ancient philosopher since 1893 and also houses the Historical Museum of China. Despite Japan and China’s old tensions, this corner of Japan pays tribute to their close neighbours and is controlled by the Chinese embassy.
If you want to learn about the cities past, head to the Nagasaki Peace Memorial and the Atomic Bomb Museum. Here you can learn how the city was re-built after the catastrophic atomic bomb in 1945 as you visit the Nagasaki Peace Park which pays tribute to all those who lost their lives. Whilst it’s a sobering visit, much like the European war graves, it’s a sight worth visiting.
As part of your trip to Nagasaki, you’ll have an included tour to Hashima Island (known as Battleship Island), so called for its resemblance to a war ship. Due to frequent blows from typhoons, this island has become eerily damaged and is a spooky visit. It was once home to a mining community who dug for coal but the island and has since been abandoned and stands in ruins nine miles from the Nagasaki coast. It has recently featured in the James Bond film Skyfall and is a perfect spot to get arty pictures and explore a hidden Japanese gem.
Day 20 – Shanghai, China
In Shanghai you’ll fall in love with the cities bright lights, markets and gardens. Whilst Beijing is the capital city, it’s in Shanghai where the nightlife and entertainment is the most prominent. To discover this hustle and bustle, visit the Bund to look at the high rise skyscrapers reflected in the water below to appreciate the scale and grandeur of Shanghai. You could even head to one of the nearby rooftop bars that overlook the waterline and the cultural hub of the city.
To see more of the traditional Shanghai you’ll need to spend your day visiting the Jade Buddha Temple with its impressive white jade sculpture. Alternatively, head to the “French Concession” to see the unusual French-Chinese corner of town with its cosmopolitan cafes and side streets that wouldn’t be out of place in the narrow streets of Paris.
The shopaholics amongst you should definitely visit old Shanghai to haggle in the markets for the full shopping experience. Try your hand at bartering as you trawl round souvenir shops, indoor markets and halls full of trinkets, clothes and jewels. Why not have a look at some of Shanghai’s famous silk whilst you’re there?
Top Tip: If you’re interested in buying large silk pieces or silk clothes then visit the Shanghai Carpet Factory. You can learn how the silk is woven by silk worms and the ancient Chinese art of silk production.
For a quieter, more peaceful experience then you could venture to the Yuyuan gardens and see the peaceful lily ponds shaded in by the Ming Dynasty buildings. You’ll step back into buildings that have barely changed since 1577, as you pass through buildings steeped it culture, history and ornate decoration.
Day 23 – Hong Kong China
Your stop in Hong Kong will leave you amazed with how it differs to mainland China, as you visit the hub of where Western and Chinese cultures clash.
Many travellers head straight to Victoria Peak to see the breath-taking views of Hong Kong from the Peak Tram and observation area. Whilst this gives you great views, you could alternatively head to Lantau Island for a panoramic view as you take a glass bottom cable car. It’ll take you to the top to get a bird’s eye view of the city’s 260 islands and after stepping out of the cable car you can venture around Ngong Ping Village and the local shops, restaurants or tea houses.
The architecture buffs amongst you can take a look at the iconic architecture in Hong Kong which includes the Tian Tian Buddha, the Man Mo Temples and the Po Lin Monastery. The skyline here is often considered the best in east due to the range of towering structures and mixing pot of Chinese, European and contemporary buildings. One that stands out from the skyline is the Clock Tower, which is almost an iconic landmark to Hong Kong that Big Ben is to London.
This city is known for its amazing shopping malls, and shops are so prominent in the city that they even stretch over motorways! If you are in Hong Kong Island then visit the City Plaza or Fashion Walk or if in Kowloon, visit APM for late night shopping or visit 1881 Heritage for shopping in the Marine Police Headquarters. The city isn’t considered the Chinese shopping capital for nothing!
For a step away from the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle, Nan Lian Gardens have 3.5 hectares of land and is home to the Chi Lin Nunnery. This Tang Dynasty oasis is a quiet area to relax and soak up the vibe and is conveniently located just next to Diamond Hill Train station.
Top Tip: Hong Kong is full of tourists, many of whom are armed with Selfie Sticks… But be warned that Nan Lian Gardens and some of the larger tourist attractions have placed a ban on them being used in their grounds!
Day 27 – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Your next cruise stop is in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, (which is sometimes known as “Saigon.”) It’s a port worth exploring as it is a city of contrasts which dazzles visitors with its urban sprawl, markets, street food and culture.
You can explore this culture by learning something about this city’s history. Similarly to Nagasaki, this city has felt the effects of war, and you can pay your respects at the War Remnants Museum or else visit the Cu Chi tunnels which were used by Viet Cong soldiers. You’ll be amazed at the tiny tunnels and labyrinth of passages and humbled by the stories about the conflict, but its history worth learning about.
For a lighter afternoon, you could visit the Giac Lam Pagoda. This sight of pilgrimage with its beautiful tower is a Buddhist temple that has survived since 1744. It is said that when the bell rings the prayers of those who visit are answered, so why not try your hand a Buddhist meditation whilst you’re there? Alternatively, see the Jade Emperor Pagoda which was built in 1909 and has even more impressive statues inside including the scary figures of grotesque heroes and menacing Taoist figures.
You could also choose to head to the Saigon waterfront and explore the shops, markets and restaurants dotted along the river. Boat rides are a great way to see a bit more of the city, or else head to Saigon Square to take in the surrounding architecture, sights, smells and hustle and bustle. For a bit of history, see Ho Chi Minh City Museum which once played home as the official residence of the countries Prime Minister.
Day 29 – Bangkok
Bangkok has long been a traveller’s Mecca and provides a playground for tourists with its bars, restaurants, sightseeing, palaces, temples and thriving city life.
The main sights to see include the incredible Grand Palace, home to the Thai kings and Royal Court. The ornate buildings inside hold the Thai war ministry, the mint and state departments and remains the heart of Bangkok even though times have changed. The complex is also home to Wat Phra Kaew and the spectacular Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Wat Arun (also known as the Temple of Dawn) which is on the west bank of the river and is one of the most recognised buildings in South East Asia. These temples are unique to Bangkok and you certainly won’t find anything like them anywhere else.
Alternatively, visit the floating markets where vendors sell fruits, foods and other wares from their boats. It’s a window into another kind of shopping! If you don’t want to take a dip, visit the Chatuchak market on land to see more than 8000 stalls. Once only popular with traders, this busy market now welcomes up to 200,000 visitors each weekend, so make sure you keep your wits about you!
To enjoy some of Bangkok’s celebrated night life, visit Khao San Road where East truly meets West with an eclectic mix of bars, clubs, stalls, shops and restaurants. This thriving night life and energetic atmosphere is what has made Bangkok so famous and whatever you get up to, it will surely be memorable!
Day 32 – Singapore
On day 32, you will reach Singapore. It’s the end of the line for your once in a lifetime cruise, and you’ll transfer to the airport for an overnight flight back to the UK.
This last section of your holiday will have got you to the heart of the orient as you cruise in style and comfort. You will now have completed your holiday of fully escorted China with the Great Wall and the Nine Villages Valley. You will have seen giant pandas, climbed the Great Wall, had a two day escorted tour of the Nine villages valley, explored the Beishan frescos, seen 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, visited some of Asia’s craziest and busiest cities, seen stunning temples and got to understand the East’s culture and history.
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