Updated: Jan 23, 2021
Admittedly, it's an 11+ hour flight - so if the budget allows, then go Premium Economy or Business Class.
Arriving into Shanghai airport, if travelling independently, you need to have your wits about you. “The Maglev (bullet train) isn’t going into Shanghai – come with us, we will take you!”. This would have been an expensive first mistake and one avoided by a group transfer. The Maglev was indeed running and at just 50 RMB (about £5) is an experience not to be missed.
Travelling high speed at 430 km per hour, you glimpse where some of the 24 million people in this city live.
High raise blocks of flats set alongside traditional homes along the river inlets speed by and in 10 minutes you are at Longyang Road Metro Station.
Caution is again needed, if not part of a group – get an official taxi into the city if not going by metro. With traffic, this can take anything from 30 minutes upwards.
There is a wealth of luxury hotels to choose from in Shanghai. Highly recommended is the Langham Xintandi Hotel. Situated on the edge of the French Quarter and in the heart of the fashion shopping district. Book a club room and get exceptional value, including breakfast, snacks and Bollinger champagne! The newly refurbished Health Club is a haven and free for guests to enjoy.
Drop your bags and head for a city tour. Keep going is the mantra to avoid any feelings of jetlag. The city is like an eastern version of New York, so you won't feel like sleeping!
The Shanghai Tower is a must. Wiz up to the sightseeing deck on the 119th floor in just 55 seconds. Then step onto the ‘cracking floor’ for a slight feeling of unease. Great views of the Bottle Opener, the futuristic Oriental Pearl Tower, The Bund and the Huangpu River. You can see why Shanghai was built on a word of commerce. In the lobby is a fascinating video to watch how it has changed dramatically from its humble sea port beginnings, to the thriving metropolis of today. Check the weather before you go up – if it’s in cloud, wait!
Next stop, Yuyuan Gardens – “a place of peace and comfort in the heart of bustling Shanghai, which dates back to the fabled Ming Dynasty”.
Look up for the best views and imagine how it looked in days gone by - the shops below are full of touristy souvenirs. The Tea House sits in the centre along the Nine Turns Bridge. The Temple is worth a visit with its tranquil gardens, cherry blossom and ponds full of giant Koi carp.
Drive or stroll along the beautiful Bund and marvel at its rich history and architecturally beautiful old merchant houses, which today are fine hotels, restaurants and banks. Then along to the French quarter before either a quick freshen up at the hotel – or head directly to the Hyatt to watch the sunset and the city scape change in front of your eyes, from the best ‘Vue’ of the city. A glass of champagne and a dip in the hot tub in this roof top bar completes the experience. As the Oriental Pearl Tower lights up, you almost feel the Jetsons will fly by this futuristic and unique landscape.
Dine there, or the group could take an atmospheric, fun party cruise along the river - alternatively, there is an abundance of great restaurants (Shanghai has an array of Michelin star and other international choices). Retire at leisure, or the city is alive with clubs and bars – or a spot of karaoke!
After breakfast you can either spend a half or full day tour of one of the ancient water cities, which lie approximately 1 to 2 hours west of the city – or explore more of the locality.
The Science Museum is an education – both inside the museum itself, or below, in the renowned markets - where you can purchase an array of ‘designer’ wares. Haggle hard if you are tempted, but beware the strong smell of vinyl in the secret rooms (a match lit against the fabric or leather doesn’t necessarily mean it’s real!).
Dine around the French Quarter – international cuisine, a tea ceremony – or a traditional Chinese banquet.
Day 3 – fly (2 ½ hours) or take the bullet train (4-5 hours) to Beijing to explore the Great Wall and / or Forbidden City, depending on available time ( a full day may allow for both traffic depending).
Again – lone travellers beware .. ‘the wall is not open to the public today’ is not necessarily the truth!
One of the best preserved and less touristy parts of this ancient monument is at Mutianyu – about 1 – 1 ½ hours by car. Take the cable car, or chair lift up and the toboggan down for a truly memorable experience. The awesome stretch of wall here, with its watchtowers dotted along, is a ‘bucket list’ sight. Stroll along parts of it before attempting the fairly sheer climb up the steps to the top tower, which will leave you breathless – both literally and figuratively. (The 2.5 kilometre stretch of the Wall allows you to walk for more than an hour and explore 22 watchtowers). The toboggan ride down is a giggle and much tamer that you might imagine. Myth spoiler alert – the Great Wall cannot be seen from space.
To complete the experience, dine at the highly recommended School House - all food is locally produced and homemade. Return to Beijing for a well-earned early night, or a drink in the bar to share the day’s stories.
If time and budget allows, spend a few days relaxing on the resort island of Hainan (about 2 – 3 hours from Beijing). The newly opened Langham would be a real treat and have your guests enthusing for months to come.
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