We had spare time for a break during the Christmas week. So we decided to shop for a holiday package during the Travel Revolution Fair. This was the best time to look for a suitable tour package where many travel companies were dishing out great discounts during the travel fair.
From the many travel companies we approached for information, we took up a tour package with Dynasty Travel for an 8 Days 7 Nights tour to China, the Jiangnan plus Jiaxing tour covering cities in Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi and Jiaxing. We had taken Jiangnan tour packages with other travel companies in the past but we found the itinerary offered by Dynasty Travel to be a little different which included a new city Jiaxing so this was why we signed up with Dynasty Travel.
This tour included most meals and accommodations were local five-star hotels. In addition, we would be flying on Singapore Airlines. The flight timing was very good as well.
Singapore to Shanghai 9.20 am to 2.35 pm
Shanghai to Singapore 4.25 pm to 10.15 pm
The cost for this package per person was $294. Airport tax was $370 plus another compulsory tour of $100. Tips for China tour guide and driver was RMB200. At this rate, the tour package was really value for money.
The tour itinerary from Dynasty Travel would be as follows:
DAY 1: SINGAPORE – SHANGHAI (or HANGZHOU) (About 5 hours)
Welcome to a unique experience! Assemble at airport for departure to Shanghai (or Hangzhou), check in hotel upon arrival.
DAY 2: SHANGHAI – HANGZHOU (About 3 hours)
Head for Hangzhou, visit the site of the Eight Diagrams Field of the Southern Song Dynasty, the place that the sacred ritual activities being taken by the ancient emperor, it also tells the history and culture of ancient Chinese agriculture. Visit Southern Song Dynasty Official Kiln Museum, it was built over the remains of Jiaotanxia Official Kiln and is the first of its kind with pottery and porcelain as its subject. Continue your journey to visit The New West Lake South Line and West Lake XinTiandi, view Lei Feng Pagoda Sunset. Dinner at Bafei Global Buffet : open kitchen concept, more than 500 global buffet, Chinese and Western cuisine, seafood, Southeast Asian cuisine, gourmet simmer soup, Cantonese roasted, Teppanyaki, Cantonese refreshments, Western desserts, soft drinks & wine, seasonal fresh fruits, exquisite dishes taste infinite!
International Buffet / Lunch: Hangzhou Cuisine / Dinner: Bafei Global Buffet
DAY 3: HANGZHOU – JIAXING (About 2 hours)
Take cruise on West Lake, Viewing Fish at Flower Harbor. Next visit Meijiawu Tea Village, taste Longjing tea, experience the Chinese tea culture. Head for Jiaxing, visit the Transformers Theme Park founded by Mr. Iron team, it is the first park themed with the steel carving art for robot in China. Then visit the Rice Dumplings Museum in Yuehe Ancient Town, DIY Jiangnan rice dumplings with guidance of veterans, and you can taste at own expense.
International Buffet / Lunch: Beggar Chicken + Dongpo Pork
DAY 4: JIAXING – WUXI (About 2 hours)
Head for Wuxi, visit Huishan Ancient Town, it is featured by intensive distribution of ancient ancestral temple group, blessed with charming natural beauty, and various aspects of nature give you a new experience at every turn. Next visit Teapot Museum. Visit the Qingming Bridge Cultural Area at night (Extra tour fee program)
International Buffet / Lunch: Ribs Cuisine / Dinner: Qianlong Banquet
DAY 5: WUXI – NANJING (About 2.5 hours)
Visit Li Garden, the pictures of flowers in four seasons are painted on the pillars of Four Seasons Pavilions inside the garden. Li Garden lies by Li Lake and it is said that Fan Li who was a prime minister of the Yue State in Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC – 476 BC) was very meritorious in helping the king to conquer another state. However, he has decided to live in privacy with Xi Shi (one of the Four Beauties in ancient China) after the big success was achieved. They lived in this area and boated in Li Lake. In order to commemorate Fan Li, the lake was named after his name. However, the garden was named after the lake. Continue your journey to visit Taihu Pearl Gallery. After lunch, proceed to Nanjing, drive along Ming Dynasty Wall, the largest existing wall in China as well as in the world. View Yue Jiang Tower from far. Visit the Confucius Temple and Qinhuai River at night (Extra tour fee program)
International Buffet / Lunch: Taihu Cuisine Dinner: Huaiyang Cuisine
DAY 6: NANJING – SUZHOU (About 3 hours)
Visit Memorial Hall to the Victims in the Nanjing Massacre, visit and take a lift to Yangtze River Bridge. Next visit Jade Carvings Workshop. Then proceed to Suzhou, tour to Pingjiang Historical and Cultural Street – “Water and Land in parallel, River and Street adjacent to each other”, this is a typical characteristic of Water Village. Later to visit Suzhou Museum and Zhong Wang Fu – the palace of Prince Zhong: Li Xiucheng, the leader of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, it’s the most well kept palace in the history of China on the peasant rebel army palace. Take a photo stop at Bird Nest, Jinjihu Scenic Area, drive pass Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, the commercial center – Yuanrong Times Square, the Largest Shopping Aircraft Carrier in Eastern China. Visit Suzhou Guanqian Street at night (Extra tour fee program)
International Buffet / Lunch: Boiled Salted Duck Cuisine / Dinner: Pingtan Cuisine
DAY 7: SUZHOU – SHANGHAI (About 2 hours)
Visit Silk Factory, continue to Yangcheng Lake Peninsula – Yi Ou Lai Suzhou Village (Lunch inside the village at own expense, both Chinese and Western foods are available), which is the first boutique tourist shopping village built by Value Retail group in China following the nine boutique shopping villages in Europe. After lunch, back to Shanghai, go to Health Care Shop. Then go to Nanjing Road (shopping area, enjoy a variety of snacks at own expense). Drive pass New Bund, the skyline of Shanghai, which tourists always come, also known as the “exhibition of architectural”. In the evening, take participate the extra tour fee programs: Visit the world’s largest Disney Flagship Store and Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise.
DAY 8: SHANGHAI (or HANGZHOU) – SINGAPORE (About 5 hours)
Visit Cheng Huang Temple, continue to visit the Jewelry Factory. Transfer to the airport for your flight back to Singapore.
International Buffet / Lunch: Cantonese Cuisine
**Extra Tour Fee S$100/PAX **
Suzhou Guanqian Shopping Street + Wuxi Qingming Bridge night tour + Shanghai Disney Flagship Store and Huangpu River Cruise + Nanjing Confucius Temple and Qinhuai River
This tour required at least 10 participants to be confirmed. It was only near December that this tour was finally confirmed. We were called to the tour office for a simple briefing where the hotels list was given just a few days before the tour as follows:
Day 1 – Singapore to Shanghai onward to Suzhou
So Christmas week eventually came. We reached Changi Airport before 7 am. First thing was to head for the Terminal 3 food court for breakfast. Next we located the tour representative from Dynasty Travel to collect our tour details and then checked in our luggage with Singapore Airlines. Since there were only 15 participants for this tour, we didn’t have a local tour leader to follow us for the tour which also saved up on tips as well.
With the movie Star Wars being launched, Star Wars exhibits and toys were on display at the airport. It was a fantastic time to enjoy the sights at the airport and to capture those picture moments even before we left for Shanghai that morning. It was a great start indeed and we very much enjoyed it.
Having had enough pictures taken, we cleared immigration and were happily doing window shopping at the airport. Finally, it was time to board our flight. We got onto the plane quite early and settled down to enjoy our flight to Shanghai.
We did get to meet a few other participants during the tour briefing so we greeted some of them and observed where they sat in the plane. The flight was trouble free and we got fed on the way and were pretty satisfied.
Onboard flight entertainment was great and my wife was busy catching up on movies but I was more interested in monitoring our flight paths and was watching the interactive maps and caught up with some sleep in between.
The five over hours flight didn’t seem very long especially for those who were meaningfully occupied with the onboard entertainment system or catching up with some reading or sleep. We landed in Shanghai airport without incident. We disembarked and went through immigration without too much delay.
We then waited for some time before our luggage came probably due to this bigger plane which was an Airbus 380 where flight load was considerably high. Having gotten our bags, we made our way out to look for our China tour guide at the arrival hall. We knew his surname Wu and we located him quite easily. It was already 3.35 pm and the arrival hall was very crowded with many tourists from different tour groups. The tour guide was busy looking out for the rest of the participants from this tour group.
When everyone had arrived, he led us out of the airport to wait for the bus to come and pick us up. It was a cold chilling December winter afternoon and quite foggy as well. We could feel the the cold while waiting for the bus outside the arrival hall. The tour guide was busy calling for the driver and soon a bus came. The driver came down to help load up all the bags while we went up the bus to take our seats. Once all the bags were loaded, the driver came up and we set off on our journey to tour the cities around Shanghai.
Our China tour guide was a tall young man by the name Jackie. He had a pleasant disposition and was quite an easy going fellow. He also introduced the driver Mr. Zhang and mentioned good words about him being a safe and experience driver as well as someone who would keep the bus clean. We were briefed about the itinerary again and given an introduction about Shanghai. The first city we were going to spend the night would be Suzhou. So we were heading to Suzhou. Bottled drinking water was given and we settled down to enjoy the tour.
Being a winter day, it was cold and foggy outside. We had good heating system onboard and we were rather comfortable. The bus travelled along the highway and soon we encountered traffic jams on the way.
Near 6 pm, we entered Suzhou and it was already very dark in the city. We soon arrived near the restaurant and we disembarked to walk to the restaurant for dinner. It was really cold by now as the wind blew our way. The restaurant was not far away and we quickly entered the building. We were led into a room with two tables where one group had 8 persons to a table while we sat with the other group with 7 persons to a table.
Dinner was soon served and the food was quite good. We got to know each other pretty quickly during dinner while enjoying the hot food served where we were really hungry due to the cold. It was a good meal and we left the restaurant satisfied after dinner.
Back on the bus, we had another passenger. This lady passenger turned out to be the local tour guide for Suzhou. While on the way to our first destination, she gave us an introduction about the city and its attractions as well as its famous silk products. About 20 minutes, having driven past Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park, we reached our first destination, the Bird Nest of Suzhou.
We all got down the bus and walked nearer to the beautiful Bird Nest Stadium with fascinating changing colour lightings. We were given more information by the local guide and we were also given time to take some pictures. This Bird Nest Stadium was a pretty cool and romantic site especially with the changing colour lightings bringing out the special effects of this unique design of the stadium.
After a while we left for the next destination for the night. We drove to the Yuanrong Times Square, the Largest Shopping Aircraft Carrier in Eastern China according to the itinerary. However, we didn’t notice where the shopping aircraft carrier was but the lightings of those buildings were pretty nice though. We were visiting Suzhou Guanqian Street at night to enjoy the longest LED display in the world. The place was really pretty at night but the crowd was absent being a cold winter night. Had this been a summer night or during autumn, no doubt this place would be filled up where there were plenty of cafes and restaurants as well as shops at this area. There were some young people practicing for a performance at the main square. The LED show only performed for a few minutes each time and we managed to watch the show while we were there.
After that, we crossed the road and went to the Japanese Department Store and explored the supermarket at the basement. It wasn’t a very big supermarket but there were plenty of eateries at the food court. We bought some pastries from one of the bakeries for supper later that night. We went back across the road again after we were done with shopping where our bus was parked there. The whole area was nicely lit up for Christmas and was really beautiful at night. Pity there was no crowd there being so cold at night.
When everyone had returned from shopping, we boarded the bus and made our way to our hotel for the night. Everyone seemed happy and pleased. Jackie informed us morning call would be 6 am the next day and by 8.30 am, we would leave for our tour in Suzhou and thereafter head to Wuxi in the afternoon.
By the time we arrived Joy Holiday Hotel, it was already 9 pm. We had agreed to let the hotel porters handle our bags and all we had to do was to wait at the lobby to collect our room keys from Jackie. The porter fee per hotel was RMB10 if we did not remember wrongly. Not long after, we were given keys to our room. Unfortunately, we were given a room with twin beds. Our request was for a non-smoking room with a double bed. There was a mixed up as one family didn’t make prior request and had gotten our room. There was no more room with double bed left. Jackie apologized and he assured us we would get a room with double bed for the rest of the hotels during the tour.
Our room was clean and spacious but lighting was too dim. Toilet was clean as well with bathtub and separate shower stall. Shower gel and shampoo were supplied from a dispenser.
TV worked but as expected, mostly Chinese programs available. Wifi was good. This was supposed to be a local five-star hotel but definitely not five-star standard in our opinion. No tissue box was provided and of course stationeries were not provided as well.
Our bags came not long after and we settled down to rest. Before bedtime, we had supper with the bread and pastries we bought earlier with tea we made where a kettle was provided for with two bottles of drinking water. The bread and pastries turned out to be quite different from what we expected. It wasn’t that nice so we didn’t finish the food.
After catching up with our children back home and watching a little Chinese TV program, we called it a night. We had to get up very early the next morning. We were pretty happy with the day spent and thought our hotel accommodation could be better. So our first day for this China tour came to a close.
Continue to Day 2 …