Tag Archives: china

Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Beijing, China

photo by maltman23

Today Pam finds herself in Beijing, China, with her Viking River Cruise. History, culture, glamor, the beauty of nature and rural villages, and now back to the cosmopolis–what a tour!

Bejing, the relatively new capital of China, is also one of the biggest in the world. At more than 19 million people, it is an international hub of ideas, food, technology and personalities.

There is countless to see and do in the city, including rowing through the gorgeous Shichahai lakes, wandering through the traditional houses of the hutong neighborhoods, buying souvenirs at the Panjiayuan Flea Market, watching a performance at the Beijing Opera or one of the many acrobatic shows, or checking out Beijing’s historical heart, the Forbidden City.

The main attraction is of course the Great Wall, located one hour from the center via train. We would recommend different sections based on your preferences. Badaling is restored but crowded, Jinshanling and Huanghuachen offer better views, and Mutianyu has less tourists. Check before you go to avoid the crowds!

When to Go: Going for the climate or the festivals? For the best weather, visit Beijing in September or October when it’s warm and dry, or in the Spring for the flowers and winds. Do avoid the bitter winters and humid summers! If holidays are your thing, head over during New Year’s Day or the Spring Festival—the Chinese New Year.

How to Go: You can get in by train, car, bus, or international or domestic plane. Bicycles are pretty popular in Beijing, the nation’s “Bike Kingdom,” so feel free to hop on a rental and check out the City of the North on wheels!

Pam returns tomorrow with stories and photos and–just maybe–souvenirs for the rest of us! We can’t wait to hear her report!

Interested in heading to Beijing or checking out one of Viking’s amazing River Cruises? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Xi’an, China

This week Viking River Cruises is taking Pam to Xi’an, one of the oldest cities in China and its capital for 13 dynasties. Its strategic location, at the eastern edge of the Silk Road, encouraged its status as a political and commercial hub for centuries. There is quite a plethora of historical sites to see in the city: the Great Mosque, the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda, the Famen Pagoda, the Stele Forest, countless temples and museums, and the ancient Huaqing Hot Springs. It is also home to a number of mausoleums and tombs from the Zhou, Han, and Qing dynasties, perhaps most famously that of Qin Shi Huang and his Terracotta Army.

Terra Cotta warriors, photo by chinaoffseason

Despite its age, Xi’an has not diminished as a center of Chinese culture and history. Although cosmopolitan in atmosphere, the ex-capital bears the weight of 3,000 centuries with pride and enthusiasm. Another main attraction is the city wall, at 13.7 km long and 12 m high the world’s largest restored city wall. You can walk or bike it in a matter of hours, and the scenery, park and moat that run along it make for a pleasant promenade. Tourists interested in souvenirs should head to the bazaar area in the Muslim Quarter or Calligraphy Street to the south.

How to Get There: You can enter via plane, as Xi’an has its own international airport, or via trains that run from a number of cities including Beijing, Urumqi, Shanghai, Lhasa, and many others.

Great Mosque of Xi’an, photo by plusgood

Interested in touring the Xi’an or the rest of China? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Three Gorges, China

This week Pam is taking a cruise with Viking River Cruises, through the Three Gorges. Today, she will spend the morning in the Xiling Gorge, the longest of the three. After lunch, she will disembark with her group at the Three Gorges Dam. Tomorrow, she will sail through the Wu and Qutang Gorges and the Lesser Three Gorges.

The Yangtze Gorges is a scenic region of the Yangtze River, covering about 120 kilometers (75 mi). As the largest river in China and the third largest in the world, the Yangtze is the subject of much Chinese folklore and artistic tradition. It originates all the way from Tibetan glaciers in Qinghai province and pours into the East China Sea at Shanghai. River cruises are quite popular among tourists, and include majestic views, historical relics, Fengdu Ghost City, the hanging coffins of the Ba people, the unique buildings of Shibaozhai, and many more sights. It is also the home of many minorities, subcultures, the Chinese alligator and the Yangtze sturgeon. And the Three Gorges Dam, located in Hubei province on the Yangtze, is the largest hydroelectric power station in the world. The Yangtze River and her Gorges are definitely not to be missed on any traveler’s itinerary.

photo by HBarrison

To book a Viking River Cruise with us, call Willamette International Travel at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.


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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Hangzhou, China

This week we are following Pam through her travels in China—and she has just arrived at gorgeous Hangzhou!

Hangzhou has been a famous destination for nature lovers and artists for centuries. The West Lake has been immortalized in countless poems and paintings, and currently resides on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites. The locals have a saying: “Above there is heaven, below there are Hangzhou and Suzhou.”

Settled as early as 4,700 years ago and once the most populous city in China, Hangzhou is still a major scenic and historical destination. Flourishing under silk trade, it was the home and marketplace for foreign merchants including Arabs, Persians, and Nestorian Christians. Nowadays, it enjoys more than 20 million domestic and foreign tourists annually, and we guarantee Pam is in for a specific treat!

The numerous canals and streets that link throughout the city give it a Venetian feel. One of the more popular modes of transportation is the water bus, which you can ferry down the Grand Canal daily from Wulin Gate/West Lake Culture Plaza to Gongchen Bridge. Don’t miss the Canal Museum or Xiaohe Street and its recently renovated historical alleys.

photo by maltman23

You can also take a variety of boats to the islands on West Lake, a breathless beauty not meant to be missed. There are so many sites to see in the area, from Mr. Guo’s garden villa to the Broken Bridge, from Mid-Lake Pavilion to Lord Ruan’s Mound. There is something for everyone—visitors can wander in and out of botanical gardens, temples, tea fields, churches, pagodas, or even the zoo. Have time to spare? Try a variety of free activities, including tai chi, hiking, biking, running—or just sip some tea along the road.

Side bar:

You can enter Hangzhou city through the Xioshan International Airport, or via Pam’s route, taking the high speed train from Shanghai—about 50 minutes nonstop from Shanghai’s Hongqiao Station.

Stay tuned for next week, when Pam joins the Viking River Cruises through the gorges and Xi’an!

Interested in touring Hangzhou or anywhere in China? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Suzhou, China

This week Pam is taking the train to Suzhou to sightsee before starting her Viking River Cruise tour.

Suzhou is Shanghai’s little sister – lying about 115 km (71 mi) from the bustling metropolis. Coincidentally, she is also the sister city of Portland, OR, WIT’s hometown!

Pam is sure to enjoy this peaceful and beautiful town, for centuries nourished by the Grand Canal and as many as 60 gorgeous gardens, many of whom have been recognized on the World Heritage List. The charm of Suzhou is certainly its natural gifts and beauty—dubbed the “Oriental Venice.” Its old style architecture also adds a lingering feel of history and mystique.

photo by wilf2

It’s a great destination for souvenir shopping—away from the hawks in Shanghai, offering a wealth of wares from teas, silks, embroidery, freshwater pearls, sandalwood fans, musical instruments, jade, lanterns and the characteristically sweeping smoking pipes. Expect to have your haggle skills once again challenged. For a special treat, pick up a snuff bottle—tiny, elaborately painted glass bottles that once contained tobacco. Head to the Taoist Temple of Xuanmiao (Mysterious Sublimity) in the old city, where a collection of great local vendors sits just outside the walls.

For a real treat, don’t miss the Humble Administrator’s Garden (and the opera performance hall) or Suzhou Museum, constructed by renowned architect I.M. Pei, best known for his design of the Louvre glass pyramid.

How to Get There: Suzhou is reachable by bus, but most favorably by train—a high-speed train runs frequently from Shanghai and Beijing to any one of four stations around town. Tickets must be purchased at an international ticketing office, available in most large stations. On arrival, expect to wait a while for a taxi—Suzhou is currently in the process of building an underground metro system—but in the meantime, taxis are rare and difficult to track down.

Interested in touring the canal city of Suzhou or any of her neighboring sisters? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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Where in the World is the WIT Agent? — Shanghai, China

For the next two weeks or so, our agent Pam will be in China! She’ll explore Shanghai and Beijing on her own, and then join Viking River Cruises for an inside look at Xian, Chongqing, Suzhou, the Yangtze River and much more. Check in as the Wittravel blog follows her on her adventure!

First on her stop is glamorous, fast-paced, international hub and cherry-on-the-world Shanghai. Where is she headed, you ask? Check out Wittravel’s Top Things to See/Try in Shanghai:

To the traveler familiar with anything Chinese, the first thing he or she may notice is how different Shanghai is from the rest of China. With its own distinct food, dialect, lifestyle and pace—Shanghai is a prime example of the international metropolis.

photo by Bernt Rostad

Here are WIT’s top things to see and do in Shanghai:

1)      Yu Yuan Garden

Constructed in the late 16th century by the Ming Dynasty, the magical and peaceful Yu Yuan Garden lies on the northeast of the Old City.  Encasing more than 20,000 square meters, the garden is surprisingly tranquil in spite of the tourists that cluster there during peak seasons. Don’t miss this organic maze of stepping stones, koi ponds, ancient trees, souvenir shops, historical courtyards, and the towering, porous Exquisite Jade Rock.


2)      Nanjing Lu

The Nanjing Lu is one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, and definitely worth an hour or two’s perambulation. It’s a mecca of food, museums, markets, and shops that stretches from The Bund to Hongqiao. Stop here for souvenirs or just to purvey the streets brimming with silk weavers, jade vendors, and fast food chains.

by Quinn Dombrowski

3)      Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe

One of the most popular and beloved attractions in Shanghai is the Acrobatics Troupe. Though frequently on tour all across the world, there is no better and no more fortuitous venue to see them than their hometown. The troupe breathtaking display of daring feats showcasing marvelous physical technique, stunts, balance and strength. And in case you should happen to be in the city during their world tour, there are also plenty of other magnificent troupes that provide daily wonders. Check out the available venues including Bai Yu Lan Theatre, Shanghai Cloud Peak Theater, Shanghai Circus World, and others.

4)      The Bund

Chock full of historical architecture and memorabilia, The Bund is the citywide term for the western riverfront region of Puxi. It is the site of a major business district, stunning Art Deco building and various international neighborhoods left over from the construction boom at the turn of the 20th century that brought over major European influences.

 The Bund — by Bernt Rostad

5)      The Maglev

Shanghai’s magnetic-levitation train was built by German-owned Siemens as the first commercial, high-speed magnetic levitation line in the world. It connects the international airport to the city center, reaching 430 km/hr (267 mi/hr) and taking less than eight minutes. A star mascot in a city run on speed and cross-cultural efficiency.

6)      Shanghai Food

The Shanghaiese are not wrong when they tell you that they have a cuisine unique to the city alone. Full of delicious sauces, salted meats and fried dishes, the culinary traditions are definitely attractions not to be missed. Try thick Shanghai fried chow mein, stinky tofu, gingery 1000 year eggs, or soup dumplings (Xiaolong Bao), a delicious snack of dough wrapped around juicy pork and succulent broth.

For a true dining experience, visit one of Shanghai’s many acclaimed Hot Pot restaurants. The minute you sit down, you’ll receive a menu chock full of veggies, proteins, broths, and other options galore—tick away at your choices, and your meal will promptly appear. A small individual pot all to yourself, and small dishes of everything from stacks of mushrooms to strips of meat, all fighting for their place on your decently sized but inevitably insufficient table.

7) Dongtai Road

A haven for Chinese vintage memorabilia and antiques, curiosity shops and bookshops, Dongtai Road is one of the largest flea markets in Shanghai. Though most of the items are in fact replicas, it’s almost worth trying your skills out in haggling for the best in replica figurines, Mao kitsch, jade, propaganda posters, teapots and tons more. Come here for the elderly Mahjong square-offs, for the hustle and bustle and Cantonese murmur, and for the weirdest finds of trinkets and ersatz memorabilia.

Of course it’s near impossible to have a complete list of ALL the attractions and activities in Shanghai! Stay tuned for Wednesday, when Pam heads to the city’s quieter neighbor, Suzhou.

Interested in touring the gorgeous city of Shanghai or any of her neighboring sisters? Email info@wittravel.com or call us at 503.224.0180.

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