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If you are like most travelers, the flights to China and back are perhaps the least exciting part of your trip. Depending on your point of departure, you’ll likely have to sit through a 10+ hour flight just to reach the first destination in your tour of China – typically Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong. After enduring a couple of days of jetlag, you may not fancy boarding another flight for the next city in your itinerary. Fortunately, at 112,000 kilometers (almost 70,000 miles), China now boasts the longest rail network in the world. Of this, China also leads the world in high-speed rail with a 30,000 kilometer (around 18,000 mile) network. To put this into a global perspective: it’s more high-speed rail than every other country in the world combined. If this network was transplanted to the United States, there would be enough high-speed rail track to zig-zag across the country from Seattle to New York to San Francisco to Philadelphia to Los Angeles to Miami, with an extra 4,000 miles to spare. Also commonly referred to as bullet trains, these typically reach speeds of 350km/h (210 miles per hour) and offer a true alternative to domestic air travel.

Kowloon West Station

As if it weren’t enough, the network is still being expanded, with ambitious projects reaching across to the remote western provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang. With such proportions, it’s no surprise to see how high China’s rail usage is: in 2019 it was estimated that 3.57 billion trips were made on rail in China, with about 2.29 billion of those on high-speed trains. Many of these are short trips connecting major metropolitan areas such as Beijing with Tianjin (120km in 30 minutes) in northern China, Shanghai and Hangzhou (175km in one hour) in eastern China, and Hong Kong with Shenzhen (30km in 15 minutes) or Guangzhou (130km in 50 minutes) in the south (note: immigration formalities will take place at Hong Kong’s Kowloon station). In fact, whereas flights between certain destinations may be limited (for example between Guilin and Hong Kong, which are not daily) – there are multiple daily railway options instead.

In terms of cross border journeys, Hong Kong is the only high speed option at present, but China otherwise maintains passenger connections with Hanoi (Vietnam), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Ulan Bator (Mongolia), Moscow (Russia) and Pyongyang in North Korea. There’s also a greater frequency of intercontinental freight trains, reaching as far as London, as part of China’s recent Belt and Road initiative.

Flying may still be the most convenient option for covering larger distances, for example from Beijing to Chengdu, but most destinations on the tourist trail easily connect by train. For example, a trip from Beijing to Xi’an, home of the world-renowned Terracotta Warriors, can take as little as 4 hours and 20 minutes by high-speed railway. Although that’s twice as long as a flight, the train stations are closer to downtown, which means you’ll spend less time on transfers, and shorter check-in/security times apply, making door-to-door journey times almost the same. There is no sacrifice in comfort either, with Business Class on high-speed trains featuring fully reclining seats offering more space than most First Class flights, and with luggage allowances more generous. (Note: Business Class is the highest category on Chinese trains and superior to First Class).

Business Class Carriage

As added bonuses, traveling by rail is more environmentally friendly than air-travel, and the trains typically run right on time – something which unfortunately can’t be said about domestic flights!

Whereas booking Chinese trains can be a challenge (sales begin only one month prior to departure, require payment in China, and copies of your passport) – our team of Itinerary Designers would be more than happy to assist with this, in addition to talking you through the best options available. If air is still your preferred mode of transport, you can also sample the world’s fastest train: Shanghai’s Maglev. This “floating, trackless train” will whisk you the 30 kilometers (18 miles) between Shanghai’s main international airport in Pudong and downtown Shanghai in a mere 8 minutes, reaching a top speed of 430 kilometers (about 268 miles) per hour.

If, on the other hand, you’d like to slow down, there is always the 40 hour train from Beijing to Lhasa, or a 24 hour traditional train from Hong Kong to Beijing! Both will ensure you have plenty of time to soak in every inch of China’s wondrous natural landscape. However, neither are luxury travel experiences nor journeys we would recommend.

In any case, the choices abound.

 

– Jaime is one of Imperial Tours’ Itinerary Designers.

“How large is China?  I have 7 days in China and would like a luxury tour to Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Shanghai and Hong Kong.  Is this possible?” As an Itinerary Designer at Imperial Tours, I have been asked this question (or a similar variation) countless times. My initial response is that technically it is possible if one wishes is to zip from city to city with very little time in each destination. But I then continue to explain that China is a large country; flights from one city to the next average 2.5 hours per leg and each of the destinations are markedly different in terms of tourist sites to see, historical significance, culture, as well cuisine. 

To put things in perspective, China is about the size of the United States (the USA is in fact slightly bigger, but who’s competing?). This means visiting the aforementioned cities in seven days equates to traveling from Washington DC to Chicago to Las Vegas to San Francisco to Seattle!  That would lend to a very ambitious, not to mention a rather exhausting holiday itinerary. 

From the standpoint of a traveler seeking an extraordinary China luxury travel experience, I strongly advise clients against covering too many destinations over a short period of time.  If clients are constrained by time and are limited to just one week in the country, rather than squeezing in as much as possible, I suggest that they visit fewer cities to allow ample time to truly experience and enjoy each destination. On the other hand, if clients are flexible with regards to time, two weeks is suitable to cover about five destinations without feeling too rushed. 

For a first-time visitor who (a) has approximately a week to travel, (b) is eager to obtain a nice overview of the county, (c) seeks a luxury China tour and (d) is open to advice, an itinerary I frequently recommend is: Beijing (3-4 nights), Xi’an (1-2 nights) and Shanghai (3 nights). 

As the nation’s capital and political center, Beijing serves as a good logistical starting point and a wonderful introduction to the country.  It is home to numerous well-known, must-see historical sites including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven and of course the Great Wall (note, Imperial Tours does not take our clients to Badaling which has a daily quota of 65,000 tourists.  Instead we take our clients to a more remote section of the Great Wall that’s a further drive from town, but well worth it because once there, one literally feels that one has the entire wall to oneself! We can even bring you for a bit of trekking to an unrestored section of the Wall).  Three days is sufficient to check-off the key sites in Beijing, but an extra day allows for a bit more flex time to embrace additional cultural experiences such as Factory 798 area, the epicenter of Beijing’s art scene; a stroll through gentrifying hutong grey-painted alleyways for a glimpse at local daily life; or a stop at the Lama Temple, a Tibetan Buddhist Temple.  Let’s not forget about the culinary delights this northern city has to offer, namely Peking Duck!

From Beijing, a two-hour flight southwest takes one to the ancient capital of Xi’an (concerned about your carbon footprint? Consider a high-speed train from Beijing to Xian which takes 4-5 hours).  Despite being the start of the Silk Road, had a local farmer not stumbled across the Terracotta Warrior ruins some five decades ago, one may question if Xi’an would have garnered its popularity as a major tourist destination (that might be the subject of another blog!).  If the Terracotta Warriors is all one wants to see, one night will do.  However, there are a handful of other sites beyond the Terracotta Warriors that warrant more time such as the imposing ancient City Wall (fancy cycling the 9 mile (14 km) circumference?) and Great Mosque, one of many mosques serving the city’s approximate 30,000 Muslims in heart of the vibrant and bustling Muslim quarter.  On the subject of food, Xi’an is popular for sumptuous dumplings in a multitude of shapes and fillings.

Li An Lodge

The final stop of a week-long trip is none other than Shanghai.  Located on the eastern coast (2.5 hour flight from Xi’an), Shanghai seamlessly blends a vibrant colonial past, the now and the future.  Two full days in this dynamic city allows one to get a solid sense for the place.  One can wander through sycamore-lined boulevards in the heart of the Former French Concession (perhaps led by a historical expert who can bring to life the bygone era of Shanghai’s colonial history), visit the Yu Gardens (a prime example of traditional Chinese garden design), explore the Shanghai Museum (arguably the best museum in the world for classical Chinese art), engage in some retail therapy (souvenirs to take home) and gaze over the city from the Shanghai Tower’s (second highest building in the world) observation platform. Like any cosmopolitan city, Shanghai also boasts some of the world’s best restaurants – both western and Chinese!

I recall a guide once saying, “Imagine China as a tree.  Xi’an symbolizes its roots, firmly steeped in ancient history that spans the course of 5000 years.  Beijing represents the tree’s trunk. With a history dating back some 500 years, the political center is solid and establishes the country’s direction.  Finally you’ve got Shanghai, characterized by the leaves.  It’s susceptible to wind, it’s young and dynamic.”  I thought it was pretty good account, albeit simple, to summarize a one-week introductory trip to China. 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 14, 2017

Contact:   Jacqueline Soto, 480-430-7511, Jacqueline@slentertainment.com

Guy Rubin, +86 10 8440 7162 guy@imperialtours.net

 

 

IMPERIAL TOURS GREAT WALL PRIVATE BANQUET RECOGNIZED AMONG TOP TRAVEL EXPERIENCES

   

Scottsdale, AZ – An experience offered by Imperial Tours was recognized as one of the top experiential travel offerings at the inaugural CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25, a first-of-its-kind travel initiative that annually lists the top 25 travel experiences or products throughout the world. The winners were announced in a special interactive event at the Bellagio in Las Vegas on August 13 in front of leading travel professionals.

Chad Clark, principal and owner of Chad Clark Travel Ventures, is a travel industry expert and self-described, “experience junkie,” who has spent years seeking out top-of-the-line travel experiences and services. Now, he is providing a platform for the best in travel to share theirs.

Clark aims to set the industry standard for luxury travel with the inauguration of the CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25, an elite list of the world’s most prestigious, authentic and unique travel experiences or products. Great Wall Private Banquet was among the first recipients of this prestigious honor.

“We are humbled and overwhelmed by the immense number of submissions we received from travel providers across the globe,” said Clark. “It is an honor and a thrill to unveil the very best in luxury travel through the CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25. This initiative provides travel suppliers with an opportunity to have their premium experiences recognized and promoted in an innovative way, while simultaneously connecting travel advisors, and ultimately travelers themselves, with exclusive, thoroughly vetted travel experiences that have an industry seal of approval.”

 

About the Great Wall Banquet

When we hear these days of the daunting logistical and financial challenges of building a wall across the southern border of the US, it brings home the magnificent achievement of the Chinese in resolving exactly these issues many centuries before as they built successive fortifications across their northern frontier to protect their agricultural heartlands from aggressive nomadic invaders from the north. These fortifications are known to us today as the Great Wall of China. The incredible experience we are presenting is the opportunity to walk the Great Wall with the British conservationist who was instrumental in developing the law to protect it, and then to enjoy a white linen banquet in a guard tower.

What astounds visitors about the Ming dynasty Great Wall (1368-1644) is its surprising beauty. Whereas the sections closest to Beijing are the largest with the most tourists, more remote sections benefit from fewer visitors and less renovation. The centuries-old 5 meter high “wild wall” – as conservationist William Lindesay calls it – these days does not dominate its surrounding landscape so much as delineate, define and embellish it. William will introduce his thirty year association with the Great Wall, starting with being the first foreigner ever to walk its entire length, to now when he is known through China as the Guardian of the Wall. After a thorough introduction to his efforts to improve its conservation, you will be taken to a remote spot to enjoy a remarkable banquet on the Great Wall of China.

 

About Chad Clark Travel Ventures

A self-proclaimed “experience junkie,” Clark gave up corporate life to follow his love for food, wine, culture, destinations, a.k.a. extraordinary travel experiences, and turn it into a business that helps people make the absolute most of their most precious commodity – their time.

Whether traveling with friends, family or alone on a research trip, Clark is all about the experience – and when he finds one he is passionate about, he just has to share it with his clients and friends. He and his company have the contacts, relationships and dedication necessary to ensure his clients have the best possible experiences. Clark has dedicated his life to travel and is amassing an ever-growing “Experience Journal” that he shares online through social media. Viewers can follow Clark through Rome, Sydney, Paris and even in his own backyard golfing in Scottsdale, Arizona. Clark and his team are committed to sampling, connecting, building relationships and, in essence, helping his clients live their next big adventure.

Chad Clark Travel Ventures works with people who recognize that the types of trips they want require more than time and planning – they require knowledge, experience and connections, all of which Clark and his team can provide.

Chad Clark Travel Ventures, an independent affiliate of Camelback Odyssey Travel – a Virtuoso® Member.

For more information on CHAD CLARK CERTIFIED 25, please visit www.chadclarkcertified.com.

Marketing China has never been more exciting, easy and profitable. As you may know Imperial Tours has partnered with Peninsula Hotels to bring you Peninsula Private Jet Tours Through China. Through this collaboration we have developed three bespoke travel experiences through China: Culture & Heritage, Family and Culinary. But what you may not know is that we have also developed a marketing plan designed to help you get the word out about these itineraries. Our Marketing Plan gives you the tools you need to promote and share Peninsula Private Jet Itineraries through multiple mediums. The idea behind sharing our marketing plan with you is to take the guesswork out of promoting these experiences. Essentially, let us do all the work for you and all you need to do is share!

These itineraries are packed full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences. If they are booked privately, itineraries can be further customized for alternative dates or embellished with different destinations, and if wished they can also be booked on commercial flights. 

Marketing Calendar

Our Marketing Calendar (click to download) is complete with step-by-step instructions on how to market and capitalize on each itinerary. All you have to do is follow five easy steps and let Imperial Tours do the rest. 

1.   Follow us on our social media platforms:

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to get content on Peninsula Private Jet Tours that you can share with your followers.

2.   Download our Marketing Calendar:

Click to download our Marketing Calendar made especially for you. This calendar provides you with a detailed, easy to follow, marketing campaign that you can print out and follow to promote these tours. Additionally, our Marketing Calendar provides you with easy to follow instructions on how to repost and share from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and E-blast.

3.   E-blast Campaign:

Over the next 3 months, starting in November 2016, we will be sending out 3 e-blasts relating to a specific Peninsula Private Jet Itinerary; Culinary, Family and Culture & Heritage. Each e-blast will be created so that you can forward the information to anyone you think might be interested in one of these amazing experiences.

4.   Share our posts socially:

Each one of our 3 e-blasts will have a social share button that allows you to share each itinerary on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. Simply click the social share button for each social icon and share!

5.   Book!:

After generating interest in each tour contact us to help you book one of these amazing journeys. Note: private tours based on these scheduled departures can fly commercial and be further customized.

 

Marketing Calendar Snap-Shot

Our Culinary Voyage e-blast will be sent shortly after American Thanksgiving. This one of a kind itinerary provides opportunities for your clients to try their hand at creating traditional Chinese dishes such as Peking duck, Dim Sum and even noodle throwing. China is a “must-eat” destination for all foodies; our Culinary Voyage is a 10-day tour highlighting the best eats China has to offer. Our culinary tour is ideal for groups of 8 or less. Tours are approximately USD$26,050* per person based on double occupancy. To view a detailed itinerary click here.

Our Family Tour e-blast will be sent in early December, in time for Christmas as the perfect once-in-a-life-time holiday gift for the whole family. This 11-day tour showcases the best of China in a safe and family-friendly interactive setting. This tour is ideal for small to medium sized families who are looking for a unique holiday experience and enjoyment for the whole family. Tours begin at approximately USD$102,120* per family of 4. To view a detailed itinerary click here.

Our Culture & Heritage itinerary will be sent out after the New Year and is equipped with unparalleled access to some of China’s most significant cultural artifacts as well as leading creative minds shaping China’s artistic landscape. This 10-day tour will introduce you to private collections and VIP access to China’s cultural treasures. This tour is ideal for clients who are looking for exclusive access to all that China has to offer. This tour is suitable for small groups as well as families. Pricing begins at approximately USD$25,530* per person based on double occupancy. To view a detailed itinerary click here.

 

*Price is subject to change based on fluctuating exchange rates. 

Imagine exploring three of the worlds most dynamic and fast paced cities from the comfort and convenience of a private jet. Imperial Tours has partnered with Peninsula Hotels, renowned for flawless service and quality, to provide you with the ultimate China experience, Peninsula Hotels’ Private Jet Tours.  We have crafted three themed itineraries – Culinary, Family and Culture & Heritage – each designed with immersive experiences to captivate you while introducing the rich culture, cuisine and history of China. 

Peninsula Private Jet Tours

Experience a journey like no other on a Peninsula Private Jet Holiday

For many people, the thought of visiting China sparks a sense of wonder and excitement for the mysterious culture of the East. As one of the most populated and diverse countries in the world, China provides a cornucopia of experiences engaging all the senses. While this temptation to discover the East is an enticing lure it can also be overshadowed by fear of the unfamiliar. With Peninsula Hotels’ Private Jet Tour itineraries you will experience the reassuring comforts, anticipatory service, and soothing attention to detail of legendary hotelier, Peninsula Hotels. In this way, the exoticism and mystery of the East can be enjoyed from the reassuring platform of some of the world’s leading hotels.

Each tour provides access to one-of-a-kind bespoke experiences only available as a result of the partnership between Imperial Tours and Peninsula Hotels. For example, you will explore a seafood bazaar in Hong Kong with the Executive Chef of the Peninsula Hong Kong and learn to paint with the Peninsula Beijing’s resident artist. Alternatively, try climbing aboard Peninsula Shanghai’s private yacht for an architecture tour of its future cityscape from the Yangzi River. Each itinerary features unique hotel experiences in China born of the collaboration between Peninsula Hotels and Imperial Tours.

Private access to world renowned cultural sites is merely a starting point for our Culture & Heritage tour. Apart from meeting with some of the most influential leaders in China’s arts and culture sector, you will also view rare art collections normally closed to the public. For instance, you will tour meet and enjoy lunch with the founders of China’s leading home-grown auction house and also tour private galleries in Beijing and Shanghai with gallery owners. In Beijing, you will not only enjoy a private lunch al fresco on the Great Wall of China but also meet with the conservationist responsible for the law protecting it.

Culture & Heritage Tour, uncover the mysteries of the east from the comfort you can only experience with Peninsula Private Jet Tours

A family vacation by private jet not only eases the stresses of traveling with a family; it also provides a relaxing environment to connect and spend quality time together between destinations. Enjoy the ultimate family vacation in China with experiences ranging from a Chinese cooking lesson with a Peninsula Chef to painting lessons with the resident artist in Beijing’s Peninsula property to playing table tennis with a former Chinese Olympian. Other highlights on our Family Tour include, hand-feeding pandas and enjoying VIP access to the newly opened Shanghai Disney. We have curated only the best experiences to ensure that each member of the family is captivated and entertained, providing you with a relaxing, memorable and safe vacation abroad. Make your next family vacation one filled with unforgettable experiences sure to entertain, bring you closer together as a family and introduce your children to the magnificence of China.

Family Tour, give your family an experience they will never forget from the safety and comfort of a Peninsula Private Jet Tour

China is a “must-eat” destination for foodies everywhere and our Culinary Voyage private jet tour offers the best China has to offer. Given our destinations of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, we focus on three main schools of cuisine; Imperial, Huaiyang and Cantonese from the perspective both of fine dining and home-style cooking. Together with Peninsula Hotels we have created a tour that provides exclusive access to Peninsula’s private kitchens as well as opportunities to learn, shop and cook with the best. For example, the Executive Chef of the Hong Kong Peninsula accompanies you on a traditional junk to his favorite island seafood bazaar. Alternatively, a TCM qualified nutritionist introduces you to China’s leading farm to table organic restaurant specializing in traditional cooking techniques. You will be introduced by experts to the art of preparing and cooking some of China’s most famous dishes from Peking duck in one of Beijing’s top duck restaurants to hand thrown noodles and dim sum. No matter your palette, our culinary tour will leave you with a newfound appreciation for the range and art of Chinese cooking.

Culinary Voyage, learn the art of creating some of the most iconic dishes in Asia with Peninsula Hotels & Imperial Tours

Flying on a private jet not only enhances your comfort, it also allows you to see and do more in a shorter amount of time. These itineraries are so enriched with eye-opening activities and unusual experiences that you will be captivated from beginning to end.

Please join these scheduled departures, if you can. However, if are not able to make those departures but wish to take advantage of these itineraries, please do enquire. Not only can we supply various sized planes according to group, but we can tailor itineraries to visit other destinations. For example, a Culture and Heritage group might wish to add Hangzhou or Dunhuang, a family might be interested in Guilin and a culinary group might want to check out Chengdu to find our more about Sichuanese cuisine. Additionally, each itinerary is adaptable to include commerical flights instead of flying via private jet. 

No matter what you wish to see and do in China, Imperial Tours together with Peninsula Hotels will endeavor to make your dream vacation a reality. Consider China a world undiscovered, a place rooted in an ancient history with a trajectory leaping into the future. Let Imperial Tours together with Peninsula Hotels help you uncover the mysteries of the East from the luxury, security and comfort of a private jet tour. 

By April 2017, the Peninsula Palace Hotel will have completed its US$123 million extensive renovation of what was already one of the best known luxury hotel properties in Beijing. If the early 1990’s white-tiled, pavilion-roofed building (a classified heritage property) revealed China’s attempt to qualify western-defined modernity with Chinese characteristics, then the new renovation combining classical Imperial themes and the best contemporary art within an ultra-luxury context is more than a simple coming of age. With super-sized, beautifully detailed guest rooms, a new check-in approach and its own art gallery, the Peninsula Palace Hotel hints at China determining its own path to the future.

When the Palace Hotel first opened its doors in 1989, it introduced the first luxury shopping mall to Beijing. More than a symbol for statesman Deng Xiaoping’s famous aphorism “to get rich is glorious”, it became the venue for the newly wealthy to realize their early consumerist fantasies. Since 1990, the year Peninsula Hotels took up management, the Palace Hotel has been THE hotel for Beijing’s cognoscenti and elite. 

Welcome to the newly renovated Beijing Peninsula Hotel

Besides a US$27 million refurbishment in 2002 that focused on the Presidential Suite, club floor and the two restaurants, Chinese and Western, little had changed between 1989 and 2012. When Joseph Sampermans, previously Hotel Manager at the sister Hong Kong property, was appointed to be GM and tasked with the project of renovating this Grande Dame, plans for making the premier hotel in Northern Asia commenced. “How do you think it should be?’ he asked Nancy and myself at an early meeting. “Like a Peninsula,” we rejoined.

In the same property that previously had served 525 guest rooms, from April 2017 when all the rooms will be returned, there will only be 230. Even though the hotel insists these 230 are mostly “rooms”, let me share a secret with you. They’re not. Each room, with a standard area of 650 square feet or 65 square meters is actually a suite offering a separate bedroom, bathroom, dressing room, and a sitting room. Which begs the question: if the rooms are already suites, then what are the suites? Large would be the apposite description – whereas, broadly speaking, two former rooms were combined to create a new room, at least three former rooms have been combined to create the newly styled suites. And with 61 suites out of 230 keys, this hotel is luxuriously equipped. If you bear in mind Peninsula and Joseph’s bold ambition to create the finest hotel in northern Asia, the grandiose use of space makes sense.  

 

Newly redesigned lobby featuring Zhang Du bronze sculptures

Apart from the handsome renovation of all the surrounding retail areas, there have been three main changes in the lobby. Most importantly, seating for a new dining area has been brought to the fore behind the beautiful over-sized Zhang Du bronze sculptures. The sight and sounds of a dining crowd personalizes the vast space that this three story lobby encompasses. Structurally, the under-lit staircase has been modernized to lead from the ground floor up to the banquet areas, thereby dividing the space in two between six beautiful new white marble pillars. As a result, banquet and conference guests are neatly guided through the lobby. Room guests, by contrast, are met near the front doors by cross-trained, iPad equipped hotel staff to be whisked to a welcome area, and from there directly to their rooms where check-in takes place.

Contemporary living space in the Peninsula Suite

The detailing of the upholstered rooms was a marvel. The leather cladding of the drawers, neatly labelled, makes you think of the upholstery in the Peninsula Rolls Royce. The blue and white couch both complements and contrasts with the muted whites and creams of the room. The richly appointed bathroom, with black marbled floors and white marble walls and a matching abstract ink painting above the bath, is a space that works.

 “Intuitive technology” has been a big part of Peninsula’s efforts since the renovation of the Hong Kong Peninsula with which Joseph was also involved. The Beijing Peninsula takes this journey one stage further with the addition of mobile phone ports in both the sitting room and bedroom, which instantly connect your phone with the room’s multimedia system and allow you immediately to watch videos on the LCD Screen and play your music on the stereo without ever having to touch a button. In addition to these new services, Peninsula of course still provides free international VOIP calls from the room telephone. Peninsula’s ambition is not to have gadgetry for its own sake, but to provide room services immediately and intuitively. For instance, I used the hotel room’s iPad to order an iron to my room. To my surprise, it arrived promptly ten minutes later, such that I was able to get ready for dinner.

Traditional blue & white ceramics in the Jing Restaurant

 Jing, the western restaurant, also got a complete make over to become very much at one with a more sophisticated presentation of Beijing. The long cocktail bar vestibule leads into an elegant room whose walls are adorned with appealing Chinese contemporary art. It is only on a second take that one notices recesses leading to private dining spaces, such that the restaurant is both intimate and capacious at the same time. (The art works are so good, that we ended up touring the entire space as though it were an art gallery). Spanish chef, Alberto Becceril, working with a farm to table concept that prioritizes locally-sourced organic produce, conjures refreshingly innovative and elegant dishes. Becceril’s dishes in no way resemble some kind of dramatic chemistry experiment. Their traditional grounding is as apparent as his artistry in the sophisticated new interpretation and presentation.

This sophistication is a theme that echoes throughout the project. Its contemporary art consistently makes reference to classical or traditional themes or materials. The abstract ink painting in the bathroom reflects the deep tradition of calligraphy. The Zhang Du bronzes remind one of statues typically greeting visitors in traditional tea houses. One of the art pieces in Jing plays with traditional blue and white ceramics; a second displays the traditional skill of embroidery. Similarly, the guest room design combines the classic upholstery one finds in traditional car brands with the latest in-room technology. Everywhere you see a clever interplay between contemporary and traditional design to create an elegant interpretation of the present.

It’s both a thrilling and tough job to be an opening GM, the arbiter of an entirely new hotel project. Joseph was tasked with creating the best hotel in Northern Asia. Has he succeeded? This is a question that only time and you can answer. However, there are two undeniable facts. Firstly, Joseph has helped to create a Peninsula worthy of the name. That’s challenging because of the paradox of ensuring that the property is not formulaic whilst simultaneously adopting elements common to the brand. Secondly, Joseph and Peninsula have given it their all – there has been a massive investment in design, contemporary art, technology, and space harnessed within a sense of style that is the preserve of only a handful of hotel companies. The property does not hedge its bets behind tradition. It extends itself ambitiously to the future, and in so doing it helps define its locale. The China of 2016 is far more self-confident, stylish and global than thirty years ago; it is hardly surprising that the Peninsula expresses this. 

 

 

Experience the great outdoors of China. Breathe in the crisp clean air and stand in awe over her beauty. While we guarantee your China experience will be one of culture, cuisine, and wonderment, it can also be filled with breath taking scenery and dramatic landscapes. China’s natural landscapes offer experiences for all types of travelers. To help showcase some of China’s outdoor experiences we have compiled in this article the best natural destinations.

So when packing your bags, be sure to include some comfortable shoes, hydration gear, and of course – a camera. 

The Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China Beijing

One of the many views on the Great Wall

We have all heard of it, with its impressive 20,000km length, The Great Wall of China is one of the most monumental manmade structures in the world. Built throughout different dynasties, beginning in the 3rd century B.C, the Great Wall was originally built to prevent an invasion from barbarian nomads. Today, the Great Wall of China is one of the most visited attractions in the world. And for nature lovers hoping for a remarkable and less touristic hike, you will be happy to know that the Great Wall has many sections that have been left virtually untouched and tourist free. These ‘off the beaten trail’ areas provide picture perfect wild sceneries, where more adventurous travelers can enjoy breathtaking views of the Great Wall surrounded by nature. 

Biking & Hiking in Huangshan 

In the Southern area of Anhui Province, just three hours by high-speed train from Shanghai, you will discover the Huangshan Mountain range. The Huangshan Mountain range, featured in the blockbuster movie Avatar, is also frequently referred to as the Yellow Mountains. Huangshan is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its beautiful scenery, breath taking sunrises and sunsets, and of course the almost magical sea of clouds that sweep throughout the mountains. With more than 50km of footpaths and trails, as well as cable cars to help ease tired legs, you can spend the day hiking the various trails and viewing the dramatic scenery. After your day on the mountain, ease your tired legs at the beautiful Banyan Tree located just off the mountain. 

Sunrise from above the clouds in the Yellow Mountains

After your night of relaxation, spend the next day discovering the Ancient Villages of Hongcun and Xidan. Both villages have long history and splendid Anhui Culture as they remain untouched since they were built in the 14th century. Be transported to another era walking through the unique alleyways and ancient buildings, all the while being wrapped in the delicate aroma of hand picked local tea and fresh flowers. 

View of the Ancient Village of Hongcun

View of the Ancient Village of Hongcun

Guilin & Beyond

Located in the South of China, consider Guilin as your jumping off point to experience some of China’s most beautiful natural environments. There are many unique scenic places located only 2 hours or less from Guilin. However, two of the most beautiful locations, ones that will leave you speechless, are Longsheng and Li River.

Long Ji Rice Terraced fields

Long Ji Rice Terraced fields

In Longsheng you will find the iconic Long Ji (Dragon’s Backbone) Rice Terraces fields. Featuring more than 66 square km of terraced fields, within mountains 800m above the sea level. If you’re wondering when to visit, the best time of the year to visit the Longsheng fields is May, when irrigation starts, and the fields are filled with water reflecting the image of the sky, creating a unique effect.

Fisherman on the misty Li River

Fisherman on the misty Li River

During your adventure in the Guilin area, you can also experience sailing on the Li River. As you cruise along the river banks you will discover the dramatic landscape of the Li River with its green hills, clear water, peculiar stones, caves, and famous mist that give the river its iconic look. 

Hike to Ganden Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet

Only 40km away from the capital city of Tibet, Lhasa, settled on the top of a 4200m-altitude mountain, you will discover Ganden Monastery. In addition to being one of the largest monasteries in Tibet, Ganden Monastery is also one of the 3 Great Temples along with the Sera Monastery, and Drepung Monastery. However, Ganden Monastery is the only monastery of the 3 where you can take inside photos, for a reasonable fee. Despite the beauty of the Monastery, the must-do highlight is to hike around the Monastery. The kora, or holy pilgrimage route around the Ganden monastery, is truly one of the most magical and inspiring places in the world. Not only are the views breathtaking, the experience of prostrating pilgrims and monks walking along with you, is something we cannot begin to put into words. 

Lhasa Valley from Ganden Monastery

Lhasa Valley & Ganden Monastery

Shangri-La

Formerly known as Zhongdian city, Shangri-La is one of the most beautiful places in China. Described as a mystical and harmonious earthly paradise by British novelist James Hilton, in his 1939 “Lost Horizon” novel, Shangri-la is truly a place of wonderment. Located at the meeting point of the Tibet, Yunnan, and Sichuan provinces, Shangri-La has an eclectic mix of ethnic groups, but is mostly inhabited by Tibetans. Its isolated location 3,000m above the sea level, offers travelers the opportunity to discover and learn from the Tibetan culture and lifestyle, while experiencing the vast natural landscapes of China. Shangri-La is a city surrounded with culture, history, and natural wonders. For the nature loving traveller, Shangri-La is a must. 

Shangri-La

Experience the vast nature of Shangri-La

Hong Kong

While the image of Hong Kong may bring skyscrapers and crowded streets to your mind, what you may not know is that three quarters of Hong Kong’s landscape is countryside and 40% of its territory is protected for nature conservation. So after experiencing one of the most exciting metropolises in the world, escape the streets of Hong Kong and head outside to experience great hikes and outdoor activities for travelers and locals alike.

Hiking the Dragon’s Back Trail in Hong Kong

One of the best and most popular hikes in Hong Kong is the 8.5km-long hike along the Dragon’s Back ridge. The name of the ridge comes from the dragon like shape of the path that connects Wan Cham Shan hill and Shek O peak. Gentle slopes will guide you along the trail while you enjoy unbeatable views of the South China Sea and the coastal buildings of Hong Kong Island. When you reach the end of your trek, relax in the sandy and blue sea beaches in Shek O village or Big Wave Bay.

Pink Dolphin in Hong Kong

Chinese Pink Dolphin in the waters of Hong Kong

Finally, a must do on your visit to Hong Kong, is to see the famous Pink Dolphins. These unique dolphins are a subspecies of Indo-Pacific dolphins that only appears along the Chinese coast. Their unique pigmentation comes from blood vessels close to the surface of their skin. Unfortunately, as a result of loss of habitation, they are classified as endangered. However, they are always happy to receive and show off for visitors, which incidentally make for amazing photo opportunities. To see them in their natural environment, join a day tour of dolphin watching and experience an unforgettable moment within these unique inhabitants in the waters of Hong Kong.

Beautifully preserved village of Hongcun near Huangshan

China has so much to offer the curious traveler that there’s simply no way to visit everywhere in just one trip. Most first time visitors cover the ‘must-see’ sites of Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai and Guilin, but there’s so much more to discover and explore. Here we list our top places to visit on a second trip to China.

Huangshan

Our director Guy Rubin’s favorite destination in China is Huangshan – the Yellow Mountains. We recommend two days to enjoy the area fully – one day for exploring the mountain itself and one day for touring the picturesque villages that the area is also renowned for. Ascend the mountain top via a cable car, traversing the granite peaks and, depending on the weather, zipping in and out of swirls of mist. At the top one instantly appreciates the unique beauty of the mountain that has captivated artists and poets for centuries. Back down below, the beautiful villages around Huangshan offer a glimpse of a rural and somewhat idyllic China that is fast-disappearing. It’s hard not to fall for this area’s natural beauty and charming UNESCO heritage site villages.

Taking a relaxing gondola ride on West Lake 

Hangzhou

Only 2 hours from Shanghai and 3 hours from Huangshan is another China-highlight – the beautiful city of Hangzhou, which Marco Polo once proclaimed to be “by far the most glorious city in the world”. This city adjacent to the vast and serene West Lake is one in which to relax and explore Chinese culture and tradition. Enjoy a morning taichi lesson followed by a private gondola ride on West Lake to the accompaniment of your own private orchestra. The area surrounding Hangzhou is filled with Buddhist temples and peaceful tea plantations to explore during an afternoon. Hangzhou is also a great place to learn and appreciate the Chinese arts such as calligraphy or a tea ceremony.

Bronze masks at Sanxingdui

Chengdu

The city of Chengdu sometimes makes it on to people’s first time itinerary, and for good reason. Seeing and even holding pandas can be a highlight of your trip. There’s much more to Chengdu too – it’s a sophisticated and cosmopolitan city with great restaurants, shopping and nightlife and yet it still retains a very traditional character in its countless teahouses, temples and parks. Another nearby highlight is the archeological site of Sanxingdui, rivalling that of Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors in historical importance. Take an afternoon to explore the spell-binding collection of bronze and gold masks and other jade and ivory artifacts dating from the 12th to 11th centuries BC.      

Spinning prayer wheels on the kora in Lhasa

Lhasa

If visiting Lhasa, Tibet we recommend a stay of 4 nights as there’s so much to see and this gives you time to acclimatize to the altitude. Most people therefore incorporate it into their second trip to China. The sights and atmosphere in Lhasa make it a truly special place to visit and another favorite of our director Guy Rubin. Visit the monasteries, temples and Potala Palace; witness the devotion of the pilgrims as you join them on the kora (pilgrimage); watch prayer flags fluttering in the wind against a backdrop of the mighty Himalayan peaks – it’s impossible not to be blown away by the splendor and raw beauty of Tibet.      

To see a full itinerary incorporating Huangshan, Hangzhou, Chengdu and Lhasa click here. Other destinations we’d recommend exploring on a second visit to China are Lijiang, Shangri-La, Dunhuang and Pingyao / Datong. For advice on which destinations would suit you please contact us or one of our recommended travel agents

Aman at the Summer Palace

What with so many luxury five star hotels in Beijing, travelers really are spoilt for choice in this megacity. But how do you choose when confronted with this much choice? It’s not easy, so we’re here to help and have written a brief guide to the primary choices for your luxury hotel needs in Beijing. The following are listed in alphabetical order. 

Aman Summer Palace

The Aman in Beijing is an absolutely gorgeous Qing dynasty heritage boutique hotel. It’s located at the Summer Palace which is far from downtown Beijing but that’s actually the attraction. It’s a great place to go for some relaxation for a few days at the start or end of a trip. The rooms are all in a traditional courtyard style and the hotel grounds are peaceful and relaxing. To stay at the Aman Summer Palace is truly a unique experience which we’d suggest for you in addition to staying at one of the following downtown luxury hotels.  

City views from a premier suite room at the China World Summit Wing

China World Summit Wing

Shangri-la’s China World Summit Wing (CWSW) has a great location right in the middle of Beijing’s Central Business District (CBD). However the real selling point here is that the hotel is located from floors 64 through 80 of the China World Trade Center building, the tallest and most prestigious skyscraper in Beijing. The views from the rooms, infinity pool, restaurants and bars are fantastic. You can see out over the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and in the distance you can see Beijing is hemmed in by mountains to the north and west, it’s a stunning backdrop. The rooms are generous averaging 650 square feet. “Atmosphere” bar on the 80th floor is not to be missed!

Mio at the Four Seasons

Four Seasons 

The Four Seasons is a great choice for connoisseurs of luxury living in Beijing. The lobby often packed for high tea points to one of the highlights of this property, its fantastic service. This comes in addition to its spacious rooms and admired restaurants, particularly Mio, the Italian with its over-the-top chandeliers running the length of the restaurant. On the subject of food, this is the one hotel in Beijing to include many local Beijing breakfast foods within its sumptuous buffet spread. The location in the northern embassy district is great for politicians and leisure travelers alike. 

Bali-style underground swimming pool at the Grand Hyatt

Grand Hyatt

The Grand Hyatt is conveniently located on Chang An Jie, the city’s main artery, close to Wanfujing’s shopping areas, food night market as well as Tiananmen Square. By merit of its large number of rooms and location close to the city’s ministries, the hotel’s primary focus is corporate. However, thanks to its terrific Peking Duck restaurant, for many years one of the best in the city, and glorious 50 meter underground swimming pool, styled as a Bali beach, the property is versatile enough also to cater to visiting families. A hidden bonus is that some of its suites have views onto the Imperial Palace. 

Unique Japanese design at The Opposite House

The Opposite House

The Opposite House has an enviable location right in the thick of all the action in Sanlitun – this is the place to go for dining, drinking and designer shopping. The hotel and rooms have a contemporary and fun design by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and the lobby houses rotating art exhibitions. The bar and restaurants are also a draw – try Jing Yaa Tang for excellent Cantonese dim sum or Sureno for contemporary Italian cuisine. This is a sound choice for contemporary luxury in Beijing. 

Lobby with a view at the Park Hyatt

Park Hyatt

With stylish bedrooms designed by Peter Remedio and public areas by Super Potato, there’s no doubting the pedigree of this property, housed in the Yintai Center, a skyscraper offering amazing city views from the heart of Beijing’s most prestigious business area only ten to fifteen minutes east of the Imperial Palace. Appealing by location particularly to the business traveler, the hotel still has plenty to offer. Over and above, “Xiu”, a lively bar and live music venue, and its “China Bar”, serving champagne and cocktails, “China Grill” was the first restaurant where Jack Aw Yeong, head of F&B for Park Hyatt in Asia, could experiment with his multi-cuisine restaurant concept serving Western, Chinese and Japanese foods simultaneously at the same table. 

Swimming pool at the Rosewood

Rosewood

The Rosewood has only been open since last year but it’s quickly become one of the top choices for a luxury stay in Beijing. The lobby is gorgeous and all the rooms have a contemporary, classic feel. The location is great – right in the middle of the CBD. The swimming pool is a definite highlight as are the restaurants. We recommend Country Kitchen to experience northern Chinese cuisine and Red Bowl for trying Sichuanese hotpot.  

Beautiful deluxe king room at the Waldorf Astoria

Waldorf Astoria

The Walforf Astoria is another fabulous alternative. It boasts a fantastic central location within walking distance of historic sites such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, but also near the fashionable shopping and dining area of Wangfujing. The property has a lovely contemporary design with Asian accents and the rooms are beautiful. Moreover, the hotel offers courtyard suites and a private villa in a traditional Chinese hutong style in a separate low-rise behind the main building. The suites almost feel like an extension of the Aman Summer Palace, but in downtown Beijing.

To arrange a custom tour of Beijing with a stay at any of these luxury hotels please contact us or one of our recommended travel agents.

Luxury boutique hotel Alila comes to China, located in the bamboo forests of Anji

Imperial Tours has compiled another roundup of what’s happening and what’s new in China luxury travel this spring.

Art, Culture & Fashion

This month will unveil the opening of the first Shanghai store for home-grown fashion designer Ms Min. Up until now her gorgeous designs were only available online or in department stores like Lane Crawford. The new store is designed by Italian architect Vincenzo de Cottis and is housed in the Shanghai Centre.

Hong Kong’s Art Basel has now been and gone but there’s still plenty to see art wise in Hong Kong. One of Asia’s hottest artists, Shahzia Sikander from Pakistan, has her first solo show at the Asia Society Hong Kong Centre until early July. Meanwhile Galerie du Monde is exhibiting 25 works from The Fifth Moon group of Taiwanese artists, running from April 20 to June 01.

Running until May 28 at Pekin Fine Arts in Beijing’s Caochangdi is an exhibition by Hong Kong’s late Wesley Tongson. His modern take on Chinese ink landscape paintings are both beautiful and haunting.   

Ms Min's designs are stylish and chic

Dining

There’s less news from the fine dining scene with only a few new places opening recently. If you’re in Shanghai and looking for a taste of something different then head to Alan Wong’s Shanghai at the Ritz Carlton. Alan is a celebrity chef from the US who specializes in Hawaiian regional cuisine, so if you love fish then you should definitely consider stopping by for a meal.     

In Beijing The Georg is a wonderful new fine dining spot that actually opened quietly late last year. The restaurant is part of the Danish silverware and lifestyle brand by Georg Jensen and the food is a ‘Scandinavian take on international flavor driven cuisine’.      

A touch of Danish class in Beijing at The Georg by Georg Jensen

Hotels

The St. Regis Macao opened just before the New Year on 17 December. They are the first property in Macao to offer a signature 24-hour Butler Service for every room and suite. In February the Grand Hyatt opened its doors in Chengdu, located in the same fashionable district as Swire’s Temple House.  

Currently in soft opening phase is Ahn Luh Zhujiajiao, the first in a new chain of luxury hotels set to open in second-tier cities in China by the founder of Aman. It’s billed as an urban resort and is located in the water town of Zhujiajiao near Shanghai. We presume this chain will be aimed at the domestic market what with their spa being run by a Tai Chi expert and a focus on TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).    

Recently opened St. Regis in Macao

Although this is now slated for a fall opening we are nonetheless already excited about the opening of the first Alila luxury boutique hotel in China. The setting will no doubt be stunning as the hotel will be situated next to a lake in the peaceful bamboo forests of Anji in Zhejiang province, where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed (see top photo).

Finally, we are still waiting in anticipation for the opening of the Waldorf Astoria in Chengdu. The property was originally slated to open in 2016 but seems now to have been moved back to 2017. Likewise, no news yet on the opening date of the Four Seasons Tianjin which is due to open sometime this year.

We look forward to seeing what else is in store on the luxury scene in China through the year. In the meantime, check out our luxury China travel collection of photos here or to keep up with all the information on luxury happenings in China please like our Facebook page. 

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