This morning we were treated to a proper lay in! We weren’t departing our hotel until 10am, and cases weren’t needed to be outside until 09:15. Of course, my body clock woke me up at 05:30 so I had a relax and at 06:30 went down to the hotel spa for a swim, sauna and steam room which was a very nice experience. We used the time to give our cases a huge sort out and then popped down to for breakfast. Our hotel, The Pan Pacific in Suzhou was set amongst the most glorious gardens with fish ponds and beautiful flowers. Outside the hotel grounds the hotel backed into a huge park which was just gorgeous so we went for an after breakfast stroll. It was beautiful – there was even a Chinese man playing some flute by one of the flower bushes – just lovely.
At 10am we assembled and caught the coach to Suzhou station. By this time my head was starting to ache with
dehydration that bottle of red last night, and we were struggling to find some water – but Mary our tour manager came to the rescue with a spare bottle she had – thanks Mary ❤️!!
The train journey to Shanghai was very short at 25 mins; I felt sad it was our last train journey of the trip, and I think others in our group felt the same. When you’re travelling as part of a group, after a couple of weeks you feel like you’re one big family. There is no porterage and the cases generally need to be stored in the large luggage storage areas above your seats. Seats were always allocated alphabetically so we always sat near the same group of people- so Keith and I helped with putting the cases of those near to us up above and I know others helped those sat elsewhere. We had our train beer buddy’s and on this journey Keith had some ice cold beers from the hotel Minibar which he shared to Arthur who had always had a beer at a similar time to us. It just always felt like we were part of a happy family.
We arrived at Shanghai and straight away I liked its vibe! We offloaded our cases to a van which was taking them straight to our hotel. We then boarded a coach which had ice cold water AND beer on board – they know the brits so well(!) and off we went on a magical tour of Shanghai. The weather was extremely hot so those beers went down a storm with everyone!
Our first stop was the Yu Garden and Bazaar in Shanghai’s historic district. The gardens were absolutely breathtaking and despite being packed with tourists, it was a fabulous place to visit. We particularly liked the Dragon Wall. Fairly sure Keith would like to recreate this at home! 🐉
After this we got some free time to explore the Bazaar and pick up some souvenirs. In my head is expected Shanghai to be a very pushy place with cheap knock off handbags on every corner. Not sure if this is the case but elsewhere in Shanghai but it certainly wasn’t the case here. There was tat obviously but wasn’t as offensive as I thought it may be! We picked up a few bits to add to our every expanding suitcases – thank goodness for 30kg luggage allowance!
We made a stop the Bund Area of Shanghai for some photos – this is the area right by the river and you get great photos of the sky scrapers. Behind us were the older historical buildings then across the river were all these interesting shaped sky scrapers. What is interesting is that the sky scrapers went built until 1990s and before then the area was farm land and houses! What a difference!
After this we were dropped back at the hotel where the rest of the afternoon and evening was free. Most of the group went on an organised excursion to an acrobatics show but as we’d seen something similar elsewhere we gave it a miss, instead choosing to take ourselves across town on the metro and visit Shanghai Tower, the 2nd highest building in the world.
The journey across town on the metro was easy enough, having visited Hong along at the start of our trip it was very similar, and the colour and number combination was very easy to follow- and extremely cheap.
Shanghai Tower is located near to some other very interesting sky scrapers – the skyline here is just remarkably interesting. Next to it is a smaller building that looks like a bottle opener!
The Shanghai Tower also has the fastest lift in the world- we travelled 18 metres per second to reach the top of the building. Incredible. We timed our visit just to catch the sun setting and it really was a beautiful sight. My favourite though was when the twinkle lights came on all around the city. You get a great view of the river from the top. At some points it felt more scary than others – the sheer drop down was messing with my head!
We enjoyed the visit hugely and also at the bottom there is a great exhibition about the evolution of the high rise tower. Really fascinating and well worth our £18 entry charge.
We headed back on the metro and after a burger opposite the hotel, we settled in for the night.
Our last day in China ☹️ started with probably the worst breakfast of the trip sadly. The Pullman Shanghai seemed vastly over stretched for the amount of guests that descended on breakfast and we struggled to get a seat!
At 9am we all met for one final time in the reception. The rest of our group had a great time last night at the acrobatics show so everyone was in good spirits. Our first stop for the day was the French Concession area of town which is now a trendy area full of bars and restaurants, but once upon a time was full of colonial families. We had some free time so on Mary’s recommendation visited an old Shanghai house museum which was a fascinating insight to what these old colonial house would have looked like inside.
After this it was back on the coach to head to the Jade Buddha Temple. This was an interesting place right in the heart of residential Shanghai. The Jade Buddha itself was amazing (but no photos allowed)
We enjoyed our final lunch together and were dropped back to the hotel at 1:30. At this point it was billed as free time, which some of our group enjoyed. But Mary and Cathy, the local guide offered to do an addition activity – going to ride on the Maglev, the worlds fastest and only Magnetic Levitation train! Obviously we jumped at the chance so a group of 12 or so made our way on the metro to the start of the Maglev line.
The Maglev travels at speeds of 431km ph – but, it only reaches this top speed twice a day, once mid morning and once mid afternoon. We got there for the 3pm train and experienced it at full speed on the 30km ride to the airport, which took only 7 minutes!!Travelling at 431km ph felt incredible!! Where the track bends tenet lift the outer track and the train precariously leans. Just wow!
We took the return journey and experienced the top speed again! Afterwards everyone was buzzing! It’s just not everyday that you can say you’ve travelled at the fastest ground speed possible.
There was an interesting exhibition underneath the station that we enjoyed before we waved bye to the rest of the group who were going to visit the Shanghai Tower.
We nipped back to the hotel for a freshen up and then headed out for a dumpling dinner at place near to the hotel recommended to us by Cathy our local guide.
We had beef noodles and 10 dumplings between us, full of shrimp and other gorgeous fillings. We had traditional soup dumplings, a specialty for Shanghai and they were Devine! And only £5.90 for the whole lot! Amazing and our favourite meal in China.
At 6:30 we met the tour guides and rest of the group who were booked on tonight’s additional add on excursion- a boat trip on the river.
We absolutely loved this- again a fantastic opportunity to see this marvellous skyline from a different perspective. It’s so relaxing on the river and was just a perfect way to finish our trip.
We have had the most incredible trip, once again Great Rail Journeys have provided us with a trip of a lifetime. While in China we covered nearly 2500 miles by rail, river and bus. Add to that the travel by air from London via Hong Kong (12950 miles)
We visited five of China’s major cities:
Beijing – 18.8 million
Shanghai- 22.7 million
Chongqing – 7.4 million ( 30million if the population of the province is included)
Chengdu. – 10.2 million
Wuhan – 7.6 million
Xi’an – 8.7 million
We sailed 400 miles along China and Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze, the third longest river in the world. We have also visited the world’s largest dam. (thanks Mary for sending this info!)
Now it’s time to head back to 🇬🇧 and straight back into work.
Until next timeLx