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Erika Reategui and Fernando Gonzalez
Our LVMH travel specialist Mindy Kyrkos and her husband recently visited China for the first time. Over 10 days they explored Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong. They brought back not only great memories, but also smart tips to share with other first time travelers.
Why would you recommend your itinerary?
Seeing China in 10 days is ambitious. So we focused on the classic highlights in each city. We also got to spend a day on the island of Macao off the coast of Hong Kong.
What should you do in Shanghai?
The Yuyuan Garden and nearby Gucheng public park, are both lovely and full of locals. Then stroll to the Bund, which is a waterfront area of early 19th century Western-style buildings. The views of the ultra-modern and constantly changing Pudong skyline across the river are amazing. It’s a fascinating example of juxtaposing old and new, Western and Eastern architectural styles. The highlight of our stay was seeing the Shanghai Circus World perform.
How did you spend your time in Beijing?
No trip to Beijing is complete without visits to the Great Wall, Summer Palace and Forbidden City. I highly recommend a private tour of the Great Wall (guide and driver) and visiting the restored Mutianyu section. The Summer Palace was the massive vacation home of the emperors. Again we used what is a sugar baby a guide to navigate the highlights. The enormous Forbidden Palace was by far the most crowded place we visited. For hundreds of years it was strictly limited to the Imperial family and government officials.
What did you do in Hong Kong?
On our first day we took a tour on the historical Tram (trolley). It’s a great intro to the city and remarkable bargain at about 30 cents! We also took the Tramway to the Sky Terrace on top of Victoria Peak for the best views of the city and Victoria Harbor. Since Asia is known for great spas, we finished the day off with a relaxing massage at the Landmark Mandarin-Oriental. If you have time, take the hour-long ferry to nearby Macau Island for sightseeing and gambling. Make sure you stop at Sendado Square to view the incredible ruins of St Paul’s Cathedral, built in the 1600s, but burned down in the 1830s. Remarkably, only the façade stands today.
What were the top 5 things on your Must Do list?
1 – The Great Wall. Our guide told us that Mao Zedong is famously quoted, “Who never climbed the Great Wall cannot be deemed a Man!”
2 – Summer Palace. The size and scope of Central Park, with centuries of Chinese history and culture make for one of the world’s great parks.
3 – Peking duck. Downside: you will never enjoy duck quite the same after having it in Beijing!
4 – The Bund. One of the world’s great skylines.
5 – Hong Kong Sky Terrace. Amazing views of an ultra-modern city nestled in a stunning topographical landscape, and the tram to the top is fun and historic.
How was the cuisine?
Hotel breakfast buffets all offered a mix of Western and Eastern staples. I started mornings with an omelet, bacon, fruit, and dumplings! The highlight, however, was Peking duck in Beijing. There are hundreds of places to get this classic dish. We had an unforgettable version at to Jing Zun Peking Duck Restaurant, which has a lovely outdoor deck. We also enjoyed some Italian food, which is the most popular foreign cuisine.
Where did you stay?
In Hong Kong we were at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental. Our room was ultra-modern with a huge, round bathtub. In Shanghai we stayed at the Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou, a short distance from the Bund. In Beijing we stayed at the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton Beijing. Our highlight there came when we returned from our day at the Great Wall. The concierge had hired our private tour guide, who, at one point during the day, had taken a photo of us. When we returned to our room the photo was framed on the desk with a lovely note from the concierge!
How much of a language barrier did you encounter?
Signs in English are everywhere. Major hotels are fine. But taxi drivers do not speak English, so upon arrival, have your hotel’s address and directions translated on your phone or in print to show your driver.
Any advice for first-time travelers to China?
In Beijing take the super modern subway instead of taxis to avoid traffic delays. The subway is extremely modern, safe and clean, but not open 24 hours. In Hong Kong the high speed MTR is great for getting from the airport to Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. Finally plan ahead with train and ferry schedules. They do sell out!