Focus On Expo 2010 Shanghai: Discover the Yangtze River Delta of China
Shanghai, Zhejiang and Jiangsu are joining forces to promote Yangtze River Delta Tours that coincide with Expo. The 10 official tours all departing from Shanghai, running from two to five days and aiming at giving tourists a glimpse of everything the area, has to offer.
Here is a perfect four-day trip highlighting what to see and do to enjoy the very best that each stop has to offer.
Four days on the road
Day 1: Shanghai
Shanghai Museum at People's Square is a great choice for art and culture fans, with a collection of 120,000 works. It is renowned for its Chinese bronze sculptures, ceramics, painting and calligraphy. The museum's modern architecture with a round top and a square base symbolizes an ancient Chinese philosophy of a square earth under the sky.
Scattered around Shanghai are traditional shikumen houses offering a glimpse into the lives of Shanghai's past. The best place to view them is Shimen Erlu and Shaanxi Nanlu. Blending Western architecture with traditional Yangtze Chinese style and social behavior, shikumen reveal the secrets of urban development in Shanghai.
If you are a romantic, then the one-kilometer-long Wukang Lu in Xuhui District is perfect for a stroll. With lots of celebrities' houses in 1930s style hidden behind the green leaves of Sycamore trees, Wukang Lu is a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The Bund is definitely deserving of high expectations and a recent facelift has accentuated its importance. The Bund is a splendid reflection of Western architecture from the early 1900s and is set against the Huangpu River and facing the modern Lujiazui area, creating a dialogue between Tuesday and today, history and modernity.
Late afternoon is a perfect time to take in the 400-year-old Yu Yuan (Yu Garden). Enjoy the tranquility before joining a riverboat sightseeing cruise as your last sight-seeing stop before embarking on the glamorous nightlife of the city.
Day 2: Hangzhou
Called the backyard of Shanghai, Hangzhou is 140 kilometers and two hours drive from Shanghai and is most famous for its beautiful West Lake. The best way to enjoy the lake is to rent a bicycle and cycle around at your leisure. As the inspiration behind many Chinese love stories and poems, West Lake is considered to be one of the most romantic places in China.
Spring is the best time to visit Longjing (Dragon Well), Hangzhou's famous tea village. The village's name comes from a well in Longjing Park. It is said that after rain the water floating on the surface of the well twists and turns, resembling the movement of a traditional Chinese dragon.
Enjoying tea is the most popular activity in Lonjing and there are small tea houses everywhere. It is highly recommended to enjoy tea tasting and if you buy some to take with you, it is quite likely that the farmers will come and chat with you providing a great chance to get to know some of the locals. The tea here is not necessarily known for its high quality, it's the experience and way of drinking tea that's important.
The nearby Nine Brooks and Eighteen Dales is the real secret treasure of Hangzhou, with tall green trees and clean brooks along the zigzagged road. Here you can escape from the crowds, take in some fresh air and indulge in the scenery that saw many ancient poets create legendary works.
Xixi National Wetland Park is 30 minutes out of the city and was established with the aim of preserving the area's wetland ecology. The park not only boasts a vast array of wildlife but also the first wetland museum in China.
Day 3: Suzhou
It takes about two hours to drive to Suzhou from Hangzhou. Dotted with exquisite private gardens, the city is famous for its gardens, such as the well preserved Zhuozhengyuan (The Humble Administrator's Garden), Liuyuan (Lingering Garden) and Wangshiyuan (Master of Nets Garden) dating back to the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911).
Pavilions, gazebos, lakes and rockeries illustrate the art of simplicity, delicacy and poetic views, just like a piece of Chinese painting. Apart from the ancient gardens in Suzhou, Shantang Jie and Pingjiang Jie are both also fine examples of history with several buildings completely restored.
Dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Shantang Jie was once very prosperous, with a vast array of shops. Nowadays, old bridges remain across the Shantang River with lanterns brightening houses at night and narrow alleys full of shops touting their wares leading to the water.
As the last work of famous master of modern architecture I. M. Pei, the New Suzhou Museum is an innovative landmark in the city combining Chinese architecture with the future. Designed in Suzhou garden style, the building takes the simple geometric form of modern art. Standing adjacent to the classic Zhongwangfu and Shilin (Lion Forest Garden), New Suzhou Museum contains some very important excavated artifacts, Ming and Qing dynasty paintings and calligraphy and ancient arts and crafts.
For a taste of original Suzhou art, Suzhou Pingtan, story telling and ballad singing in Suzhou dialect, is a must see and at Liuyuan, impromptu performances take place during much of the day and night.
Day 4: Riverside towns
A choice of two small towns along the river close to Suzhou is a great option for a final day of travel. Both known as shuixiang (riverside towns) Zhouzhuang and Tongli are typical examples with arched bridges, cobblestone alleyways and beautiful stillness. Located along the bank of Taihu Lake, Tongli's history dates back to the early Tang Dynasty and the town received its name for its prosperity. As one of the best-reserved ancient towns in China and World Heritage listed, Tongli is famous for its 49 ancient bridges, ancient architecture and successful business people. Zhouzhuang has similar characteristics and is most well known for its bridges, making it the perfect stop for photographers.
Shanghai - Shanghai-Hangzhou Expressway - Hangzhou City Ring Expressway (Xiaoshan Exit) - Suzhou-Jiaxing-Hangzhou Expressway (Suzhou Exit) - Shanghai-Ningbo Expressway - Shanghai.
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