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The Great Wonders of China with Viking River

Gateway to China Viking River Cruises

Photos Credit: Alison Abbott

The law of averages indicates that most of us will probably only make one trip to China in a lifetime. The country is vast, the language barrier real and the population overwhelming. With so much to see, how does a traveler make the most of their days and visit the great wonders of the world?

As a frequent traveler, I’d suggest following in my footsteps and choosing a company with a stellar reputation. Navigating the obstacles China can present suddenly becomes much easier. Viking River Cruises offers the chance to combine many of those wonders into one trip on both land and sea. 

Covering nearly 18,000 miles and seven cities, the 14-day Gateway to China Itinerary takes you from Beijing to Shanghai with stops along the way in five additional must-see destinations. The middle days are spent on board the Viking Emerald cruising the Yangtze River. Shore excursions offer experiential learning. Onboard demonstrations and lectures provide a cultural curriculum to scratch beneath the surface of a destination. 

Gateway to China Viking River Cruises

No matter how many times you have seen the Great Wall, the Terra Cotta Soldiers or the Forbidden City in movies and photos, nothing can prepare you for the majesty of the reality. Overwhelming, breathtaking and regal are just a few of the descriptors that come to mind. Exploring these Imperial treasures is a once in a lifetime experience on the bucket list of many travelers. It is easy to see how the ancient cultures compete with Greece and Egypt as the birthplace of civilization.

Working towards the point of embarkation over several days, it is hard to imagine the additional sites that lie ahead. Finally, in Chonquing, China’s capital during World War II, I arrive at the main event: the luxury cruise along the Yangtze River. Boarding the river ship Viking Emerald, I find a comfortable oasis awaits. After three cities, two flights and endless miles, it is a joy to unpack in a floating hotel that will cruise along the river in the days ahead. Hospitality, respect and focus on family are principles of Chinese culture. They shine through brilliantly with the staff. The gentle rocking of the boat takes no adjustment. Often I do not know if the ship is moving except for the towering cliffs passing by my balcony.

Gateway to China Viking River Cruises

One of the legacies of the Qing Dynasty, the exquisite glazed gate entrance to the Buddhist temple at Shibaozhai, greets visitors at the first stop. Taking the twelve floors of spiral stairs to the top I was rewarded with 360° views of the Yangtze and beyond.

Heading down the Three Gorges: Wu, Xiling and Qutang, it felt like I might just be sailing off the end of the earth. For a 150 mile stretch, the limestone ridges offer dramatic beauty, vertical walls and what seems like hanging temples in this unspoiled territory. A side trip excursion aboard a traditional sampan leads me down Goddess Stream, a quiet tributary of crystal green waters lined with bamboo.

Gateway to China Viking River Cruises

The controversial Three Gorges Dam is a marvel of engineering. Fully operational since 2011, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam controls flooding that previously would destroy villages along the banks of the Yangtze. Now providing an important slice of the nations electricity, the increased depth of the water also provides transport for ships to reach remote locations.  Going through the lock system after dark was an eerily twilight zone experience. 

Finishing up the journey in Shanghai was a highlight. One of China’s most important ports sings with architectural splendor. Combining old and new the famous Bund is an elegant promenade allowing both visitors and residents to take in all the city has to offer. Colonial buildings meld with space age skyscrapers and provide a metaphor of the ancient past and modern day lifestyles competing for the visitor’s attention; a fitting juxtaposition after the experiences on the river.  

Gateway to China Viking River Cruises

Time is one of life’s great luxuries. As a guest on this river cruise, I was able to experience how important excellent planning and backup are for the success of a complex itinerary. The most populated country in the world is  transitioning onto the global stage; visitors could not ask for a more interesting time to visit.The ancient treasures are not to be missed. I left this country with a new understanding of a complicated destination. Although growth and expansion are occurring at an unprecedented rate, travel to the Middle Kingdom still has much to teach us about the future of the historic puzzle we call China.

Alison Abbott

Alison Abbott is a lifestyle and travel expert who brings 25 years of entrepreneurial expertise to her writing career. She is the editor of Green with Renvy, a travel site focused on the world of sustainability. Boomer Travel Media, a company she co-founded, provides content for luxury destinations and travel outfitters who appreciate the value of the #1 spending niche in the industry. Working as ...(Read More)

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