Why your next holiday should be with Viking River Cruises!

I have been home now just over 2 weeks.  After saving and planning for our Viking River Cruise trip to China for over 6 years, I cannot believe it is all over.  This is our second trip with Viking, and both have not disappointed.

I think this is the first time my hubby and I have been away for so long. We were 1 day short of 3 weeks in total.  I usually get home sick after 10 days, but this trip was so different.  I could have carried on for weeks, if it wasn’t for the fact, I missed my dogs oh and a thing called work!

The flight home was as comfortable as it can be in standard class.  Emirates are a great airline and our ‘go to’ choice for long haul.  I love the fact I can pre-order a low-fat meal and the great selection of films.  I am still hoping one day I will get to experience the luxury of business or first class.  I hear of so many people getting free upgrades, but I’m not that lucky sadly.

As it was a night flight, I planned to try and sleep on the first leg – Beijing to Dubai, and I think I managed a couple of hours.  From Dubai to Birmingham I made myself stay awake so I wouldn’t be too jet lagged for work the next day.  This was a great opportunity to watch a bunch load of files such as finishing Dumbo, The Hustle, Fishermen’s Friends, What Men Want, Alex and the List and finally The Wife.

As soon as we could, we collected Fido and Lola from the Kennels.  They were as happy to see us as we were to see them.

Usually, when I am home, I’m a little bit down after a good holiday, but 2 weeks on, I still have the ‘China’ buzz.  For over a week, I would wake in the night and think I was still there!  I dream constantly of everything we did.  People ask me what my favourite bit was.  I can’t answer that, as everything was magical and different.

A week later, we received a free recipe book from Viking.  It was such a lovely surprise and hubby and I have already tried one of the recipes out.  We plan many more.  It helps up keep our trip alive, especially when we insist on using chopsticks!

I don’t know when I will be able to go on another Viking holiday, but I have promised myself, as soon as I have saved up, I will be booking another one. Hong Kong, Tibet, Singapore, Vietnam and Thailand are at the top of our list now. I’ve already looked up their ‘Far East Discovery’ which takes in Hong Kong, Japan as well as parts of China we haven’t seen. Well ok, I’ll be honest, I’ve checked out all the Asia ones! Far East Horizons etc etc! They all look so good!

The culture of China really fascinated me.  It has given me a new appetite to learn more about the people.  I have been recommended a book called the ‘Wild Swans’ which is apparently about 3 generations of Chinese ladies.  It is in my Amazon basket waiting for me to finish my current book – The Tattooist of Auschwitz.  This is an amazing read too, and after visiting Auschwitz and Birkenau twice, I can really visualise the story.

If you are thinking of booking a holiday in the future, give Viking’s website a visit.  The price may seem high at first view, but the quality is extremely high, food and drinks are mostly included, as are the trips.  One of the things I love about the trips being included is that they take you to places you may never have thought to go to.  I will be honest, on both my trips with Viking, if you had asked me to pick my trips, there are some I wouldn’t have done.  Now having done them, I would have been gutted to miss out.  Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.  By putting yourselves in the good hands of Viking, you will definitely get a holiday to remember.  As for the food – you will seriously not find better.

The customer service is excellent from the time you book to when you arrive home.   The staff learn your names within minutes of meeting you and treat you like a member of the family.  Nothing is too much trouble.  I think this is why I don’t get home sick on these holidays.  It is like being around your family every day.

Don’t forget they also offer some early booking savers.  These are really worth doing.  So, what are you waiting for?

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Day 17 – Our last day in China

It’s our last day in China today! Tonight we head off to the airport for our flight home!

We have a slow morning after last night.

I need to go back to the Pearl Market before we leave, so we head over around mid day. This place still amazes me. If I had the time and money, I could spend all day here.

I get to a couple of things I want. I could certainly get carried away here but I’m strict with myself! I have a lot to squeeze into my case already.

After shopping we go to Linda’s for dinner. We order noodles, egg plant, chicken Kung po as well we 2 other dishes. It’s our last chinese meal in China. All the meals we have had here have been good, and this one also doesn’t disappoint.

As we sit outside eating, I can’t help but smile when I see their delivery van! It’s a bit different to our Amazon delivery or the postman!

After lunch, we are all quite tired so retire to our rooms to lie down and have a quick snooze!

We spend the rest of the time chatting away or packing.

Finally it is time to head to the airport. I can’t believe the holiday is over. It has been the best ever.

I would definitely recommend Viking River Cruises if you ever want to visit China. They treat you so well, everything is so organised and you get to visit and learn about so many new places.

We were also lucky to be able to spend a few days with some great friends who showed us even more of China.

As we take off I close my eyes and capture every single memory into my brain. It has been the best 3 weeks ever.

Until next time!

Day 16 – The penultimate day

I can’t believe we only have 2 full days left in China.

I was awake at 4 am, so checked into our return flights. The trip has flown by.

We are having a lazy day today. Our host has offered for us to wash all our clothes so we have a clean case to go home with. I’m not good at letting others do things for me, but accept. I have work the very next day when I get home l, so this will help me.

We go to brunch at another ex-pat complex. After all the food I have eaten, pouched egg and salmon on crusty toasted bread is just what the doctor ordered.

Back at the house, while the girls get to the washing, the boys play pool. They really are competitive.

When you stay with people in China you have to register at the police station within 24 hours, so while the boys played we went off to register.

Tonight we are going out for dinner. It’s called the lost plate! You get onto a tuk tuk and are taken to 4 different restaurants ending up at a pub.

As Beijing are preparing for the 70th anniversary of China’s peoples republic, there were warnings of potential traffic jams and road blocks, so we decided to head into the city early.

We parked up not far from the Hutongs. As we drove, I recognised some of the restaurants we had eaten in whilst with Viking.

We arrived with plenty of time so went to a pub that sells a massive selection of draft beers.

We were a bit peckish so I ordered some spicy nuts and crackers. When the crackers arrived, the guy serving us poured what looked like water over them. I thought it was a bit odd, but as it hit the bowl the crackers were in, steam came off it!

The crackers was absolutely amazing. I thought whatever he had done would make them soggy, but they were so crisp. They were also cold but very tasty.

We eventually headed to our meeting place for the tuk tuk ride. Again we were early so found a lovely place opposite for another quick drink.

A word of warning about drinking anything in China! What goes in must come out! The toilets are not always great! Most are just holes in the floor and many don’t have doors on them!

There was due to be 10 of us on the trip, with maximum 4 to each tuk tuk.

4 of the group were running late so we were given a beer to keep us going.

Eventually 2 of the 4 arrived, but we had to leave without the other 2 as they were under pressure to get us around before some of the restaurants closed.

Just as we were heading off the final couple arrived so they managed to catch us up.

The tuk tuk ride takes you through the Hutongs. They are very windy. It is great seeing into the alleys, peoples houses and bars etc.

Our first stop was for noodles. They were amazing. I learnt on the Viking trip that Shanghai to Xi’an is rice country. Once at Xi’an it’s noodles, so we have only had them a couple of times on the trip. These were the best I’ve ever tasted.

Next was a Mongolian BBQ. We had a couple of dishes here. The first was a beef dish cooked on a griddle, the next a lamb one along with mushrooms. I don’t eat lamb but the beef was delicious. They give you a pot to which you add chilli, garlic and another seasoning to your liking. When the meat is cooked you dip it into your mix before eating.

Throughout the evening there was unlimited beer or soft drinks, which you would take from restaurants to tuk tuks etc.

The third stop I wasn’t sure about as I heard it was a pie. I had no reason to worry, it was the best pie I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what the pastry was made of, but I would say it was steamed, although the bottom was caramelised.

The pies were served with a selection of dishes.

To go with this, they gave us a bottle of the fire water to share. I did have the one shot but no more! It is lethal. Hubby couldn’t say the same. The boys in the group finished the bottle off!

The final restaurant we had About 5 more dishes which included my favourite dish – Kung Po chicken, before heading back to the pub we had started our evening at. Another beer was included in the tour.

It was gone midnight by the time we had finished and it had been an absolutely amazing experience. I would certainly recommend it.

I think we were all ready for our bed by the time we got home!

Day 15 – Staying with friends in Bejing

It’s funny but after over 2 weeks in China I’ve seen so much. What I hadn’t seen though was an actual house. Lots of apartments, but seriously, not one single house.

When we arrived at our friends last night, I was so shocked to see their house. It is so not what I was expecting. 2 living rooms, dining room, breakfast kitchen, 5 bedrooms – one is used as an office, 4 have en-suite and the master has a walk in wardrobe which is bigger than the dining room at home and a fantastic, enormous bathroom, area for gym and a balcony overlooking the front living room. If that wasn’t enough it has a double garage and a basement where they have a full size pool table, Darts board, bar, lounge area and even space for a full drum kit. To put the icing on the cake it also has a large garden. It is definitely a dream house.

This morning they have taken us to Hong Qiao, or as it’s also known, the pearl market. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was enormous, and simply sold everything.

We wanted a handbag for a gift and a cap for hubby! What we ended up with was 2 bags, iPod headphones, cap, T-shirt, 4 scarfs and a camera lens! If we had more money, we could have bought so much more !

Afterwards we went in search of tea. If you read my previous blogs you will know that I’d been to some tea places with the tour but the prices were too high for me to justify buying them. Our friends knew of a road full of tea suppliers. We only went to one of the malls, but that was enough. I’ve never seen so many places that sell tea. Everyone was so so friendly.

Our friends wanted to try Lychee tea. They were more than happy to give us a taste. It wasn’t for me as far too sweet, and for me it tasted like liquorice. They bought some and at 80 yuan for 500 grams it was a bargain. For £1O they have enough tea to last years.

The initial place didn’t have the chrysanthemum tea I wanted, but they took us to another one that did. Again they happily made us some to try. I loved it. So light and refreshing. I bought 500 grams for less than £20. As you reuse the leaves multiple times, it is going to last years.

Wandering around the mall, and when I say mall I have to point out it’s very basic, we looked at teapots and tea caddies. I ended up buying 2 tins for less than 50p and a beautiful chinese tea set. I have no clue how I’m going to get this all home.

It’s been a brilliant day and so different. We have been to places where the locals shop. We have also learnt there are 2 prices. One for tourists and the other for locals! My friend got us some amazing deals.

This evening the boys are playing pool before firing up the braai. I decide to throw some darts. I’m trying to think when the last time was that I played. I think it must be 35 years! I’m very pleased when I get 4 bullseyes!

I’m so glad we added these extra days on with friends as we are seeing another part of China and I’m still loving it.

Dinner was fabulous. Steak, jacket potato and salad. It was just what I needed.

We sat in the garden chilling before heading to bed.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 13- The Great Wall

It’s another early start with a 5 am alarm call!

Although yesterday I said this was my third favourite hotel this trip, I think the bed was the most comfortable so far. I slept so well.

We have a good routine going in the mornings. I wake up and make a tea for me, and coffee for hubby. While my tea cools I grab a shower.

As our case left the night before us in Xi’an, I didn’t have my Avon So Soft Spray on yesterday. As I look in the mirror now, I see that this was the perfect opportunity for the mosquitos to have a party on me. I have 6 bites around my neck and chest and 3 on my legs.

After my shower I completely cover myself in the spray. I’m not given them another day of fun!

We go for our first breakfast in this hotel. The dining area is beautiful with colourful lanterns everywhere.

There is a great selection once again from western to Chinese.

After dinner last night I felt so bloated, so I decided to just have fruit today, however I did allow a small smoked salmon roll to sneak in too.

We leave the hotel at 7.00 am for the 2 hour drive to the Great Wall. I am so looking forward to this, I just hope my bladder holds out for the duration of the drive!

I’m pleased to say I made it. The trip reminded me of when I was a kid going to the seaside. Searching the landscape for my first sight of the sea. We drove through the Badaling Hills which is the highest point of the Guangou Gorge. As I look around it is all so beautiful, and then, there it is, my first view of the Great Wall. It was amazing.

During the drive Terry our guides tells us all about how it was made, the staggering length of over 6200 miles in total.

We get off the bus and all quickly head to the ‘facilities’ as Terry calls them before starting the final part of the journey to the wall.

To get to the wall you take the Funicular up. I’m so pleased as I was expecting a climb! It takes just over 3 minutes and gives you a chance to take in the gorge a little.

Once at the top, you walk out and it’s there right in front of you. We take our first steps onto the wall and I can’t believe I’m here.

Terry is there ready to take our cameras so that each couple or group can have photos together.

The section we are on is part of the best preserved section. We decide to walk up the steep part first while we have fresh legs.

Some of it is steps , other parts slopes. Going up is very steep at times, but the views are amazing. 360 degrees of outstanding views in fact.

As we walk along the wall I have to keep pinching myself that I’m here.

When you see how far into the distance the wall goes, I can’t help wonder how on earth they got the bricks up here, nether alone to build it. It is a really beautiful, incredible landmark.

After the wall we visited a Jade factory. Hubby and I loved a table and 2 chairs made of Jade. It was only $1.8m, so we ordered 2 sets!! In our dreams!

They showed us how they cut the stone and the different colours. I always thought it was only green, but you get all variety of colours including red, yellow, blue and white.

After a tour we head upstairs for lunch. We have the usual array of dishes, but this time as well as the beer they gave us a bottle of ‘fire water’. We all take some on our table and toasted each other before downing it in one! Jeez, I now know why it’s call fire water! It was so bad we had to have a second toast!

After lunch we had time to walk around the shop. I decided to treat myself to some lovely blue earrings. I wanted a pendant to go with them, but sadly they didn’t have one in the same colour.

Some of the pieces were quite expensive like the table and chairs. These bracelets were from £1000-£1300 each, although they did offer 30% discount!

It was lovely walking around though looking at the pieces, especially when you know they were cut from one piece of rock!

We then took a walk along the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs. The walk is lined by 18 massive statues of elephants, lions, camels, and mystical beasts, protecting the tombs of Emperors. As we walk through the tree lined avenue, Terry explains the meaning of each of them and the old customs and suspicions. It is so peaceful and the smell of the pine trees adding to its calmness.

At the end of the Avenue you pass through the Great Red Gate which is more than 400 years old. With its 3 archways, it is one of the largest stone archways in China.

We start the journey back to the hotel. As we drive we pass buildings for the Beijing Olympics, which Terry points out for us. One of the beauties of Viking, is that you get a whole lot more than you expect every day and Terry is such a fabulous guide, explaining everything to us. He also cracks quite a lot of jokes which gets the whole group in stitches.

Back at the hotel we have a few hours to ourselves before leaving for dinner.

In the basement of our hotel and across the street is a big, high end shopping centre. The memory card on my small camera is already full and Hubby’s camera is close to being full, so we decide go on the search for a camera shop. Jimmy from Viking had suggested there may be a store in the basement of China World opposite the hotel. After a while we find a shop and are pleased to buy two 32MB cards for less than £12 each.

We arrive back to our room with 1.5 hours to spare before going out to dinner.


I’m so full, I really can’t cope with any more food. It’s a different style to normal with custard filled dim sums at the beginning as well as custard tarts.

I sample a little of some of the dishes, but I’m just still so full from lunch.

After dinner we join Kellie and Joe, a lovely couple from USA, who we have met on this trip, for a drink in the bar before heading to bed! It is the end of happy hour so Prosecco is 2 for 1 until 9 pm. We made it with 6 minutes to spare!

The mini bar in the hotel is free so we finally retire to our room for a drink before going to sleep.

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 12 – Beijing

Our alarm was set for 6.30 am this morning although hubby and I were awake about 5.30 ish. Not sure why hubby was awake, but for me, whenever I have something important to do, I worry I will oversleep.

Today we have to leave our room by 8.30 am to be on the bus. We are flying to Beijing today!

I’ve made tea and showered. I start to get dressed as my worse nightmare happens! The night before we had to take our clothes out for today as our cases had to be out by 10.30 pm. In my head I’ve taken out shorts, vest top, bra and pants. Now dressing what I’ve actually taken out is 2 vest tops, shorts and bra!

I cannot believe it. I checked it twice last night. I’m usually so careful. I check with reception but my case is already at the airport. It’s not good, I’ll have to go commando!

Hubby looks at me and my shorts! He doesn’t think it’s a good idea so offers to take one for the marital team! He gives me his underwear! My hero!

Now, as I grew up, my mum always said my underwear should always match. I mean, what if you had to go to hospital. Since then, I always make sure I’m suitably dressed! Today though, needs must!

I look in the mirror and feel a little bit like Mr Bean! I can’t help but laugh!

The plan is, as soon as we get to the airport we go shopping, either for hubby or me!

It’s absolutely lashing with rain as we leave. I hope it improves for Beijing.

We arrive at the airport and quickly check out the shopping. It’s not looking good. We have 10 minutes until we need to be at our gate and ready to board! We have to accept that hubby is going to have to stay commando! Then we see it. Is it a mirage? Thankfully no! There is in front of us a Victoria Secret. I quickly run in and bought a pair of pants.

We have 5 minutes so I run to the ladies and change and swap with hubby! Phew! He really is my hero today. One of the many reasons why I love him so much.

We board the plane. As we arrived at the airport we were handed 2 very large lunch boxes. Probably 30 cm square each, from the same restaurant we are at last night.

On board, we open them and wow, so much food. The sandwich was 5 layers! A pot of what looked like sausage rolls but sweeter, a punnet of cherry tomatoes, almond Croissant, 3 slices of a sponge slice and a banana. Just as we opened it the air hostess came round and gave us a bag of food too, with a bottle of water.

I currently feel like I’m going to pop with food. I eat some of it but a lot is left.

On the way to airport our guide Terry had told us about his childhood. The struggle and sacrifice his parents made to give him and his brother a good life. I felt so guilty that I had food here that could help a family out. If you have read my previous blogs, you will know how I like to help the homeless out. Now I felt even worse. I might not be rich, but I have a lot more than some, and I’m so humbled.

The flight is very quick. Less than 2 hours. It is actually very comfortable.

What Viking do well is making travel easy! Our luggage is always taken care of, so we only have the look after ourselves. It takes all the stress out of it.

When we land it’s raining again! Seriously, it needs to do one!

We are still going to do a tour so are praying the rain eases, which it does. First we visit a bell tower. It’s only rung once a year for Chinese New Year.

Opposite is a beautiful chinese building.

Inside the bell tower, we get a tea tasting experience. I’d been to the presentation on the ship on tea, but this was actually tasting the tea.

The lady doing it was so funny and the whole experience was really good fun.

She explained why the tea was so expensive, so now I understand why it seemed expensive on the ship.

After the taster you could buy the teas. I love my tea, but I’m still struggling to pay so much for it.

We then walk down the back streets. It’s so narrow and I’m intrigued. We suddenly arrive at someone’s house.

Terry jokes that the owner looks like Jackie Chan and he does. We sit in is lounge while he tells us his story. He has birds in his yard that are taking away in chinese. It’s really fascinating.

When you see how they love, you can’t help wondering how they cope when temperatures drop!

The owner was so lovely and it was an enjoyable visit.

We then take an early dinner.

On the third floor (our second floor) we were treated to another chinese banquet and a new beer – U8.

The group we have been with for the last 2 weeks mostly come from different parts of America. We are loving hearing all their stories and getting to know each other.

After another meal where I feel like a beached whale we head to our hotel. It’s 6.30 pm and the traffic is bad, but it gives us a chance to look at the buildings.

We finally reach Kerry Hotel and get our room key. Our cases are already in our room. As we open the door we wonder what it will be like.

I’ll be honest, we were disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still an amazing room. I’m currently laying on the fabulous grey chaise lounge writing this! It’s the bath that disappoints. The previous 2 hotels has a free standing. This is still really nice, we have just been spoilt so much.

On the other hand, the toilet is something else! It’s all electronic. You can even have a sit down shower and dry, if you know what I mean!

Tomorrow we have a 5 am start, so we have pooped to a local shop and picked up some wine and beers to drink in our room. Tomorrow the Great Wall awaits us !

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 11 – Terracotta Army

As we expected, the bed was so comfortable last night. The room is really comfortable especially the bathroom. We had a bath last night, but this morning is shower time. The shower has 2 different shower heads including a rain shower, which we have at home. I opted for this one and it was so relaxing.

The hotel has an assortment of toiletries if you need them from shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, body lotion, toothbrush, and razor set etc, so if you forget anything you are covered.

In the wardrobe are 2 really soft gowns and slippers.

As dinner in the hotel was so amazing last night, we had high expectations about breakfast and we were not disappointed.

You can choose from sushi, pastries, fruits, cooked breakfast, as well as Chinese food. You won’t go hungry that is for sure .

Today we are off to see the Terracotta Army and I’m quite excited. We leave early to try and miss the crowds.

It takes about 45 minutes to get there. When we first arrive we park in the car park and go through the ticket area. There you pick up a golf like buggy which takes you to the main museum area.

There are 3 buildings. The first one is the amazing one. It’s where we meet the Terracotta Army. I’ve seen them so much on TV or in books etc but to be this close to them is amazing.

Each soldier is of a variety of ranks and with individual features.

As well as the army it also included horses and carts. The carts were made of wood, so sadly didn’t survive, but the horses were equally spectacular.

Not everything is excavated yet, but with the help of modern technology they are able to see what is still to be unearthed.

Out of all the pieces, only one Crossbowmen was found in one piece.

In total over 8000 pieces are part of the collection, which was discovered by farmers in 1974 when they were digging a well to find water.

Amongst the Terracotta figure, bronze statues were also found.

Although the statutes are grey in colour, they were originally painted, however the change in humidity caused the change.

It really was incredible to see. I can’t begin the comprehend how they were made, and who by. Every detail was there. The photos just can’t do it justice.

After the museum we went to see how they make the statues you buy today, as well as lacquered items of furniture. I have so say, the furniture was amazing.

After the tour we had lunch in a restaurant in the same place. Terry recommended we tried the beef noodles and hamburger, which I did and both were really tasty. The hamburger was not a beef burger but like pulled pork in a ciabatta type roll. It’s hard to describe so I’m gutted I didn’t take a photo to show you. In addition there were so many more dishes available on the buffet. I’m definitely putting the pounds on with this trip!

Afterwards we have some free time. Outside they have some figures that you can have your photo taken behind. It was so much fun.

On the way back to the hotel I was surprised to see their local crop being grown in so many fields. Pomegranate is a major crop to them. As you drive past the trees you see that all the fruit is wrapped in clear plastic bags part filled with water. This apparently stops birds eating them.

What further surprised me was that I’ve never seen anything pomegranate related here, so I assume it mainly exported. The next time I buy some at home, I shall definitely be checking it’s origin.

We then had a couple of hours free to just relax. We decided to just chill in our hotel room.

We left the hotel at 6 pm to go out for dinner. It was a chinese of course again at the Tang Dynasty. Dishes included beef, Kung po chicken, a couple of Tofu dishes (which I don’t really like), cabbage with chill and so much more!

Outside the restaurant we found these old instruments on the wall and were quite fascinated by them.

We were hoping to go for a walk afterwards but it’s raining too hard so I have to satisfy myself with a quick photo from the hotel porch.

This used to be the TV tower but is now a restaurant. It is right in front of our hotel and looks lovely all lit up at night.

As we can’t walk, we buy some beers from a store and take them to our room. We fly to Beijing tomorrow, so we need to pack as our cases are leaving at 10.30 pm tonight.