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?

Imperial Jewels of China – Day 1 – Shanghai

After the long day yesterday we had an early start this morning. The alarm was set for 5.45 am so we could have a cup of tea before shower and breakfast.

Tea was a bit different to what you usually get. It was loose tea leaves. As I don’t speak Chinese I couldn’t tell you what it was but it was delicious. After adding the hot water it looked almost like fresh leaves.

Breakfast was amazing. We are staying at the 5 star Westin Hotel. Breakfast options are vast. You can have a full on Chinese breakfast which includes rice, noodles, dumplings etc. Alternatively you can have a selection of fruits, cereals or an English breakfast.

By the time we had got ready we now only had 30 minutes before leaving on our tour so opted for something quick and easy. I had a chicken sausage, baked beans, an egg boiled in tea, bacon and a steamed bread roll, followed by fresh fruit. Tomorrow we have more time so I plan to be a bit more adventurous. It looked so amazing that it would be a shame not to try some traditional foods.

Our tour left the hotel at 7.15 am for a full 9 hour trip to Suzhou. It takes about 2 hours To get there from Shanghai, but this gives us a chance to look out of the bus window and take in the views. There are lots of high rise buildings, which just reflects the high population here in China.

Suzhou is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, with its canal network . Unlike Venice though it isn’t sinking as the canals are all man made.

Our first stop is for a trip along the Grandcanal in a traditional boat. The houses are very basic, many with no private bathrooms or in some cases, kitchens. People are washing clothes and shoes in the canal as we sail by. Washing is hung from most windows from bamboo canes. It’s so pretty in a kind of way it’s hard to describe. We have taken lots of photos which will be transferred to my YouTube channel when we return home.

Lunch is next on the agenda. It’s a traditional Chinese lunch at the Garden Hotel. We sit on tables of 10 with others on our trip. Plates of food are placed on a lazy Susan. Dishes included rice, noodles, chicken gung po (which I made a slimming world version a few months ago for my YouTube channel – https://youtu.be/mkD4RFWz7uM ), aubergines in hoisin sauce, egg with onions, fish and tomatoes, tomato and potato soup, just to name a few. This was washed down with a bottle of Snow beer. Yes Snow! It made me laugh in view of the current heat.

After lunch we headed to the Silk Museum. I found this really fascinating. You get to look close up at the silk worms, the cocoons etc. They take you through the process from start to finish. At the end you have opportunity to shop. Silk quilts or as they call them ‘comforters’ are so reasonable. Less than £100 for a king size. If I hadn’t just bought one at home I would certainly have brought one back. Instead I bought a large scarf and glass case. I was worried about my luggage allowance for the internal flights so didn’t buy more. I’ve since discovered the China airlines are a bit more flexible. I’m kicking myself now as I know some friends and my own mum who would have loved a Silk scarf too. Maybe on my trip I will find more.

After leaving the museum we went to a gardens. It is down a little alley, tucked away. The garden is built around the house. Ponds, rocks and trees are beautifully set out. It’s called the Master of the Nets Garden. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Yes there are many people there at the moment, but somehow it is so quiet and romantic!

There are a group of Chinese people who seemed fascinated by us and and taking many pictures. I can’t help wonder what they will do with them! I do play to them for a while. They then notice my camera holster and seem to like it. I show them how it works which pleases them. I had it for my birthday and have to say it is amazing. It’s called a camera holster by Spider. It fits comfortably on my waist so I don’t have to have my Camera around my neck in this humidity!

It is here I experienced my first squat toilet! It was a choice thing as the normal toilets had a massive queue! I can see why Chinese ladies have good legs!

It’s been a lovely day. I am certainly going to sleep tonight and although the tour laid on by Viking for today has come to an end apart from the trip back to the hotel, we still have this evening to explore more.

I think our plan is to head towards the river to explore it lit up. We want to do a boat trip tomorrow so may see if we can get one booked. In the meantime I’m chilling out on the bus for our return journey back to the hotel.

I can’t believe the traffic. What should have been a 2 hour trip home now turned up into over 3 hours. To make things worse it’s started to pour with rain.

As we reach our hotel it’s still raining hard. We decide that as it’s also after 7.30 pm the best thing is to get a bottle of wine and a few beers to take to our room, have a bath and chill.

We aren’t hungry but could do with something light so pick up some salads from the cafe in the hotel to take to our room too.

It’s a shame it’s raining but in someways we are both tired, so it gives us a chance to recharge our batteries for tomorrow. We are free to explore on our own so plan an early start.

We are both loving this trip and it’s only really just begun!

Imperial Jewels of China – Woo hoo we are on our way!

I cannot believe that after 6 years of planning and saving the day has finally arrived. I’m going to China. It’s like a dream come true! I always expected something to get in the way to stop us coming but today it’s actually real.

We had planned to wake at 6.30 am to have time to have a cup of tea in bed before taking the dogs for a walk. As it happened hubby and I were awake around 5am. We had a couple of cups of tea while watching TV before having to get up. I think we were both a little excited.

The dogs are going to kennels today and I think they know. Fido looks very sad. He likes his routine and suffers from anxiety. The kennels they go to is lovely. They have both been there since pups. The owner really looks after them as do the staff. I’ve used it for years. It’s not the kennel for Fido that worries him, it’s the lack of routine. He does like to wake up at the same time each day and be in bed by 9pm!

Lola is completely different. She is all cuddles today but the thought of being around loads of other dogs fills her with joy. She is such a party girl.

We finally get up after lots of morning cuddles and walk them. Because we were awake so early we have plenty of time.

After the walk it’s time to shower and do the final jobs. For me it’s a quick hoover around the house, pay window cleaner and check every plug is off! I don’t know why it’s so important to leave the house clean before going away but it is! Finally it’s time to go.

We have to take the dogs to kennels first. As we take them in they are both excited. I know I said Fido looked sad but when he arrives he is always excited to see the girls. Lola is beside herself. Both go off without a backward glance. I will miss them so much.

Our friend is taking us to airport so we head to his house. I really could pinch myself that this is actually happening today!

We arrive at airport. We have already checked in online but I’m hoping for an upgrade. I’ve heard of so many people getting them. Sadly not today. I’d have loved to see what business class was like. Somethings are just not meant to be! On the plus side I’ve prebooked the airport lounge.

We check in to No1 Lounge. We are both hungry having missed breakfast so decide to eat first? A lovely salad to start, followed by chorizo and chicken stew and of course fizz for me and larger for hubby. It’s a really relaxing way to start the holiday, and what a holiday it’s going to be! Sitting watching planes coming and going I’m now really excited. It’s a holiday of a lifetime to celebrate hitting 50. 3 weeks in China starting in Shanghai!

Our flight is called and we board our Emirates A380. We are obviously in standard class but I can see she stairs to the floor above us. That first class. What I’d give for a sneak !

We settle into our seats 82 A&B. Hubby always prefers the window seat as he finds it easier to sleep. We wait patiently for the passengers to board. Woo hoo. The plane is not full so we have the 3 seats to ourselves which means we can spread out.

I settle in to watch the new Mary Poppins film. I’m a massive fan of the original version. I won’t spoil it for you but it’s brilliant. And yes I shed a few tears !

I’ve preordered my food. Emirates are great for giving you lots of options. I always choose the low fat option. I don’t like creamy food so this is perfect for me. Mine was a salad to start followed by chicken in a tomato sauce with rice followed by fresh fruit salad.

It’s the first of 2 flights today. This the the Birmingham to Dubai leg. For approximately 7 hours hubby and I are able to kick back and relax over a few wines. Of course he had to make sure we clinked our plastic cups for a celebratory cheers.

Now what else to watch ?

I decided upon Ladybird. It wasn’t what I expected but still good. A snack was brought round of a chicken roll.

I really should have tried to sleep but I’m so rubbish at that. Put me in a car and I’m gone in seconds.

We are shortly due to land in Dubai for a short stop before the final leg to Shanghai.

Dubai airport is very beautiful but very expensive. We have an hour to kill so decide to stretch our legs and walk around the shop. Everything we looked at could have been bought cheaper at home. There are some interesting shops though. Very high end.

Time to board another A380. This time we have seats in the middle set of 4. Not our choice but at least I can get up and down easily to stretch my legs. We are just hoping it’s not a full plane. We are not hopeful as the boarding gate is full.

Sadly it is a full flight but it’s fine. It is what it is.

I start looking at all the films and decide upon Stockholm. It is based on a true story so it should be good. We are waiting to taxi down the runway when we are informed that due to congestion over Muscat we have to wait 2O minutes before we can leave! It reminds me of my daily commute. They are always delays because of congestion on the trains!

Finally we taxi down. By time time I’m struggling to keep my eyes open so pause the film. The next thing I know is we I’m being woken to give me my lunch ! When did we even take off ?

My special lunch is amazing. The salmon was a massive surprises as hubby was having noodles. It tried to take to take as photo but as the plane was in darkness so everyone could sleep it didn’t come out well!

I was planning to stay awake to watch the rest of the movie but I was soon fast asleep only waking just before the next meal was due. Again booking my low fat meal was perfect.

Fish again but that is just up my street. I managed to stay wake now to watch the rest of the film which actually was good.

I still had some time before we landed so started watching the new Dumbo movie. Sadly I couldn’t keep my eyes open long enough so abandoned it.

As we descend to Shanghai airport I switch my screen to watch the camera view from the plane. I don’t know why but I’m underwhelmed by the view. I’m not sure what I expected but not this. Finally we land. Now you would think that we would soon be picking our bags up but oh no!

Firstly, it’s a really long time from landing to when we dock. I couldn’t believe how busy it was. We follow another plane for what feels like 20 minutes and it’s so close. Planes due to take off are also pulling out in front of us. It’s so bizarre!

Finally we leave the plane. I have to say Emirates do a great job.

As we head for passport control we are met with signs directing us to have our fingerprints done. We had to do this for our visas too. We get them done and given a slip of paper to take to passport control. After a long queue we have the do them again. After a long time we are finally reunited with our bags. The holiday really starts now.

As we walk into arrivals Lounge we are met by Viking representative who takes us to a private car to take us to our hotel. She says it’s about an hour drive so we relax.

As I look out the window I’m again underwhelmed. High rise buildings are everywhere. It doesn’t seem like China at all. Then something magical happens. We cross the bridge and suddenly Shanghai comes to life. The sun is setting. It’s the biggest orange sunset I’ve ever seen. Sadly I couldn’t photograph it. Maybe another time.

We can see the Pearl Tower. That is something we plan to visit.

Finally we arrive at our hotel -Westin Hotel. We are met by Terry from Viking. He has already checked us into our room and what a room it is.

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This is starting off in a great way.

Tomorrow is a 7 am start for the first of our adventures. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime it’s time for bed!