The Yangtze River Delta's six-day visa-free policy that started on Jan 30 will lure more visitors to enjoy lengthier sojourns through the 'land of fish and rice'
As of Jan 30, transit visitors from 51 countries can spend six days in Shanghai, and Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, without a visa.
A foreign tourist shows off a figurine of a monkey at Pingjiang Road in Suzhou. Provided to China Daily
Visitors at Shanghai's Bund on a rainy night.
West Lake in Hangzhou. Photos provided to China Daily
Unlike under the old 72-hour visa-free scheme, the 144-hour arrangement allows visitors to take trains, making it possible to roughly cover a city a day among the trio of administrative regions.
Traveling at about that pace in the order listed below - or in reverse - high-octane tourists can speed through at least most of the main destinations between Shanghai and Zhejiang's provincial capital, Hangzhou. (Two of the three cities from which visitors without visas are allowed to enter and exit the country.)
Or they could take shortcuts to spend longer relishing specific spots.
The "Paris of the East" is the delta's easiest port of entry, given the international flight volume.
Many visitors step off the plane and hop aboard a Huangpu River night cruise. The bright lights of the big city are reflected in the ripples as mirror images of such icons as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Bund's 52 Gothic and Baroque buildings, and Pudong's sparkling skyscrapers.
A relative newcomer to Shanghai's cityscape is ancient Xintiandi, where old edifices have been retrofitted into hip hangouts - galleries, cafes and theme restaurants.
And Shanghai is poised to become even more popular among family types when Disneyland opens on June 16.
The Chinese version of the phrase "heaven on Earth" goes: "Heaven is above. Below is Suzhou and Hangzhou." Indeed, they are paradises on our planet. While the UNESCO heritage site Humble Administrator's Garden, ancient Pingjiang Road and silk factories have long been mainstays among visitors to the city in Jiangsu, tourism authorities have devised a new route for foreigners to enjoy deeper immersions.
Boat around the city moat to view ancient temples, bridges and gates. Cruises stop at attractions so sightseers can explore.
Jiangxiang village's agritourism allows you to try your hand as a farm hand by growing produce and feeding livestock. The rural retreat also hosts an agriculture museum.
Neighboring Nanjing's visitors can boil in the broth of Soup Mountain. Tangshan, as it's known in Chinese, is pocked with hot mineral springs where you can melt away travel stress by soaking in steaming caldrons.
Nearby, Lion Mountain offers a different peak experience, enabling visitors to view the cityscape from the seven-story Yuejiang Tower. A river runs a horseshoe around three sides of the crag, while a Ming daynasty (1368-1644) wall fortifies the fourth. Indeed, history conjures much of the allure of the former national, and current provincial, capital. Many travelers cruise the Qinhuai River's Confucius Temple area to glimpse ancient manors and gardens that huddle along the banks.
Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum in the Purple Mountains is a place of pilgrimage for patriots.
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall opened a new hall in late December, displaying over 7,000 exhibitions around the themes "crime, resistance, surrender, trial and peace". Its concept is to move beyond merely documenting atrocities to celebrating victory in the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).
The China Grand Canal remains the main artery from which Wuxi's culture flows. It's the world's oldest and longest at nearly 1,800 kilometers - nine times the distance of the Suez Canal, the runner-up. The waterway was forged to connect Beijing and the capital of today's Zhejiang province, Hangzhou, in the seventh century.
It continues to operate.
Lingshan Buddhist Scenic Area claims to have world's tallest standing Sakyamuni statue at 88 meters - inching toward twice the Statue of Liberty's height. The 25-hectare Three Kingdoms City, where the Romance of the Three Kingdoms TV series was shot, stages bullfighting and equestrian performances.
The bamboo the people of Zhejiang province's Anji county cultivate, in turn, cultivates local people.
The world's largest bamboo-production area is plumed with over 300 species processed into everything from luxury car-speaker diaphragms to clothes, food, computer shells, bike frames, beer - you name it.
Anji's "super grass" also produces places of such stunning scenery that they are featured in films, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Visitors can stumble upon abandoned sets - often disintegrating - in its forests.
Another way in which Anji proffers pop culture is the only Hello Kitty amusement park outside Japan.
The divinity of the second half of China's "heaven on Earth" is sanctified by its celebrated gardens, Grand Canal and West Lake. Another local saying goes: "You haven't been to Hangzhou if you haven't seen West Lake". Monasteries and museums squeeze against pavilions and plantations along its banks.
Tea remains the lifeblood of local lifestyles in Zhejiang's provincial capital. Teahouses are the heart that pumps vitality into the body of the city's culture.
Longjing (dragon-well) brews are poured from pots with extremely elongated spouts by hosts who seem to perform martial arts to refill your cup.
A modern pitch for the city says: "Give us a day. We'll give you a thousand years." Perhaps true. But that can likely be said of many Yangtze Delta settlements. Hence, the new rules may enable visitors to enjoy six millennia in as many days.
(China Daily European Weekly 02/26/2016 page20)