Dear Guy,

Happy Chinese New Year of the Rooster!

2005 is zooming off to a great start for Bo Gover of Preferred Travel Of Naples . She wins Imperial Tours Travel Agent of the Year Award for 2004 . This is an accolade we award every Chinese New Year to our top producing agent for the prior year. In recognition of her support, we sent her a framed award and a beautiful publication entitled "The Golden Age of Chinese Archaeology".

The top restaurant in Zagat's new guide for Shanghai is "Jean-Georges", reviewed in our July 2004 email broadcast. To continue to keep you one step ahead of your competitors, this edition contains the following China luxury travel information:
  • A review of "Sens & Bund" , the new Shanghai Bund restaurant whose flavors eclipse those of "Jean-Georges."
  • An evaluation of Hanghzou's top luxury hotels, including a review of the new Hyatt Regency Hotel there.
  • We introduce the Hotel of Modern Art, Guilin.
  • A report on the success of Bentley sales in China.
  • Hangzhou's work to preserve the religious tea ceremony.
The Hotel of Modern Art will be included on our upcoming March Educational trip on which there are still a few places left.

There are also places left on our April Group Tour – not only will you earn a 15% commission, but also the thanks of your clients for introducing them to the most up to date and dynamic luxury group tour in China. Contact us for details.

Some travel news :


Virtuoso's China Onsite

Traveling style

Phone us at 888 888 1970

Or come visit our website!




China Travel News
Airline Industry Recovers in 2004. China Booms!

IATA announced that passenger traffic grew 15.3% in 2004. Asia Pacific led the charge with growth of 20.5%. The North American market was second with growth of 14.8% and the European region boasted growth of 10.1%.

Within Asia Pacific, China is the fastest growing aviation market in the world . Subsequently, airlines are increasing capacity here. In the November newsletter, I detailed the applications made by US airlines, particularly Continental Airlines. The table below provides additional information.

New Flights To Be Offered In Summer 2005

Airline (Route) Current Weekly Flights +Additional Flights

British Airways (London – Shanghai) 0 +5
British Airways (London – Beijing) 4 +2
British Airways (London – Hong Kong) 17 +4
Air Canada (Toronto – Beijing) 0 +4
Blue Panorama (Venice – Shanghai) 0 +1
China Eastern (London – Shanghai) 4 +1

Yet More Five –Star Hotels Are Announced For China

Prompted by the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the phenomenal growth in business and leisure travel, many five star hotel chains have plans to expand. Ritz Carlton is to open two new hotels in Beijing in Autumn 2006 and 2007, and one in Guangzhou to open in early 2007. J.W. Marriot has announced a 591 room hotel to open in Beijing in 2007. Meanwhile, the Peninsula Hotel Group has confirmed that it is investing in a new US$360 million development at the northern end of Shanghai's Bund adjacent to the former British consulate.

Silk Market Alley Now A Plaza

Silk Market Alley was a street of market stalls in central Beijing. Several years ago visitors could buy high quality silk, cashmere and pashmina products here as well as low-priced knock-offs of Western brands, particularly Timberland and Northface products. The better quality stalls moved out of Silk Alley two to three years ago, but it was only on 5th January this year that the remaining stalls were shut down. They have now been replaced by a modern, multi-story shopping plaza named Silk Market Plaza. Officially this opened in February 2005. If it becomes as celebrated a shopping mecca as its predecessor, we will be sure to let you know.

China Southern - The First Chinese Airline To Join A Global Alliance

Guangzhou-based China Southern, one of the three largest airlines in China, is to enter SkyTeam , the alliance whose members include Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air. China Southern will share networks, connections and code shares as well as sell partner airline tickets and participate in the frequent-flyer program.

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Hotel Of Modern Art,


Hotel/Restaurant News
Restaurant News

Zagat's Shanghai Guide – First Edition Out Now!

The publication of Zagat's first Shanghai guide enhances the prestige of Shanghai's restaurant scene. Considering this is a first edition, we congratulate them on a job well done! Since we work with many of Shanghai's top restaurants and hotels on a daily basis, we inevitably found ourselves questioning some of Zagat's restaurant and hotel conclusions. That said, Imperial Tours' selected restaurants did well in the survey. Zagat's rated 12 of the 13 restaurants we used in 2004 on our group and private tours "very good to perfection". The remaining 1 restaurant was rated "good to very good".

Sens & Bund

The Pourcel brothers, who run the Michelin three-star rated "Le Jardin des Sens" in Montpellier, France recently opened "Sens & Bund" in Shanghai. Zagat's went to press before "Sens & Bund" opened and as a result, this restaurant was unable to compete with "Jean-Georges" for the guide's top spot.

While the decor of "Jean-Georges" makes a strong claim to the more glamorous sense of sight, "Sens & Bund" steals the show in the realm of flavor . There is a directness and simplicity to its appealing flavors. Amongst the appetizers, we were impressed by the risotto and also by the richness of the pumpkin soup. The generosity and quality of the foie gras de canard appetizer was welcome. Of the entrees, both the roasted pigeon and monk fish were excellent. Red meat lovers will be pleased with the skewered beef and lamb rack. For dessert, we enjoyed the chocolate dessert. Tarte tatin aficionados will have their curiosity piqued by the Mango Tarte Tatin.

Hotel News

New Hotel in Guilin Area

We introduce you to the new "Hotel of Modern Art" or HOMA outside Guilin. Our next broadcast will provide details of this fascinating project -- the dream of a Taiwanese tycoon -- which combines a contemporary art destination park with a five-star boutique hotel. Imperial Tours is so impressed that we are negotiating to use this property straight away! Agents on our March Educational will stay at this new property rather than at the Beilelai Hotel.

Review Of Hangzhou's Top Hotels

The second in our hotel review series looks at the beautiful city of Hangzhou . This is prompted by the soft opening of the Hyatt Regency Hotel here.

Shangri-la Hotel – On the north-western shore of the West Lake inside beautiful grounds, this five-star hotel offers poetic seclusion. However the years of its monopoly as the only lakeside five star hotel have taken a toll: service is inconsistent and the hotel has a reputation for categorizing its rooms (330 feet – 390 feet) unfairly. Though the West Wing was renovated in 2000, the hotel's bathrooms do not offer a separate shower stall. In this respect, together with the partialness of the views from some of its Lake View rooms, the Shangri-la is at a disadvantage.

Hyatt Regency Hotel – We visited this five-star hotel last week, three months before its formal grand opening this May. The service problems we encountered are inevitable at this early stage, and so we dismiss them. As a property, the Hyatt is well-located on the north-east corner of West Lake. Hotel residents can easily walk into the city or along the lake. The views from the rooms in the middle of the curved building on the upper floors are better than those available at the Shangri-la. The fitness center oddly positioned in front of the hotel building deprives lower floor rooms of views of the lake. The room size starting at 360 square feet is generous and the new bathrooms comfortable. There is a general feeling of comfort and ease at this new property.

Radisson Hotel – The five-star Radisson claims that some of its high floor suites have lake views. I can't blame them for trying, but advise you to bring a good pair of binoculars if you book these rooms. The Radisson's service compensates in part for the limited size of its rooms (230 – 270 square feet for rooms and 280 – 300 square feet for the suites). As well as not affording lake views, the Radisson has the frenetic lobby busy-ness of a corporate hotel.

Sofitel Westlake Hangzhou – We include this four-star hotel by merit of its location on the north eastern corner of the West Lake. Some of its ample suites (from 600 feet to 2,000 square feet) have excellent lake views. While the front desk service is good for a four star, this hotel falls down in its food and beverage. Breakfast is disappointing and the quality of the food at the rooftop dinner is not equal to its spectacular lakescape.

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Norah Jones To
Perform In China



Feb 25 – 26, 2005: Bejart Ballet , Swiss contemporary ballet company performs avant-garde interpretations at Beijing Exhibition Amphitheater. Price: RMB180, RMB380, RMB680, RMB880, RMB1000, RMB1280

March 7, 2005: Norah Jones Concert at The Worker's Gymnasium. Price: RMB380, RMB480,RMB580, RMB880, RMB1800.


March 3, 2005: Youth Choir of the Paris Opera performs "Marco Polo and The Chinese Princess" at the Shanghai Majestic Theatre. Price: RMB40, RMB80, RMB120

March 9, 2005: Norah Jones Concert at Shanghai International Gymnastic Center. Price: RMB380,RMB480,RMB580,RMB1800 (VIP)

March 13, 2005: Jazz Violin Diva, Regina Carter , performs at the Shanghai Concert Hall Price: RMB100, RMB200, RMB300, RMB400, RMB600

March 19, 2005: Bernhard Gueller Conducts Bruckner Symphony No.4 at the Shanghai Oriental Art Centre-Concert Hall Price: RMB80, RMB120, RMB180, RMB240, RMB300, RMB480(VIP).

March 26, 2005: Peter-Lukas Graf Plays & Conducts W.Mozart/ Reinecke/ Schubert-at the Shanghai Oriental Art Center-Concert Hall. Price: RMB80, RMB120, RMB180, RMB240, RMB300, RMB480(VIP).

April 2, 2005: Solo Concert of the Jazz's Top-selling Female Singer, Diana Krall opens Shanghai International Jazz Week at Zhongshan Park. Price:RMB180, RMB280, RMB480(gifts), RMB580(gifts), RMB880(cocktail party), RMB1280(cocatail party)

Imperial Tours' Group Tour Calendar

March 2005 China Educational Tour - To read an itinerary for this trip, please click here .

April 2005 Imperial Tour - To read about this trip, please click here .

July 2005 China Family Tour – Please click here to read an itinerary.

May 2006 China Culinary Tour – Please click here for an itinerary.

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The Bentley Arnage Limousine


Odds N' Ends
Some will be astounded, others impressed and still others appalled that communist China is becoming one of the world's leading importers of super-luxury vehicles. Showrooms for Bentley, Rolls Royce and Maybach are proliferating across this vast and increasingly successful country.

Since entering the Chinese market in 2002, Bentley China has sold 85 limousines. In so doing, it has broken three company records: firstly, China has Bentley's largest sales volume in the Asia-Pacific Region (more than Japan); secondly, Bentley sales in China are growing faster than anywhere else in the world; and thirdly, the Bentley 728, the world's most expensive vehicle, is sold more in China than elsewhere in the world .

The Bentley 728, which is also known as the Arnage limousine, costs more than US$1million. Only seven have ever been made: six were sold in China.

Students of China will not be surprised to learn that Beijing's Bentley dealership is its most successful in Asia, selling 17 of the 50 Bentleys sold in China last year. According to its owner, there are concerns that the Bentley factory in UK will not be able to keep up with China's sales!

The Odds N'Ends section in November 2004 featured young Argentinian explorer Diego Azubel. Please note that footage from his previous expedition, "The Great Walk," will be aired on the National Geographic Channel Asia on March 13th at 22:00 hrs.

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Tai Chi Style Tea Ceremony


Discovery - Religious Tea Ceremony
Hangzhou is celebrated for its incredible Buddhist carvings at Lingyin Temple and the serene elegance of its West Lake. Lesser known is its modern contribution to the preservation of the religious tea ceremony. (The Japanese tea ceremony is based on the Chinese ceremony for making powdered tea, exported to Japan in the seventh century.)

China boasts two different schools for tea ceremonies. One is the Chan school. (The term "Chan", pronounced "Zen" in Japanese, refers to the Buddhist practice of "meditation".) The second school is the "Taiqi" school. People who have heard of Chan or Zen Buddhism and have heard speak of the importance of "qi" (pronounced "chi" ) to fengshui or Chinese geomancy will have already guessed a connection between these two schools and Buddhist and Daoist practice.

Although the tea ceremony is often included in Buddhist and Daoist rituals, its function has no direct link to a particular divinity. Tea's role in China's religions is more mundane; it stems from its medicinal attributes and history.

Tea was discovered 7,000 years ago, and for the first 5,000 years of its history was used in China as a medicine. (Western doctors now recognise its capacity to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and aid digestion.) Over two thousand years ago, during the Han dynasty, tea began to be enjoyed as a beverage in aristocratic circles. It appealed particularly to highly-educated scholars who found that it aided meditation. By the Southern Song Dynasty (1127 - 1279) – when China's capital was at Hangzhou – the tea ceremony had become so widely popular and highly valued that it became the focus of the traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, as it remains to this day. (The bride and groom pour tea for senior members of their families.)

Tea's medicinal properties and social heritage, combined with its widespread availability, encouraged its adoption by the religious community. The Chan school maintains that tea, by facilitating meditation, aids the search for enlightenment. The Taiqi school claims that, by maintaining one's health, tea helps release one's natural essence.

Tea culture is as alive now in Hangzhou as it was in the Song dynasty. People - young and old - all meet in one of the many tea houses across town. It should then come as no surprise that Hangzhou is deeply involved in the preservation of historic religious tea ceremonies. (China residents can watch tea ceremonies broadcast from a Hangzhou tea house every Sunday lunchtime on CCTV2, as part of a 20 episode series.) Buddhist monks from Korea and Japan, academics from the USA, and monks from other parts of China and the globe meet in Hangzhou to learn and perfect their practice of the ancient tea ceremonies.

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We hope you enjoyed this newsletter. As always, please do write back with any feedback that you would like us to incorporate. Alternatively, please call Margot Kong, our Director of Sales and Marketing, in San Francisco, at 888 888 1970.

With Best Regards,
Guy Rubin
Managing Partner, Imperial Tours

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Imperial Tours , 3172 Sacramento Street, San Francisco CA 94115, United States Tel: 888 888 1970