Month: February 2015

Experience The Ancient City of Suzhou With its Modern Day Marvels

The Singapore Industrial Park (SIP) and the Jinji Lake region create a blend of old and new in Suzhou, one of the oldest cities in China’s Yangtze Basin dating back more than 2,500 years. Giving visitors the duality of exploring history and newly created attractions at once, the city of Suzhou showcases a cross section of activities for visitors of all ages. Travelers looking to visit modern day marvels will be impressed by the SIP, which is home the world’s largest Sky Screen, Asia’s largest Ferris wheel, a musical showcase and world-class hotels.

imgres-1 The center piece of the SIP is Harmony Times Square, where guests will find themselves amazed when looking upwards as the area features the world’s largest Sky Screen. The giant LED Screen runs the complete length of the Times Square shopping center and is longer than the Las Vegas Sky Screen. The Harmony Times Square Sky Screen uses the latest technology of art, sound and light to create vivid displays nightly. Every evening at 7pm, the screen showcases a range of animations, shorts and cartoons. Visitors can even submit a photo to be shared on the display.

Fun for the whole family is a ride on the largest Ferris wheel in Asia, known as the “Eye of Jinji Lake,” which rises nearly 400 feet (120 meters) above the water and features 60 carriages accommodating 360 guests at a time. The Ferris wheel is draped in LED lights that can simulate various visual effects creating dynamic expressions on the Wheel and providing onlookers with a show. Taking a trip on the Wheel, which lasts approximately 30 minutes, provides a magnificent one-of-a-kind view of the lake and the city of Suzhou.

A multisensory display can be experienced on the west shores of Jinji Lake, along Xinggang Street, at the Musical Fountain and Water Curtain Movie Show. It is the largest waterscape engineering project of its kind in China, 426.5 feet (130 meters) in length, and 682 feet (208 meters) in width, with the fountain peaking at 354 feet (108 meters) during performances. The fountain performance is integrated with the Water Curtain Movie, a laser show of music and lighting playing on the vertical surface of the water fountain. The show is approximately 30 minutes, held each Friday and Saturday (and public holidays) at 8pm.

Travelers looking to experience the Singapore Industrial Park and the Jinji Lake region can choose to stay in a variety of accommodations such as The Hyatt Regency Suzhou, which opened its doors in August 2014; the Crowne Plaza Suzhou; the InterContinental Suzhou; the Kempinski Hotel Suzhou; and the Tonino Lamborghini Boutique Hotel Suzhou. The following hotel specials will enhance the experience for any exploration of the city’s modern day marvels:

Paulaner Package at The Kempinski Hotel Suzhou – Travelers can enjoy authentic Bavarian cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere at Paulaner Brauhaus, the hotel’s on-site German restaurant, where mouthwatering appetizers, signature main courses, and desserts that will surely satisfy the sweet tooth. Two hours of free-flowing fresh brewed Paulaner beer complete the unforgettable dining experience. The Paulaner Package includes:

• One night stay in a spacious deluxe golf view room for two people

• Complimentary amenities including daily breakfast and internet access

• Access to the Health Club

• A daily three-course set menu with Paulaner beer for two people

Package starts at $206 (CNY 1288) per night for double occupancy. Visit to book. Offer is valid until December 31, 2015 and subject to a 15% service charge.

BALANCE at The Hyatt Regency Suzhou – This package invites guests to open the door to natural wellness and restore the balance of yin and yang energies within the body and soul with amenities that include:

• Relaxing accommodation in Regency Room for two people

• Detoxification drink upon Arrival

• 60-minute wellness treatment, Chinese Medical Manipulation (Tui Na), or a 60-minute de-stress massage in YUE Spa for two people

• Buffet dinner and breakfast at Market Café for two people

• Welcome fruit plate

• Late check-out of 6pm, subject to room availability

This special offer starts at $238 (CNY 1488) per night for double occupancy. To book this special offer visit and use promotional code SUZ02. The offer is valid from March 1, 2015 until May 31, 2015 and subject to a 15% service charge.

Ferris Wheel Package at The InterContinental Suzhou – Explorers can enjoy an unbeatable experience by the Jinji Lake during their spring holidays by taking a ride on Asia’s largest Ferris wheel. The package includes:

• Daily buffet breakfast for two adults

• Two Ferris Wheel Park Tickets

Package starts at $200 (CNY 1,248) per night for double occupancy and can be booked at The offer is valid now through May 31, 2015 and subject to a 15% service charge.

Editorial Note: Link to high-resolution images:

About Suzhou

Suzhou, the “Venice of China,” is known for its elegant stone bridges, canals, flowing water, and noteworthy architecture. Located in the center of the Yangtze River Delta, approximately 70 miles west of Shanghai, Suzhou is one of the oldest cities in the Yangtze Basin dating back more than 2,500 years. The city boasts the beautifully manicured Classical Gardens of Suzhou, many of which have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each year, millions of tourists travel to Suzhou to experience the destination’s more than 400 attractions, ranging from pagodas and temples to historical districts and world-class museums. As the largest industrial city in China, Suzhou continues to develop, such as the Singapore Industrial Park (SIP), which boasts five-star hotels, the iconic Lake Jinji, and Asia’s largest Ferris Wheel.

Travel to Suzhou is easily accessible via three convenient area airports with non-stop flights from North America: Shanghai Hongqiao International Airport (SHA) offers bullet train service to Suzhou, which is approximately a 50-mile, 30-minute trip; Pudong International Airport (PVG) is approximately 65 miles from Suzhou, an hour and half drive; and Sunan Shuofang International Airport (WUX) is approximately 14 miles from Suzhou, a 30 minute drive.

Media Contact: 

Robert Einhorn

PHG Consulting 

Tel: +1 646 465 9780 


A China Tour for Less Than the Price of the Air Fare

There are bargains and there are bargains, but you know you’ve really got a deal when the whole tour costs less than the round-trip air fare. A great way to celebrate the Chinese New Year: China Spree’s Timeless Beijing package starts at only $888 from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and includes not only round-trip transpacific air, but six nights’ accommodation in a convenient 4-star hotel (probably the beautiful Traders Hotel by Shangri-La), airport/hotel transfers, six American buffet breakfasts and three delicious Chinese lunches, three days of escorted sightseeing with entrance fees, baggage handling and a knowledgeable English-speaking guide. Note that Houston departures are $50 more, New York $80 more, and prices rise slightly in the spring and fall.

imgres The tour concentrates on Beijing and its surroundings, but Beijing is not only China’s vibrant capital, it is one of the world’s largest cities, a political and cultural center with a history dating back 3,000 years.  It is full of fascinating palaces, temples and parks; modern “starchitect” skyscrapers and glitzy shopping centers as well as ancient neighborhoods called hutongs; and seven—count them, seven—UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

A briefing in the hotel starts things off, then a guided visit to the infamous Tiananmen Square, world’s largest public square, and the Forbidden City, symbolic center of the Chinese universe, from which 24 emperors ruled the Middle Kingdom from 1420 to 1911.  There’s a full-day excursion to the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs with its 36 massive stone sculptures, and the iconic Great Wall of China, the 3,500-mile bulwark begun in the 5th century B.C. to keep out foreign invaders. Another day there’s a visit to the Temple of Heaven, a masterpiece of Ming architecture, and the idyllic Summer Palace imperial garden with its amazing Marble Boat.

The tour allows free time for exploring on your own, shopping, gallery-hopping and just relaxing in a tea house.  But reasonably-priced optional excursions are also available.  A dinner with acrobatics show and transfer costs $35.  And a not-to-be-missed day-long tour that costs $75 includes the pandas at the Beijing Zoo, a rickshaw ride through Old Beijing’s hutongs,, lunch in a traditional courtyard home, a visit to a renowned Tibetan lamasery and a sumptuous Peking duck dinner.

China Spree also offers A Tale of China’s Two Great Cities tour that covers Beijing and Shanghai and starts at $999.

All prices quoted are cash-only, are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability.  (Due to the popularity of this tour, reservations are confirmed based on the order in which deposits are received.)  For more detailed information about the Timeless Beijing package, log onto and click “China Tours,” then “Specials.”  China Spree’ s toll-free telephone number is 1-866-652-5656.

Journeys for Families Announces Top 10 Family Destinations for 2015


Journeys International, the first adventure travel company to offer trips designed specifically for families, announced today the top 10 family destinations for 2015:

  • Costa Rica
  • Peru
  • Panama
  • China
  • Japan
  • Thailand
  • Tanzania
  • South Africa
  • Galapagos (Ecuador)
  • Indonesia

In 2015, Journeys for Families has over 20 itineraries in 18 destinations, and a total of nearly 30 family group departures scheduled. Plus, itineraries can be customized and planned around the dates that work for the travelers.

7014-139 PAN 0604 PB

About Journeys International

Based in Ann Arbor, MI, Journeys International has been creating guided, custom and family adventures for international travelers since 1978. Family-owned and operated, Journeys International’s private and small group trips emphasize cultural and environmental awareness, and family trips are designed with all ages in mind. Because of long-standing, unique and personal relationships with guides around the world, Journeys trips offer a superior experience that travelers won’t find with any other travel company.

Fifty Shades of Romance in Pacifica…A California Coastal Getaway


Located just 15 minutes south of San Francisco, the beautiful beach-front town of Pacifica is the ideal hitching post for couples that want to celebrate romance any time of year.

The natural attributes of this coastal playground are the most obvious romantic pleasures, but there is a myriad of encounters that provoke intimacy, as follows:

  • Pack a picnic breakfast or lunch from Oceana Market & Deli, then take a leisurely hike at Mori Point
  • Enjoy lunch at Nick’s and be sure to share a bottle of your favorite wine with the signature grilled crab sandwiches
  • Take a private, guided Silicon Segway tour around the town and along the ocean bluffs, then grab a tasty take-out lunch at Gorilla BBQ, which was featured on Guy Fieri’s “Dives, Diners and Drive-Ins”
  • Take a power nap on a cozy blanket or leisurely walk along Rockaway Beach, then head over to Rock ‘n Robs for their popular hamburger and sweet potato fries along with the signature milkshake
  • Have a pre-dinner glass of wine and appetizers, complemented by live music at A Grape in the Fog
  • Book a table with a spectacular, panoramic view for the sunset and dinner at Moonraker Restaurant, Pacifica’s fine dining restaurant
  • First thing in the morning, head out to the Pacifica Pier with fishing gear, crab trap, tackle and bait, which are all available for rent at Coastside Bait & Tackle
  • For a hearty breakfast, check out the menu at Vallamar Station, which features large portions of the best, freshest fare (those in the know visit this restaurant on Sunday nights for their popular fried chicken
  • Hike/walk the gentle path of the new Devils Slide Trail. Interpretive signage and stunning views of the Pacific are the focus
  • Get your pamper on at Visions Seaside Spa or Oceano Coastal Spa
  • Check out Pacifica Spindrift Theatre for live acts…as an example of their productions, Vagina Monologues playing through February 15, 2015
  • Enjoy a spot of tea and light snack at Lovey’s Tea Shop where the mismatched china and quirky décor are easy on the eyes
  • For dinner, head to the new Puerto 27 Peruvian Kitchen and Pisco Bar for the sunset hour and be sure to sample a variety of menu items, tapas style
  • Check out who’s performing in town at The theatre features everything from opera to tango, blues and folk
  • Boost your energy with breakfast at the Salada Beach Café where choices range from healthy to hearty
  • Lunch al fresco at the Surf Spot and enjoy fresh seafood dishes and salads as well as free weekend concerts
  • Dance the night away on Friday or Saturday night at Nick’s bar and lounge, then in the morning head over to Pacific Java Café for coffee, muffins and bagels to get back on your feet again…
  • Power up and down some of the most intriguing mountain bike terrain in California, then head over to Colombo’s Deli for homemade soups, pastas, Italian meats and baked breads
  • Paddle board at Linda Mar Beach
  • Enjoy the new Devil’s Slide Tap Room at Pedro Point, which serves up 24 beers on tap and great pub grub
  • Surf the popular beaches of Pacifica (surf lessons are available for those that need a refresher), then grab a sandwich or Vietnamese salad from Dinosaurs
  • Enjoy wine and Champagne tastings at the new Table Wine Tasting Room
  • Head over to Chit Chat Café on Friday or Saturday nights to enjoy the local music scene or enjoy their weekend BBQ lunch or dinner, which is served in front of the Pacifica Pier until sunset
  • Dine at Kenny’s Café, for the local flavor
  • Get in the groove at Long Board’s Margarita Bar or Winter’s Tavern for live, weekend entertainment
  • If shopping for a souvenir strikes your fancy, Pacifica boasts some unique shops that offer gifts for any romantic occasion, including: Resurrected, Avani Salon, Sirens, Christmas by the Cove, Yonder Shop, Sun Valley Market, Jewels Forever, Obsessions Beauty Salon, Mazzetti’s Bakery, Pavilion of Flowers, Oceana Market and Best Pets.


Pacifica offers six lodging options in the budget to moderate price range and all are within walking distance to Pacifica’s beaches. Four are located at Rockaway Beach. The largest with 97 guest rooms is the Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel, a full-service hotel situated on Rockaway Beach with spacious accommodations, beautiful ocean views, a swimming pool and the upscale Moonraker restaurant. The Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites Pacifica provides very comfortable accommodations with ocean views and a complimentary hot Express Start Breakfast Bar. Offering a dash of Victorian charm is the pet-friendly Pacifica Motor Inn and adjacent to Nick’s Restaurant is the Sea Breeze Motel, which is very convenient for those looking to dance the night away at Nick’s. Situated across from Linda Mar Beach is another full service hotel called the Pacifica Beach Hotel. Under new ownership, the hotel now includes several remodeled rooms, offering spectacular ocean view rooms, Jacuzzi tubs, indoor swimming pool and the new Peruvian Restaurant, Puerto 27. Further north near Sharp Park is Americas Best Value Inn, which is a short walk from Pacifica Pier and the golf course.


America’s Best Value Inn Pacifica: (877) 784-6835/

Best Western Plus Lighthouse Hotel: (650) 355-6300/

Holiday Inn Express & Suites: (650) 355-5000/

Pacifica Beach Hotel: (650) 355-9999/

Pacifica Motor Inn: (800) 522-3772/

Sea Breeze Motel at Rockaway Beach: (650) 359-3903

Travel Tip: For more information about Pacifica, log onto Also highly recommend is the iPacifica mobile app for Apple or Android devices, which provides information on dining, shopping, galleries, lodging, weather and more.

Background: Pacifica. California

The natural beauty and unparalleled serenity of Pacifica, California has attracted travelers to this coastal gem for more than 100 years. Located just 15 minutes south of San Francisco, Pacifica feels worlds away but is convenient to some of the most vibrant, international communities on the West Coast. Easily accessible from Highway 1, Pacifica’ rich cultural heritage and bohemian personality make it a unique destination worth discovering.

Pacifica’s ethereal beauty is enhanced by its Mediterranean style weather. Refreshing temperatures range from 15-20 degrees cooler than the central coast, drawing visitors to Pacifica’s shoreline to ‘cool’ off during the hot summer months with its natural air-conditioning and attractive oceanfront accommodations. Likewise, Pacifica’s equally-appealing winter travel season provides a dramatic setting for those interested in off-season values and romantic departures.

Of the many diversions, Pacifica boasts some of the most breathtaking panoramic vistas atop a wide range of hiking trails and walking adventures along the expansive beaches dotting the destination’s shoreline. Additionally, the destination features a range of recreational options, including surfing, boating, scuba, fishing and paragliding, birding, cycling, golf, tennis, archery and horseback riding.

According to the National Marine Sanctuaries of the West Coast, Pacifica is known to be the fourth richest area in the world for marine mammal life.

For more information about the destination of Pacifica, California, please visit

Let The Mood Guide You…

While romance is most definitely in the air, February is by no means the only time couples should cultivate the mood.

One of the most romantic destinations in California is the awe-inspiring destination of Mendocino…and sometimes it’s best enjoyed when all the “amateurs” are not celebrating over the same Hallmark holiday.

Whether it’s romance or just some good ole R&R, Mendocino sets the stage for intimate encounters as well as great adventures. Here are some suggestions to get you and your loved one in the mood ~

beach_ridingWhat to do:

  • Whether you’re a novice or experienced rider, trail rides along the beach or in the Redwood Forest are a favorite pastime. Ricochet Ridge Ranch offers a variety of excursions, including private retreats, sunset rides and week-long riding treks. Recognized by Outside Magazine as “One of the Top 25 Trips of a Lifetime,” this corral provides quality guides and friendly horses for any journey. For more information, visit
  • There is no adventure more bonding for a couple than learning how to stroke in time with one another. At Catch a Canoe, visitors are patiently guided through the nuances of paddling in unison so that the voyage up and down Mendocino’s Big River is not only symbiotic, but coupling as well. In addition to outrigger canoes, this outfit rents bikes as well. For more information, visit
  • For all the right reasons, Napa and Sonoma have put themselves on the map for wine enthusiasts, however, Mendocino County boasts some of the most robust wineries and friendliest tasting rooms in California. Favorites include Scharffenberger Cellars (for which sparkling wines are their reputation, but try the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir),; Maple Creek Winery for a range of wine and art,; and Lula Cellars for a great selection of Pinot Noir,

Where to stay:

  • For many years, the pull of The Heritage House Resort has been of great allure. Sitting on 37 acres, the resort features sweeping views of the coast and beach access, but is also nestled into the comforts of mature trees that create a quiet serenity. Rooms feature fireplaces, expansive balconies with views of the cashing surf, cozy beds that beg for lazy naps and snuggling, quiet accommodations that feed the mood and every amenity for which one could wish. The hotel’s restaurant, 5200 Restaurant and Lounge, boasts panoramic views and farm fresh cuisine that is a celebration of local ingredients for both breakfast and dinner. For more information, visit
  • Managed since 1980 by Jeff and Joan Stanford, the Stanford Inn by the Sea is the most full-service property in Mendocino. In addition to its 41 guest rooms, this pet-friendly property features The Ravens all-vegan restaurant, which serves breakfast and dinner; daily yoga and tai chi; fireside chats on healthy living every Friday night; cooking, gardening and healthy living classes; Ayurvedic treatments; the Mendocino Center for Living Well; and is part of the Greenbelt Project. The Stanford Inn is also home to the afore-mentioned Catch a Canoe. For more information, visit


Places to dine:

  • Nestled in a building that was built in 1909, by the same architect that developed San Francisco’s Fairmont Hotel, Mendo Bistro is perhaps Fort Bragg’s culinary gem. Chef/owner Nicholas Petti uses the freshest ingredients of seafood and produce, but the cheese platter and “choice menu” of proteins, sauces and preparation are not to be overlooked. The service was very cordial and accommodates even the most random of diets, so no one will walk away hungry. For more information, visit
  • While all of the assets at The Stanford Inn are enough to create intrigue, The Ravens serves the best vegan cuisine in California…favorites include the Sushi Roll, served with Ravens dynamite sauce; Dos Tacos Biologicos with Jalapenos, crimini mushrooms, onions and shredded cabbage; (massaged) Kale Salad with raisins, avocado verjus vinaigrette and sautéed trumpet royale ceviche; Sea Palm & Root Vegetable Strudel; and Spinach Ravioli; to name a few favorites. For more information, visit
  • bucket_0For a locals’ type of experience, Piaci Pub & Pizzeria is a small and casual eatery that captures those who are looking for carbo loads and stick to the ribs cuisine. Even during weekday lunch encounters, customers are indulging in one of many hand-crafted brews while sinking their teeth into one of the hearty calzones, flatbreads or thin-crust focaccias. This is a great option for anyone looking at mid-day nourishment before or after hiking, biking, kayaking or horseback riding. For more information, visit

While there is so very many things to do in Mendocino County, the recommendation is to schedule LOTS of time for just being, not doing. However, for those with a robust thirst and hunger for more, visit

Alaska Tops ‘Bucket List’ Destinations

Alaska, the only non-contiguous U.S. state, rich in resources, lush landscape and abundant wildlife, often seems like a lofty goal when considering possible travel destinations for the year ahead. According to USA Today’s 2014 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards, Alaska ranked second on the ‘Best Bucket List Trips.’


What people don’t realize is that a trip to Alaska is attainable with a bit of planning and research.

Denali National Park and Preserve, found in the interior of Alaska, encompasses six million acres of preserved wilderness that includes massive expanses of forest, glacial lakes, frozen tundra, and towering mountains – including North America’s tallest mountain, Mount McKinley. Denali Park Village, located only miles from the entrance to Denali National Park, is set among 20 acres of a spruce forest along the Nenana River.

This compelling, adventure-laden locale and its stunning views of nature and wildlife topped ‘bucket lists’ of some 400,000 visitors last year who found themselves at the heart of the Alaskan wilderness. Visitors also experienced Denali Park Village’s rustic yet luxurious lodge, cozy cabins, varied dining options, tour packages, accommodating staff and interpretive tours of the park.

Tips to checking Denali National Park off your bucket list in 2015:

  1. Book direct, in between tours. There are short gaps between groups and tours when the hotel may be nearly empty, those nights can be very cheap. Book with the hotel directly.
  2. Reserve a budget for day-tours. Day tours are the best way to see Alaska.  Plan to spend part of your budget on day-tours, they let you explore the otherwise inaccessible wilderness. Then rent a car and create your own adventures or take a trip on the Alaska Railroad, it provides efficient and reasonably priced service throughout most of the state.
  3. Know what time of year to visit. Days are long, and temperatures are comfortable anytime from May to September. Hotel rates are lower during shoulder seasons (mid-May to mid-June and early September), but temperatures a little warmer during peak season. It gets rainier as the summer progresses.
  4. Act like a local. Avoid tourist restaurants in favor of street vendors or local cafes. If you have a car, shop at the discount stores outside each town rather than at the expensive downtown boutiques. Take advantage of free weekend markets, festivals and other local entertainment options.

Denali Park Village, a new lodging destination that embodies Alaska’s rich mining and natural history, underwent a complete transformation in 2014. It now offers visitors an authentic Alaskan experience including The Lodge at Denali Park Village, The Cabins at Denali Park Village and Miner’s Plaza designed to resemble a historic mining town. The plaza includes individually themed shops, general store, museum, gift shop, gem mining, games such as horseshoe and bean bags, open fire pits and lounge chairs and an outdoor stage offering free talks by the Denali Education Center.

100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die


In 100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die, (Reedy Press) the authors talk top attractions – the famous Painted Ladies, the bridges, the countless scenic vistas — but they focus on guiding visitors and residents alike to the out-of-the-way places that locals love, places that reveal the soul of this world-class city.

Based on personal experience, the authors suggest where to grab a Mission-style burrito, introduce the kids to a giant Pacific octopus, join a sea chantey sing-along, get tipsy on an alcoholic malt, buy tie-dye in Haight-Ashbury, rock out at a free music festival, track down a food cart selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and relax in a redwood grove. The book also provides insider info on where to experience yoga on a labyrinth, rent a bike in Golden Gate Park, taste exotic olive oils, soak up spectacular ocean views on an urban hiking trail, brunch on beignets, take a free walking tour, and catch a glimpse of the city’s wild parrots on the wing.

In short, 100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die reveals many of the reasons why millions of people routinely leave their hearts in this amazing place! 100 Things to Do in San Francisco Before You Die is available wherever books are sold.

Eve Batey is the co-founder of, the proprietor of The San Francisco Appeal, and used to be a Deputy Managing Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in the Outer Sunset with her husband and a bunch of animals. Her website is Patricia Corrigan is a freelance writer and editor in San Francisco who worked for twenty-three years as a newspaper reporter and has written seventeen books. She lives in Twin Peaks, close to her son, daughter-in-law and grandson. Her website is