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More China, Less Cha-Ching! Seven-Day Air & Hotel Combos Start from $699

July 1, 2004 -- Even with the focus this summer on domestic travel, South America, and Europe as favorite destinations, Asia refuses to be forgotten. Despite a rapidly improving economy in East and Southeast Asia, there are still plenty of travel bargains to be found in the area. Here are a few.

Friendly Planet

Friendly Planet offers a popular package that needs to be acted upon quickly since it has sold out so quickly in the past. Called the "Beijing & Shanghai Express," it starts from only $699 from Los Angeles or $799 from New York's JFK and includes flights on Korean Air, seven nights in a superior first class hotel lodging in a centrally located hotel in each city (four in Beijing, three in Shanghai), daily buffet breakfasts, transfers, the flight between Beijing and Shanghai, airport transfers, and optional tours. Note that the prices mentioned already reflect a discount of $300 to $400 per person if you purchase before September 30, 2004. After that, if any seats are left, the discount will no longer apply. Go to www.friendlyplanet.com or phone 800/555-5765 or 215/572-9594, fax 215/572-9803.

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Ritzy Business

A leading operator to China is Ritz Tours, which has come up with a China Scenic program, taking you there on a 14-day trip, and good for travel through December 2004. Costs start at $1,999 per person (double occupancy), and include roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles or San Francisco, domestic air within China, five-star hotel lodging, sightseeing tours in Beijing, Xian, Guilin, Shanghai, Suzhou and Wuxi, meals and entertainment per itinerary, and services of tour guides. Departures from New York (JFK) begin at $2,149. If departing from New York, you get one more night in Beijing because of air travel schedules. Otherwise, you have four nights in the capital, two in Xian, two in Guilin, two in Shanghai, and one each in Zhouzhang, Suzhou and Wuxi.

Air add-ons are available for departures from major cities in the US and Canada. For more information, contact Ritz at www.ritztours.com, by email to china@ritztours.com, or by phoning 800/900-2446 or 626/289-7777, fax 626/281-0117.

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Slow Boat to China

Viking River Cruises, well known to travelers in Europe, offers a fine tour featuring the mighty Yangtze this autumn, with prices from $2,648 for 12 nights. That's the figure for the "Imperial Treasures" package, visiting Beijing, Xian, Chongqing, Fuling, the Three Gorges, Shibaozhai, Jingzhou, Wuhan and Shanghai. Departure dates from the US are from September 2 through December 27, 2004. The price mentioned includes air from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Seattle. Add-on airfares from other parts of the country range from $299 to $399.

The package includes the transpacific airfare, a seven-night cruise (with onboard meals said to be designed by the famous TV chef Martin Yan), three nights in a five-star Beijing hotel, and one night each in five-star hotels in Shanghai and Xian, a welcome cocktail and farewell dinner, all intra-China flights and transfers, tours in Beijing, Chongqing, Shibaozhai, a sampan ride at the Lesser Three Gorges, some musical performances, and more. To get these prices, you have to book by August 6, 2004. Ask you travel agent or phone Viking at 877/66VIKING. Their website is www.vikingrivercruises.com. In any case, ask for the offer 53ECHO.

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