Day 1: You will be met at the airport by an Imperial Tours’ China Host who will accompany you during the remainder of your stay in China. Upon transferring to the hotel, you will have the remainder of the evening left at your leisure. (Grand Hyatt Hotel).
Day 2: This morning’s activities contrast colossal monuments of the past and present. After strolling across Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, an authoritative symbol of today’s China, you will be awed by the majesty of its antique Forbidden City (to which in times gone by you would have been denied access). Tian’anmen Square is one of the best places to fly a kite! Each child will be given a Chinese kite, shaped like butterflies, dragons or phoenixes. In the afternoon, we take you to one of ancient China’s most sacred sites, the Temple of Heaven, used by the Emperor as a place to mediate affairs between God and man. During dinner, you will be treated to a performance of shadow puppetry, one of China’s oldest performance arts. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 3: For shoppers, Beijing’s largest open-air market will come close to paradise. Here you will mingle with Beijingers, overseas and local art dealers as well as farmers who import goods from the countryside. This is your opportunity to buy a Ming dynasty set of the Confucianist classics for a song (the best buy of 2001!) or else, and more likely, to buy from an astonishingly rich variety of Chinese and Tibetan cultural objects (at usually a tenth the price found in the U.S. and at often half the price found at local shops). For non-shoppers, this market can be thought of as China’s largest museum of modern cultural life, where you can see, talk to and photograph a wide range of local and regional Chinese going about their daily lives and business.
While the parents are shopping, children will be taken to have their faces painted and they will be photographed wearing traditional Chinese opera costumes. Later in the day, you will visit and then dine upon the Great Wall of China (weather permitting). More than 2,500 years old, this impressive fortification was constructed to protect China’s settled agricultural society from the savage incursions of the fierce Northern tribes. During dinner, you will see the extraordinary kungfu performance of the famous Shaolin warriors. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: We begin the day with a pedicab tour through Beijing’s traditional alleyways (or hutong). During it, you will be afforded an insight into the everyday life of Beijingers. Later in the day you will tour the delightful Summer Palace, a retreat built exclusively for the Empress Dowager Cixi; its ornate temples, pavilions & covered corridors, set amidst a vast and graceful, man-made landscape, epitomize both the decadence and refinement of this ruthless matriarch. At the Summer Palace, you will glide along the lake on a traditional dragon boat. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 5: This morning we will visit the Beijing Zoo where you will get a chance to see the famous Chinese panda. Later in the day we fly to Xi’an, where you will check into the Sheraton hotel. There may well be time to dip in the hotel's swimming pool before this evening's private dumpling-making and noodle-throwing lesson, conducted by the hotel's expert chefs (aprons will be provided!). (Sheraton Hotel). Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: Emperor Qinshihuangdi chose Xi’an for his capital in the third century BC. This war-mongering tyrant, the first to unite the disparate kingdoms of ancient China, is well-known to us for his Terracotta Warriors. This morning you will view the 13,000 molded soldiers, officers, horses and wagons which form a small part of his famed underground army. China’s capital during the Han (206BC-220AD) and Tang (618-907AD) dynasties, periods of increasing international exposure, Xi’an became home to motley communities of Nestorian Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jews and Muslims - many of whom have left their mark in China. This afternoon, for example, you will tour Xi’an’s Great Mosque and forever bustling Muslim Quarter. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 7: This morning we will visit the City Wall, where each guest will be given a bike to ride on the wall itself. In the afternoon we fly to Guilin, whose beautiful countryside will soothe you of your urban cares. Craggy limestone towers, their caves appearing like windows in a sheen of vegetation, overlook lush plains of rice fields and fruit orchards. (Hotel or Modern Art). Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: This morning, leaving the scenic valley floor behind us, our vehicle winds up terraced paddy-fields into the rural hinterland. Panoramic vistas, embrace the limestone pinnacles, and introduce an agricultural cornucopia of kumquat trees, tea bushes, lotus flowers, pomelo trees, rice and wheat fields. After half an hour or so, we will arrive at a typical Chinese village. Through meeting the local village leader, visiting a local school and helping a farmer make soy milk, we will learn about village life so as to better understand the aspirations and life of the majority of China's people who live in rural areas.
We continue the day with a relaxing raft-ride along a rarely visited stretch of the Li River: clumps of bamboo trees line the shores, buffalo wallow in the water to cool off and children fish beside their fathers who rake the river bed reeds. You will also be able to watch local fishermen use their cormorant birds for fishing. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 9: This morning has been left free. Many people will want to walk or bike around the stunning contemporary art sculptures that are dotted around the hotel grounds. Those of an artistic persuasion can take advantage of the contemporary art park's art workshop to organize lessons in printing, pottery, painting and other disciplines. The hotel spa will prove an irresistible draw for others. In the afternoon we will fly to Shanghai, last century considered to be the most Western of China’s cities, perhaps now should be thought of as the most futuristic. (Grand Hyatt Hotel) Includes: (B), (L).
Day 10: Our tour of Shanghai begins at the Shanghai Museum, the best in the country. Its well-conceived displays elucidate all aspects of Chinese art history from ceramics to jades to furniture to seals to paintings. For lunch we will travel to the French Concession, whose poplar-lined boulevards add a distinctive French panache to this “Paris of the Orient”. We remain in this historic quarter both in spirit and in geography when, immediately after, we visit one of Shanghai’s quaint outdoor antique markets. After dining at one of Shanghai’s chic new restaurants, we will visit its modernistic Opera House to enjoy the marvelous stunts of the Acrobatics Show. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 11: This morning we take you to visit the Yu Gardens, one of the best examples of traditional Chinese garden design in the country. Afterwards, you will have some time to stroll through Shanghai’s Old Quarter. In the afternoon you will be taken to the Children’s Palace where gifted Chinese children spend their afternoons learning to sing, play musical instruments and dance. Our farewell dinner takes place at our favorite Shanghai restaurant, boasting a magnificent view over the Bund and Pudong waterfronts. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 12: This morning you will be transferred to the airport in time for your international flight home. Includes: (B).
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