Day 1: Depart US or UK.
Day 2: Arrive Beijing where you will be transferred to your hotel. (Raffles Hotel – 5 Stars - Landmark Rooms)
Day 3: 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). Your tour will include exclusive access to a private palace, normally closed to the general public (please note that entry is controlled by local authorities, who may deny access on occasion). In the afternoon, we take you to one of ancient China’s most sacred sites, the Temple of Heaven, used Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 4: Today you will visit the Great Wall of China. Built to protect China from the incursions of predatory nomads, the utility and meaning of this fortification has been contested for centuries. The unprecedented scale and unexpected charm of the Great Wall may inspire you. The section that we most highly recommend is the further away, about 2.5 hours drive, but is generally considered one of the most beautiful sections of the Great Wall. Once there, you will be treated to a private banquet on the Wall itself (weather permitting). After lunch you will be given some time for a stroll along this most magnificent of sites. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: This morning, we take a tour of the delightful Summer Palace, a retreat built exclusively for the Empress Dowager Cixi; its ornate temples, pavilions and covered corridors, set amidst a vast and graceful, man-made landscape, epitomize both the decadence and refinement of this ruthless matriarch.
We continue the day with an intimate pedicab tour through Beijing’s traditional alleyways (or hutong). During it, you will be afforded an insight into the everyday life of Beijingers. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 6: 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.
In the afternoon we fly to Xi’an, where in the evening you will be treated to a private dumpling making and noodle throwing lesson by the Sheraton’s expert chefs. (Sheraton Hotel – 5 Stars – Deluxe Rooms). Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: 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. This afternoon, for example, you will tour the Big Goose Pagoda, an edifice built to house the first Buddhist texts ever transported to China from India. Following this, we will observe the enduring influence of the Muslim community in the form of Xi’an’s Great Mosque and forever-bustling Muslim Quarter. Includes: (B), (L).
Day 8: Xi’an’s well-presented History Museum traces the city’s gradual rise to prominence from the matriarchal societies of the third millennium BC to its apogee under the mighty Tang dynasty. Your visit includes access to the Tang dynasty murals, normally closed to the general public (please note that entry is controlled by local authorities, who may deny access on occasion).
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 of Modern Art – Deluxe Rooms – Not Rated). Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 9: This morning, you will have a chance to see traditional village life. Visit a local school, watch soy milk being made or just wander through the rice fields. The day continues with a spectacular boat ride on traditional bamboo rafts along a remote and 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 for reeds. En route, we will come across fishermen herding their cormorants along the river bottom in search of Li River fish. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 10: This morning has been left free. Many people prefer to spend this time quietly relaxing with a book on the hotel’s lovely grounds. If you are feeling active, there are many options open to you from cycling to learning how to throw a pot. After lunch, a flight takes us from Guilin to Hangzhou, the city which Marco Polo professed as the “most enchanting on earth”. (Hyatt Regency Hotel – 5 Stars – Lakeview Rooms). Includes: (B), (L).
Day 11: It was Hangzhou whose wealth and splendor most flabbergasted Marco Polo during his visit to China. This experience supports the popular Chinese expression that while, “in heaven there is paradise, on earth there is Hangzhou and Suzhou”. Your visit begins with a boat tour of the extensive West Lake, encompassing its surrounding pagodas, elegant causeways and landscaped islands. After a lunch of local seafood delicacies, we head west out of the city into verdant tea-fields. There, you will have the chance to watch a traditional tea ceremony and even enjoy a private tea tasting. includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 12: For those who wish to join us, we’ll be setting off extra early to watch the morning exercises that take place at this time across the whole of China. After breakfast, we will visit Lingyin Temple to see not only a fine, historic temple, but also to inspect the remarkable sculptural accomplishments of its Buddhist monks. In the afternoon, we will drive to Shanghai. En route you will be surprised by the development now taking place across Zhejiang province.
Shanghai, last century considered to be the most Western of China’s cities, perhaps now should be thought of as the most futuristic. Having advised you of Shanghai’s best restaurants and bars, we will help make any reservations that you might require for this penultimate evening of fun, when we leave you to enjoy Shanghai on your own. (Grand Hyatt Hotel – 5 Stars – River View Rooms). Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 13: This morning we will arrange for a lecture/ tour on colonial architecture in Shanghai given by a member of the Shanghai Historical Society. This tour will take you into some of the most important buildings along the Bund and French Concessions including the Peace Hotel and Hong Kong Shanghai Bank.
En route to lunch, we will travel along sycamore-lined boulevards into the heart of the French Concession. This section of the “Paris of the Orient” now hosts many arts-based businesses and art galleries that we can visit if you so desire. After dinner at one of the city’s best new restaurants, you will be taken to witness the marvelous stunts of the Acrobatic Show. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 14: Our tour of Shanghai begins at the Shanghai Museum, one of the most modern in the country. Arranged by category rather than according to a chronology, its collection introduces and elucidates the gamut of Chinese arts from ceramics to jade and ivory carvings to paintings. This afternoon 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. 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 15: You will be transferred to the airport in time for your return flight home. Includes: (B).
Note: Please note that B, L, D denotes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
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