Day 1: Arrival day. This journey begins in Beijing. If you need advice or assistance getting to Beijing then please contact us. Arrival transfer: You will be met at the airport and taken to your meeting point hotel. Our representative will answer any questions that you may have and ensure that you are checked-in before leaving. Please note: You may only actually be able to check-in after the hotel's standard time. If you will arrive in the morning and want to be able to check-in immediately you should consider booking the previous night as an Extra Service.
After check-in you are free to do as you please. Please do look for a message from your Guide about a Briefing this evening. In the evening, your Guide will meet with the group and take you to dinner. After eating the guide will brief you all on some important aspects relating to your Journey. This should only take about half an hour. Meals: dinner.
Day 2: Beijing Sites. Today we visit the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palaces. Yes: there are two. Our visit to the Temple of Heaven will begin at the South Gate and work north. Along the way we will see the Altar for Prayers, try to be heard at the Echo Wall and then gaze at the stunning Hall of Prayers. Our visit will include time to enjoy the parkland surrounding the main site where locals gather to relax. Typical recreation includes chess, mahjong and kite flying.
After lunch we will have plenty of time to visit the Summer Palaces. We will make a shorter stop at the Yuan Ming Yuan (aka the Old Summer Palace) before continuing to the nearby Summer Palace. During the visits you will learn that both sites were ravaged by the British and French troops towards the end of the Second Opium War. In the evening we enjoy a Beijing Opera Show with (usually) three scenes from different operas. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 3: Into the Forbidden City. We start today's excursion near Qianmen so as to appreciate the Feng Shui inherent in Beijing's street plan. As we walk across Tiananmen Square we can also appreciate its scale. We will pass under Tiananmen the gate that gives the square its name and on into the Forbidden City.Once inside we follow the logical progression from south to north. This takes us deeper into the personal domains of the Emperors. We make a few diversions to see the various exhibitions and the quarters allocated to concubines. The rest of the day is free for you to go to the other sites in Beijing that you most want to see. Meals: breakfast.
Day 4: Great Wall and train to Xi'an. We check out before heading off to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. This allows us to go straight to the station at the end of the day. The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu was one of the most strategically important and the construction quality there was second to none. As such, it is one of the best preserved sections. Those who do not feel active may take a cable car to the top. We catch the overnight train to Xi'an. This arrives in good time for us to go straight out sightseeing on arrival. This will be our first overnight train ride. Fear not. We normally travel soft-sleeper class for overnight journeys and soft-seater class for short, day-time trips; both of these are comfortable enough. For more details see Trains in China. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 5: Terracotta Warriors and Wild Goose Pagoda. We head off early so as to be amongst the first to the site of the Terracotta Warriors. This gives us the best chance of getting unobstructed views and photos in the main pits. The site has been enhanced and our excursion will include talks at all major pits and the museum, one cycle of the show at the cinema and some free time for you to revisit your favorite bits or to shop for souvenirs. After lunch we head to the Wild Goose Pagoda once one of the most important Buddhist temples in China. For those who love the TV series 'Monkey' it is worth noting that the scriptures collected by the real monk Triptaka (aka Xuanzang) are stored here. Meals: lunch, dinner.
Day 6: Free Day in Xi'an. Xi'an has many worthwhile sites within easy reach of the city center and you can choose your own favorites. Head into the Muslim Quarter where the Hui Minority (descendants of Muslim Silk Road traders) live and ply their trades. At the center of this area is their mosque, a masterpiece of woodwork that incorporates both Arabic and Chinese features. Unlike most other cities in China, Xi'an also has intact City Walls. These give the center of Xi'an a homely feel and offer the visitors some great views: both inwards and out to the wider city. Taxi is the easiest means to get around outside the city walls. Often walking is quicker within. Xi'an is renowned for its tasty snacks and we gather again in the evening for a rather special treat; a Dumpling Banquet where the various dumplings are shaped according to their filling. Meals: breakfast, dinner.
Day 7: Paddies in the Sky. We fly down to Guilin and then drive to Ping'an, a center for the Rice Terraces of Longsheng (the Dragon's Backbone). We have to stop at the bottom of the valley to purchase entrance tickets. This is a Yao village and there will almost certainly be a group of local ladies willing to show off their ankle-length hair for a small fee. The road head is just beyond, up on the hillside opposite. It is then a 30 minute walk to Ping'an, a village now famous for its rice terraces carved out by the hard-working Zhuang people over generations.
Many people believe that the wet May season is the best time to visit in that this is when the paddies are full with water and look like a cascade of mirrors down the hillside: a photographer's dream. A visit is special at any time as the hospitality is always warm. There are two main view-points above the village. Many visitors will head up to one or the other for sunset. If you choose to go, don't forget to take a (head)torch for the descent. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 8: Hiking the Dragon's Backbone. Those who are keen can rise early to see the sun rise over the rice terraces from one of the view-points. Others may be satisfied to see the same from the guesthouse, or to just stay in bed. There is an optional hike today.The route will depend upon interest but with a maximum duration of about 6 hours. You are, of course, free to stick around Ping'an and relax. Meals: breakfast, dinner.
Day 9: Guilin: peaks downtown. We drive back to Guilin where we have a tour of the most popular sites. Elephant Trunk Hill has become a symbol of Guilin and the park surrounding it has been developed along the elephant theme. This can make for some interesting photos. The Folded-brocade Hill offers an opportunity to stretch legs as well as to get great views across the city. We also visit the Mansion of the Prince of Jingjiang, dating back to the Ming Dynasty when the ruler here was effectively a vassal Prince. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 10: Li River Cruise and Yangshuo. We transfer to the Bamboo Docks to catch our Li River Cruise. This cruise winds its way between glorious mountain peaks for about 4 hours, though this varies considerably with water levels. The attraction is not just the magnificent back-drop but also the many fascinating glimpses of local life on the water and on the river-banks. Lunch is prepared and served on-board the cruise boat. Some special local dishes and drinks are available at extra charge.
After check-in you will be given an orientation walk around town. There is then free time until dinner. After dinner we head to the showground overlooking the Li River where we can see the Liu San Jie Light Show. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 11: Yangshuo: countryside activities. Today we get active. We head out on a bike ride so as to be able to see some of the glorious countryside that surrounds Yangshuo. The going is easy and we need not rush as there is much that will need explaining and plenty to photograph. The circuit will include a ride down the Yulong River on bamboo rafts for a change of pace and another perspective. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 12: Free Day in Yangshuo. Today is a free day for you to do as you please. There are plenty of options and your guide will help you make arrangements as necessary. You could choose to take a lesson: cooking, painting & calligraphy and tai'chi are all popular. Many will choose to relax around town, shopping for souvenirs and gifts, and enjoying the local food and drink. In the late afternoon we transfer back to Guilin for our overnight train to Guangzhou. Meals: breakfast, dinner.
Day 13: Guangzhou highlights. Guangzhou is infamous for being an industrial powerhouse. We will head into Yuexiu Park to soften the blow. Our target here is Zhenhai Tower now Guangzhou's Museum containing historical relics from the last 2000 years. The tower is five stories high but do not expect great views. lunch will be a selection of Dim Sum, the tasty snacks that are taken with tea as a traditional Cantonese brunch. Later we visit Shamian Island, previously the British and French Concession area of the city. We have a walking tour of this island and of the Qingping Markets across the bridge. In the evening we eat aboard a Pearl River Cruise boat for a very special last dinner together. Meals: lunch, dinner.
Day 14: Journey's End. This Journey ends after breakfast. Check-out is usually 12:00 (noon).
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