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 fly to Xi'an. We check out before heading off to the Great Wall at Mutianyu. This allows us to go straight to the airport which is in that direction. 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 have a late afternoon/early evening flight to Xi'an such that we are ready to go straight out again the next morning. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 5: Terracotta Warriors and Wild Goose Pagoda. Xi'an's position is no longer strategically important and the city could well have lost all significance except for a fortunate discovery about its majestic past. We come today to see the site that breathed new life into the city, and has given it international recognition as a tourist destination of the top order. 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. 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, lunch, dinner.
Day 6: Xi'an Sites and on to Luoyang. Xi'an has many worthwhile sites. We will visit the Grand Mosque and the City Walls at least before heading to the station for our train. Xi'an has a 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. Our train ride to Luoyang passes along the loess plateau giving us an outlook on life little changed by modern developments. This will be our first train ride in China. Fear not: we normally travel soft-seater class for short journeys and this is comfortable enough. For more details see Trains in China. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 7: Buddhist Treasures. Luoyang's fate has not been kind. Local guides often speak of the ball-bearing factory, number 1 in China, as a point of interest which is a sad reflection on the rest. We visit two of the most interesting sites, both related to Buddhism. The Longmen Grottoes are rated as one of the top four in all of China, and that despite being ravaged by time and collectors. The succession of caves and cliffs have been covered with Buddhist images of all sizes showing the, once, strong faith that dominated here. Our next site was actually the first Buddhist Temple in China (the territory as it was then, not now).
The White Horse Temple was named after the then Emperor dreamed of such a beast just as one arrived bearing a monk from the far west. This auspicious start gave the monk the opportunity to spread the word of Buddha changing China forever. We make one last stop before returning. We visit a cave dwelling to see the typical style residence in the aforementioned loess plateau. Valuable farmland is not wasted for habitations. The farmers here dig into the soft earth and make their homes underground. Cool in summer and warm in winter these caves are ideal for the situation. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 8: Luoyang to Kaifeng. We continue looking into the past with a visit to the old part of Luoyang and a museum. We will pass parts of the modern city but there is nothing that stands out as worthy of a regular stop. Our sightseeing ends with a visit to the Museum of Ancient Tombs. Many of the rituals relating to Ancestor Worship are explained here. We then take the train across to Kaifeng, a capital of China during the reign of many dynasties but not the ones familiar to most westerners.
Perhaps that's why most visitors have only a vague idea about the city's glorious past. Please note: Since hard-seats are the only option on the train departure we prefer that is our style of travel today. This will be an interesting comparison with other trips and give you a brief glimpse at how the masses travel. The fact that Kaifeng is on so few itineraries gives it a special, uncorrupted feel. You may well find this aspect an interesting comparison with the cities before and after. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 9: Glory Days. Although probably the largest city in the world for a good 100 years back in the Eleventh Century, Kaifeng is now not even the provincial capital. That title has gone to nearby Zhengzhou. Kaifeng's tourist sites are therefore almost all based upon the Glory Days. Our tour takes us to the still extant Iron Pagoda, which is not made of iron at all, the Dragon Pavilion, which was actually a palace, and to Imperial Street and Millenium City Park where the days of the Northern Song Dynasty are celebrated in full costume. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 10: To the Southern Capital. After breakfast we take a train across to Nanjing. Nanjing has played the role of capital of all China many times throughout its history including periods during the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and during the Republican Kuomintang days. It therefore retains a significance in the modern China. This afternoon we visit the Xiaoling Tomb. Lying at the foot of Purple Mountain, this complex was built by the Yongle Emperor to honor his father, Hongwu, the founder of the Ming Dynasty.
The Xiaoling Tomb has a magnificent "Sacred Way" with pairs of beast statues guarding the 1800 meter approach. The mausoleum at the end is no less glorious and has many features worth visiting in their own right. In the evening we visit the Fuzi Miao district based around the old Confucius Temple but now also a thriving district of modern shops, cafes and restaurants. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 11: Moving Memorial, cruise and free time. This morning we visit a site that offers a poignant reminder of the horrors of war. The "Rape of Nanking" was a horrific period marking the Japanese invasion of China's mainland prior to the Second World War. For the six weeks after they captured the city, the Japanese military went on a brutal rampage. Hundreds of thousands were killed and tens of thousands of women raped.
We visit the superb Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall to this event which somehow manages to capture the horror without resorting to gruesome images or angry words. Recognizing that we cannot leave such a place and head straight off for a jolly, instead we take a cruise on the Qin Huai River and have a chance to contemplate. The rest of the day is free for you to visit those other sites that you wish to see in Nanjing. Meals: breakfast.
Day 12: On to Hangzhou. This morning is free, for you to have a late start or to continue exploring: as you wish. Around lunchtime we take another train around to Hangzhou, a city that makes much of its past but is also trying to give itself a future with a bold move into the world of outsourcing. Perhaps one day it will be the Bangalore of China. Your guide will help you orientate with a pre-dinner walk. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 13: Temple and Tea. We make a circuit today taking in a range of sites. First stop is the secluded Lingyin Temple. The temple has some magnificent buildings, and the attached Feilai Feng Grottoes are amongst the best in eastern China. We continue to the Tea Museum for a brief look before heading up the hill to the famous plantations of Longjing (Dragon's Well). We will stop here for a brew. We return to the city for a cruise on lovely West Lake. We will then then head off to visit Qing He Fang Street. This street has been renovated and populated with curio shops and restaurants.
Of particular interest is the Traditional Chinese Medicine Museum. Once a factory for the preparation of all manner of herbs and animal products, this grand building contains a delightful collection of displays with good explanations in English. We will stay here on into the evening when the character of the street changes. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 14: Shanghai City Tour and Evening Acrobats. We catch a train to Shanghai and then have a tour of this metropolis. We will visit Shanghai Museum where the collections are presented clearly and with good information in English. We then move across People's Square to the Urban Planning Museum where the displays bring to life the exciting plans for the Shanghai of the future. With the plans in mind we head off to Jinmao Tower where we can get a bird's-eye view of the city as it is. The model, then the reality.
Those who want can be dropped near to the Bund for a look before dinner. We finish with one last meal together. This is a chance to relive the highlights of your journey, to thank your guide and to exchange contact details if you haven't done so already. After dinner we all head off to the totally amazing Shanghai Acrobats, a performance that will have you at the edge of your seat. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 15: Journey's End. This Journey ends after breakfast. Check-out is usually 12:00 (noon).
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