Day 1: Arrival day. This journey begins in Shanghai. If you need advice or assistance getting to Shanghai 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: Water-town Excursion. We get immersed in China immediately with an excursion to one of the old water-towns close to Shanghai. There are several water-towns to choose from. All offer a look at a way of life based around the network of canals that has changed little in centuries. We leave the choice until close to the departure day so as to avoid surges in popularity of any one water-town. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 3: To Yunnan: south of the clouds. We fly to Lijiang via Kunming. The minority groups in Yunnan have been known as the Colored Clouds, a reference to the beautiful clothing worn, especially by the ladies. Our journey takes us south-west to their homelands. Lijiang is home to the Naxi people, one of Yunnan Province's more colorful ethnic minorities. After check-in your guide will take you for a short orientation walk into the Old Town. Those wanting to head up to Jade Dragon Snow Mountain during their free day tomorrow should make arrangements with a local travel service today. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 4: Lijiang. Today is a free day. You can explore the network of streets and alleys without fear of getting lost. Follow any of the water-courses upstream to get back to the familiar waterwheels. In the evening we gather again for dinner. and to see the local Naxi Music Performance. This show includes both music and an entertaining commentary. Meals: breakfast, dinner.
Day 5: To Dali. We transfer to the station for the train to Dali. Enjoy magnificent mountain scenery through your carriage window as we take advantage of this new rail service. At the moment the only choice is to buy Hard Seats. If and when soft seats become available we will upgrade without any surcharge. Dali is home to the Bai ethnic group. The old town is situated on the banks of the Er Hai. The station is in the new town (aka Xiaguan) and we have a short transfer around the lake. After check-in you will be given an orientation walk in the Old Town. Make sure you remember where to meet for dinner. later. The rest of the time is free. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 6: The Cloud Way. We take advantage of a clever mountain trail purpose built for visitors. We take a cable car up to the Cloud Way. The trail is well made and easy to follow in all but the foulest weather. The route takes us almost horizontally around the side of Cang Shan, the mountain that overlooks Dali and Lake Erhai. The views are fabulous in all directions and so we will not hurry. Lunch will normally be at a small local restaurant on the mountain.
This offers a range of freshly picked edible fungi as well as other delicious local produce. The descent is by another cable-car close to the restaurant. This arrives almost at the top of the Old Town. The walk down from here is worth doing as you pass through areas you would otherwise miss. Those who are not ready to descend straight after lunch can continue a bit further along the Cloud Way for more spectacular views. You will have to return the same way. A truly momentous day, with minimal effort. Meals: breakfast, lunch.
Day 7: Dali to Kunming. Today is a free day in Dali. You may want to hire a bike and cycle further around the lake (but probably not the complete loop) or take a boat out on the lake for views of the mountains and back to town. We gather again for dinner. before we transfer to the station for our overnight train to Kunming. 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, dinner.
Day 8: Temples in the Hills. Today's excursion takes us up into the hills overlooking the city. Our first visit is to the Golden Temple. This Taoist temple on Mingfeng Shan (Singing Phoenix Hill) is actually made of vast quantities of bronze, not gold. Our second stop is at the Buddhist Bamboo Temple. This temple is set amongst dense bamboo groves, though legend assigns another explanation for the temple's name. There will be some free time to explore the city center sites on our return. Meals: lunch, dinner.
Day 9: Rocks Above and Below. Today we head out to Shilin Stone Forest about 90 kilometers outside of Kunming. This area of heavily eroded limestone contains many fantastic rock formations, many with descriptive names. We continue the theme later with a trip down and into Jiuxiang Cave. We follow the river below ground through some impressive caverns and see more of nature's handiwork on a grand scale. For a special dinner. we have the famous local dish: Crossing-the-bridge Noodles. The curious name will be explained. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 10: Fly to Chengdu. Tea With Taoists. We transfer to the airport for our flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. In the afternoon we visit the Qing Yang Gong, a delightful temple where Laozi is meant to have expounded upon his emerging philosophy/religion: Taoism. Since drinking at a tea-house is a local tradition this is included in our afternoon's activities. In the evening we watch a Variety Performance which includes Chengdu Opera's "Changing Faces", shadow puppets, comedy and many other routines. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 11: Pandas and Chongqing. We have an early start to ensure we get to the Panda Breeding And Research Center whilst these delightful but indolent animals are still relatively active. We return to the city center to catch our train across to Chongqing, Chengdu's rival for status in these south-western parts. We will visit the Three Gorges Museum and have some free time before dinner. After dinner. we will board our cruise boat ready for the next morning's departure. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 12: Yangtse Cruise. On this first day of our cruise we get used to the routine of life aboard ship. Meals are generally buffet style taken in the dining room. There are common areas for recreation or you can rest up in your cabin. There will be at least one shore excursion. This is normally to Fengdu, hailed as the "Ghost City". Local tradition has it that all recently deceased pass this way for judgement before their next reincarnation. The guides introduce a series of activities, many of which must have been dreamed up purely for entertainment value. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 13: Yangtse Cruise. We continue downstream with at least one more shore excursion. Usually there will be one to a tributary of the Yangtse by smaller boat. These tributaries were also flooded by the rising waters of the Dam Project and so any boat trip can go much further than before. Some sites are now lost below the water whilst others, such as coffins on the cliffs, have become more accessible. Today is the day that we enter the Three Gorges section.
It is well worth getting comfortable on the viewing deck to take in the magnificent scenery. Stay on deck as we also pass through the Five-stage Ship lock to get below the dam. This record-breaking construction project rarely fails to impress. You would have thought our ship was big until it enters these massive chambers, probably with other ships. Meals:
breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 14: The Three Gorges Dam Project. We have an opportunity to visit the dam site and its small museum before disembarking at Yichang. We have lunch before heading off for our flight to Xi'an. 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 15: Xi'an Sites. This morning we have a guided excursion 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. We then visit the Fine Arts Museum nearby. The afternoon is free. You will have been thoroughly briefed on the options by your guide and can therefore make as much of the day as you want. Taxis are cheap and allow you to visit the sites outside of the city wall easily. Within the city walls you are better off walking. At dinner. everyone can report back on their discoveries. Meals: breakfast, dinner.
Day 16: Terracotta Warriors and on to Beijing. 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 pit. 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. Later we fly to Beijing and check-in to our central hotel. There may be some free time before dinner. and a trip to the Beijing Opera. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 17: Simatai Great Wall. Today we have a full day excursion by private vehicle to the Great Wall of China at Simatai. Simatai is not the closest section of The Great Wall but is one of the most dramatic. The line of deference was chosen to follow the natural mountain barriers but few were as precipitous as at Simatai. We hike up to the wall and then follow it up along the ridge as far as permitted. Eventually the wall narrows and the sides become sheer; the authorities do not want accidents and a guard prevents passage beyond a reasonable point. There is a cable-car for those not feeling energetic on the day. We return to Beijing and, after a chance for a quick freshen-up we head off for a well-deserved Peking Duck dinner. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 18: Free day in Beijing. We include a free day here so that you can enjoy those other sites in Beijing that are top of your list. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are sure to top the list for most people and these can be enjoyed at your own pace. Meals: breakfast.
Day 19: Beijing Sites, then back to Shanghai. We have a full day taking in sites that are best enjoyed with a guide, including some lesser known gems. We visit the Ancient Observatory to the East of the city. This under-rated site contains an eclectic collection of both Chinese and Western astronomical instruments. The Jesuits had a large influence at court for a while, mostly because their instruments and calculations were more accurate. The delight is in seeing western instruments made to Chinese designs: with dragons and other strange beasts forming supports and decorations. The explanations around the site relate traditional beliefs to the scientific phenomena observed. Look out for the Golden Bird covered by a Toad; obviously a solar eclipse.
Later we will head north to Jiaodaokou where a number of interesting sites are congregated. First we will visit the Yonghe Gong Lama Monastery, home to the Panchen Lama when he is in Beijing. Our next stop is just across the way. The Temple of Confucius was once a very important site but is now sadly forgotten. The temple contains some original Yuan Dynasty architecture. Our last scheduled visit is to the very tranquil Imperial Academy where the very best candidates prepared for their government examinations. After dinner. we catch the very comfortable overnight train back to Shanghai. Meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner.
Day 20: Shanghai City Tour. We return to Shanghai and finish with a flurry. You will get a city tour that shows you the city as it is and how it will look in the future. We have a full day city tour. 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.
We have chosen to visit the Longhua Gardens in the afternoon rather than the more famous Yuyuan Gardens so as to avoid the crowds as best we can. 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: lunch, dinner.
Day 21: Journey's end. This journey ends after breakfast. Check-out is usually 12:00 (noon).
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