To experience the east, you must immerse yourself in the many facets of this diverse land. From exploring the Great Wall and everything Beijing has to offer to coming face-to-face with the Terracotta Warriors in Xian. We observe the unique Giant Pandas in their struggle for survival. This is followed by a relaxing cruise through the gorges of the Yangtze River as we make our way to the spectacular engineering feat of the Yangtze River Dam. On our journey towards the vibrant city of Hong Kong we take time to explore the limestone karsts of Yangshuo. China is a country that is modernising quickly yet beneath this new veneer lies an exciting and turbulent past that unfolds before you.
Day 1 - Hong Kong
On arrival in Hong Kong you are transferred by shuttle bus to your hotel. In the early evening you meet your tour leader and other group members at a pre-tour briefing, which is followed by a welcome dinner. If you are a first-time visitor to Hong Kong, it is recommended that you arrive a few days before the tour starts in order to allow yourself enough time to explore this exciting city. It is only a short walk from our hotel, situated on the Kowloon side near Nathan Road, to the waterfront, where you can enjoy the spectacular Sound and Light Show displayed on the skyscrapers of Hong Kong Island, 8:00 to 8:20pm every night.
The Salisbury - YMCA of Hong Kong (until 31st May 2013) Stanford Hotel Mongkok (from 1st June 2013)
Day 2 - Guangzhou
We start a long travelling day by taking a morning boat to Guangzhou, one of the largest cities in China, where a former coastal trading town has given way to a metropolis of gleaming glass skyscrapers. We have a quick look around the city formerly known as Canton, before going to the railway station and boarding our overnight train to Guilin. We travel in ‘soft-class’, four-berth compartments.
Day 3-4 - Yangshuo
After arriving at Guilin Railway Station we transfer to a bus and travel on to Yangshuo, a village a few hours’ drive away. Nestled amongst imposing limestone karst formations, this is a place that has inspired poets and painters for centuries. This small town is a haven for backpackers and here, we stay in a pleasant local hotel. Yangshuo offers a relaxed and intimate atmosphere and is an excellent place to explore by bicycle. We join one of our local friends and spend a few hours riding amongst the wonderful scenery in the surrounding countryside, including Moon Hill, and meeting some of the inhabitants of the nearby villages. After finishing our bike ride we enjoy a home cooked lunch in our friend’s family home. A boat trip on the Li River to the surrounding market town of Fuli is another option to consider in your free time. This is also one of the better places for souvenir shopping, so make the most of it!
Li River Hotel or similar
Day 5-7 - Chengdu - Leshan
We catch a flight to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Sichuan is known for its hot, spicy dishes, considered by the Chinese as the best cuisine within China. In such a food-loving country, that is no mean achievement. A history of trade built on ‘cottage industry’ handicrafts has had a major influence on the development of Chengdu. Recent changes in the regulations in China have seen a revival of this tradition of private industry, and, at almost every turn, you see signs of a thriving market. There is free time to explore the city. There is a large statue of Chairman Mao in the middle of the city and the tranquil Renmin Park is well worth a visit, with its beautiful gardens and interesting teahouses. On a day trip, we travel to Leshan, where we see the world’s largest Buddha, carved into the hillside near the confluence of the Dadu and Min Rivers. A seated figure (as opposed to the ‘standing’ or ‘reclining’ Buddha images found elsewhere), it is a staggering 71 metres high. It is over 1000 years old and took almost 100 years to build. It is not only impressive at close quarters, but can be viewed on a boat from a distance in order to gain a different perspective. One morning we also visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base situated near the city. The giant panda is one of the world’s most endangered species and has become an icon for conservation movements everywhere. It is still found in parts of the Sichuan province, but is very difficult to spot in the wild. In the afternoon we board our train to the city of Chongqing where we spend the night.
Chengdu Garden City Hotel or similar
Day 8 - Dazu - Yangtze River Cruise
This morning we travel by bus to Dazu County, where we visit the remarkable Baoding Shan (Treasured Summit Hill). Here are a series of Buddhist sculptures created between 1179 and 1249. These amazing works of art were created by mystic monks and incorporate many of the natural features of the surrounding hillside. The highlight is a 31-metre long Reclining Buddha. We return to Chongqing where we board our boat to commence a cruise on one of the great rivers of the world. Before boarding, you may wish to purchase some small snacks to take with you on the boat.
Day 9-10 - Yangtze River Cruise
At 6300 kilometres, the Yangtze (also known locally as the Chiangjiang River) is the world’s third longest waterway. It rises deep in the heart of the province of Qinghai, to the north of Tibet, and flows relentlessly eastwards until it empties into the East China Sea near Shanghai. Effectively dividing the country into north and south, the river not only supplies the rural heart of China, but has also spawned many industries reliant upon its power. The Yangtze has also inspired poets, writers and travellers over the centuries. We travel along one of the most picturesque sections, through the renowned Three Gorges. The ‘Sanxia’, as they are known in Chinese, stretch for 200 kilometres and vary from 100 metres to 300 metres in width. We enjoy our cruise on a tourist-class boat between Chongqing and Yichang. This is a much more comfortable way to travel than on the local boats that ply the same route, and offers a fascinating insight into life along the river. We spend three nights on board and sleep in twin share cabins with private facilities in accommodation similar to a small hotel room. Bedding and sheets are provided, as are all meals throughout the cruise. Please note that all rooms on the Yangtze cruise are on a twin share basis. If you are not already sharing a room with someone from your group, you may be required to share with someone (of the same gender) from outside your group. This could be a member of another tour group or a local person. If you have paid a single supplement, please note that this does not cover the cruise.
Breakfast | Lunch | Dinner
Day 11 - Yichang - Wuhan - Xian
After disembarking from our boat, we enjoy a tour of the amazing Three
Gorges Dam. We are then transferred to the airport in Wuhan to catch an early evening flight
City Hotel or similar
Day 12-14 - Xian
Capital of Shaanxi Province and the largest city in northwest China, Xian is a wonderful place to explore. Food options are excellent here, ranging from delicious Muslim fare to great little dumplings in Chinese cafes. Widely regarded as the first capital of a united China in 221 BC, the city is rich in history. A half-day tour to the renowned Terracotta Warriors introduces us to these entombed statues, considered one of the most important archaeological finds of the 20th century. Over 6000 of them were individually sculpted from clay, each having a different costume, height, and even facial expression. They are standing in battle formation, facing east in order to protect the tomb of China's first emperor, the great Qin Shihuang. Peasants digging a well only discovered the underground vault, which was home to this army for two millennia, in 1974. Xian also has a wonderful Muslim Quarter. A free day can easily be spent wandering the narrow streets where we find quaint shops, lively markets, groups of white-bearded men in skull caps sipping tea in cafes, and the Great Mosque, one of the most important in China. We depart Xian on the overnight train bound for Beijing.
City Hotel or similar
Day 15-17 - Beijing
Beijing offers endless opportunities for exploration. The enormous Forbidden City, built more than 500 years ago and off limits to commoners for almost all that time, is a truly amazing place. Its size might surprise you (it is huge!), but what makes it fascinating is that every square metre is interesting, ranging from intricately carved walkways to colourful, painted ceilings. The Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace are other fine examples of extraordinary workmanship. You will visit one of the best-preserved parts of the Great Wall, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall used to serve as the northern barrier defending the capital and the imperial tombs. Being perched on this incredible engineering feat and surveying the spectacular surrounding countryside is an unforgettable experience. There is also ample free time in the itinerary, allowing you to make your own discoveries. Our hotel is located in the south of the city and a walk in any direction will unveil all sorts of wonderful surprises. There are good shopping opportunities at the various markets around the city, such as the centrally located Dashilan Market. In the evening, you have the chance to enjoy a performance of the unique Beijing Opera (optional).
Dong Fang Hotel or similar
Day 18 - Beijing
The tour ends after breakfast. A transfer to the airport is not included, however your tour leader will be on hand to advise you as to the options available.