12 Day China & Hong Kong (2012-2013)
Arrive in Beijing in the afternoon. Meet your local representative and transfer to your hotel. Relax and enjoy the evening in China's historic and vibrant capital city. Traders Hotel Beijing by Shangri-La, or similar 4-star hotel (IM)
Bird Nest, the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
After a hearty breakfast and a tour briefing, you visit the Tiananmen Square. At 100 acres, it is the world's largest public square, flanked by an assortment of historical buildings, huge museums and Communist monuments, including Mao's Mausoleum. One visitor has written, "An army could be massed, and all the kites in the world could fly." You roam the Square; and walk through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, under the famed portrait of Chairman Mao, to enter the Forbidden City, the symbolic center of the Chinese universe and a lasing monument of dynastic China, from which 24 emperors of the Ming and the Qing Dynasties ruled the Middle Kingdom for nearly 500 years (1420-1911).
The Forbidden City
Visit old Beijing's Hutong on pedi-cabs
Completed in 1420, the Forbidden City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is the world's largest palace complex and China's most magnificent imperial architecture, consisting of many buildings with 9,999 rooms, on a 250-acre compound, protected by a 20-foot-wide moat and a 32-foot-high wall. Now known as the Palace Museum, the Forbidden City was the exclusive domain of the imperial court and dignitaries where outside visitors were forbidden for 5 centuries. Here you will explore the imperial treasures in the grand palaces and pavilions, exquisite courtyards and gardens in what was once the residence of China's rulers.
Afterwards, join our Culture InSites™ Program for a rickshaw ride along Old Beijing's Hutongs (narrow ancient alleys) to discover the sights and sounds of local Beijing life in these traditional Chinese neighborhoods. See the locals as they go about their daily activities; and tour the maze-like alleyways and courtyard houses before it's gone forever. Highlights include visits to a traditional courtyard home, to a local market, and a leisure walk along the "Lotus Lane" lined with bars, restaurants and tea houses. This unique tour features a delicious lunch served at a local family home with a Chinese dumpling-making demonstration.
Later, you are at leisure to explore Beijing on your own. In the evening, we are gathering for a welcome dinner of a specially prepared meal of Beijing Duck, cooked to crispy perfection. (B,L,SD)
A memorable day awaits! You will take a full day excursion to the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs and the Great Wall of China.
Visit the "Great Wall" of China
The "Sacred Way" of Ming Tombs
In the morning, you take a drive to the northwest of Beijing to visit the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs, regarded as China's finest example of imperial tomb architecture. En route, enjoy a visit to the jade factory with a presentation and some time for shopping. Situated in a peaceful valley, the Sacred Way was chosen by the Ming emperors as their burial place for its auspicious Fengshui alignment—a ridge of mountains to the north cradles the tombs on three sides, opening to the south and protecting the dead from the evil spirits carried on the north wind. Here you will walk along the elegant Sacred Way that leads to the tombs. Beginning with a grand marble gateway more than 400 years old, the long avenue is lined with 36 massive stone sculptures of officials, lions, elephants, camels and mythical beasts.
After lunch at a local restaurant, you take a scenic drive through the countryside and mountains to reach China's most renowned monument—the Great Wall. The wall was begun in the 5th century BC to keep out foreign invaders. Construction continued for centuries, eventually linking up the walls of the former independent kingdoms. The Great Wall meanders through China's northern mountain ranges from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert—a distance of over 3500 miles! Chairman Mao once said "You haven't walked on the Wall, you haven't been a good Chinese". Today you will have ample time to climb a section of the Great Wall and to get a sense of the enormity of this ancient edifice. (B,L,D)
In the morning, you visit the Temple of Heaven, the largest temple complexes in China and a paradigm of Chinese architectural balance and symbolism. One key element in China's architectural genius was the blending of the monumental with the delicate, and the Temple of Heaven is perhaps the finest expression of this mixing of near opposite.
Hall of Supreme Harmony, Temple of Heaven
The "Summer Palace" for Empress Dowager Cixi"
During each winter solstice, the Ming and Qing emperors would perform rites and make sacrifices to Heaven praying for good harvest for their empire. The most striking edifice is the "Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests", which according to the emperor's Fengshui masters, is the exact point where heaven and Earth met. Built in 1420 (without the use of a single nail), this masterpiece of Ming architecture, features triple eaves, dramatically carved marble balustrades, and gorgeous glazed azure roof that symbolizes the color of heaven. This 120-foot-high structure is fixed by four inner pillars represent the seasons, and two sets of 12 columns denote the months and the traditional Chinese division of a day.
Lunch stop at a pearl factory; afterwards, you tour the idyllic Summer Palace, once the summer retreat and playground for the imperial family and royal court during the late Qing Dynasty. Considered the finest Chinese imperial garden, the Summer Palace spans over 700 acres with breathtaking views, temples, pavilions, palaces and halls including the lavishly painted "Long Corridor". It is most associated, however, with the Empress Dowager Cixi who paid for the extravagant Marble Boat with funds meant for the modernization of the Imperial Navy. Time permits, you take a photo stop at the "Bird Nest" and visit the exterior portion of this huge complex—the main stadium of 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Later, transfer to the airport for a flight to Xian to experience the historical side of your China trip. Located in the Yellow River Basin in China's heartland, Xian is one of the birthplaces of civilization. It has seen 3,100 years of development and 11 dynasties, giving it equal fame with Athens, Rome and Cairo as one of the four major ancient civilization capitals. Xian reached its peak during the Tang Dynasty at 10th century with a population of one million and is rich with cultural and historical significances. Xian Grand Noble Hotel (B,L,IM)
Today's excursion will take you to modern China's greatest archaeological discovery – The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, which silently guarded the tomb of China's First Emperor for over 2,200 years. In 1974, a local farmer uncovered the first of three massive earth and timber vaults, while digging a well. The extensive excavation, still in progress, has yielded over 6000 life-sized terra cotta warriors, each individually sculpted, with the physical characteristics of the humans they were modeled after. Archers, infantrymen, horses and bronze chariots have also been unearthed. A Circle Vision documentary is available on site. Lunch at a local restaurant and see a noodle making demonstration.
6,000 Terra-cotta Warriors in Xian
Tang Dynasty stage show
Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), traditionally regarded as the golden age of China, was a time of patricians and intellectuals, Buddhist monks and Taoist priests, poetry and music, song and dance – a period of peace and exceptional creativity lasting 300 years. This evening, you attend a feast of culinary and cultural delights with a special Dumpling (dim sum) banquet followed by a fascinating Tang Dynasty stage show. Indulge yourself in this remarkable show and reinvent your China dream with a travel back in time to the world of China's Golden Age, then come back to the present with a greater understanding of this amazing time. (B,L,SD)
In the morning, you tour the Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark. This seven-story pagoda was initially constructed in 652 AD to house the Buddhist sutras brought back from India by the monk, Xuan Zang, who later translated them into Chinese. His pilgrimage to India is immortalized in the Chinese classic – The Journey to the West.
The Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark
The Bund, a landmark of Shanghai
Afterwards, you are transferred to the airport for a flight to Shanghai, China's vibrant financial and artistic center. Shanghai, literally means "above the sea", is China's largest and most dynamic city, with a population of 18 million. In the 13th century it became a minor county seat and so it remained until the mid-19th century when British commercial ambitions led to war with China. The ensuing Treaty of Nanking allowed the British to trade freely from certain ports including Shanghai. The city soon became an outpost of glamour, high living, and ultimately decadence. In the 1930s, Shanghai is renowned as "the Pearl of the East".
Some places are forever associated with a single landmark and in the case of Shanghai it is surely the Bund. Today, you take a leisure walk along the waterfront promenade of the Bund. The Bund was at the heart of colonial shanghai, flanked on one side by the Huangpu River and on the other by the hotels, banks, offices, and clubs that were the grandiose symbols of western commercial power. See the ships and barges on the Huangpu River, en route to the sea or going upstream to the interior of China. The modernistic Oriental Pearl TV tower looms in the background redefining the skyline. You visit the Oriental Pearl Tower, for a 360-degree, bird's eye view of the city. Later, you tour Shanghai Municipal Wax Museum to learn the history of this magnificent city. Dinner tonight is followed by an unforgettable performance of the Shanghai Acrobats. Shanghai Ocean Hotel (B,IM,D)
In the morning you travel by motor-coach to Suzhou, which is often referred, by the Chinese, as the "Venice of the East" Suzhou is a 2,500-year-old city renowned the world over for its traditional gardens, ancient canals and silk production. In 1997 Suzhou's classic garden was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pavilion of Watching the Moon, Master of Net Garden
Canals, arched bridges, and cobbled lanes at Tongli
The construction of the Grand Canal in the 7th century created a means whereby silk, the prized commodity from this region could be transported to the Northern capital, Beijing, a distance of over 600 miles. With prosperity came prestige as merchants and artisans plied their trade. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Suzhou flourished as a place of refinement, drawing an influx of scholars and merchants, who built themselves numerous elegant gardens.
The Chinese garden developed as a synthesis of two concepts linked in Taoist philosophy - scenery and serenity: the contemplation of nature in isolated meditation led to enlightenment. Therefore, the educated and wealthy built natural-looking retreats for themselves with an urban environment. The garden creates poetic and painterly concepts, and aims to improve on nature in creating a picture that looks natural but is in fact entirely artificial. For this the Chinese garden designer used four main elements: rocks, water, plants, and architecture.
Upon arrival, you visit the Garden of the Master of Fishing Nets, and experience all of the elements of a classical Chinese garden. It is said that the Master of the Nets Garden was named after one of its owners - a retired official who wished to become an accomplished fisherman. Dating to 1140, it is considered by many, the finest of all Suzhou's gardens. Although exceptional small, it succeeds, with great subtlety, in introducing every element considered crucial to the classical Chinese garden. It includes a central lake, discreet connecting corridors, pavilions with miniature courtyards, screens, delicate latticework, and above all, points which "frame a view", as if looking at a perfectly balanced photograph. The best known building is the "Pavilion for Watching the Moon", from where the moon can be viewed in a mirror, in the water, and in the sky.
Later, you tour the Silk Spinning Mill, where you will learn how silk is created from the mulberry-munching silkworms to produce thread and fine cloth. Afterwards, you travel to Tongli, a pretty little water town typical of the region. Tongli gives visitors a good idea of what Suzhou must have been like in its heyday. Reminiscent of scenes from traditional Chinese paintings, it is complete with canals, arched stone bridges, cobbled lanes, and tile-roofed wooden houses. Visit a courtyard mansion to learn about the lavish life style of its residents. Then, learn about traditional Chinese wedding customs at a local folklore museum. Take an exciting ride on a gondola and experience the charm of Tongli's waterways. You will have free time to browse and buy some local specialties along Old Street, which is lined with Ming style homes and storefronts. In the late afternoon, you travel by motor coach to Shanghai and enjoy your evening at leisure. (B,L,D)
Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore Shanghai on your own. Your tour guide is standby to assist you with the tour information you may need about Shanghai's hidden treasures, eating, playing and shopping. For your convenience, group transportation can be arranged at a very reasonable rate. Or, join our optional day tour to Shanghai's many famous sites, attractions and shopping.
Yu Garden Bazarr
Nanjing Road is bargain shoppers' paradise
Optional Excursion: Begin your tour in the heart of old Shanghai at the 16th century city bazaar. This complex, with its classical architectural details, maze of walkways and reflecting pools, has been a marketplace and social center for the locals in the past 200 years. Afterwards, we visit the Jade Buddha Temple, which houses two exceptional Buddha statues, each exquisitely carved from a single piece of white jade. Built in the Song-dynasty style, the temples architectural design is also very impressive—with sharply curved eaves and figurines on the roof.
Continue to the People's Square, the center of life in today's Shanghai, where you will see Shanghai's many predominant architectural masterpieces: the Shanghai Grand Theater, MOCA Shanghai, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai Art Museum, and Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall, which traces the huge urban development projects which have taken place in recent years, with a whole floor dedicated to a scale model of Shanghai, showing all existing and approved buildings.
Tour the famed Shanghai Museum, an unique and inspiring piece of architecture, home to more than 120,000 cultural relics of ancient China, including a priceless collection of jade, bronze, ceramics, paintings, furniture, etc. Later, you are at leisure to explore and shop at Nanjing Road's emporiums. Shanghai is well known as bargain shopper's paradise. Today, you will find out why.
Your optional tour concludes with an exciting evening cruise on the Huangpu River, offering you an opportunity to see many of Shanghai's famous sites, from the Bund, a relic of Shanghai's golden age, to the dramatic skyline of the futurist Pudong. ($50 per person, including a private, escorted tour, entrance fees, a lunch, and transportation) (B)
Bid farewell to Shanghai as you are transferred to the airport for a flight to cosmopolitan Hong Kong, a fascinating city of contrasts—a place where East meets West. Ranked as world's freest economy since 1970, Hong Kong is China's dynamic financial center and home of the world's busiest port. The ex-British colony is known as the "Pearl of the Orient" with its cultural diversity and serves as a major gateway to mainland China.
Take tram to Victoria Peak, the summit of HK Island
Victoria Harbour at night
Upon arrival, meet your local representative and visit Victoria Peak, the summit of the Island and home to Hong Kong's elite. Take the original tram to the summit and get a bird-eye view of the magnificent skyline of the Victoria Harbor, where ferries and pleasure junks glide by. At night, this scene is transformed into a spectacle of lights.
Your tour continues to the nearby floating village of Aberdeen, where a 20-mintues optional cruise ($8 per person) is available to bring you an up-close look at the disappearing fishing community before this area is abolished and becomes a distant memory. Thousands of people still live on the junks and sampans in the harbor. Their traditional lifestyle is in sharp contrast to the modern life style of those living in the high-rise communities that hugs the nearby hillsides. Later, you have some free time to shop at the Stanley Market and see where Hong Kong plays and prays as you visit the beach of shrine-dotted Repulse Bay.
Afterwards, transfer to your hotel for check-in. Your hotel is centrally located in the bustling heart of Kowloon, near the scenic Victoria Harbor and the "Golden Mile", Hong Kong's famous shopping district. Enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure for independent exploration. Royal Pacific Hotel Hong Kong (B)
Hong Kong is bargain shopper's Mecca. And the prime location of your hotel offers everything you possibly need from shopping, dining, entertaining, touring etc. Enjoy your free day to explore this vibrant and fascinating cosmopolitan independently.
Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong is shoppers` paradise
There's no better way to acquaint yourself with Hong Kong than to ride the cheapest cruise in China. The century-old green-and-white Star ferries weave between tugs, junks, and ocean-going vessels in a 5-minute harbor crossing to Hong Kong Island. In the evening, you can enjoy the spectacular show of "A Symphony of Lights". The show is awarded the world's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show by Guinness World Records, a nightly spectacle which combines interactive lights of 33 key buildings on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon with musical effects to showcase the enchanting night view of the Victoria Harbor.
If you like, you can also take a vacation from your vacation with an optional tour to Macau and experience the uniqueness of this former Portuguese colony, which is an hour's turbojet ride from Hong Kong. Macau was first settled by Portuguese merchants and Jesuits in the 1500s. The Jesuits were ousted in the 1800s, but the Portuguese remained in control until 1999, when the colony was handed back to China. Often referred to as the "Monte Carlo of the Orient", 24 hour gambling is Macau's major draw, as well as its unique cuisine and its quaint European ambience. Meet your local representative upon arrival. Visit the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral, once a powerful presence. The crumbling facade is all that remains. Tour the beautifully tiled Largo do Senado, the main public square, an area of fountains, colonnades, and stately Portuguese architecture. Visit the A-Ma Temple, dedicated to the goddess of the sea, and for whom Macau was named. The temple is over 500 years old. After an included lunch, you will have the chance to go to the Casino Lisboa, Macau's largest casino. Take the turbojet back to Hong Kong and transfer to your hotel. (B)