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22 Day China's Ever Changing Faces (2012)


Tour Itinerary


Day 1 Depart USA
Board Air China non-stop flight to Beijing
Board Air China non-stop flight to Beijing
Your exotic journey to China begins as you board China's national airline, Air China non-stop flight bound for Beijing. En route, cross the International Dateline and lose a day. You'll recover this day on your return trip.      (IM)     

 


Air China Flight Schedule
 
Day 2 Beijing
Bird Nest, the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
Bird Nest, the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
Arrive in Beijing in the late afternoon. Meet your local representative and transfer to your hotel in the heart of Beijing. Your hotel is conveniently located near the Chang An Avenue, along which are Beijing's major shopping malls, upscale restaurants, and tourist attractions. Relax and enjoy the evening in China's historic and vibrant capital city.      Marriott Beijing City Wall   
 
Day 3 Beijing
The Forbidden City, also known as Palace Museum
The Forbidden City, also known as Palace Museum

Visit old Beijing Hutong on pedi-cabs
Visit old Beijing's Hutong on pedi-cabs
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).

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.

Return to your hotel for some free time in the afternoon. 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)     

 
 
Day 4 Beijing
The "Sacred Way" of Ming Tombs
The "Sacred Way" of Ming Tombs

The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu section
The Great Wall of China at Mutianyu section
A memorable day awaits with an excursion to the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs and the Great Wall of China at the less-visited Mutianyu section.

After breakfast, 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. Situated in a peaceful valley, the site 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. Since the Great Wall is the single greatest attraction of China travel, we take you to the less-visited and more "original" Mutianyu section and try to avoid other sections which are the most accessible and consequently the most crowded.

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".

And today, you'll not only visit the Great Wall, but experience it in more ways than one—Learning some of the fascinating history and legend of this engineering marvel, riding a gondola up to the highest point for panoramic views of this ancient edifice, exploring its impressive watchtowers, ramparts, carriageways at your own pace, or, hoping on a toboggan for an exciting ride down the curvy path...today is a highlight of your China vacation.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 5 Beijing - Xian
"Hall of Supreme Harmony", Temple of Heaven
"Hall of Supreme Harmony", Temple of Heaven

The "Summer Palace" for Empress Dowager Cixi
The "Summer Palace" for Empress Dowager Cixi
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.

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.

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. In the afternoon, 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. Weather permitting you can take a Dragon boat ride across the picturesque Kunming Lake.

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,D)     

 
 
Day 6 Xian
6,000 Terra-cotta warriors and horses
6,000 Terra-cotta warriors and horses

Tang Dynasty stage show
Tang Dynasty stage show
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.

In the afternoon, 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.

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) 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)     

 
 
Day 7 Xian - Chengdu
Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang landmark
Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang landmark

Eating in Chengdu is a serious business
Eating in Chengdu is a serious business
Fly to Chengdu, the capital city of China's most populous Sichuan (Literally, Four Rivers) Province and home to China's most notable Sichuan cuisine. With 2,500 years history, Chengdu has managed to preserve some of its older characteristics and traditions, and today you still find famous teahouses, numerous markets and some of China's the most interesting and spicy food. No visit is complete without a meal in a local Sichuan restaurant. The cuisine is spicy, and peppercorns and chilies abound, but often in a surprisingly subtle way. Whether it's hotpot, meat or a vegetable dish, your mouth will water and your taste buds tingle with delight.

Chengdu has long been famous for its steamy teahouses, where locals recline on bamboo armchairs, play mahjong and meet with friends. For a relaxing afternoon with our exclusive Culture InSites™ Program, you sample a Sichuan style afternoon tea with locals in one of the many traditional bamboo teahouses scattered in parks across the city. You can while away an afternoon sipping tea and watching the locals read newspapers, play Sichuan opera, debate, play chess, cards, and mahjong. You may even be invited to give it a try yourself. Chengdu is commonly regarded as the most laid back city in China and today's visit gives you the answer why. This unique experience concludes at the Park of Riverview Pavilion set along the river. Check out the ancient Chongli Pavilion dedicated to the 9th century poetess Xue Tao with its striking ornaments, green glazed tiles and red lacquered columns, surrounded by over one hundred varieties of bamboo. A leisure walk in the serene bamboo forest in an experience not to be missed.

After dinner, you will be offered an opportunity to attend an optional performance of "Changing faces" at the 200-year-old Sichuan Opera. Full of local color and flavor, Sichuan Opera, is a combination of music, comedy, puppets and acrobatic performances, including Changing Face, Spitting Fire and Bowl-lamp Rolling. The opera is performed in old halls or courtyard buildings and is a feast for the eyes.      Chengdu Minshan Hotel  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 8 Chengdu - Lijiang
Visit Giant Panda Breeding Center
Visit Giant Panda Breeding Center

The Grand Buddha at Leshan
The Grand Buddha at Leshan
In the morning, you enjoy a rare opportunity to visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Center to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endangered species. The center is the largest giant panda reserve in the world. Whenever China dispatches its animal ambassadors to zoos around the world, they have usually started their life in Chengdu. Eighty percent of the world's 1,000 remaining giant panda reside in Sichuan Province. It's no surprise the Chengdu center is heavily involved in their preservation and research. Today you will see a dozen of pandas wandering through a sizable domain of bamboo groves and forest. There is also a panda museum that has detailed exhibitions on panda evolution, habits, habitats and conservation efforts. You are also allowed to make intimate contact with baby pandas and hug them for a photo. Giant Panda is officially considered "National Treasure" by Chinese government and is often used to cultivate relationships with other countries with "Panda Diplomacy". This massive ecological and zoological park offers a wonderful chance to get face-to-face with China's gentle giants. There are other rare species at the base, including the little-known red panda.

A Chinese saying goes "Buddha is a mountain, mountain is a Buddha". Leshan is the home of Dafo-the Grand Buddha, who recently celebrated his 1,200th birthday. Today, you take a scenic drive to visit the Grand Buddha in Le Shan, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The enormous 230-feet Buddha is carved into the red sandstone face of Lingyun Hill overlooking the treacherous confluence of three rivers in southwest Sichuan. A monk, Haitong, decided to safeguard passing boats by creating a protective icon in the cliffs. Building began in 713 AD and was completed 90 years later. This is the tallest stone Buddha statue in the world. You take a short boat trip to get an overall view of the statue from the river.

In the evening, you return to Chengdu and board a flight to China's southwest wonderland, Yunnan Province. Yunnan, (means "South of the Clouds") situated high up on the Yungui Plateau, is overlooked to the north by the roof of the world - Tibet. The jungles of Myanmar encroach from the west, while the flavors of Laos and Vietnam spill over from the south. The province's sheltered relief endows it with clement weather in both winter and summer; Yunnan is a world of a magnificent patch work of minority cultures stitched into a lush and dreamy landscape. The southwest's secret lies with its unique combination of geography and ethnic culture, and Lijiang is known in China as the "Shangri-la".      Lijiang Wang Fu Hotel  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 9 Lijiang
Lijiang signature landscape
Lijiang's signature landscape

Kids of minority groups
Kids of minority groups
Lijiang, related to China's Shangri-la, served, for centuries, as the capital of the mountain kingdom of the Naxi, an indigenous people whose origin is a mystery, whose language and way of life are unique, whose rulers are women rather than men. Untouched by any civilizations, Lijiang was the equivalent on Earth of the Western Paradise evoked in Buddhist scriptures.

You tour the Old Town of Lijiang - a maze of traditional Naxi architecture, in a valley sheltered by rugged ridges, right at foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain whose peaks tower over 18,000 ft. The Old Town is shophouses, market squares, cobbled lanes, canals and arched bridges. Stroll through the Old Market Square and then visit the Black Dragon Pool with the superb vistas of the nearby Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. You tour the Baisha Naxi village for a visit to its religious frescoes. Later, visit the Dongba Museum that holds a remarkable collection of Naxi relics and cultural display. After dinner, you enjoy the timeless Naxi music at a traditional Naxi Folk Music Orchestra Performance. Naxi people developed unique written records and pictographs to pass their culture from generation to generation, tonight you discover the essence of this ancient culture.

The Old Town is a marvel at night, when the Chinese roofs in the new Lijiang city are festooned with lights and sparkle against the evening sky; the old quarter is a dreamscape of dark cobbled streets, gushing canals and paths trailing away from the main street. Wooden doors are thrown open to reveal the cozy interior of Naxi homes. All these remind you of the surreal Shangri-la when you are lost among the cobblestone streets and alleys of the small old town, with its icy, fast-flowing stream and charming arched bridges...      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 10 Lijiang - Dali
Take a scenic motor coach ride to Dali, passing the lush, flower-laden grassland, rice terraces, and snow capped mountains. Stop en route to visit a Xizhou Ethnic Minority Village and a "Bai" minority bazaar, where you relax and sip a "Three Course Tea"; enjoy the singing and dancing show performed by local "Bai" people; and shop the famed wax-print souvenirs and other ethnic handicrafts.

Dali is a wonderful lakeside town considered by many one of the loveliest places in all of China. It is located at the crossroads to Burma and Tibet with an exquisite setting, pinched in a narrow band between a lake of Erhai and a snowcapped mountain range of Cang Mountains. Dali was the capital of an indigenous minority kingdom, for centuries independent of Chinese control. Today Dali is an antique village, home to the Bai minority.      Dali Gurong Hotel  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 11 Dali
Three Pagoda
Three Pagoda
Visit the Bai Minority State Museum to learn the history and custom of this ethnic group. Then stroll through the bustling bazaar to the Old Town. Tour the South Gate Tower to the old city and enjoy a complete view of the town, the nearest mountains, and the Erhai Lake heading north. Lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, visit the Three Pagodas - Dali's most famous historic landmark, at the foot of the 10th peak of the Cang Mountain range. Admire the beauty of the brick towers and their setting against the snowcapped peaks of Cang Mountains - these 19 peaks (10,000 ft - 13,000 ft) high form a screen of stone and snow paralleling the city walls of Dali and the shores of mile-wide Erhai Lake. Unpaved roads and trails run straight up the mountain from downtown Dali. Then enjoy a boat cruise on the scenic Erhai Lake. Later visit a living Catholic church complete with Chinese decorations - influences of the West reached here in late Qing Dynasty. After dinner stroll on the shopping street in the old town or enjoy a relaxing time at a local cafe.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 12 Kunming
Stone Forrest
Stone Forrest

The minority groups in Yunnan
The minority groups in Yunnan
After breakfast, you fly to Kunming, the capital city of Yunan Province. Kunming and Yunnan is a world of a magnificent patch work of minority cultures stitched into a lush and dreamy landscape. Kunming is known as China's "City of eternal Spring".

Upon arrival, you travel to the Stone Forrest, a myriad of pinnacles of limestone formed some 270 million years ago. This geological wonder is composed of closely knit outcrops of dark gray limestone karst that have weathered into various shapes since their formation beneath the sea. Their twisted and shattered forms have been given names to describe their resemblances to animals and people (e.g., Buddha Stone and Rhinoceros Gazing at the Moon). The journey to the "forest" is as beautiful as the landscape that surrounds it. Scatted around the Stone Forrest are villages populated by local Yi minority. Visit a Sani minority village and admire their colorful ethnic dress and unique life style. This evening, you enjoy a local flavor dinner-Cross-bridge Noodles and Steampot Chicken.      Kunming Golden Eagle Hotel  (B,L,SD)     

 
 
Day 13 Kunming - Guilin
Guilin inspiring sceneries
Guilin's inspiring sceneries
In the morning, you take a leisure walk to visit Kunming's well-known Flowers and Birds market.

Afterwards, you fly to Guilin and indulge yourself in China's most amazing natural landscapes. Guilin is celebrated for its picturesque karst limestone pinnacles and meandering Li River. An old Chinese saying describes Guilin's landscape as "the best scenery under heaven". Its misty limestone peaks "rise as suddenly from the earth as trees in a forest, and surrounding the city like mountains floating in an imaginary sea". Meet your local representative and transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city.      Sheraton Guilin Hotel  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 14 Guilin
Cruise the Li River and soak in its natural beauty
Cruise the Li River and soak in its natural beauty

Guilin landmark Li River and limestone peaks
Guilin's landmark Li River and limestone peaks
A beautiful day waits! You take a scenic motor coach ride through the countryside, past lush green fields and rice paddies. Arrive at a local village and embark on a memorable Li River cruise. The 40-mile trip has countless twists and turns. The scenery is reminiscent of classical Chinese landscapes - bamboo groves, sleepy villages, fishermen on bamboo rafts, cormorants, water buffalo, soaring karst pinnacles and mist shrouded peaks... your cruise concludes at the famed Yangshuo, a small town, amidst a haunting and surreal setting.

Enjoy a free afternoon to explore this fascinating town on your own. You may rent a tuk-tuk to visit local farmers' fields and homes, or take a bicycle to the Moon Hill. Yangshuo's landscape of limestone hills, rice fields and lazy rivers is the very image of rural China. Taking a bike through this much-painted landscape provides a great way to experience the dramatic countryside, ancient villages and bustling local markets in a very personal way. Later, you travel by motor coach back to Guilin.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 15 Chongqing - Yangtze Cruise
In the morning, we take a leisure walking tour along the Li River to enjoy Guilin's beautiful natural scenery, and see the real life of local people. You may also enjoy some down-time exploring Guilin on your own.

After lunch, you fly to Chongqing, one of China's largest cities with a population of over 30 million. During WWII, Chongqing was China's wartime capital. U.S. General Stillwell was the Commander of the US Forces here and the "Flying Tigers" was also based in Chongqing.

Later, you board China's official 5-star cruiser (with private balcony) to start your memorable 3-night cruise down the Yangtze River. Settle into your cabin and check out the numerous amenities on board. The Yangtze River originates on the Tibetan Plateau and traverses a distance of 3900 miles before flowing into the East China Sea, near Shanghai. It is the third longest river in the world, after the Amazon and the Nile. With over 700 tributaries, the Yangtze River has been the lifeline and major commercial thoroughfare in China for millennia.      M.V. President Prime  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 16 Yangtze Cruise
Qutang Gorge, the shortest and narrowest of 3 Gorges
Qutang Gorge, the shortest and narrowest of 3 Gorges
Your cruiser sets sail early in the morning and later stops at Fengdu. You then take a shore excursion to explore China's city of Ghosts, where all souls are said to return here to accept final judgments after their death. You visit temples and shrines dedicated to the gods of the underworld and other landmarks including "Ghost Torturing Pass, Last-glance-at-home Tower, and Nothing-to-be-done Bridge.

Back onboard in the afternoon; your cruise continues and enters Qutang Gorge - the shortest, narrowest and probably the most fascinating of the three, noted for its fantastic scenery resembling an elegant Chinese painted scroll. Tonight is Captain's welcome banquet.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 17 Yangtze Cruise
Cruise "Lesser Three Gorges" on "peapod" boat
Cruise "Lesser Three Gorges" on "peapod" boat

Twelve misty peaks of Wu Gorges
Twelve misty peaks of Wu Gorges
Another day of incredible views awaits you upon entering Wu Gorge. The softly layered peaks form a surreal backdrop as the ship courses through the rugged canyons. So sheer are the cliffs that it is said the sun rarely penetrates. Wu Gorge, celebrated for its twelve misty peaks soaring above, has been the inspiration of Chinese painters and poets throughout the centuries. The most famous is Goddess Peak, which resembles the figure of a maiden kneeling in front of a pillar. She is believed to be the embodiment of Yao Ji, the 23rd daughter of the Queen Mother of the West. Yao Ji, accompanied by 11 fairy handmaidens, was sent to oversee the Jade Pool of the Western Heaven, and end up staying there to protect the boats from the dangerous rapids. These 12 maidens became the 12 sentinel peaks of Wu Gorge.

You then change to the "peapod" boat for a trip up the crystal-clear Daning River through its magnificent Lesser Three Gorges to experience the excitement and awe of bygone days of river travel in China. Notice the ruins of the ancient plank road along the cliff face as well as the coffins of the Ba people suspended from the cliffs above. The contrasting heights of these gorges and the narrowness of the river make this area one of the most dramatic scenes in the world. Tonight you have a dinner featuring local cuisine and enjoy onboard entertainment.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 18 Three Gorges Dam - Shanghai
  Enter Xiling Gorge
Enter Xiling Gorge

Visit "Three Gorges Dam" construction sites      "
Visit "Three Gorges Dam" construction sites
Your memorable cruise continues as you enter the spectacular Xiling Gorge. Choose your vantage point as the ship transits the five stage shiplocks, the largest shiplock in the world. Your cruiser makes a brief stop at Sandouping, the site of modern China's most ambitious engineering project - the construction of the Three Gorges Dam and Hydroelectric Power Plant. View the current phase of this 17 year project. When completed, the dam will be 610 feet high and over a mile wide. The hydroelectrical power plant will be driven by the world's largest turbines and have the generating capacity of 18 nuclear power plants. A reservoir 372 miles long will be created, with the end result of displacing 1.5 million people, submerging 1000s of their towns and villages and wiping out numerous archaeological sites. Whole cities have been relocated, precious topsoil brought to higher elevations and centuries-old lifestyles altered forever.

Disembark at Yichang, the terminus of your memorable Yangtze cruise, you board 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". Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the evening at leisure.      Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 19 Shanghai
Bund, the symbol of Shanghai
Bund, the symbol of Shanghai

Shanghai new skyline
Shanghai's new skyline
Some places are forever associated with a single landmark and in the case of Shanghai it is surely the Bund. After breakfast, 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.

In 1949, the communist took over and Shanghai was stripped of its grandeur. In 1990, the Pudong area across the river from the Bund was declared as a special economic zone, and a revival started for the city. Today we take you to futurist Pudong New Developing Area. Transformed from once fertile farmland, this new area is rapidly becoming the symbol of modern China with its clusters of shinning metal and glass skyscrapers of world class hotels, international financial institutions, and commercial centers towered above the Huangpu River. Later you visit to the 88th floor of the Jinmao Tower, the third tallest building in China. At 1,380 feet, it is the world's fifth tallest building, as well as home to the world's tallest hotel - the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. From its lofty platform, you enjoy a stunning view of Shanghai.

Afterwards, you visit People's Square and 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. After dinner, you attend an unforgettable performance of the Shanghai Acrobats.

Later, we drop you at the Xin Tian Di for a leisure and romantic night. Literally means "New Heaven Earth", it is Shanghai's trendiest lifestyle destination. This 2-block complex of high-end restaurants (some of Shanghai's best), bars, shops, and entertainment facilities, mostly lodged in refurbished traditional Shanghainese shikumen (stone-frame) housing, is the first phase of the Taiping Qiao Project, an urban renewal project. Busloads of domestic Chinese tourists traipse through in the evenings, Western visitors feel like they've never left home, and hip young Shanghainese flood here to enjoy the good life they feel they're due.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 20 Suzhou & Tongli
Pavilion of Watching the Moon, Master of Net Garden
Pavilion of Watching the Moon, Master of Net Garden

Canals, arched bridges, and cobbled lanes at Tongli
Canals, arched bridges, and cobbled lanes at Tongli
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.

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)     

 
 
Day 21 Shanghai
Nanjing Road, bargain shoppers
Nanjing Road, bargain shoppers' paradise
Today is at leisure for you to explore this magnificent city on your own.

You will be provided with a specially prepared orientation list. Stroll through the Old Shanghai bazaar, shop at Nanjing Road's emporiums, or enjoy a nostalgic evening performance by the renowned senior citizen's Jazz band at the Peace Hotel.      (B)     

 
 
Day 22 Journey home
Take maglev train to Pudong International Airport
Take maglev train to Pudong International Airport
After breakfast, board the Maglev, the world's fastest magnetic levitation train, for your trip to the Pudong International Airport. The Maglev travels at a speed of 287mph and will cover the 20 mile distance in less than 8 minutes! * Maglev is available for San Francisco departures only.      (B)     

 
Air China Flight Schedule
A Chinese poem for your Yangtze Cruise tours to China