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12 Day The Middle Kingdom (2013)


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
The Forbidden City

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.

Lunch stop at a local jade workshop, afterwards, 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 trip.      (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 enjoy 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.      Sheraton Xian North City  (B,L,IM)     

 
 
Day 6 Xian
The Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark
The Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark

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. Time permitting, you'll also enjoy a chance to shop for ancient Chinese furniture or paintings.

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)     

 
 
Day 7 Xian – Hangzhou
Cruise on the West Lake
Cruise on the West Lake
In the morning, you fly to Hangzhou, one of China's premier tourist destinations. An old Chinese saying states, "In heaven above there is Paradise, on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou". Hangzhou and its West Lake have been the inspiration for poets and artists for centuries. Besides silk, the region is also a major producer of tea. Renowned in medieval China as an earthly paradise, Hangzhou became the splendid capital of China of the Southern Song dynasty between 1138 and 1279. The capital flourished and its glories were extolled by Marco Polo, who visited Hangzhou at the height of its prosperity and described it as "the city of Heaven, the most magnificent in all the world".

After lunch, take a cruise on the picturesque West Lake, which is said to be created from a pearl dropped by a phoenix and a dragon, and proclaimed by the Chinese "the landscape composed by a painter". Stroll along the lake's causeways and immerse yourself in its beauty. You also visit the famed "Broken Bridge" to marvel at the Golden Fishes. No tour to Hangzhou is complete without going to the world renowned Dragon Well Tea Plantation, where the legendary green tea is picked and processed by hand. The first picked tea leaves of the new harvest were once reserved solely for the Emperor and transported to him via the Grand Canal. You will learn about the harvesting, as well as the proper way to brew this healthful beverage. The Chinese Tea Ceremony will be demonstrated. Sample the freshness of the tea. Appreciate its "green color, smooth appearance, fragrant aroma and sweet taste.      West Lake Golden Plaza  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 8 Hangzhou – Suzhou
Pavilion of Watching the Moon, Master of Net Garden
Pavilion of Watching the Moon, Master of Net Garden
In the morning you tour the "Old Street" with Ming & Qing houses and stone cobbled lanes, where you visit the Chinese Herb Museum, a rare opportunity to know China traditional herb and medication. After lunch, 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.

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. Your hotel is centrally located in the quaint old city, within walking distance of art studios, silk shops, tea houses and handicraft stores.      Garden Hotel Suzhou  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 9 Suzhou – Shanghai
Suzhou gardens and canals
Suzhou's gardens and canals

Evening walk on the waterfront Bund
Evening walk on the waterfront Bund
In the morning, you take a cruise on the Grand Canal to view the life along China's golden waterway in its heydays. 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. Marco Polo once reported that so much precious silk was produced in Suzhou that every citizen was clothed in it.

Afterwards, you travel by motor coach 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".      Sheraton Shanghai Hongkou  (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 10 Shanghai
Shanghai
Shanghai bustling Yu Garden bazaar

Jinmao Tower & Pudong new skyline
Jinmao Tower & Pudong'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.      (B,L,D)     

 
 
Day 11 Shanghai
Nanjing Road is bargain shoppers paradise
Nanjing Road is bargain shoppers' paradise
Enjoy a full day at leisure 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 12 Journey Home
Take maglev train to Pudong Internaitonal Airport
Take maglev train to Pudong Internaitonal Airport
Bid farewell to Shanghai as you 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 covers the 20 mile distance in less than 8 minutes! *Maglev train ride is only available to Shanghai Pudong Airport (PVG) and does not work for flight schedule to New York.      (B)     

 
Air China Flight Schedule
A Chinese Poem for The Middle Kingdom China Tour