Day 3: Beijing
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.
Day 5: Beijing – Xian
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.
Xian Grand Noble Hotel (B,L)
Day 9: Suzhou – Shanghai
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.
Lunch at a local restaurant, followed by a visit to 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 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. 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, China's vibrant financial and artistic center.
Shanghai JC Mandarin (B,L)
Day 10: Shanghai
Shanghai, literally means "above the sea", is China's largest and most dynamic city, with a population of 23 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. 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.
Later, you take a leisure walk at Xin Tian Di. 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.
Dinner tonight is followed by an unforgettable performance of the Shanghai Acrobats.
Day 11: Shanghai
Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore Shanghai on your own. Your tour guide will 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.
: 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 temple's 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. You visit 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 dinner, evening cruise and transportation)
Tour Fare: Fares are in U.S. funds, per person, based on double occupancy.
Additional Costs: China visa processing fee, add-on airfare from your home city to Air China gateway (SFO or JFK) where applicable, optional travel insurance is additional to the tour fare. The gratuities of $10 per traveler per travel day to cover your tour guides, drivers, and porters are recommended and are at your discretion.
Houston Departure: Air China flight from Houston (IAH) to Beijing arrives at 5:00 am on Day 2. Since the universal hotel check-in time is 2:00 pm, you cannot check-in until afternoon; breakfast on Day 2 is not included. But you can leave your baggage at the hotel and claim it when check-in later. We strongly recommend that you buy a pre-arrival hotel stay on Day 1 which is $100 double occupancy / $140 triple occupancy per room night including buffet breakfast on Day 2 (Nov 2014 - Mar 2015) or $120 double occupancy / $160 triple occupancy per room per night including buffet breakfast on Day 2 (Apr - Oct 2015). By doing so, you can check-in as soon as you arrive in your hotel. Pre-trip hotel booking must be arranged when you book the tour and is subject to availability.
Special Promotion: Due to the popularity of this China package tour, we can only confirm your tour reservation based on the order in which we receive your deposit payment. This promotion tour features limited inventory of group seats on blocked Air China flights. Air and tour booking must be closed 60 days prior to travel date. The tour fare is subject to change and will be assessed and adjusted at the middle and the end of each month.
Cash Discount Rate: A $200 per person deposit is required to secure a reservation and is payable by credit card or personal check. To take advantage of the cash discount rate, you must pay the balance due by personal check or money order. The balance payment is due 75 days prior to the departure date. The cash discount is not affected by how you pay the initial deposit.
Unless otherwise stated you will be billed for the "Cash Discount Rate" as specified in your tour invoice. The credit card payment adds $100 on top of "Cash Discount Rate" per person. Please contact us at least one week prior to the balance payment due date if you would like to make the balance payment by a credit card, by doing so you are NOT eligible for the cash discount rate.
Flight Routing: Air inclusive packages with non-stop flights from San Francisco (flight duration 12 hours), Los Angeles (flight duration 12 ½ hours), Houston (14 ½) or New York JFK (flight duration 13 ½ hours) to Beijing, which is Air China's hub. On the return day, you will be flying from Shanghai via Beijing to U.S. The Shanghai-Beijing flight is 2 hours 20 minutes and is part of the through fare for air inclusive packages. You can check your baggage through to U.S. from Shanghai.
"Land Only" Packages: "Land Only" packages do not include international flights to and from China, and do not include airport to hotel transfers, which are straightforward and cost about $15 per ride by metered taxicab. More information about transfer by taxi and private transfer options are available upon request.
"Land Only" tour packages include all domestic transportation and transfers within China, but does not include the
to Beijing flight at the conclusion of the tour. Our "Land Only" packages start in Beijing on Day 2 and conclude in Shanghai on Day 12. If you would like to arrange your transpacific flights to China on your own, you should arrive in Beijing (PEK) on Day 2 of the tour with hotel accommodation included (the local tour starts in the morning on Day 3) and fly back home from Shanghai (PVG) on Day 12. The listed "LAND ONLY" rate includes all China internal taxes and fees.
Single Room Supplement: $420 (Apr ~ Oct, 2014) / $320 (Nov, 2014 ~ Mar, 2015) / $420 (Apr ~ Oct, 2015)
Children Discount: Children of 11 years and under may have
off adult rate depending on the tour and departure date. Children under 2 years are considered infants, and may travel in a parent's lap. Airlines do not usually offer a seat for infants and further discounts may apply. Please contact us for details for children under 12. Children 12 years and older are considered adults for fare purposes and the adult rate applies.
Business Class Upgrade for transpacific flights from SFO with Air China is: additional $3000 to $3400 for departures (April 1, 2014 - Mar 31, 2015). The promotional fare is subject to availability. Please contact us for upgrade pricing.