8 Day Timeless Beijing
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)
Beijing's royal palaces and museums
After a 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).
Last Emperor's "Forbidden City"
Bird Nest, the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
Lunch at a local restaurant, followed by a photo stop at the "Bird Nest" and "Water Cube", where you visit the exterior portion of the main stadium of 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.
The spectacular Bird's Nest stadium, hailed as the finest arena in the world and the centerpiece of the most expensive Olympics in history, is full of hidden symbolism. In Chinese mythology, the sun is represented by a circle and the moon by a square, reflected by the shape of the bird's nest and the Water Cube aquatic center opposite, reinforced when the venues are lit at night, red for the Bird's Nest and blue for the Water Cube. The shapes also echo the Chinese symbols for male and female, and are built either side of the north-south axis road which runs in a perfect straight line for three miles through Beijing, centered on the Forbidden City.
Later in the afternoon, transfer to your hotel for a recovery from Jetlag and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure for independent exploration. (B,L)
A memorable day awaits! You will take a full day excursion to the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs and the Great Wall of China.
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. 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.
Lunch stop at a jade workshop. Afterwards, 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)
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.
Optional Excursion: This evening, take advantage of an optional dinner followed by an exciting acrobatics show ($35 per person including a dinner, the acrobatics show and transfer). (B,L)
After breakfast, you enjoy a full day at leisure to explore this vibrant city on your own. Or, join our optional tour to the Panda Pavilion at Beijing Zoo, "Old Beijing" Hutong tour on pedicab, Tibetan Lama Temple, and Peking Duck dinner.
Visit "Old Beijing" Hutongs on pedicab
Tour the Panda Pavilion at Beijing Zoo
Optional Excursion: The optional tour starts in the morning with a visit to the Giant Panda at Beijing Zoo. There are less than 1,000 Giant Pandas remaining in the world, and it is officially considered "National Treasure" by the Chinese government and is often used to cultivate relationships with other countries with "Panda Diplomacy". Afterwards, you 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. In the afternoon, you tour the Lama Temple, the most renowned Tibetan lamasery outside Tibet. Its five main halls are a stylistic blend of Han Chinese, Mongol, and Tibetan motifs. The highlight is encapsulated within the towering Wangfu Pavilion—a vast 55-ft high statue of Maitreya (the Future Buddha), carved from a single block of sandalwood.
Diner tonight is a specially prepared meal of Beijing Duck, cooked to crispy perfection. ($75 per person, including a private, escorted tour, entrance fees, meals and transportation) (B)
Enjoy a full day at leisure to explore Beijing on your own. Your tour guide is standby to assist you with the tour information you may need about Beijing's hidden treasures, eating, playing and shopping. For your convenience, transportation can be arranged at a very reasonable group rate.
Beijing's pictureque Dazhalan area
China is well known as bargain shopper's paradise. Today, you will find out why. Beijing's shopping scene has undergone a dramatic change over recent years and slick department stores to co-exist with older retail outlets. Its vast array of retail options range from shopping malls and department stores to specialty stores, boutiques, and antique shops.
Don't miss Beijing's old shopping district and markets. It is a fun to wander through the picturesque Liulichang district browsing through shops that were once frequented by Ming and Qing era intellectuals and which house fine collection of antiques, pottery, books, woodblock prints, paper lanterns, musical instruments and more. Continue to the nearby bustling Dazhalan market for tea or local snacks, and to explore some of the oldest specialty shops in Beijing. You may not want to miss the Wangfujing Street, one of China's most famous pedestrian-only shopping areas.
Beiing has long been China's cultural wellspring. The city is currently the nexus of the hottest art scene in Aisa. You may want to visit 798 Art Zone or Dashanzi Art District, it is a part of Dashanzi that houses a thriving artist community, among 50-year old decommissioned military factory buildings of unique architectural style. It is often compared with New York's Greenwich Village or SoHo, but faces impending destruction from the forces driving Beijing's urban sprawl.
How about the Silk Alley, a Hotpot meal, and Peking Opera or Shaolin Kunfu performance...? Choices are yours. (B)