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12 Day The Middle Kingdom (2018)

Tour Itinerary


Day 1 - Fly to China
Your exotic journey begins as you board your transpacific flight to China.      (IM)     

 
 
Day 2 - Beijing
Bird Nest - the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
Bird Nest - the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
Welcome to Beijing. Upon arrival you will meet your local representative and transfer to your hotel. Relax and enjoy the evening in China's historic and vibrant capital city. Depending on the airline used for your flight to China, you may fly via Shanghai to Beijing. Airport to hotel transfer excluded for land only package.      Beijing Jianguo Hotel or similar   
 
Day 3 - Beijing
The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City

Visit old Beijing's 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 wrote, 'An army could be massed, and all the kites in the world could fly.' We will 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 five 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, you are at leisure to explore Beijing on your own. Or, join our optional tour to 'Old Beijing' Hutongs by Pedi cab with a home-hosted lunch, followed by Beihai Park. Tonight, an optional Peking Duck dinner awaits you.





Optional Tour: Hutong Tour & Beihai Park ($35 per person)

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. Time permitting, you tour the idyllic Beihai Park. Located northwest of the Forbidden City, this royal park offers a natural balance to the imperial thoroughfares of the palace with a large lake surrounded by willow trees. Folklore attributes the scooping out of the lake and its subsequent pile of the earth to the great Kublai Khan, who used Beihai as his stomping ground before the Ming dynasty upstaged him with the Forbidden City. Dominating Jade Islet on the lake is the White Dagoba, a Lamaist stupa inaugurated for a visit by the Dalai Lama in the 17th century. 

Includes a private escorted tour on pedi-cab, entrance fees, a family hosted lunch at a local family house, walking tour to the Beihai Park. Approximate tour duration is 3.5 hours.  



Optional Tour: Peking Duck Dinner ($40 per person)

Opt for a specially prepared meal of Beijing Duck, cooked to crispy perfection. Includes transportation and dinner at one of the most authentic restaurants known for the famed dish. Approximate tour duration is 2 hours.

     (B)     

 

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

The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China
A memorable day awaits with an excursion to the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs and the Great Wall of China.

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.

You enjoy lunch and afterwards, 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 more than 3,500 miles! Chairman Mao once said, 'You haven't walked on the Wall, you haven't been a good Chinese.'

Time permitting, we make 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.      (B,L)     

 
 
Day 5 - Beijing
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
With the must-see sites being covered in the previous days, it is time for you to take a free day and explore Beijing on your own. Or, join our optional day excursion to the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, and Panda at Beijing Zoo, with a lunch at a local restaurant.

Optional Tour: Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace & Zoo (w/Lunch) ($55 per person)

In the morning, you enjoy an opportunity to visit the Beijing Zoo for the Giant Panda, which is officially considered a national treasure by Chinese government and is often used to cultivate relationships with other countries with panda diplomacy.

Next, you tour 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. Also enjoy time to connect with the locals who practice Thaichi, dancing, Peking Opera, and water calligraphy inside the complex.

Lunch at a local restaurant followed by a touring to 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 (not available at winter season). 

Includes a private escorted tour, entrance fees, lunch and transportation. Approximate tour duration is 8 hours.

     (B)     

 

 
Day 6 - Xian
The Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark
The Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark
In the morning, you are transferred 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 in the 10th century with a population of one million, and is rich with cultural and historical significance.

Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of your day at leisure. Alternatively, join our optional tour to the Wild Goose Pagoda, Great Mosque, as well as the walking trip to the Drum and Bell Towers, and the Muslim Quarters with a dinner followed by trip to the night market.

Optional Tour: Wild Goose Pagoda, Bell Tower & Night Market (w/Dinner) ($40 per person)

After freshening up at your hotel, you take a tour to 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.

Later, you take a relaxing walk to the heart of the city to visit its fascinating Muslim quarter. In the center of Xian, visible everywhere from the surrounding city walls, are the city’s two Ming Dynasty treasures—Bell and Drum Towers. Built in 1384, the Bell Tower, in which a great bell once rang at dawn, is a classic example of Ming architecture. It consists of a triple-eaved, two storey wooden pavilion resting on a square brick platform nine meters high, pierced by four archways. Across the square from the Bell Tower is the rectangular Drum Tower, where a drum was beaten daily at sundown. First erected in 1380, the Drum Tower has become the gateway to Xian’s old Muslim quarter and its historical mosque.

Founded in 742, the Great Mosque is the focus of the more than 30,000 Chinese Muslims (Hui) of Xian, whose beards and white caps distinguish them from Han Chinese. Standing in four beautiful courtyards of ancient trees, ornate arches and stone steles, the Mosque is the center of life for the Muslim community - the descendants of the merchants that ferried the religion into China along the ancient Silk Road. The backstreets surrounding the mosque is the charming Muslim Quarter hosting the city’s most fascinating night market, with its winding streets, low houses, narrow lanes, excellent ethnic cuisine, and resident Hui community. Tour the lovely and unusual area with bustling stalls and enjoy some of the best street food in China! 

Includes private escorted tours, entrance fees for Wild Goose Pagoda, a dinner and transportation. Approximate tour duration is 4 hours.

     Xian Grand Noble Hotel or similar  (B,IM)     

 

 
Day 7 - Xian
Terracotta Warrios
Terracotta Warrios

Xian's ancient City Wall
Xian's ancient City Wall
Enjoy an included full-day excursion to modern China's greatest archaeological discovery - The Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, which silently guarded the tomb of China's First Emperor for more than 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 more than 6,000 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, but it's only a fraction of the total buried there to protect the tomb of the first Qin emperor. A Circle Vision documentary is available on site. Lunch at a local restaurant and see a noodle making demonstration.

Today's Culture InSites Program will offer you a rare opportunity to witness a real rural life at a typical village in central China. You visit a Yao Dong (literally an arched tunnel) - a typical cave dwellings that stretches across six provinces in north central China. The Yao Dong is caves dug into mountainsides with a signature arched front. Usually, one family unit consists of three arched openings, and the units are interconnected inside. The center cave can be termed the living room, which includes a stove top cooking area. The two side caves are sleeping quarters. Outside of the cities of this region, some 90% of the rural population used to live in yaodongs.

Optional Tour: City Wall & Tang Dynasty Show (w/Dumpling Dinner) ($45 per person)

Later, you visit the City Wall, the best reserved wall in China. You can also bike along the ancient city wall for impressive views of the old and new city.  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) dinner 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.

Includes City Wall tour, dumpling dinner and Tang Singing and Dancing Show with transportation. Approximate tour duration is 4.5 hours.

     (B,L)     

 

 
Day 8 - Xian / Shanghai
Nanjing Road is a bargain shopper's paradise
Nanjing Road is a bargain shopper's paradise

Shanghai's bustling Yu Garden bazaar
Shanghai's bustling Yu Garden bazaar
Today, you take a flight to Shanghai, China's financial and cultural center. Upon arrival, meet and transfer to your hotel. Shanghai literal means 'above the sea,' and 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 was renowned as 'the Pearl of the East.' Enjoy the remainder of your day to explore this exciting city on your own with our prepared tour list.

Optional Tour: Huangpu Evening Cruise (w/Dinner) ($35 per person)

Dinner at a local restaurant followed by an exciting evening cruise on the Huangpu River, offering you the 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.

Includes a dinner at a local restaurant, evening cruise and transportation. Approximate tour duration is 2.5 hours.



     Shanghai Ocean Hotel or similar  (B)     

 
 
Day 9 - Shanghai
Bund is the symbol of Shanghai
Bund is the symbol of Shanghai

Jinmao Tower and Pudong's new skyline
Jinmao Tower and Pudong's new skyline
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.

Optional Tour: Full Day Shanghai Highlights (w/Lunch & Dinner) ($80 per person)

Take a full day excursion to explore Shanghai’s highlights. Begin your tour in the heart of old Shanghai at the 16th century city bazaar, and Temple of God. 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, you take a leisure walk along the waterfront promenade of the Bund, which was at the heart of colonial Shanghai, flanked on one side by the Huangpu River and on the other by 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. 

Across the Huangpu River is the futurist Pudong 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. 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.

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 that 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, a 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 a bargain shopper's paradise. Today, you will find out why. Dinner tonight is followed by an unforgettable performance of the Shanghai Acrobats.

Includes private escorted tours, entrance fees, lunch and dinner, and transportation. Approximate tour duration is 12 hours.

     (B)     

 

 
Day 10 - Optional Hangzhou
Optional tour in Hangzhou
Optional tour in Hangzhou
Enjoy a free day at leisure to explore Shanghai on your own. Or, join our optional day excursion 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 Lakehave 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'.

Optional Tour: Hangzhou - Bullet Train, West Lake, Tea Plantation (w/Lunch) ($90 per person)

After breakfast, we are transferred to the train station for a short ride (50 min) to Hangzhou experiencing China’s new generation of bullet train. Upon arrival, we 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. 

Time permitting, 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 Chinese traditional herb and medication. Later, we are transferred to the train station and return to Shanghai by bullet train.

Minimum 8 participants. Includes roundtrip bullet train ride, transfers in Shanghai and Hangzhou, a private escorted tour in Hangzhou, entrance fees and a lunch. Approximate tour duration is 10 hours.

     (B)     

 

 
Day 11 - Optional 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
Today is a free day for you explore Shanghai independently. Or, join our optional full-day excursion to the water town of Suzhou and Tongli.

Optional Tour: Fishing Net Garden, Silk Factory, Tongli Canal Cruise (w/Lunch) ($60 per person)

In the morning, you travel by motorcoach to Suzhou, which is often referred to by the Chinese as the 'Venice of the East.' Suzhou is a 2,500-year- old city world-renowned for its traditional gardens, ancient canals and silk production. In 1997, Suzhou's classic garden was designated a 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 more than 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 created poetic and painterly concepts, with the aim 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 exceptionally 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 lifestyle 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 motorcoach to Shanghai.

Includes private escorted tours, canal cruise, entrance fees and a lunch. Approximate tour duration is 12 hours.



     (B)     

 
 
Day 12 - Home City
Treasure the unforgettable memories you've made as you board your flight back home.      (B)     

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A Chinese Poem for The Middle Kingdom China Tour