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9-Day A Tale of China's Two Great Cities

Optional Tours

Please book your optional tours before you travel. These popular tours are often sold out prior to your departure date due to limited available spaces. Your travel insurance only covers services and features purchased prior to departure. Optional tours purchased after the tour starts will cost an extra 10%. Many countries in Asia do not accept credit card payments.

Beijing Hutong tour and Peking Duck dinner    (Day 3, Beijing) $55

Optional tour to Old Beijing Hutong on pedi-cabs
Optional tour to Old Beijing's Hutong on pedi-cabs
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.

Diner tonight is a specially prepared meal of Beijing Duck, cooked to crispy perfection. ($55 per person, including a private, escorted tour, entrance fees, a family lunch, a special Peking Duck dinner and transportation)
Shanghai Acrobatics show and dinner      (Day 6, Shanghai) $30

Shanghai Acrobatics show
Shanghai Acrobatics show
This evening, take advantage of an optional dinner followed by an exciting Shanghai Acrobatics show ($30 per person including a dinner, the acrobatics show and transfer).
Day excursion to Suzhou & Tongli     (Day 7, Suzhou & Tongli) $50

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
Suzhou, which is often referred, by the Chinese, as the "Venice of the East", 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. ($50 per person, including a private, escorted tour, entrance fees, a lunch and transportation)
Shanghai day excursion with night cruise    (Day 8, Shanghai) $50

Old Shanghgai Yu Garden Barzaar
Old Shanghgai Yu Garden Barzaar

Nanjing Road is bargain shoppers paradise
Nanjing Road is bargain shoppers' paradise
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 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.

We 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, dinner, and transportation)