16 Day Best of China & Hong Kong (2010)
Day 1 Depart USA
Day 2 Beijing
Arrive in Beijing in the afternoon. Meet your local representative and transfer to your hotel in the heart of Beijing. Your hotel has prime location and is only a few minutes walk to the Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the renowned Wangfujing shopping area. Relax and enjoy the evening in China's historic and vibrant capital city. Marriott Beijing City Wall
Bird Nest, the main venue of 2008 Summer Olympics
Day 3 Beijing
Tour Beijing's imperial treasures. First, Tian'anmen Square, the largest public square in the world, capable of holding one million people. Stroll across its vast expanse. An assortment of historical buildings, Communist monuments and huge museums, including Chairman Mao's Mausoleum, the Monument to the People's Heroes, and the Great Hall of the People - home of the National People's Congress, flank the Square. Walk through the Gate of Heavenly Peace, under the famed portrait of Chairman Mao, to enter the Forbidden City, a 9,999-room compound, where the 24 emperors of the Ming and the Qing Dynasties ruled the Middle Kingdom for nearly 500 years (1420-1911). Experience the architectural splendour of the palaces, ceremonial courtyards and private quarters.
Last Emperor's "Forbidden City"
The "Summer Palace" for Empress Dowager Cixi
Lunch at a local restaurant. In the afternoon, you tour the idyllic Summer Palace, with its sprawling encampment of temples, pavilions, and the 728-yard Long Corridor. The Summer Palace served the Qing Dynasty as an imperial retreat from the stifling summer confines of the Forbidden City. 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. It is the best preserved and the largest imperial garden in China. Later, you enjoy a boat ride on picturesque Kunming Lake. (B,L,D)
Day 4 Beijing
After breakfast, join our Culture InSites™ Program and experience the world of Beijing's Hutongs, via rickshaw. This network of courtyard homes and narrow lanes traditionally linked the Old City. Tour the maze-like alleyways and neighborhood residences before it's gone forever. See the locals as they go about their daily activities. Highlights include visits to a traditional courtyard style home, to the Lotus Flower Market, and a leisure walk along the "Lotus Lane" lined with bars, restaurants and coffee houses. This unique tour concludes with a delicious meal served at the home of a local family. Later, you take a photo stop at the "Bird Nest" and visit the exterior portion of this magnificent complex - the main stadium of 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Tour Old Beijings Hutongs on rickshaws
The Great Wall of China
Afterwards, you take a scenic drive through the countryside to reach China's most renowned monument - the Great Wall. The 'original' 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. In the evening, savor a specially prepared meal of Beijing Duck, cooked to crispy perfection. (B,L,SD)
Day 5 Xian
Take a morning flight to Xian, an ancient capital and the historic gateway to the Silk Road. Xian was the capital of the Middle Kingdom for 11 dynasties. In a time when ancient Beijing was just a remote trading post, Xian was the capital of China and one of the world's largest and richest cities, with a population exceeding one million in the 10th century.
Wild Goose Pagoda, a Tang Dynasty landmark
Tang Dynasty stage show
Upon arrival, 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.
Next, you take a walk through one of Xian's most fascinating areas - the Muslim quarter, to the 7th century Great Mosque. Stand 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. Tour the lovely and unusual area with bustling stalls where you find some of the best street food in China.
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. Xian Grand Noble Hotel (B,L,SD)
Day 6 Xian - Chengdu
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.
6,000 Terra-cotta warriors and horses
In the afternoon, you fly to Chengdu, the capital city of China's most populous Sichuan (Literally, Four Rivers) Province and home to China's most notable Sichuan cuisine. With 2,500 years history, Chengdu has managed to preserve some of its older characteristics and traditions, and today you still find famous teahouses, numerous markets and some of China's the most interesting and spicy food. No visit is complete without a meal in a local Sichuan restaurant. The cuisine is spicy, and peppercorns and chilies abound, but often in a surprisingly subtle way. Whether it's hotpot, meat or a vegetable dish, your mouth will water and your taste buds tingle with delight. Chengdu Yinhe Dynasty Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 7 Chengdu
In the morning, you enjoy a rare opportunity to visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Center to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endangered species. The center is the largest giant panda reserve in the world. Whenever China dispatches its animal ambassadors to zoos around the world, they have usually started their life in Chengdu. Eighty percent of the world's 1,000 remaining giant panda reside in Sichuan Province. It's no surprise the Chengdu center is heavily involved in their preservation and research. Today you will see a dozen of pandas wandering through a sizable domain of bamboo groves and forest. There is also a panda museum that has detailed exhibitions on panda evolution, habits, habitats and conservation efforts. You are also allowed to make intimate contact with baby pandas and hug them for a photo. Giant Panda is officially considered "National Treasure" by Chinese government and is often used to cultivate relationships with other countries with "Panda Diplomacy". This massive ecological and zoological park offers a wonderful chance to get face-to-face with China's gentle giants. There are other rare species at the base, including the little-known red panda.
Visit Chengdu`s Giant Panda Breeding Center
Chengdu has long been famous for its steamy teahouses, where locals recline on bamboo armchairs, play mahjong and meet with friends. For a relaxing afternoon with our exclusive Culture InSites™ Program, you sample a Sichuan style afternoon tea with locals in one of the many traditional bamboo teahouses scattered in parks across the city. You can while away an afternoon sipping tea and watching the locals read newspapers, play Sichuan opera, debate, play chess, cards, and mahjong. You may even be invited to give it a try yourself. Chengdu is commonly regarded as the most laid back city in China and today's visit gives you the answer why. This unique experience concludes at the Park of Riverview Pavilion set along the river. Check out the ancient Chongli Pavilion dedicated to the 9th century poetess Xue Tao with its striking ornaments, green glazed tiles and red lacquered columns, surrounded by over one hundred varieties of bamboo. A leisure walk in the serene bamboo forest in an experience not to be missed.
After dinner, you will be offered an opportunity to attend an optional performance of "Changing faces" at the 200-year-old Sichuan opera. Full of local color and flavor, Sichuan Opera, is a combination of music, comedy, puppets and acrobatic performances, including Changing Face, Spitting Fire and Bowl-lamp Rolling. The opera is performed in old halls or courtyard buildings and is a feast for the eyes. (B,L,D)
Day 8 Hong Kong
Up to now at the half way point of this trip, you have toured China's historical capitals and a few traditional cultural centers. Early in the morning you board the flight to Hong Kong to see the other side of China with its amazing modernity and cosmopolitan culture. Hong Kong, ranked as world's freest economy since 1970, is China's dynamic financial center and home of the world's busiest port. The ex-British colony is known as the "Pearl of the Orient" with its cultural diversity and serves as a major gateway to mainland China.
Take tram to Victoria Peak, the summit of HK Island
Dim Sum at Jumbo Seafood Floating Restaurant
After two-hour flight you land at Hong Kong Airport - world's busiest airport that costs more than $20 billion to build. Upon arrival, meet your local representative and visit Victoria Peak, the summit of the Island and home to Hong Kong's elite. Take the original tram to the summit and get a bird-eye view of the magnificent skyline of the Victoria Harbor, where ferries and pleasure junks glide by. At night, this scene is transformed into a spectacle of lights.
Hong Kong prides itself with the most famous Cantonese cuisine in Chinese community. It is said that the Cantonese eat everything with four legs except tables, and everything with two wings except airplanes. To dine at a local restaurant is the best way to understand the local cultural. Today, you will have a special "Dim Sum" lunch at the iconic Jumbo Floating Seafood Restaurant, a complex of fine dining, sightseeing, shopping, and cultural attractions, which is also on top of Hong Kong Must-see list.
After lunch, you tour the nearby floating village of Aberdeen, where a 20-mintues optional cruise ($8 per person) is available to bring you an up-close look at the disappearing fishing community before this area is abolished and becomes a distant memory. Thousands of people still live on the junks and sampans in the harbor. Their traditional lifestyle is in sharp contrast to the modern life style of those living in the high-rise communities that hugs the nearby hillsides.
Later, you have some free time to shop at the Stanley Market and see where Hong Kong plays and prays as you visit the beach of shrine-dotted Repulse Bay.
In the evening, return to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure. Your hotel is centrally located in Mongkok in the heart of Kowloon. With its prime location, Royal Plaza gives you easy access to main business, shopping and entertainment this exciting city has to offer. At night, take a stroll along the famed Nathen Road and indulge yourself in a shopping spree at the countless stores and malls that open to the mid-night. Royal Plaza Hotel Hong Kong (B,SL)
Day 9 Hong Kong or optional Macau excursion
Hong Kong is bargain shopper's Mecca. And the prime location of your hotel offers everything you possibly need from shopping, dining, entertaining, touring etc. Enjoy your free day to explore this vibrant and fascinating cosmopolitan independently. You may also want to take the tram to the Victoria Harbor where In the evening, you can enjoy the spectacular show of "A Symphony of Lights". The show is awarded the world's Largest Permanent Light and Sound Show by Guinness World Records, a nightly spectacle which combines interactive lights of 33 key buildings on both Hong Kong Island and Kowloon with musical effects to showcase the enchanting night view of the Victoria Harbor. There's no better way to acquaint yourself with Hong Kong than to ride the cheapest cruise in China. The century-old green-and-white Star ferries weave between tugs, junks, and ocean-going vessels in a 5-minute harbor crossing to Hong Kong Island.
Hong Kong Island
Victoria Harbour at night
If you like, you can also take a vacation from your vacation with an optional tour to Macau and experience the uniqueness of this former Portuguese colony, which is an hour's turbojet ride from Hong Kong. Macau was first settled by Portuguese merchants and Jesuits in the 1500s. The Jesuits were ousted in the 1800s, but the Portuguese remained in control until 1999, when the colony was handed back to China. Often referred to as the "Monte Carlo of the Orient", 24 hour gambling is Macau's major draw, as well as its unique cuisine and its quaint European ambience. Meet your local representative upon arrival. Visit the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral, once a powerful presence. The crumbling facade is all that remains. Tour the beautifully tiled Largo do Senado, the main public square, an area of fountains, colonnades, and stately Portuguese architecture. Visit the A-Ma Temple, dedicated to the goddess of the sea, and for whom Macau was named. The temple is over 500 years old. After an included lunch, you will have the "chance" to go to the Casino Lisboa, Macau's largest casino. Take the turbojet back to Hong Kong and transfer to your hotel. (B)
Day 10 Hong Kong - Guilin
In the morning, you are free to explore this magnificent city on your own.
Hong Kong is shoppers` paradise
Guilin's inspiring sceneries
In the afternoon, you are transferred to the airport for a short flight (40 minutes) to Guilin to indulge yourself in China's most amazing natural landscapes. Guilin is celebrated for its picturesque karst limestone pinnacles and meandering Li River. An old Chinese saying describes Guilin's landscape as "the best scenery under heaven". Its misty limestone peaks "rise as suddenly from the earth as trees in a forest, and surrounding the city like mountains floating in an imaginary sea". Meet your local representative and transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city. Your hotel is located at the foot of Mount Laoren and surrounded by Osmanthus Lake, which is connected by Guilin's two major rivers to all four lakes in the area. At night, the hotel is lit up and spectacular views are reflected on the Lake Osmanthus. It's a place for relaxation and also offers a perfect escapade after 10 days of group travel. Guilin Bravo Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 11 Li River Cruise - Yangshuo
A beautiful day waits! You take a scenic motor coach ride through the countryside, past lush green fields and rice paddies. Arrive at a local village and embark on a memorable Li River cruise. The 40-mile trip has countless twists and turns. The scenery is reminiscent of classical Chinese landscapes - bamboo groves, sleepy villages, fishermen on bamboo rafts, cormorants, water buffalo, soaring karst pinnacles and mist shrouded peaks... your cruise concludes at the famed Yangshuo, a small town, amidst a haunting and surreal setting. Enjoy an exploration at this fascinating town.
Cruise Li River and soak in its beauty
Crystal Palace at Reed Flute Cave
Later travel by motor coach to Guilin. In the afternoon, tour the Reed Flute Cave, Nature's subterranean wonder filled with stalactites and stalagmites. The grand chamber known as the Crystal Palace, is an awesome spectacle, not to be missed. In the evening, you are at leisure or join an optional cormorant fishing tour. (B,L,D)
Day 12 Guilin - Suzhou
After breakfast, you fly to Shanghai, then 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.
Pavilion of Watching the Moon, Master of Net Garden
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.
In the afternoon, 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.
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 13 Tongli - Shanghai
In the morning, you visit 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. All its houses open out on to a network of canals that are spanned by dozens of stone bridges and are busy with transportation and trading boats. 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 the Old Street, which is lined with Ming style homes and storefronts.
Canals, arched bridges, and cobbled lanes at Tongli
Evening tour to the Bund, a landmark of Shanghai
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".
Some places are forever associated with a single landmark and in the case of Shanghai it is surely the Bund. After dinner, we take you for an evening 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. Pullman Shanghai Skyway Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 14 Shanghai
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.
Jinmao Tower and Pudong`s new skyline
Xin Tian Di (New Heaven Earth) at night
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 have a traditional Mongolian BBQ Buffet lunch. In the afternoon, 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.
After the performance, we drop you at the Xin Tian Di for a leisure and romantic night. 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. (B,SL,D)
Day 15 Shanghai
Today is particularly arranged as a free day for you to explore this magnificent city on your own, or attend 2010 World Expo (May 1 - Oct. 31, 2010).
Nanjing Road, bargain shoppers' paradise
Expo 2010 will be held in Shanghai and is a scheduled World Expo in the grand tradition of international fairs and expositions. World Expo 2010 Shanghai is the occasion for China to bring the world at home, and for the world to feel at home in China. By dedicating a 5.28-square-kilometer area at the core of the city to exhibitions, events and forums on the Expo theme, "Better City, Better Life," Shanghai hopes to build a powerful and lasting pilot example of sustainable and harmonious urban living. (B)
Day 16 Fly home
After breakfast, 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 will cover the 20 mile distance in less than 8 minutes! Board your return flight home, and arrive in U.S.A. later today.
Take maglev train to Pudong International Airport
* Maglev is available for San Francisco departures only. (B)
Air China Flight Schedule