Day 3: Beijing
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).
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 Birds 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 birds nest and the Water Cube aquatic center opposite, reinforced when the venues are lit at night, red for the Birds 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.
Day 5: Beijing
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.
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.
: 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).
Day 6: Beijing
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.
: 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)
Day 7: Beijing
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.
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.
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 $50 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.
"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. If you would like to arrange your transpacific flights to China on your own, you should arrive in Beijing (PEK) on Day 2, and fly back home from Beijing on Day 8. The listed "LAND ONLY" rate includes all China internal taxes and fees.
Single Room Supplement: $240
Child Discount: $50 off for children aged 2-11. This tour is not suitable for infant under 2 years of age.
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.
China Single Entry Visa fee: $180 ($140 consulate charge + $40 China Spree service fee)