- Ground Operators
An old saying goes, “To understand Chinese culture, one must understand Chinese food.” On our Essential China trip, we not only delve into the country’s artistic and cultural heritage, but we also take the time every evening to dine and understand the varied cuisine of China: from roasted duck in Beijing, a dumpling dinner in Xian, hotpot in Chengdu, to street snacks in Shanghai; we learn how food has played a great role in Chinese culture, from ancient days to the present.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to miss the iconic sites in each region either, but we visit them in uncommon ways – a picnic on a remote part of the Great Wall, say, or a special opportunity to take up-close photos with the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an. Also crucial to this introduction to China is performance art; we’ll see a Kung fu demonstration in Beijing, the unique “Face-changing” show in Chengdu, and acclaimed acrobats in Shanghai. All in all, the essence of this mighty country.
Easy touring generally indicates short or optional walks of up to 2-3 hours each day during sightseeing excursions, with 3-4 flights of stairs and other uneven ground. Nights are spent in deluxe or luxury accommodation/lodges. Elevation throughout the trip remains below 5,000 feet.
Day 1: Arrive Beijing
You are met on arrival by our local guide and transferred to your hotel. Beijing, the capital of China for over 800 years, is a sprawling metropolis with about 29 million people. Depending on your arrival time, you may be able to go on a walking tour around Tian’anmen Square this afternoon.
Day 2: Exploring Beijing
This morning starts with a lesson on tai chi in the beautiful Jingshan Park. Following the lesson, climb to the top of Jingshan for panoramic views of the Forbidden City before heading out to explore this former royal palace, where 24 emperors ruled the Middle Kingdom. After lunch, drive to the Summer Palace, a large royal garden and a UNESCO World Heritage Site that epitomizes the philosophy and practice of Chinese garden design. This evening, enjoy a kung fu show.
Day 3: Excursion to the Great Wall & Temple of Confucius
Today explore the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, one of the more dramatic and beautiful sections, which sees surprisingly few visitors. Take cable car up the Great Wall and enjoy the stunning view and a short walk. Have a lunch at the Schoolhouse, where Michelle Obama dined in 2014. This afternoon explore the Temple of Confucius, China’s second-largest such temple. Tonight, enjoy a classic dinner of Peking roasted duck.
Day 4: Hutong Tour & Train to Xi’an
Take a rickshaw ride to visit a local family living in a hutong—the ancient alleys that trace their origin to the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty and are still found throughout Beijing. After lunch, take the bullet train to Xi’an, the capital of China for 13 different dynasties and the starting point of the Silk Road. During the Tang Dynasty, Xi’an was the largest city in the world, with a population of over one million people. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Day 5: Exploring Xi’an
This morning, visit the Terracotta Warriors and Horses; it was one of the most significant archeological finds of the 20th century when these 2,000-year-old statues were unearthed. Your guide will take you to a special place where you can photograph the figures up close. Then drive to the Tangbo Museum for a lesson in Chinese calligraphy. Your last stop is the ancient city wall, originally built over 1,000 years ago during the Tang Dynasty. Tonight, enjoy 18 different kinds of dumplings (jiaozi), while watching a dance performance.
Day 6: Shaanxi History Museum & to Chengdu
This morning, visit the vast collections of the Shaanxi History Museum, including a special VIP exhibition hall that houses close to 100 paintings from the Tang Dynasty. In the afternoon, say goodbye to the ancient city of Xi’an and board a flight to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province—known as the kingdom of abundance in Chinese history. You will be met on arrival and transferred to your hotel.
Day 7: Exploring Chengdu
Early morning finds you at a breeding and research center for the beloved giant pandas; this is an unusual opportunity to see these elusive creatures, both cubs and adults. Then visit Wenshu Monastery to learn about Buddhism. In the late afternoon, visit the People’s Park to see how locals spend their free time—perhaps you can even join a game of Mahjong. This evening, head to a local theater for a “Face Changing” show, a traditional art form that is unique to Sichuan.
Day 8: To Hangzhou
This morning fly to Hangzhou. This afternoon, take a boat ride on West Lake, a place of tranquility and one of the most beautiful sights in China. From March to November, you have the opportunity this evening to attend the Empress of West Lake Show, an outdoor live performance of lights, music, and dancing.
Day 9: Exploring Hangzhou
Today visit Lingyin Temple, a premier showpiece in the West Lake environs and one of the most famous Buddhist Temples of China. The temple is also considered a leading center for research on Chinese Buddhist culture. Then continue to the Liuhe Pagoda, one of the true masterpieces of ancient Chinese architecture. Today’s last destination is Longjing Village to taste its famous Dragon Well Green Tea, a globally renowned brew.
Day 10: To Shanghai via Xitang
This morning you set out for Shanghai. On the way, explore Xitang, a small but beautiful town that seems like a completely different world from the hustle and bustle of your eventual destination. Numerous bridges, ancient lanes, and covered footpaths all add to Xitang’s charms. After dinner, enjoy an acrobatic performance.
Day 11: Exploring Shanghai
You have the full day to explore China’s largest economic center, and also one of its cultural centers. The modern and the historical, the eastern and the western all blend in the melting pot that is Shanghai. Start your city tour from the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, then go to Yuyuan Garden, in the center of Shanghai’s old city. This 400-year-old traditional garden covers about five acres. After lunch, explore Shanghai’s art street, Tianzifang. Originally a typical neighborhood lane in old Shanghai, Tianzifang was renovated in 2000 and became a magnet for art galleries. For your final dinner in China, go to M on the Bund, which has not just great food but also a wonderful view of the nighttime skyline.
Day 12: Depart Shanghai
Transfer to the airport for your outbound flight.
2015/2016 Trip Dates
Private Departures Only – On Demand Year-round;
Note: Winter months (November to March) require good-quality cold weather clothing
Trip Duration: 12 days / 11 nights
Starting City: Beijing (airport code – BJS)
Ending City: Shanghai (airport code – PVG)
2015/2016 Land Cost
Luxury 5-Star Hotel Option
(Beijing – St. Regis; Xian – Sofitel Legend; Chengdu – St. Regis; Hangzhou – Banyan Tree; Shanghai – Jing An Shangri-La)
2 participants: $6,574 per person
3 – 5: participants: $5,882 per person
6 – 8: participants: $5,175 per person
Single supplement: $3,050
5-Star Hotel Option
(Beijing – Wangfujing Hilton; Xian – Sofitel on Renmin Square; Chengdu – Sheraton; Hangzhou – Shangri-La; Shanghai – Hyatt on the Bund)
2 participants: $5,351 per person
3 – 5 participants: $4,660 per person
6 – 8 participants: $3,952 per person
Single supplement: $1,828
Internal China Airfare & Train Fare
Xian – Chengdu – Hangzhou flights: $410 (subject to change by airline)
Beijing – Xian train fare: $140
Included in Land Cost
• All accommodations, based on double occupancy
• All taxes and service charges
• All transportation using private, air-conditioned vehicles for all airport/hotel transfers and sightseeing excursions
• All arrival/departure airport/hotel transfers
• All meals after arrival in China (Dinner Day 1 to Breakfast Day 8)
• All entry fees at all temples, museums, and monuments on sightseeing excursions
• Services of a certified English-speaking Chinese Tour Guide
• Bottled water and snacks
• TourDirect’s Medical ($25,000), Accident and Evacuation Insurance ($500,000) and Assistance Plan
Not Included in Land Cost
• International airfare to/from China
• All internal China airfare and train fare – cost listed separately
• Items of a personal nature, such as alcoholic beverages, laundry, phone calls, etc.
• Movie, video, and still camera fees
• Gratuities to local staff (guides, drivers, bell boys, etc.)
• Trip Cancellation insurance
At TourDirect, we will assist you in obtaining any necessary visas or other travel permits required for your journey, all done through our Visa Service Partner. Detailed visa instructions, application forms, and information about applicable visa fees will be included in your Pre-Departure Packet.
You must have a valid passport with an expiration date more than 6 months from the date of your return to the U.S. The passport must also have at least 2 blank pages for each country that you will be visiting in Asia.
China: A China Tourist Visa is required for all foreigners traveling to China. China visas are NOT granted on arrival and must be obtained prior to departure from your home country.
No immunizations are required for entry into China or to return to the U.S. However, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from (or have recently visited) a country that has risk of yellow fever. Several immunizations are recommended by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. A copy of the CDC’s recommended immunization list and additional health information will be included in our Pre-Departure Packet.
Please let us know if you wish to arrive early or extend your stay to visit any other sites in Asia and we will be happy to make the additional arrangements for your extension.
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