Arrive in Beijing and transfer to the hotel. There will be a notice advising the time and location of the introductory group meeting. Spend the day resting or taking in the local surroundings, and in the evening, there will be a welcome meeting with the tour leader and fellow travel companions followed by a scrumptious Beijing Duck Dinner!
We get an early start today, and travel two hours outside bustling Beijing by private bus to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall which is over five hundred years old. We spend time exploring the towers, views, and the magnificent structure of the wall. We also learn the basics with an introductory language lesson with our guide.
Today we delve into the history of Beijing, visiting the dramatic Forbidden City and the immense Tiananmen Square. Hear the tales of the emperors and their concubines, a long crafted culture and rich tradition. We witness how ancient Chinese customs are still valued today, yet are blended with the modern technology and western influence. We also visit the Temple of Heaven and its surrounding grounds which offer a chance to see locals whiling the hours away, practicing water calligraphy and Tai Chi, playing cards and walking pet crickets, with the colorful Temple of Heaven in the background. Afterward, we will have time to prepare for our overnight sleeper train journey to Xi’an, which we will board in the evening.
Our train pulls into Xi’an early in the morning, where we will be met and transferred to our hotel. After settling in, we gather for an orientation walk exploring the inner city which is surrounded by 9 miles (14 km) of ancient city walls. In the Tang dynasty, when Xi’an was flourishing, Chinese calligraphy and painting were perfected, we will have a class in these ancient techniques with a local expert. In the evening, we explore the Muslim Quarter, with its Great Mosque, multi-cultural feel, shopping lanes, and street-side food stalls selling nan, kebobs, and a fine array of sweets.
Xi’an is famous for being home to the Terracotta Warriors, built over 2000 years ago. Emperor Qinshi Huangdi arranged for the thousands of warriors and their horses to be crafted and aligned so as to eternally protect his mausoleum. Discovered in 1974 by a local farmer, they were meticulously unearthed. We take a guided tour of this facility, which is about 45 minutes from the city center of Xi’an. After a bit of free time in the afternoon, we’ll gather for a Tang Dynasty Dinner, sampling a banquet of local cuisine in the true style of an emperor and empress.
Today takes us on a spectacular morning flight over the Himalayas to Lhasa, Tibet, the roof of the world at an altitude of 12,140 ft (3,700 m)! We take a relaxed pace this afternoon as we adjust to the altitude, and visit the holiest temple in Tibet, Jokhang, set in the middle of Barkhor square. We watch the multitudes of pilgrims, doing seemingly endless prostrations, who have come from all over the region. *Please note that Lhasa is at an altitude of over 12,140 ft (3,700 m). You may experience headaches, nausea, lethargy on arrival in Lhasa. It is important to be aware of the affects of altitude on one's tolerance. We recommend that you consult your doctor at home for any altitude sickness medication.
Today we visit Potala Palace and the Sera Monastery with our local guide. We visit the awe-inspiring inner rooms of the Potala Palace, where the Dalai Lamas would meditate, handle affairs of state, and eventually where their burial stupas remain. From the golden statues, three dimensional mandalas, ancient cloth bound scriptures, to the devoted pilgrims who circle the palace day and night, this is truly a remarkable place to behold. We also visit the Sera Monastery, where we witness the monks very actively debating, a philosophical practice they have held for hundreds of years. Day 8 is at our leisure for optional activities. There is time to take optional hikes around the monasteries outside of Lhasa, to visit more monasteries within the city, to shop for beautiful Tibetan artwork, jewelery, and handicrafts, or to sit at a rooftop café and sip tea while taking in the unbelievable setting.
Today we fly down into the Sichuan Valley, leaving the arid Tibetan plateau far behind. Be prepared to try some of the spiciest food in all of China in Chengdu and our tour leader will take us straight to spice-lovers heaven! Sichaun is also famous for its opera, and, as a direct influence from the food- its spicy ladies. We see both of these delights in the evening on an included Sichuanese Opera and Cultural Performance.
The majority of the world’s remaining pandas live in the mountains of Sichuan. China has, for good reason, adopted these playful black and white darlings as their national animal, and have created the Panda Breeding Center to help them survive. Early in the morning we go to the Breeding Center to see the pandas stretch after a long night’s slumber, and dig in to a healthy bamboo breakfast. At this hour the panda’s should be the most active, as they romp in their playground environment. After this we set off to Chongqing, where our Yangtze River cruise boat is docked. We have a brief visit to the city of Chongqing and then board our vessel and settle in for the upcoming cruise.
The mighty Yangtze River splits China into north and south, and runs all the way from Chongqing to Shanghai. We cruise through one of the most geographically dramatic sections of the river, called the Three Gorges. Here the scenery is impressive, as we see the rock formations change as we pass village after village. While on the boat there are several activities planned,or we may just want to laze the days away, writing in our journal or taking photos. Shore excursions are included over the next few days, to various temples and walled cities which we pass along the way. Local guides give us a bit of flavor for the areas we float past. Daily shore excursions can include: Fengdu or Shibaozhai or Wanzhou, sail through Qutang Gorge/Wu Gorge, Daning River Small Gorges or Shennong Stream, Sail through Three Gorges dam shiplocks and optional excursion to White Emperor City (all depending on the season and river conditions). Onboard activities feature lectures on Chinese history and culture, Tai Chi lessons, and calligraphy demonstrations as well as shows and entertainment by the talented staff. Meal times will vary depending on the schedule of excursions and activities and times will be posted daily. Meals are served in a single-seating Dynasty Dining Room. Sumptuous western and Chinese buffets are offered at breakfast, lunch and dinner. An elegant Captain’s Farewell Banquet is served on the final night of the cruise. There is also a tea time in the afternoon and happy hour.
Early this morning we take an excursion to the Three Gorges Dam site (dependent on river conditions). After a goodbye to the our boat crew we make our way to the airport, where we will fly to our next destination, Shanghai. After checking into our lovely hotel, we meet for an orientation walk along the Bund area. The Bund at night is the time and place for viewing the futuristic skyline that defines this booming metropolis. You will have a bit of free time before we our final evening activity, which is a performance by the skilled and flexible world famous Shanghai Acrobats.
Depart at leisure.