DAY 1 | Oct. 17. U.S. – Beijing
Depart the U.S. for Beijing.
DAY 2 | Oct. 19. Beijing
In the morning, drive to the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu, a rugged section of the Wall that offers less crowded access (with cable car availability) and a more striking perspective as the Wall climbs and winds over the surrounding hills. Here the Great Wall of China presents a visual experience that consistently exceeds visitors’ expectations. Lunch is at Xiaolongpu Restaurant near the foot of the Wall. The restaurant is famous for farmers’ fresh produce and unique local cuisine. On the way back, drive by the Olympic Village and see the Olympic stadiums with their innovative designs. Herzog & de Meuron designed the National Stadium, known as the “Bird’s Nest,” while the firm PTW designed the National Aquatics Center, the “Water Cube.” Later, tour the Temple of Heaven, one of the finest expressions of the Ming dynasty. Built in the 15th century, the stunning architecture of the Temple of Heaven represents the most advanced principles of mechanics and geometry available at the time. Tonight is free and dinner is on one’s own. You may choose to attend a performance at the new National Grand Theatre. Designed by the French architect Paul Andreau, the “Big Egg” took ten years to construct.
DAY 3 | Oct. 20. Beijing
After breakfast, visit the Forbidden City, the abiding symbol of imperial China, and truly one of the great achievements of civilization. Marvel at its expansive architecture, magnificent imperial gardens, and the many museums of Chinese antiquities and treasures within the complex. Enjoy lunch at a local family’s home in the historic Houhai District. Then, explore the picturesque lake district where many old courtyard homes are preserved amid narrow hutong alleys bordering tree-lined lakes. Tour the district by “pedicab” for a more lively experience of traditional Chinese life. Visit the astounding National Museum by Tiananmen Square. The newly renovated museum has become an immense cathedral for Chinese art and antiquities. The stone-clad atrium is a grand architectural space unmatched in the world. Cormorant Fisherman, Guilin Temple of Heaven, Beijing In the evening, enjoy a welcome banquet at the luxurious China Lounge Restaurant featuring fine cuisine and famous Peking duck.
DAY 4 | Oct. 21. Beijing – Guilin- Longsheng
After breakfast, fly to Guilin. Upon arrival, transfer by motorcoach to Longsheng. Longsheng is famous for rice terraces cut into precipitous hills that farmers have cultivated since the Yuan dynasty. Skeins of luscious green rice plants create remarkable views throughout the valley. Longsheng is the home of Yao and Zhuang minorities who continue to don colorful dress and carry on their traditional life. Explore the village market and delightful craft shops. Hike the rice terraces, and visit the locals in their traditional dwellings.
DAY 5 | Oct. 22. Longsheng – Guilin
Continue to explore the paths and life of Longsheng until early afternoon. Then, motorcoach to Guilin, world famous for its spectacular karst limestone formations, vertical mountains thrust up from the seabed some 300 million years ago. Eroded over the millennia by water and winds, these picturesque mountains, immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with Chinese painting, have provided inspiration for countless Chinese artists. Enjoy dinner at Zuoan Restaurant.
DAY 6 | Oct. 23. Li River – Yangshuo
In the morning, cruise down the Li River, winding past Mural Hill, Folded Brocade Hill, Crescent Moon Hill, and many more. The four-hour cruise navigates some of the region’s most stunning karst formations. After disembarking, tour Liugong & Mushang villages, a gorgeous agricultural valley surrounded by distant karst scenery. Walk into the fields to enjoy another experience of rural China, this time in the middle of a visual paradise. Return to Yangshuo and wander lively Xijie West Street, filled with restaurants, crafts shops, and local inns. Xijie is the home away from home for numerous Westerners and so exudes a cosmopolitan air as well as an invitation for a rollicking good time. After dinner, attend Zhang Yimou’s colorful water show, Impressions of Sister Liu Sanjie. Zhang made numerous Oscar nominated movies such as Raise the Red Lantern and House of Hidden Daggers. He also directed the Beijing Summer Olympics opening in 2008. After the show, transfer back to your hotel in Guilin.
DAY 7 | Oct. 24. Guilin – Hangzhou
In the morning fly to the ancient capital, Hangzhou, the most elegant and beautiful city in China today. This is the place Marco Polo called “paradise on earth.” Tour the elegant Qing dynasty Guo Zhuang Garden and stop by charming Quyuanfenghe Park. Before dinner, tour the grand architectural compound of the Qing dynasty merchant, Hu Xueyan. Countless courtyards lead from one to another, culminating in a grand garden with monumental rockery and idyllic pavilions. In the evening, tour Xihuxintiandi by West Lake, a beautiful lakeside park developed recently with gardens, fine restaurants and boutique shops.
DAY 8 | Oct. 25. Hangzhou
After breakfast, stroll through Huagang Park with its lovely flora and fauna, so representative of southern Chinese elegance. Visit the National Silk Museum, where you will be amazed by the intricate production of silk. At lunchtime, visit the Meijiawu Tea Plantation and meet tea farmers who continue the ancient art of longjing tea cultivation. Enjoy lunch at a tea farmer’s home. Tour Lingyin Temple, one of the earliest grand Chan Buddhist temples remaining in China today. In the afternoon, take a gentle hike up the small Gushan Hill by West Lake. Traditional architecture, landscape gardens, pavilions and museums line up the hillside with a bird’s-eye view of West Lake and Hangzhou City. Enjoy a boat ride on West Lake and tour the charming gardens on the isles. Dinner is at Grandma’s Kitchen where you will enjoy authentic Hangzhou cuisine.
DAY 9 | Oct. 26. Hangzhou – Shanghai
In the morning, take the new high-speed train to Shanghai, a fun fifty-minute ride! For lunch, enjoy delicious Shanghai dim sum at Lv Bo Lang Restaurant. In the afternoon, tour Yuyuan Gardens, designed in six unique parts, making the garden seem much larger than it really is. You will find one of the best Ming rockeries here, and wending the zigzag bridge to Huxingting Teahouse is a delight. Dinner is on one’s own. In the evening, you may want to explore Xintiandi in downtown Shanghai. Designed by MIT architect Ben Wood, Xintiandi is a $200 million “entertainment environment” with modern restaurants, clubs, cafes, and boutiques. Xintiandi proved so successful a model for urban redevelopment that it spawned dozens of imitators across the country. (B,L)
DAY 10 | Oct. 27. Shanghai
In the morning, tour the Shanghai Museum and view its wonderful collection of Chinese ceramics, paintings and furniture. Lunch is on one’s own. In the afternoon, meet with the youngsters at a local primary school. Tour the Pudong economic district and ride the elevator to the top of the highest building in Asia, the World Financial Tower, for a bird’s-eye view of the old and new Shanghai by the Huangpu River. The rest of the day is free for personal exploration and last minute shopping. In the evening, enjoy a farewell banquet at Xi Family Garden Restaurant.
DAY 11 | Oct. 28. Shanghai – U.S.
After breakfast, depart for the airport and your return flight. Arrive in the U.S. the same day.