In a little over two weeks, our journey takes us to some of the wonders of China, whose incredible history dates back over 2000 years. Visit renowned sites such as the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, explore authentic villages and towns, and discover the modern face of China in Shanghai. If that isn’t enough, we also walk along the Great Wall, see the army of Terracotta Warriors standing in full battle formation, visit the historic city of Nanjing and enjoy a three-day riverboat cruise up the spectacular Yangtze River. Bring it on!
Your trip starts today with your arrival in Beijing. No activities are planned, so arrive early if you can, as there is plenty to see. There will be a pre-departure briefing with your tour guide late Thursday afternoon. NB. We highly recommend you book an extra night prior to the tour in Beijing, as there is so much to see and do in this great city.
Beijing is a thriving metropolis and home to over 16 million people. Over the next couple of days, we explore many of its main attractions. The Forbidden City, built over 500 years ago, has been off limits to commoners until about 100 years ago. After entering through an archway beyond Tiananmen Gate, we spend the morning exploring this huge complex and marvel at the many intricate carvings that adorn its buildings. Located among the orchards and pines in the mountains to the north of Beijing, we visit the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu. The stretch of the Wall allows you to walk for about 3 hours as you explore 22 watchtowers and the valley on both sides. The climb itself is still quite steep and it is fairly broken away at the top, so good walking shoes are a must. There is ample free time to explore the many other sights of Beijing, such as the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven, or just kick back and soak up the atmosphere of this historic and vibrant metropolis. On Saturday evening we board the sleeper train for Shanghai. You can either purchase dinner on the train or buy some food prior to boarding. We stay in six-berth air-conditioned cabins that have an open and relaxed feel about them. A blanket, sheets and a pillow are provided, although some people may wish to bring their own inner sheet. Travelling on the train is a great way to mix with the locals and practise your Chinese-language skills.
We arrive into Shanghai early on Sunday morning and have plenty of time to explore China’s largest city, which was once known as the 'Paris of the East'. We take a stroll along the famous river waterfront known as The Bund, which is lined on one side by Art Deco buildings and on the other by the ‘space age’ skyline of Pudong, across the Huangpu River. We also visit Yu Yuan Gardens, a fine example of a classical Ming Dynasty garden set amidst a lively bazaar. We allow you plenty of free time to visit any of the fascinating museums or the many shopping arcades. Like all modern cities, Shanghai has a multitude of bars, restaurants and nightclubs for you to try out.
A short high speed train journey (1.5 hours) takes us to Nanjing, a former national capital in the early years of the Ming Dynasty and again at the beginning of the 20th Century. Here we enjoy some free time to explore the city at leisure. Our hotel is located near the Confucian Temple (Fuzi Miao) and a small canal known as the Qinhuai He, which ultimately flows out to the Yangtze River. Along the way we see the way China is rapidly changing, as old buildings are being replaced by modern structures. We visit Zhongshan Ling - the Mausoleum of Dr Sun Yatsen, a man who died in 1925 and is today widely recognised as the founder of modern China. In 1911 he led the country to overthrow the Qing Dynasty and created the Republic of China. He was respected by both the Nationalists and the Communists, and has cemented his place in Chinese history. During our free time in Nanjing, we have many options including visiting haunting memorial of the Nanjing Massacre, the Nanjing Museum or hiring a bicycle and riding it along the top of the Ming City Wall - the longest ever built. On Wednesday late afternoon we jump on the sleeper train headed for Yichang.
We arrive in Yichang on Thursday morning. This town is best known as the gateway city to the massive Three Gorges Dam, which is situated 40 kilometres upstream. We may have time in the evening to take a stroll along the banks of the Yangtze River, prior to embarking on our riverboat trip. This magnificent river flows for over 6,400 kilometres, from its source high in the Tanggulashan Mountains, near the Tibetan border, to the East China Sea just north of Shanghai.
Early on Saturday morning we begin our journey on the Yangzi River. Over the next two days, we start from near the massive dam and cruise through the famous Three Gorges. With the construction of the Three Gorges hydroelectric project, life along this majestic river is changing at a rapid pace. The scenery is spectacular! One minute we're surrounded by sheer cliff faces and the next we could be passing a thriving city or a deserted town. Our riverboat is one that is used by the locals, rather than large foreign tour groups. It is basic, yet comfortable and we stay in cabins with private facilities. The boat has a viewing platform, bar, shop and dining room. There are opportunities to take several shore excursions, whilst we are traveling on the boat. These are optional activities and prices can be found later in these notes under 'Sightseeing and Activities' for your reference. Please note, not all activities will be available on all trips and prices can vary dramatically. Meals can be purchased on board the boat; however, we suggest you also bring along some additional snacks. On Monday we disembark from our riverboat and drive to the bustling and hilly city of Chongqing, where we have the rest of the day to do our own exploration. N.B. The first stages of damming the Yangzi River were completed in June 2003. Please note that all rooms on the Yangtze cruise are on a share basis. If you are not already sharing a room with someone from your group, you may be required to share with someone (of the same gender) from outside your group. This could be a member of another tour group or a local person.
Late Monday morning we arrive via train to Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, where we are soon out exploring the awesome army of Terracotta Warriors. Unearthed in 1974 by farmers digging a well, these life-sized soldiers, horses and chariots were all individually hand carved. There are over 6,000 of these clay statues, all in battle formation and facing east, in order to protect China’s first emperor, Qin Shihuang. Afterwards, we have free time to wander around this historical city. The Muslim Quarter, situated just a few blocks from our hotel, is a fascinating place to visit with its Great Mosque and vast array of market stalls. The local dumplings here are legendary! Alternatively, you can cycle along the top of the ancient city walls or climb the Bell Tower, with its commanding views across town. On Wednesday evening, we catch an overnight train back to Beijing.
Our trip comes to an end in Beijing, where you have a free day to explore the monuments of this former imperial city.
An experienced local tour guide, and there will be the services of local site guides at some sites. All transportation, accommodation, sightseeing and meals as indicated.
International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.
Please note that, on your tour, you may link up with passengers booked on other tours in our Gecko’s Asia program.
The information provided here is given in good faith and has been compiled with all reasonable care. However, things change and some of the information may become out of date. Please ensure that you have the most up-to-date information for your trip. We recommend that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
14 August 2012