The Dumpling Dynasty
Make Beijing’s acquaintance, before seeing why The Great Wall isn’t called The Somewhat Better Than Your Average Wall Wall. Rub shoulders with Xi’an’s Terracotta Warriors and strut your stuff in Shanghai’s uber-cool Bund District. The landscapes of Huangshan and Yangshuo are heaps pretty too.
Don't get weirded out, but dumplings were originally used to treat frostbitten ears. Zhang Zhongjing, a Chinese medicine man, would wrap mutton, chilli and a bunch of herbs into bits of dough and give them to people in his village. Apparently they helped promote blood flow and warmed up the body. Soon, everybody cottoned on and the jiaozi was born.
TRIP CHANGE FOR 2015:
Some of the destinations visited on this tour are very popular with Chinese domestic tourists including the Great Wall, Hongcun and Huangshan and as such can be extremely crowded on weekends. Based on feedback from our travellers and in order to avoid the crowds and have a much more enjoyable experience of these fantastic places, we have changed the start day of our Dumpling Dynasty trips from Friday to Wednesday.
Day to Day Itinerary
Day 1-4: Beijing & Great Wall
Day 1 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
As we will depart for the Great Wall on Day 2 of this trip we highly recommend arriving a few days earlier in order to have time to see some of what Beijing has to offer. Some suggestions are:
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
Catch a performance of the world renown Beijing Acrobats.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.
Pick up a bike for the day. You'll need comfortable clothes for cycling. Helmets may not be available for hire - if you wish to have a helmet you'll need to supply your own.
A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.
Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.
Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
Beijing Art & Architecture Urban Adventure - CNY590
Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY480
Kung Fu show - CNY180
Lama Temple - CNY30
Summer Palace - CNY40
Temple of Heaven - CNY40
Days 2-4 Great Wall
This morning, we'll take the bullet train from Beijing to Shanhaiguan (approx 2.5 hours) for our journey to the eastern end of Great Wall.
Arriving around noon we transfer from the station to Dongjiakou Village. You'll have the time to take in the beauty of the countryside and talk to the locals to find out what Great Wall means to them. This section has not been renovated, and there are some parts that you'll need to walk through the forest so we recommend long sleeve and pants for this walk. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip (approx. 4-5 hrs walk). There are many steps and slopes on the way so be prepared for a tough climb in sections. The views and experience though are a real highlight for all our travellers. Tonight we'll stay with the local families, so the standard will be very basic - shared bathroom & multi-shared accommodation. Also if the group size is large, the group will be split into different homestays.
The next day we head back to Shanhaiguan for a very different Great Wall experience as we explore the Old Dragon Head section from different angles. Spend an hour or two on the wall, then go to the beach to view the wall rising from the sea, an view nowhere to be found in any other part of China. You'll also have the chance to stroll around the old Shanhaiguan town and try out the local snacks on the street. Tonight, we'll stay in a local hotel in Shanhaiguan city.
Take the fast train back to Beijing before the overnight train to Xi'an (approx 13 hours).
Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face-to-face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound – compartments are open-plan and clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe, hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins). Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available, it's advised to carry some of your own; keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standard you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
Great Wall - Shanhaiguan section
Great Wall - Dongjiakou section
Day 5-6: Xian
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
Your leader will take you on a short walking tour of the city centre, showing you some of the highlights such as the Bell & Drum Towers, Muslim Quarter, the City Walls and Gates.
Explore Xi'an's most famous site - the Terracotta Warriors. It takes around an hour to get there and you'll hear all about this incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots, all standing in battle formation, were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public.
Visit the impressive Tang Dynasty Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is in a scenic area which also includes the Shaanxi History Museum and Da Cien Temple and is very popular with locals especially in the evenings when there is a nightly light & music show around the many fountains. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is inside the Jianfu Temple and Xi'an Museum is also nearby.
One of the oldest mosques in China, the Great Mosque in Xi'an features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion.
Catch an overnight train to Shanghai (approx 16 hrs).
Xi'an - Walking tour
Terracotta Warriors - CNY150
Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
Great Mosque - CNY25
Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
Day 7: Shanghai
Arrive in Shanghai and take the subway to our accommodation.
We have a full day here to explore. Don't worry if you don't fit everything in as we will be returning to Shanghai to conclude our tour and highly recommend adding on a few extra days. Some things you might like to do during your time here include:
Join your leader for a walking tour of historical Shanghai including the Bund with its spectacular array of art deco style buildings, the narrow winding lanes of the Nongtang or the European-influenced French Concession.
Visit the Propaganda Museum for a fascinating look at China's revolutionary past.
Get a bird's eye view of the city from the Pearl Tower's observation decks.
The impressive Shanghai Museum houses one of the best collections of Chinese bronze and artwork - you could easily spend the whole day here discovering the various exhibitions.
Wander the Yuyuan Gardens. These famous classical gardens were completed in 1577 by Pan Yunduan, a government official of the Ming Dynasty.
Shanghai - Walking tour
Day 8-10: Huangshan & Hongcun
Days 8-9 Huangshan
Travel by public bus to Huangshan (approx 6 hours), otherwise known as Yellow Mountain. We will stay here in a local guesthouse for the next two nights.
The 72 peaks of Huangshan provide some of China's most stunning scenery. The paths are steep and often slippery, so you will need good fitness and suitable hiking shoes. How you explore the mountain is up to you, and either way can be taken by cable car. The eastern steps are shorter (7.5km, approx 3-4 hours), but with less spectacular views. The western steps take longer (15 km) and is more difficult. We recommend taking the cable car up, exploring the trails at the summit and then descending via the western steps.
Please note that Huangshan is subject to dramatic changes in weather. You will need to be prepared for mist, fog, rain and cool temperatures. September & October are considered the best months to visit Huangshan weather wise. In any season you should ensure that you take enough clothing, food and water supplies as well as extra money in case the weather changes and you need to take the cable car instead of hiking. As one of China's premier sights, you should also be prepared for crowds of domestic tourists during public holidays, although at any time of the year there can be long waits for the cable car.
After taking in the iconic beauty of Huangshan, which despite the crowds and unpredictable weather is a rewarding destination, we return to our guesthouse for a well earned rest.
Day 10 Hongcun
Head by public transport through the bamboo and pine forests of Anhui provice to the picturesque villages of the Huizhou region.
A number of the villages are now UNESCO World Heritage sights and were even the backdrop to scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
We stay overnight in a village guesthouse, giving us plenty of time to wander the maze of cobbled alleys, admiring Ming dynasty architecture and ornate stone carvings, or clambering up into the hillsides for panoramic views of the pretty as a picture traditional settlements.
You might like to explore more villages on your own by bike or public transport, or just meander through the little market or along the waterways on foot.
Hongcun - Guided village tour
Day 11-12: Shanghai
A long travel day by public transport takes us back to the big smoke of Shanghai.
Celebrate the end of your time in China with a night out in one of Shanghai's chic bars or restaurants or stay and extra few days to explore more.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Nuts and Bolts
• Gecko’s expert English-speaking Chinese tour guide throughout the tour and local guides at some sites.
• Sightseeing: Great Wall at Shanghaiguan where it meets the sea and the remote Dongjiakou section, Walking tours in Xi'an, Shanghai & Hongcun
• Visit the traditional Chinese village of Hongcun and climb mount Huangshan
• Free time to explore in Xian and Shanghai.
• Overnight trains from Beijing to Xian and Xian to Shanghai. Accommodation in six-berth, air-conditioned cabins.
Summary of accommodation, transport & meals
- Private bus
- Public bus
- Sleeper train
- 2 nights Sleeper train
- 4 nights Budget/tourist class hotels
- 1 night Homestay
- 4 nights Hostel
International flights, departure taxes, visas, insurance, meals unless indicated, drinks, optional additional tours or activities during free time, tips and items of a personal nature.
Local Emergency Contacts In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, our Beijing Office can be reached on Tel: +861064067328
The operator for this Geckos Adventures trip is our experienced sister company Intrepid Travel. Your group will therefore be a mixture of Geckos booked passengers and other international like-minded travellers.
Infrastructure and Itinerary Changes
China is a developing country whose infrastructure, values, customs and standards differ from what you are used to at home. Please bear this in mind as you are travelling in this exciting country and respect the fact that you should not impose your standards and expectations on the culture there. The driving habits in China are something for which you ought to prepare yourself for!
Occasionally it may be necessary to amend this itinerary for reasons beyond our control, such as bad weather and poor road conditions. Changes to flight and train schedules can sometimes occur, which may also lead to changes to this itinerary.
Travelling During Holiday Periods
When travelling during local holiday periods, be prepared for some inconveniences. This is especially so during the Spring Festival holiday period (Chinese New Year) and the National Day Golden Week.
In 2014 Chinese New Year day is on Friday 31st January, ushering in the Year of the Horse. All days from 30th January to 5th February 2014 are designated as public holidays. In 2015 Chinese New Year will be on 19th February (Year of the Sheep) and in 2016 it will be on 8th February (Year of the Monkey). The greeting in Mandarin for ‘Happy New Year’ is ‘Gong Xi Fa Cai’, whilst the greeting in Cantonese is ‘Gong Hey Fat Choy’. China’s National Day is on 1st October and this ushers in a 7-day national holiday known as Golden Week. During these holiday periods, most businesses will be closed as the local people usually spend this period returning to their homes and celebrating with their families. This will involve a major burden on all forms of transport, and despite booking in advance, tickets for planes and trains especially are extremely difficult to obtain. Even if bookings are obtained, transport services during this period will be overcrowded and heavy delays are to be expected, so you will need to make sure that you pack your sense of humour. In order to facilitate your travels during these holiday periods, we may need to substitute your train/plane journey with a private bus trip, if required.
Train Travel in China
Overnight train accommodation on this tour is in 6-berth ‘hard-sleeper’ class, which are six bunk beds set out in an open cubicle compartment. Bedding is provided and wash basins and toilet facilities (usually one with a toilet seat and one squat-style in each compartment) are available on all trains, but there are no showers or baths. There are urns or thermos flasks for making hot beverages. It is quite possible that our group may be divided over a series of different compartments and we may also have to share our compartments with other passengers on the train. Train travel is an integral part of the China travel experience and offers some of the best chances of meeting and making friends with the locals.
Local Tour Guides
By employing and training local tour guides to lead our group holidays, there is a two-fold benefit. Firstly, we provide employment opportunities for the local community. Just as importantly is the benefit to you, the traveller. Your tour guide’s friendship, humour, passion and intimate knowledge of the region will be key factors in making your holiday a success.
Adventure in China
This is an ‘adventure’ trip and we hope to expose you to all aspects of the local culture. Please be open-minded.
About this Information
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!
2 June 2014
General Contact Details
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