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Day 1: Arrive in Beijing
Met on arrival at Beijing airport and transferred to your hotel. Tonight we have an orientation and welcome dinner.
Day 2: Forbidden City, Hutongs, Summer Palace, Beijing Opera
We begin with a walk through Tiananmen Square en route to our morning visit to the Forbidden City, known as the Imperial Museum and a UNESCO Site. In its 500-year history only 24 Emperors and their attendants could ever have known about its 800 buildings and 9000 chambers.
Day 3: The Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs
Today we visit the Great Wall, (Mutianyu Great Wall) a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Every tower and turret stands just as it did when the Mongols overran the country 700 years ago. Our next visit is to the famed Ming Tombs where we walk along the sacred path to the vast imperial burial ground and see the 3rd Emperor's Tomb.
Day 4: Beijing, Train to Xian
This morning we begin by visiting the Temple of Heaven (UNESCO) which the emperor visited twice a year to pray for good harvests. We also have some free time to interact with the locals and watch activities (badminton, tai chi, cards, knitting).
Day 5: Xian, Terra Cotta Warriors
A memorable day starts with a visit to the Terracotta Warriors (UNESCO). We discover the famous clay army of soldiers and part of the tomb of Qin Shi Huang Di, the first emperor of China.
Day 6: Xian, Fly to Chongqing
This morning we visit the History Museum, one of the largest in Asia, to see various artifacts unearthed at sites in the area. We complete our day with a visit to the Wild Goose Pagoda, home to over 600 sets of Buddhist scriptures. Tonight we sample local Muslim specialties.
Day 7: To Dazu, Buddhist Caves, Board Yangtze River Cruise
Drive to Dazu, one of China's most remarkable Buddhist sites featuring more than 60,000 statues dating from the Tang and Song Dynasties. En route we stop at a local farmer's home. In Dazu we visit the Buddhist Caves in the northern hills of Beishan and Baodingshan (UNESCO), which display numerous sculptures. Set upon the beautiful terraced fields, they are perfect examples of a great artistic and religious period at its peak.
Day 8: Yangtze River Cruise
The Yangtze is the third largest river in the world. The lands along its banks are among the most populous and productive in China. Today we stop at Fengdu (or Shibaoshan), where the river banks' heights are fabled to be the abode of spirits and therefore named "The City of Ghosts" (or Shibao Fortress).
Day 9: Yangtze River Cruise, Shennong Stream
We cross Qutang Gorge, the first and narrowest of the Three Gorges which is lined with dramatic vertical cliffs on either side. We board a small boat to sail up the Daning River or Shennong Stream for a look at the vertical limestone cliffs and the "hanging coffins" of the ancient Tujia people.
Day 10: Yangtze River Cruise - Yichang Three Gorges Dam Tour, Fly to Shanghai
After passing the longest and the last of the Three Gorges, the Xiling Gorge, we pass through the Gezhouba Dam and disembark from our river cruise in Yichang. A tour of the immense Three Gorges Dam is a fitting end to our Yangtze voyage. (Please note: due to the ongoing process of damming the Yangtze, the cruise itinerary is subject to change.)
Day 11: Shanghai
This morning we enjoy a city tour of cosmopolitan city of Shanghai including the fabulous Yuyuan Garden for a taste of old Shanghai where we will see Ming style gardens with pavilions, streams, and pools. Stay on the look out for the huge Dragon Wall (the dragon is protecting the garden), red fish swimming in the Lotus Pool, and the zig-zag Bridge of Nine Turns – the zig-zags foil the demons (who don't turn corners very well). In the afternoon we will visit the Shanghai Museum, followed by a leisure stroll through the hustle and bustle of Nanjing Road. We will walk through the Bund which is lined with exotic building clusters at the west bank of the Huangpu River. You can watch the ships, boats, barges and ferries both large and small float down the river and imagine the Bund a century ago, teeming with junks and sampans, loading and unloading at the wharves. Telescopes provide close-up views of all the activity.
Day 12: Shanghai
Following breakfast we depart for Zhujiajiao Water Town for a visit. Known as Venice of Shanghai with a history of more than 1700 years, the small town is the best-preserved among the four ancient towns in Shanghai, and also known as "Pearl Stream." Unique old bridges over small rivers shaded by willow trees, and houses with charming courtyards, transport visitors to an atmosphere of leisure and tranquility admist a bustling big city. In the afternoon drive to Hongkou area to visit the Shanghai Jewish Refugee Memorial Museum, built by the Sassoon family in 1920 which served as a type of Noah's Ark in the minds of Jewish refugees as well as the main place to conduct Jewish religious activities during World War II. We will also walk to the Huo Shan Park to see a monument dedicated to the Jewish refugees. We continue strolling around the neighboring area visiting the Old French Concession, an area once leased to the French in the Luwan and Xuhui districts of the city, is a reminder of an older Shanghai. The visitor-friendly area is packed full of beautiful colonial mansions and hotels dating back to the first three decades of the twentieth century.
Day 13: Guilin
A mid morning flight will take us what is deemed the most beautiful place on earth by Chinese visitors for centuries, Guilin. This afternoon we take a chairlift to Yaoshan Hill to admire the beautiful view over the surrounding karst peaks. Our last stop is to an organic Tea Plantation.
Day 14: Guilin, Li River Cruise, Yangshuo
Today we take a cruise on the Li River through amazing landscapes of limestone peaks to the village of Yangshuo. Yangshuo has all the comely charms of Guilin but on a much smaller scale. This afternoon you are free to explore or take a walk up Moon Hill for breathtaking views of the area.
Day 15: Fast train to Hong Kong
This morning drive back to Guilin and take the fast train (about 3hrs) to Hong Kong. Upon arrival we will check in to our hotel and enjoy dinner.
Day 16: Hong Kong - Victoria Peak
We begin with a visit to the city's premier visitor attraction, Victoria Peak: situated high above Hong Kong Island on the "back of the dragon," the peak gives us magnificent harbor and city views.
Day 17: Depart Hong Kong
We bid farewell to the far east and transfer to the airport for our flight home.
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