Fine China - 13 days

Day 1: Beijing

     Saturday. Huan ying, welcome to China and the start of your holiday! Airport arrival transfer and hotel check in. Overnight - Beijing

Day 2: Forbidden City

     Today, we embark on a tour of the nation¡¯s capital. The famous portrait of Mao Zedong, China¡¯s communist father still looks out over gargantuan Tiananmen Square from the Gate of Heavenly Peace. On the square you can not miss Mao¡¯s mausoleum, an austere behemoth in granite where he lies in state in his crystal coffin. We take a stroll on the square all under the watchful eye of the dutiful guards. A vision in grandeur with it¡¯s imperial yellow roofs and vermilion walls, the Forbidden city, once forbidden to all those except on imperial business until 1911, when the last emperor, Puyi, was turfed off his throne. We enjoy a guided walk through the city¡¯s many temples, grand halls and courtyards. The Forbidden city boasts 9999 rooms! Afternoon rickshaw ride through the Hutongs of Beijing and Peking Duck dinner at a city restaurant. Overnight - Beijing

Day 3: The Great Wall

     Today, we travel beyond Beijing to Badaling, where we take a walk along the famed Great Wall. No matter how many pictures you¡¯ve seen, the Great Wall of China is very impressive. Following a ridge of barren hills through northern China, it stretches as far as the eye can see - at least 6,700 kilometres. Continuing, we visit a cloisonne workshop of decorative metal and enamel sculpture. Tonight, an eye boggling Chinese acrobatic performance. Swinging ropes, juggling hoops, spinning plates and 8 story human pyramids are just a few tricks these showstoppers pull out. Overnight - Beijing

Day 4: Summer Palace

     Beijing - Luoyang. A morning walk through the local market, then a chance to cross a few palms with silver at Silk Alley markets, where even the most hardened non-shoppers manage to walk away with something they really desire! The Summer Palace is set on picturesque Lake Kunming. Perhaps most famous of all the structures at the palace is the wonderful Long Corridor, a covered walkway 730m long extraordinarily hand-painted with scenes from Chinese history, legend and literature. Tonight, we travel to Luoyang, en route we view the massive Beijing 2008 Olympic Stadium and aquatic centre. Overnight - Sleeper Train to Luoyang

Day 5: Longman Caves

     Today we explore the UNESCO world heritage listed 6th Century Longman Caves, etched into the cliffs along the Yi River. The 1300 caves (grottoes) were carved out by hand during the Northern Wei Dynasty and are adorned with more than 100,000 statues and images of Buddha and his disciples. Later we tour the first Buddhist temple in China - White Horse Temple. Overnight - Luoyang

Day 6: Luoyang

     Luoyang ¨C X¡¯ian. In the wee hours of the morning we set out on foot to Peony Square to watch or partake in a little exercise. Hundreds of Chinese take their daily exercise by practising ballroom dancing, performing tai chi, sword fighting and play sports like badminton and hacky sack at the break of dawn. Boarding the morning train we travel onward to Xi¡¯an, afternoon at leisure. Overnight - Xi'an

Day 7: Terracotta Warriors

     Most famous for the Terracotta Warriors, perhaps the find of the 20th century and only just usurped by the discovery of King Tut¡¯s gold-laden tomb in Egypt, the Terracotta Warriors comprise more than 7,000 life-sized soldiers which stand in military formation in excavated pits under the cover of a modern protective hanger. Made of local clay, no two faces are alike, each is said to be an individual portrait. We visit the Terracotta Warrior archaeological site and a workshop where warrior figurines are made. This evening, On Broadway - Chinese style we can attend a Tang Dynasty dinner and performance with Chang¡¯an music and dance originally performed for the illustrious Tang emperors. Overnight - Xi'an

Day 8: Big Wild Goose Pagoda

     Xi'an - Yangshuo. Today, we visit Xi¡¯an¡¯s city symbol, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, first built in AD652 to hold sutras collected in India by a wandering monk. An awesome sight, the City Wall is over 15 km in perimeter and we embark on a bike ride (solo or tandem). A legacy of the Silk Road, we visit the Muslim Quarter and later fly south to Guilin. Onward transfer to Yangshuo (approx 1.5hrs drive). Hot pot lunch, late evening hotel check in. Overnight - Yangshuo

Days 9 - 10: Guilin & Yangshuo

     Yangshuo - Guilin. Renown for it¡¯s striking scenery: vast areas of karst limestone outcrops that rise up from flat rice paddy fields, Guilin and Yangshuo are often the subject of many Chinese paintings. Today, we take a 2 hour rafting cruise along the calm clean waters of Yu Long River. As our captain punts (propels us forward by pushing against the river bed with a long pole) our flat bottom boat along the shallow waters endless photo opportunities arise.

     The remainder of our time in Yangshuo is spent at leisure. Choose to hike, hire a bicycle or motorbike and head off on one of the many mountain trails or stop to watch the local fishermen use their trained cormorants to catch fish - a centuries old tradition, though somewhat commercialised these days. Time can also be spent exploring West Street. The ancient alley is laden with quirky shops, tea shops, antiques, calligraphers and art studios. Maybe take a beginners art class with a local painter or enjoy a morning class at the ¡®Cloud 9¡¯ cooking school. By nightfall, sit in any of the al fresco cafes, pubs or bars serving cold beer and delicious speciality foods from the region, catch a film at any of the outdoor cinemas or attend the nightly ¡®Impression Liu Sanjie¡¯ musical, with a cast of 500 singers and dancers. In the late afternoon of day 10 we return to Guilin. Overnight - Yangshuo (1), Guilin (1)

Day 11: Dragon's Backbone

     Yangshuo - Longsheng - Guangzhou. A 90 minute drive leads us to Longsheng, to walk the rice terraces of the Dragon¡¯s Backbone. Beginning at the base of Mt Longji the verdant green rice fields coil up the steep mountain, layer upon layer, climbing to its summit. Taking a walk along the stone paths no more than a metre wide, we¡¯ll pass many of the Yao and Red Yao minority women, baskets on their backs, who are also climbing skyward. Reaching the ¡®Seven Stars accompanying Moon¡¯ lookout, soak up the spectacular views. The full panorama offers thousands of ribbon like terraces cascading to the meandering streams and valley floor beneath. Returning to Guilin, we travel onward to Hong Kong OR fly to Shanghai (see ¡®Onward to Shanghai¡¯ itinerary below). If heading for Hong Kong, later tonight we board the express sleeper train to Guangzhou. Overnight - Sleeper Train to Guangzhou

Day 12: Hong Kong

     Guangzhou - Kowloon/Hong Kong. Arrive Guangzhou and transfer by Hydrofoil to Hong Kong and onward to your hotel. The remainder of the day is free for you to explore, maybe head over to Victoria Peak, Stanley Markets or Aberdeen Harbour. Overnight - Hong Kong

Day 13: Hong Kong

     Thursday. Tour ends after breakfast and hotel check out at 12noon. Hong Kong International airport is a quick 24min journey on the Airport Express train running at 12 minute intervals.

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