|DAY/ACTIVITY||DESCRIPTION (trip provided by Imperial Tours)|
|FRIDAY, JULY 3
|Upon arrival at Beijing International Airport, you will be met at the gate by airport VIP staff who will lead you through immigration, baggage claim and customs. Your China Host will then meet you after you have claimed your luggage and passed through customs. The China Host will accompany you during the remainder of your stay in China (our China Host acts as a personal concierge to you throughout your stay in China, allowing you to make changes as you see fit ... this may mean adding a site or taking out a site, changing a restaurant or booking a foot massage!). Upon transferring to the hotel, you will have the remainder of the evening at leisure (no other services included this evening). [Raffles Hotel, 4 nights]|
|SATURDAY, JULY 4
• Open-Air Market
• Imperial Summer Palace
|For shoppers, Beijing's largest open-air market will come close to paradise. Here you will mingle with Beijingers, overseas and local art dealers as well as farmers who import goods from the countryside. This is your opportunity to buy a Ming dynasty set of the Confucianist classics for a song or else, and more likely, to buy from an astonishingly rich variety of Chinese and Tibetan cultural objects (at usually a tenth the price found in the U.S. and at often half the price found at local shops). For non-shoppers, this market can be thought of as China's largest museum of modern cultural life, where you can see, talk to and photograph a wide range of local and regional Chinese going about their daily lives and business. (Please note that this market is open only on the weekends.)
Afterwards, we take a tour of the Imperial Summer Palace, a retreat said to have been given to the Empress Dowager Cixi in return for political favors. Whether or not you believe the popular demonization of this female leader, she certainly had taste. Her enchanting mansion, set on 700 acres of land, incorporates stunning temples, arched bridges, capacious pavilions and the world's longest covered corridor, all within a landscape crafted according to the dictates of fengshui. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|SUNDAY, JULY 5
• Temple of Heaven
• Great Wall of China
|This morning we will visit the Temple of Heaven — a Confucianist complex spanning 670 acres — created for the exclusive use of the Emperor as a place to mediate affairs between God and man. Morning is a wonderful time to visit the Temple as you will see local Beijingers out doing their morning exercises.
Later in the day, you will visit the Great Wall of China. Built to protect China from the incursions of predatory nomads, the utility and meaning of this fortification has been contested for centuries. The unprecedented scale and unexpected charm of the Great Wall may inspire you. The section that we most highly recommend is the further away, about 2.5 hours drive, but is generally considered one of the most beautiful sections of the Great Wall. Once there, you will be treated to a private banquet on the Wall itself (weather permitting). After lunch you will be given some time for a stroll along this most magnificent of sites. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|MONDAY, JULY 6
• Tian'anmen Square
• Forbidden City
|Whether by force of irony or expediency, China's government has been located in the same area continuously for over six hundred years. You will walk back in time; strolling across Tian'anmen Square, one of the largest squares of the modern era, you will pass the Monument to the People's Heroes — dedicated to the ravages of the hundred year long Opium War — and finally enter the ancient epicenter of Imperial Power, the Forbidden City.
We continue the day with an intimate pedicab tour through Beijing's traditional alleyways (or hutong). This is one of the rare chances that you will see Chinese people in their everyday setting. If you wish, you will have the opportunity to visit the home of a Chinese family and ask them questions about their way of life. Dinner tonight will be served at one of the city's chicest restaurants. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|TUESDAY, JULY 7
BEIJING and XI'AN
• Free time & shopping
• Flight to Xi'an
|This morning there will be some free time. You may wish for us to arrange visits to the studios of local crafts people, such as a kite maker whose ancestors were the kite makers to the Qing Imperial household. Or if you are more interested in contemporary items, a visit to Beijing's art galleries might be more suited to your tastes.
You will then fly to Xi'an, where in the evening you will enjoy a private dumpling-making and noodle-throwing lesson by the hotel's expert chefs. [Sofitel Hotel, 2 nights] (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|WEDNESDAY, JULY 8
• Terracotta Warriors
• Big Goose Pagoda
• Great Mosque / Muslim Quarter
|Competing Chinese kingdoms were united for the first time within a Chinese empire by the virile King Zheng, of the Kingdom of Qin. Many claim that this first Imperial dynasty of "Qin" (pronounced "chin") gives English the
etymological root for the name "China". China's first ever Emperor, known as Qinshihuangdi, designated Xi'an the capital of his rule. He arranged for an underground army to be buried in his tomb. These are the stunning Terracotta Warriors, which you will visit this morning.
China's capital during the Han (206BC–220AD) and Tang (618–907AD) dynasties, periods of increasing international exposure, Xi'an became home to communities of Nestorian Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Jews, and Muslims — many of whom have left their mark. This afternoon, for example, you will tour the Big Goose Pagoda, an edifice built to house the first Buddhist texts ever transported to China from India. Following this, we will observe the enduring influence of the Muslim community in the form of Xi'an's Great Mosque and forever-bustling Muslim Quarter. (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|THURSDAY, JULY 9
XI'AN & GUILIN
• Xi'an's History Museum
|As the capital of twelve dynasties spanning over 1,100 years, Xi'an will certainly not disappoint art enthusiasts. For example, where else would you expect to find wonderful Tang dynasty ceramic horses but in its former capital? The collection at Xi'an's History Museum traces the city's development from the matriarchal societies of the third millennium BC to China's apogee under the mighty Tang dynasty (618–907).
In the afternoon, we will fly to Guilin to be welcomed by this area's tropical warmth and exquisite landscapes. [Hotel of Modern Art, 2 nights; while an excellent hotel, the hotel is not rated] (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|FRIDAY, JULY 10
• Li River
• Rural China
|The day begins with a ride on traditional bamboo rafts along a less visited stretch of the Li River. Children swim in the rippling waters, lined with overhanging clumps of bamboo. Local farmers rake the riverbed for reeds to give to their wives to dry out and weave. Fishermen click signals to their cormorants as they hunt the river bottom for fish.
After a white-linen banquet in the spectacular karst landscape, you will have a chance to see rural China by traveling far from the tourist route deep into the countryside to view village life. You will visit a local school, watch villagers prepare soy milk and tofu, and wander through the rice fields. This is a wonderful place to relax and really enjoy rural China. (We ask you not to bring presents for the young children at the school. Imperial Tours takes care not to create a culture of dependency amongst the school children, and instead donates equipment to the school in return for the access it provides our guests.) (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)
|SATURDAY, JULY 11
On To MacMania!
|Today you will take a morning flight to Beijing. At your arrival, you'll be transferred by car to Tianjin (about three hours drive) in time to board your cruise before 5 pm (Departure 7 pm). (Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are provided)