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Selected departures March to October 2017
Since the days of Marco Polo, China has fascinated our western minds in the most compelling way. The country’s immense size, almost unimaginable wealth and other-worldly culture have together woven an intoxicating and quite irresistible spell.
Since the days of Marco Polo, China has fascinated our western minds in the most compelling way. The country’s immense size, almost unimaginable wealth and otherworldly culture have together woven an intoxicating and quite irresistible spell.
But the Chinese today are living through an astonishing transformation. As well as being justly proud of their long history and unique cultural legacy, they’re keen to show you their huge achievements as a rapidly growing world superpower. China has always been a nation of superlatives. The most populous on earth, it’s also the fourth largest. Silk, tea, paper money, porcelain and gunpowder all originated here. Effectively closed to outsiders for most of its 6,000 year recorded history, China has developed its own unique character, language and society.
At the heart of Beijing lies the spectacular Imperial Palace. Here, emperors issued decrees to kneeling dignitaries for hundreds of years. Collectively called the ‘Forbidden City’, it contains a staggering 9,999 rooms. Adorned with paintings of dragons and phoenixes, carvings and inscriptions, it’s crowned by typically Chinese turned-up roofs with gold-hued tiles. Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest plaza and final resting place of Chairman Mao, holds a staggering 600,000 people. The immense Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven are stunning in their simplicity and laden with symbolism. And beyond the city lies the stupendous 4,000-mile Great Wall, the largest structure ever built by man and one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Two centuries before the founding of ancient Rome, Xian was already a world-class city and gateway to the Silk Road. Home to over a dozen dynasties, it houses the extraordinary 6,000-strong Terracotta Army. First discovered in 1974 by farmers digging a well, the life-size and remarkably preserved warriors all have their own individual features. They’ve guarded the tomb of the first Qin Emperor for more than two millennia.
Although on a much smaller scale than Beijing or Xian, Guilin has some of China’s most breathtaking scenery. Beautifully set around four lakes and two rivers, it’s surrounded by the stunning karst limestone scenery of lush forest-covered peaks and pinnacles. You’ll also visit the extraordinary Longshen Rice Terraces, carved into the hills in their thousands over centuries by the hands of Yao tribesmen.
In Chengdu, you’ll see some of the world’s most endangered and enchanting animals – Panda bears. This is the leading Panda research and breeding centre in China. We’ll visit them in the morning while they’re still active, and before they sleep for the rest of the day after eating their fill of bamboo.
Our relaxing three-day cruise on the Yangtze is a welcome change of pace as our five-star ship, the 428-foot long river cruiser RV Century Sun, navigates through the spectacular Three Gorges. There are wonderful views from the balcony of every cabin and the service onboard is just as perfect.
Shanghai, China’s wealthiest city, is an intoxicating mix of colonial tradition and modern economic dynamism. Occupied by the western powers during the 19th century, the riverside Bund became one of the greatest trading centres of the world. Today this lovingly restored waterfront contrasts with the forest of skyscrapers that cover the skyline – with more seeming to rise up every day.
But China is also home to one of the world’s great cuisines – with the ubiquitous Peking Duck from the north, chillies from the west and fruit and carp from the sub-tropical climate of the south. Real Chinese food is both a revelation and a gourmet paradise. In Britain our standard greeting is ‘How are you?’ In China, it’s ‘Have you eaten today?’
This tour is a remarkable journey of discovery of one of the world’s most ancient cultures, aspects of which are almost beyond our comprehension, blended with a remarkably stunning topography and a staggering pace of modernisation.
The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room and includes: scheduled flights to Beijing and from Shanghai; 15 nights accommodation in four-star hotels including 3 nights on board a five-star Yangtze cruise ship; daily breakfast, 9 lunches & 5 dinners; all tours and entrance fees as described: guided tours of the Forbidden City & Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, rickshaw tour of the Hutongs, the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, Wild Goose Pagoda, the Underground Museum, Li River cruise, Yangshuo walking tour, Longshen Rice Terraces, Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre, all mentioned shore excursions on Yangtze cruise, Shanghai; four domestic flights and one rail journey; all transfers and hotel porterage of one item of luggage per person; services of an experienced Riviera tour manager.
N.B. Itinerary may be subject to change depending on domestic flight timings and Yangtze & Li river water levels. Meals in China: all included lunches and dinners are Chinese meals and are set menus of several courses and dishes shared around tables of 6-10 persons, one local beer or soft drink is normally included as is unlimited Chinese tea; breakfasts are buffet style with western food options. Hotel beds can be ‘firm’ in China and rooms are normally twin-bedded; requests for double beds cannot be guaranteed.
NOT INCLUDED: China visa.
All British passport holders require a multiple-entry tourist China visa which costs £151 per person; this is inclusive of the £85.00 visa fee and a £66.00 service charge or for Postal Applications £175.00 per person; this is inclusive of the £85.00 visa fee and a £90.00 service charge. Visas are processed via the China Visa Application Service Centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh. Full details are available on http://www.visaforchina.org. Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months from date of travel and have at least two completely empty pages. Visa fees are subject to change without notice and non-refundable. Whilst care has been taken to ensure that the information provided relating to visa requirements is true and correct at time of publication, changes in requirements after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information. Therefore, whilst we strive to provide the most up-to-date information, we strongly suggest that you re-confirm requirements with the relevant embassy prior to application.
Depart on your overnight flight direct to Shanghai.
Transfer to our hotel, the four-star superior Central Hotel for one night with breakfast. This evening we enjoy a fascinating stroll along the colonial ‘Bund’, Shanghai’s riverside promenade.
This morning you experience a thrilling ride on China’s new 186mph high speed train service to Beijing. On arrival we transfer to our hotel, the four-star Mercure Downtown for three nights with breakfast.
Our first stop is at Tiananmen Square and the Gate of Heavenly Peace, the entrance to the Forbidden City, where Chairman Mao announced the birth of the People’s Republic in 1949. Through the central arch you enter a different world: spread over 250 acres, with 9,999 rooms, this was the seat of imperial power for 600 years. After lunch we continue our tour with a visit to the great Summer Palace. This evening we have the option to attend a Kung Fu show, with dinner.
Today is one of the highlights of the tour as we head towards the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu. Although a popular spot, it’s much less visited by the masses. As we approach, your first sight of the Great Wall is as it snakes along the forested ridges above – a wild landscape, as untamed as when it was built. After lunch we visit the great Temple of Heaven in Beijing: the park surrounding is full of locals playing board games, dancing, exercising, playing music and singing – a glimpse of the real Beijing. This evening we enjoy the classic local dish: a Peking Duck banquet.
This morning we fly to Xian. On the way from Xian airport we visit the remarkable Hang Yang Ling tomb and Underground Museum which displays some of the 40,000 funeral objects and statues unearthed around the tomb of the first Han Emperor. We then see the city’s imposing Ming Dynasty walls, 40ft high and stretching for nine miles. Prior to Beijing, Xian was the centre of Chinese imperial power for over 2,000 years, as well as the start of the famed Silk Route to the West. We stay two nights with breakfast at the four-star Days Inn Xian Hotel.
Another highlight is today’s visit to the stunning Terracotta Army. The first Qin Emperor united China’s warring factions and began the construction of the Great Wall. Guarding the tomb itself is his Terracotta Army. Drawn up in traditional battle order, the vanguard consists of rows of archers and crossbowmen, followed by columns of infantry and chariots. Each figure is unique, life-size and lifelike – a unique experience! Lunch is included today.
Today we fly to Guilin. We see another of China’s great wonders: the Longshen Rice Terraces. Over hundreds of years the ethnic Yao tribes have cut thousands of rice terraces into the steep hills and over every fold of the landscape. Our hotel for two nights in Guilin is the four-star Bravo Hotel with breakfast. Dinner is included tonight.
We board our excursion boat for a cruise down the Li River. This has to be one of the most beautiful river journeys in the world: rising from flat rice paddies around the river are thousands of conical-shaped limestone peaks and pinnacles covered in verdant tropical forests. After lunch on board, you’ll have some free time in the picturesque riverside town of Yangshuo before returning to Guilin.
We fly to Chengdu for one night at the four-star superior Tianfu Sunshine Hotel with breakfast. This afternoon we walk through Jin Li Street, a recreation of a traditional shopping street, with plenty of local handicrafts and places to sit down and relax with some local green tea or coffee.
Spread over 200 acres the Chengdu Panda Breeding & Research Centre has been beautifully landscaped with bamboo-shaded pathways leading to the large panda enclosures. One of the most popular stops is at the baby panda enclosure where there will usually be 3-4 youngsters climbing over specially constructed bamboo frames. We experience one of China’s high-speed express trains for the 2hr journey to Chongqing where we board our river cruise ship and home for the next three nights, the five-star RV Century Sun.
After breakfast there is the option to visit Fengdu, the ‘Ghost’ City, or participate in some of the various activities on board. In the afternoon we visit the remarkable Shibaozhai Pagoda, rising twelve stories up a sheer cliff face, this delicate structure is the architectural jewel of the Yangtze.
Today we enter Qutang, the first Yangtze gorge, continuing through the Wu Gorge just before lunch. This afternoon we transfer to a smaller riverboat for a leisurely cruise on one of the Yangtze’s Lesser Three Gorges, the narrow Shennv or ‘Goddess’ Stream. Tonight it’s the Captain’s Farewell Banquet followed by dancing in the lounge.
We continue our cruise downstream through the Xiling Gorge towards the Three Gorges Dam, visiting the viewing platform from where the colossal size of the project can be appreciated. We disembark at Yichang, have lunch and fly to Shanghai in the afternoon. Our hotel for two nights is the four-star superior Central, right on Nanjing Road, a 10-minute stroll to the Bund and People’s Square.
This morning we have a short tour of the principal sights, including the Jade Buddha temple and the Yuyuan Gardens. We’ll pass the British Consulate, the oldest building on the Bund, plus the former headquarters of the famous trading house of Jardine Matheson. This evening you have the option to see the world-famous Shanghai Acrobatic show.
This morning we catch the world’s fastest train, the Maglev, on our way to Shanghai’s Pudong airport for our direct flight home, arriving home later the same day.
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