iExplore China and Yangtze Experience

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  • Privately Guided
  • Starting Price: $4,199
  • Length: 13 days
  • Operator: iExplore Exclusive
  • 1-800-267-33479am - 5:30pm Eastern
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Tour Description

China, a mysterious land of red pagodas, cosmopolitan cities, manicured gardens, and Great Walls, is yours to explore on this 13-day tour.

Start in Beijing, where you explore Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Great Wall. Fly to Xi'an, home to the terracotta army guarding the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi. Xi'an was the largest city in the world during the Tang dynasty (618-907).

Enjoy an unforgettable three-day cruise on the Yangtze River. Pass through towering gorges and join fascinating shore excursions, including the Ghost City of Fengdu and ancient cliff coffins at Shennong Stream. Your journey through China concludes in Shanghai, with its excellent museums and elaborate temples.

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive Beijing, China

When you arrive in Beijing you are met for private transfer to your hotel for check-in and overnight. The capital of the People's Republic of China, Beijing is a unique reflection of the many changing facets of contemporary Chinese culture, where ancient historical sites such as the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven vie for space alongside high-rise buildings, modern shopping malls and an intricate freeway system. A thriving commercial capital, continually developing, Beijing's 2,000-year-old cultural heritage is still very much evident with a vast array of stunning attractions throughout the city.

Pental Hotel

Day 2: Beijing

Today is a full day city tour of Beijing by private vehicle. We start with a visit to Tiananmen Square, a site of historic significance for the advent of communism in China. Known as "six-four" or "June 4th," the movement has become the albatross of the Chinese government in regards to human rights and freedom of speech, a point of contention in Sino-American relations. Aside from the grand and tragic events that happened here over the last 50 years, Tiananmen is truly a people's square, alive with local kite fliers and wide-eyed tourists.

Then visit the impressive Forbidden City within the Imperial Palace. Also known as the Imperial Palace Museum or Gugong, the Forbidden City was the place where the emperors of the Ming and Qing Dynasties carried out their administration and lived.

It is open to the public as a palace museum where people can see great traditional architecture, enjoy the hidden treasures and learn about legends of the imperial family and the court.

This afternoon, enjoy a stroll through the lush gardens of the Summer Palace. Equally famous as the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace is called "Yiheyuan" (Garden of Nurtured Harmony) in Chinese. It is the best preserved and largest imperial gardens in China.

Pental Hotel (B)

Day 3: Beijing

Enjoy a morning excursion to visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China, which snakes over the green hilly countryside outside of Beijing. It is one of the greatest wonders of the world and was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987. Just like a gigantic dragon, the Great Wall winds up and down across deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus stretching approximately 6,700 kilometers (4,163 miles) from eastern to western China. With a history of more than 2000 years, some of the section are in ruins and some are destroyed completely. Nonetheless, it is still one of the most appealing attractions on the planet thanks to its architectural grandeur and historical significance.

This afternoon visit the 798 Art Zone, located in the Dashanzi area, to the northeast of Beijing. It is the site of state-owned factories including Factory 798, which originally produced electronics. Beginning in 2002, artists and cultural organizations began to divide, rent out and re-make the factory spaces, gradually developing them into galleries, artist's studios, design companies, restaurants and bars. It became a "Soho-esque" area of international character, replete with "loft living", which attracted international attention. Bringing together contemporary design and architecture with a historically interesting location and an urban lifestyle, "798" has evolved into a cultural concept that is interesting to everyone. Please note: opening hours are from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm Tuesday through Saturday.

Pental Hotel (B)

Day 4: Beijing

This morning after breakfast, visit the Temple of Heaven, set in a 670-acre park. Here you will find Qinian Dian (Hall of Prayer for the Good Harvests), constructed without a single nail, and one of the finest examples of Chinese architecture.

Then, enjoy a 1-1.5 hour Tai Chi Class in the park and a lesson in Feng shui. The demonstration by Tai Chi masters includes Chinese classical music, a tutor to learn simplified 24 forms of Yang style Tai Chi Quan and a competition between the students for a small prize. Feng shui is a great treasure of Chinese traditional culture. Literally translated to "wind and water," it is the ancient art of balancing, harmonizing and enhancing the flow of natural energies in the environment.

A Feng shui Master will conduct this lecture for about 1.5-2 hours talking about how the Chinese architecture is affected by Feng shui, which involves the whole process from site selection, design, construction and interior and exterior decorating in ancient times. In the lecture, the master will also explain how to apply these principles to create a harmonious and prosperous home or business. Questions are welcome and will be answered, as there is often much confusing and contradictory information in this vast, complex and exciting science.

Also, enjoy a rickshaw tour of the Hutongs, the "Old City" neighborhood full of narrow alleyways and courtyard gardens hidden behind Beijing's modern facade. Later we will have afternoon tea with a local family.

Pental Hotel (B)

Day 5: Beijing- Xi'an

This morning you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport for your flight to Xi'an. Upon arrival, you will be met by your English-speaking guide and visit the city wall and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda before being taken to your hotel.

Strategically set on the Silk Road trade route that once linked central Asia to Europe, Xi'an was the largest city in the world during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Although the city is quite modern, Xi'an has retained many of the historical remnants of its past glory.

Xi'an's City Wall was built in the Tang Dynasty when the city was the capital and is now the only complete city wall in existence in China. Visit one of the gates and take a stroll through the area. We then visit the Great Wild Goose Pagoda, built in the beginning of the Tang dynasty as a memorial to Crown Prince Lhi Zhi's mother.

Ramada Bell Tower (B)

Day 6: Xi'an

Enjoy a full day of sightseeing starting with the Terracotta Warriors Museum. A terracotta army guards the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi and lures travelers from all over the world. In a quest for immortality and eternal power, China's first emperor chose to have himself buried with some 8,000 life-size, intricately carved soldiers, horses and chariots. Discovered by farmers digging a well in 1974, the terracotta army then wore painted uniforms, but exposure to the air and sun has turned them black. Your tour includes a visit to the lower platform.

This afternoon, visit the nearby Banpo Neolithic Village, which houses 1,000-year-old artifacts and the hot springs of Huaqing, baths that have been in use for over 3,000 years.

Ramada Bell Tower (B)

Day 7: Xi'an- Chongqing- Yangtze River Cruise

After breakfast this morning, you will meet your guide for a visit to the Muslim Market in Xi'an before heading to the airport for your flight to Chongqing.

Upon arrival in Chongqing, yu are met and taken on an introductory city tour including a visit to the zoo to see the pandas, city museum and city market. Chongqing, a picturesque mountain city that clings to steep cliffs on the confluence of the Yangtze and Jialing Rivers, serves as ether a port of arrival or departure for every Victoria Yangtze River cruise.

Transfer to the port for your cruise check-in. The boat departs at 9:00 pm from Chongqing. Along the shores of the Yangtze River, the ancient and the modern collide. During your journey with Victoria Cruises, you will experience the thrilling ebb and flow of life in the 21st Century.

Victoria Cruises (B, D)

Day 8: Yangtze River Cruise

Today we have a shore excursion to Fengdu or Shibaozhai.

Fengdu is located on the northern bank of the Yangtze, 176 kilometers downstream from Chongqing. Known as the "Ghost City," since the Eastern Han Dynasty, Fengdu is a very popular site for tourists on the Yangtze River. Two officials from the imperial court, Wang Fang Ping and Ying Chang Sheng, were bored with political life and came to Mt. Minshan to practice Taoist teachings.

Rumor has it both of them became immortal by carrying out self-cultivation. When combined together, their surnames Yin and Wang sound very much like "King of Hell" in Chinese. In China, the social structure of hell is exactly like that of the real world where a spirit goes through the bureaucratic process to be judged. Those pure of spirit will be rewarded and those sinful will be subject to severe punishments for different kinds of sins. The temples built on Mt. Minshan display torture instruments and wild demon images, which vividly depict the Chinese imagination of Hell. Landmarks on the hill bear horrible names like Ghost Torturing Pass, Tower of Last Glance to Home, No Way Out Bridge, and River of Blood.

Completely different, Shibaozhai represents one of the gems of Chinese architecture along the banks of the Yangtze River. From afar, the protruding 220-meter (720 foot) hill on the north bank appears to resemble a jade seal, and is so named. The creation of the hill is attributed to the goddess Nuwo, who caused a rockslide while she was redecorating the sky after a fierce battle between two warring dukes. A red pavilion hugs one side of this rock with a tall yellow entrance gate decorated in lions and dragons etched with an inscription inviting visitors to ascend into a "Little Fairyland." The temple at the top was built during the reign of the Emperor Qianlong (1736-96) and access was by an iron chain attached to the cliff. A nine-story wooden pavilion was added in 1819 so that monks and visitors would not have to suffer the discomforts of the chain ascent. In 1956 three more stories were added. Each floor is dedicated to the famous generals of the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-65), local scholars and renowned Chinese poets. The rising waters of the river will eventually surround the pagoda, which will be preserved with a tiny dam left on an island. In front of Ganyu Palace at the top of the Jade Seal Hill is the Duck Hole. It is said that as spring turns to summer, if you take a live duck and drop it through the hole, it will quickly reappear swimming in the Yangtze. In the past, monks drew their drinking water from this hole by using a pipe made of bamboo. The spirit wall in the temple's main hall is constructed of excavated Han-dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) bricks. The hall behind it is dedicated on the right to General Zhang Fei and Yan Yan of the Three Kingdoms, and on the left to General Qin Liangyu (1576-1648) who fought bravely against the Manchu forces. A mural shows the goddess Nuwo repairing the sky. In the rear hall are the remains of the Rice Flowering Hole. Legend has it that long ago just enough husked rice would flow up from the small hole each day for the needs of the monks and their guests. One day a greedy monk, thinking he could become rich, chiseled a bigger hole, and the rice flow ceased forever. In 2009 the water level of the Three Gorges Dam Reservoir finally reached the base of the yellow entrance gate of Shibaozhai.

Victoria Cruises (B, L, D)

Day 9: Yangtze River Cruise

Today we sail through Qutang Gorge/Wu Gorge stopping for an excursion to Daning River Small Gorges or Shennong Stream.

Wushan is situated at the confluence of the Yangtze and Daning rivers just above the western entrance to the Wu (Witches) Gorge. The town has existed since the later part of the Shang Dynasty (c.1600-1027 BC) and is now home to 30,000 residents. The name originates from Wu Xi'an, a respected Tang Dynasty doctor in the imperial court who is buried on Nanling Mountain on the opposite bank. Wushan is the administrative site of Wushan County, a mountainous region rich in medical herbs that encompasses the Daning River valley and half of the Wu Gorge. Wushan is the starting point for the popular boat trips through the Lesser Gorges on the Daning River. The river winds its way 33 kilometers (20 miles) through the beautiful Lesser Gorges as birds chirp and monkeys chatter from the banks. The water is strikingly clear in contrast to the muddy, turgid waters of the Yangtze. The first site is Dragon Gate Gorge where the river ranges from only ten to thirty meters wide while the cliffs on either bank soar to an average of 800 to 1000 meters. Mysterious plants and fungus of longevity (lingzhi) are said to grow high up on the cliff face. Two rows of square holes extending the entire length of the gorges are all that remain of ancient plank walkway, which allowed easier access to salt mines far up the river. The existence of the walkway was recorded in 246 BC and was finally destroyed by the Imperial Ming army during the 17th century after a peasants uprising. Each gorge is separated by lush terraced fields where a variety of crops grow during all four seasons of the year. In the Misty Gorge, a 2,000-year-old "hanging" coffin can be seen suspended on a precipice high up on the cliff-face. The coffin is a relic left over from the Ba people who inhabited the gorges region 3,500 to 1,800 years ago. At one time hundreds of these could be seen throughout the Three Gorges and the Daning River, suspended from seemingly inaccessible areas on the cliff-side.

The Emerald Green Gorge, the farthest from Wushan, is covered with lush bamboo grooves and foliage. The return trip downstream to Wushan is usually made in less than half the time required for the upstream boat ride.

Next, board a ferryboat for a relaxing ride up this tributary of the Yangtze, which has its own attractive gorges. You will dock very close to the head of the reservoir created by the Three Gorges Dam and switch to a smaller wooden boat called a "pea-pod". You are then poled up to the shallow, clear areas further upstream. Trackers take over where the current is strong, and pull the boats about 100 or 200 yards. You will sail back to the waiting ferry to return to your Victoria ship through Three Gorges locks.

Victoria Cruises (B, L, D)

Day 10: Yichang- Shanghai

This morning there is a guided shore excursion to the Three Gorges Dam Project, the largest water conservancy project ever undertaken. The Dam is being built in Sandouping, which is in the middle of the Xiling Gorge, the longest of the three gorges on the Yangtze River.

The Three Gorges Dam will be 2,335 meters long, 185 meters high, 18 meters wide on the top and 130 meters wide at the bottom, which will raise the river 175 meters above sea level creating a 600 kilometers long reservoir with storage capacity of 39.9 billion cubic meters extending from the dam all the way to Chongqing. 570,000 acres of farmland, villages in 19 counties and cities will be flooded and will cause 1.5 million people to need to be relocated.

The estimate for construction of the project is 70 billion US dollars for the purpose of flood control, electricity, navigation, and irrigation. The project formally began in 1994 with the body completed in 2003, and the whole construction finished in 2009.

At 1:30 pm, we disembark in Yichang. You are met at the cruise port for a short city tour by private vehicle before transferring to the Yichang airport for your flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival in Shanghai; you are met for private transfer to your hotel for check-in.

Courtyard by Marriott Puxi Hotel (B)

Day 11: Shanghai

Today is a full day city tour of Shanghai by private vehicle. We start by visiting one of the oldest sites in Shanghai, the Yuyuan Gardens. With ponds, traditional red walls with upturned tile roofs and an excellent teahouse - the Yuyuan Gardens is a wonderful respite from city chaos.

Then transfer to the west side of the city to visit the Jade Buddha Temple, home to two famous white jade Buddha statues brought from Burma in 1882. This afternoon, you will visit the Shanghai Museum, which boasts the best bronze collection in the world, along with Ming and Qing dynasty furniture, jade, coins, paintings, and ceramics. Later, enjoy a stroll along The Bund, also called the Zhongshan Road, the famous waterfront which has been regarded as the symbol of Shanghai for hundreds of years.

Courtyard by Marriott Puxi Hotel (B)

Shanghai- Suzhou- Shanghai

Today includes a full day trip to Suzhou by train. Dating back to 482 B.C., Suzhou is known as the town of gardens and canals. At least 150 gardens flourish in large open spaces or unexpectedly tucked away between narrow streets following the principle of Chinese garden construction: the representation of a tiny universe. Fishponds, zigzagging bridges connecting small islands, and flower patches with fountains.

Enjoy a cruise on the Grand Canal and visit two private gardens and a local silk factory.

Return by train to Shanghai, where you are met at the station and transferred to your hotel.

Courtyard by Marriott Puxi Hotel (B)

Day 13: Day of Departure

Today you bid farewell to China. You'll be picked up at your hotel and taken to Pudong Airport in time for your departure flight home.

(B)

Departures

Depart any day! Contact an iExplore Adventure Consultant for details.

Pricing Information

2013 Prices:

March, June-August, November

$4199 per person double occupancy (2-5 guests).

$6599 Solo traveler

$2699 Single room supplement

April, May, September and October:

$4399 per person double occupancy (2-5 guests)

$7199 Solo traveler

$2699 Single room supplement

Inclusions:

· Meet and assist at airports, train stations, and cruise ports

· Round trip airport to hotel transfers by private vehicles

· Hotel accommodations as indicated with breakfast daily

· Yangtze Cruise on a full board basis

· Meals as indicated (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

· Domestic flights: Beijing-Xian-Chongqing and Yichang-Shanghai (luggage restrictions apply, upgrades to first class available)

· Sightseeing as indicated on a private basis with local English-speaking guides

· Entrance fees to sights as indicated

· Excursions on the Yangtze Cruise with on-board resident guide (non-exclusive basis)

Exclusions:

· International airfare

· Departure and airport taxes

· Meals, unless otherwise indicated

· Items of a personal nature

· Gratuities and porterage

· Travel insurance

· Visas (if required)

· Holiday surcharges

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Climate and Clothing

China lies mainly in the temperate and subtropical zones. Generally, its southern part (East China, South China and Southwest china) is warm, humid, and rainy; its northern part (North China, Northeast China, and northwest China) is dry and windy.

In spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) you will need a lined jacket or woolen sweater over light clothes. In summer (June to August) cool cotton garments are recommended. In winter (December to February) a light cotton-padded coat will keep you warm enough in the south; but in the north a heavy woolen coat or down parka is a must.

Late spring and late summer are often rainy especially in the southern part of China, so you would be wise to bring rainwear with you. And of course good walking shoes are essential at any time of year

Currency

Renminbi, the Chinese currency, is issued by the state bank, the People's Bank of China.

The standard unit of the Renminbi is yuan, with jiao and fen as the subsidiary units. Thus one yuan equals ten jiao and one jiao equals ten fen. Yuan, jiao and fen are issued both in bills of exchange and coins. Renminbi features the following denominations: one, two, five, ten, fifty and a hundred yuan; one, two, and five jiao; and one, two and five fen. The abbreviation for Renminbi is RMB.

Conversion services are available in China for all major currencies and money can be changed at hotels or banks throughout the country.

The following foreign credit cards are accepted in China:

1) MasterCard

2) Visa

3) American Express

4) JCB

5) Diners

Electricity Supply

Electricity supply in China is 220 volts, but sockets with adaptors are available in the washrooms of many luxury and medium-grade hotels.

Public Holidays

In China there are 11 days of national public holiday out of the year:

The New Year's Day-2 days;

The Spring Festival (usually falling in late January or early and mid-February)-3 days;

The May 1st Labor Day-3 days;

The October 1st National Day-3 days.

Shopping for Souvenirs

Shopping in China is getting more convenient. For those who are staying for more than just a few days, favored brands of daily necessities can be found in most large department stores and shopping malls. Western retail companies have established outlets in major cities in China which carry both domestic and imported goods.

For those who wish to shop for souvenirs, there are open markets such as the Xiushui Street and Panjiayuan Antique Market in Beijing, as well as large department stores and shopping malls. Unlike large department stores where the prices are fixed, in markets you can and must bargain. Your local tour guides or hosts are the best help when bargaining. They will prove essential in finding the best goods and bringing the prices down!

Taxis

China enjoys adequate taxi services. In most cities, taxis tend to be small local-made cars painted in either red or yellow. In large cities, there are luxurious sedans at a higher rate. Taxi fares vary from city to city but they are always clearly marked on the taxi window.

Most taxi drivers do not understand much English, although those in tourist cities are encouraged to learn and speak some simple English. Non-Chinese speaking visitors are advised to have their destination written down in Chinese to the cab driver.

Telephones and Postal Services

In towns and cities, IDD service is provided at all hotels and post offices. Phone cards are available in post offices inside hotels or in the street. Even more conveniently, most newsstands in major cities also carry phone cards. Telephone booths in the streets are mostly for local calls.

Tourist hotels provide postal services. If you want to send important items such as antiques and cultural relics that are under customs control, you will have to ask for the help from the local branch of the international post office, instead of the hotell post office.

Visas

The Chinese Government issues different types of visas according to the purpose of the visitors. Foreigners wishing to travel to China should apply to a local Chinese embassy or consulate for tourist visas.

Drinking Water

Not all the tap water in China is potable, but bottled mineral water is readily available for sale.