Riding the Dragon’s Back - Train Experience in China

Duration: 12 days

Highlights: • Enjoy the comfort of high speed train travel in China • Morning visit to the iconic Great Wall at the Mutianyu site • Enjoy a home visit in a historic Beijing hutong neighborhood • Appreciate the beauty of the best preserved ancient city in China – Pingyao • Be amazed at the life-size warrior and horse figures in the Terracotta Warriors Museum • Experience the fertile countryside – one of the rice bowls of China – when you travel from Xian to Chengdu • Create fond memories with a close encounter with the Giant Panda in Chengdu’s Dujiangyan Panda Base • Consider taking an optional extension to the vibrant city of Shanghai

China by high-speed train – there is no better way to see, experience, and immerse yourself in China’s exciting transformation.  Ride the “dragon’s back” on this fascinating 12-day journey through China’s heartland:  Beijing, Pingyao, Xian, and Chengdu.  Over the past decade China has invested in constructing the world’s most extensive high-speed rail system that has not only benefited cross-country transportation but which has transformed the way visitors can experience China.  Ride the dragon’s back on board the country’s remarkable rail network and experience the dragon awakening – the wonders of today’s China.

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Day 1 - Arrive Beijing

Capital of China for over 700 years Beijing is your gateway to the many wonders of the country.  Today, a thriving metropolis of over 20 million residents, Beijing is the political and culture heart of the nation. 

Upon arrival today you will be met and transfer to your elegant hotel, ideally located in the city centre within close proximity to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

Overnight: The Peninsula Beijing

Meal Plan:

Day 2 - Beijing

This morning you meet your guide and set off on an orientation tour of Beijing that starts at the magnificent Temple of Heaven.  Considered the jewel of Ming period (1368 – 1644) architecture, the temple grounds also draw scored of local residents who come to sing, dance, meet friends and enjoy this wondrous site.

Continue to the Hongqiao Market, a bustling kaleidoscope of commerce that features a stunning array of goods on sale.

Following lunch in a local restaurant visit Tiananmen Square the true heart of the city.  Here the past, present and future of China merge in this monumental symbol of national unity.

From the Square you will walk into the Forbidden City once the centre of imperial power for the last two dynastic periods of Chinese history:  the Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1911) dynasties.  Since 1925 the palace has served as the National Palace Museum, the world’s largest museums of Chinese art and antiquities.  More than 1.2 million treasures are held in the galleries and vaults of the Forbidden City.

This evening enjoy a dinner at one of the city’s finest and most authentic Peking Duck restaurants.

Overnight: The Peninsula Beijing

Meal Plan:

Day 3 - Beijing

This morning transfer overland to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.  Located to the northeast of the city, the Mutianyu section of the Wall is said to be the most scenically stunning as the Wall rides the craggy peaks of the Yan Mountains.  This part of the Great Wall was rebuilt and strengthened to ward of attacks from marauding armies of Mongol soldiers, defending the access to Beijing.  You will have time to walk along the ramparts of the Wall enjoying the panoramic views and deep sense of historic wonder.

Following your visit to the Wall enjoy lunch at Xiaolongpu and charming local restaurant located within close proximity to the Great Wall.

This afternoon, after lunch, return to Beijing and visit the ethereal Summer Palace the largest and finest example of an imperial garden.  Built in the 18th century during the Qing dynasty it was rebuilt and expanded in 1888 by the Empress Dowager, Ci Xi (1835 – 1908).  The Summer Palace is a wonderland of pine glades, gardens, temples, shrines and pavilions – a living landscape painting.

After our visit to the Summer Palace you will return to your hotel arriving around 17:00.

Overnight: The Peninsula Beijing

Meal Plan:

Day 4 - Beijing / Pingyao

This morning, at the appointed time, your guide will meet and transfer you to the Beijing West Train Station where you will board your high-speed train from Beijing to Pingyao.

On arrival into Pingyao Station you will be met by your local guide and transferred to the Old City Walls (about 20 minutes by road) where you then are escorted to your hotel the historic “Jing’s Residence” a lovely 15-room boutique hotel that was originally the residential compound of a wealthy local businessman.  The hotel has been awarded China’s best boutique hotel award on many occasions.

After settling into the hotel, your local guide will lead you on a preliminary walk through part of the old city. The Old Town of Pingyao was constructed during the reign of King Xuan of the Western Zhou Dynasty (C.1100-771B.C.) and has been the county seat ever since the establishment of the prefecture-and-county system in ancient China. Enjoy a walk along the city’s bustling commercial market street – Ming Qing Jie – taking in the myriad of shops, food stalls, and handicraft workshops that recall another time and place in China. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Pingyao is unique in China; a city spared the worst of the Cultural Revolution (1966 – 1976) and now a living museum of China’s imperial past with over 4,000 structures dating to the Ming (1368 – 1644) and Qing (1644 – 1911) dynasties.  Its cobble streets and elegant buildings are a remarkable living record of Chinese architectural history.

Overnight: Jing's Residence

Meal Plan:

Day 5 - Pingyao

09:30   Meet your guide and set off for a morning of exploration taking in the many highlights of Pingyao.  Your morning tour will be both on foot and by an electronic buggy.

Your first visit is to the historic Rishengchang China’s first official bank/financial services company that dates to the 19th century.  Pingyao was an important business and trading centre for the trade from interior China north into Mongolia.  The prosperity brought by this trade route prompted the establishment of a banking system and security companies with the Rishengchang being the first of these banking institutions.  You will also climb the city walls first raised in the early Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) and remain the finest extant example of a city wall.  The walls are 6 kilometres in circumference and are designed in the shape of a tortoise an auspicious symbol of longevity in Daoist belief.

You will enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before continuing with your exploration of Pingyao this afternoon.

The Yamen’s Compound is an outstanding example the traditional administration of justice – your visit includes the court hall and local jails.  You will also visit the two most important city temples: the Confucius Temple and the Daoist Temple.  Both are outstanding examples of temple architecture as well as symbols of philosophical beliefs and outlooks of the time.

Your afternoon will conclude with a lesson in paper cutting one of the most beloved of local handicraft traditions.

This evening, following dinner, attend a performance of Youjian Pingyao, developed by film director Zhang Yimou’s creative team.

Overnight: Jing's Residence

Meal Plan:

Day 6 - Pingyao / Xian

Early this morning (at the appointed time) your guide will meet and transfer you to the Pingyao Ancient Town Train Station where you will board your high-speed train to Xian.

After arriving Xian, you will visit the Han Yang Ling excavation site and museum, one of the region’s most under-appreciated archaeological highlights. The site marks the burial area of the fourth emperor of the Western Han dynasty, Jing Di (died 141 BCE) and includes more than 80 satellite tombs that have yielded a treasure trove of more than 100,000 artifacts and treasures.  Tour part of the ongoing excavation area as well as the museum. 

Following your visit to Han Yang Ling transfer to the city and end the day with a visit to the Ming period city wall (constructed between the years 1374 – 1378) where you enjoy a bicycle ride or take a stroll along its magnificent ramparts.

This evening meet your guide who will transfer you to Haishi an excellent local restaurant located just below the city wall.  Haishi specializes in the traditional culinary style of Shaanxi province which is noted for its strong flavors and influences from Central Asia due to Xian’s Silk Road heritage.

Overnight: The Ritz Carlton, Xian

Meal Plan:

Day 7 - Xian

The morning is spent at the Terra-Cotta Warriors & Horses Excavation Site, considered by many archaeologists to be the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century.  Visit the three main excavation pits as well as the Bronze Chariot Museum which highlights the remarkable discovery of two exquisite imperial bronze chariots. 

The terracotta site, a small part of the Tomb of Qin Shihuangdi, is steeped in legend and archaeologists have spent decades trying to decipher the mysteries of the spectacular funerary site.  Theories abound, but it is thought the Terracotta Warriors, made from mineral rich loess soil, were meant to safeguard the emperor’s passage to the afterlife and additionally protect his kingdom from attack.  Each pit serves a different military purpose including the vanguard and side flanks, military encampment, and strategic headquarters.

Return to the city this afternoon enjoy lunch at a local dumpling restaurant and then set off for an afternoon orientation of the city’s Old City quarter that has grown up around the magnificent Great Mosque.    The mosque is considered one of the most prized historic sites in the city and has a long and rich history.  The layout of the mosque is modeled on traditional Buddhist or Daoist temple design but distinctively embellished with Central Asian and Persian mosque designs.

Overnight: The Ritz Carlton, Xian

Meal Plan:

Day 8 - Xian / Chengdu

This morning transfer to the Xian North Train Station where you board your high-speed bullet train to Chengdu, the vibrant capital of Sichuan province.

After arriving into Chengdu you will meet your guide and first enjoy a local Sichuan style lunch before embarking on an afternoon orientation of the city.  With a population of 16.5 million, Chengdu has developed into one of the most exciting cities in China.  A major business centre and the heart of Sichuan, the city exudes an energetic charm.  You will visit People’s Park, the largest in the city, and a wonderful centre for activity drawing local residents who come to sing, dance, practice martial arts and savour a cup of tea at the local tea house.

You will also visit Tianfu Square, the largest public plaza in the city and the Jinsha Museum which highlights the ancient Jinsha culture which flourished in the Chengdu region more than 3,000 years ago.

This evening your guide will meet and transfer you to the Kuanzhai (Wide and Narrow Alley) where you can enjoy the fiery flavors of a traditional hot pot.

Following dinner attend a performance of traditional “Chuan Xi” or Sichuan Opera which is highlighted by the Bian Lian or face changing performance which is an ancient theatrical art form known to only a handful of performers.

Overnight: The Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu

Meal Plan:

Day 9 - Chengdu

Early this morning, at a time confirmed by your guide, you transfer overland to Dujiangyan (the transfer time is about 90 minutes) to visit the Dujiangyan Panda Base one of the three Giant Panda Research sites located in and near Chengdu. 

Spend the balance of the morning at the site which is home to about 25 Giant Pandas as well as other endangered species like the Red or Lesser Panda. The centre has four different areas:  the breeding area, the nursery/quarantine area, the semi-wild reintroduction area, and the reintroduction area.  The enclosures house pandas of different ages affording you the opportunity to better view and understand the different stages of its life cycle.

Insider Access (option): Participate in volunteer work at the center, such as washing bamboo leaves, feeding pandas and cleaning their houses.

Insider Access (option): During your visit, you have an opportunity to participate in the “Close Encounters of the Panda Kind”; where you can stroke the panda as well as picture taking under the guidance of the base staff. (Duration is around 30 seconds) (subject to change at any time).

Following your morning visit to the Panda Base enjoy lunch at the lovely Six Senses Resort, Qing Cheng Shan.

This afternoon, after lunch, you will visit Qingcheng Shan, one of the most sacred Daoist mountains of China.  The mountain is believed to be one of the early centres of Daoist philosophy in China and through the centuries has become a major place of pilgrimage.   The mountain is scenically beautiful lushly forested in bamboo and pine trees.  You can access the summit  (1,260 metres or 4,133 feet) by cable car and enjoy the magnificent vistas.

Late this afternoon you will return to Chengdu.

Overnight: The Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu

Meal Plan:

Day 10 - Depart Chengdu or Join Extension to Shanghai

This morning meet your guide at the appointed time and transfer to the Chengdu Shuangliu Airport where your board your departure flight (details to be advised).


Shanghai Extension

Meet your guide and transfer to the Chengdu Airport where you board your flight to Shanghai, China’s business capital and most dynamic city.

On arrival at the city’s Pudong International Airport you will be met by your guide and transferred to the city where you enjoy an afternoon city orientation tour that begins with a visit to the observation deck in the Shanghai Tower, the world’s second tallest building rising to an elevation of 632 metres or 2,073 feet.  The observation deck at 562 metres (1,843 feet) is the world’s highest and is accessed by the second fastest elevator on earth.

This evening enjoy a thrilling performance of daring and skill by the Shanghai Acrobatics Troupe considered the best in the world.

Overnight: Shanghai Extension only: The Peninsula Shanghai

Meal Plan:

Day 11 - Shanghai

This morning, following breakfast, meet your guide and set off for a morning orientation of Shanghai that includes visits to the city’s distinctive historic districts.  You begin with a walk along the historic “Bund” the riverfront promenade that allows you to take in the dramatic views of Shanghai past and present.  On the Bund side a series of stately 19th century buildings recall the period of Shanghai’s Treaty Port past while across the Huangpu River rises the forests of glittering high-rise office towers that marks Pudong, the business, financial and driving force of today’s city.

Your orientation will also include a visit to the Old Town and Yu Garden – the original “Chinese” city of Shanghai (i.e., the city as it existed prior to the settlement of the First Opium War in 1842 and the establishment of the International Settlement and the French Concession) – this district retains its original charms, a warren of alleys and lanes fronted by local shops and restaurants – the center of the original Old Town is set around the exquisite Yu Garden, a traditional scholar’s garden built by a wealthy Ming dynasty official to honor his parents (the garden was constructed between the years, 1559 – 1577).

Following lunch you will visit the Shanghai Museum long considered among the world’s five best museums.  The museum, opened in 1996, holds a collection of more than 120,000 art treasures that spans the breadth of Chinese civilization.  The nine permanent galleries feature a striking diversity of art that include ancient bronzes, stone sculpture, earthenware and ceramics, Ming and Qing paintings, calligraphy, jade carvings, ancient coins, antique Ming and Qing period furniture and an outstanding collection of the costumes and artwork of the 56 different minority cultures of China.

You end the afternoon with a visit to the 3rd Floor of the Urban Planning Museum which features a full-floor 3D model of today’s Shanghai including every building over 6 stories in height.

Overnight: Shanghai Extension only: The Peninsula Shanghai

Meal Plan:

Day 12 - Depart Shanghai

This morning meet your guide (at the appointed time) and transfer to the Shanghai Pudong International Airport where you are assisted with the check-in for your international departure flight (flight details to be advised).


Meal Plan:

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