Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader. If arriving early there is loads to do in this amazing city. Get acquainted with Beijing on your own before joining your group and leader for the welcome meeting. Then head out for an optional first night dinner. Go nuts and order your Peking duck for your first meal in the country. First the skin is carved and served in pancakes, next the carcass is chopped and cooked up into a soup. Don't forget to grab your doggy bag (ducky bag?) of leftovers.
Head out to the Great Wall at Mutianyu (approximately 2 hours) – one of the best preserved and easily accessible sections from Beijing. Take in the surrounding amazing views (provided that it is a clear day!). A truly epic piece of engineering, the wall stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it's still without a doubt one of the country's most amazing achievements.
Spend the morning exploring Tiananmen Square. In the afternoon enjoy free time to explore as you wish, maybe visiting the Forbidden City, the 798 Art District, jumping on a bike and riding through the hutongs, hanging out in the Temple of Heaven park or visit the Lama Temple. This evening we board the first overnight train from Beijing to Xi'an in a six-berth, air-conditioned cabins (hard sleeper class). Train travel in China may not be entirely luxurious but it's certainly one of the best ways to come face to face with the country and its people as it's the main form of transport for locals. We use hard sleeper class trains for most of our overnight train journeys. These are not as rough as they sound - compartments are open-plan, clean, with padded three-tiered berths (6 to a compartment). Sheets, pillows and a blanket are provided. We recommend bringing your own sleeping sheet as the quality/cleanliness of sheets may not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is always available for making coffee, tea or instant meals. It is a good idea to bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) Basic bathroom facilities are situated at the end of each carriage with toilets and washbasins. As toilet paper isn't always available it's advised to carry some of your own, keep in mind general train cleanliness may not be to the same standards you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available three times a day, and there are often snacks available on the train along the way. You may wish to purchase extra snacks of your choice before the journey to supplement food available on the train.
In the morning arrive in Xi'an. The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with loads of interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls. In your free time today we highly recommend visiting the Muslim Quarter with its great market and peaceful Great Mosque, climbing the Bell or Drum Towers or feasting on tasty street food.
Visit Xi'an's most famous site – the Terracotta Warriors with a local guide. Travel by public bus (approximately 2 hours) to reach the site, and spend a few hours exploring. Hear all about this incredible archaeological find, (it was discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years!). These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public. The rest of the afternoon and evening is free time. Maybe check out the night markets and try some of the many tantalising local specialities such as pao mo (lamb broth that you break flat bread into), hand pulled noodles, hot pot and barbeque.
Hop on the efficient bullet train from Xi'an to Chengdu (approximately. 3 hours). Chengdu, famously nick named 'the land of abundance', has a very casual vibe to the city. Here is where locals value life more than work (that's how it should be, right?), so mahjong and tea are two of the most crucial elements in their life. Go on a walking tour with your leader to downtown Tianfu square where a giant statue of Chairman Mao overlooking his people, and continue to the lively People's park, sit down in a tea house for a sip of tea and a lot more that they offer, like ear cleaning, head shoulder massage, etc. This place is listed as the 'gourmet capital' by UN', so why not try the local delicacies? Spicy rabbit head, anyone?
In the morning get up close with the adorable pandas (the national symbol for China) by visiting the panda breeding center in Chengdu. Learn about the conservation effort being made to repopulate this ancient species. And of course you'll see them being fed, playing, sleeping or just being plain cute in their playgrounds. Enjoy some more down time in the afternoon in this 'Land of Abundance'. Check out the hip Kuanzhai lane or go to Jinli street for some more hot Chengdu snacks!
Today, embrace a full day of travelling from Chengdu to Yangshuo. Hop on the bullet train from Chengdu to Guilin (approx. 7hrs), Then transfer to our hotel in Yangshuo. Yangshuo has become very popular with international and domestic tourists of late, which isn't such a bad thing if you're into cafe and bar culture. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local culture and traditions and have plenty of fun at the same time. On arrival the leader will take you for an orientation walk around the town. The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in plenty of Chinese paintings (think big limestone karsts towering above perfect country landscapes). Time to break out that camera.
The next two days in Yangshuo are free time for you to go exploring. There are plenty of interesting activities to keep you entertained during your time here. Why not take a bike ride to get an insight into rural Chinese life. This is an absolutely stunning region, as every turn in the road brings you to another postcard-perfect spot. The spectacular outdoor light show staged by Olympic Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou, director of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, is a definite highlight and highly recommended. There are plenty of alternatives: enjoy a relaxing boat ride along the Li River. Take an early morning tai chi class by the riverside. Eat and drink your way around the town and taste the classic Beer Fish! Get a feel for local produce with a visit to the market, then learn to cook some Chinese dishes at the Yangshuo Cooking School. The recipes are easy to make and the ingredients readily available outside of China so you'll be able to recreate them like a pro once you get back home.
Leave Yangshuo and continue the journey to the final stop, Hong Kong. You'll be transferred to Guilin and then hop on bullet train (approximatel 3 hours) to Shenzhen. From there, cross border into Hong Kong and take KCR to your centrally located hotel in Hong Kong. Go on an walking tour with your leader, then maybe check out the Temple Street night market or the light show at Victoria Harbour. Take the chance to celebrate your final night with the group in this awesome town.
Your adventure comes to an end today, there are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. A departure transfer is available to book – this can be arranged prior to departure with your booking agent.