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Depart the UK on your overnight flight to China.
Arrive in Beijing. Meet your English speaking guide and then transfer to your accommodation and check in. Time permitting visit the Olympic stadium and enjoy a tour of the birds nest staium which hosted the Olympics in 2008. Overnight Beijing.
Today you will enjoy another full day of slight seeing in Beijing before departing on your overnight train to Xian. First stop is Tianaman Square. Located in the centre of the city this is the world's largest public square (the size of 90 football fields). In the centre of the square stands the Monument to the People's Heroes, a 124-ft.granite obelisk, engraved with scenes from famous uprisings.
We continue with a visit to the Forbidden City, a massive complex of red-walled buildings and pavilions topped by a sea of glazed vermilion tile. It is by far the largest and most intricate imperial palace in China and receives more visitors than any other attraction in the country. After you will go on to the Temple of heaven which is an enormous park and altar to Heaven directly to the south of the Forbidden City.
Each winter solstice, the Ming and Qing emperors would lead a procession here to perform rites and make sacrifices designed to promote the next year's crops. In the evening enjoy a martial arts show. Overnight Beijing.
Meet your guide in the morning and today you will visit The Great Wall of China and Ming Tombs. The Great Wall of China covers over 5,500 miles and covers deserts, grasslands and mountains. Now a world Heritage site by UNESCO the Great Wall was built to protect China from the many nomadic tribes. As well as a protector of the land the wall quickly became a safe trading route, which meant trade could be regulated and duties collected along the silk road.
The Ming Tombs has 13 emperors and 23 empresses buried in the tombs. As you walk round tombs, notice the layout with the strong mountains as the back drop and then clam flowing river alongside the tombs. This was all built using Feng Shui and designed to keep bad sprits and evil winds out.
Onward to the Summer Palace, which is a stunning mix of lakes and gardens. In the evening enjoy a Peking duck dinner. Overnight Beijing.
This morning you will checkout of your accommodation and then visit a local factory to gain insight into manufacturing processes and see with your very own eyes how China has become one of the world’s leading economies. In contrast you will also visit a local farm and learn how big and small business is valued within this great country.
After you will enjoy Hutong Tour around Beijing before you board your overnight train to Xian.
Arrive in Xian and then you will meet your transfer and guide and check into your accommodation and freshen up for a full day of visit to the Wild Goose Pagoda, Xian City Wall and the Qin Terracotta Army. Your first visit today is at the Wild Goose Pagoda which is a Buddhist Pagoda, built in 652 during the Tang dynasty.
Xian is an ancient capital of china and because of this has one of the oldest city walls in all of china. Decorated with traditional lanterns along the wall is hard not to be impressed! The world famous Terracotta Army was discovered by farmers who were digging a well in 1974. You can only imagine what their reaction was when they came across all these Terracotta faces looking back at them and having been buried for just over 2000 years. The army was believed to have protected the Emperor in the afterlife. Overnight Xian.
Check out of your accommodation and then transfer to Xian airport and fly to Wuhan. You will then meet your guide and transfer to Sandouping which is closest town to the 3 gorges dam. Free time in the afternoon and then overnight Sandouping.
This morning you will meet your guide and then enjoy a tour of the Three Gorges Dam. The dam creates hydroelectric and is the world’s largest power station. The project has set many records; mainly with displacing more that 1.2 million people which equates to 13 cities, 140 towns and 1350 villages all being moved to another part of the country as well as the environmental impact on the land up river as well as downstream. The dam has also been blamed for droughts down river.
In the afternoon you will visit Hongbei Agicultural demonstration area. Overnight Sandouping.
Check out of your accommodation and then meet your transfer and check in for your flight to Shanghai. Arrive in Shanghai meet your guide and transfer and then check into your accommodation. Enjoy a cruise along the Huangpu River and take in the sights of Shanghai’s iconic riverside buildings and modern architecture.
After you will go onto enjoy some shopping on one of the world’s busiest shopping streets, Nanjing Road. After seeing how consumerism is exploited within a communist country, it’s time to reflect on the spiritual and visit the Jade Buddha Temple.
This morning you will meet your guide and enjoy another full day within the city. Your first stop is to the Yu Garden which is located beside the City of God temple. Yu in Chinese means pleasing & satisfying and it’s hard not to relax and enjoy rockeries, pavilions and pounds.
After you will then go on to learn about the history of Shanghai. From its humble start as a fishing Village to its modern day place on the worldwide stage for business at the Shanghai Museum.
In the afternoon you will visit the Volkswagen factory and have a 90 minute tour and see the manufacturing process. Finish the day with some spectacular views across the city on the Jin Mao Tower. 88 stories high and completed in 1999, just don’t forget your camera as the sun goes down and the city lights start to dance in the skyline.
This morning you will check out of your hotel and then meet your transfer for your return journey back to the UK. Arrive in the UK later afternoon.
© Arup Ben McMillan
Costing US$428m, the 'Birds Nest' olympic stadium opened in June 2008 just prior to the Summer Olympics held in China that year. Designed by the globally renowned firm of Herzog & De Meuron, responsible for Tate Modern and the Allianz Arena in Munich amongst other projects, they collaborated with the artist Ai Weiwei to create a stunning stadium drawing on techniques from Chinese ceramics to present the 'Birds Nest' effect. It is predominantly used as the national football stadium now, but will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2022 Winter Olympics, becoming the only stadium to have done so for both winter and summer Olympics.
Best known for the Tiananmen Square uprising in June 1989, which resulted in the death of hundreds of peaceful protesters, Tiananmen Square has been a focal point in Beijing for many years. It is also the biggest city square in China and the third biggest in the world. It was named after the Tiananmen Gate which was the entrance to the Forbidden City. Covering over 40 hectares, the square carries considerable political importance and it was where Mao Zedong declared a new nation in 1949. It is from here that you will be able to see Mao Zedong's portrait hanging above the entrance to the Forbidden City in a legacy that continues to effect everyday life throughout China.
© Romeo Belarmino
The Forbidden Palace makes the Palais de Versailles look like a children's doll house. It took over 1 million workers fifteen years to build. There are almost 1000 separate buildings (and many more rooms) within the enormous complex. It was built at the beginning of the 15th century, when the Yongle Emperor of the Ming Dynasty decided to move the capital of China back to Beijing (Northern city) from Nanjing (Southern city). It served as an imperial palace for close to 500 years under the Ming and Qing dynasties. After the republican revolution in 1911, the youngest and last emperor of the Qing dynasty abdicated from power. He and his family were permitted to continue living in the royal residence until they were finally expelled by Republican troops in 1924. Since 1950 The Forbidden City has been the Palace Museum to the public and in 1987 it was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.
You will need at least a day to explore this ancient marvel of imperial power that is the Forbidden City, and you will still be left wanting to go back for more. There are over 1 million rare and valuable objects in the museum, so take your time and enjoy. Be warned that in the summer months, the Forbidden City is often overwhelmed by visitors, so remember to turn up early in the day or visit in the quieter winter months.
Constructed between 1406 and 1420, the Temple of Heaven is said to be the most beautiful set of buildings in Beijing. It was visited by Emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties, who went there each year to pray to the heavens for a good harvest. Although heaven-worship pre-dates Taoism, the buildings are built in keeping with traditional Taoist architecture and so it is widely regarded as a Taoist place of worship. Once again, it was the Emperor Yongle (who constructed the Forbidden City and the Ming Tombs) that was responsible for its construction. However, during the reign of Emperor Jiajing in the 16th century, the temple was much extended. As with many of China's historical sites, it suffered under the invasion of the Allied Anglo-French forces during the Second Opium War in the late 19th century and the Boxer Rebellion in 1900.
The Yonghe Temple, better known as the Lama Temple is the most famous Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. Converted from a former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng, the temple is a stunning series of buildings including the wonderfully named 'Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses'. In addition, housed within are some fantastic works of art and statues from the Han Chinese and Tibetan cultures.
The Great Wall of China was built between the 5th century BC and the 16th century AD and is over 8, 850 km (5,500 miles) long. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and in 1987 was listed a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Although many parts have fallen into disrepair, the wall is considered China's most impressive landmark and is a must for tourists. There are several sites along the wall that you can access easily from Beijing. Remember to take your walking shoes and be ready for a bit of a climb along the now uneven surface. The slide back down the wall is popular with student groups.
The Ming dynasty tombs became the final resting place for thirteen of the Ming Emperors. The site was chosen by Emperor Yongle, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City. After the Palace was completed, Yongle selected his burial site according to Feng Shui principles and created a mausoleum. During the Ming dynasty, commoners were prohibited from visiting the tombs, but in 1644 an army ransacked and set many of the tombs alight before advancing to Beijing. Go and see the museum that was created after the tomb of Dingling, belonging to Emperor Wanli, was excavated. It includes thousands of items of silk, textiles, wood and porcelain which were found in the tomb.
The Summer Palace, known as Yiheyuan in Beijing, is located in Beijing's north-western district and is a lovely tranquil idyll within the capital's hectic rush. As with the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace is best visited early in the day or in winter if you wish to avoid the large crowds. The palace is dominated by the Kunming Lake, which was entirely man made and covers an expanse of 2.2 square km, and Longevity Hill, which is about 60 m high and houses many buildings designed in a symmetrical sequence. In December 1998, the palace was declared a UNESCO world heritage site and was classified as 'a masterpiece of Chinese landscape and architecture'.
A tour of the 'hutongs' of Beijing is a chance to immerse yourself in the history of this complex yet structured metropolis. Hutong literally means 'water well' but has come to represent districts where alleyways divide rows of courtyarded residences. Since the mid-20th century, the number of Beijing hutongs has dropped dramatically as they are demolished to make way for new roads and buildings. More recently, some hutongs have been designated as protected areas in an attempt to preserve this aspect of Chinese cultural history.
The Wild Goose Pagoda is a Buddhist pagoda that was built in 652 AD during the Tang dynasty. It originally had five stories but it was rebuilt in 704 AD during the reign of Empress Wu Zetian, who added a further five stories. Unfortunately, in 1556 it suffered the throws of a violent earthquake and was reduced to seven stories, which is what visitors still see today. The current pagoda stands at 64 m tall and offers brilliant views over the city of Xi'an.
© Mustafa Azzouqa
Also located near Xi'an are the Hua Qing Hot Springs, which have enjoyed a long long history. They were built in 723 AD by the Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang dynasty to become part of the Hua Qing Palace, which sits at the foot of Lishan Mountain. The love story between Emperor Xuanzong and his Precious Consort, Yang Guifei, is what made the destination famous. Unfortunately, their love story came to a sad end when the Emperor's guards killed her, believing that her sister was responsible for a rebellious uprising against the King. However, her memory has been immortalised in the form of a beautiful statue that sits on its own island within the springs. She is now known as one of the Four Beauties of Ancient China. So, go and enjoy the peace, beauty and harmony that the Hua Qing Hot Springs and Palace affords!
The city of Xi'an is host to one of the most significant archaeological finds in the world, the Terracotta Army. To date, over 7,000 pottery soldiers, figures, horses, chariots, and weapons have been unearthed. It was relatively recently, in 1974, that this remarkable discovery was made; a group of peasants, while building a well, uncovered some pottery and since then the collection has grown and grown as archaeologists have uncovered more and more. The warriors and horses were made for the Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 246 BC, when at the age of 13 he began to commission work for his mausoleum and believed that such a huge army would protect him in his afterlife. It took eleven years to complete which given the size of the army was no small feat. The figures vary in size according to their rank. The generals are the tallest figures while non-military figures, like acrobats, strongmen and musicians, are the smallest.
Probably one of the man made wonders of the modern world, the Three Gorges Dam was always going to be controversial, at a cost of over US$27 billion and the project resulting in the re-location of 1.24 million residents meant that this massive undertaking was always going to have it's detractors. Nevertheless, with a capacity of 22,500 MegaWatts, the finished construction is the largest power plant in the world today. For context, the largest producer of power from a nuclear power station is the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Japan with a mere capacity of 7,965 MW. Three Gorges doesn't have the aesthetic of Hoover or Aswan, but as a day trip by boat on the Yangtze river is a worthwhile visit.
The Huangpu River divides Shanghai into East and West and as a result you can see all the major sites the city has to offer from the river. At one point the two suspension bridges, Nanpu Bridge and Yangpu Bridge, appear to arch over the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, resembling 'Two dragons playing with a ball'. in addition, marvel at the contrast between old colonial builings and modern architecture on the east bank of the river (Pudong) this is the newer district of Shanghai and its financial and commercial hub.
The term 'shopping Mecca' is often bandied about but when referring to the Nanjing Road it is truly accurate. At around 5.5km in length it is the worlds longest shopping district and is inundated with over 1 million shoppers daily. Illuminated at night, most store open from 10am til 10pm daily.
Founded in 1882, the Jade Buddha Temple is so named after 2 statues imported from Burma. A 2 metre tall sitting Jade Buddha, weighing 3 tonnes, and a smaller reclining Buddha were the reason for the temples name, although there is now a much larger reclining Buddha figure made from marble and imported from Singapore that often confuses vistors who believe it to be the original statue.
Dating from 1559 when the gardens were founded by the Pan family, high ranking officials of the Ming dynasty, the 'Yùyuán' gardens are a very popular place to escape the hustle and bustle of Shanghai for a breath of fresh air. Needing restoration after being bombed during the Opium wars and as a result of French reprisals against Taiping rebels, they are extremely popular at weekends and can be overcrowded. With a host of exotic species throughout, interspersed with beautiful pools, pavilions and hidden alcoves, the gardens (at quiet times) are an enchanting place to spend a spring afternoon. The nearby Húxīntíng Teahouse , once part of the gardens, is one of the most famous teahouses in China. Also on your doorstep is a typical Chinese Bazaaar, always hectic but great fun to explore if you have the energy!
The museum building, completed in 1996, symbolises the ancient Chinese perception of the world as "round sky, square earth. It houses a fantastic collection of ancient Chinese art such as ceramics, bronze, jade, paintings, sculpture and furniture. There's over 120,00 pieces to see with with five floors, covering a total area of 39,200 m², so you could happily spend a morning or even a day here.
You may question why a car factory would represent an interesting excursion, however, at 450,000 per annum, the plant produces the largest number of cars and vehicles among all the car production bases in China. A tour of the factory takes in the production line, where you can see the process of car production, and also get an understanding of the influence of the car in Chinese culture.
© Avec Amber
At 420m the Jinmao Tower is the 18th highest building in the world and is home to a shopping mall, and the Grand Hyatt Shanghai hotel. The highlight however is the Skywalk, an indoor observation deck with a capacity of 1,000+ people, that occupies the 88th floor. In addition to the panoramic views of Shanghai, it offers a topside view of the hotel atrium below. Access is through two express elevators from the basement that travel at 9.1 m/s and take 45 seconds to reach the top.
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