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China, Yangtze and Tibet Explorer
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Today you will delve into the history of Beijing, visiting the dramatic Forbidden City and the immense Tiananmen Square. Hear the tales of the emperors and their concubines, a long crafted culture and rich tradition. Witness how ancient Chinese customs are still valued today, yet are blended with the modern technology and western influence. You'll also visit the Temple of Heaven and its surrounding grounds which offer a chance to see locals whiling the hours away, practicing water calligraphy and Tai Chi, playing cards and walking pet crickets, with the colorful Temple of Heaven in the background.
Take a walk along the 500-year-old Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. Spend time exploring the towers, views, and the magnificent structure of this unique wonder. In the evening, board an overnight sleeper train to Xi'an.
One of the greatest structures ever built, the Great Wall was constructed in stages over 2,000 years ago. It stretches 6,000km (3,728 mi) westwards from the sea to western China. The section we visit is called Mutianyu and is one of the best preserved Ming Dynasty sections reachable from Beijing. Arrive at the wall, walk up and explore a stretch by foot while taking in the spectacular views as it winds along the mountain ridges.
Afterward, prepare for our overnight sleeper train journey to Xi’an, which we will board in the evening.
Your train pulls into Xi’an early in the morning, where you'll be met and transferred to your hotel. After settling in, we gather for an a bike ride along the ancient city walls (the inner city is surrounded by 9 miles (14 km) of ancient city walls). In the evening, we explore the Muslim Quarter, with its multi-cultural feel, shopping lanes, and street-side food stalls selling nan, kebobs, and a fine array of sweets.
Xi’an is famous for being home to the Terracotta Warriors, built over 2000 years ago. Emperor Qinshi Huangdi arranged for the thousands of warriors and their horses to be crafted and aligned so as to eternally protect his mausoleum. Discovered in 1974 by a local farmer, they were meticulously unearthed. On day five we take a guided tour of this facility, which is about 45 minutes from the city center of Xi’an. After we visit the village where the warriors were discovered to hear the story and enjoy a local lunch on a farm. Option this evening to enjoy a Tang Dynasty Dinner, sampling a banquet of local cuisine in the true style of an emperor and empress.
Fly over the Himalayas to Tibet. Enjoy an orientation walk with a local guide through Barkhor Square.
Take a spectacular morning flight over the Himalayas to Lhasa, Tibet, the roof of the world at an altitude of 3,700m (12,140 ft). Enjoy a relaxed pace in the afternoon as we adjust to the altitude, and take a leisurely orientation walk with our local guide.
With an expert local guide you'll learn more about Tibetan spirituality with a visit to the Potala Palace, the sacred Jokhang Temple and Tibetan Medicine Institute. On day eight, visit the Sera Monastery and take a cooking class where you'll make (and eat) Tibetan Momo beef dumplings.
Visit the holiest temple in Tibet, Jokhang, set in the middle of Barkhor square. Also visit the awe-inspiring inner rooms of the Potala Palace, where the Dalai Lamas would meditate, handle affairs of state, and eventually where their burial stupas remain. From the golden statues, three dimensional mandalas, ancient cloth bound scriptures, to the devoted pilgrims who circle the palace day and night, this is truly a remarkable place to behold.
You'll also visit the Sera Monastery, where we witness the monks very actively debating, a philosophical practice they have held for hundreds of years.
Momo lesson: learn how to make Tibetan Momo Beef Dumplings, this will be taught by a local Tibetan and our Tibetan guide will also be there help you translate your questions to your Momo teacher. You have to try our special Tibetan milk tea along with your dish of Tibet food to make your meal complete.
Today, fly down into the Sichuan Valley, leaving the arid Tibetan plateau far behind. Be prepared to try some of the spiciest food in all of China in Chengdu! Sichaun is also famous for its opera, and, as a direct influence from the food- its spicy ladies!
The majority of the world’s remaining pandas live in the mountains of Sichuan. China has, for good reason, adopted these playful black and white darlings as their national animal, and have created the Panda Breeding Center to help them survive. Early in the morning you'll go to the Breeding Center to see the pandas stretch after a long night’s slumber, and dig in to a healthy bamboo breakfast. At this hour the panda’s should be the most active, as they romp in their playground environment.
After this you'll set off to Chongqing, where your Yangtze River cruise boat is docked.Take a brief visit to the city of Chongqing boarding your vessel and settlling in for the upcoming cruise.
Yangtze River Boat
The mighty Yangtze River splits China into north and south, and runs all the way from Chongqing to Shanghai. Cruise through one of the most geographically dramatic sections of the river, called the Three Gorges. Here the scenery is impressive, as you see the rock formations change as you pass village after village.
Shore excursions are included over the next few days, to various temples and walled cities which you'll pass along the way. Daily shore excursions can include: Fengdu or Shibaozhai or Wanzhou, sail through Qutang Gorge/Wu Gorge, Daning River Small Gorges or Shennong Stream, Sail through Three Gorges dam shiplocks and optional excursion to White Emperor City (all depending on the season and river conditions).
Onboard activities feature lectures on Chinese history and culture, Tai Chi lessons, tea tasting and calligraphy demonstrations as well as shows and entertainment by the talented staff.
An elegant Captain’s Farewell Banquet is served on the final night of the cruise. There is also a tea time in the afternoon and happy hour.
Early this morning, take an excursion to the Three Gorges Dam site (dependent on river conditions). After a goodbye to the your boat crew make your way to the airport, where you'll fly to your next destination, Shanghai. After checking into your hotel, enjoy a farewell dinner.
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