China Experience Trip Notes

At Imaginative Traveller we always aim to provide accurate information for our travellers. Unfortunately information such as the price of optional activities is occasionally subject to change, and this means that we are constantly revising our trip notes. In order to ensure that you have the most up to date information for your trip we suggest that you check the trip notes for your tour around one month before departure.

  • Trip code : ICBSE
  • Trip length : 21 Days
  • Trip starts in : Beijing, China
  • Trip ends in : Hong Kong, China
  • Maximum group size : 12
  • Ages : Min 15
  • Meals :  3 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Accommodation : Guesthouse (3 nts), Hotel (11 nts), Overnight boat (3 nts), Overnight sleeper train (4 nts)
  • Transport : Bicycle, Boat, Bus, Metro, Private Bus, Public bus, Train



Beijing/Great Wall

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. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. 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.

The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.

Marvel at Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.

Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.

Visit our friends at Beijing Huiling (meaning 'wise spirit') - a special Intrepid-supported project for people with intellectual disabilities.

Take a private bus to a lesser-known section of the Great Wall (approx 3 hrs). An incredible 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 remarkable achievements, and an iconic destination.Walk over some steep, remote terrain (approx 5 km or 3 hrs walking depending on fitness). Some parts of the wall are unrestored so you'll need to concentrate hard to keep your footing and in other parts the trail takes us off the wall to walk alongside it through the countryside. A great idea is to bring a picnic lunch with your from Beijing to enjoy atop the wall during one of our rest breaks. You'll need reasonable fitness and walking shoes with good support and grip for this activity. There are many steps and slopes on the way so be prepared for a tough climb in sections. The views and experience though are a real highlight for all our travellers.

Due to the excessive heat in the summer months (Jun-Aug), the Great Wall excursion may be altered to provide a shorter, less strenuous trek. Your leader will advise you of any changes at the group meeting.

Catch an overnight hard sleeper train to Xi'an (approx 12 hrs).

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 and 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 standard you are accustomed to. Most trains have a dining carriage where meals are available before the journey to supplement food available on the train.

An optional upgrade from a hard sleeper to a soft sleeper berth (4 travellers per compartment with a lockable door) may be available for some overnight train journeys on this trip. Please contact us for booking and more details.

Some of the many things to do in Beijing in your free time include:

Catch a performance of the world renown Beijing Acrobats.

A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.

Pick up a bike for the day. You'll need comfortable clothes for cycling. Helmets may not be available for hire - if you wish to have a helmet you'll need to supply your own.

A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.

The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.

The fantastic "The Legend of Kung Fu" is said to be a must-see production in Beijing for Kung Fu lovers.

Visit beautiful Yonghegong, or Lama Temple, which was built in 1694 and is the largest and best-preserved Tibetan style monastery building in Beijing.

Accommodation: King Parkview or similar (3 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)



The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many 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.

Please note that as check-in time is 12 noon and as our train arrives very early we may not be able to check-in until later in the day.

Your leader will take you on a short walking tour of the city centre, showing you some of the highlights such as the Bell & Drum Towers, Muslim Quarter, the City Walls and Gates.

Visit Xi'an's most famous site - the Terracotta Warriors. Travel by bus for around 2 hours to reach the site. Once there hear all about this incredible archaeological find, 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.

Board an overnight hard sleeper train for the capital of Sichuan Province, Chengdu (approx 17 hrs).

There are loads of other great things to see and do in Xi'an, including:

Xi'an is still surrounded by city walls along which you can climb and walk or cycle around for a unique way to experience the city.

For a different view of the city, climb to the top of the Bell or Drum Towers. The Bell Tower is in the centre of downtown Xi'an where the city's four main roads - Bei, Nan, Dong and Xi Dajie (North, South, East and West Avenues) - converge. Originally built in 1582 and restored in 1739, the tower was used to announce the time of day and serve as a watchtower. The previous Bell Tower, dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), stood two blocks to the west.The Drum Tower marks the entrance to the Muslim Quarter. It no longer contains the giant drum once used to signal the closing of the city gates, though it does retain some good views, including one of the Great Mosque.

Visit the impressive Tang Dynasty Small or Big Wild Goose Pagodas. The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is in a scenic area which also includes the Shaanxi History Museum and Da Cien Temple and is very popular with locals especially in the evenings when there is a nightly light & music show around the many fountains. The Small Wild Goose Pagoda is inside the Jianfu Temple and Xi'an Museum is also nearby.

The Big Wild Goose Pagoda is another picturesque Buddhist pagoda built in 652 AD during the Tang Dynasty within easy reach of the city centre.

One of the oldest mosques in China, the Great Mosque in Xi'an features an unusual blend of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Still in use today, the mosque serves as a place of worship for Xi'an's large muslim population, made up predominantly of the Hui minority. Although non-Muslims are not allowed within the main hall itself, a visit during one of the five daily prayer times adds another dimension of spirituality, no matter what your religion.

Catch an overnight hard sleeper train to Emei Shan.

Accommodation: Fortune Suites or similar (2 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)


Emei Shan

Emei Shan is one of the holiest places in China. At just over 3000 m high, this mountain has been a centre of pilgrimage for over 1800 years.

Pack an overnight bag for our trip up Emei Shan as we'll leave our main luggage at our guesthouse at Baoguo Monastery.

The views from the 3,099 m peak at Emei Shan are truly spectacular on a clear day. Travel by local bus and cable car to best experience the immense landscape (total travel time approx 3 hrs). Take the public bus back down the mountain and then a 3 hour trek to our accommodation at one of the mountain's monastery guesthouses. Expect plenty of steps and steep paths so make sure you dress appropriately, wear sturdy footwear and be ready for a physical but rewarding day on the mountain.

Our accommodation in a monastery on Emei Shan is basic but atmospheric with simple rooms and shared bathroom facilities but the setting keeps our travellers raving! Nights are incredibly peaceful and waking up to the sound of monks chanting is truly unforgettable. Please note that during religious festivals or peak travel periods, we may stay at a guesthouse in Emei town as an alternative to the monasteries here.

If you are travelling in the months of October-April, while we still visit Emei Shan and the surrounding areas there may be some changes to the activities and accommodation available depending on the weather conditions. We advise you to bring very warm clothes (waterproof shoes, windproof coat, hat, scarf, gloves) as there can be snow and sub-zero temperatures.

Explore the beautiful countryside at the base of the mountain, which provides ample opportunity for leisurely paced walks. It may be possible to visit some local hot springs to relax and revive from our hike or take a tour of some nearby villages.

Visit the Crouching Tiger Monastery. Hidden deep in the forest, its seven-metre copper pagoda is inscribed with Buddhist images and texts.

While Emei Shan is without a doubt a beautiful place, it is not remote wilderness and is very popular with local travellers. You may well find moments of peace when the day trippers go home, but please be prepared for the fact that during the day (and especially during public holidays) Emei Shan will be a very busy tourist site.

Accommodation: Baoguo Monastery or similar (2 nts), Emei Hongchunping Monastery or similar (1 nt)



We travel by private bus to the town of Leshan (approx 2.5 hrs) for a stopover on our way to Chengdu, and visit the amazing Leshan Giant Buddha. We will arrive into Chengdu in the early afternoon or evening depending on traveling time.

It might be one of China's biggest cities but Chengdu has preserved plenty of its traditional flavour and visitors can still find famous tea houses, numerous markets and some of the most interesting food in China. If you like it hot then this is the place to be as Sichuan food is known the world over for its spicy flavours. Must tries are huoguo (hot pot) and mapo doufu (spicy tofu).

Visit the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base where you're able to witness the conservation efforts being made to save this endearing endangered species. There are about 50 giant and red pandas at the base, some of which can be viewed by the public and we may even be lucky enough to see newborns taking their first steps in the nursery (July-September).

Some other interesting things to experience while here could include:

Spend some time in People's Park or Tianfu Square. Say hello to the giant Chairman Mao statue and watch locals singing, dancing, playing sports, doing tai chi. Stop in a tea house for a drink, massage or for the brave - a traditional ear cleaning.

Take in a performance of traditional Sichuan Opera, which is characterized by its unique solo singing, refined acting, rich percussion and irresistibly funny comedians.

Visit the Wenshu Temple - famous for its nearby teahouses and restaurants where you can sample a vegetarian meal made from recipes the monks have followed for thousands of years.

Take a cooking class. Not just a demonstration of recipes - the why, how, and timing of each step is explained, along with a detailed description of each ingredient.

Accommodation: Chengdu Xinong Inn or similar (2 nts)


Yangzi River

Catch a local bus to the industrial city of Chongqing (approx 6 hrs), the gateway to the Yangzi River.

Chongqing is the biggest city in China with a population of over 20 million in the city centre and suburbs sprawling along the river and up the steep hills behind. It's a unique place for China as you'll rarely see anyone on a bicycle here - the streets are simply too steep.Apart from the unique look of the city you'll no doubt notice the sharp smells of the spicy Sichuan cuisine drifting enticingly from local restaurants and sidewalk cafes. Dare your tastebuds to try the chilli-laced hot pot, the city's favourite dish. Not all food here is spicy, but if you like it hot, you'll be in spicy heaven!

Spend two full days on board a basic tourist class boat, cruising through the Three Gorges en route to Yichang. Our cabins are simple and clean twin-share with private bathroom facilities. Full board buffet style, including local style breakfast is provided while on the boat with typical but often quite plain Chinese cuisine. There's a chance to visit the supermarket in Chongqing before boarding in order to stock up on some favourite snacks, drinks or fruit for our journey or buy what you need if you have specific dietary requirements.Please note that depending on the composition of the group you may be required to share a cabin with your leader or a traveller from outside of your Intrepid group on a same gender basis as tour groups are not permitted to book single rooms on the Yangzi boats.

Take the chance to learn some Chinese words or how to write characters from your leader, how to play mahjong, sing some Chinese songs, catch up on your travel diary or just relax and chat with your group members and local travellers.

The gorges are spectacular and most travellers enjoy their time on the Yangzi boats but some words of warning are necessary. The Yangzi River region is one of the most industrialised and rapidly developing areas in China. We travel on Chinese tourist boats rather than luxury tourist vessels. We like to call it a river trip, rather than a traditional cruise. The Chinese authorities oversee the travel of all boats on the Yangzi, and we've found that quality and stability of service (including that of the food served on board) isn't high on their list of priorities. We do everything we can to ensure standards are maintained for our river trip but some things are outside our control. We use a range of different boats, depending on availability and the date of our departure. All boats are of a standard which complies with our required safety standards, although the size and age of boat varies from trip to trip. As the departure times of the boats are subject to frequent change this can mean that we need to make some changes to our itinerary and at times we've been unable to see all three gorges due to the boat schedule or poor visibility. Any changes made will be done with the aim of giving you the best possible Yangzi experience but we'd like to forewarn you of the possibility. Your leader will update you of any changes at your group meeting.

As well as relaxing and taking in the sights, now much changed since the implementation of the Three Gorges dam, we may have opportunities to visit some riverside attractions and towns on optional group excursions, including leaving our river boat to take a side trip down a tributary of the Yangzi River. Please note that these tours are operated by the local tourism authorities and Intrepid has very little control over the quality of the service provided. Your leader should be able to give you some feedback on which tours their previous passengers have enjoyed.

We arrive in Yichang, a relatively small city by Chinese standards that offers a great chance to see typical everyday Chinese life and to really get inside the urban culture.

This is the site of the massive and controversial Three Gorges hydroelectric project and you'll have the chance to visit this incredible feat of engineering - by far the largest hydroelectric power station in the world.

You can checkout a local produce market, visit a park, have a traditional reflexology foot massage or a great value manicure or pedicure, get your hair washed the local way at a neighbourhood barber (with a head massage included) or play table tennis at an outdoor court.

Test your lungs at karaoke.

See the latest Mandarin language blockbuster at the cinema.

Take a basic overnight train to Liuzhou (approx 15 hrs). As Yichang is not a major railway hub there's only one train heading south passing through here. To make the long journey as comfortable as we can, we travel soft sleeper (4 people per compartment with a lockable door) on this leg of our trip. It's important to get a good night's sleep as we'll have to disembark the train very early tomorrow morning. As Yichang is not a terminal station the bedding on this train is not always fresh. You may wish to bring your own sleeping bag.

Accommodation: Overnight Boat (3 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)



Arrive in Liuzhou very early in the morning (approx 4.30am) and travel by private transfer direct to our next destination, Yangshuo (approx 3.5 hrs).

Yangshuo has become very popular with international and domestic tourists in recent years and has a great 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.The countryside around Yangshuo is immortalized in many traditional Chinese paintings - picture immense limestone karsts dotting the rural landscape and towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River.

We experience the landscape on a bike ride to gain an insight into rural Chinese life, stopping for lunch at the house of our local friends for a tasty meal made from locally grown and farmed produce. This is an absolutely stunning region to explore, as every turn in the road brings you to another picture-postcard location.

In your free time here you could:

Try your hand at Chinese calligraphy.

Enjoy a relaxing boat ride along the Li River.

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 once you get back home.

The spectacular outdoor light show staged by Olympic Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou,director of 2008 Beijing Olympic Games Opening Ceronmony, is a definite highlight and highly recommended.

Travel to Guilin by public bus (approx 2 hrs).

Take an overnight hard sleeper train to Shenzhen - gateway to Hong Kong (approx 13 hrs).

Accommodation: Yangshuo Lucy hotel or similar (2 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt), Hotel (1 nt)


Hong Kong

The China-Hong Kong border is busy, so there can often be a bit of a wait to get through and a lot of patience required. On average, it takes around 2 hours to clear immigration and customs on both sides. Your bags will be with you during this time.First you need to walk the short distance from the train station to the border, go through procedures to exit China, then to enter Hong Kong. Once all that's done, travel on the KCR train to central Hong Kong.

It was as a British colony that Hong Kong made itself known to the world - now back under Chinese rule since the 1997 handover, the city is still a unique and fascinating place to explore and see where the East really does meet the West. Hong Kong's cityscape is spectacular and its modern fast-paced life is only minutes from picturesque islands and beaches. The locals are very proud of their Cantonese culture and history, so step out of the shopping malls and off the main streets to discover another side of the city.

Hong Kong offers a multitude of great experiences including:

Take a scenic journey around the islands of Hong Kong on the famous passenger ferry service, the Star Ferry.

Venture up to the top of Victoria Peak for a bird's eye view.

Watch the harbour's spectacular light show - a stunning spectacle of coloured lights, laser beams and searchlights synchronised to music and narration that celebrates the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong.

Enjoy a final farewell dinner at a restaurant of your leader's choice to sample some of the best Cantonese dishes.

There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.

Accommodation: Hotel (1 nt)


  • Beijing - Forbidden City
  • Beijing - Huiling Foundation visit
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square
  • Chengdu - Giant Panda Breeding Research Base
  • Chengdu - Walking tour
  • Emei Mountain - Scenic Area
  • Emei Shan - Cable car, entry Leshan buddha
  • Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors
  • Xi'an - Walking tour
  • Yangshuo - Countryside cycling guided tour


  • Temple of Heaven - CNY40
  • Summer Palace - CNY40
  • Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY510
  • Kung Fu show - CNY180
  • Lama Temple - CNY30
  • Real Beijing Gourmet Urban Adventure - CNY360
  • Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
  • Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
  • Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
  • Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
  • Great Mosque - CNY25
  • Countryside guided tour - CNY100
  • Hot springs - CNY128
  • Crouching Tiger Monastery - CNY150
  • People's Park - Free
  • Cooking class - CNY120
  • Bike hire - CNY20
  • Wenshu Monastery - CNY5
  • Sichuan Opera - CNY200
  • Manicure/Pedicure - CNY50
  • Fengdu Temple - CNY40
  • Fengdu Temple cable car - CNY20
  • Li River cruise - CNY100
  • Cooking School & Market Tour - CNY150
  • Zhang Yimou's Impressions Show - CNY198
  • Hong Kong - Victoria Peak & Tram - HKD40
  • Peak Tram - HKD30
  • Star Ferry - HKD15
  • Nightly Light Show - Free
  • The Story of Hong Kong Urban Adventure - USD49
  • Old vs New Hong Kong Urban Adventure - USD49
  • Around Kowloon in 8 Markets Urban Adventure - USD49


International flights, arrival and departure transfers, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of the tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.



For those of you who dream of experiencing a location in depth and comfort but are mindful of budget. Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for an fun, informative experience.

Style Facts

  • Comfortable tourist class hotels
  • Family Homestays
  • Private and local transport
  • More inclusions than Basic tours
  • Fully trained and experienced leaders


Discovery tours are all about exploring & experiencing the world with like-minded people, dipping your toe beneath the usual tourist surface & discovering the real essence of a region. They are genuinely innovative, exciting & imaginative tours that offer that little bit more to travellers.

This tour is operated by our partners Intrepid.


A necessary bugbear of adventure travel, visas can appear complicated, costly and confusing to apply for. Imaginative Traveller recommend applying for visas with a professional visa service who can guide you though the process and take care of lodging and collecting your passport with multiple embassies, so we have teamed up with The Visa Machine.

The Visa Machine ‘live and breathe’ visas and have the expertise to provide current and accurate information and arrange the correct visas for your trip, quickly and at a good price.

Please click here for more information


All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.


Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping.


You must have extensive travel insurance as a condition of booking with us, and without evidence of a valid policy you won’t be allowed to start your trip. Please click here for more information


Responsible tourism is at the heart of Imaginative Traveller. For 20 years we have taken customers to places around the world in social and environmentally responsible manner, ensuring everyone involved respects and maintains the natural and often delicate balance of the destination.

As travellers ourselves we are well aware of the impact that tourism can have and whilst economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, it should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment. It is our aim to provide journeys that have minimal negative and maximum positive impact on the places we visit. We do not believe that, as visitors, we should impose our own cultures on others; rather that we should experience foreign cultures and appreciate them for what they are.

We believe giving something back is essential. We therefore work with our customers and the people we visit to ensure the benefits go directly to contribute to local cultures and environmental conservation. This is not only good the communities we visit but it also gives our travellers more enriched adventures.

For further information about responsible travel please click here.


Weather at Mt. Emei:

Located in the subtropical monsoon climate region, Mt. Emei is noted for considerable weather difference between various areas on the mountain. The climate changes with altitude. So it is common for it to be very hot at the foot of the mountain but cool and pleasant higher the higher you travel.The best time to visit Mt Emei is in Spring and Autumn, especially April and October, for these two months are mostly sunny days compared to other months that have often cloudy days. April to May is also the best time to enjoy the blossom of Azaleas, while October is the best time to appreciate the maple leaves on Emei Mountain.


Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.



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