Land of the Dragon - Family Holiday Trip Notes
Trip code: FFCH
Trip length: 14 days
- Cycle through traditional villages
- Explore Vibrant Hong Kong
- Shaolin monks, Kung Fu & Giant Pands
- Terracotta Warriors & Great Wall
This exciting trip takes you on a grand journey through the varied landscapes of China. First to the fascinating city of Beijing where you’ll visit Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the famous Great Wall. An overnight train to Luoyang takes you to the hallowed Shaolin Temple where you can see a kung fu demonstration, and the spectacular Longmen Caves. See the pandas at Chengdu, and visit Xian, the start of the Silk Route - once the richest city in the world and home of the awe-inspiring Terracotta Army. Next you’ll journey to the heart of rural Guanxi province – to a backdrop of beautiful sugar-loaf peaks. From Yangshuo you’ll explore ethnic villages and the stunning ‘Dragon’s Backbone’ rice terraces, plus enjoy many different activities. Together with your stay in a remote minority village this section of the trip gives you a genuine taste of quintessential China. Your journey ends back in Beijing.
Arrive in Beijing and make your way to your joining hotel. This afternoon you have time to relax and meet the other members of your group before perhaps heading out to enjoy the first of many superb Chinese meals.
Sunworld Hotel (AAA) – 2 nights
Although the original terminus of the Silk Route was Xian, the infamous Kublai Khan made Peking (now Beijing) his capital and extended the route. During the Ming dynasty the city’s two great monuments were built – The Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. This morning you visit the Forbidden City, which was once home to the Emperor and his family. The maze of buildings within the City became the symbolic and literal heart of the capital and the empire. Symbolism abounds here; dragon and phoenix represent emperor and empress, and construction was in accordance with the principles of Yin and Yang - the balance of negative and positive forces.
This afternoon you will take to public transport and visit Tiananmen Square the largest town square in the world which is big enough to hold one million people! Then visit the Temple of Heaven - a masterpiece of Chinese architecture, set in beautiful surroundings.
This evening you will see an amazing acrobatic troupe performance - please don't try this at home! (B)
This morning you’ll set off for the drive to China’s best-known attraction, the Great Wall (approx 2 hours). Stretching over 5000km from the coast in the east, the wall was built as a defence against invasion from the horsemen of the far north, and has survived in a good condition since then. Surrounded by woodland and streams and around 90km from Beijing, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is considered by many to be one of the best preserved parts of the wall. Renowned for its Ming Dynasty guard towers (there are 22 of them over this 2,250 meter-long stretch) and built mainly of granite, the wall is an impressive sight at over 7 meters high and more than 4 meters wide. You hike along a section of the wall, taking in the surrounding scenery and getting a feel for the sheer size of this amazing construction.
In the afternoon you stop at a local hotel (1 room per family provided), where you have the chance to freshen up before you transfer to the station (approx. 3 hours) and board your overnight sleeper train to Luoyang. While there is some free time it is a great chance to take an informal language lesson and learn a few simple works which you can practice during the tour. Train travel in China is a great way to mix with local people. On soft sleeper trains compartments are closed with two tier bunk beds, four to a cabin. Sheets, pillows and blanket are provided, luggage is stored in your cabin. There are basic bathroom facilities at the end of each carriage with a toilet and washbasin. It's a good idea to bring your own toilet roll and some wet wipes. Be prepared that standards of cleanliness will not be what you are used to. Safe hot drinking water is provided to making tea, coffee or instant meals, bring a mug, spoon, knife and fork to prepare your own meals. Most trains have a dining carriage and you can also purchase snacks enroute. Please be prepared that you may have to share a carriage with persons outside of the group.
Berth on overnight train - 1 night (B)
On arrival in Luoyang you transfer (approx. 40 minutes) to your hotel. Then head out to the revered Shaolin Temple (approx. 2 hrs), the spiritual home of Kung Fu. Famous for the legendary monks who could balance on one finger or hang from a tree by their neck, the Shaolin Temple remains one of China’s most famous sights and is usually bustling with visitors and martial arts students. The original Kung Fu was based on the movements of animals (tigers and snakes for instance) and is the basis of many of the martial arts which are practised today. You have the opportunity to see the various styles demonstrated in a professional performance and take a basic lesson. Afterwards there might still be time to wander around the temple watching students practising their skills. Return to your hotel.
Luoyang Friendship Hotel (AAA) – 1 night
Please note that rooms might not be ready upon your early morning arrival.
Longmen Caves - Xian
This morning you drive out to the incredible Longmen Caves, south of Luoyang (approx. 40 min). The site has over 100,000 images of Buddha carved into caves and niches in the rock, which stretches for over a kilometre past the Yi River. The statues of Buddha are carved in a variety of styles that display the influence of northern characteristics. The most impressive sections of the caves are the Ten Thousand Buddha cave and the 17 metre high image of Buddha built for Empress Wu Zetian.
In the afternoon you transfer by high speed bullet train to the Imperial city of Xian (approx. 2 hours). Human activity in this area dates back 6,000 years, but it was the Zhou dynasty which established Xian as its capital on the Fen River. Under the Tang dynasty, a magnificent city was built which was used thereafter as a model for other Chinese cities and also for the Japanese capital at Nara in 710. As terminus of the Silk Road, Xian was the world’s largest, richest and most cosmopolitan city and capital of a powerful nation. Many monuments reveal Xian’s importance over the centuries and reflect the fact that it was the capital of an empire some twelve times in its history.
Union Alliance Atravis Executive Hotel (AA) – 2 nights (B)
Xian; city walk
Xian is one of the few cities in China to have preserved its city walls virtually intact. The city itself has spread beyond these walls, but the centre of the town still retains the original grid formation, making it easy to navigate around the town. This morning you are taken by your Group Leader on a walk around the city. You spend your time wandering the back streets of the Muslim quarter, which is home to one of the largest mosques in China.
This afternoon is free for your own activities. There may be time to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda (both optional). Built in about 648 AD, its original purpose was to house Buddhist scriptures brought back from India. Alternatively, you could just wander through the old quarter and soak up the atmosphere. Xian is a fantastic place to do some souvenir shopping! This evening you will have the opportunity to visit the popular Tang Dynasty Show (optional) or to enjoy the bustle, lights and exotic goods at the night market in the Muslim quarter. (B)
Terracotta Warriors - Chengdu
Xian is, of course, famous for the Terracotta Warriors, guarding the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Although this vast army was buried some 22 centuries ago, it was only discovered as recently as 1974. This morning you drive to the site (approx. 1 hour) which is spread over several tombs. The sheer size of the assembled terracotta army and the excellent displays really feed the imagination. There is also an interesting museum housing a collection of artefacts from the original digs. This afternoon you transfer to the airport (approx. 1 hour) and fly to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province.
Chengdu Bin Jiang Hotel (AAA) – 1 night (B)
Pandas - Yangshuo
Chengdu is famous throughout China for many things – the spicy food of the Sichuan province and the endless chatter of the city’s tearooms, but globally it is renowned for the panda research centre, which you will visit this morning. China’s national animal, the giant panda is a rare and increasingly threatened creature. The research centre is home to both giant and red panda bears, and you can marvel at these incredible creatures in a close approximation of their habitat. It’s an early start as the panda only wakes for a few hours of the day to eat and exercise, but the opportunity to get close to this remarkable being is an experience not to be missed.
Take a flight to Guilin (1 1/2 hours), from where you head into the picturesque countryside around Yangshuo (approx. 2 hours) The inspiration for many paintings and literary works, Yangshuo lies on the western bank of the Li River, which meanders languidly through a remarkable landscape of dramatic limestone sugarloaf peaks; one of the most memorable images of classical China. This is your base for the next 2 days.
Qingfeng Hotel (AAA) – 3 nights (B)
Located deep within karst peaks of Guangxi, Yangshuo is a haven for many visitors from the hustle and bustle of the ever-developing Chinese nation. The main peak in Yangshuo is Green Lotus Peak, standing next to the Li River. This morning you head out of Yangshuo on bikes to cycle on farm tracks, meandering through paddy fields and with spectacular limestone karst scenery on all sides. You’ll pause for a cold drink beside one of the most beautiful of the Li River tributaries. Continue on to a local village nestled at the base of Moon Hill. Here you can sample local farmers’ cooking before returning to Yangshuo.
In the afternoon you take a short drive to Chaolong, where you will be able to learn the art of Chinese cooking. This class will allow the whole family to learn the techniques and skills of Chinese cookery from experienced chefs, and after an afternoon trying delicious recipes, you can eat what you have made for dinner!
The following day is free to explore Yangshou as you wish. There are many activities here that you an do, or you may just wish to relax a little. (BD, B)
Please note that helmets are not provided for the cycling - these can be bought in Yangshuo or please feel free to bring one from home.
Today is a free day for your choice of activities, your hotel rooms will be available to you during the day. Then in the evening you transfer to Guilin and board your overnight train to Shenzhen.
Overnight Train - 1 night (B)
Your train arrives at its destination this morning. Crossing the border from China into Hong Kong is a busy and time consuming thing. It takes around 2 hours on each side to clear immigration and customs, your bags will be with you during this time; patience is essential. Once cleared you board the KCR train into central Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been back under Chinese rule since 1997, it is a truely unique place where east and west meet. The vibrant and fast paced city is only minutes away from quiet islands and beaches. There are many optional activites to choose from during your time here in Hong Kong, including a ride on the Star Ferry, a visit to Victoria Peak and see the harbour's light show.
West Hotel (AAA) – 2 nights (B)
The tour ends today. (B)
About The Imaginative Traveller
Our aim has always been to provide exceptional travel experiences. We believe that adventure travel should be stimulating, and that it should give you an authentic experience of a place. We want our travellers to relish the amazing diversity of countries and cultures the world has to offer. Our focus is on innovation, not imitation.
Obsessed with quality
One of our strengths has been our obsession with quality. We've always believed that our commitment to you doesn't end as soon as you've paid for your holiday. On the contrary, it is just beginning. Whilst most operators simply get a local company to handle the day to day operation of their tours, we do it all ourselves. We have managers for each of our key destinations around the world and all our small groups are escorted by our own leaders. Our local teams include guides, drivers, administration staff and contacts in the local community who help us ensure that our adventures are active and involving.
For comparability, all prices in this dossier are quoted in one currency. We use the US Dollar since that is familiar to most. However, once on tour you will need to pay for all goods and services in the local currency. See your Country Dossier for details of exchange rates.
Trip gradesAncient Civilisations
Mountain Biking / Cycling
UNESCO Heritage Sites
Anyone in good health should be able to take part in this trip. Journeys by road can be tiring in hot summers; overnight train travel is undertaken in comfortable ‘soft class’. China is a developing country and some things may not meet Western expectations - all travellers need to be flexible, accepting that standards will be different to those found at home. Minimum age: 7 years.
Transport - Minibus, overnight train, bullet train, domestic flight, bicycle.
Accommodation - Hotels (11nts), sleeper train (2nts)
Meals - 11 breakfasts & 1 dinner.
Single room supplementA single supplement is available for this trip priced from 152 GBP. This does not guarantee a single room for all accommodation. please contact us to discuss this.
For your comfort we recommend you travel as light as possible; many airlines impose a maximum weight limit of 20kg – we advise you to take 10kg as you will be on the move a good deal! For domestic flights using light aircraft the usual weight limit is 15 kg.
One main piece (a soft bag or rucksack, not a hard suitcase).
A daypack (25-30 litres), large enough to carry what you need for the day including camera, water, etc
China’s cities and sites are huge. When sightseeing, do as the locals do; take water and wear comfortable shoes. A business card with the name of your hotel written in Mandarin is also handy, should you get lost! Also, see below for phrases to help you order food.
SOME INTERESTING READING:
Wild Swans - Three Daughters of China Jung Chang: Mao - The Unknown Story - Jung Chang & Jon Halliday 1421: The Year China Discovered the World - Gavin Menzies Great Wall of China – Thammy Evans: Behind the Wall - A Journey Through China – Colin Thubron: Farewell My Concubine – Lilian Lee: The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan
SOME USEFUL PHRASES:
Ní hao - Good morning / evening
The rest of these phrases relate to food; the Chinese are notorious for eating all sorts, and we hope the following will help you to find something more familiar!
Mifan – rice
Zhurou – pork
Ji – chicken
Yu – fish Su shijin – stir fry assorted vegetables
Qing búyao tai la – not too spicy, please
Wó zhi yao shucai – I only want vegetables
Wo búhui yong kuaizi – I can’t use chopsticks
Local Costs - China
Approximate average costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
Coffee/tea 3-10 CNY
Nb. Green tea is the national drink of China; Coffee and other types of tea are difficult to find outside tourist areas. Please bring from home as hot water is readily available.
Soft drink 3-10 CNY
Mineral water 5-10 CNY
Medium beer 5-10 CNY
Bottle of wine 50-200 CNY
Local snack lunch (ie noodles or dumplings) 15-30 CNY per person
Dinner at a local restaurant (banquet style shared with group) 30-100 CNY per person.
Approximate average costs are given for guidance only, and may vary widely according to location and type of establishment.
Visas & Permits - China
Holders of UK & IRL passports do require a visa for China. Nationals of all other countries should contact their local embassy or consulate. Passports must be valid for at least six months after the end date of the trip. Information can also be found at www.travcour.com. This information is given in good faith, but may be subject to change without warning. Please note that, where appropriate, obtaining a valid visa is ultimately your responsibility. Please consult a visa agency or the consular authorities 4-6 weeks before departure for the most up-to-date information.
Important information for customers travelling on our ICB trip: When entering China via Hong Kong you will need a double entry visa if your flight is scheduled to touchdown on Chinese mainland before arriving at your final destination. If you are not touching down in mainland China before reaching Hong Kong, you only require a single entry visa, however, you MUST get the hexagon-shaped stamp, NOT the oval-shaped stamp in order to be able to enter China again later in the trip. If in any doubt, please ask the airport staff.
Vaccinations - China
The following are recommended:
† Hepatitis A † Tetanus † Polio † Typhoid † Malaria
† NB: Yellow Fever vaccination is compulsory if travelling via an infected country.
For detailed information and advice concerning vaccinations go to:www.fitfortravel.scot.nhs.uk
Vaccination requirements change periodically so we advise that you check with your nearest specialist travel clinic 4-6 weeks before departure to get up-to-date information.
International rules for carrying medicines vary. Some countries do not allow certain medicines to be imported, or require official documents, such as a doctor’s letter, to prove drugs have been prescribed by a doctor and obtained legally. It is sensible to contact the relevant embassy or high commission of your destination to check what their drug transportation rules are before you travel.
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
Responsible Travel - Travellers' Guidelines
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It’s about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but 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.
- Whilst it is our aim to show destinations and cultures in a positive light, we do not believe in papering over the cracks or shielding visitors from the realities of life. This does not mean, however, that we condone or endorse certain situations or regimes that may be in place.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
Before you depart try to spend some time familiarising yourself with the destination you will be travelling to – their culture and customs. The country dossiers on our website offer detailed information about all the regions we visit. They also include some useful phrases in the local language for you to use on your trip! A few words of the local language can open up many more opportunities for you to interact with the people you will meet.
Although it is tempting to give out pens, sweets and money to people begging, and particularly tempting to give to children, we feel that this encourages a begging mentality and has a long-term negative impact on communities. If someone begging earns more than someone in the same community who works this can discourage local employment. If children regularly bring home money it may discourage their parents from sending them to school. It is of course your own personal choice but you could consider giving to registered charities or contributing to our Responsible Travel fund instead. Money donated through our fund to our worldwide projects is matched pound for pound by Imaginative Traveller and used to help local grassroots projects.
Always ask permission to photograph local people and respect their decision if they would prefer not to have their picture taken.
Respect local dress codes, especially at religious sites. Our tour leaders are always on hand to give you advice about this.
In many of the countries we visit you might see examples of animal cruelty (for example dancing bears, performing monkeys and snake charmers). Please do not take photographs of this or offer money as it encourages the activity.
Respect the environment you are in. It sounds obvious but do not throw litter, take it with you or use rubbish bins! You may see locals throwing rubbish on the street but do not follow their example!
When shopping in countries where haggling is the norm – enjoy it and only pay what you feel is a fair price for the goods you are purchasing. However, remember that the shopkeeper does have to make a living so do stop once you have reached a price you are happy with. Bargaining should be fun but always remember that a small amount can mean much more to the vendor than to you.
Endeavor to take home souvenirs made locally; the money you spend can be very important to the local communities. However, do use your common sense and don’t buy anything that you think might be made out of endangered animals or plants.
To help keep as much money as possible in the host country - try to eat in locally owned restaurants and order local drinks and produce rather than international brands.
In hotels do be conscious of how much water you are using. Many of the areas we visit regularly have shortages; try not to have hour long showers! Don’t leave lights, air conditioners or fans on when you leave the room – you wouldn’t at home!
Respect the environment you are in, especially when in national parks or reserves. Pay attention to rules about keeping on paths, keeping a distance from animals and not removing any of the natural habitat.
Relax and immerse yourself in the differences of the culture you are in – you’ll be back home in the familiar soon enough (and wishing you were still on holiday!). These cultural differences are part of what makes your experience special.
If you would like to offset the carbon dioxide that will be produced on your flights you can do this on our website (on our Responsible travel page). We work with climatecare, who will reduce the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide that you produce in another part of the World through their emission reduction projects. These projects are low carbon efficient technologies in developing countries and not only serve to reduce emissions but also help to spread the adoption of low carbon technologies and improve the quality of life for local communities. Details of climatecare’s projects can be found on their website.
If you would like to contribute to our Worldwide projects, helping communities all over the World, you can also do this on our website or with a sales consultant. Please refer to our responsible travel page on the website for details of our current projects. Any donation you make will be matched £ for £ by Imaginative Traveller (up to a maximum of £1000).
Have a great trip!
Please do let us know if you have any comments about responsible travel at firstname.lastname@example.orgThe Imaginative Traveller & The Adventure Company. This trip is operated by our partner company, The Adventure Company. They have more than 10 years experience in adventure travel and they share our ethos for offering unique holiday adventures. As this is a codeshared departure you can expect there to be both Imaginative Traveller and Adventure Company travellers on your trip.