Day 1 - Shanghai
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China. Blending 21st-century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai pulses with the beat of new China. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm this evening. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask reception where it will take place. Settle into your hotel and then get a feel for this vibrant city – Shanghai’s bright lights, fevered trade and frenetic pace provide a glimpse into the dazzling global future of the country. Your evening is free for your first exploration of the city – perhaps get a taste of Shanghai’s eclectic food scene, which draws influence from far beyond China’s walls.
Day 2 - Shanghai/Overnight Train
Today you have free time to explore this bustling city until this afternoon, when you’ll board your first overnight train from Shanghai to Guilin (approximately 18-20 hours). You could visit the Propaganda Museum for a fascinating look at China's revolutionary past, get a bird's eye view of the city from the Pearl Tower's observation decks, get a taste of 1920s Shanghai along the Bud, wander the Yuyuan Gardens and Bazaar, barter in markets, stroll through modern Pudong or the explore ancient nongtangs.
Day 3 - Longji Rice Terraces
Disembark from the train and jump on a bus from Guilin to Longji.
The Longji region has some of the most extensive rice terraces around. These terraces change with the seasons: filled with water from the mountains before planting, becoming green during the growing season and then golden when the rice is ready for harvest. This evening you’ll overnight in the village of Dazhai, which is home to the Yao minorities. The Yao still preserve some of their traditional lifestyle and unique customs. You'll notice women only cut their hair at 16 years old, symbolising their entrance into adulthood. The hair isn’t thrown away, but is kept by the grandmother. When the woman marries, the hair is made into an ornamental headdress and brought to the husband's home as a souvenir!
Day 4 - Longji Rice Terraces
Today you’ll hike through the Longji Valley and its rice terraces, constructed over 500 years ago (called the Dragon’s Backbone because the rice terraces resemble a dragon's scales, while the mountain summit looks like the backbone of the dragon). Walk through stunning scenery, with its unique terraces for growing rice, alongside bamboo trees and chestnut forests. Despite some challenging hills, much of the hike is spent walking around over the stones, passing waterfalls and fields. After a day spent admiring the endless vistas, you’ll overnight in the picturesque village of Ping'an.
Day 5 - Yangshuo
Take public transport on to Yangshuo (approximately 4 hours). Soak up the charm of this little town, popular with the Chinese and Western travellers alike, who come for the beautiful landscape and stay for the great cafes and bars. It's also one of the best places in the country to get a feel for local culture and traditions while having 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, towering spectacularly over rice paddies and the meandering Li River. The scene is even celebrated on every 20 Yuan note.
Day 6 - Yangshuo
Today is a free day for you to do as you like. You could begin by focusing your body and mind with a morning Tai Chi class or Kung Fu lesson, and then continue the active theme by hiring a bike, gaining insight into rural Chinese life on a cycle through picture-perfect locations. You could climb up to Moon Hill – a limestone pinnacle with a moon-shaped hole penetrating the hill – or simply stroll along the river and be immersed in the natural beauty of the valley. For something a little less energetic, you could simply sit back and relax as you enjoy a relaxing cruise down the Li or Yulong River. Later, perhaps watch an outdoor light show staged by 2008 Beijing Olympics’ Opening Ceremony director Zhang Yimou.
Day 7 - Yangshuo
Today’s another free day to pursue you interests here in Yangshuo. Freedom and flexibility is the idea today, and your friendly local leader will be on hand to give you suggestions and tips. If you’re still feeling active then up in the limestone hills are a number of caves that can be explored; or if you’d rather see the landscape from a different perspective, then kit up in a rock-climbing harness and tackle one of the 300 rock-climbing routes. For a more laid-back day, maybe visit the market to shop with the locals and get a feel for the regional produce. You can then put this new knowledge to use in a cooking class at the Yangshuo Cooking School. Learn to cook dishes with recipes that are easy to make and ingredients readily available outside of China, so that you’ll soon be wowing friends and family back at home.
Day 8 - Tulou Village
This morning travel by private bus to Guilin Airport (approx 90 mins) for your flight to Xiamen (approx 90 mins). On landing you’ll transfer by private bus from Xiamen Airport to the Tulou village (approximately 3 hours). This area is home to the Hakka people, who traditionally live in round, walled villages or communal houses (“tulou”) with many families and generations of the same clan living together. Accommodation is very basic in the local style. It can get quite cold at night in some months so please ensure you bring warm clothes. Washing facilities may be limited, with communal toilets outside of the rooms. Tonight you have the option to try some simple local dishes for dinner, and breakfast tomorrow may be quite different from what you are used to, but is certainly authentic. The area has been developed for domestic tourism recently and sees lots of day-trippers, but few people stay overnight, so you’re sure to have a great local experience while here.
Day 9 - Xiamen
Today you’ll take a walk with a local guide around the surrounding villages and between some of the clusters of Tulou houses. Learn some more about these impressive structures, which are like 500-yar-old apartment blocks, huge earthen structures that resemble coliseums with timbered galleries as high as five stories. The buildings were constructed to protect the inhabitants from animals, warlords and bandits, with five-feet thick walls repelling human and natural threats. Later, head out on a hike to a viewpoint and nearby waterfall. The length and distance of the hike will depend on the weather, local conditions and fitness of the group, however most groups will generally spend a few hours exploring. Transfer to by private bus to return to Xiamen for the evening (approximately 3 hours).
Day 10 - Xiamen
Today is a free day for you to explore Xiamen. One of the highlights of this coastal city is the island of Gulang Yu, just across the harbour. It’s highly recommended that you jump on a ferry and head over to this island crammed full of historic mansions and villas, which is easily navigable by bike or on foot. The streets are filled with food vendors, handicraft stalls, and lovely cafes and restaurants to sit and relax. The island was declared an international settlement after the First Opium War in the late 19th century, and Europeans, Japanese and wealthy Chinese constructed lavish buildings during Xiamen’s time as an important port. Time in the city can be spent in the landscaped grounds of Xiamen University campus, surrounded by trendy bars and cafes where you might have a chat with some local students. Perhaps climb up the steps to Nanputuo Temple, one of the most important and active Buddhist sites in the region, which has beautiful views across the city and surrounds. Xiamen has many local specialty dishes, so tonight why not try something like Shacha Mian (noodles with peanut soup) for dinner.
Day 11 - Hong Kong
Today you’ll travel by high-speed train to the Chinese border at Shenzhen (approximately 4 hours). 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 is 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. Then you’ll walk the short distance from the train station to the border, go through procedures to exit China, and then enter Hong Kong. Once all that's done, you’ll travel on the KCR train to central Hong Kong. Hong Kong made itself known to the world as a British colony and, since the 1997 handover, the city has become a unique and fascinating place to 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. Perhaps spend the last few hours of this trip searching out the best yum cha for a final sumptuous meal with your group.
Day 12 - Hong Kong
There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Accommodation, Food (as stated), Transport, Selected Activities
Flights, Travel Insurance, Visa, Vaccinations or Personal Spending Money