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The Tea Horse Road

 

 BEIJING | GUILIN  |  YANGSHUO  |  Longsheng |   KUNMING  |  LIJIANG 

  ZHONGDIAN  |  LHASA


Day 1 | Arrive Beijing

 

Arrive into Beijing 北京 ("Northern Capital"), China's sprawling capital city of over 22 million people and recent host of the inspiring 2008 Olympics.

After clearing immigration (visa required)* and customs, meet escort for transfer to Beijing's central Chaoyang District (about one hour) to the recently-opened Waldorf Astoria.

This afternoon, begin your stay with the perfect introduction to China, visiting the newer architectural gem, The Capital Museum located within the Confucius Temple. The six-story art museum features robust high-tech displays covering Chinese traditional and contemporary culture.

After returning to your hotel, we recommend dinner at the Waldorf, or if feeling energetic, exploring nearby Wang Fu Jing's busy pedestrian area, busy night market, snack street, and popular culinary scene.

*Visa required in advance of arrival (arranged by IndochinaTravel)

WALDORF ASTORIA Premier King

Day 2 | Beijing

Today, realxing and spending time in central Beijing with Andrea.

Day 3 | Beijing

Today, exploring the classical highlights of Beijing beginning with the world's largest courtyard, Tian'anmen Square ("Gate of Heavenly Peace"), the national symbol of China. We may take a short hike to the top of adjacent Jingshan (Coal Hill) Park beforehand, behind the Forbidden City, a pleasant park of flowers and trees with panoramic views of the Palace. In the early mornings around 8 a.m., the park is filled with older Chinese gather in groups to sing, play the traditional two-stringed erhu and practice tai chi.

Tian'anmen serves as the entrance to the Imperial City and at its center, the largest Imperial Palace in the world — the Forbidden City a massive complex of over 950 buildings from where succession of 24 emperors of Ming and Qing dynasties ruled for over five hundred years. Here, we'll explore some of the collections of the impressive Palace Museum, with hundreds of thousands of rare artifacts from the Ming and Qing dynasties, including paintings, ceramics, bronzes, and jade pieces.

Afterwards, continue by foot through Qianmen Street, a popular pedestrian way, en route to visit the Temple of Heaven 天坛, where emperors prayed for good harvest, and stroll the grounds of the sprawling, surrounding park, an ideal place for people watching.

 

After breaking for lunch at the nearby Tai Xing restaurant (Cantonese and Sichuan dishes), strolling over to explore China's most interesting curios market, the Panjiayuan Antiques Market which is only a couple of blocks away. Called a "once-in-a-lifetime shopping paradise," the open-air market has over 3,000 stalls featuring Chinese arts, crafts, souvenirs and culture icons all in the heart of the city. Stall owners come from twenty-four provinces around China to sell their wares and the range of goods is excellent, but compare and bargain. Panjiayuan Market is largest on weekends but early morning arrival is best to beat traffic. While the best place to pickup crafts and souvenirs, the massive market is worthwhile even for non shoppers for the amazing and interesting variety of goods and people watching.

In the late afternoon, returning to Chaoyang before dinner.

Tonight, we recommend a performance of traditional Beijing opera at the Zhengyici Xilou, last of a handful of theaters that supported Beijing Opera from its beginnings, only occasionally hosts performances and is under constant threat of permanent closure. The scarcity of performances only makes the experience of watching the colorful operas in this intimate, traditionally decorated space all the more precious. Ask us to call and ask about performance schedules and tickets.

Yuxiang Renjia 渝乡人家. Featuring Beijing's finest Sichuan including gongbao jiding (diced chicken stir-fried with peanuts and dried peppers).

More Beijing Dining Recommendations

Book to pack: On China, by Henry Kissinger (2012)

"Drawing on forty years of intimate acquaintance with the country and its leaders, Henry Kissinger reflects on how China’s past relations with the outside world illuminate its twenty-first century trajectory. In this sweeping and insightful history, Henry Kissinger turns for the first time at book length to a country he has known intimately for decades and whose modern relations with the West he helped shape.

On China illuminates the inner workings of Chinese diplomacy during such pivotal events as the initial encounters between China and tight line modern European powers, the formation and breakdown of the Sino-Soviet alliance, the Korean War, and Richard Nixon’s historic trip to Beijing. With a new final chapter on the emerging superpower’s twenty-first-century role in global politics and economics, On China provides historical perspective on Chinese foreign affairs from one of the premier statesmen of our time."

More readings on China

Day 4 | The Great Wall

An early morning departure from Beijing early to avoid its legendary traffic, driving out to tour of the older Mutianyu section of the meandering Great Wall 长城 (56 miles, or about 90 minutes by car) — the great symbol of China. After taking cable car to the top of the Great Wall, taking in the panoramic views and exploring the wall by foot. Incredible as it may seem, the most comprehensive archaeological survey using advanced technologies calculates that the entire Great Wall, with all of its branches, stretches for 8,851.8 kilometers (5,500.3 miles). After exploring the wall area, dining at nearby Xiao Long Pu for country style dishes, with views of the area.

Following exploration of the wall, continue on to the magnificent Summer Palace 颐和园 "Gardens of Nurtured Harmony"). The "palace," a World Heritage site, was the imperial retreat where, from the eighteenth century until the start of the twentieth, the emperor and his household escaped Beijing’s summertime heat. It is actually a vast picturesque park of natural landscape of hills and open water (Kunming Lake) with pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges in a pleasant setting.

After return to Beijing, spending the afternoon visiting the largest museum in the world, the Beijing National Museum situated near Tian'anmen Square. The museum has just opened its doors in April of 2011, the culmination of a decade-long, $380-million project that combined the Museum of Chinese History and the Museum of the Chinese Revolution. The more than one million artifacts in the museum's collection provide an epic survey of Chinese history, from Yuanmou Man, who walked the land 1.7 million years ago, to recent president Hu Jintao. The museum has over two million square feet of galleries, three times the size of the Louvre in Paris and similarly, houses the country's most treasured and cultural relics with permanent collections from the Opium War, ancient bronzes, sculpture, art, as well as contemporary art.

By preference, in the late afternoon or evening, attending the Beijing contemporary or traditional Opera, gallery show, or museum exhibition in the arts zone 798, or Caochangdi — which means “grasslands” — a fertile breeding ground for modern artists. Compared with the more commercialized 798 Art Zone, the neighborhood is an epicenter of creativity, having attracted key galleries and studios with its low rents and "purer" artistic atmosphere. It is essentially an unassuming village, inhabited by illustrious artists and rural migrants, the latter more concerned with making ends meet than deconstructing Dadaism. Its dichotomous setting is what lends the district its edge and distinct character. before exploring Beijing's vibrant nightlife and culinary highlights.

7:30 PM Da Dong Restaurant, world-famous Peking Duck (Dinner Reservations)

Day 5 | Beijing

 

After breakfast, enjoying a half-day, shared cooking class on northern cuisine (8:30am to 1:30pm). The class begins with exploring a local market in the hutong area learning about and shopping for ingredients used in northern cuisine.

Afterwards, a demonstration of various sauces and seasonings including ubiquitous soy sauce, followed by preparation of dishes, learning how to use cleavers and the wok. At the conclusion of class, dining on your creations.

Following lunch, exploring more of Beijing's ancient hutongs (alleys), located nearby in some of the city's most scenic and interesting neighborhoods. Here, enjoy a tour of the district from the seat of a traditional pedicab, rolling through through the busy narrow streets of the area, some dating as far back as 700 years ago. During a tour of the alleys, pausing to meet with a local family and learning about their life in this unique part of the city.

Before dinner, no adventurous culinary traveler should miss the busy spectacle of the Dōnghuámén Night Market. Here see cooks whipping up unusual local delicacies such as starfish, centipedes, crickets, and scorpions— although there are plenty of less exotic snacks to choose from.

7:30 PM Made in China (Dinner Reservations)

 

Wangfujing's snack street is an only-in-China experience, a fascinating glimpse of all variety of exotic foods including fried insects (Dōnghuámén Night Market at the northern end of Wangfujing, from 4 to 10pm). Din Tai Fung, Taipei's most famous restaurants, now in Beijing. Green T. House 紫云轩 北京, sleek Zen setting featuring holistic Chinese fusion (both located in Chaoyang).

Hutongs once dominated the city, but in recent years many have been leveled in the name of modernization. In the hutongs see cobblers repairing shoes, grocers delivering produce, and residents preparing lunch outside (there are often no indoor cooking or plumbing facilities). One hutong, Nanluoguxiang in the Gulou, or Drum and Bell Tower, district, has several kilometers of shops, galleries and cafés that range from the chic to the kitschy.

Today, exploring the capital's vigirous contemporary art scene, including recommended galleries, events, exhibits, including artist introductions and encounters.

Like what you see? Please contact us for a full trip proposal, customized to your dates, preferences, and interests.