China has been increasingly in the eye of the international traveler. From the discovery and refurbishment of the Terracotta Army, to the trend-setting and world famous Beijing Olympics; China has been putting on display just what they have to offer the world, and tourists have responded, with over 50 million visitors in 2014. Not one to rest on laurels, China has pushed ahead, engineering a modern marvel in the Three Gorges Dam. Hitting all the high points in just two weeks can be daunting, but Ritz Tours has carefully crafted an experience that lets you hit all the high points, while still leaving time to enjoy the little moments in China! Still considering your next big adventure to China? So won’t you explore with us and learn all about some of the locations you might visit on a Ritz Premiere Luxury Tour.
East Asia has long been known for its exquisite wooden architecture, and you’ll find no better representative of the style than China’s Forbidden City. This palace will take your breath away at first glance, and then increasingly bring forward new moments of awe. Of course, not ones to let a simply amazing edifice remain amazing on its own, the Forbidden City also houses a truly massive art museum, which is one of the most visited museums in the world! To be honest, the Forbidden City, like so many places in this article, truly deserves its own blog spot. Humanity offers up wonders like this so rarely, and it’s our duty to treasure and preserve them as much as possible.
Of course, a stop in Beijing wouldn’t be complete without visits to the Temple of Heaven or Summer Palace or….wow, there is too much for a single entry. Ok, for brevity’s sake, we’ll have to agree that we’ll get back to the individual locations, and at least make an attempt at getting through the whole list of destinations our Premier package offers in a timely manner.
Of course you’ll see many historical locations, but one thing our group is known for is our excellent Hutong tours! “Where is Hutong?” you may find yourself asking….but it’s not so much a “where” as it is a “what.” A Hutong is a self-contained neighborhood, typified by an alley that runs east to west and is bounded by historical homes that often contain a courtyard. So far every location we’ve mentioned has been the domain of the ancient aristocrats, but it’s in Beijing’s Hutongs where you will truly begin to find the beating pulse of China. These neighborhoods and their markets are where the common people work and live, giving you a rare opportunity to dip your toes into China’s culture and hopefully take home more than just photos, but also an appreciation for a culture steeped in a millennia of history largely outside of European influence.
Oh yeah, and you’ll see The Great Wall. I mean, it’s over 3000 miles long, so you won’t be seeing the whole thing, but there is something truly humbling about standing on stones that have guarded a nation for thousands of years. Not to be blasé about the whole thing, but if we have any hope of reaching the end we must carry on!
Yangtze River Cruise
One wonders if Chinese emperors were in competition with Mother Nature, because while the Great Wall is longer than most countries, the Yangtze stretches nearly 4,000 miles, making it the third longest river in the world, and the longest in Asia. A cruise down the Yangtze begins in Chongquing, also known as “The Fog City” and will meander down the river to Shanghai. In the bamboo forests around Chonquing you will have an opportunity to visit the Great Pandas in their natural habitat! These endangered giants are closely protected by the Chinese, not only due to cultural importance, but also as a truly unique evolutionary side-track: a bear that is strictly vegetarian. They are content to browse the forest the entirety of their lives, consuming up to 30 pounds of bamboo a day.
Where did we leave off? Oh yes, Chonquing. So, after the pandas, but much, much before Shanghai you will visit the amazing Qutang, Wu, and Xiling Gorges. The old saying might be “Save the best for last,” but that’s not the case here. China’s Qutang gorge is widely hailed as a must-see destination. While it is by far the smallest of The Three Gorges, Qutang packs a lot of photo opportunities into a very small distance, with spectacular vistas around nearly every bend in its eight miles of sinuous travel. While the Wu and Xiling gorges are also quite beautiful, there is downtime, and space between each location. You’ll find yourself kicking back and watching the countryside go by, a relaxing look into the cornerstone of Chinese civilization. The Yangtze is to China as the Nile is to Egypt, and you cannot visit either one without getting an overpowering sense of its history. Take a moment, and enjoy. We make frequent reference to a travel journal on this blog, and your journey down the Yangtze is the perfect time to make a few entries!
Aside from the natural beauty to be found, there are of course more wonderful examples of traditional Chinese wooden architecture along the way! Made without a single nail, the marvelous Shibaozhai Temple stands crimson and gold upon a hill to the north of the river. Since the dam was created the Temple is just a bit more isolated, with a new bridge added to help you reach this historic destination. Aside from absorbing the beauty of this pagoda, the legend has it that a person gains more luck for every story they climb.
Three Gorges Dam
“Modern marvel” just doesn’t do this project justice. At a cost of over $20 billion, the Three Gorges Dam paid back its own operating cost by 2013, almost seven years ahead of schedule. This system of locks and turbines is a masterpiece, saving the country an indirect cost of almost 30 million tons of coal a year. While the idea originated back in the 1940s, it would be over 50 years before the project actually broke ground, and completely set the standard with what the world could expect from hydroelectric power.
Xian and the Terracotta Warriors
Xian isn’t as well-known as other cities like Beijing or Shanghai, but it is no less important! The originator of the Silk Road, Xian is where East truly began to meet West! Where would European culture be without the rich merchant princes of Italy? Why without the Xian and the Silk Road we would have no Da Vinci, no Italian Renaissance! China might be home to a different culture, but it is truly astounding to meet, face-to-face, with legend. The world has been interconnected for a very long time now, and no better example exists than Xian!
From Medieval age pagodas and walls to the Terracotta Warriors, your time will be quite full, we promise. Speaking of those warriors….created over 2,000 years ago, this army of clay warriors guards the afterlife of noted Ming Dynasty Emperor Qin Shi Huang and is far and away one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries of the last century. An entire army of horses, weapons, and personalized soldiers all rendered beautifully in terracotta and supplied with appropriate weaponry.
This discovery has influenced our culture from history and the sciences to video game and movies. Standing in its presence you can almost feel the echoes of the past reaching forward to make you respect the present. Take your travel journal. Pack your camera. The Terracotta Army is a true world wonder.
Once referred to “The Paris of the East,” Shanghai is home to a lovely side-by-side comparison of both modern and ancient architecture. Here you may have the chance to see a Chinese Acrobatics show or also enjoy a tour of the City God Temple of Shanghai. Commemorating the three gods of Shanghai, this temple abuts a marketplace renowned for its snacks and kiosks. A perfect souvenir opportunity, this location has survived occupation by both the Japanese during World War 2, and the British during the colonial period.
You end your journey with a wonderful dinner, and many fond farewell from friends old and new, the only regret you will have from this entire experience is that it must end!
Please note that our itineraries are ever-changing, see our most up to date China Luxury Tour Packages for more information on the latest itineraries offered.