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This year marks the first China Australia Year of Tourism. To celebrate, Traveller, in its 10th year of publication and in association with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, is inviting its readers to join us on a special tour of what has rapidly emerged as arguably the world's most important nation.
In a no ordinary year for Australia and China, Traveller and our expert travel partner, Wendy Wu Tours, have created no ordinary tour for our readers. Joining us in the optimal months of the northern autumn will be Kirsty Needham in Beijing, an author on China and the newly-appointed China correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, as well as Dr Geoff Raby in Shanghai, a respected and erudite former Australian ambassador to China (see panel, right).
Along with Wendy Wu, founder of Wendy Wu Tours, I'll be joining the tour for part of the journey. I've been fortunate enough to have visited China, and written about it, on several occasions and find it an immensely fascinating and rewarding destination.
It offers an ever-increasing relevance to Australians, no less because of the profound economic and cultural connections that exist between the two countries.
In my time I've travelled from sprawling Chongqing and out along the Yangtze River, an experience that is not only a scenic treat but also a means of gaining a sense of China's dramatic economic expansion.
And I've pedalled a bicycle all the way along the monumental nearly 14-kilometres long, 12 metres high city wall of Xian, home of the famed Terracotta Warriors and the start of the legendary Silk Road.
Along with our China specialists, Kirsty Needham, Geoff Raby and Wendy Wu herself – with whom I have travelled through China – I look forward to enjoying some fascinating and memorable times with Traveller readers as we make our way through this country that truly must be seen and experienced in order to be fully understood.
DAY 1 Saturday September 9
Fly to Beijing
Fly to Beijing, China's capital city. On arrival, transfer to your hotel. This evening, there will be a welcome briefing at the hotel with your National Escort.
DAY 2 Sunday September 10
Forbidden City & Temple of Heaven
Stroll through Tiananmen Square, past Chairman Mao's Mausoleum and into the imperial magnificence of the Forbidden City. Here you will explore the largest and best preserved collection of ancient buildings in China. Continue to the Temple of Heaven, a tranquil space in the heart of the city that perfectly illustrates the harmony of Confucian design. Admire the symmetrical beauty of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and discover more about the ritual worship performed here. Join Kirsty and Wendy for dinner where Kirsty will share her insights into this magnificent city.
DAY 3 Monday September 11
Great Wall of China at Mutianyu
Walk on the Great Wall to appreciate 2,000 years of historical significance whilst admiring the panoramic views. The Great Wall is China's most iconic attraction, which stretches over 4,000 miles from the Yellow Sea on the east coast to the Gobi Desert in the west.
You will visit Mutianyu, one of the best preserved sections of the wall, providing a glimpse of how the structure would have looked when it was first built to keep out the Mongol hordes. Reached by a short cable car ride, the views from the top over the surrounding mountains are awe-inspiring. Our evening meal includes the delicious local delicacy, Peking Duck.
DAY 4 Tuesday September 12
Silk Markets & 798 Art District
Spend today exploring two of Dr Geoff Raby's favourite places in Beijing; the Silk Markets, a shopper's paradise where you will find everything from fashion, to jewellery, electronics and of course silk items!
Continue onto the 798 Art District, otherwise known as Dashanzi. This unique district has been transformed from an industrial area into an urban and edgy hotspot filled with galleries, museums and art exhibitions. Later, you will have a photo opportunity at some of the sites of the 2008 Olympic Games.
DAY 5 Wednesday September 13
Fly to Xian
Fly to Xian, the former ancient capital and visit the beautifully preserved 14th century city walls that enclose Xian's old town.
DAY 6 Thursday September 14
Terracotta Warriors with Archaeologist
Visit one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century – the Terracotta Warriors. The figures were created over 2,000 years ago to accompany Emperor Qin Shi Huang into the afterlife. For a deeper understanding of the on-going work at this site, we will meet with one of the archaeologists who will share their historical insights.
Return to Xian and walk through the atmospheric alleys of the Muslim Quarter. In the evening, enjoy a traditional Shui Jiao dumpling meal followed by a performance of Tang Dynasty dancing.
DAY 7 Friday September 15
Fly to Guilin
Spend your morning at leisure before transferring to the airport for your flight to Guilin, a city at the heart of spectacular karst formations of the Li River valley.
DAY 8 Saturday September 16
Li River Cruise
Join Anthony and Wendy as you embark on a leisurely cruise through the poetic landscapes of the Li River, winding between towering limestone karst peaks and sleepy countryside. Look out for weathered farmers tending their fields, fishermen angling for their daily catch and water buffalo wallowing in the shallows, all watched over by the dramatic geology for which Yangshuo is famed. On arrival in Yangshuo, take some time to explore before driving through the countryside back to Guilin.
DAY 9 Sunday September 17
Panda House & embark your Yangtze River cruise
Transfer to Guilin airport for your flight to Chongqing. You will have the opportunity to visit two of Anthony's favourite places: the Panda House at Chongqing Zoo to see China's celebrated icon up close – you may even be lucky enough to see the twin pandas who recently made their debut. Afterwards explore the vibrant streets of the Old Town of Ciqikou before enjoying dinner. Board your Yangtze River Cruise ship.
Yangtze River. Photo: Matt Doran
DAY 10 Monday September 18
Fengdu Ghost City and Captain's Reception
Visit the impressive wooden Pagoda of Shibaozhai or the Ghost City of Fengdu. In the afternoon enjoy a reception with the captain and the cruise director and learn about life on the river.
DAY 11 Tuesday September 19
Three Gorges and Goddess Stream
Enter the dramatic Three Gorges, passing through Qutang,Wu and Xiling Gorges. Later transfer to a smaller vessel for a side trip along the Goddess or Shennong Stream, both narrow, cliff-lined tributaries of the Yangtze. In the evening, sail through the Three Gorges Dam ship locks.
DAY 12 Wednesday September 20
Three Gorges Dam
Visit the Three Gorges Dam, one of the largest engineering projects in the world. Disembark the cruise ship, drive toWuhan and fly to Shanghai.
DAY 13 Thursday September 21
Shanghai & French Concession
Spend the day wandering through the treelined streets of Shanghai's French Concession, and the antiquities of the Shanghai Museum.
DAY 14 Friday September 22
Visit the Yu Garden, a classical example of Chinese horticulture, before strolling through Shanghai's old town.Walk along the Bund, learn about the fascinating history of the area and admire the Art Deco buildings.
This evening, join Geoff andWendy on a panoramic Huangpu River cruise viewing the spectacular lights of Shanghai.
DAYS 15-16 Saturday September 23-24
Fly Shanghai to Australia
Fly overnight to Sydney/Melbourne, arriving home the following day.
To Book: Phone 1300 852 958 (Saturday, 9am to 4pm; Sunday, 10am to 2pm, and Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm)
Each participant will be offered the choice of one of these exclusive experiences as a complimentary inclusion. Bookings made prior to February 20, 2017, will receive a second bonus exclusive experience.
Treasure Hall, Forbidden City
The hidden gem of the Forbidden City, the Treasure Hall contains a magnificent collection of imperial artefacts in a series of intimate, glittering galleries.
Meet the Terracotta Warriors discoverers
You'll have an opportunity to learn about this momentous moment by talking to one of the farmers who uncovered the warriors by accident in 1974.
Tai Chi Lesson in Yangshuo
Join a Tai Chi master to learn about the traditional philosophies of Tai Chi. You'll be guided through the basic positions and breathing techniques of this ancient martial art.
Take the Maglev train in Shanghai
Travel at speeds up to 430km/h in absolute comfort as you glide through one of the most vibrant cities on the planet, Shanghai.
16-DAYS FULLY INCLUSIVE
● International economy class flights from Sydney
and Melbourne flying Cathay Pacific
● All domestic transportation in China
● All accommodation
● All meals (from breakfast on day two)
● Touring with an expert national escort and
English-speaking local guides
● Sightseeing and entrance fees.
● Visa fees for Australian passport holders
● One exclusive experience (see above).
● Tipping (subject to change)
● Join Kirsty Needham and Wendy Wu for dinner in Beijing
● Enjoy a Shanghai Huangpu River cruise with Dr Geoff Raby and Wendy Wu
● Discover the beauty of the Li River with Anthony Dennis and Wendy Wu
September 9, 2017
$7,280 per person
Single hotel supplement $940
Single cruise cabin $440
Ask us about our willing to share option.
To Book: Phone 1300 852 958 (Saturday, 9am to 4pm; Sunday, 10am to 2pm, and Monday to Friday, 9am to 5.30pm)
OUR TRAVELLER EDITOR: ANTHONY DENNIS
National travel editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Anthony has visited China several times. His many articles on the country have appeared in Traveller and elsewhere. His travels in China have taken him far and wide, from exploring renown cities to venturing off the beaten track to unique areas. traveller.com.au/anthonydennis
OUR SPECIAL GUEST: DR GEOFF RABY
Australia's ambassador to China between 2007 and 2011, Dr Geoff Raby is a leading expert on China. Geoff was made a Friendship Ambassador to Shandong Province and also an Honorary Citizen of Chengdu City in recognition of his contributions to advancing relations between Australia and China.
OUR CHINA CORRESPONDENT: KIRSTY NEEDHAM
Kirsty Needham is the newly-appointed China Correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. She is the author of A Season in Red, a non-fiction book about life in modern China, written in the lead-up to Beijing's huge transformation ahead of the 2008 Olympics. She is a regular commentator on China affairs.
OUR EXPERT TRAVEL PLANNER: WENDY WU
Wendy Wu, founder and chairperson of Wendy Wu Tours, is passionate about her homeland and its fascinating culture. She took her first tour group to China over 22 years ago and since then, Wendy Wu Tours has become one of the world's leading operators to China. It continues to branch into areas of China as yet unexplored by western visitors.