Homeschool Chinese: Our China Itinerary

We will be traveling to China soon and many of my friends and family have been asking about our plans for our stay in the Middle Kingdom. They are always surprised when I tell them that I planned the tour myself - with the much appreciated assistance of our Mandarin teacher and his wife - rather than using a tour agency.  [非常感谢你我的朋友!]  I like the flexibility of planning our travel ourselves and it really helps me to learn about the history, geography, and culture of an area by doing the research myself.  I share our plan with you in hopes you will find it of interest.  It is important to remember, that flexibility is key.  We know we won't get to everything on our list.  We know things will go awry.


Day One  Arrive in Beijing in early afternoon and get settled.  Take a walk around the neighborhood to get comfortable and to stretch our legs after the long flight, maybe go to the Night Market. Day Two Visit Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, and in the evening, maybe go to the Peking Opera or Puppet Theater ( Day Three Take a taxi to Beihei City Park to visit the classical Chinese gardens or visit the Summer Palace. This estate located about 40 minutes from Beijingwas once the Emperor's family getaway. Visit the Garden of Virtue and Harmony. Day Four Pack a lunch and in the morning head towards a quiet part of the wall, about 3 hours from Beijing. We'll walk over the wall for about 10km from Jinshaling to Simatai; a vigorous walk. It starts with a long upward climb and then it descends for quite a bit. Many parts of the wall are authentic and haven't been restored. Since this is a quieter area and since we'll be spending such a long time on the wall, we'll really get a feel for the enormity of the Great Wall. Day Five  Olympic Park, Bird Nest Stadium, and Watercube Waterpark Day Six Do a little shopping at the Pearl Market in the early part of the day.  Depart Beijing in the evening via night train to the ancient city of Pingyao.


Day Seven Arrive in Pingyao (UNESCO World Heritage Site) early in morning, check into motel, then wander ancient city streets by day to see what China looked like a century ago. Day Eight We may wish to see Family Qiao’s courtyard-house, with its 25 courtyards and 300 rooms. These days the residence is a museum and lies about 2 hours north of Pingyao. The blockbuster hit ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ was filmed here.  We’ll depart in the evening when we’ll catch the sleeper train to Xi’an.


Day Nine Arrive in Xi'an on the morning, check into your hotel within the historic city walls.  The heart of the city is the large Bell Tower in the middle of the traffic intersection. Nearby you'll also find the Drum Tower. If you climb the tower around 5pm you'll have a wonderful view of the city, the Muslim neighborhood and you'll catch a demonstration of Chinese kettle drums.  Eat a ‘Muslim hamburger’.  Maybe rent bikes & ride around city wall. Day Ten Travel to the excavation site where you'll see more than 7000 amazing clay soldiers, clay horses and clay chariots. This is the world famous Terracotta Army 兵马俑.   In early evening, go to train station to take night train to Chengdu.


Day Eleven  Arrive in Chengdu in the morning.  Chengdu is all about pandas and this is the best place to see these magnificent gentle giants up close.  The Panda Centre is on the outskirts of town.   You may also wish to visit Leshan Buddha, which is the largest Buddha in the world.  Leshan is about 2 hours from Chengdu.  China has the best tea houses in the world and Chengdu has the best tea houses in China. Day Twelve Spend the day in the Jiuzhaigou Valley, about 2 hours from Chengdu (five color pond, five flower lake, pearl waterfall).  For dinner, try the spicy traditional ‘hotpot’.  Afterwards the Sichuan Opera is a great way to spend the evening.


Day Thirteen Make your way to the airport for a domestic flight from Chengdu to Shanghai.   Arrive in Shanghai in the late morning and take a ride on the high-speed Maglev train that travels at speeds up to 431km per hour into bustling Shanghai. The most popular image of Shanghai is that of a modern city with skyscrapers, a dazzling skyline and Shanghai’s popular boulevard, the Bund. Historic and modern-day Shanghai coexist, side by side.  We may want to visit the famous Yu-Yuan garden, not far from the Bund (modern shopping). Try to visit the garden close to closing time, the quietest time of the day. Day Fourteen Visit Shanghai Museum (highly recommended), go shopping on Nanjing Road.  In the evening, we may want to visit Xintiandee, a European-style district made up of pedestrian walkways, tea houses, restaurants and renovated Shikumen houses, and even a French district. Days Fifteen and Sixteen   Day excursions via the subway may include the cities of Hangzhou, West Lake, Buddhist Tower, Suzhou, Nanjing


Day Seventeen    Depart Shanghai early via a domestic flight to Guilin near the Karst mountains.  We’ll then take a car to Yangshuo, an hour away.  Yangshuo is the perfect place to relax and unwind, far away from busy cities. In the evening, we'll take in the Cormorant Fishermen. Day Eighteen During the day we can bike ride along the Yulong River in a small group along with other international travelers. During your bike ride you'll leave the main roads and peddle through farmland and rice paddies with the karst mountains as constant companions during your ride. After biking for a while, we can take a bamboo raft down the river. You will sail through the peaks of the karst mountains and after a few kilometers you'll get back on your bike and peddle towards  Moon Hill. Day Nineteen Return to Guilin by car and from there, depart by bullet train for Hong Kong / Kowloon arriving late in the evening.  (Train stops in Shenzhen for customs)

Hong Kong

Day Twenty Arrive in Hong Kong by train, a city filled with skyscrapers, colorful signs and futuristic gadgets.  In the evening we can head over to the island to enjoy the atmosphere on Lan Fong Kwa Street. It’s popular among locals, expats and tourists alike. Day Twenty-one Possible day excursion to Guangzhou (“City of Flowers”) or Macau. Day Twenty-two  While we’re here we can spend our time shopping, relaxing at the beach or having a look around Victoria Peak on Hong Kong Island.     Dinner cruise, Victoria Peak. Day Twenty-three  Depart for home.  

Update :: We are home now! To read of our adventures .. check out the series of posts,  Discovering China, on my website. 


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