The Yangzi in Spring

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The Itinerary

Day 1 - Wednesday 09th April

Depart from London Heathrow to Beijing with Air China. Met by Ruth Lunn our excellent tour guide.

Day 2 - Thursday 10th April

Arrive at Beijing Capital Airport. After clearing Customs and Immigration you will be met by Hubert (Sunshine) the China International Travel Service guide and transferred to the Jianshe Hotel for your overnight stay on a bed and breakfast basis. Dinner will be in the hotel followed by a Beijing by Night trip to see Tian An Men Square, the snack food street and the main shopping street. Much of the town is now lit at night in preparation for the 2008 Olympic games.


Beijing is the present day capital of China with a population of approximately nine million people and is the country's second largest city. The municipality of Beijing, including the nine counties under its jurisdiction covers a total area of approximately the same size as Belgium. Lying on the north-western edge of the North China Plain, within the barrier of the, great Wall, Beijing was the bastion of Chinese imperial power for almost 700 years In more recent times it was from the Tian An Men, gate (the gate of Heavenly Peace) that Mao Tse Tung proclaimed "liberation" and the foundation of the People's Republic on the 1st October 1949.

Day 3 - Friday 11th April

After breakfast commence your sightseeing with visits to Tian An Men Square and the Forbidden City with lunch at the National Museum and shop.

Tian An Men square

Tian An Men square is a modern creation and covers an area of 98 acres. Until the mid 1970's the square was used for massive rallies and parades. In the centre is the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao, with his embalmed body on display. Nowadays, the square is often sealed off with access only from subway entrances.

The Forbidden City

The yellow roofs of the Forbidden City- sometimes called the Imperial Museum or Palace Museum, dominate the centre of Beijing. Under the Ming and Qing, Beijing was divided into a number of walled sections or cities - the Forbidden City was the innermost and most important, for it was the residence of the Emperor and the Imperial Family, the focal point of the empire and the middle of the Middle Kingdom. Entry was strictly forbidden to all but those on imperial business until 1911 when the last emperor was unseated. It occupies 720,000 square metres, and there are 9,999 rooms (a room is considered an area enclosed by four posts). A moat and a ten metre high wall surround it.

This afternoon transfer to the airport for your flight to Chongqing (approx 2hrs). Upon arrival you will be taken to dinner at a local restaurant and gallery and then transferred to the pier to board your cruise vessel the MS Oriental Emperor for your three-nights down stream cruise to the dam project. The vessel sets sail at around 22.30hrs. The excellent Kitty provides the commentary on the Georges.

The Yangtse River

The Yangtse River Is China's great waterway although navigation on it was fraught with difficulties until the latter half of this century. Since 1949 the Chinese government has undertaken major hydraulic schemes to keep the waters in check although the rapids of the Three Gorges are still an unpredictable force, they are no longer threatening. A voyage along the Yangtse River offers a glimpse of rural communities previously unknown to foreign visitors The Three Gorges Dam Project is due to be fully completed in the year 2009. However the first stages of flooding will commence in the summer of 2003. There is currently a huge relocation project underway moving entire towns higher up the valley sides.

Day 4 - Saturday 12th April

At around 07.30hrs arrive in Fengdu, more popularly known as the "City of Ghosts" for your shore excursion. There is a temple in Fengdu dedicated to the God of Hades. Shopkeepers kept a basin of water into which customers threw their coins: if they sank they were genuine, but if they floated the coins were ghost money and were not accepted. Boats would moor in midstream rather than by the bank in case of attacks by ghosts. Today the town is thronged with tourists, attracted by temples and shrines dedicated to the gods of the underworld. The temple is reached by a chair lift to the top of the hill. There are a number of "tests" to perform. Return to your vessel and depart for the next part of your river journey.

In the afternoon we take part in a short T'ai Chi demonstration by the onboard doctor.

Day 5 - Sunday 13th April

Enter the Qutang Gorge at 06:00hrs, although only five miles long it is probably the most fascinating and certainly the most beautiful. Here the Yangtse narrows to as little as 300 feet, the peaks rise upward of 3,700 feet: the water deepens, glistens and charges like molten lava: and the wind itself is flattened and funnelled through. As an ancient verse puts it, "Peaks pierce the sky as we course through the deep passage beneath."

Arrive at Wushan at approx 08.00hrs and transfer to small boats for a ride along a small tributary of the Yangtse, which boasts magnificent smaller gorges - The Lesser Gorges. Monkeys can be seen on the banks and also the famous hanging coffins of the mysterious Bo people.

On return to the boat, pass through the second of the Three Gorges, the Wu Xia, or Witches Gorge. Despite its name the 25 mile long Witches Gorge is relatively calm. As with so many places in China, the gorge, surrounded by twelve mountain peaks, are famed for their dark and sombre grace. Legend has it that crowned by the Goddess Peak, which has a likeness in stone of Yao Ji, youngest of the 12 daughters of the queen mother of the east. These 12 sisters stole away to Earth and met Yu the Great, tamer of floods, who was fighting the 12 dragons of the floodwaters. The sisters slayed the dragons and were eventually immortalised as the 12 peaks that assisted mariners in navigating Wu Gorge.

Approaching the final of the three gorges, the Xiling Gorge, 48 miles long this gorge runs through slopes planted with orange groves. The gorge was once one of the most hazardous regions on the Yangtse, rife with rapids and whirlpools, but more than a hundred shoals and reefs have been dynamited in recent times, and the river is now lined with several thousand navigational buoys with all weather beacons. The vessel docks at the three gorges dam site.

Day 6 - Monday 14th April

Disembark the MS Oriental Emperor at around 08.00hrs and transfer by road for your sightseeing of the Three Gorges Dam Project. The new Three Gorges Dam consists of locks, silt-prevention dikes, silt-clearing sluices, spillways and power plants. When fully operational in 2009, it will raise the Mighty Yangtse to almost unimaginable heights. Visit the hilltop viewing platform followed by a visit to a local model explaining the dam project.

Depart by road to Yichang seeing the remained of the Xiling Georg. A short visit to the local museum holding artefacts found whilst excavating the dam project. There is a chance here to purchase genuine antiques. Lunch at a local restaurant before transferring to the airport for the flight to Beijing (approx 2hrs). Upon arrival in Beijing you will be met and transferred to the Jianshe Hotel for your two-night stay. Dinner is at a local restaurant.

Day 7 - Tuesday 15th April

The day will be spent visiting the Great Wall and the Summer Palace. There is a short stop at a fresh water pearl centre en route to the wall. The wall at this point has a height of 1619 steps before descending again. Afterwards lunch will be at a government friendship store where Beijing produces the famous Cloisonne technique pieces.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall is China's traditional defensive line against the people of the north: it stretches some 3700 miles from the Gulf of Bohai to the west in Gansu Province. Originally built in small sections by individual feudal states in the 5th century BC, the wall was later linked together by China's first great emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi at the end of the 3rd century BC when he unified the whole of China. It has been rebuilt and renovated many times since then, and is one of the true wonders of the world, it is reportedly the only man-made structure visible from space.

The Summer Palace

The Summer Palace lies some 7 miles north west of Beijing: it was a wonderful, if rather expensive dream of the notorious Empress Dowager Cixi. With the money that had been intended for the building of a naval fleet she constructed the Garden of Cultivated Harmony, or Summer Palace. As in every classical Chinese garden, water and mountains (or rocks) determine the landscape. Kunming Lake covers three quarters of the total area of more than 12 square miles. There is a short trip across the lake.

On return to the hotel there is an optional trip to see the Young Beijing Acrobats followed by dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 8 - Wednesday 16th April

Early morning visit to the Temple of Heaven.

The Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven is a masterpiece of Ming architecture the Temple of Heaven was built by the third emperor as the setting for important rituals designed to perpetuate the rule of the Ming Dynasty. Symbolizing heaven and earth, the enclosure of the temple is rounded at the north but square at the south. The structure is entirely made of wood, the tall round building being supported by 28 huge wooden pillars. The place is also very popular with retired Chinese. There are many activities going on.

Visit to a silk factory to see the life cycle of a silk worm and how the thread is spun.

Transfer to Beijing airport for your return flight back to London Heathrow.