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There is a good reason that China has inspired so many films. Its magical landscapes, intriguing culture and mind-boggling history make it a cinematographer’s dream. Take an in-depth look at the places and people that have graced the big-screen on this film-buff’s ultimate adventure.
Trek to the spectacular setting of ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and see the inspiration behind ‘Kung Fu Panda’.
In Nanjing, discover the tragic events that inspired ‘John Rabe’ and learn why ‘The Botanist’s Daughter’ was banned from Guilin.
Bring the cinema to life by meeting with local people and experiencing their rich traditions first hand.
Cinematic China - 18 Days / 17 Nights
The first of 18 Days in China starts with a visit to the iconic island of Hong Kong. Upon arrival to the airport, a guide and driver will be waiting to provide transport to the hotel.
Note: As Hong Kong is more of a city that one “lives” as opposed to “visits” we don’t provide any fixed itineraries. Following are just suggestions on ways to spend time in the city. For those interested in other options, contact us for more information.
Hong Kong is divided into four main parts: Hong Kong Island (home to the financial district and the city’s famous skyscrapers), Kowloon (home to some of the best markets in Hong Kong), the New Territories (more residential and rural area bordering mainland China) and the nearby islands (home to beaches, Disneyland and stunning scenery).
Spend the night at the hotel.
Day at leisure.
We suggest choosing either one of the following day trips or mixing them up to create a unique trip:
OPTIONAL DAY TRIP: Victoria Peak and Star ferry in Hong-Island: Visit the major, must-see sites of Hong Kong
OPTIONAL DAY TRIP: Market day: While Hong Kong is a city of markets, business, exchange and negotiation, it also houses a more local side. This day trip covers the more traditional marketplaces which showcase daily local life in the city.
OPTIONAL DAY TRIP: Dragon’s back hike: Most of the territory is composed of islands, beaches and hills,which are some of the city’s main attractions. “Dragon’s Back Hike” was chosen in 2004 by Time Magazine as the Best Urban Hike in Asia!
OPTIONAL DAY TRIP: Contrasts of Macao: Between the Portuguese colonial history, retrocession to China, the influence of Hong Kong and the fervours of the casinos, Macau is a fascinating land of contrasts.
Guests spent their final night in the hotel before heading to mainland China the next day.
Note: the annual Hong Kong International Film Festival usually takes place in March
Overnight in Hong Kong
Guests will be transferred to Hong Kong Airport for the flight to Guilin.
Upon arrival to Guilin, guests will be met by a local guide and transferred by car to the village of Yangshuo.
The Guangxi Autonomous Region is known for its numerous minorities and stunning scenery: rocky peaks bordering the Li River, numerous caves, seemingly endless rice terraces, and countless waterfalls. It was also the intended location of “The Botanist's Daughter”, a film by Dai Sijie. Filming was banned in Guangxi however, and relocated to northern Vietnam, due to the controversial nature of the film. But the film still manages to reflect the evocative nature of this striking region.
Guests will set off from the hotel by bike and head towards Moon Mountain, which takes its name from the moon shaped hole in the middle of the rock face. Although the ride is quite short, the climb up to the peak combined with the intense humidity can make it rather challenging. Water sellers will follow guests all the way along the ride, so it is recommended that guests buy a few bottles at the start of the journey. At the top of the peak guests will be greeted by a stunning panoramic view of the “forest” of sugarloaf mountains below. A breathtaking sight, well worth the effort.
As a reward for their hard work, guests will visit the nearby Black Buddha Cave where they will be able to take a relaxing mud bath. The minerals in the mud are excellent for the skin and help guests to prepare for the evening’s events.
This evening guests will be taken to a performance of “Impression Liu Sanjie”. Created by the famous director Zhang Yimou, of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ fame, the show features hundreds of actors, including local fisherman, who act out scenes from rural life by dressing up in the traditional costumes of the region’s ethnic minorities.
Head back to the hotel.
Overnight in Yangshuo
Guests will leave Yangshuo by car and head to Hebaoshan. Guests will set out on a walk through the local countryside. The walk is around 11km and will take around 2.5/3 hours depending on walking speed and the weather. The route will include one separate ferry ride across the Li River.
Lunch will be served in local, providing guests with yet another chance to be immersed in the local culture.
The route ends at Xingping, an ancient village with more than 1000 years of history, which appears on the Chinese 20 yuan note! Xingping is also known for its old Ming and Qing Dynasty houses and for its market (held every three days) where guests will find, among other things, cockerels and geese for sale. The village is surrounded by sugar loaf Mountains with names such as “Five-Finger Hill” and “Camel Hill”, which supposedly resembles a camel crossing the river.
Guests then head back to Yangshuo where they will be treated to a foot massage, a fitting reward for a hard day’s trekking.
Sturdy shoes are recommended for this trip.
Overnight in Yangshuo
Depending on where guests are staying,they may be able to spend the morning exploring Yangshuo’s ‘West Road’, which contains the majority of the town’s bars, restaurants and boutiques, or the surrounding countryside. Enjoy an authentic bamboo raft ride on the Jade Dragon River, sailing alongside local fishermen, against a backdrop of mountains.
Then head back to Guilin Airport and take an evening flight to Nanjing, where guests will be met by the local guide and transferred to their hotel.
Overnight in Nanjing
Welcome to Nanjing, which literally means “Capital of the South” (as opposed to Beijing, the “Capital of the North”. The cinematic sleeper, John Rabe, tells the story of a Nazi German businessman living in Nanjing who protected thousands of Chinese from the Japanese army, akin to Oskar Schindler but on a much larger scale. Guests will start the day with a walk through the immense Xuanwu Park, which is partly surrounded by the impressive Nanjing Battlements, which date back to the Ming Dynasty. This visit will also include the Presidential Palace, which was the seat of power during the 19th Century Taiping Rebellion, one of the deadliest military conflicts in history. Destroyed and then reconstructed, the palace became the seat of power for Sun Yat-sen, the first president of the Republic of China. Guests will also visit the impressive mausoleum dedicated to Dr Sun, which is situated at the top of a staircase featuring roughly 400 steps.
The day will end with a visit to the poignant Nanjing Massacre Memorial, which is dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of people who were murdered during the Japanese occupation of this region. Finally, visit the delightful Mouchou Park, relatively close to the memorial, where guests will be able to relax by the lake and reflect on what they have learnt.
In the evening guests will be transferred to the train station to board the night train to Tunxi, travelling by soft sleeper cabin. Trains in China are incredibly lively places, as passengers enjoy instant noodles, play cards and drink beer or baijiu (a type of very strong Chinese rice wine).
Train Station: Nanjing - Huangshan
Soft berther tickets are included in the price4 soft berths per one cabin. For those interested in reserving the entire cabin or booking to a different class, please consult us directly. (Tickets and class depend on availability and are subject to change)
The train will arrive at 7:11 and guests will be welcomed by a local guide before setting off directly for Huangshan (Yellow Mountains) in Anhui province.
Several scenes from the Oscar winning film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” were filmed here. This piece of masterful cinematography fruitfully managed to marry Chinese romanticism, martial arts and stunning special effects that were particularly innovative for Chinese cinema.
Guests will take the cable car up to the eastern steps.
This site takes its name from the Yellow Emperor (or Huangdi), one of the founding fathers of Chinese civilisation who lived in the 3rd century BC.
A few curved pine trees similar to bonsai trees miraculously manage to grow on the granite ledges and are a perfect addition to this living painting. When the weather is nice this is truly a phenomenal spectacle. The walk to the top will be similar to that of a monk (or Kung Fu Panda for younger guests) going on a pilgrimage up an endless trail of steep stairs that wind their way up the mountain face.
Guests will spend the night at the summit. The nights here are fresh and the weather unpredictable, so waterproofs, walking shoes, and warm clothes are a necessity.
Overnight in Huangshan
Returning down the mountain by cable car, guests will then begin the journey to Wannan (still in Anhui Province).
Prosperous merchants, mostly in the tea, bamboo and salt trades, built large houses in the area. This has created an interesting style of local architecture, with white exteriors, black tiled roofs with sculpted gables, indoor courtyards (tianjin) lit by skylights, and commemorative arches (paifang).
The day will continue with a bike ride through picturesque villages ranked amongst the most beautiful in the country, with two, Xidi and Hongcun, inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
Visiting these two villages will give guests an insight into another major section of Chinese culture: the art of feng shui (literally “wind and water”).
The colors, layout, light and the topography of the ground are all factors that influence the decision of the fengshui expert. If the site lacks one or the other, the fengshui expert will recommend the installation of, for example, an artificial hill or a water feature to redress the balance.
The village of Hongcun is one of the best and most original examples of fengshui in the entire country. Its layout is a deliberate reproduction of the silhouette of a buffalo; its intestines symbolised by the village’s complex network of canals, its stomach by the central valley, and its horns by two large trees. The buffalo - an animal linked to water – was chosen to protect the town against the fires which had previously ravaged Hongcun.
Guests will then visit the charming village of Chengshitang, constructed by a salt merchant and perfectly representative of the region’s prosperity.
Film buffs will recognize the entrance to the village, which is seen in one of the scenes from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” when the thief, Green Destiny, attempts to escape Shu Lien in a thrilling chase scene over the houses of the village. Guests will be able to talk with a local villager about the making of the movie.
A neighbour of Hongcun, Tachuan is a seemingly timeless village that feature a labyrinth of grey-marble alleyways, surrounded by countryside, which guests can explore.
Guests will spend the night in a village in Yixian County, which they will be able to further explore in the morning.
Overnight in Xidi
The day starts with a visit to Xidi, which is located alongside a river and just a short distance from a hill, on the advice of a fengshui expert. Xidi is notable for having a large number of merchants’ houses with attractive sculpted wooden panelling. The next stop is at Nanping, which boasts 500 year-old houses and the Ye Family Ancestral Hall, which served as the backdrop for “Judou”, the well-known Zhang Yimou film starring Gong Li. This visit will give guests an insight into ancestor worship, a fundamental practice of Chinese culture that has endured to this day. Next, travel onwards to the Mukeng bamboo forests where one of the famous scenes from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was shot, as the actors chased each other over the tops of the bamboo trees which bend under their weight, yet never break.
From here, guests will be taken to Tunxito catch a late flight to Shanghai. Upon arrival they will be met by a local guide and taken to their hotel.
Note: The Shanghai International Film Festival normally takes place in the month of March. If guests would like their trip to coincide with the festival, then please get in touch with us.
Overnight in Shanghai
This morning guests will head to the French Concession, a symbol of a time when Western powers were accorded many privileges. The trip starts with a stroll through Fuxing Park where guests will have the chance to watch the Chinese practising their ritual of morning exercises, including tango dancing.
Afterwards, wander through the area, admiring the old colonial homes that have now been transformed into restaurants, bars and boutiques. During colonial times, the French Concession was was home to gangsters, mafia, opium traffickers and prostitutes, earning Shanghai the reputation of being one of the world’s vice capitals. “Shanghai Triad” by Zhang Yimou is a faithful depiction of the city in the 1930s.
Continue on to Xintiandi, an entirely renovated area that is considered one of the liveliest parts of the city. Guests can also visit Tianzifang, a maze of alleyways full of restaurants, boutiques and small art galleries similar to those found in Xintiandi but much more authentic.
The walk will end in the Old Town, which has mostly been rebuilt but still retains some of its old lilongs (or alleyways, like the hutongs found in Beijing) which are alive with chatter and decorated with laundry strung out across the streets to dry. The Old Town is also home to the famous Yu Yuan Gardens, a superb example of Chinese garden landscaping, which is particularly common in this region.
Visit the bazaar, where visitors and locals come to haggle. It’s a perfect chance for guests to buy some souvenirs before their departure the following day. For those who are a bit exhausted, take a rest at the Huxinting tea house, which is located at the center of the lake opposite the Yu Yuan Park; one of the most famous tea houses in China.
Overnight in Shanghai
Start the day by heading to the People’s Square.
Today guests will visit three museums of very different styles. The first is the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Centre, which contains a model of Shanghai spread out over a large part of the third floor. This model city will allow guests to get a sense of the layout of Shanghai and understand its size, while a short film in the museum’s cinema will explain how the city developed into the metropolis it is today. The fourth floor contains interactive displays which are perfect for the young (or the young at heart), including a simulator of a boat being docked at Yangshan port.
From here, the tour heads to one of the most famous and prestigious museums in the country, and in Asia: The Shanghai Museum. The collection of bronze statues on the first floor is unrivalled, and is complemented by a number of jade artworks, as well as Qing Dynasty furniture, Buddhist sculptures and other pieces of Chinese artwork. The audio guides on offer are also excellent.
For those interested in art, the day will end with a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA).
The delightful People’s Park has a small lake, a number of food stands and countless places to sit and enjoy the atmosphere. The area is surrounded by a number of cafés and restaurants. Alternatively guests could stroll back up Nanjing Road to the Bund, where they can take in the Shanghai skyline at night.
Head back to the hotel and retire for the evening.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: The evening shows at “ERA” have become one of the most popular evening entertainments in Shanghai. This multimedia odyssey combines traditional Chinese acrobatic arts and modern technology.
Overnight in Shanghai
This morning guests will head to the airport and take a flight to Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province.
In Taiyuan, guests will visit the Jinci (an ancestral temple) which was constructed in honor of Prince Shuyu who founded the Jin state (772-403 BC).
Guests can explore the ‘Hall of the Holy Mother’ (Shuyu’s mother, and to whom this site is dedicated) and the superb wooden dragon sculptures that surround the temple.
Afterwards, head to Pingyao.
Pingyao is arguably the best preserved medieval city in the whole of China. A collection of paved alleyways lined with traditional courtyard-style homes lit with red lanterns, and surrounded by perfectly preserved city walls, the town is an excellent example of traditional China. Pingyao prospered under the Ming Dynasty when it was established as a market town, but it was during the Qing Dynasty that it developed into the incredible walled city that we see today, when it was established as the nation’s first financial center. Take the City Walls walk to get a real sense of the layout of the streets below. Measuring 6km long, 10 meters high and with 72 watchtowers (each of which houses a piece of Sunzi War artwork) the town walls ensured that Pingyao was almost impenetrable to any invading force.
Pingyao now attracts a growing number of tourists, and as a result some of the 4,000 Ming and Qing homes have been transformed into little restaurants, boutiques and quaint hotels. It’s in one of these hotels that guests will spend the night, possibly sleeping on a traditional kang - a bed made of bricks and heated by a small fire beneath.
Overnight in Pingyao
After breakfast, guests will head off to explore some of the region’s other main points of interests, including merchants’ houses and cave dwellings.
The local merchants who amassed fortunes during the Ming and Qing dynasties built themselves huge palatial homes. A perfect example of one of these homes is the Wang Family Residence, which is about 50km from Pingyao and features labyrinth of courtyards, small gardens, temples and narrow stairways.
On the way back to Pingyao, stop in Zhangbicun, a small village famous for its underground tunnels. An incredible network of defensive tunnels was constructed during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) in order to prepare for an attack. The tunnels are built 30 meters underground and extend for around 1500 meters. The small town on the surface features a mix of paved streets and houses constructed during the Chinese Middle Ages.
This trip will also enable guests to pass by some of the Cave dwellings that the region is famous for. An estimated 30 million people in China still live in cave dwellings, mainly in the Shanxi and Henan provinces- considered as the cradles of Chinese civilisation. While conditions in these cave homes are basic, with no running water and mains electricity, the indoor temperature remains cool and constant all year round, protecting the inhabitants from the extreme summer and winter temperatures.
The day ends with a visit to the Shuanglin Buddhist Temple (literally the “Temple of the Double Forest”), just outside Pingyao. Founded during the Northern Wei Dynasty, the temple is known for its well-preserved collection of finely sculptured statues.
Upon returning to Pingyao, guests can spend the evening discovering the narrow streets of the old town which are lit by red lanterns hanging from doorways.
Overnight in Pingyao
Guests are encouraged to take a morning stroll through Pingyao to soak up the sights, sounds and smells, as locals gather for breakfast and vendors fill the streets.
Guests will then head to Rishengchang, which started off as a small dye store in the 17th century and later became China’s first bank.
Then visit the local Yamen, which served as an administrative center, courthouse and even a prison in imperial times.
Guests will then be taken to Pingyao Train Station for the journey to Beijing. After the train journey guests will be met at Beijing station and transferred to their hotel.
Train Station: Pingyao – Beijing
Train number: G616
Estimated departure time: 13:40
Estimated arrival time: 17:28
Second class tickets are included in the price.
Welcome to Beijing, capital of the “Middle Kingdom”! This fascinating place has become a thriving metropolis in recent years, and was brought back to the world’s attention in 2008 when it hosted the Olympic Games.
Note: The Beijing International Film Festival normally takes place in April. If guests wish for this festival to coincide with their trip then please contact us. (Note: this is the last chance on the trip to attend a film festival)
Overnight in Beijing
This morning, head to the Forbidden City, immortalised in the films “Curse of the Golden Flower” by the Zhang Yimou and the cult classic “The Last Emperor”, by Bernardo Bertolucci, which tells the incredible story of Puyi, a Manchu Prince who becomes Emperor of China at the age of three.
Construction of the Forbidden City was completed in 1420 during the reign of the Ming Dynasty Emperor Yongle, and served as the imperial administrative centre until the fall of the empire in 1911. According to legend the Forbidden City comprises 9999 rooms.
Forbidden City access is limited to 80,000 visitors/day. Passport copies must be provided at least 11 days advance for personal registration (preferably 2 weeks in order to assure a successful booking); and it will not be possible later on to modify its date.
Visitors are required to bring their passport for security check upon their visit to the monument.
Forbidden City is closed on Mondays, except Chinese National Holidays.
Lovingly restored for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Forbidden City contains a lavish collection of palaces, gardens, temples, libraries and courtyards, which combine to create an unforgettable destination. Climbing the artificial coal hill just behind the Forbidden City provides a spectacular view of the entire site.
Then head out on foot into Beijing’s hutongs (or alleyways), where guests will be able to witness everyday life, including games of mah-jong, Chinese chess or cards, and children playing in the communal courtyards.
Bicycles are still the main mode of transport in Beijing, and guests now have the chance to meet a bicycle repair man.
From here, the tour continues to the Drum Tower, which signalled the passing of the hours during the Ming era. The tower is opposite the Clock Tower, which can also be visited if guests choose.
Guests will end the day by relaxing on the terrace of one of the many bars and cafés that surround Houhai Lake.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: Discover the fascinating world of Chinese contemporary film with a movie screening and topical discussion with young upcoming independent Chinese filmmakers.
Overnight in Beijing
Beijing has become a major player on modern art scene, and today guests will have the chance to explore the city’s art districts and galleries.
The first stop will be the heart of the capital’s art scene: the 798 art district, situated in the Dashanzi area of northeast Beijing. 798 is made up of a number of abandoned factories which were renovated in the ‘90s by Chinese artists in a style similar to that seen in Berlin. The area is now home to cafés, restaurants and specialist designer boutiques, and guests can spend hours wandering through the narrow alleyways browsing the shops, stopping to relax and enjoy a coffee at any one of the cafés or bars.
OPTIONAL ACTIVITY: If guests want to meet one of the gallery’s curators, who will be able to guide them through the past, present and future of the district, please contact us. We recommend that guests check the upcoming exhibitions on their website (http://beijing798.net)
Next visit to the Caochangdi gallery, which attracts more ‘underground’ artists.
The day ends with a visit to the ‘Red Gate Gallery’, the city’s first modern art gallery which opened in 1991. The gallery remains highly influential in the Chinese art world. Explore the works of art on display and admire the unique atmosphere of 798 art district within which the gallery is located.
Head back to the hotel for the night.
Overnight in Beijing
There’s no better way to end (nearly) 18 days in China than with a visit to the country’s biggest icon: The Great Wall. With parts of it dating back 2000 years, the Wall stretches for more than 6000 km from ancient Manchuria in the east to the fort at Jiayuguan at the edge of the Gobi Desert in the west.
Guests will visit the Mutianyu section of the Wall, starting with an early morning departure from the hotel to ensure that guests see the Great Wall in the spectacular morning light.
If guests would prefer not to take the long walk up to the Wall, they can take the cable car instead. And a toboggan ride provides an enjoyable way to return to the bottom.
Depending on time, guests will also be able to have a picnic on the Great Wall whilst admiring the stunning, rugged scenery all around.
The tour then continues to the Summer Palace. At one time a simple imperial garden, the site was totally redesigned by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th Century and now features a stunning collection of temples pavilions, lakes, pagodas and gardens. The Long Corridor, the Marble Boat, Seventeen-Arch Bridge, Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill are the key features of the Summer Palace gardens. After this visit guests will be transferred back to their hotel in central Beijing.
Overnight in Beijing
After breakfast at the hotel, wrap up this 18 days in China experience with a transfer to the airport for their onward/return flight.
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Creating Unique Touring Experiences
All the touring itineraries on this website have been carefully crafted by our in-country management teams and represent a series of experiences we can certainly recommend. However, we understand that every travel experience should be as unique and individual as each traveler. Our consultants are waiting to hear from you so that we can tailor or custom design a China Tour to your individual specifications.
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