Day 1: Shanghai & All Aboard the Dragon Bus
You will have been given very easy to read directions to your hostel. Shanghai is sure to amaze. You may like to arrive a few days early to explore its charms. Depending on what time you do arrive you should have enough time to explore Taikang Ave, a treasure trove of back alleys, funky bars, restaurants and charms! Close to the hostel you will find many old lane houses that you can wander around and Nanjing Road is a five minute walk from the hostel. Be back at the hostel by 6pm to join your fellow travellers and Trip Leader at the bar for an introduction to your Dragon Bus Pass.
Day 2: Explore Paris of the East - Shanghai
Start the day at your own pace, but make sure you head out from the hostel for a traditional local breakfast of Xiao Long Bao which is a Shanghai delicacy, or grab something else from one of the many local vendors that feed the locals as they head to work. Today your Trip Leader will have a range of activities that you may wish to take part in. You may like to consider heading to Pudong and heading up the world's highest observation deck at the top of Shanghai Financial Tower, 474m above the street. Shanghai's dazzling nightlife is also not to be missed.
Day 3: Suzhou & amazing Canal Villages
Leaving Shanghai in the morning we head to one of the canal towns that surround Shanghai. The canals and pace of life of this watertown will transport you back centuries, afterwards we'll head for the nearby Suzhou. Suzhou is world renowned for its beauty with various UNESCO listed gardens, pagodas and canals. On the way we'll head to a silk factory, where this old age craft is demonstrated from beginning to end to the group. On arrival in Suzhou, the night is free. The street next to the hostel houses a number of restaurants that offer cheap, tasty food until late at night. They also have great breakfasts too.
Day 4: Suzhou & Historic Nanjing
Continue exploring Suzhou & some its gardens. These gardens differ from the ones that you will see in Beijing as they are all private gardens built by the wealthy merchants that made Suzhou their home.You will also be taken to the Suzhou Museum; designed by I.M. Pei, this Museum fits in very well with its surroundings. There are also objects stretching back over 2 millenium. As the shadows lengthen, we will head to Nanjing, transferring directly to the hostel. Nanjing was the former capital of the Republic of China, and is a historic, yet modern city as well. Nanjing has numerous modern and cultural sites including a 600 year old city wall and excellent museums including the confronting but well worth the visit Massacre Museum.
Day 5: Nanjing - Culture, History & so much to see
Rich in history, but also rapidly modernizing, Nanjing is second only to Shanghai in terms of economic output. It has retained and improved on its many historical sites and museums. The former Imperial Palace, which was the central Palace before being moved to Beijing 600 years ago is another site where you could spend a morning or afternoon. Walking around on foot with pre formatted walking guides is another great option, as is hiring a boat on the lovely and centrally located Xuanwu Lake. Purple Mountain is a must do, which includes the Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum, an ancient observatory and a good view of the city, but remember "It's Your Choice".
Day 6: Nanjing
The Nanjing Museum, the city wall and Imperial Palace should be on your agenda today and can easily be explored by yourself or by joining a guided tour organised by us. However, with your last night in Nanjing don't resist the temptation of another night in the 1912 Bar and Restaurant area.
Day 7: Imperial Nanjing to the home of Confucius
All abroad to the next city, the classical Qufu, hometown of the great Confucius. Set your camera to black & white and snap some great shots of a "real" Chinese town, one that's off the radar of package and group tours! On arrival hit the streets and explore the Confucius family mansion & temple. Then jump into local rickshaw for the Confucius Forest, where the tomb of the great man himself awaits and then perhaps a horse drawn cart for short journey back into the village. Return to the hostel where a BBQ dinner is often had in the hostel's courtyard. As night dawns you can return to the Confucius Temple to experience a magnificent show of dancing and singing, set in the times of when Confucius walked the streets
Day 8: Qufu to Seaside Qingdao
After breakfast you'll board a direct intercity coach for the beautiful Qingdao. Crossing the mountains to the coastline you'll make your way along the coastline to Qingdao, which will take around 5hrs, so charge your Ipod or laptop and watch one of those DVDs you can buy for around $1. On arrival at the hostel some head straight to the rooftop bar which affords commanding views across the city. Qingdao is renowned its Beer & Beaches, and this former German concession town is abundant in seafood restaurants for all budgets, and an even better nightlife!
Day 9: Qingdao & a sacred Buddhist Mountain
A day to do as you please and all with the help of your Trip Leader of course! Dragon Bus doesn't run to a tight package tour schedule so you can explore Qingdao the way you want too, when and how! However, depending on numbers Dragon Bus often organise an optional day tour (260 RMB) to the famous Laoshan Mountain, about 1hr from Qingdao. Water from Laoshan is exclusively used to make China's Qingdao Beer, and it's a sacred Buddhist site. On the flip side, many just head down to nearby sandy beach, for a lazy day with a book. The German Concession area of old Qingdao is an interesting step back in history. The hostel is also the place to be at sunset, when everyone returns for the roof top BBQ & BEER party, which has been known to be followed by karaoke!!
Day 10: Qingdao & a German built Brewery
Wish to explore an originally German built brewery. Qingdao is as well known for its famous Beer as its Beaches. The Brewery tour is a must do and at around US$8 includes a fresh beer at the end - How can you go wrong? The German influence on Qingdao is clear and is further seen in the older section of the city, with the churches and government buildings looking very much like they have been shipped in from Munich. Qingdao is a great place to kick back, but is ideal city to see much of what has changed in China over the last 60 years. Qingdao is a favourite resort city for Chinese and has an amazing array of food, know with a Korean influence as well. Tonight join the Trip Leader at small local restaurant where the owners charm is nearly as good as his fresh seafood.
Day 11: The Capital awaits - Beijing
Rising in the morning we transfer to the railway station where we'll take the "bullet" train to Beijing. This train is the one that many independent travellers complain they are unable to secure tickets for! However, you don't have that problem while travelling with Dragon Bus. We arrive and head straight to the hostel, where you'll join Trip Leader for a walk around the traditional Beijing Hutongs. Much is said about these Hutongs, but many tours simple fly you through the area in a 3 wheel rickshaw! Soak up the real laneways, back alleys and families that make this area so appealing. After this the group often chooses to eat dinner with the locals in a nearby restaurant. Plan your evening with your new found Dragon Bus friends and then hit the great nightlife Beijing has on offer!
Day 12: The Great Wall of China, sleep in its shadows!
The Great Wall awaits! Boarding the Dragon Bus you'll head north to the quintessential image of China, its Great Wall. On arrival into the area we'll head to one of the more "as is" sections of the Wall, where you can hike, climb, sit or just stare at it! The 2011 schedule means you'll also be staying overnight in the shadows of the Wall, in a local hostel, which can be quite difficult to find if trying it alone! The overnight stay means you have the option of perhaps dinner, a beer or glass of wine on the Wall as the sun sets down on its magical outline. Tonight, you can either explore the quaint local town, where there are a few good restaurants or like many before you, we'll organise a BBQ dinner to be held on the rear decking.
Day 13: A Great Wall, the Birds Nest & Beijing
After breakfast you'll return to Beijing, where with time permitting we'll stop at the National Sports Stadium, otherwise known as the "Birds Nest" & site of the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The area is also home to the Water Cube, and if you wish to you can enter both stadiums for a better view of these very impressive and modern icons of modern China. The afternoon is yours to continue to explore the capital, so make sure that you obtain our outline of the many FREE attractions that abound the capital. Small groups can explore the capital easily via taxi or for a great bargain head to the Silk Road markets and stock up on all your needs, before returning to the hostel. Tonight is yours to do as you please.
Day 14: Goodbyes & fond memories
So this day had to come, it's not over as there is much more to see! However, continue exploring the city including Beijing's own Bell and Drum Towers. Those heading to the airport will receive assistance from the hostel to ensure your transfer is without hassles. IF planning on staying longer then you should ensure your bed is pre booked as the hostel does get booked out. Additionally, we can help with train fares or airfares, so make sure you've previously enquired about this with your Trip Leader.