MyTripJournal - Personal Travel Blogs
I fly out of Blackwate on Friday 18 Jan, one day in Brisbane to see as many people as I can before I go... Then a few weeks with Nikki and Tony, then my intrepid tour, followed by a few days in Hong Kong.

INTREPID TOUR, Starting 5 Feb from Beijing

Days 1-3 Beijing
Travellers will be arriving at all times during the day, from all corners of the world. There are no arranged activities on day 1, but we will have a group meeting in the evening followed by dinner. Please see the noticeboard at hotel reception for details.

Note that your group leader will collect your local payment (USD450) at the group meeting on day 1. Please bring new USD bills/notes in large denominations.

Our journey begins in Beijing, one of the world's greatest cities. There are numerous important sights in this sprawling metropolis, including Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace, just to name a few. There are also plenty of lesser-known sights, such as the back-street hutongs, packed full of little shops and restaurants. These are a world away from the imperial splendors, but lend plenty of atmosphere to this energetic city.

You have plenty of free time to explore at your leisure before we head off to the Great Wall early in the morning of day 4.
Days 4-5 Great Wall
No journey to China is really complete without a walk on the Great Wall and to kick-start our trip, we visit this 'eighth wonder of the world'.

Early in the morning, we take a bus to Gubeikou, a lesser-known section of the Great Wall (approx. 3 hours) and take a long walk over some steep, remote terrain (approx. 6 km or 5-6 hours walking). You are able to leave your main luggage on the bus and will only need a daypack for the walk. We spend the night in a simple guesthouse at the Simatai section of the Great Wall. The following morning, there is the option of waking up early to watch sunrise and trek this section of the Wall, before we journey back to Beijing.

In Beijing, we head to the Beijing West railway station for the overnight train to Xi'an (approx. 13 hours). Train travel in China is a comfortable and fascinating experience, and will be our primary mode of transport throughout this trip.
Days 6-8 Xi'an
Xi'an was once China's imperial capital. We have 3 full days here to spend time visiting places like the active Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque, as well as the exotic local street food stalls and the majestic Ming Dynasty city wall.

A trip out to the famous Terracotta Warriors is a highly recommended optional excursion out of Xi'an. These life-size, 2,200-year-old statues were formerly housed in underground vaults until discovered by a farmer in 1974.

Another option is to take a day trip to see the spectacular Hua Shan (2,066 m) located 2.5 hours north east of Xi'an, dotted with Daoist temples and white limestone cliffs.

In the early evening of day 8 we catch an overnight train to Shanghai (approx. 16 hours).
Days 9-11 Shanghai
Blending 21st century architecture with old-world character, Shanghai is the vibrant pulse of new China. There are many activities to choose from in this cosmopolitan city. We arrive around midday on day 9, so in the afternoon why not take a stroll along the Bund - with its spectacular array of art deco-style buildings? Or go across the river where you can take in the sights of Pudong - a modern financial centre - with its amazing skyscrapers? You could also explore the busy Yuyuan Bazaar, the French Concession, or shop 'til you drop in China's hippest stores! The impressive Shanghai Museum houses one of the best collections of Chinese bronze and artwork - you could spend half, if not the whole day here. In the evening, you can catch a performance by the famous Shanghai Acrobats.

In the morning of day 11 we board an overnight train bound for Guilin in Guangxi Province (approx. 22 hours).
Days 12-15 Yangshuo
We arrive in Guilin in the evening of day 12 where we transfer by public bus to Yangshuo (1.5 hours). There is plenty of free time in Yangshuo to soak up the atmosphere, try a cooking, t'ai chi or language class, see an amazing sound and light show, take a boat ride down the beautiful Li River to visit some of the local markets or just to relax in one of the many cafes while feasting on great food.

In the afternoon of day 14 we head out to Chaolong where we spend 2 nights in a small countryside guesthouse. On day 15 we go out on a full-day bicycle adventure through the beautiful Guangxi countryside. The vistas are spectacular as we pedal our bikes along beautiful country lanes and through small villages, surrounded by spectacular limestone peaks. Cycling is a superb way to experience grass-roots China and to meet some of the lovely people who live off the land - we highly recommend you try it!
Days 16-18 Longji Terraces
On the morning of day 16 we travel by bus to the Longji Valley via Guilin and Longshen (approx. 4.5 hours). For the next two days here, we base ourselves in one or more of the local villages in the area and take day treks to visit local minority groups who live high up in the hills.

The Longji Valley has some of the most extensive rice terraces that you will ever see.
These terraces change with the seasons - sometimes filled with pure water from the mountains, then green during the growing season and later, golden-coloured when the rice is ready to be harvested. From our basic accommodation high up in the hills, we have magnificent views of the valley. On day 17, expect to walk for about 3-5 hours through this stunning landscape as we travel from one village to another. In the evening, we attend a minority village cultural show.

On the afternoon of day 18 we bus back to Guilin (3 hours) where we may have some free time to explore before travelling by overnight by train (approx. 13 hours) to Shenzhen.
Days 19-20 Hong Kong
We arrive at the China-Hong Kong border-crossing around mid-morning on day 19 and after immigration procedures, it's just a short train ride on the KCR to busy Kowloon, where we check into our hotel by early afternoon.

Hong Kong is a non-stop city that fuses the East and West fantastically. There's always something to do at any hour of the day so be sure to make the most of your time here. You could catch a bus to Stanley Market, shop along Nathan Road or in Mong Kok, take the cable car up to Victoria Peak, eat dim sum or cruise on the harbour - the choice is yours. We'll pick one of the many great restaurants or food markets for our final night's dinner.

You are free to depart at any time on day 20. There are no activities planned in Hong Kong so if you want to get the most out of this vibrant city, it's worthwhile staying a few extra days.
Arrival Complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you!) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your trip leader. If you have pre-booked an airport transfer and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the Starting Point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in the Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Jan 18, 2008 - Fly Blackwater - Brisbane
Jan 20, 2008 - Fly Brisbane - Hong Kong, fingers crossed my upgrade request comes through. Over night in Hong Kong
Jan 21, 2008 - Late afternoon, fly to Jinan, meet Nicole (and Tony?) Have an early birthday dinner
Jan 22, 2008 - MY BIRTHDAY, head to countryside I think
Jan 25, 2008 - The big day, THE WEDDING!!!
Jan 26, 2008 - Australia Day, not sure of the plans...
Jan 30, 2008 - Head to Beijing sometime around now, maybe do some touristy stuff with Nicole and Tony, see the wall
Feb 5, 2008 - Start Intrepid tour from Beijing
Feb 8, 2008 - Great Wall, bus to Gubeikou, 6km hike, overnight SImatai section of wall
Feb 9, 2008 - Overnight train to Xi'an
Feb 10, 2008 - Xi'an
Feb 13, 2008 - Shanghai
Feb 17, 2008 - Yangshuo
Feb 21, 2008 - Longji terraces
Feb 24, 2008 - Hong Kong - Disneyland maybe
Feb 27, 2008 - Late flight to Brisbane
Mar 1, 2008 - Fly to Emerald obscenely early, hopefully someone can pick me up