There are bargains and there are bargains, but you know you’ve really got a deal when the whole tour costs less than the round-trip air fare. A great way to celebrate the Chinese New Year: China Spree’s Timeless Beijing package starts at only $888 from San Francisco and Los Angeles, and includes not only round-trip transpacific air, but six nights’ accommodation in a convenient 4-star hotel (probably the beautiful Traders Hotel by Shangri-La), airport/hotel transfers, six American buffet breakfasts and three delicious Chinese lunches, three days of escorted sightseeing with entrance fees, baggage handling and a knowledgeable English-speaking guide. Note that Houston departures are $50 more, New York $80 more, and prices rise slightly in the spring and fall.
The tour concentrates on Beijing and its surroundings, but Beijing is not only China’s vibrant capital, it is one of the world’s largest cities, a political and cultural center with a history dating back 3,000 years. It is full of fascinating palaces, temples and parks; modern “starchitect” skyscrapers and glitzy shopping centers as well as ancient neighborhoods called hutongs; and seven—count them, seven—UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A briefing in the hotel starts things off, then a guided visit to the infamous Tiananmen Square, world’s largest public square, and the Forbidden City, symbolic center of the Chinese universe, from which 24 emperors ruled the Middle Kingdom from 1420 to 1911. There’s a full-day excursion to the Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs with its 36 massive stone sculptures, and the iconic Great Wall of China, the 3,500-mile bulwark begun in the 5th century B.C. to keep out foreign invaders. Another day there’s a visit to the Temple of Heaven, a masterpiece of Ming architecture, and the idyllic Summer Palace imperial garden with its amazing Marble Boat.
The tour allows free time for exploring on your own, shopping, gallery-hopping and just relaxing in a tea house. But reasonably-priced optional excursions are also available. A dinner with acrobatics show and transfer costs $35. And a not-to-be-missed day-long tour that costs $75 includes the pandas at the Beijing Zoo, a rickshaw ride through Old Beijing’s hutongs,, lunch in a traditional courtyard home, a visit to a renowned Tibetan lamasery and a sumptuous Peking duck dinner.
China Spree also offers A Tale of China’s Two Great Cities tour that covers Beijing and Shanghai and starts at $999.
All prices quoted are cash-only, are per person, double occupancy and are subject to availability. (Due to the popularity of this tour, reservations are confirmed based on the order in which deposits are received.) For more detailed information about the Timeless Beijing package, log onto www.chinaspree.com and click “China Tours,” then “Specials.” China Spree’ s toll-free telephone number is 1-866-652-5656.