For Stephen & Paige

October 2016.

Inside the walls

Dear Stephen,

China is, as you know, a massive country. In our conversations, you and your wife expressed a desire to experience not only the breadth but also the depth of this country. I have chosen destinations for you that will give you a chance to experience historic sites, transcendental temples and palaces, and also authentic cultural and artistic practices and cuisine. You will have a chance to go beyond the walls and barriers, with privileged access to the inner halls and courtyards of this country—particularly remarkable, since this is a place known for so long for being completely closed off.

Day 1: Arrival in Beijing

You will arrive in Beijing and meet your private guide, Fai, who is fluent in Chinese and English and an expert in Chinese art and culture. He will take you for a walk around Tiananmen Square, where you will climb up the dais at the Gate of Heavenly Peace. While looking out at the city below, you will enjoy an introductory city orientation.

This evening, we have made reservations for dinner at Chef Dong’s Roast Duck Restaurant where you will taste the best duck in town.

Day 2: Forbidden City

This morning, you will visit the Panjiayuan Weekend Market, which is the largest outdoor market in China, and open only on weekends. Panjiayuan features a myriad of traditional crafts, stone carvings, porcelains, jades, paintings textiles, and more.

This afternoon, you will explore the Forbidden City. Enter from the Wu Men or Meridien Gate and explore the three outer halls of the administration and the Inner Court of Residence ending at the Imperial Garden.

Next, you will have the chance to explore a series of closed halls of the city, where entrance requires special access. Enter the throne hall, the private quarters where the emperor once resided as well as the library and rest areas reserved for the imperial family members. Following the visit, proceed to a viewing room where select treasures from the collection of the Forbidden City will be brought out for your private viewing.

This evening will await you with a performance by the Shaolin Monks, famous for their feats of dexterity.

Day 3: Tai Chi

Stephen, you will begin the morning with a Tai Chi lesson at the Temple of Heaven, led by our selected Tai Chi Master. After the lesson, you will be guided to explore the Temple of Heaven, the single most beautiful structure in the city of Bejiing. Afterwards, you will visit the Ming tombs and enjoy a bicycle ride through the countryside ending with a picnic lunch at Yongling, a closed-tomb site that will be opened for your private viewing.

Your guide will continue your walk on to the Great Wall at Mutianyue, which rides a ridge of the Yan Mountains. A guided hike will afford some magnificent vistas of the surrounding countryside. Your visit will end with a lively toboggan slide down the mountain.

This evening, we have arranged a special dinner with invited Beijing guests at the China Club Beijing. Once the residence of the 24th son of the emperor, Kang Xi, the site is now one of the most prestigious private members-only dining clubs in Beijing.

Day 4: Calligraphy

Paige’s love for calligraphy will be fulfilled this morning with an introductory class in Chinese calligraphy and painting by a master calligrapher.

Then, you will continue on to the Peking Opera Training School for a visit to the most important training center for Chinese theatrical arts. This will be an occasion to meet with students and teachers and take in classes in voice, acrobatics, and make-up. The visit will conclude with a performance by the students.

After this dynamic experience, continue on to the Beijing Zoo and visit the Panda Center to learn about China’s most popular mascot, among the most endangered wildlife in China. Once you’ve finished viewing the wildlife, dinner will wait for you at Hinjian Restaurant, which serves the capital’s most authentic Western Chinese Food.

Day 5: Summer Palace

Visit the fine Poly Museum this morning, which houses a small but important collection of ancient Chinese bronzes and Buddhist sculpture. You will meet the curator of the collection and enjoy a private tour under his guidance.

Following lunch, visit the Summer Palace, the verdant summer retreat where the ruling families of the late Qing dynasties retired to during the heat of the Beijing summer. Afterward, walk along the Kumming Lake to enjoy the view.

At this point, with your energy bolstered by the serene beauty of the palace and lake, you will visit the Great Wall at Simatai, which is approximately a three-hour drive from Beijing. From there, trek to Jinshaling and overnight in Chengde, which is known as the Little Tibet. This will conclude your trip.

Stephen, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for you. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should the need arise.