DAYS 1 – 6: CHINA
Your overland tour to Singapore starts in the vibrant city of Xi’an where you will have two nights. Your first full day of the trip includes a guided tour of one of the most iconic highlights of any trip to Asia: the Terracotta Army. These are the most significant archaeological excavations of the 20th century and work is ongoing at this site. Upon ascending the throne at the age of 13 in 246 BC, Qin Shi Huang began work on his mausoleum – before becoming the first Emperor of China. It took 11 years to finish and it is believed he built this vast terracotta army to accompany him into the afterlife. The museum covers over 16,000 sq metres – with armies of soldiers and their horses arranged in lines under a giant aircraft hanger type roof. There are over 7,000 figures and it really is a remarkable sight. Other sites in Xi’an include the City Wall dating back to the Ming Dynasty as well as fine Buddhist pagoda – the Famen Temple. Xi’an is also well known for its food and nightlife and there are some attractive restaurant districts to wander around in the evening.
Xi’an has a huge amount to see and do (and eat!) and it is well worth considering arriving into the city a few days early in order to explore it in depth. It is also one of the most tourist friendly cities in China, so it is a great introduction to this diverse and fascinating country.
Leaving Xi’an you will head to Chengdu, where you have a full free day day and overnight stop in this fascinating city, where the main highlight is the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding & Research Centre where you have an included visit to see these magnificent and endangered creatures. This is a very informative excursion and the centre has been listed by the United Nations in the top 500 environmental programs in the world due to the fact that nearly 50 pandas have been born here.
Chengdu is also a fascinating city in its own right and if you get the chance, a visit to the unique Sichuan “face changing” opera is well worth it.
From Chengdu you will board an overnight train to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the ‘Spring City’, and sat nearly 2000m above sea-level, Kunming enjoys a milder climate than we have so far been used to in China, and walking its tree-lined boulevards makes for a pleasant change of pace, although we are still in China so don’t expect it to be slow or boring! You can check out the Tang Dynasty-era Pagodas or the Yuatong Temple, some 1200 years old and contrasting with the rapid pace of modern China that is changing the city.
Your final stop in China is Jinghong. This small city gives you your first chance to see the great Mekong River, which you will follow, on and off, for the next few weeks as it slowly meanders its way through Indochina, eventually flowing out into the South China Sea in southern Vietnam. The city’s hot climate and slower pace of life makes it an ideal spot to kick back and reflect on your overland travels through China as you prepare for the next part of our Asian adventure.