advertisement

In less than 850 days, the city of Beijing and the entire country of China will be on public display to the largest audience in its 4,000 years of history. On August 8, 2008 (a date of considerable significance in Chinese culture as the number 8 represents good fortune) Beijing will host the 29th Summer Olympic Games and in the lead up to this event of epic proportions, the Chinese government, tourism operators and Chinese businesses have been giving Beijing and surrounding areas the biggest make-over imaginable. Not only has Beijing built thousands of western style public toilets, but new hotels are going up at an incredible pace, entire districts are being rejuvenated, historic buildings restored, and China's culture and heritage has been thrust into the limelight. This may be the perfect time to visit as post Olympic destinations are notorious for becoming more expensive after the Games and with 12-day packages starting as low as $999, China is both affordable and accessible.

Chinaspree (tel. 866/652-5656; www.chinaspree.com) offers a selection of in depth China tours. Their 12-day "China Delights" tour is priced from $999 per person. This trip retraces the footsteps of Marco Polo and allows visitors to observe and appreciate China's ancient glory and timeless treasures. Explore China's proud capital Beijing, admire the stylish metropolitan Shanghai, wander through the classic gardens of Suzhou, stroll along the cobbled streets in the water town of Tongli and savor the fabled Dragon Well Tea in Hangzhou. The package includes round-trip airfare from San Francisco or New York on Air China, all Intra-China flights, ground transportation and transfers, first class accommodation in four-star hotels, comprehensive private sightseeing tours, evening shows, entrance fees, 24 bountiful meals (ten American buffet breakfasts, seven lunches and seven dinners), services of an expert, resident Tour Director and professional local guiding service in each destination city. The lowest price for this package is $999 from San Francisco or $1,199 from New York for departures from November 5 to 16, 2006. Departures from May 5 to May 23, May 26 to June 6 and September 1 to 12, 2006 are $1,299 from San Francisco or $1,499 from New York. Departure in June and July are priced from $1,399 from Francisco or $1,599 from New York. U.S. and China air taxes and fees are $174 and a China single entry visa handling fee is an additional $70.

Their 12-day "Middle Kingdom" package is priced from $1,399 per person. This trip is designed for first-time visitors to uncover the mystery of this ancient nation by exploring its three must-see destinations - Beijing, Xian and Shanghai. Visit Beijing - China's capital for the past 800 years - to marvel at its imperial treasures; tour Xian and see the famous Terra-Cotta Warriors and Chariots, and historic and modern Shanghai. You will also tour Suzhou, a charming retreat for its classic gardens, silk studios and canals. The package includes round-trip airfare from San Francisco or New York on Air China, all Intra-China flights, ground transportation and transfers, first class accommodation at four-star hotels, comprehensive private sightseeing tours including entrance fees, 26 meals (ten American buffet breakfasts, eight lunches and eight dinners), unique culinary events like an authentic Peking Duck dinner, a traditional Mongolian Barbecue buffet lunch, and a Dumpling Banquet in Xian, Peking Opera and a Chinese Acrobatics show and an exclusive cultural insight program in the Hutong district of Beijing visiting a local kindergarten, the Drum Tower, a local family and a home-hosted lunch. The lowest price for this package is $1,399 from San Francisco or $1,599 from New York for departures from November 5 to 16, 2006. Departures from October 20 to 31, 2006 are $1,599 from San Francisco or $1,799 from New York and $100 more for departures from April 28 to May 9, May 12 to 23, May 26 to June 6 and June 9 to 20, 2006. Single supplement is an additional $399.

Champion Holidays (tel. 800/868-7658; www.china-discovery.com) has a nine-day "China Discovery Tour" priced from $1,099. It includes round-trip international airfare, all domestic air and ground transportation, seven nights hotel accommodation at five-star deluxe or superior first-class hotels, escorted tours, sightseeing, entrance fees, English speaking tour guides in each city, 18 meals (seven breakfasts, five lunches and six dinners including a Peking Duck Dinner and Shanghai cuisine farewell dinner party), and cultural entertainment with acrobatic show in Beijing. Visit Beijing, Shanghai, Wuxi and Suzhou. Departures on November 14 and 28, 2006 start from $1,099 plus taxes per person from Los Angeles or $1,199 from New York. Departures on April 25, May 2, 9, 16 and 23 are $1,299 from Los Angeles and $1,399 from New York. June to October dates are $1,399 from Los Angeles and $1,519 from New York.

Friendly Planet (tel. 800/555-5765; www.friendlyplanet.com) has a China, Yangtze River Cruise and Hong Kong trip that includes visits to Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Yichang, Chongqing, Guilin, the Yi River, the Yangtze River, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. The 17-day journey includes round-trip flights on Korean Air from Los Angeles or for an additional $100, from New York, all intra-China flights, ground transportation, transfers, accommodation at deluxe five-star hotels, a deluxe Yangtze River cruise aboard Victoria Cruises ship in outside cabins with private balcony, 33 meals (including 14 American buffet breakfasts, 11 lunches and eight dinners), comprehensive touring program including entrance fees, all shore excursions during Yangtze River cruise, a professional English-speaking tour director and local guides. The package is currently on sale, priced from $2,199 or $100 more from New York. You must book by April 28, 2006 to take advantage of this $400 per person saving.

Pacific Delight World Tours (tel. 800/221-7179; www.pacificdelighttours.com) has an air-inclusive, 17-day "Grand Yangtze River Super Value" cruise-tour, priced from $2,788 to $3,158 per person based on double occupancy. It combines a six night cruise on the Yangtze River from Chongqing to Shanghai with a land tour that takes in Huangshan Mountain, Suzhou, Shanghai, Xian and Beijing. Tour highlights include the Three Gorges, Tian An Men Square and the Imperial Palace in Beijing, the Great Wall, the Terra-Cotta warriors in Xian, a performance at the Children's Palace in Shanghai and the Garden of the Master of the Fishing Net in Suzhou.

The package includes round-trip airfare, all air/land transportation in China, accommodation in deluxe and superior first-class hotels and in outside cabins with private balcony on a Victoria Cruises ship, all meals, sightseeing and shore excursions, cultural activities, tour escort, transfers, hotel taxes, service charges and baggage handling. There are regular departures from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Beijing from April 21 to November 3, 2006. You can also depart from Salt Lake City, Las Vegas or Albuquerque at no additional charge. Land-only prices range from $1,998 to $,2258 and single supplement is $960 to $1,130.

For more information visit the China National Tourist Office website (www.cnto.org) and www.frommers.com/destinations/china.

Chat with fellow Frommer's travelers on our China Message Boards.