This unique tour visits some of the most famous sites along the old Road to Shu on a 17-day bus excursion as we travel off the beaten track and experience an older, more traditional China. We will hike the beautiful cypress-shaded old flagstone road that once connected Chengdu with Xi'an. All hikes will be leisurely, not over three hours although there will be an option for anyone to extend three of the hikes with our local guide Miss Li. We will also visit a reconstructed plank road along a gorge in the Jialing River, spend four nights in Langzhong's Old Town where we will dine in two restored Qing dynasty residences. In addition, we will visit seven towns which were once post-stations along the road to Shu in Sichuan province(Zitong, Wulian, Puan, Jianmenguan, Dachao, Zhaohua, and Guangyuan) which are not on the usual tourist circuit. Even though we will be hiking in remote areas, we will still be close enough to town to have comfortable lodgings and marvelous meals which we'll eat family-style at a single table. We'll also visit the pandas in Chengdu and attend a Sichuan opera and a traditional puppet show.
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View a photo album of the 2011 tour compiled by Wendy Lycan Jackson. Wendy's Album
Day 1, March 12, Monday – Leave the USA on overseas flight to China
Day 2, March 13, Tuesday – Arrive Chengdu
I will meet you at the airport whenever you arrive. We are going to stay at the Chuangang hotel five minutes from the airport the first night, as most people will be arriving during the evening and night. I will either send you to the hotel in the hotel courtesy van or come back with you in the van depending on the time of other people’s arrival. The van ride takes five minutes. If you arrive in the afternoon, we will have dinner at the hotel. I will change US dollars into Chinese yuan at the hotel. $50 per person should be enough to buy beer, soda, or other incidentals. I can change more if you let me know how much you need.
Day 3, March 14, Wednesday – Sightseeing in Chengdu
Our bus will pick us up at the hotel after an early breakfast. We can leave our luggage in the bus as we head to the newly expanded Giant Panda Breeding Research Center, eating lunch there and returning to town to check into the Jinjiang Hotel in time for a rest before dinner at a famous hot pot restaurant on Qintai Road where all the buildings have recently been rebuilt in the traditional imperial style. After dinner we will watch a performance of the Sichuan opera just down the street. You can read about Chengdu in my book, pp. 75-80. We’ll return to our hotel about .
Day 4, March 15, Thursday – Sightseeing in Chengdu
We'll have a leisurely buffet breakfast at the Jinjiang Hotel, then take our bus to the Temple of the Martial Marquis (pp 90-92) for a stroll around the shady grounds and a tour through a very small Three Kingdoms Museum. The original temple on this site dates from the 6th century and was built to honor the Three Kingdoms strategist, Zhuge Liang and his ruler Liu Bei, who both played an important role along the old road in the 3rd century A.D. Lunch at a local duck restaurant and explore the Tibetan section of town before returning to our hotel. Dinner at one Chengdu's most famous “little snacks” restaurants located in the Chunxi Mall where we will glimpse in passing the new consumer-oriented China which we are soon to leave behind.
Day 5, March 16, Friday –Bus to Langzhong
After another leisurely breakfast at the Jinjiang Hotel buffet, we’ll board our bus for a four-hour drive to our next destination, Langzhong (pp. 187-190), one of the best-preserved Old Towns in the country. Langzhong was also a major town on one of the branch roads of the Road to Shu. No cars are allowed in the old city, so we will have to carry our own bags about three blocks to our hotel, the DuFu Holiday Hotel. Any luggage not needed or purchases along the way can be left on the bus as it will always be locked. Our hotel is new but built in the traditional style with lovely garden courtyards. We’ll arrive between 1 and and have a dumpling snack at a local restaurant and explore the old town before dinner at the Zhenjianglou, an old home which has been turned into a hotel with an excellent restaurant. After dinner we will enjoy a half-hour foot massage before returning to our hotel.
Day 6, March 17, Saturday – Sightseeing in Langzhong
After breakfast in our hotel, we'll explore the old town, visiting the local market and eating lunch nearby. In the afternoon we'll visit the Huaguang Tower for a bird's eye view of the old town. The rest of the afternoon will be spent shopping on your own in Langzhong or returning to our hotel for a rest before dinner. Dinner will be at the Du Family Courtyard House (p.190), which we will tour before dinner. After dinner we will walk down to the river to see a traditional puppet show.
Day 7, March 18 Sunday – Langzhong Sightseeing
After breakfast in our hotel, our bus will take us across the Jialing River and up to the top of the mountains which overlook Langzhong to visit the White Pagoda for a bird’s eye view of the old city enclosed in a curve of the river. Then the bus will drop us off farther down the mountain near the Zhuangyuan Cave Pavilion for a pretty short hike through this complex and then through the grounds of the Tang Dynasty Great Buddha Temple. Our bus will then drive us all the way down the mountain to the river where we will catch a local ferry boat. Our bus will meet us on the other side, returning us to our hotel for a late lunch. After lunch there will be free time to explore the old town on your own and do some shopping. Dinner will again be at the Du Family Courtyard House.
Day 8, March 19, Monday Langzhong sightseeing
After breakfast at our hotel, we'll spend the morning visiting the Zhang Fei Temple, where a famous Three Kingdoms hero is buried, and the Civil Service Hall, where civil service exams were held in imperial times (pp. 194-198). After lunch, we will take a ride on the Jialing River on an excursion boat and the rest of the afternoon will be free for wandering on your own in the old town. Dinner at our hotel.
Day 9, March 20, Tuesday bus to Zitong and Temple
After breakfast we will return to our bus for a three-to four-hour ride to Zitong, the first post station we will visit along the Road to Shu (the first two post stations have become big cities with no old road.) The small highway we travel will take us through some beautiful countryside. After lunch at our hotel, the Dihao Hotel, we will visit the Qiqushan Great Temple, one of the temples Isabelle Bishop visited when she traveled the Road to Shu in 1896. Dinner at our hotel in Zitong.
Day 10, March 21, Wednesday - Wulian Hike
After breakfast at our hotel, our bus will take us for a half hour drive along the Green Cloud Corridor, a highway built over the old road and still shaded by the ancient cypress trees which once lined the road (pp 100-105). Our bus will drop us off in the hills outside of Wulian (pp 133, 135-6, 138-9). Here we will take a short hike down the hill into town on the only stretch of the old flagstone road that was spared by the highway construction. The hike will be very leisurely as we will pass an interesting grave and several farmhouses so it will probably take two hours even though it could be done in 30 minutes. We’ll eat lunch in Wulian, then visit the nearby Pure Land Temple, famous for its Ming dynasty frescoes. Then we will continue to drive north along the Green Cloud Corridor to our next destination, Puan, (pp 106-111), arriving in about 45 minutes. Dinner in our hotel, the Jiange Hotel.
Day 11, March 22, Thursday Exploring Puan
After a Chinese-style buffet breakfast in the Jiange Hotel, we'll spend the morning exploring the market and the Old Town which includes the old south gate with a stretch of flagstone street and a bit of city wall on either side, the old bell-drum tower, and some of the old wooden houses which still line the original narrow street, now paved over but never widened (pp 116-117). After lunch at our hotel, our bus will take us up into the mountains overlooking the town to visit the Hemingshan Pagoda (pp 122-123). Dinner at our hotel.
Day 12, March 23, Friday -Liangshan Hike
Miss Li, a local lady who helped me find the Road to Shu, will meet us at our hotel after breakfast. Our bus will then take us south of Puan on Route 108 to Liangshan were the old road is preserved all the way into Puan. We will hike the road lined with beautiful cypress for about three hours, have a picnic lunch, then retrace our route back to the bus and return to Puan. Miss Li will accompany anyone who wants to continue to hike all the way into Puan and we will all meet for dinner at our hotel.
Day 13, March 24, Saturday - Hanyang Hike
After breakfast our bus will take us north again on Route 108 until we reach Hanyang, a half-hour ride out of Puan. We will disembark here and hike south back toward Puan along one of the prettiest remaining stretches of the old flagstone road which is lined with more than 400 old cypress trees and winds its way past small villages and along the crests of hills with long views into the valleys below. We will hike for three hours which will involve some climbing of stone steps up hills, but with lots of rest stops and climbing will be intermixed with many level and downhill stretches as well. After a picnic lunch, our bus will meet us to take us back to Puan. Miss Li will accompany anyone who wants to continue to hike all the way back into Puan. We will all meet for dinner at our hotel.
Day 14, March 25, Sunday - Sword Gate Pass
Today we will head north again through the Green Cloud Corrider (p 118) all the way into Jianmenguan (pp 140-142), the next post station along the old road. On the way we will stop to visit the official Green Cloud Corridor tourist site (p 145-146), where a special fenced in section of the old road is lined with more than 100 ancient cypress trees some over 1000 years old. Lunch in Jianmenguan at one of the local restaurants that specialize in excellent doufu dishes. After lunch Miss Li will show us her apartment and roof-top garden, then we will spend the rest of the day exploring Sword Gate Pass, (pp 147-150), the site of a famous Three-Kingdoms battle where a small Shu army held off a much larger Wei force. The site has been much improved by building a tunnel to divert the highway that in the 1930s was built over the old road right through the pass. Dinner at the Jianmenguan Hotel, about a half hour away in Jiange, where we will also be staying.
Day 15, March 26, Monday-Dachao Hike
After breakfast our bus will take us up into the mountains to the next post station along the old road, Dachao. This is a very, very small town that when I first passed through hadn't changed much since the 19th century. We will hike the old road down the mountain toward Jianmenguan for about two hours, have a picnic lunch, then return to Dachao and our bus will take us back to Jiange. Miss Li will guide those who want to continue to hike to Jianmenguan where the bus will meet them and return them to Jiange for dinner at our hotel.
Day 16, March 27, Tuesday - Sightseeing in Zhaohua
After breakfast our bus will continue north to Zhaohua, another post station on the Road to Shu, and one that has preserved quite a bit of its old town, including three gates, some city wall, and many old houses. We will spend the morning exploring the town and in the afternoon our bus will take us to a nearby fort guarding a pass along the Road to Shu. We will hike a small portion of the old road and then the bus will return us to town for a fish hot pot dinner. Our hotel in Zhaohua is the Gu Jia Courtyard Hotel, an old house that has been turned into an inn.
Day 17, March 28, Wednesday – Sightseeing in Guangyuan
After breakfast, our bus will take us into Guangyuan, our last post station on the old road which is now a very large and prosperous city. We will first visit a beautiful bridge recently rebuilt in the traditional style and lined with shops. Mr. Chen, a now retired librarian, will meet us in a tea house there where we will meet with some locals. Then he will join us for lunch in a hot pot restaurant. After lunch he will accompany us to a local pre-kindergarten school where the children will sing for us and we’ll sing for them as best we can manage. Mr. Chen will then give us a tour of his very modern condo. Dinner at our hotel.
Day 18, March 29, Thursday – Sightseeing in Guangyuan
After a very nice buffet breakfast at our hotel, our bus will take us north along the Jialing River to visit the site of a famous ancient plank road (pp 176-80) which once stretched along the side of a cliff above the river. A long section of the original plank road has been reconstructed by inserting new wood into the old holes. We can walk along the cliff on this rebuilt road and then take a cart ride through the Tiger’s Mouth, a section of half-tunneling directly above the plank road blasted out of the solid rock in the 1930s in order to run the highway along the cliff. A new highway has been built farther inland, leaving the old highway as a tourist area with no cars. Our bus will then take us to a nearby town for lunch and a visit to the Thousand Buddha Cliff, once one of the most treacherous spots along the Road to Shu. It is also a famous site of early Buddhist carvings and has recently been improved by rerouting the highway that once passed right next to it. Dinner at our hotel.
Day 19, March 30, Friday – Bus Ride Back to Chengdu
After breakfast at our hotel, our bus will take us south on the new expressway back to Chengdu, about a three-hour ride. We'll have lunch in Chengdu and visit the Wenshu Temple just to enjoy the beautiful grounds before returning to our hotel near the airport that we stayed in the first night we arrived. Dinner at our hotel.
Day 20, March 31, Saturday – Fly Home
After breakfast, we will take the hotel shuttle bus to the airport for our flight home. As we gain a day on the way home, with good connections we will arrive home on the same day.