New Blooms and Old Days

New Blooms and Old Days – a spring-time garden and history tour in Viet Nam

 

Friday, 12 May 2017 – Friday, 26 May 2017 – 15 days

 

Day 1: Friday, 12 May 2017 – Sydney – Ho Chi Minh City
Arrive HCM City. Light evening meal. O/Night HCM City

Day 2: Saturday, 13 May 2017 – Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast. Visit HCM City Botanic Gardens and Zoo opened in 1869. Visit Le Van Duyet Tomb. Lunch Visit to Dinh Doc Lap – Independence Palace. Stroll down to Lam Son Square via the Cathedral, Post Office and Dong Khoi Street Dinner. (Old Rue Catinat). O/night HCM City

Day 3: Sunday, 14 May 2017 – Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast. Breakfast. Morning coffee in the Tao Dan Park (Công Viên Tao Đàn) with the Bird Fanciers followed by a stroll around the park and on to Circle Sportif. Drive by the oldest house in HCM City and visit the monument to Thich Quang Duc. Visit Cho Lon. See the Chinese Funeral House, the historic Church of Father Tam and Cho Lon Market, stopping off at the Herbal Apothecaries before heading to lunch. Post lunch stroll from Nguyen Van Hao Theatre to the 23/9 Park. Visit the Nhi Dong II Hospital and stroll to the US Consulate, site of the old US Embassy. Dinner O/night HCM City.

Day 4: Monday, 15 May 2017 – Ba Ria – Vung Tau
Breakfast. Drive to Ba Ria. Sightseeing in Ba Ria. Visit Nui Dat site of the old Australian Army Base and Long Tan Cross, site of the famous battle. Drive to Vung Tau. Dinner by the sea. O/night Vung Tau.

Day 5: Tuesday, 16 May 2017 – Ho Chi Minh City – Da Lat
Breakfast. Vung Tau City Tour. Lunch. Drive to Ho Chi Minh City via Binh Ba and Xuan Loc for evening flight to Da Lat. Dinner in Da Lat. O/night Da Lat.

Day 6: Wednesday, 17 May 2017 – Da Lat
Breakfast. Da Lat is a garden city. Cut flowers are a major industry. We take the cable car over the cut flower gardens of Da Lat. Visit the beautiful gardens at the Truc Lam Zen Monastery. Lunch. Afternoon visit to local falls, going on to the Langbiang Tourist area. Dinner, dancing and drinking with the Cil and Lach ethnic minority. O/night Da Lat

Day 7: Thursday, 18 May 2017 – Da Lat – Ho Chi Minh City
Breakfast. Leisurely stroll around Da Lat city centre including local markets. Lunch. Afternoon flight to HCM City. O/night HCM City

Day 8: Friday, 19 May 2017 – HCM City – Hue
Breakfast. Mid-morning flight to Hue. Lunch on arrival. Afternoon visit to Hue Citadel. Dinner on the Perfume River. O/night Hue

Day 9: Saturday, 20 May 2017 – Hue
Breakfast. Visit to Minh Mang Tomb. Return to Hue by Dragon Boat. Lunch. Afternoon visit to Thien Mu Pagoda. Dinner. O/night Hue.

Day 10: Sunday, 21 May 2017 – Hue – Ha Noi
Breakfast. Mid-morning flight to Ha Noi. Lunch of Cha Ca in the Old Quarter. Afternoon stroll around the old Quarter. Check in to Hotel. Attend Water Puppets Performance. Dinner. O/night Ha Noi.

Day 11: Monday, 22 May 2017 – Ha Long Bay Day Trip
Breakfast. Drive to Ha Long Bay. Cruise the Bay with lunch on board. Return to Ha Noi.

Day 12: Tuesday, 23 May 2017 – Ha Noi-Sa Pa
Breakfast. Morning visit to Ba Dinh Square, Ho Mausoleum, One Pillar Pagoda. Lunch at KOTO Restaurant. Visit Temple of Literature. Check out O/night train to Sa Pa.

Day 13: Wednesday, 24 May 2017 – Sa Pa
Early Arrival at Lai Chau and drive to Sa Pa. Relax. Lunch. Afternoon visit to Cat Cat Falls. Dinner. O/night Sa Pa.

Day 14: Thursday, 25 May 2017 – Sa Pa – Ha Noi
Breakfast. Visit local ethnic minority villages in the valley below Sa Pa Town. Lunch. Late check out. Drive to Lai Chau. O/night train to Ha Noi

Day 15: Friday, 26 May 2017 – Return to Australia
Breakfast. Leisurely day. Afternoon flight to HCM City. Evening flight overnight to Australia

Japan – Land of Beauty

Japan – Land of Beauty

 

TOUR OVERVIEW

To visit Japan is to step into another world, an enchanting one in which beauty is prized. Beauty comes in many forms, not only in the perfect gardens and exquisite flowers, but also in the country’s natural areas – the mountains and forests. There is beauty too in Japan’s cultural practices, architecture and many forms of art.
We will see so much of it on this varied tour, from Mt Fuji and the Shibazakura Festival of Moss Phlox, the Moss garden in Saiho-Ji Temple, the Bamboo Forest, world famous gardens, and wonderful bonsai, to the modern sculpture parks, World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in the mountains, the Golden Temple, and ancient castles.
We will travel by air conditioned coach and by bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, experience a traditional tea ceremony and enjoy nights spent in modern Japanese style spa accommodation.

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Sun 07 May Sydney-Tokyo
Overnight flight with Qantas to Tokyo.

Day 2 Mon 08 May Arrive Tokyo
On arrival in Tokyo, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The first visit on our tour will be to the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas.
Later we marvel at skyscraper views from the heights of iconic Tokyo Tower.
We will spend two nights in Tokyo.
Welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Tue 09 May Tokyo-Omiya-Tokyo
Today we enter the private world of the bonsai experts and visit Omiya Bonsai Village. Multiple bonsai nurseries and a superb bonsai art museum are situated along the district’s peaceful paths. In the afternoon, we visit Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa for a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asakusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. (Breakfast)

Day 4 Wed 10 May Tokyo-Hakone-Kawaguchiko
Journey by private coach to Hakone, the city famous for the view of nearby Mt. Fuji. We will visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures, in a garden setting.
Continue travel to Kawaguchiko, where we will stay for two nights in Japanese style. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 5 Thu 11 May Kawaguchiko
Throughout Japan’s spring season different flowers take the stage, from blossom, azaleas and wisteria, to roses and hydrangeas. Today we will celebrate Shibazakura, moss phlox, whose name translates as ‘grass cherry’, at Japan’s largest Shibazakura festival called “Fuji Shibazakura Matsuri”. The festival gives insight into real Mount Fuji beauty as well as the natural beauty of Japan in spring. Approximately 800,000 Shibazakura, covering 2.4 hectares of land, burst into life and carpet the ground in shades of pink and white.
Later we visit the excellent Itchiku Kubota Art Museum devoted to kimono artist Itchiku Kubota. With a panoramic view of Itchiku’s beloved Mount Fuji, the museum permanently showcases some of his artistic creations and invites visitors to discover the artist who created them.
There is also an opportunity for us to take a ride on Kachikachi-yama Ropeway. The gondolas take us to the hilltop with breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 6 Fri 12 May Kawaguchiko-Matsumoto-Takayama
Today we will travel to Matsumoto and visit the impressive fortress – Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan’s most visually stunning castle completed in 1593 and one of the twelve complete original castles still in existence in Japan. Matsumoto Castle was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodelled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains.
Continue by coach to Takayama, for a two night stay. (Breakfast)

Day 7 Sat 13 May Takayama
Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of Takayama Old Town, and the Kusakabe Folkcraft Museum, including the cultural heart of the town, and the morning market. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse.
Tonight enjoy a Hida beef dinner. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 8 Sun 14 May Takayama-Kanazawa
Travel by coach to Kanazawa, stopping en route in the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village and Gokayama. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Here we will see a fairy tale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields.
We will stay in Kanazawa for two nights. (Breakfast)

Day 9 Mon 15 May Kanazawa
Today we are off to Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, one of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan. The Japanese say Kenroku-en means having six factors: spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, water courses and a magnificent view, and they are right!
Nomura Family House shows us just how the Samurai would have lived in times past. It evokes a sense of what old Japan and, best of all, its exquisite gardens might have been like. It is an absolute joy. Many of us will be inspired by the imaginative opportunities that could apply even to our own backyards.
We also visit Higashi Chaya district, a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha have been entertaining people since the Edo period. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Tue 16 May Kanazawa-Okayama
Travel by bullet train to Okayama.
We will wander through the Bikan area of Kurashiki, a time warp into ancient feudal times. With a distinct and stunningly beautiful architectural design, you’ll see a central canal crossed by traditional curved bridges, and lined by fascinating shops, eateries and museums.
Overnight in Okayama. (Breakfast)

Day 11 Wed 17 May Okayama-Naoshima Island-Okayama
In the morning, as a change of pace, we take a day excursion to the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima Island, home to a collection of some of the world’s most inspiring art, architecture and outdoor sculptures.
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, our visit to the Lee Ufan and Cichu Art Museums is akin to a spiritual experience; the synergy between art, nature and architecture is exquisite.
Return to Okayama for overnight. (Breakfast)

Day 12 Thu 18 May Okayama-Kyoto
After breakfast we will explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Then we cross the Asahi River to view the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour.
In the afternoon we travel by bullet train to Kyoto where we will stay for 4 nights. (Breakfast)

Day 13 Fri 19 May Kyoto
After breakfast, we visit the garden of Saiho-ji Temple, acclaimed by many as Kyoto’s most beautiful garden. It is especially famous for its moss garden.
Then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. This UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto encourages contemplation while enjoying the simplicity of carefully arranged boulders amidst raked pebbles that resemble ripples of the sea.
It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! This Buddhist temple’s main buildings is famous for its top two floors completely covered in gold leaf overlooking a pond and surrounded by a beautiful garden. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 14 Sat 20 May Kyoto
A more relaxing day. We head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest.
Later we will experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, one of the most well-known temples in Japan. (Breakfast)

Day 15 Sun 21 May Kyoto
Today is at your leisure. You may decide to enjoy the excellent shopping in Kyoto, or visit more of the city’s many sights.
Enjoy our special farewell dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 16 Mon 22 May Kyoto-Tokyo-Sydney
Transfer to airport for flight to Tokyo and connect your overnight flight home. (Breakfast)

Day 17 Tue 23 May Arrive Sydney
Arrive Sydney in the morning.
To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Autumn Colours of Japan

Autumn Colours of Japan

– Classical and contemporary gardens of northern Japan with Helen Young

On this unique tour to Hokkaido and northern Honshu, discover a colourful panorama of classical Japanese gardens and contemporary garden design during the glorious autumn season.

Somewhat akin to Australia’s Tasmania, Hokkaido is less populated than the rest of Japan, boasts a sophisticated capital Sapporo, features a rugged landscape and has its own distinctive outdoors culture. Over a week here, follow the ‘Hokkaido Garden Path’, explore exciting contemporary gardens, stay in a hot spring resort in the mountains and marvel at the beauty of the changing season all around you.

On the main island of Honshu, at Matsushima Bay and in Tokyo, you will discover some of Japan’s most famous classical gardens, ranging from ancient temple gardens to the much-loved Japanese ‘strolling garden’ and the gardens of the Imperial Palace. Throughout, discover the unique Japanese aesthetic of gardens, art and the changing seasons.

 

AT A GLANCE…

Marvel at the grand palaces of Lisbon and atmospheric Sintra and admire the sweeping Villar d’Allen, Aveleda and Palheiro estates (‘quintas’)
Enjoy exclusive, locally-guided visits to a number of private gardens and estates
Leisurely explore the charming cities of Lisbon, Porto and Funchal
Attend Madeira’s famous annual flower festival and discover the island’s quaint mountain villages and farmers’ markets
Savour local Portuguese wines and unique regional cuisines

 

ITINERARY

SUNDAY 01 OCT 2017 / AUSTRALIA – SAPPORO
Morning departure from Sydney on Japan Airlines to Tokyo (same-day connections ex-MEL, BNE, CBR. Previous day connections ex-PER, ADL, DRW). Late afternoon arrival and transfer to an evening flight* (2 hr) to Sapporo.
Late evening arrival at your hotel in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido and Japan’s fifth largest city. Sapporo is famous for its ramen (noodles), beer and the annual snow festival held in February. Designed by European and American architects in the late 19th century, Sapporo is shaped by its wide grid of tree-lined streets and ample public parks. The city became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were held here.

*This flight is included if booking the tour including flights. If booking the tour without flights, you must add the cost of this flight – please check with Renaissance Tours for flight details and costs.

MON 02 OCT / SAPPORO
Your exploration of Sapporo begins at Odori Park, filled with sculptures, fountains, lilac, acacia plants and flowerbeds. See the Sapporo Clock Tower and the former Hokkaido government office building (1881), known as ‘Red Brick’, and finish with a visit to the summit of Mt Moiwa, accessed by a cable car, offering a magnificent view over the city.

Following a welcome lunch, enjoy your first taste of Hokkaido’s famous autumn colours during an afternoon walk in the Sculpture Garden of the Sapporo Art Park, set on a beautiful green hillside with a sprawling collection of 75 contemporary artworks by Japanese and international artists. (BL)

TUE 03 OCT / SAPPORO
Today begins with a visit to the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, which features works by Hokkaido-associated painters and sculptors, an acclaimed collection of glassworks ranging from Art Nouveau to the Modern period and works by the ‘School of Paris’ painters including Jules Pascin.

After lunch, spend the afternoon in the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens. Established in 1886, the Botanic Garden preserves a small part of the forest which formerly covered the Ishikari Plain. In addition, there is an alpine garden, a greenhouse and a small Ainu museum. (BL)

WED 04 OCT / SAPPORO – TOKACHI
Depart Sapporo for a morning’s drive to the largely rural region of Tokachi. Here you join the ‘Hokkaido Garden Path’, a 200 km garden tour route stretching from Tokachi through Furano to Asahikawa in the centre of the island.

Arriving around midday, enjoy lunch followed by a visit to Tokachi Hills garden, surrounded by three different types of garden: a colourful border garden, an English-style garden and the natural native untouched wildflowers of Tokachi.

Continue to Manabe Garden, famous as the first conifer garden in Japan but also featuring many species of colourful deciduous trees.
Late afternoon arrival at your hotel in Obihiro, your base for the next three nights. (BLD)

THU 05 OCT / TOKACHI
Today enjoy three very different garden experiences.
Begin with a visit to ‘Taishirou’s Forest’, a ‘wild garden’ full of flowers and plants that particularly bloom in Japan’s north. Continue to Rokka-no Mori, which displays the six flower varieties of Tokachi (Gentiana triflora, Sweetbrier, Trillium camschatcense, Erythronium japonicum, and Caltha palustris var. barthei) which blossom through the seasons. Throughout the garden are scattered old, rustic houses brought from Croatia that serve as art museums.

Finish with a visit to Oomori Country Garden, the creation of a garden-designer couple who now provide seedlings to other popular gardens and garden designers in Japan. Many kinds of indigenous and imported flowers bloom throughout the year from spring to autumn. (BL)

FRI 06 OCT / TOKACHI
Today is devoted to a full-day visit to the Tokachi Millennium Forest. Designed by Dan Pearson, the internationally-renowned British garden designer, the Tokachi Millennium Forest was created under the theme of a Hokkaido garden that is harmonised with nature. The garden involves four concepts: the Earth Garden that features undulated grassland and magnificent views; the Forest Garden, where one can feel the life of flowers and plants; the Meadow Garden, boasting beautiful scenery of well-known Tokachi flowers and plants, and the Farm Garden with its theme of agriculture coexisting with nature. Expect a blaze of autumn colours in the stunning natural and cultivated landscapes. (BD)

SAT 07 OCT / TOKACHI – SOUNKYO HOT SPRING
Depart the Tokachi region for the Daisetsuzan National Park located in the mountainous centre of the island.
On the way, stop for lunch and a visit to Daisetsu Mori-no Garden. Overlooking the Daisetsu mountain range, Daisetsu Mori-no Garden is a ‘forest garden with flowers, where more than 700 kinds of flowers bloom throughout the year.
Late afternoon arrival at Sounkyo Hot Springs, a resort town in Daisetsuzan National Park, surrounded by towering mountains, waterfalls and gorges. A ski resort through the winter, Sounkyo is famous for its vivid autumn colours. (BLD)

SUN 08 OCT / SOUNKYO HOT SPRING
This morning take the Ropeway up Mount Kurodake, one of the earliest spots in Japan to see autumn colours, which typically appear at the beginning of September around the mountain peak. In the upper elevations the colours are usually best in the second half of September and then slowly make their way down to the valley floor by around mid-October.

The Ropeway takes you up to the 5th Station of Mt Kurodake at an altitude of 1, 300 m. Fit tour members may choose to continue by chair lift and a steep 60-90 minute climb to the summit (1, 964 m) which rewards walkers with views into the interior of the Daisetsuzan mountains.

The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the hot springs or many gentle walks from the resort. (BD)

MON 09 OCT / SOUNKYO HOT SPRING – SAPPORO
Depart Sounkyo Hot Spring resort for a leisurely day’s drive back to Sapporo.
In the morning, stop to visit Ueno Farm, modelled on an English country-style garden, featuring hardy perennials that have been rearranged to suit the Hokkaido climate. Ueno Farm is the creation of renowned Japanese garden designer Saluki Ueno.

Later, stop to visit Moerenuma Park, a large, contemporary (2005) park on the outskirts of Sapporo designed by American-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. On the concept of “the whole being a single sculpture” and the park as a fusion of nature and art, Moerenuma is a park for all seasons with cherry blossoms in the spring, a fountain and wading pools for the summer, colourful foliage in the autumn and cross-country skiing and sledding during winter.

Late afternoon arrival and overnight in Sapporo. (BLD)

TUE 10 OCT / SAPPORO – SENDAI – MATSUSHIMA
This morning transfer to Sapporo Airport for a midday flight* to Sendai and continue to nearby Matsushima for a stay of three nights. Matsushima is famous for the stunning natural beauty of its bay, historic temples and superb gardens.

*This flight is included if booking the tour including flights. If booking the tour without flights, you must add the cost of this flight – please check with Renaissance Tours for flight details and costs. (BD)
WED 11 OCT / MATSUSHIMA
This morning, visit Shiogama, a large Shinto shrine complex believed to be over 1,200 years old and the protector of fishermen and safe childbirth. The shrine contains a wealth of history and fifteen of its buildings, which were built during the Edo Period, have been declared important cultural treasures. Famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring (over 300 cherry trees are planted around its grounds) Shiogama is equally beautiful in the autumn.

After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a cruise around the islands of Matsushima Bay. Some 260 islands, large and small, covered by black and red pines and light grayish-coloured rocks, are scattered throughout the picturesque bay. The view of Matsushima changes from place to place and from season to season, and the area has been designated as one of the three most scenic sites of Japan. (BL)

THU 12 OCT / MATSUSHIMA
This morning you will visit the Zuiganji and Entsuin temples. Founded in 828, Zuiganji is one of the region’s most famous and prominent Zen temples. In addition to its historic buildings and art museum, the temple grounds feature a magnificent avenue of cedar trees, a number of caves that were used in the past for meditation and lovingly tended gardens for strolling, admiration and contemplation.

Entsuin Temple was built in 1646 next to Zuiganji Temple, to house the mausoleum of Date Mitsumune, the son of the ruling local feudal lord Date Terumune. The temple grounds feature a variety of traditional Japanese garden styles including a moss and maple garden with a heart-shaped pond, a Western-style rose garden, a moss and rock garden and a cedar grove for meditation at the back of the temple grounds.
The afternoon is at leisure to further marvel at Matsushima Bay, spend more time in the gardens, visit the local fish market or simply enjoy the leisure facilities of your resort-style hotel. (BD)

FRI 13 OCT / MATSUSHIMA – TOKYO
Depart Matsushima for a visit to the Rinnoji Temple, Sendai. The temple was founded in 1441 by Date Mochimune, a member of the Date clan that later controlled large parts of northern Japan in the Edo Period. The exquisite inner gardens, with their strolling paths, ponds and bridges, well-tended trees, flowers and plants, and a three-storied pagoda are a perfect example of the Japanese skill of recreating a landscape in miniature.

After lunch at a local restaurant, take the Shinkansen (‘bullet train’) from Sendai to Tokyo (2 hours). (BL)

SAT 14 OCT / TOKYO
Your exploration of the gardens of Tokyo begins with a visit to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, created on the grounds of the former Edo Castle, the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867 and the Emperor Meiji who resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace.

Continue to the bustling Asakusa District. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s most popular and famous Buddhist temple, dating back to the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs.

Finish with a visit to Rikugien Garden, often considered Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden. Built around 1700 for the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, Rikugien literally means “six poems garden” and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems. (BL)

SUN 15 OCT / TOKYO
Enjoy a morning visit to the Tokyo National Museum, located in Ueno Park.
The Tokyo National Museum, established in 1872, is the oldest Japanese national museum, the largest art museum in Japan and one of the largest art museums in the world. Designated in 1873, Ueno Park was the first public park in Japan. Known as one of the best spots in Tokyo for cherry blossoms, Ueno is also wonderful for is autumn leaves, with brilliant maples and ginkgos everywhere.

This afternoon is at leisure to further explore Tokyo on your own. You may want to visit the Ginza shopping district or explore more of Tokyo’s parks. This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner. (BD)

MON 16 OCT / DEPART JAPAN
After a morning at leisure, transfer in the mid-afternoon to Tokyo Narita Airport for an evening departure on Japan Airlines. Overnight in flight. (B)

TUE 17 OCT / ARRIVE AUSTRALIA
Early morning arrival in Sydney and connections to MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL, PER, ADL, DRW.

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

 

OVERVIEW

If you are interested in a tour that combines ecotourism with experiencing unique local cultures and their gardens, then this tour of Yunnan is for you.

Our tour follow in the footsteps of many English, French and American plant collectors who visited Yunnan province in Southwest China during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The French plant collecting Fathers, Père Delavay and Père David, British botanists George Forrest and Kingdon Ward, and linguist and botanist American Joseph Rock came and spent many years collecting plants, and experiencing and documenting the great variety of ethnic cultures. Their names are remembered in many of our favourite garden plants, like Magnolia delavayi, Davidia involucrata and Rhododendron forrestii.

 

YUNNAN TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Wed 24 May Australia-Singapore
Fly from your capital city to Singapore.

Day 2 Thu 25 May – Singapore to Kunming
Fly to Kunming. On arrival, you will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel. Then we will visit Kunming Botanical Garden before our welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Fri 26 May – Kunming to Dali
Today we fly to Dali. After check in, we will visit Chongshen Monastery with the three tall pagodas for which Dali is famous. There are extensive Chinese gardens to explore around the pagodas. We will also take a leisurely walking tour in Dali Old Town in the evening. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Sat 27 May – Dali
Cangshan Mountain is one of the richest botanical locations on earth and was a favourite location for 19th century plant hunters, particularly for azaleas and rhododendrons which should be in peak flower. Today we will enjoy a full day scenic and botanic tour with chairlift on Cangshan Mountain. Enjoy a picnic lunch today. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 5 Sun 28 May – Dali
Today we will take a different chairlift route and enjoy a half day scenic walking tour in Cangshan Mountain. After a picnic lunch, we will travel to a local tea plantation to learn about the tea plant Camellia sinensis which is native to Yunnan Province. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6 Mon 29 May – Dali to Lijiang
Today we say Zaijian to Dali and drive by coach along the scenic road to Lijiang. Along the way we will visit the Ethnic Bai village and take stops for wild flowers. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 7 Tue 30 May – Lijiang
After breakfast, we leave our hotel to visit the Yuhu Village. Situated at the foot of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yuhu Village is the last Naxi minority village of the valley. We will call at the house (which is now a museum) of renowned plant hunter Joseph Rock, who lived here for many years collecting plants and studying the Naxi people. We will also explore the flora (including roses, rhododendrons, pieris and primulas) at the base of the famous Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. This magnificent mountain is the southernmost in the Northern Hemisphere that is snow-capped year round. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 8 Wed 31 May – Lijiang
Today we will visit the Black Dragon Pool Park with its stunning mountain back drop. The pool itself is of the proportions of a lake, complete with bridge, willow-lined causeways, traditional pavilions and ornamental plantings. Then we visit the Mu’s Mansion with its magnificent Penjing collection (the Chinese equivalent of Bonsai), terraced on the side of Lion Hill. In the afternoon, we will pay a visit to the Yufeng Lamasery to see, amongst other things, the 10,000-flower camellia and ancient michelias. (Breakfast)

Day 9 Thu 01 June – Lijiang
Today is at your leisure for shopping and individual exploration. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Fri 02 June – Lijiang to Tiger Leaping Gorge
After breakfast, it’s a spectacular drive alongside the Yangtze to the awesome Tiger Leaping Gorge. With a drop of 3900 metres it is said to be the world’s deepest gorge. Overnight at Tina’s Guest House at Travertine Pools Town. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 11 Sat 03 June – Tiger Leaping Gorge-Shangri-La
Today we will visit the breathtaking geological phenomena – White Water Terrace. Besides being a beautifully scenic spot, the White Water Terrace is also the birthplace of Dongba culture of the Naxi Minority Group. Later we continue travel to Shangri-La. Along the way we will make numerous flora stops. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 12 Sun 04 June – Shangri-La
Today in Shangri-La we will get used to the high altitude and visit Sunsanling Monastery, a large complex of Tibetan Buddhism built in 1679, set beside a beautiful lake, a haven for local water birds that we will explore. In the afternoon, there is a visit to the Napa Lake to see yaks grazing amongst the wildflower meadows. (Breakfast)

Day 13 Mon 05 June – Shangri-La to Deqin
A long but exciting day’s drive by the Upper Yangtze Gorge along the Yunnan-Tibet road with spectacular scenery via Baima Pass to Deqin. The Baima nature reserve is the highest reserve in China and an area for alpine medicinal plants and flowers. We pass the reserve on our way to Deqin and stop to walk amongst the spectacular scenery. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14 Tue 06 June – Deqin
We drive to the base of Kawakarpo Mountain to Meilungtse Village and walk to the base of its glacier on foot, this is a strenuous experience but it is well worth it to explore the wildflowers and Buddhist culture. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 15 Wed 07 June – Deqin
Today we will continue to explore the Tibetan Buddhist culture and botanical riches of Baima Mountain with a series of short walks visiting a unique local village and small monastery. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 16 Thu 08 June – Deqin to Shangri-La
After breakfast, we start our return journey to Shangri-La, stopping at the craftsmen’s village of Nixi Valley. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 17 Fri 09 June – Shangri-La to Kunming to Singapore
This morning we transfer to airport for flight to Kunming. Upon arrival, we will visit the Daoist Golden Temple and the famous Flower and Bird Market. Later we transfer back to the airport for our Singapore Airlines flight home. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 18 Sat 10 June – Arrival in Australia

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Japanese and South Korean Spring Gardens and Culture Cruise

Japanese and South Korean Spring Gardens and Culture Cruise

 

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrive Tokyo
Depart Tokyo Narita International Airport at 10:00am or the New Otani Hotel Tokyo at 11:30am to explore Tokyo.
Visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens, and the Meiji Shrine and grounds.
This evening, settle in to your accommodation in Tokyo.
Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel or similar

Day 2. Tokyo to Kanazawa
Today you will take a bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, known for its lacquer ware, collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. Board your ship and enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Eleven Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BLD)

Day 3. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden
This morning depart from the port and visit Omicho Market that sells and displays everything from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Afterwards visit one of Japan’s premier highlights and the famed Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens.
This afternoon immerse yourself in Kanazawa culture with a visit to Higashi Chaya Gai Geisha District, where still remains the traditional form of the town which traces back to Samurai Era. You will also view other handcrafted items famous in Kanazawa such as the Kimono and Golden Leaf. (BLD)

Day 4. Yuushien Garden and Matsue
This morning visit Matsue, known as the ‘Town of Water’, which nestles a scenic lake and lagoon. Visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles remaining in Japan today. Admire the graceful exterior of the complex structure, then take the opportunity to explore the interior, and its magnificent views of Lake Shinji
This afternoon visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a real flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for growing ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 5. Hagi
This morning we visit Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets; the Hagi Castle ruins; Shizuki Park; and Tokoji Temple Japan’s revolution began here in Jokamachi’s old Samurai residential quarter, where we will tour a Samurai’s home. We will also visit the historic Daisho Temple, the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo a family of powerful and territorial pre-modern Japanese lords and all of the even-numbered daimyo. This traditional temple is located on Mount Mison, considered a holy mountain, on the island of Itsukushima. Inside, you will find a flame that is said to have been burning for some 1,200 years. (BLD)

Day 6. Pusan, South Korea
Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, a World Heritage-listed site often described as the world’s finest open-air museum. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s heritage dates back to the first millennium. As we stroll through some of the numerous excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum, with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies followed by a special cultural performance of traditional dance. (BLD)

Day 7. Dejima Island and Nagasaki
This morning explore Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden.
This afternoon visit Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to house Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku isolation Period for 200 years, until Japan reopened to the world. (BLD)

Day 8. Yakushima Island
Today we arrive on the island of Yakushima, which became Japan’s first World Heritage-listed site in 1993. Yakushima is famous in botanical circles for many great garden plants, including dwarf plants that have evolved to grow smaller than their mainland cousins. We will spend time here on nature walks, including Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi and Sennensugi. (BLD)

Day 9. Uwajima, Freedom of Choice
Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. Today you have two choices, Uwajima is the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre, learn the process of cultivating and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm before continuing on to Tensha-en Garden which is a typical example of a Japanese garden built during the Samurai era. Alternatively explore Uwajima Castle and Tensha-en Garden. (BLD)

Day 10. Miyajima and Hiroshima
Arrive in Hiroshima to visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph that contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb. Return to the ship for lunch, then continue on to Miyajima.
Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture-postcard vista of the scarlet Torii Gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will go ashore to explore the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. (BLD)

Day 11. Takamatsu and Ritsurin Park
Today tour the stunning city of Takamatsu on Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese Islands. We will journey over the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. Next visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours and Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion. (BLD)
Day 12. Okayama Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki
This morning, we will visit Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s most significant gardens – the name meaning ‘garden of pleasure after’. Visit a classic Japanese teahouse with views over the garden. After a local lunch, continue to Kurashiki, where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses. The beautiful houses are painted white with traditional black tiles, and are situated along a canal framed with weeping willows. This evening enjoy a Farewell Dinner on board the ship. (BLD)

Day 13. Kobe to Kyoto
Arrive this morning into Kobe where you will be transferred from the ship to Kyoto. Kyoto was the former Imperial Capital of Japan and is now ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Soak up the tranquil natural beauty of this peaceful place. Visit the rock garden masterpiece of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design. Afterwards enjoy a city sightseeing tour including the Gion District – where the world-famous Geisha reside.
Stay: Kyoto, Granvia Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 14. Depart Kyoto
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

 

The MS Caledonian Sky

Botanica has elevated adventure travel to a new standard. With 57 suites and just 100 travellers, the MS Caledonian Sky is designed for intimate small groups with the décor of a grand English country hotel, while our crew of 75 will assure personalised attention.

 

Japanese Spring Blooms

Embark on a voyage of horticultural discovery of this fascinating region during the first flourish of spring. This remarkable season brings a myriad of spectacular blooms and bursts of colour from tree peonies, Japanese azaleas and peach blossoms. Venture along the historic shores of Japan, exploring ancient castles, peaceful gardens and opulent temples. Take in the colourful hues of the plum, apricot and peach blossoms that colour the streets, parks and temple gardens, providing a vivid display for us to enjoy.

 

Highlights

•  Learn about the history of Japan during onboard lectures
•  Tour the Imperial Palace Gardens and Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
•  Travel by Bullet train from central Tokyo to Kanazawa
•  Explore Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens
•  Visit a Samurai’s home and Pearl Farm
•  See Yushien Garden, famous for growing ginseng and peonies
•  Discover Kyongju, a World Heritage-listed site in South Korea
•  Visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden famous for its spring colours
•  Travel to Yakushima, Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage-listed site
•  Visit the stunning city of Takamatsu
•  See Koraku-en Garden, the famous landscape garden of Okayama
•  Explore the majestic Western Kyoto Gardens including Kinkakuji and Ryoanji
•  Learn about Japanese plants and gardens from your Botanical Guides

 

Included

•  Services of a Cruise Director and lectures from your Botanical Guides
•  Airport transfers on first and last day, tipping and port taxes
•  37 Meals – 13 Breakfasts 12 Lunches and 12 Dinners
•  Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board the ship
•  11 nights on the small ship, the MS Caledonian Sky, which holds a maximum of 100 passengers
•  1 night each in Tokyo and Kyoto in 4-5 star hotels
•  Enjoy coastal views from your suite
•  On board lectures by the Expedition Team and Botanical Guides

 

Great Gardens of China: From Classical to Contemporary

Great Gardens of China: From Classical to Contemporary

– with Genevieve Jacobs

 

This fascinating tour explores centuries of Chinese culture through the lens of gardens, landscapes and art. From the great gardens of the Ming and Qing dynasties to cutting-edge artistic innovations of the 21st century, China is a unique civilisation where the old and new coexist in surprising, dynamic harmony.

Designed with the garden-lover in mind, this tour will also appeal to anyone interested in China’s long and rich cultural history as well as the extraordinary changes taking place there currently. From the bustling cities of Shanghai and Beijing to the serene ‘garden capital’ of Suzhou and the striking jagged granite peaks of the Yellow Mountains, discover the Chinese traditions of garden design, along with stunning historical sights, dramatic scenery, and traditional and contemporary art and architecture.

China has long been a source of inspiration to horticulturists, artists and adventurers. Now let this captivating destination inspire you too!

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Explore the exquisite gardens, fine museums and cutting-edge art and architecture of Shanghai and Beijing
• Take time to discover the captivating gardens, pagodas, stone bridges and temples of Suzhou, China’s ‘garden capital’
• Enjoy the scenic lakeside ancient capital of Hangzhou, loved by emperors, poets and painters alike
• Be inspired by the striking granite peaks and ancient twisted pine trees of the World Heritage-listed Yellow Mountains
• Take advantage of a post-tour trip to Chengde and visit the world’s largest existing imperial garden and see one of the best preserved sections of China’s Great Wall

 

ITINERARY

FRI 24 MARCH 2017 / AUSTRALIA – SHANGHAI
Suggested morning departure from Sydney on Qantas (connecting flights available ex-MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL). Suggested departure from Perth on Cathay (via Hong Kong). Evening arrival in Shanghai and transfer to your hotel. (NB. Flight not included in tour cost. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with these travel arrangements).

SAT 25 MAR / SHANGHAI
Enjoy a full-day tour of Shanghai, a city that started as a humble fishing village before becoming a thriving trading centre in the late 19th century. Included in the tour is a visit to the 400-year old Yuyuan Garden. This meticulously reconstructed garden preserves its classical beauty, and features traditional Chinese architecture, miniature lakes, bridges and rock formations. After a welcome lunch, visit the Shanghai Museum. The museum building is shaped like a bronze tripod and houses one of the world’s finest collections of ancient and modern Chinese art and artefacts. Tonight, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. (BLD)

SUN 26 MAR / SHANGHAI
Embark on a ‘contemporary express’ trip of modern Shanghai, beginning with a visit to Yuz Museum, established in 2007 by Budi Tek, a Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur, art philanthropist and collector, to promote contemporary art and artists of both Asia and the West. Visit the Power Station of Art, home to the Shanghai Biennale and the first state-run museum of contemporary Chinese art. In the afternoon, visit 50 Moganshan Road, a contemporary art district with a thriving community of more than a hundred artists and whose studios are open to the public. (BL)

MON 27 MAR / SHANGHAI – SUZHOU
After breakfast, depart for the ‘garden capital’ of Suzhou, situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and near the shores of Lake Taihu. This enchanting city is renowned for its beautiful stone bridges, pagodas and meticulously designed gardens. Following lunch and a background talk, visit the Master of the Nets Garden is the smallest of the Suzhou residential gardens, yet is considered one of the most impressive because of its use of space, creating the illusion of an area that is much greater than its actual size. (BLD)

TUE 28 MAR / SUZHOU
Visit the Garden of the Humble Administrator, the largest classical garden in Suzhou and one of the most famous gardens in China. Continue to the Suzhou New Museum, designed by the renowned American Chinese designer I. M. Pei, who spent his childhood in Suzhou. The museum, which is an extraordinary contemporary interpretation of traditional Suzhou architecture, houses over 30,000 cultural relics, most notably Ming and Qing dynasty paintings and calligraphy, and ancient arts and crafts. (BL)

WED 29 MAR / SUZHOU
This morning visit two gardens. The first, Lion Grove Garden, is reputedly the world’s only surviving rock garden, whose name is derived from the lion-shaped taihu rocks. The Lingering Garden, originally a classical private garden and now one of the four most famous gardens in China and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Laid out in typical Qing style, the garden is renowned for its magnificent buildings in various shapes, sizes and colours. During the visit, join Genevieve for a talk about Chinese gardens.

The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy Suzhou’s many other gardens and attractions. (BL)

THU 30 MAR / SUZHOU – HANGZHOU
Leave Suzhou and drive to Hangzhou, one of China’s six ancient capitals. In the afternoon, enjoy a picturesque lake cruise on the West Lake, Hangzhou’s centrepiece, and loved by emperors, poets, painters and Communist rulers alike. This is followed by a visit to Guozhuang Garden. Completed in 1861, this elegant garden villa was built as a private retreat for a wealthy Qing dynasty silk merchant. It is a fine example of Chinese aesthetics in which the man-made and natural are in harmonious balance. Dinner this evening is in the hotel restaurant (BLD)

FRI 31 MAR / HANGZHOU
This morning visit Lingyin Temple, the oldest and most influential Buddhist monastery in South-eastern China with a history of more than 1,600 years. In the afternoon, visit a couple of select contemporary art galleries. Tonight enjoy a performance of ‘Impression West Lake’. (BL)

SAT 01 APR / HANGZHOU – HUANGSHAN
Transfer by coach from Hangzhou to Huangshan (Yellow Mountains). Frequently the subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed area is well known for its striking scenery, including peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, ancient twisted pine trees, and unique cloud formations. In the afternoon, attend a talk and then visit Tunxi Old Street, lined with two- and three-storey houses displaying the 800-year old design of ‘shop in the front, and house or workshop at the back’. (BLD)

SUN 02 APR / HUANGSHAN
Enjoy a full day in the Yellow Mountains. Take a cable car from Yungu Station and visit a number of mountain peaks such as Brush Pen Peak, Begin-to-Believe Peak and Lion Peak as well as the Xihai Grand Canyon. (BLD)

MON 03 APR / HUANGSHAN – BEIJING
After a morning at leisure, transfer to the local airport for the flight to Beijing. (B,D)

TUE 04 APR / BEIJING
After a talk by your tour leader this morning, today’s city tour begins in Beijing’s geographical heart, Tiananmen Square. At over 40 hectares, Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square and has been the site of demonstrations, celebrations and political incidents for nearly a hundred years. Visit the National Museum of China, China’s largest and most comprehensive history museum including collections of decorative objects and artefacts such as bronzes, pottery, lacquer ware, jade, textiles and paintings. This afternoon visit the Red Gate Gallery, founded in 1991 by Australian Brian Wallace and is China’s first private contemporary art gallery owned and managed by a foreigner. (BL)

WED 05 APR / BEIJING
This morning visit the Imperial Palace (The Forbidden City). Dating back to the 15th century, this site is a magnificent complex of pavilions, courtyards, gates, ceremonial halls, residences, gardens and lakes. After lunch, visit Jingshan Park, a beautifully landscaped royal garden with wonderful views over the Forbidden City. End the day with a tour of the Hutong district surrounding the ancient Bell and Drum Towers, which were used to tell the time during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. (BL)

THU 06 APR / BEIJING
Visit the Summer Palace, the summer retreat of the imperial family during the Qing Dynasty. Renowned for its architectural grandeur and stunning natural beauty, a large man made lake makes up three-quarters of the total area. The afternoon is at leisure. Optional opera/music/ballet performance at the new National Centre of the Performing Arts, commonly referred to as ‘The Egg’. (Not included in tour price, additional cost applies). (BL)

FRI 07 APR / BEIJING
Explore the burgeoning contemporary art scene with a visit to Guanfu Museum, China’s first private museum and 798 Art Space, the pioneer of the contemporary art in modern China. (B)
(BLorD)

SAT 08 APR / BEIJING
Visit the Temple of Heaven, a superb example of imperial Chinese architecture. Following a special farewell lunch, today’s tour ends in the nearby Pearl Market, Beijing’s largest arts and crafts market.

Suggested travel arrangements for SYD / MEL / BNE / ADL / CBR tour members.
8.00 PM checkout and transfer to Beijing Capital Airport for departure on overnight Qantas flight to Sydney.
(BL)

SUN 09 APR / DEPART BEIJING
Mid-morning arrival in Sydney (connecting flights available to MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL).

Suggested travel arrangements for PER tour members.
After breakfast tour arrangements conclude with a private transfer to the airport for departure on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. Late evening arrival in Perth.
(B)

China Luoyang Peony Cultural Festival 中国洛阳牡丹文化节

Many consider the peony to be the most beautiful flower in the world – even ahead of the rose. Luoyang, in Henan Province in northern China (about 400km east of Xi’an) is considered to be the place in China where the best peonies grow. The history of Luoyang’s association with the peony date back to the Sui and Tang dynasties, covering the years from 618 to 907 CE.

The China Luoyang Peony Cultural Festival (中国洛阳牡丹文化节) began in 1983 and has become one of China’s most important national festivals, attracting hundreds of thousands of local Chinese tourists as well many international tourists wanting to delight in all things peony.

While at Luoyang, you can see peonies in a wide range of colours from white through to the deepest purple as well as many different sizes and forms, including singles, doubles, bi-colours and even huge blooms up to 20cm+ (8 inches) in diameter!

Luoyang has a number of large parks and botanical gardens dedicated to growing this beautiful flowering plant that open for the peony festival, including Wangcheng Park, the China National Flower Garden, the National Peony Garden, Luoyang International Peony Garden, Shenzou Peony Garden and the Sui and Tang Ruins Dynasties Botanical Garden.

To satisfy the large number of visitors, most are open from first light (6am) until at least 7pm (19:00). Peony blooms should be at their peak during the middle two weeks of April.

You can access Luoyang by high speed train from Beijing which takes 4 to 4.5 hours, or from Xi’an (home of the terracotta warriors), a 2 hour train trip.

 

Chelsea Fringe – the alternative garden festival

Chelsea Fringe

 

Chelsea Fringe begin on Saturday 20 May and runs until 4 June 2017, at a host of different venues and settings across England and Scotland plus events in various locations around the world.

Building on the success of the previous Chelsea Fringe festivals, it will feature a wonderful mixture of public spectacles, horticultural happenings and community celebrations.

The Fringe is all about harnessing and spreading some of the excitement and energy that fizzes around gardens and gardening. The idea is to give people the freedom and opportunity to express themselves through the medium of plants and gardens, to open up possibilities and to allow full participation.

Entirely independent of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (though acting with its support), the Fringe explodes out of the showground geographically, demographically and conceptually. Its events encompass everything from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. Our open-access principle means that just about anything goes – as long as it’s interesting and legal, and on the subject of gardens, flowers, veg-growing or landscape.

Autumn & The Art of the Japanese Garden

Autumn & The Art of the Japanese Garden

 

Itinerary

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

Day 1: Wednesday 8 November, Arrive Tokyo

Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Welcome Evening Meal
After our arrival at Narita Airport those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks.

After time to rest at the hotel, we shall embark on an afternoon program. We begin with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We will enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyoen, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

We then visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa-korakuen was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we will find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

Tonight we enjoy a welcome evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

Day 2: Thursday 9 November, Tokyo

Suntory Museum of Art
Happoen Garden
Welcome Lunch at Happoen Gardens Teahouse
Residence ‘R’ with Riccardo Tossani
The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the Museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3,000-piece collection containing one National Treasure and 12 Important Cultural Properties among its priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the Museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happoen garden lives up to its name. Following a farewell lunch at the garden’s delightful tea house, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200 year old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

Our final visit today is to a private Tokyo residence designed by architect Ricardo Tossani who will personally show us his work, explaining the concepts and influences. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

Day 3: Friday 10 November, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Tokyo National Museum
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which include more than 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings. The museum’s collections focus on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road but there is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

During our travels we will encounter many traditional and historic temples and explored the variety of gardens that play such an important role in the complex. Today we will have the opportunity to visit a contemporary temple – the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple. This is a newly built modern temple in the lively heart of Tokyo. Here we will see the skill by which the architects have utilised the precious space available, and how the traditional components of a temple complex have been reinterpreted in a contemporary structure. In place of a small stroll garden using moss or stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis. (Overnight Tokyo) B

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

Day 4: Sunday 11 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en Garden
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mt Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776m. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826 – 1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en Garden, a spacious Japanese style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There is a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several tea houses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Kyoto’s old Tomyoji Temple.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1,000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Matsumoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

Matsumoto – 2 nights

Day 5: Sunday 12 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, and from here we can enjoy a spectacular view of the snow-capped peak (weather permitting). A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region of Japan.

We then focus upon Matsumoto and its surrounds for the next two days. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat.

Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

Day 6: Monday 13 November, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Narai
Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and three of them, Narai, Tsumago and Magone, have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

At Narai we see distinctive wooden buildings with window shutters and renji-goshi latticework. We shall visit the Kashira-ningyo where colourfully painted dolls and toys are still made. Nakamura House dates from the 1830s and was the home of a merchant who manufactured combs, one of the area’s specialties. You will have time to visit this and explore side streets where there are temples and shrines and the famous Kiso-no-Ohashi, an arched wooden bridge that crosses the Narai-gawa.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay.

Our final village stop is Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the Museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when traveling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600 –1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighborhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

Kanazawa – 1 night

Day 7: Tuesday 14 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura Samurai Residence
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano where we shall board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa, considered one Japan’s best-preserved Edo-period cities. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Prefectural Arts Museum & Craft Centre located at the edge of the gardens and designed to harmonise with its landscape. The museum was established to showcase the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of its collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique and a huge range of Kutani porcelain collection from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani). The museum also exhibits works by numerous ‘living national treasures’ whose works relate in some way to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era. We shall visit the Nomura Samurai Family Residence to develop fort a Samurai’s daily life was like during the feudal period. The garden inside the Nomura Residence has trees that are over 400 years old as well as various beautiful lanterns.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

Kyoto – 3 nights

Day 8: Wednesday 15 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling house survive from the original construction.

Kenrokuen Garden is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Korakuen (Okayama) and Kairakuen (Mito). Kenrokuen was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenrokuen, a name that means, ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south the Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (circa 794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional tea houses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings including tea houses where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 9: Thursday 16 November, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358 – 1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold, now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ distant a view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

After lunch we continue to Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways.

The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Koto-in, Koho-an, Hogo and the most famed of Kyoto’s gardens, Ryogen-in – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 10: Friday 17 November, Kyoto

Renge-ji Temple
Shisen-do Temple
Teppan-yaki lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji, a diminutive garden that captures the essence of Japanese gardens with a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

Shisen-do is an intimate garden, of personal taste rather ostentatious public display. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583–1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the teppan-yaki grill at the Grand Prince Hotel’s Beaux Sejours restaurant we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435–1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji, and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

Nara – 1 night

Day 11: Saturday 18 November, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isuien Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it neverheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia. Your visit will be a truly amazing experience.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit for the day is to the small Isuien garden, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou on Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

Kyoto – 3 nights

Day 12: Sunday 19 November, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple
Horyu-ji Temple
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture, and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple was built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komyo as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji Temple house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid 6th – beginning of 8th c.AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 13: Monday 20 November, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji Temple
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji. It dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339) who commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi, one of Japan’s best known garden designers who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji Temple has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the Tenryu-ji garden in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. By contrast we will visit a Japanese electrical store where you will see Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 14: Tuesday 21 November, Kyoto

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868–1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Matsue – 1 night

Day 15: Wednesday 22 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue

Kourakuen Garden
Today we depart Kyoto and travel to Okayama where we will visit another of the country’s so-called ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, Kourakuen. This garden dates from the Edo period when the daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered its construction in 1687. Completed in 1700, it has retained its overall appearance with only a few minor changes made over the centuries. The garden was used for entertaining guests, and also as a retreat for the diamyo.

In the afternoon we travel to Matsue where we shall enjoy a Farewell evening meal. (Overnight Matsue) BD

Day 16: Thursday 23 November, Depart Matsue

Adachi Museum of Art
Our last visit for the tour is the Adachi Museum of Art, located in the rural landscape of the Sinmane region. This is a contemporary art museum set within a large garden, considered by many to one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The museum was founded by Adachi Zenko who felt a strong resonance between the sublime sensibility of the Japanese-style garden and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan whose work he collected. This is a contemplation garden which visitors observe from various carefully designed points within the museum. Each season reveals itself through different aspects of the garden, and during our visit we can expect the hills that form the backdrop to the vista before us to be a blaze of autumnal colour while vivid reds enliven the foliage of the garden.

After lunchtime at leisure we will transfer to Matsue Airport for our flights home.

Garden Tours to China – find and compare

TEA TOUR OF CHINA WITH STEPHEN CARROLL

 

Once again Australian On-line tea company Tea Total and China’s foremost professional tour company Easy Tour China bring you the Tea Tour of China for 2016.

Forget the “get on get off” coach tour. This experience will immerse you in tea culture and production in areas and with people that other tours never reach. This Tea Tour has been developed personally by Tea Total and Easy Tour China over many years. The tea farmers and artists we visit are now our friends and we want to introduce them to you. This tour will take you to places that are not seen by any other group.

This tour is aimed at the tea professional and serious amateur alike. All major tea areas are covered from an agricultural, processing and production view and also the cultural and local mores that locate tea as the special and unique phenomenon that it is. As each tea needs to be appreciated for its special qualities you will learn the essentials and more to good tea brewing from across China.

We also take the opportunity to include special cultural experiences local to where we are visiting. This ensures that we capitalise on your journey and give you glimpses of Chinese life.

The complete tour is escorted with Tea Total Tea Master Stephen Carroll and local Easy Tour China English speaking guides with a knowledge and interest in Chinese tea and tea culture.

Group size is kept small to allow personal interaction, education and experience to make this a remarkable tour. The small size also means we may respond to particular requests from guests.

Once you experience our Tea Tour you will understand why we are so proud.

What some of our past guests have said:

Tea Total’s Tea Tour of China is an extraordinary, up-close and personal adventure into all the main tea-producing areas. Led by two extremely knowledgeable (and fun!) tea and travel experts who are joined by local guides, the tour exceeded all my expectations!
Candice.

As far as I’m concerned the Tea Tour China 2015 was a resounding success. Being able to sample yancha in Wuyishan, phoenix oolong in Guangdong and puerh in Yunnan was extraordinary. Highly recommended.”
Richard.

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Sat 11-June-16
Arrival / Xi’an. Your own arrangements for travel to Xi’an. Easy Tour China will assist if requested.
Program: Be met at the airport and transfer to your hotel for check in.
Evening: Meet with your fellow travelers and hear about the tour.
Xi’an is an undiscovered delight and the home of Fu Cha fermented tea. You will visit the Fu Cha factory and tea shops and learn about this unique tea. This ancient city needs exploring and our hotel is located right inside the old city walls. Xi’an began the Norther Tea Horse Road transporting tea to Russia and into Europe.
Accommodation (4*): 3 nights.

Day 2 Sun 12-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an
Program: In the morning transfer to join the Tea Expo. After lunch, visit Ancient City Wall, Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Muslim Quarters.

Day 3 Mon 13-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an
Program: In the morning visit The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. In the afternoon, enjoy your free time at leisure in this ancient city, or taste tea with us in the many Tea Houses of Xi’an.

Day 4 Tue 14-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an / Hangzhou
Program: In the morning, transfer (2hrs drive) to visit Famen Temple, you will see the excavated tea sets which were made circa 868-871AD. In the afternoon, transfer (1.5hrs drive) to visit Jingwei Fu Tea Factory. Have dinner, and then transfer to airport for night flight to Hangzhou. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in.
Accommodation (4*): 3 nights.

Day 5 Wed 15-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou.
Program: After breakfast, visit the Old Street with a Traditional Tea House still using the long spout tea pot the tea server is often called a Tea Doctor. Visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbal) Pharmacy and then a traditional umbrella shop. In the afternoon, visit the traditional Arts and Crafts precinct followed by a cruise on the Grand Canal and then visit The Great Canal Museum. In the evening, enjoy the spectacular West Lake Water Show, this is a traditional Chinese story based on the “Tale of the White Snake”.

Day 6 Thu 16-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou.
Program: After breakfast, visit the world famous Tea Museum and Tea Research Center, Travel to the Longjin Tea Farms, taste and learn about this famous tea visit and the famous Dragon Well spring still used today for its high quality water.

Day 7 Fri 17-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou / Huangshan
Program: Pick up at the hotel and transfer to Huangshan (3.5hrs). Check in at hotel and later visit Tunxi Old Street. Sample tea at the many traditional tea shops, visit calligraphy and painting shops and other sites of cultural interest. There are special teas in this area as it is near to the Keemun Black tea producing areas, also many Oolongs of original production methods.
Accommodation (4*): 2 nights

Day 8 Sat 18-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning, visit the Base of Huangshan Maofeng Green Tea and participate in the tea-making process. In the afternoon we visit to Qiyun Taoist Mountain, ‘Cloud High Mountain’, one of the four sacred mountains of Taoism. Here we shall spend time with a Taoist tea monk to learn something of the Taoist culture and the importance of tea and tea production to their way of life.

Day 9 Sun 19-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning transfer to Huangshan. Huangshan is justly famous for its spectacular mountain scenery and views and is represented in many famous and historic ink paintings and scrolls. Take a cable car up to the mountain, then visit the Brush Pen Peak, Lion Peak, West Sea Grand Canyon and some other attractions. Down the mountain via Taiping cable car, transfer (1hr) to your hotel which located at Taiping Lakeside.
As we are so close to this mountain it was important to take a “Tea Break” day and experience this phenomenon of China’s cultural heritage.
Accommodation (5*): 2 nights

Day 10 Mon 20-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning a 1.5hr drive followed by a short walk to a tea production area making Taiping Houkui. The labour intensive production of this green tea assures its place as one of the Top Ten Teas of China. You will see tea plantations and processing on the way. After lunch, around 2hrs walking down the mountain through this area. Transfer back to hotel, enjoy the rest time at leisure.

Day 11 Tue 21-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan / Wuyishan
Program: Transfer to the Railway Station, take high speed train to Wuyishan (1.5hr). Be met and then visit a Rock Tea production center and other selected producers for tea tastings and education.
Accommodations (4*): 3 nights

Day 12 Wed 22-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan
Program: After breakfast we drive to the Wu Yi Mountain Reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage site has spectacular scenery and is the birthplace of rock oolong tea. We shall walk Tianyou Mountain and punt along the Nine Bends River in a bamboo raft through “Oolong Mountains and Cliffs”.

Day 13 Thu 23-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan
Program: Walk through the rock tea gardens to Dahongpao where you will see the 350 year old mother bush. In this area you will see many small tea gardens growing different tea plant varieties and cultivars for producing oolong tea. Walking on to the Great Water Curtain Cave we shall visit Qing Shi Yan and Green Lion Rock. Later we shall visit tea factories to learn about the process of oolong production and sample their teas. Evening weather permitting, you will enjoy the outdoor theatrical performance “Impressions of Dahongpao”, one of the greatest shows in China.

Day 14 Fri 24-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan / Xiamen
Program: In the morning we visit Xiamei, an ancient tea Village and part of the old Tea Horse Route. From here for centuries tea was transported north by horse up in to Russia. This is still very much a working village with many tea shops. Have lunch at the village. In the afternoon we shall visit local tea producers to learn the art and skill of tea judging and cupping. Take late afternoon flight to Xiamen. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in
Accommodation (4*): 2 nights

Day 15 Sat 25-June-16 (B, L)
Xiamen
Program: In the morning, drive about 2hrs to Anxi, and the capital of Tieguanyin. Visit Xiping Village, the home of the original Tieguanyin bush; then visit Tieguanyin Cultural Garden and a Tea Factory for the history and production methods of Tieguanyin. Later today drive back to Xiamen. Xiamen is a spectacular city that was once a Portuguese port and retains that charm and character.

Day 16 Sun 26-June-16 (B, L)
Xiamen / Nanjing
Program: Drive 3hrs to Nanjing County to visit the Earth Tower (Tulou). Building commenced in the 12-13th centuries by the Hakka people as accommodation and fortification, the largest of these can house 800 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is also a tea growing area with cultivation on the mountain slopes. Stay overnight here and experience life in the Earth Towers.
Accommodation (4*): 1 night

Day 17 Mon 27-June-16 (B, L)
Nanjing / Chaozhou
Program: In the morning, drive to Chaozhou. Be met and transfer to have lunch and then visit the Kaiyuan Temple. We shall meet and spend time with Mr Wu, Provincial Cultural Master tea pot maker at his shop and studio. Chaozhou is the birth place of Gongfucha. Chaozhou tea pots are of a particular local clay and design to allow correct brewing and enhance the flavor of the local strip oolong teas. Mr Wu also stocks a large selection of Yixing tea pots and tea wares. As Chaozhou is also a leading porcelain area this is an ideal place to look at tea wares. Visit to the floating bridge, the city wall and other local sights if time permits.
Accommodation (4*):2 nights

Day 18 Tue 28-June-16 (B, L)
Chaozhou / Phoenix Mt tea tour.
Program: Following breakfast we drive to Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang). Phoenix Mountain oolong tea are some of the most fragrant traditional oolongs still produced in China. We shall meet Mr Zheng, a renowned oolong tea farmer and processor. With him we shall spend the day learning about the farming, the processing and the tasting of these teas. Mr Zheng will take us to the original tea trees from the year 1200 (the Song Dynasty) from which many of his bushes are descended.

Day 19 Wed 29-June-16 (B, L)
Chaozhou / Guilin
Program: After breakfast take morning flight to Guilin. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in. After lunch we shall visit Mr Han junior and senior. Their knowledge of tea is unsurpassed. Sample their handcrafted teas and learn about ‘Tea In China’.
Accommodation (4*+): 2 nights

Day 20 Thu 30-June-16 (B, L)
Guilin / Yangshuo / Guilin
Program: After breakfast pick up at your hotel and drive 40mins to the Li River. Here we shall cruise for 3.5 hrs down the spectacular Li River surrounded by monumental karst mountains. We shall lunch on board. Arriving at Yangshuo we visit the local market and then drive back to Guilin (1.5hrs). Make sure you bring your tea and tea sets for drinking whilst on board.

Day 21 Fri 1-July-16 (B)
Guilin / Kunming
Program: After breakfast we shall visit a local, family run tea shop that specializes in Phoenix Mountain oolongs. Take the flight to Yunnan in the early afternoon. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in. Enjoy “Dynamic Yunnan” Show in the evening.
Accommodation (4*): 1 night

Day 22 Sat 2-July-16 (B, L)
Kunming / Jinghong
Program: After breakfast drive to the Lu Yu Tea House and Tea Culture Centre. Here we shall have a morning of introduction to Pu-er Tea culture. We shall have the opportunity to sample many types of pu-er tea and learn about this unique Chinese treasure. After lunch transfer to airport, take flight to Jinhong. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in.
Accommodation (5*): 3 nights

Day 23 Sun 3-July-16 (B, L)
Jinghong / Yiwu / Jinghong
Program: After breakfast, drive along a winding road through rubber plantation to Yiwu (4hrs). Arrive at Yiwu, walk along the Tea Horse Trail which begins in Yiwu village and goes all the way to Tibet, and see a small tea museum (opening times and days are not fixed). Visit local tea workshop where you drink tea and see the stone blocks used to press tea cakes and try your hand at pressing tea cakes. Drive up the mountains to see local aged tea trees and visit tea farmers. On the return road, visit Jinuo ethnic people and see the aged tea trees around village.

Day 24 Mon 4-July-16 (B, L)
Jinghong / Menghai / Menghun / Jinghong
Program: Drive to Menghun where we visit village of the Dai ethinic minority people, who still make paper in the traditional way with Mulberry tree bark. These products are mostly used for packing tea and tea products. Drive back to Jinghong via Mount Nannuo one of the most famous tea producing areas in Menghai. The Hani ethnic minority people have been producing tea here for 800 years and it is here we will meet the Hani and sample their tea. Return to Jinghong.
Evening: Group dinner and Big Goodbyes.
Day 25 Tue 5-July-16 (B)
Jinghong / Exit
Program: Morning transfer to airport for connecting flights to major exit cities of China. Your personal arrangements to your port of embarkation (Easy Tour China is able to assist with bookings). Don’t forget your big suitcase of memories and your head full of tea knowledge and skill!

Cherry Blossoms in Japan and South Korea Cruise

Cherry Blossoms in Japan and South Korea Cruise

 

ITIINERARY

 

Day 1. Arrive Osaka
Arrive into Osaka Airport and be met and transferred to your hotel. This evening at 6.30pm, enjoy a Welcome Dinner where you’ll have the opportunity to meet your fellow Botanica travellers.
Stay: Osaka, Imperial Hotel or similar (D)

Day 2. Kyoto and Embark Ship
This morning depart Osaka to Kyoto where we will visit the rock garden masterpiece
of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design. After lunch, transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky in Kobe. Enjoy a special dinner with the ship’s crew this evening, as we set sail for the port of Okayama.
Ten Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BLD)

Day 3. Okayama, Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki.
After breakfast this morning, we will visit Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s most significant gardens – the name meaning ‘garden of pleasure after’. Visit a classic teahouse, and experience a traditional tea ceremony. After a local lunch, continue to Kurashiki, where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses. The beautiful houses are painted white with traditional black tiles, and are situated along a canal lined with rows of majestic weeping willows. (BLD)

Day 4. Takamatsu and Ritsurin Park
Today tour the stunning city of Takamatsu on Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese Islands. We will journey over the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours. See the Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion, then visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. (BLD)

Day 5. Hiroshima and Miyajima
Arrive in Hiroshima to visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph that contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb. Return to the ship for lunch, then continue to Miyajima. Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture-postcard vista of the scarlet Torii Gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will go ashore to explore the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. (BLD)

Day 6. Uwajima
Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. We will continue to Sakiiya Square or choose to visit Dairakuji Temple. (BLD)

Day 7. Nagasaki and Dejima Island
Arrive at Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden. Continue to Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also once the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku isolation Period for 200 years, until Japan reopened to the world. (BLD)

Day 8. Pusan, South Korea
Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, in South Korea, a World Heritage-listed site often described as the world’s finest open-air museum. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s heritage dates back to the first millennium. As we stroll through some of the numerous excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum, with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and distinctive pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies and enjoy the spectacle of traditional dancers during a cultural performance. (BLD)

Day 9. Hagi
Japan’s revolution began here in Jokamachi’s old Samurai residential quarter, where we will tour a Samurai’s home. We will also visit the historic Daisho Temple, the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo a family of powerful and territorial pre-modern Japanese lords and all of the even-numbered daimyo. This traditional temple is located on Mount Mison, considered a holy mountain, on the island of Itsukushima. Inside, you will find a flame that is said to have been burning for some 1,200 years. We will also take time to explore Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets and see the Hagi Castle ruins, Shizuki Park and the Tokoji Temple. (BLD)

Day 10. Matsue and Yuushien Garden
Known as the ‘Town of Water’, Matsue, is on the shores of a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Here, you’ll visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles that remain in Japan today. Admire the structure’s complexity from the outside, as it stands gracefully, watching over the city, and take the opportunity to explore the interior, which affords magnificent views of Lake Shinji. This afternoon, we will visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a traditional flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 11. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden
Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer-ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, Samurai residence and even a Geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Next we visit the Kanazawa Castle ruins, which is one of Japan’s premier highlights, and the famed Kenroku-en Garden, is ranked among the country’s top gardens. (BLD)

Day 12. Kanazawa and Tokyo
Disembark the ship this morning and take the Bullet Train to Tokyo. On arrival, enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour of Tokyo. We then transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay and Farewell Dinner.
Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 13. Depart Tokyo.
After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

Japanese Cherry Blossoms
Embark on a stylish voyage of horticultural discovery and explore this fascinating region, aboard this Botanica cruise. In the heart of cherry blossom season, Botanica guests will be enchanted by the sight of the beautiful and richly symbolic sakura flower in full bloom. Venture along the historic shores of Japan and South Korea on this incredible botanical journey. The cherry blossom heralds the start of spring and the delicate blossom only stays on the trees for two weeks. This time of year is highly revered by the Japanese, who celebrate with festivals and events.

Garden Tour to Japan with Bruce Spence

Garden Tour to Japan with Bruce Spence

 

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Fri 11 Nov Arrive Tokyo
Transfer from Narita Airport to hotel on arrival.

Day 2 Sat 12 Nov Tokyo
The first visit on our tour will be to the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas.
The famous Korakuen Garden is designed in the traditional Japanese landscape style and is the first of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan we will visit.
Enjoy a welcome dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 3 Sun 13 Nov Tokyo
We have only a short time in Tokyo so Senso-ji Temple and Asukusa have been chosen to introduce us to a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asukusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. (Breakfast)

Day 4 Mon 14 Nov Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo
We escape Tokyo and journey by private coach to Hakone for the day. Hopefully weather permitting we will get an excellent view of Mount Fuji. We will visit the Hakone Open- Air Museum which includes a spectacular garden, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures. While in Hakone we will visit the Hakone Museum of Art which houses a unique and modest collection of ancient to modern ceramics, but the velvety moss garden surrounding it could also be regarded as a work of art. Also enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Ashi. (Breakfast)

Day 5 Tue 15 Nov Tokyo-Kanazawa
Take bullet train to Kanazawa. We are off to Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan. The Japanese say Kenroku-en means having six factors: spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, water courses and a magnificent view, and they are right!
Nomura Family House shows us just how the Samurai would have lived in times past. It evokes a sense of what old Japan and best of all its exquisite gardens might have been like. An absolute joy. Many of us will be inspired by the imaginative opportunities that could apply even to our own backyards.
We also visit Higashi Chaya district, a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha have been entertaining people since the Edo period. (Breakfast)

Day 6 Wed 16 Nov Kanazawa-Shirakawa-go-Takayama
Travel by road to Takayama, stopping en route in the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village. Shirakawa-go is a fairytale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields.
We then continue our journey on to Takayama.
Hida beef dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 7 Thu 17 Nov Takayama
Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of Takayama Old Town and the Kusakabe Folkcraft Museum, including the cultural heart of the town, the morning market. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse.
Afternoon is at your leisure. (Breakfast)

Day 8 Fri 18 Nov Takayama-Nagoya-Himeji-Okayama
Travel by Bullet Train to Himeji where we visit Himeji Castle, a world cultural heritage site and a national treasure. Fortunately Koko-en Garden is located beside Himeji Castle. Its diminutive size packs a wallop by featuring nine separate gardens, each centred on a different theme authentic to the Edo Period and enclosed by replica mud walls topped by tiled roofs. Continue travelling to Okayama and check in at our hotel. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 9 Sat 19 Nov Okayama-Kurashiki-Okayama
After breakfast we will explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Then we cross the Asahi River to view the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour.
In the afternoon we will wander through the Bikan area of Kurashiki, a time warp into ancient feudal times. With a distinct and stunningly beautiful architectural design, you’ll see a central canal crossed by traditional curved bridges, and lined by fascinating shops, eateries and museums. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Sun 20 Nov Okayama-Takamatsu
Today we depart Okayama for Takamatsu to visit Ritsurin Park, considered to be one of the best gardens in Japan. It is often suggested that Ritsurin Park deserves a spot on the list with the “Three Great Gardens”. It was given three stars as the highest-rated, worth-visiting place for sightseeing in the Michelin Green Guide Japan in 2009. We will also pay a visit to Kinashi Bonsai Village, in the heartland territory of Japanese Bonsai. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 11 Mon 21 Nov Takamatsu-Naoshima-Kyoto
In the morning, as a change of pace, we catch the ferry to the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima Island and visit the Lee Ufan and Cichu Art Museums. It’s worth visiting just for the contemporary art alone, but it’s also a great spot to briefly rest your frazzled senses after visiting so many garden landscapes. We then transfer to Miyaura Port to take the ferry to Uno and then by Bullet Train from Okayama on to Kyoto. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 12 Tue 22 Nov Kyoto
Today, we experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, possibly the most well-known temple in Japan, and then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. This UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto encourages contemplation while enjoying the simplicity of carefully arranged boulders amidst raked pebbles that resemble ripples of the sea. Definitely recommended to gain an appreciation of the deep thoughts behind this garden style. It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 13 Wed 23 Nov Kyoto
A more relaxing day. After breakfast we visit the secluded Gio-ji Temple. It presides over a magnificent grove of thick magical moss that just about begs you to lie down on it (you are strictly forbidden), straight out of a fairytale. We then head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest.
The rest of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 14 Thu 24 Nov Kyoto
This morning we visit the I M Pei-designed Miho Museum in Shiga Prefecture. The building is a work of art in itself, as it sits in perfect harmony with an incredible mountain landscape. It is best known for its Shigaraki pottery as well as an incredible collection of artworks belonging to the founder of the museum, Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan, and her daughter Hiroko.
The afternoon is at your leisure. This evening, enjoy a farewell dinner. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 15 Fri 25 Nov Depart Kyoto
Today we transfer to Osaka Airport for your onward flight. (Breakfast)

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

 

OVERVIEW
Borneo, the ‘Land Below the Wind’ as it was once called, has steamy jungles, exotic wildlife and extraordinary landscapes. It is still possible to meet the families of once head-hunting indigenes and to experience the Malay states that spawned adventurous romance from which the likes of Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling drew inspiration.

This tour exposes you to rainforest and other ecological niches that make the island one of the world’s plant hotspots. Teeming, noisy jungles, secluded beaches, mountains and rainforest are home to orangutan, hornbills, exotic plants, amazing caves, tribal village life.

There is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the colonial history with discussions about the ‘white Rajahs’ and visits to WW2 memorials.

Oriental cuisine and tropical fruit delights such as rambutan, jackfruit, salak, durian will add to your destination experiences.

Please note: Because we are seeking to find unspoilt environments and intact plant communities with abundant wildlife. Accommodation in remote national parks is basic, as illustrated.

Although this is not a trekking journey, we will, on occasions be walking on tracks and boardwalks for up to three hours. The walking tracks are not unlike a hike in our bushland. A reasonable level of fitness is necessary. Tropical temperatures can be challenging and it is necessary to maintain hydration.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Sat 10 September Sydney-Singapore-Kuching
Depart Sydney to Kuching, Sarawak via Singapore. Overnight at hotel.

Day 2
Visit the famous Kuching Museum, ride sampans to cross the Sarawak River. Pass the white rajah’s residence, see the orchid garden on the other side of the Kuching Waterfront. Make an offering at a Chinese Buddhist temple. Evening meal in a night market. Sample the famous offerings of satay, kolo mee and other Kuching favourites. After dinner stroll beneath wide trees along the romantic big lazy riverfront. Colonial buildings with the old shops of the bazaar enrich the experience. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 3 Kuching-Bako National Park
Bus to Kampong Bako. Take a long boat to Bako National Park arriving through the mangroves. Immediately encounter unusual plants, tropical littoral abundance. See wildlife such as naughty macaques and proboscis monkeys, wild pigs, an incredible variety of birds and insects. Spot light for shy jungle creatures at night. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Bako National Park
Walk the Lintang trail where practically all vegetation types at Bako can be seen. Forest types range from mangrove to kerangas (heath forest), tropical swamp vegetation, cliff vegetation and beach vegetation. There are several side trails to follow inside the park depending on level of fitness and interest. All the trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarp trees such as Shorea species to dense mangrove forest. Unusual carnivorous pitcher plants and interesting symbiotic relationships are found on the Lintang trail. The park’s coastline is dotted with small bays, coves and beaches. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Bako National Park
Hike the boardwalks through wetlands, swim in secluded jungle pools and on beaches of the South China Sea. Watch proboscis monkeys feeding on jungle fruits. Look for the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Woodpeckers, Broadbills, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Babblers, and owls. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6  Bako National Park-Kuching
Proceed back to Kuching. Free at leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 7  Kuching-Mulu National Park
Fly to Mulu National Park. This World Heritage-listed area allows canopy walks and treks that reveal exotic creatures, spectacular caves and stunning limestone karst formations. There is Deer Cave, which can fit five cathedrals the size of London’s Saint Pauls. Another key attraction is Clear Water Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. The massive caves here are home to millions of bats and cave swiftlets that swarm out into the jungle in great clouds every evening at dusk! It is an extraordinary sight. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 8  Mulu National Park
Explore the jungle, photograph elusive butterflies…. There are around 2000 species of plants in the park. As many as eight different species of Hornbill are to be seen, and over 27 species of bat etc. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 9  Mulu National Park
Take a longboat up river tributaries, swim in pristine jungle rivers. Try the Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10  Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu
Fly to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the ‘Land Below the Wind). Evening explore the Phillipino Market. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 11  Kota Kinabalu
Explore Kota Kinabalu – snorkel on tropical islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, visit Kampong Air, the water village, or take the old colonial train to Tenom for lunch. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 12  Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu
Bus to the lower slopes of Mt. Kinabalu. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Stay at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 13  Mt. Kinabalu
Visit Ranau War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended and then travel on to Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Experience another incredible jungle canopy walk in the evening. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14  Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu
Maybe see an orangutan. Venture along jungle trails to rarely visited waterfalls. Rest on the way back to Kota Kinabalu. Evening shopping in Kota Kinabalu. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 15  Kota Kinabalu-Singapore-Sydney
Overnight flight to Sydney via Singapore. (Breakfast)

Day 16  Arrive in Sydney

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China

In the Footsteps of the Plant Hunters to Yunnan, China, with Angus Stewart

 

OVERVIEW
For those who are looking for a tour that combines ecotourism with experiencing unique local cultures and their gardens, this one will definitely fit the bill. Our tour will be following in the footsteps of a host of famous English plant collectors who, in the late 19th and early 20th century, visited Yunnan province in Southwest China. George Forrest, Kingdon Ward, Delavy and Joseph Rock were among the many who found it difficult to stay away from these parts. They collected a bounty of roots, seeds and cuttings of hundreds of plants which went onto become mainstays of English and indeed worldwide gardens.

Yunnan is one of the most isolated parts of China, and is also one of the most scenic. The mountains that form the eastern end of the Himalayan plateau are awe inspiring as well as botanically breathtaking. Yunnan is home to 25 Chinese minority nationalities, each with their own culture, customs and costumes. Our tour sets aside time to experience the cultural diversity as well as the natural wonders of this unique region.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Wed 11 May Australia-Singapore
Fly from your capital city to Singapore.

Day 2 Thu 12 May Singapore-Kunming
Fly to Kunming. On arrival, you will be met by our local guide and transferred to the hotel. Welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Fri 13 May Kunming-Tengchong
This morning we will visit Kunming Botanical Garden accompanied by a botanist before taking a flight to Tengchong. Tengchong is a laid-back small town in a remote corner of western Yunnan province. This afternoon we will have an orientation tour of Tengchong. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Sat 14 May Tengchong
Tengchong is an old town at relatively low altitude though surrounded by mountains. Today we will visit the grave where the Scottish botanist George Forrest was buried. This is followed by a visit to one of the ancient temples, where we see ancient trees such as ginkgos and cypresses. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Sun 15 May Tengchong-Baoshan
Today we travel by coach to Baoshan, en route we will explore the scenic sites of the Gaoligong Mountain National Nature Reserve, including the forest of the Mt Gaoligong, Yunhua, Qushi and Jietou of Tongcheng. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6 Mon 16 May Baoshan-Dali
Today we depart for Dali by road. Check in to hotel upon arrival. The rest of the day is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Diner)

Day 7 Tue 17 May Dali
Cangshan Mountain is one of the richest botanical locations on earth and was a favourite location for 19th century plant hunters. We will have a full day scenic and botanic walk on Cangshan. Also visit Chongshen Monastery with the three tall pagodas for which Dali is famous. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 8 Wed 18 May Dali-Lijiang
Today we say Zaijian to Dali and drive by coach along the scenic road to Lijiang. Along the way we will visit the ethnic villages and Heqing Ancient Town. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 9 Thu 19 May Lijiang
Today we drive north along the eastern flank of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and take the chairlift to 3200m, descending again after a short walk around an alpine wildflower meadow. On the return journey we visit the Yufeng Lamasery to see, amongst other things, the 10,000-flower camellia and ancient michelias. We will also call at the house of the renowned plant hunter Joseph Rock, who lived here for many years collecting plants and studying the Naxi people, and go on to see the old frescoes at Baisha. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10 Fri 20 May Lijiang
Today we will visit the Black Dragon Pool Park with its interesting plants, architectural features and stunning mountain back drop. This is followed by a visit of Mu’s Mansion, terraced on the side of Lion Hill. Later there will be time for shopping and individual exploration. (Breakfast)

Day 11 Sat 21 May Lijiang-Shangri-La
After breakfast, it’s a spectacular, all day drive alongside the Yangtze to Shangri-La. On the way you’ll visit the awesome Tiger Leaping Gorge. With a drop of 3900 metres it is said to be the world’s deepest gorge. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 12 Sun 22 May Shangri-La
Today in Shangri-La we will get used to the high altitude and visit Sunsanling Monastery, a large complex of Tibetan Buddhism built in 1679, and richly decorated with murals and woodcarving. In the afternoon, there is a visit to the Napa Lake. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 13 Mon 23 May Shangri-La-Deqin
A long but exciting day’s drive by the Upper Yangtze Gorge along the Yunnan-Tibet road with spectacular scenery via Dhondupling Monastery and Baima Pass to Deqin. The Baima nature reserve is the highest reserve in China and an area for alpine medicinal plants and flowers. The Yunnan golden monkey lives on the western part of the reserve near the Mekong River. We pass the reserve on our way to Deqin and stop to walk amongst the spectacular scenery. At Deqin we will see the Meili Snow Mountain, or the Sacred Kawakarpo Mountain as it’s called in Tibetan, which towers to 6,740 metres and is the second most important holy site for Tibetan Buddhism. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14 Tue 24 May Deqin
We drive to the base of Kawakarpo Mountain to Meilungtse Village and travel to its glacier by horseback or on foot, this is a strenuous experience but well worth the effort. For those who would prefer something less active we will also offer an alternative drive back to Baima Mountain where you can explore this area for alpine flowers accompanied by a guide. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 15 Wed 25 May Deqin
Today we will continue to explore the botanical riches of Baima Mountain with a series of short walks. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 16 Thu 26 May Deqin-Shangri-La
Return journey to Shangri-La stopping at the craftsmen’s village of Nixi Valley.
Farewell dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 17 Fri 27 May Shangri-La-Singapore
Transfer to airport for flight to Kunming and connect with Singapore Airlines flight home. (Breakfast)

Day 18 Sat 28 May Arrival in Australia

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

 

Day 1 04APR16
Depart East Maitland by Coach
Arrive Sydney
Night at your Leisure at the Rydges Sydney Airport

Day 2 05APR16
Tokyo
Flights with Japan Airlines
Depart Sydney 08:15
Arrive Narita 17:05
Arrive Tokyo. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel in Tokyo by Airport Limousine Bus. Check in at hotel in Tokyo for 2 nights. Land only arrangement members: Check in at hotel in Tokyo after 3:00pm

Day 3 06APR16
Tokyo
Tokyo walking tour using metro, enjoy visiting Tokyo metropolitan office observatory deck, Meiji shrine, Harajuku & Omotesandou and Asakusa Senso‐ji Temple & Nakamise Shopping St. Visit Tokyo’s most famous temple and walk its souvenir shop‐lined promenade. Welcome Dinner (B,D)

Day 4 07APR16
Kanazawa
Morning, travel by new Hokuriku Line Shinkansen (Bullet train) for Samurai town Kanazawa. Upon arrival visit a enjoy the gold leaf manufacturing work‐ shop and Kanazawa’s Geisha house district. Visit Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. 3 nights accommodation in Kanazawa. (B)

Day 5 08APR16
KANAZAWA—TAKAYAMA ‐ SHIRAKAWAGO – KANAZAWA
Today enjoy full day tour of Takayama & Shirakawago region. Travel to Takayama whose isolation has allowed Edo period streets, lined with tiny shops, museums and eating place to be preserved. Next visit Shirakawago and Gokayama, a World Heritage listed small village. Experience Washi Japanese rice paper making hands on. (B)

Day 6 09APR16
KANAZAWA
Day at leisure.

Day 7 10APR16
KANAZAWA-KYOTO
# Travel with overnight baggage. Your suit case to be transferred from Kanazawa to Kyoto to meet you on 11th April in Kyoto. Morning, travel for Kyoto by train. Check in for 3 nights at hotel in Kyoto. [B]

Day 8 11APR16
KYOTO
Sightseeing tour of Kyoto visiting Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) and Nijo castle.
Afternoon, visit Kiyomizu temple overlooking the city. Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizu temple is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the enchanting Higashiyama district. Japanese Dinner with Geisha accompaniment & traditional dance performances. (B,D)

Day 9 12APR16
KYOTO-HIROSHIMA & MIYAJIMA-KYOTO
Leave for Hiroshima by JR bullet train. Upon arrival, Miyajima Itsukushima floating Shrine and five‐storied Pagoda sightseeing. Visit Hiroshima Peace Park and Atomic Dome. Return to Kyoto by bullet train. [B]

Day 10 13APR16
KYOTO– KISO VALLEY/TSUMAGO
# Overnight baggage transfer service from Kyoto to Tokyo. Travel to
Tsumago/Kiso Valley with its quaint historical post towns. Tsumago, seldom visited by group tours, where cars are banned and signs of modernity such as power lines are hidden to maintain the old style ambience. Relax in an old inn for 1 night. Finish a wonderful day with a traditional Japanese bath and sleeping Japanese style on futon.

Day 11 14APR16
KISO VALLEY—TOKYO
After enjoying Japanese style breakfast, travel on to Matsumoto/Nagano, situated in the centre of Nagano and known as the gateway to the Northern Alps’ climbing routes, Matsumoto prospered as a castle town at the foot of Matsumoto Castle, which we visit. Afternoon, leave for Tokyo. 2 nights accommodation in Tokyo. Farewell dinner at hotel. (B,D)

Day 12 15APR16
MT FUJI & HAKONE TOUR

Day 13 16APR16
TOKYO
Enjoy your last day in Japan with some last minute souvenir hunting or an optional half day activity. Afternoon, board Airport Limousine bus for Narita. Check‐in for flight to Australia. Land only arrangement: Tour concludes at noon. (B)
Flights with Japan Airlines
Depart Narita 19:30

Day 14 17APR16
Arrive Sydney 06:15
Depart Sydney by coach
Arrive East Maitland
Welcome Home!

To book call 0249330874!!

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

 

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is a premium 5 star hotel located in uptown Mejiro in the heart of Tokyo. The hotel is a 3-minute taxi ride or a 10-minute walk from Edogawabashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho line.

The hotel has 260 rooms, 36 banquet halls and 12 restaurants.

The gardens have many historical artefacts, such as the three-storey pagoda, a sacred tree reputed to be more than 500 years old and many statues, lanterns and shrines.

The gardens are beautiful in all four seasons.

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
10-8, Sekiguchi 2-chome, Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo,
112-8680, Japan

Tel: +81 3 3943-1111
Fax: +81 3 3943-2300
Email: info@hotel-chinzanso.com

Cherry Blossoms in Japan & South Korea Cruise

ITIINERARY

 

Day 1. Arrive Osaka
Arrive into Osaka Airport and be met and transferred to your hotel. This evening at 6.30pm, enjoy a Welcome Dinner where you’ll have the opportunity to meet your fellow Botanica travellers.
Stay: Osaka, Imperial Hotel or similar (D)

Day 2. Kyoto and Embark Ship
This morning depart Osaka to Kyoto where we will visit the rock garden masterpiece
of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design. After lunch, transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky in Kobe. Enjoy a special dinner with the ship’s crew this evening, as we set sail for the port of Okayama.
Ten Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BLD)

Day 3. Okayama, Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki.
After breakfast this morning, we will visit Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s most significant gardens – the name meaning ‘garden of pleasure after’. Visit a classic teahouse, and experience a traditional tea ceremony. After a local lunch, continue to Kurashiki, where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses. The beautiful houses are painted white with traditional black tiles, and are situated along a canal lined with rows of majestic weeping willows. (BLD)

Day 4. Takamatsu and Ritsurin Park
Today tour the stunning city of Takamatsu on Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese Islands. We will journey over the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours. See the Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion, then visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. (BLD)

Day 5. Hiroshima and Miyajima
Arrive in Hiroshima to visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph that contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb. Return to the ship for lunch, then continue to Miyajima. Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture-postcard vista of the scarlet Torii Gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will go ashore to explore the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. (BLD)

Day 6. Uwajima
Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. We will continue to Sakiiya Square or choose to visit Dairakuji Temple. (BLD)

Day 7. Nagasaki and Dejima Island
Arrive at Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden. Continue to Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also once the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku isolation Period for 200 years, until Japan reopened to the world. (BLD)

Day 8. Pusan, South Korea
Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, in South Korea, a World Heritage-listed site often described as the world’s finest open-air museum. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s heritage dates back to the first millennium. As we stroll through some of the numerous excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum, with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and distinctive pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies and enjoy the spectacle of traditional dancers during a cultural performance. (BLD)

Day 9. Hagi
Japan’s revolution began here in Jokamachi’s old Samurai residential quarter, where we will tour a Samurai’s home. We will also visit the historic Daisho Temple, the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo a family of powerful and territorial pre-modern Japanese lords and all of the even-numbered daimyo. This traditional temple is located on Mount Mison, considered a holy mountain, on the island of Itsukushima. Inside, you will find a flame that is said to have been burning for some 1,200 years. We will also take time to explore Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets and see the Hagi Castle ruins, Shizuki Park and the Tokoji Temple. (BLD)

Day 10. Matsue and Yuushien Garden
Known as the ‘Town of Water’, Matsue, is on the shores of a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Here, you’ll visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles that remain in Japan today. Admire the structure’s complexity from the outside, as it stands gracefully, watching over the city, and take the opportunity to explore the interior, which affords magnificent views of Lake Shinji. This afternoon, we will visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a traditional flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 11. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden
Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer-ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, Samurai residence and even a Geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Next we visit the Kanazawa Castle ruins, which is one of Japan’s premier highlights, and the famed Kenroku-en Garden, is ranked among the country’s top gardens. (BLD)

Day 12. Kanazawa and Tokyo
Disembark the ship this morning and take the Bullet Train to Tokyo. On arrival, enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour of Tokyo. We then transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay and Farewell Dinner.
Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 13. Depart Tokyo.
After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

Japanese Cherry Blossoms
Embark on a stylish voyage of horticultural discovery and explore this fascinating region, aboard this Botanica cruise. In the heart of cherry blossom season, Botanica guests will be enchanted by the sight of the beautiful and richly symbolic sakura flower in full bloom. Venture along the historic shores of Japan and South Korea on this incredible botanical journey. The cherry blossom heralds the start of spring and the delicate blossom only stays on the trees for two weeks. This time of year is highly revered by the Japanese, who celebrate with festivals and events.

Japanese Gardens and Contemporary Art

Japan is renowned for its garden culture, dating back 500 years. In recent decades, the Japanese have embraced ‘the new’ in striking art and architecture, often set in magnificent spaces or dramatic natural environments.

From Tokyo to Kyoto, this tour will introduce you to some of Japan’s most famous gardens as well as ground-breaking art and architecture. With Genevieve, you will explore the Japanese aesthetic in gardens, art and culture, embarking upon a unique visual journey from the distant past to the near future.

 

AT A GLANCE …

• Discover modern museums, tranquil parks and high-octane energy of Tokyo
• Enjoy a change of pace in the unspoiled, Edo-era mountain town of Takayama
• Visit ‘must-see’ gardens including Okayama’s Korakuen Garden, Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Park, the Adachi Art Museum and Garden, and Kyoto’s ‘Rock’, ‘Moss’, ‘Zen’ and ‘Bamboo’ Gardens
• Spend two days on the famous ‘art island’ of Naoshima
• Finish in the former imperial capital of Kyoto, the home of ancient temples, castles and gardens, and I.M.Pei’s Miho Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

ITINERARY

 

Tue 13 Oct / Tokyo
Suggested departure from Australia on Cathay Pacific Airways via Hong Kong to Haneda Airport (HND), Tokyo.

For guests arriving on suggested flights, a transfer to the hotel will be provided.

Perth and Brisbane passengers depart Hong Kong on flight CX 548, and arrive in Haneda at 13:25.
Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney passengers depart Hong Kong on flight CX 542 and arrive in Haneda at 21:05.

Wed 14 Oct / Tokyo
Join Genevieve and fellow members for a welcome breakfast and briefing.

Depart the hotel for a full day of touring. Begin with the Imperial Palace East Gardens which are a part of the inner palace. They are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defence: the honmaru (main circle) and ninomaru (secondary circle).

Next visit Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine – Meiji Jingu. The shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, and is located in an evergreen forest of approximately 175 acres, in the middle of Tokyo.

Following lunch, continue to the Mori Art Museum a contemporary art museum founded by real estate developer, Minoru Mori. The museum is located on the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, offering spectacular views from the panoramic observation deck.
(BL)

Thu 15 Oct / Tokyo
Morning visit to the large, public Ueno park situated in central Tokyo. The park grounds were originally part of Kaneiji Temple, a family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan during the Edo Period. Today it is home to museums, a zoo, a Toshogu Shrine and the Shinobazu Pond.

Enjoy a visit to Tokyo National Museum located within the park, housing the largest collection of national treasures and important cultural items in the country.

In the afternoon, visit one of Tokyo’s oldest Japanese gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden – a beautiful Japanese landscaped garden, representing famous Japanese and Chinese scenes in miniature, dating from the early Edo Period.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Fri 16 Oct / Tokyo – Takayama
Please note: you will be required to pack a small bag for travel on the train and the two-night stay at Takayama. Your main suitcase will be transferred directly from Tokyo to the Okayama hotel.

After breakfast, depart Tokyo by train to Takayama, via Nagoya (change train). The journey is approx. 3h, and lunch boxes are available on board to purchase.

On arrival enjoy a walking tour of Takayama’s beautifully preserved old town. Many of the buildings and streets of houses date back to the Edo Period (1600-1868), with some open to visit, providing a glimpse behind the façade into the former living quarters of local merchants.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Sat 17 Oct / Takayama
This morning travel to the Shirakawa Valley, home to the historic village of Shirakawa-go, a traditional Japanese settlement. The village houses are unique to Japan and are known as ‘Gassho-zukuri’. ‘Gassho’ means praying hands, suggesting the form of hands raised in prayer to the Buddha (here it refers to the triangular shape of the roof).

Afternoon at leisure to further explore Takayama.
(B)

Sun 18 Oct / Takayama – Okayama
Today depart Takayama by train to Okayama (change trains at Nagoya). Journey time is approx. 5h30m, and lunch boxes are available on board to purchase.

Afternoon arrival in Okayama.

The largest city in the Chugoku Region after Hiroshima, Okayama developed as a castle town during the Edo Period (1603-1867), becoming a significant regional power and is an important transportation hub. Okayama faces the Seto Inland Sea and is endowed with abundant natural beauty, including the islands, Seto-ohashi Bridge (spanning Honshu and Shikoku islands), Mt Washu-zan (which overlooks them), and the Hiruzen-kogen Highlands in Daisen-Oki National Park.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Mon 19 Oct / Okayama
Following breakfast, join Genevieve for a talk on Japanese garden design.
Your exploration of Okayama begins with a visit to the Korakuen garden, one of the three most famous landscape gardens in Japan (along with Kanazawa’s ‘Kenrokuen’ and Mito’s ‘Kairakuen’). Korakuen is a spacious garden that incorporates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden, including a large pond, streams, walking paths and a hill that serves as a lookout point.

Following lunch near the garden, cross the Asahi River by footbridge to Okayama Castle. Also known as ‘crow castle’ due to its black exterior, Okayama Castle was built in 1597 in the style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. The original castle was destroyed in the last year of World War II, but a reconstruction was made in 1966.
(BL)

Tue 20 Oct / Okayama – Takahashi – Okayama
Drive to the small city of Takahashi located in the mountains to the north of Okayama, for a visit to the Raikyu-ji temple, a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect that dates back to 1504. The beautifully constructed garden within the temple grounds garden is a Penglai Zen dry- garden style constructed by Kobori Enshu, one of the founders of the Japanese tea ceremony, renowned for his architecture, garden design, calligraphy and poetry.

After lunch, continue to the Adachi Art Museum) in Yasugi. Set within a superb and unique garden, the museum was built to house the collection of modern Japanese paintings, ceramics and sculptures of local businessman and collector Zenko Adachi.
(BL)

Wed 21 Oct / Okayama – Takamatsu – Naoshima
Today you will travel over the Seto Ohashi Bridge to Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku in the Inland Sea. Visit Ritsurin Koen Garden, often mentioned as deserving of a spot on the list of the ‘three most beautiful gardens of Japan’. The spacious park features many ponds, hills, historic trees and beautiful pavilions divided into a Japanese style garden.

After lunch (own expense), continue to Naoshima. Transfer by ferry to Naoshima Island (35km/1.5 h), home to the Benesse Art site.

Dinner at our hotel.
(BD)

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Benesse Art Site: The site combines Benesse House (a symphony of nature, art and architecture), the Art House Project (which weaves threads of everyday home life with substantial strands of history), and Chichu Art Museum, a fresh re-interpretation of the potential of art museums.
Benesse House Museum opened in 1992 as a facility integrating a museum with a hotel, based on the concept of ‘Co-existence of nature, art and architecture’. The facility consists of four buildings, all designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando: Museum, Oval (opened in 1995), Park and Beach (both opened in 2006).
The Art House Project started in 1998 in Naoshima’s Honmura district. The project takes empty houses scattered about residential areas, and turns the spaces themselves into works of art, weaving in the history and memories of the period when the houses were used as homes.
Chichu Modern Art Museum is built into the hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. Designed by Ando Tadao, it is primarily underground and utilises natural light to illuminate artworks by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Thu 22 Oct / Naoshima
Begin with a tour of the Chichu Modern Art Museum.

Following lunch at a local restaurant, visit Benesse House Museum. One of the pleasures of visiting Benesse House is unexpectedly encountering works of art, not only within the walls of the museum but also while strolling around the grounds, enjoying the abundant natural beauty of the Inland Sea region.
(BL)

Fri 23 Oct / Naoshima
In the morning take the ferry to the Inujima Art Project Seirensho, a museum that preserves and reuses the remains of a copper refinery on the island. The project embraces the concept of a recycling-based society as a model for a new type of regional revitalisation through industrial heritage, architecture, art and the environment.

Early afternoon return to Naoshima Island.
(BD)

Sat 24 Oct / Naoshima – Himeji – Kyoto
After breakfast, depart Naoshima by ferry to Uno port, then transfer by coach via Himeji Castle to Kyoto (approx 220km), stopping en route at Kokoen garden.

Late afternoon arrival in Kyoto. With its hundreds of temples and gardens, Kyoto was the imperial capital between 794 and 1868, and remains the cultural centre of Japan.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Sun 25 Oct / Kyoto
After breakfast, join Genevieve for a talk on the gardens of Kyoto.

Begin with a tour of the elegant Nijo-jo Castle, built by the first Tokugawa Shogun, a striking example of the splendid decorative luxury of the Momoyama period (1587–1615), followed by a visit to the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre.

Visit Ryoan-ji Temple, which houses the famous Zen rock garden, before visiting Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion built in 1397 as a villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.
Ryoan-ji is the site of Japan’s famous rock garden consisting of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. A feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Continue to the nearby Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again, more recently, in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
(B)

Mon 26 Oct / Kyoto
Begin with a visit to the Kyoto National Museum for an introduction to the traditional arts of Japan. Continue to Sanjusangendo, a uniquely shaped long hall rebuilt in 1251 to house its central image of the thousand-armed Bodhisattva Kannon, surrounded by 1,000 gilt bronze images of Kannon.

In the afternoon visit Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), a Zen temple at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modelling it after Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490. Stroll along the ‘Philosophers Path’ which follows a quiet tree-lined canal connecting Ginkaku-ji to the extensive buildings and grounds of one of the world’s largest Zen temples, Nanzen-ji.

This evening enjoy a performance of Japanese Arts at the Gion Corner Theatre. Located in one of Kyoto’s best preserved historical quarters, the Gion Corner Theatre presents a display of Japanese traditional arts and entertainment including Kyoto-style dance, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, Japanese Harp, Comic play, Court music and Puppet play.
(BD)

Tue 27 Oct / Kyoto
Morning visit to Saiho-ji (Kokedera), an ancient temple said to have been established by the monk Gyoki during the Nara Period (710 – 794), later restored and converted into a Zen temple by the monk Muso Soseki, in 1339. The precincts are covered by more than 120 types of moss, resembling a beautiful green carpet, hence its other name, Kokedera, which literally means ‘Moss Temple’.

After lunch, visit the Daitoku-ji temple complex consisting of nearly two dozen sub-temples, and one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens such as Daisen-in, a Zen contemplative garden. One part of the garden is an allegory; the other is designed for meditation.
(B)

Wed 28 Oct / Kyoto
Morning visit to the Miho Museum nestled among the verdant Shigaraki Mountains. The museum houses the Shumei Family Collection of rare treasures from the ancient world and traditional Japanese art.

Continue to the Arashiyama-Sagano area situated on the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area is known for its scenic beauty, narrow streets, old villas and temple compounds. It was favoured by noble classes 1,200 years ago. Enjoy a walk through the area’s vast bamboo groves.

This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner.
(BLD)

Thu 29 Oct / Depart Kyoto
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Kansai International Airport (KIX) can be reached by airport bus service or express train departing from near your hotel. There will be local assistance to buy tickets (approx 1 hr30 min).

Morning departure from Kansai on Cathay Pacific flights to Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth via Hong Kong (nb: Guests travelling to Perth arrive in the evening on the same day, 29 October).

Evening departure from Kansai on Cathay Pacific flights to Sydney and Melbourne, via Hong Kong.
(B)

Fri 30 Oct / Arrive Australia
Morning arrival in Australia for Adelaide and Brisbane guests, and an afternoon arrival for Melbourne and Sydney guests.

Sensational Sabah with Libby Cameron

Itinerary

 

DAY 1
Thursday 11 June 2015
Home – Kuching

Meet your Ross Tour Leader, Libby Cameron at check-in. Depart Sydney for Kuching, capital of Sarawak State, Malaysia.
Accommodation: Hilton Hotel, Kuching

DAY 2
Friday 12 June 2015
Kuching (B/L/D)

Morning city tour of Kuching, once the seat of the White Rajah dynasty where Malay, Chinese, Indian and British created a unique community.
Afternoon visit to Semenggoh Nature Reserve to see orang-utans in their natural environment and their afternoon feed.
Accommodation: Hilton Hotel, Kuching

DAY 3
Saturday 13 June 2015
Sarawak Cultural Village (B/L/D)

Sarawak Cultural village is built on 17 acres on the edge of a beautiful lake. Here we get a good understanding of the major ethnic groups found in Sarawak namely the Bidayuh, Ibans, Orang Ulu, Melanau and Penans. Browse around the village and watch the locals cooking, demonstrating their skills in traditional handicrafts such as pua weaving and bamboo carving and making blow-pipes and other hunting instruments.
After lunch at Bayridge Restaurant we will relax back in our hotel before our evening Sarawak River Cruise (with light refreshments).
Accommodation: Hilton Hotel, Kuching

DAY 4
Sunday 14 June 2015
Kuching – Kota Kinabalu – Kinabalu Park (B/L/D)

A short flight this morning to Kota Kinabalu, capital of Sabah. After lunch we will travel over the Crocker Range to UNESCO World Heritage Kinabalu Park. Established as a state park in 1964, this botanical paradise emcompasses four climate zones. Stop at the Nabalu hilltop market to buy local fruit and handicrafts.
Accommodation: Kinabalu Pine Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 5
Monday 15 June 2015
Poring (B/L/D)

Back into Kinabalu Park this morning. Mt. Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia at 4095m (13431 feet). Enjoy the cool air as we trek around the foothills to learn about the unique plants of Borneo including the carnivorous Nepenthes, rhododendrons & orchids.
In the lowland dipterocarp forest at Poring we will traverse the rainforest through the tree tops on the Canopy walkway 35m above ground level. We can take a dip in the Poring Hot Springs or we can bathe in the cool river pools. Hopefully we will see the world’s largest flower, the elusive Rafflesia.
Accommodation: Kinabalu Pine Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 6
Tuesday 16 June 2015
Kinabalu Park – Sukau (B/L/D)

Travel through the heart of Sabah today from Kundasang in the mountains to Sukau on the Kinbatangan River. Relax in the tranquil surroundings of our lodge accommodation.
Accommodation: Kinabatangan River Lodge, Sukau

DAY 7
Wednesday 17 June 2015
Sukau (B/L/D)

Dawn and dusk cruises are our treats today as we explore the Kinabantangan River. We will be watching for hornbills, wild monkeys including the remarkable Proboscis monkey and orang-utans in the wild. Our boat will navigate the narrow Menanggul River to enjoy the best bird watching. Bring your binoculars!
Accommodation: Kinabatangan River Lodge, Sukau

DAY 8
Thursday 18 June 2015
Sukai – Abai (B/L/D)

Travel by boat downstream to Abai Village. We will participate in a re-forestation project this afternoon along with the locals.
Settle into our hotel before an evening walk in search of frogs and fireflies.
Accommodation: Abai Village Lodge, Abai

DAY 9
Friday 19 June 2015
Abai – Sandakan (B/L/D)

A morning river cruise to Sandakan. Visit Agnes Keith House Museum, the restored heritage quarters of the British Colonial Government called “Newlands”. Lunch today is a grand affair at the adjacent English Tea House overlooking Sandakan Bay.
Visit Sandakan War Memorial on the original POW camp where thousands of Australian and British POW’s died in WW2.
Accommodation: Sepilok Nature Resort, Sandakan

DAY 10
Saturday 20 June 2015
Sandakan – Kota Kinabalu (B/L)

Morning visit to the famous Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre to watch them feed and learn about the rehabilitation of orphaned orang-utans.
After lunch we transfer to Sandakan airport for a flight back to Kota Kinabalu.
Accommodation: Hotel Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 11
Sunday 21 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu (B/L)

Start the day at the Sunday Gaya Street Fair then an orientation of historic landmarks including the State & City Mosque, University grounds and Kingfisher residential area. Another treat this afternoon in a beautiful private garden. Wander the waterfront this evening to sample food in the various stalls and cafes.
Accommodation: Hotel Le Meridien, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 12
Monday 22 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu – Keningau (B/L/D)

Head south this morning over the Crocker Range into the beautiful Tambunan Valley. This is farming country with rugged mountain backdrop. Stop at the Tambunan Rafflesia Centre. Check into our hotel with dinner then wander through the night markets.
Accommodation: Hotel Juta, Keningau

DAY 13
Tuesday 23 June 2015
Tenom (B/D)

Tenom Agricultural park is a paradise for plant lovers filled with all the heliconias, gingers, bouganvilleas and tropical shrubs you could dream about.There are 21 gardens including a ‘living crop’ museum, an evolution garden, orchid houses and pitcher plants.
Accommodation: Hotel Juta, Keningau

DAY 14
Wednesday 24 June 2015
Keningau – Kota Kinabalu (B/D)

Travel back to Kota Kinabalu via Tambunan with a stop at Kipandi Butterfly Farm to see an exquisite collection of orchids, pitcher plants and hoyas, insects and butterflies.
Accommodation: Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 15
Thursday 25 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu (B/D)

Free day for optional tours or just relax in our resort hotel. Farewell dinner tonight at Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort.
Accommodation: Shangrila Tanjung Aru Resort, Kota Kinabalu

DAY 16
Friday 26 June 2015
Kota Kinabalu – Home (B)

Mid morning transfer to airport for return flight to Singapore and connecting with overnight flight to Australia.

DAY 17
Saturday 27 June 2015
Home

Arrive home today.

 

The Garden City of Singapore with Linda Ross

Itinerary

 

DAY 1

Monday 6 July 2015
Sydney – Singapore (D)

Linda Ross will meet you at Sydney International airport for the Qantas flight to Singapore. We’ll check in to the Parkroyal on Pickering with its world class sky-gardens, our luxurious home for the next five nights and celebrate our arrival in the tropics with a Welcome Dinner in the hotel.
Accommodation: Parkroyal on Pickering

DAY 2
Tuesday 7 July 2015
Singapore Botanic Gardens (B/L)

We’re off to the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens this morning. The tropical rainforest here is one of the few pockets of original jungle left on the island. There are some 300 plant species in this little pocket forest and plenty of birds, including oriental pied hornbills, spotted wood owls, crimson sunbirds and stork-billed kingfishers.
Singapore is famous for orchids and the National Orchid Garden is situated on the highest hill in the Botanic Gardens. Orchids have been a part of the Gardens collection since its beginnings in 1859. Early directors commissioned extensive orchid collecting expeditions and since 1995 the collection has its own beautifully landscaped home – the National Orchid Garden.
We’ll lunch at one of the cities loveliest restaurants, Halia, surrounded by the orchid and heliconia gardens.
Afternoon at leisure.
Accommodation: Parkroyal on Pickering

DAY 3
Wednesday 8 July 2015
Gardens by the Bay (B/L/D)

Today’s highlight is the stunning Gardens by the Bay. You’ll be amazed by the vision of this extraordinary project! It brings to life the government ambition to make Singapore a ‘City in a Garden’. Two enormous conservatories and a grove of ‘Supertrees’ dominate the site. Supertree is the name given to the towering, 16-storey structures that act as frames for climbing and epiphytic plants, as well being supports for solar panels. The Supertrees are lit at night in exhilarating displays. They dominate the skyline, but first we’ll explore the horticultural worlds growing in the biodomes, which are engineering feats themselves, being the biggest column-less glasshouses in the world.
It’s eternally spring in the Flower Dome, with gorgeous displays of blooms and gardens from dry climates found in South Africa, California, southern Spain, Italy, and south-western Australia. We stroll the OCBC Skyway, a 128m long walkway that connects two 25m-tall Supertrees. Definitely a walk with a view and enjoy lunch on the highest Supertree, a unique experience, where we can survey the gardens from above.
We delve into the Peranakan culture with a late afternoon visit to the Peranakan Museum and then dinner tonight in a traditional Peranakan restaurant. Peranakan or Nonya cruisine is a delicious blend of Chinese and Malay influences.
Accommodation: Parkroyal on Pickering

DAY 4
Thursday 9 July 2015
Gardens by the Bay (B/HT)

We venture into the Cloud Forest today, and lose ourselves in the mountain of exotic plants found in the tropical montane region, between 1,000 to 3,500 metres above sea level. A waterfall thunders off the mountain, misting orchids, ferns, begonias and fuchsias.
This afternoon we’ll treat ourselves to a luxurious slice of Singapore’s colonial past with high tea at the most famous hotel in Asia, Raffles. The Tiffin Room is an elegant space in the original part of the hotel, built in 1887. We’ll enjoy tea, cakes, sandwiches and the graciousness of a bygone era.
As the sun sets, we’re heading back to Gardens by the Bay. This time we’ll get an illuminated look at the Supertrees, first from the 200m high Observation Deck of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and then from the Gardens themselves as we see the Supertree light show.
Accommodation: Parkroyal on Pickering

DAY 5
Friday 10 July 2015
Kranji Memorial (B/L/D)

We’ll leave the city for the outskirts of the island today to discover the Krangi area, full of nurseries, mangroves and the only food producing area on the island. Krangi Memorial to pay our respects to WWII heroes. Lunch at the unique Bollywood Veggies where we cool down with an iced ginger tea and sample local delights.
Return to hotel. And as the afternoon cools a little, we’ll jump onto a bumboat for a cruise along the Singapore River. These hardy vessels were once used to shuttle cargo in one of the East’s busiest trade centres. The river was the city’s lifeblood, and from the water we’ll see both historic Singapore and the modern metropolis that now towers over it in the sunshine.
Disembark at Merlion for our Farewell Dinner at the historic Fullerton Hotel, stroll along the waterfront for fabulous views of the Marina Sands hotel.
Accommodation: Parkroyal on Pickering

DAY 6
Saturday 11 July 2015
Singapore (B)

Our flight is late this afternoon, so there is plenty of time to explore or shop before we transfer to Changi Airport.

DAY 7
Sunday 12 July 2015
Arrive Home

Exotic Gardens of Asia

ITINERARY

Day 1, Saturday October 10, 2015 Singapore
Today we depart on our flight to Singapore. On arrival, we are transferred to our hotel. Singapore is reinventing itself as a “city in a garden”, with tree-lined, shady streets, banks of flowering shrubs, tranquil green public spaces, vertical gardens and buildings that incorporate extensive amounts of greenery.

Day 2, Sunday October 11, 2015 Singapore
This morning we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Singapore to see the modern developments that have ensured that this city maintains its position as one of the “tigers” of the east. We will drive along Orchard Road, the heart of Singapore’s shopping and entertainment district, through the colonial area and the Civic District to view the Supreme Court, the old Cricket Club, the Botanic Gardens and the fascinating blend of cultures that make Singapore’s unique character. This afternoon we will be transferred to the cruise terminal to board the Legend of the Seas and depart Singapore.

Day 3, Monday October 12, 2015 At sea
A day at sea to explore the delights of the ship. We will enjoy an early-evening drinks party to formally meet Helen Young and other members of our group.

Day 4, Tuesday October 13, 2015 Ko Samui, Thailand
This morning we arrive at Ko Samui, located in the Gulf of Thailand, about 400 miles south of Bangkok. Ko Samui is an island of towering coconut trees, generous sun and powdery white beaches. On our tour this morning we will see the stunning sights of this tropical paradise. We’ll learn about the coconut industry on the island from a local farmer, then visit the fishing village of Baan Hua Tanon, where we’ll enter a typical Thai home. You’ll be delighted as you watch a trained monkey climb a coconut tree to pluck a nut, and then enjoy a cool beverage made from the fresh coconut milk. Later we visit the huge Seated Buddha, built in 1972. Phra Yai (Big Buddha) sits proudly on the top of a rocky islet off the northeast coast of the island. We’ll stop to view this monumental landmark and the small temple complex that surrounds it.

Day 5, Wednesday October 14, 2015 Bangkok, Thailand
This morning we arrive in Bangkok, an enchanting city on the Chao Phraya River, and a fascinating place, where we will find temples with gold leaf spires and graceful statues of the Buddha. Our tour today takes us through Chinatown, which has been an important commercial centre in Bangkok for more than 200 years. At the Pak-Klong-Talad flower market, we will see an array of tropical flowers. Following lunch we’ll head to the grounds of the Royal Palace, where we visit the Temple of the Emerald Buddha – the most ornate temple in Thailand, with murals, statues and glittering gold. The centrepiece is Buddha’s image carved from a single piece of jade, over 60 centimetres tall. See the Golden Chedi, the Pantheon of Kings and the Towers of Nine Planets, before moving on. Explore the grounds of the Grand Palace and experience the grandeur of an ancient Siamese court, where kings and queens resided hundreds of years ago. We will stay in a hotel in Bangkok overnight to save tour members the return journey to the port.

Day 6, Thursday October 15, 2015 Bangkok, Thailand
Today we visit Queen Sirikit Gardens. They are magnificent botanical garden with many shady old trees, all labelled in English, Latin and Thai. We will see meadows of wild flowers and immaculate landscaped gardens incorporating ponds and mazes. We’ll visit Sampran Riverside Cultural Centre, a 35ha resort located on the river and surrounded by lush gardens, a lake and a 5ha tropical organic farm. Here we’ll see hundreds of tropical fruits, herbs and vegetables, enjoy the cultural show and have some time to explore the gardens before returning to the ship.

Day 7, Friday October 16, 2015 Sihanoukville, Cambodia
Today we arrive in the port city and beach resort of Sihanoukville, also known as Kompong Som. Bordered on three sides by tropical beaches and islands, these and its water sports are its primary attractions. On our tour this morning, we visit Ream National Park, established in 1993 as a 210 sq km protected area. Made up of mangrove swamps and forest, it is home to many animals and bird species. We will take a boat trip through the park, where we may see monkeys, eagles and perhaps dolphins on your journey.

Day 8, Saturday October 17, 2015 At sea
Pamper yourself in the spa today or, if you are feeling more energetic, try paddle tennis or the walking track on deck. In the afternoon Helen will host a garden-themed trivia quiz based on our travels and experiences.

Day 9, Sunday October 18, 2015 Nha Trang, Vietnam
This morning, we arrive at Nha Trang, one of Vietnam’s most popular resorts. We board our coach at the pier and travel to Phuong Phu Flower Village. The region enjoys a favourable climate and good soils and can grow flowers all year. Hundreds of village households grow flowers here, including one family that has been doing it for over 400 years. A large number of flowers are grown for the holiday of Tet, especially chrysanthemums and other daisies.

Day 10, Monday October 19, 2015 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Today we sail into the port of Phu My, gateway to Saigon (now known as Ho Chi Minh City). Located on the banks of the Saigon River, it is a vibrant city full of contrasts. We visit the neo-romanesque Notre Dame Cathedral, whose twin spires are a distinctive landmark, and also see the post office that was designed by Gustav Eiffel of Eiffel Tower fame. We will see the Reunification Hall, once the Presidential Palace, where liberation forces, on 30th April, 1975, marked the end of the Vietnam War. We will then visit the market, where there will be time for shopping for the many traditional Vietnamese products found there.

Day 11, Tuesday October 20, 2015 At sea
A day at sea to relax.

Day 12, Wednesday October 21, 2015 Singapore
This morning, the Legend of the Seas arrives back in Singapore. After disembarking, we will visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, which was founded in 1859 and covers 74ha. It has long been the jewel in Singapore’s green crown, an enchanting place, filled with botanical treasures and tranquil landscapes. At its heart is the fabulous National Orchid Garden, filled with thousands of orchids of every variety. Look out for the native Tembusu tree, reputed to be 150 years old, whose white flowers should be blooming during our visit. We will also have a guided tour of the vertical gardens at Parkroyal on Pickering. Singapore’s greenest hotel boasts twice the area of gardens as its land footprint. Using the latest technologies, its sides, roof and interior are swathed in lush plants.

Day 13, Thursday October 22, 2015 Singapore
Today is a free day to explore Singapore, enjoy the sightseeing and the fabulous shopping. Singapore is a serious foodie destination, too, so don’t miss the chance to try Nonya cuisine at one of the food markets, or Singapore chilli crab, or splurge at one of the top-end restaurants earning worldwide acclaim.

Day 14, Friday October 23, 2015 Singapore
Today, Helen will lead us on an exploration of the Gardens by the Bay, covering 101ha of riverfront at Marina Bay and an integral part of Singapore’s greening project. The already-famous Supertrees stand tall against the city skyline – 18 iconic tree-like structures, ranging from 25 to 50 metres tall. They support a living skin of plants, but also contribute to the development’s sustainability ethos, capturing solar energy and venting air. We’ll also visit the two amazing glasshouse biomes, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest, which showcase plants from around the world at different latitudes and altitudes. The Flower Dome is the world’s biggest conservatory, covering 1.2ha in a single, breathtaking span. It’s home to plants from cool-dry and semi-arid regions, as well as containing changing floral displays and even a restaurant. In the 0.8ha Cloud Forest biome, threatened plants from mountainous rainforest areas dazzle amid the spray from a thundering waterfall. This ev ening we will enjoy a farewell dinner and say goodbye to fellow tour members.

Day 15, Saturday October 24, 2015 Singapore
Today we will be transferred to the airport for our flight back to Australia. We arrive home later the same day. The tour concludes.

Hoshinoya Karuizawa

Hoshinoya Karuizawa

 

Hoshinoya Karuizawa is a boutique high country resort only one hour from Tokyo by bullet train. Relax in steaming onsen (hot springs baths) and with Japanese traditional massage and healing, enjoy beautiful birds and local wildlife, including flying squirrels, and hike to nearby Sengataki Falls.

Riverside villas are located along the river, extending out over the water. Many rooms have their own private miniature Japanese garden courtyard.

HOSHINOYA Karuizawa
Address:
Hoshino, Karuizawa-machi, Kitasaku-gun,
Nagano,389-0194
Tel: +81-(0)50-3786-0066 (8:00~21:00)
星のや 軽井沢
〒389-0194 長野県北佐久郡軽井沢町星野

Gardening World Cup Japan

Eight main show gardens (10m x 10m)

Paul Hervey-Brookes (UK)

Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart (Morocco)

Philippe Niez (France)

Stefano Passerotti (Italy)

Chang Huai Yan (Singapore)

Alex Bartlett and Robert Boltman (Canada)

Inohana Kazuho (Japan)

East Takumi (Japan).

 

Three artistic themed gardens (10m x 10m)

Leon Kluge (South Africa)

Ishihara Kazuyuki (Japan)

Nico Wissing (The Netherlands)

 

Environmental/Floral installations

Leon Kluge (South Africa)

Koga Katsuhiko (Japan)

Tean SAGA (Japan)

Inoue Masaharu (Japan)

 

There are garden tours by

1. The garden designers October 4-6, 2014

2. Huis Ten Bosch staff from October 7 to November 4, 2014

And special night concerts each night during the World Cup month October 4 to November 4, 2014.

 

Japan in Spring

DAY 1 Wednesday 1 April 2015
Sydney – Narita
Meet your Ross Tour Leader at the Qantas check-in counter two hours before departure for the evening flight from Sydney to Narita International Airport.
DAY 2 Thursday 2 April 2015
Narita – Kyoto (D)
When we arrive at Narita we’ll jump straight on the bullet train for Kyoto, the beautiful former imperial capital of Japan. We’ll stay for the next four nights at Westin Miyako. The hotel stands on the Higashiyama Hills overlooking the capital and its extraordinary gardens are registered as a cultural property of the City of Kyoto. We’ve left the afternoon free to give you time to explore the gardens and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. There are also easy walking paths through the surrounding forest, which is a sanctuary for wild birds.
We’ve arranged a welcome dinner tonight at Junsei Restaurant, which is housed in a traditional building of pavilions and courtyards surrounded by a tile-capped stone wall. The building was originally a medical school, established by a remarkable doctor, Ryotei Shingu, in 1839. It became a restaurant after WWII and the traditional architecture and gardens have been retained. It’s a perfect setting for the simple, subtle and clean flavours of Japanese food.

Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 3 Friday 3 April 2015
Kyoto (B/L)
We’ll stroll along the famous Philosopher’s Path this morning, under hundreds of cherry trees in full bloom, and with the rushing snow-fed waters of the Shirakawa River below us. Three rows of cherries line this most-admired walk, which stretches from the local temple to the entrance of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji).
This Philosopher’s Walk is a beautiful way to reach this 15th century temple, which was formerly the villa of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Legend has it that the pavilion was to be covered in silver leaf, but that the shogun died before that could happen. An alternative theory for the name holds that the glistening black tiles on the pavilion roof reflected the light of the full moon in such as way as to look like silver. We’ll come to our own conclusion as we admire the elegance of the pavilion and the wonderful Zen gardens with their raked and moulded gravel. This serene garden also features ancient pines, ginkgoes, maples and camellias.
Our next stop is Hakusa Sonso, a garden, villa and museum created by the famous Japanese painter Kansetsu Hashimoto in 1915. We’ll watch a tea ceremony performed by his wife, who is a Tea Master, in the private garden. The garden is a showcase of Japanese plants and Chinese statuary and we’ll have time to admire it as we enjoy our lunch. The rest of the day is free to explore Kyoto.

Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 4 Saturday 4 April 2015
Kyoto (B)
We’ll experience some icons of Japanese garden design today. First, an early start to catch the wonderful morning light glowing on the 18-carat gold leaf-covered roof of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku- ji. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built this three-tiered pavilion in 1397. He used it for entertaining, and as a space for quiet contemplation of nature. It’s perfect proportions are reflected in the broad Mirror Lake before it.
Ryoanji Temple is our next stop, renowned throughout the world as Japan’s finest example of a rock and sand garden (seki-taki). We’ll take time here to reflect on the meaning of the raked patterns and enigmatic placement of rocks. While this stone garden is the most famous part of the temple grounds, the garden itself is large and planted with Japanese cedars and hundreds of exquisite flowering cherries. It’s also home of a stone water-basin, Tsukubai, engraved with a famous Zen script.
Our final highlight today is Saihoji Temple and its beautiful Moss Garden. Access to this treasured and fragile garden is restricted to protect the moss, and the spirit of the place. We enter only after pausing to meditate in a Buddhist ceremony. Created by Zen priest Muso Soseki in 1339, this is a tranquil space of murmuring streams, groups of stones and velvety moss beneath the trees. So splendid are the 120 types of moss growing here that the Japanese refer to the temple as Koke-dera, the Moss Temple. We’ll also see the world’s first dry rock landscape depicting a waterfall, created by Zen priest Muso Kokushi in 1338.
Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 5 Sunday 5 April 2015
Kyoto (B/D)
A day celebrating the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossom today. We’ll start at Heian Shrine, with its unique pairing of Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. The entrance to this popular Meiji-era strolling garden is through an avenue of 300 weeping flowering cherries. It’s a popular venue for wedding parties, and we can expect to see brides in exquisite bridal kimono posing for photographs.
Our next stop is Nijo Castle, famous for its fortress-like interior and the ingenious escape routes built into the design by the Tokugawa shogun in the early 17th century. The garden here, Ninomaru Garden, is planted with ancient pine trees and 430 ‘Sakura’ cherry trees.
Next we turn to the Higashiyama Mountains and the towering, World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu Temple, set against a backdrop of wild cherries. We’ve arranged a special dinner tonight at another traditional Japanese restaurant with its own beautiful garden – and an elegant geisha performance.
Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto
DAY 6 Monday 6 April 2015
Kyoto – Kanazawa (B)
We’ll catch the express train north this morning, through Japan’s picturesque countryside, past Lake Biwa, and on to the university city of Kanazawa on the Sea of Japan. Kanazawa is a lovely change of pace. Its old districts are reminiscent of Kyoto though it’s a far less busy city, with a relaxed pace. Traditional crafts, such as ceramic, lacquerware, inlay, embroidery and gold leaf work are still practiced. Kanazawa is also home to makers of exquisite fish flies.
After checking into our hotel, the Excel Tokyu, we’ll stroll to the nearby Bukeyashiki or Samurai House district and the ancient home of the Nomura Family. This charming home wraps around a skillfully laid-out garden of meandering streams, waterfalls, lanterns and fabulous plant material.
Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Kanazawa
DAY 7 Tuesday 7 April 2015
Kanazawa (B)
A tour of the city will orient us for an afternoon of exploration, then it’s on to Kenroku-en, one of Graham Ross’ favourite gardens. Kenroku-en combines the six essential features of true gardens: vastness, symmetry, solemnity, coolness, antiquity and pleasure. Highlights are the mature conifer, the channel gardens of water iris and Japan’s first water fountain, surrounded by flowering cherries.
The rest of the day is free to explore Kanazawa’s Edo-period districts; its great department stores, or the art at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Kanazawa
DAY 8 Wednesday 8 April 2015
Kanazawa – Awazu (B/D)
A unique horticultural, architectural and cuisine experience today, as we travel deep into the Japan Alps to visit Shirakawago Village. This village, nestled in a rural setting that looks unchanged for centuries, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The traditional farmhouses have steep thatched rooves, called Gasho Zukuri, a style used more than 250 years ago. We’ll stay tonight in a Japanese ryokan, and enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner. Make sure you take time to enjoy the Japanese baths at the ryokan.
Accommodation: Roten-no-yu Kinkaku, Awazu
DAY 9 Thursday 9 April 2015
Awazu- Nikko (B/D)
Today we make our way to Nikko National Park and its famous monuments and mountains. We’ll travel up the northern coastline, then cross the spine of Honshu through forests of Japanese Cryptomeria cedar and Chamaecyparis cypress dotted with maples.
Our hotel in Nikko for the next two nights is the charming, century-old Nikko Kanaya Hotel. This is the oldest Western-style hotel in Japan and many diplomats and intellectuals used it in its 19th and early 20th century heyday to escape the summer heat of Tokyo. Fittingly, dinner tonight in the hotel is western-style, complete with silver service.
Accommodation: Hotel Kanaya, Nikko
DAY 10 Friday 10 April 2015
Nikko (B)
We’ll take a walking tour of the nearby Toshogu Shrine today, and hear the history behind this sacred region and its traditions. The shrine was built in 1542 to honour the founder of the Tokagawa shogunate. Rinnoji Temple, on the avenue leading to the shrine, contains three gigantic gilded wooden images of Buddha. The buildings are inspiring, but it is the natural beauty of the place that drew the rich and powerful all those centuries ago, and it still casts a spell. There are giant cryptomerias over 1000 years old, the turbulent waters of the Daiya River, and mists wrapping the mountain. The entire site is World Heritage listed.
This afternoon there is plenty of time to walk around the charming town of Nikko, and soak up the tranquil atmosphere.

Accommodation: Hotel Kanaya, Nikko

DAY 11 Saturday 11 April 2015
Nikko – Tokyo (B)
Today our coach takes us to Tokyo, with a stop to see the sacred way of ancient cedar trees, and to visit the Omiya Bonsai Village and Museum. The village was established in 1925 when an earthquake in central Tokyo forced bonsai nurseries to look for an alternative location. They chose Omiya for its clean water and good soil. There are several nurseries in the village that specialise in bonsai and private gardens also have good collections by their front doors. The museum itself offers a great introduction to this ancient art.
This afternoon we’ll check in to the luxurious New Otani Hotel, our accommodation for the next two nights. The hotel is set in 10 acres of beautiful gardens dating back to the 16th century.

Accommodation: New Otani Hotel, Tokyo
DAY 12 Sunday 12 April 2015
Tokyo (B/D)
We’ll visit Nezu Shrine, one of the famous Meiji Ten Shrines of Tokyo this morning, but our first destination is Rikugien Garden. This strolling garden was laid out in 1695 and restored in the 18th century. A path takes us around a lake, which features 88 stops, each offering a view that is a symbolic representation of scenes from classical Japanese literature. The rhythm achieved by alternating dark and bright zones, spacious and confined areas, sunlit groves and mysterious forests, produces virtually a musical effect. The azaleas and cherries will be putting on the last of their spring show.
Our farewell dinner tonight will be held in one of the hotel’s garden restaurants.

Accommodation: New Otani Hotel, Tokyo
DAY 13 Monday 13 April 2015
Tokyo – Sydney (B)
Our day is free to explore some more of Tokyo. Take a stroll through the famous Ginza district, visit Hibya Park, or catch up with some last-minute shopping. We’ll take a late-afternoon transfer to Narita Airport for our flights home.
DAY 14 Tuesday 14 April 2015
Arrive Home

Mekong River Tropical Plants and Culture Cruise

Day 1. Arrive Saigon and Embark Cruise

Be met at the airport and transferred via the Sheraton Saigon Hotel and Towers to My Tho Port, where you’ll embark your luxury river ship for your lower Mekong River cruise. Tonight, enjoy an exclusive Luke Nguyen signature banquet on board.

Seven Nights: the RV AmaLotus (LD)

 

Day 2. Cai Be and Sa Dec

Step ashore to see Cai Be’s French Gothic Cathedral, then explore its colourful port area, colonial buildings and flower gardens. Walk through narrow streets to view potted gardens and see what the innovative locals do with limited resources. Visit a local rice paper manufacturer to learn how rice paper is made. Continue to Sa Dec and enjoy a small-boat ride past floating markets, then disembark to visit a local brick factory and the colourful Cao Dai Temple. (BLD)

 

Day 3. Tan Chau, Evergreen Island and Cambodia Border Crossing

Travel by small boat along the tiny tributaries that snake around Tan Chau. Step ashore for a tour of Tan Chau by rickshaw, then visit a remote evergreen island for an insight into the authentic rural Mekong way of life untouched by tourism. The rest of today is then spent on board your luxurious river ship. This afternoon, perhaps attend a fruit-carving demonstration by one of the ship’s chefs while border formalities are carried out. Cross into Cambodia and cruise overnight towards Phnom Penh. (BLD)

 

Day 4. Phnom Penh

Disembark the ship for a sightseeing tour of Phnom Penh. Visit the spectacular Royal Palace, then head to the Silver Pagoda, set on the south side of the palace complex. After lunch back on board, you may choose to take an excursion to the infamous Killing Fields, before visiting the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, located on the site of the Khmer Rouge’s notorious Security Prison 21. Here, you’ll learn of the atrocities inflicted upon Cambodians during Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime. Otherwise, enjoy time to relax aboard your luxury ship or discover the city’s Russian market. (BLD)

 

Day 5. Phnom Penh and Koh Chen Village

This morning, visit the Botanical Gardens of Phnom Penh with your Botanical Guide. Later today, cruise to the remote Koh Chen, a small village specialising in silver and copperware. On arrival, visit some home workshops that manufacture handmade copper souvenirs. (BLD)

 

Day 6. Oudong and Kampong Tralach

Disembark in Prek K’dam this morning and take off by coach on a tour of Oudong, the royal capital of Cambodia from 1618 until 1866. During your time here, visit the monastery for a Buddha blessing experience. Afterwards, continue to Kampong Tralach for a visit to Wat Kampong Tralach Pleu, before an ox-cart ride takes you through rice fields and a small village back to your ship, which is moored on the Tonle River.  (BLD)

 

Day 7. Kampong Chhnang and Tonle Sap

Enjoy a small-boat excursion into the wetlands near Kampong Chhnang this morning. Then return to your ship and cast off towards the lake of Tonle Sap. Absorb the tranquillity of the lake as you cruise past floating fishing villages. This evening, enjoy a Farewell Dinner on board. (BLD)

 

Day 8. Disembark Cruise and Depart Siem Reap

This morning, disembark the ship and journey through the Cambodian countryside to Siem Reap for your onward flight.  (B)

Cherry Blossoms in Japan and Culture Coastal Cruise

Kyoto to Tokyo – 16 Days on a botanical journey, including an 11-night cruise. In the heart of cherry blossom season, you will be enchanted by the sight of the beautiful and richly symbolic sakura flower in full bloom. Venture along the historic shores of Japan and South Korea on this incredible journey.

Highlights

  • Learn about the history of Japan and Korea from local guides

  • Explore the majestic Western Kyoto Gardens including Daisen-in, Kinkakuji and Ryoanji

  • See Koraku-en Garden, the famous landscape garden of Okayama

  • Travel to Yakushima, Japan’s first World Heritage-listed site

  • Visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden famous for its spring colours

  • Discover Kyongju, a World Heritage-listed site in South Korea

  • See Yuushien Garden, famous for growing ginseng and peonies

  • Visit a traditional Samurai’s home

  • Explore Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens

  • Travel by Bullet Train to Tokyo

  • Tour the Imperial Palace Gardens and Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

  • Try tantalising local Japanese and South Korean cuisine

  • Marvel at the exquisitely beautiful Cherry Blossoms

  • Travel aboard a luxurious small ship that holds a maximum of 100 guests

Included

  • Services of a Cruise Manager, Expedition Team and Botanical Guide

  • Transfers on the first and last day, tipping, port taxes and porterage

  • Stay in 4.5-star hotels in Kyoto and Tokyo

  • Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on the ship

  • On board lectures by the Expedition Team and Botanical Guide

  • 40 Meals – 15 Breakfasts, 11 Lunches and 14 Dinners

Day 1. Arrive Kyoto

Arrive this morning into Osaka, be met and transferred to your hotel in Kyoto. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner where you’ll get to know your fellow Botanica travellers.

Three Nights: Kyoto, Granvia Hotel (D)

Day 2. Kyoto Sightseeing

Kyoto was the former Imperial Capital of Japan and is now ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Soak up the tranquil natural beauty of this peaceful place. Your guided tour today includes a visit to the Nanzenji Temple, with its stunning rock gardens and an enthralling tour of the Gion District – where the

world-famous Geisha reside. (BD)

Day 3. Western Kyoto Gardens

Visit the beautiful Western Kyoto gardens, including Daisen-in Temple, with its famous rock garden; Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design; and the rock garden masterpiece, Ryoanji. (BLD)

Day 4. Kyoto to Kobe and Embark Ship

Enjoy some free time in Kyoto before your transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky in Kobe. Enjoy a special dinner with the ship’s crew this evening, as you set sail for Okayama.

Eleven Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BD)

Day 5. Okayama Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki

After breakfast this morning, we will visit Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s most significant gardens – the name meaning ‘garden of pleasure after’. Visit a classic teahouse, where we will experience a traditional tea ceremony. After a local lunch, continue to Kurashiki, where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th-century wooden warehouses. The beautiful houses are painted white with traditional black tiles, and are situated along a canal framed with weeping willows. (BLD)

Day 6. Takamatsu and Ritsurin Park

Tour the stunning city of Takamatsu on Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese Islands. Journey over the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours. See the Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion, then visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. (BLD)

Day 7. Hiroshima and Miyajima

Arrive in Hiroshima to visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph that contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb. Return to the ship for lunch, then continue to Miyajima. Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture-postcard vista of the scarlet Torii Gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will go ashore to explore the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. (BLD)

Day 8. Uwajima

Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. We will continue to Sakiiya Square and Dairakuji Temple. (BLD)

Day 9. Yakushima Island

Today we arrive on the island of Yakushima, which became Japan’s first World Heritage-listed site in 1993. Yakushima is famous in botanical circles for many great garden plants, including dwarf plants that have evolved to grow smaller than their mainland cousins. We will spend time here on nature walks, including Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi and Sennensugi. (BLD)

Day 10. Nagasaki and Dejima Island

Arrive at Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden. Continue to Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion.

It was also once the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku (isolation) Period for 200 years, until Japan reopened to the world. (BLD)

Day 11. Pusan and South Korea

Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, a World Heritage-listed site often described as the world’s finest open-air museum. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s heritage dates back to the first millennium. As we stroll through some of the numerous excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum, with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and distinctive pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies and enjoy a cultural performance of traditional dance. (BLD)

Day 12. Hagi

Japan’s revolution began here in Jokamachi’s old Samurai residential quarter, where we will tour a Samurai’s home. We will also visit the historic Daisho Temple, the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo (a family of powerful and territorial pre-modern Japanese lords) and all of the even-numbered daimyo. This traditional temple is located on Mount Mison, considered a holy mountain, on the island of Itsukushima. Inside, you will find a flame that is said to have been burning for some 1,200 years. We will also take time to explore Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets; the Hagi Castle ruins; Shizuki Park; and Tokoji Temple. (BLD)

Day 13. Matsue and Yuushien Garden

Matsue, known as the ‘Town of Water’, nestles a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Here, you’ll visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles that remain in Japan today. Admire the structure’s complexity from the outside, as it stands gracefully, watching over the city, and take the opportunity to explore the interior, which affords magnificent views of Lake Shinji. This afternoon, we will visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a real flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for growing ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 14. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden

Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The narrow and winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, historic Samurai residence and even a Geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Next to the Kanazawa Castle ruins is one of Japan’s premier highlights, the famed Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens. (BLD)

Day 15. Niigata and Tokyo

Disembark this morning and take the Bullet Train to Tokyo. On arrival, we will enjoy a tour of the Imperial Palace East Gardens, along with the Meiji Shrine and grounds. You then have a chance to visit the Asakusa Kaminarimon shopping strip for some last minute souvenir shopping. We then transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay.

Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel. (B)

Day 16. Depart Tokyo

After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

Singapore Garden Festival

Day 1. Arrive Singapore

Upon arrival at the airport, be transferred to the hotel. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner to meet your fellow travellers at 6.30 pm.
Stay: Five Nights: 5-star hotel in Singapore, the luxurious Fairmont Hotel
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Dinner

Day 2. Singapore Sightseeing

Enjoy a tour of Singapore, which will visit the National Orchid Garden and the Botanic Gardens. This afternoon, you may choose to join our tour to remember the lives lost in World War II, including the Changi Museum, Bukit Timar and the Changi Chapel. You might prefer to have free time to explore.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 3. Gardens by the Bay

Today we have a full day to explore Gardens by the Bay. The 101-hectare gardens, situated in the heart of Singapore’s Marine Bay, cost $773 million to build and house over a quarter of a million rare plants. With 8 different sections, you will have the day to explore the many different areas, including the Flower Dome, which replicates the cool-dry climate of Mediterranean regions like South Africa, California and parts of Spain and Italy. Home to a collection of plants from deserts all over the world, it showcases the adaptations of plants to arid environments. Visit the Cloud Forest and step out of the concrete jungle into a realm high in the mountains, where you can learn about rare plants and their
fast-disappearing environment.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 4. Singapore Gardens

This morning, we will visit Hort Park, Singapore’s one stop gardening hub, bringing together recreation, education and research gardens.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 5. Singapore Garden Festival

This morning after breakfast, we will visit the Singapore Garden Festival. Here, 39 designers from 19 countries showcase their masterpieces. Festival highlights include Landscape and Fantasy Gardens; Singapore Orchid Show; Balcony Gardens; and Floral Windows to the World. Spend the day enjoying the many wonderful and fascinating displays on offer.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 6. Depart Singapore

After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport for your flight. After check-in, be sure to spend time exploring the magnificent gardens located throughout the airport – with a special garden at each terminal.
    • Daily Meals Included:
    • • Breakfast

Singapore Garden Festival

DAY 1
Monday 18 August 2014
Sydney – Singapore

A Ross Garden Tours representative will meet you at Sydney airport for the Qantas flight to Singapore. We’ll check in to the Swissotel Merchant Court, our luxurious home for the next five nights.
Accommodation: Swissotel Merchant Court

DAY 2
Tuesday 19 August 2014
Singapore Botanic Gardens (B/L)

We’re off to the beautiful Singapore Botanic Gardens this morning. The tropical rainforest here is one of few pockets of original jungle left on the island. There are some 300 plant species in this little pocket forest and plenty of birds, including oriental pied hornbills, spotted wood owls, crimson sunbirds and stork-billed kingfishers.
Singapore is famous for orchids and the National Orchid Garden is situated on the highest hill in the Botanic Gardens. Orchids have been a part of the Gardens collection since its beginnings in 1859. Early directors commissioned extensive orchid collecting expeditions and since 1995 the collection has its own beautifully landscaped home – the National Orchid Garden.
We’ll lunch at is one of the cities loveliest restaurants.
And as the afternoon cools a little, we’ll jump onto a bumboat for a cruise along the Singapore River. These hardy vessels were once used to shuttle cargo in one of the East’s busiest trade centres. The river was the city’s lifeblood, and from the water we’ll see both historic Singapore and the modern metropolis that now towers over it in the sunshine.
Accommodation: Swissotel Merchant Court

DAY 3
Wednesday 20 August 2014
Gardens by the Bay (B)

Today’s highlight is the stunning Gardens by the Bay. You’ll be amazed by the vision of this extraordinary project! It brings to life the government ambition to make Singapore a ‘City in a Garden’. Two enormous conservatories and a grove of ‘Supertrees’ dominate the site. Supertree is the name given to the towering, 16-storey structures that act as frames for climbing and epiphytic plants, as well being supports for solar panels. The Supertrees are lit at night in exhilarating displays. They dominate the skyline, but first we’ll explore the horticultural worlds growing in the biocomes, which are engineering feats themselves, being the biggest column-less glasshouses in the world.
The Cloud Forest features a mountain of exotic plants found in the tropical montane region, between 1,000 to 3,500 metres above sea level. A waterfall thunders off the mountain, misting orchids, ferns, begonias and fuchsias. In contrast, the world of the Flower Dome is that of the dry climates found in South Africa, California, southern Spain and Italy, and south-western Australia. It’s eternally spring in the Flower Dome, with gorgeous displays of blooms.
We’ll lunch at the Supertrees Grove, where there is a choice of cafes and bistros. Then our afternoon is free to shop and explore the city.
Accommodation: Swissotel Merchant Court

DAY 4
Thursday 21 August 2014
Singapore Garden Festival (B)

We’ll spend the day exploring the fifth Singapore Garden Festival and its displays of tropical flowers and garden designs from all around the world. We’ll take an especially close look at the gardens by Australia’s Brendan Moar and Jim Fogarty.
As the sun sets, we’re heading back to Gardens by the Bay. This time we’ll get an illuminated look at the Supertrees, first from the 200m high Observation Deck of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and then from the Gardens themselves as we stroll the OCBC Skyway, a 128m long walkway that connects two 25m-tall Supertrees. Definitely a walk with a view!
Accommodation: Swissotel Merchant Court

DAY 5
Friday 22 August 2014
Old Singapore (B/HT/D)

We’re up early for a look at Singapore’s famous wet market today. It’s a vibrant, bustling place of beautifully displayed fruits and vegetables, nose-tickling spices and local delicacies. You’ll build an appetite for breakfast, taken this morning at Singapore’s largest food centre – Chinatown Complex.
While we’re in Chinatown we’ll take a tour, taste some traditional cakes and sweets and get some tips on traditional Chinese medicine. This afternoon we’ll treat ourselves to a luxurious slice of Singapore’s colonial past with high tea at the most famous hotel in Asia, Raffles. The Tiffin Room is an elegant space in the original part of the hotel, built in 1887. We’ll enjoy tea, cakes, sandwiches and the graciousness of a bygone era.
Our farewell dinner tonight is in a special traditional Peranakan restaurant. Peranakan or Nonya cruisine is a delicious blend of Chinese and Malay influences.
Accommodation: Swissotel Merchant Court

DAY 6
Saturday 23 August 2014
Singapore (B)

Our flight is late this afternoon, so there is plenty of time to explore or shop before we transfer to Changi Airport.

DAY 7
Sunday 24 August 2014
Arrive Home

Gardens of China and National Peony Festival

DAY 1
Tuesday 8 Apr 14
Sydney – Shanghai (D)

Meet your Ross Garden Tour representative at Sydney airport before check-in for our Qantas flight to Shanghai. We’ll enjoy a welcome banquet in our hotel tonight. Accommodation: Broadway Mansions, Shanghai

DAY 2
Wednesday 9 Apr 14
Shanghai to Suzhou (B/L)

We’ll travel by coach this morning to Venice of the East, Suzhou. This ancient city is sited in a network of stone canals, bridges and meticulous gardens. We’ll visit the picturesque 1000-year-old ancient water village of Tongli and get a chance to meet the locals during our walk. The Garden of Seclusion and Meditation and the UNESCO Heritage-listed Tuisiyuan Garden are also part of our morning’s exploration. We’ll sample some Chinese delights at a local restaurant for lunch.
Check in to our hotel in the midst of Old Suzhou after lunch. It’s home for two nights and you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy its five-star luxury and to find out why it won an award as the best resort near Shanghai. Accommodation: Pan Pacific Hotel, Suzhou

DAY 3
Thursday 10 Apr 14
Suzhou (B)

A feng shui and history lesson today with three excellent examples of ancient Chinese garden design from different dynasties. The small masterpiece called ‘Master of Nets Garden’ is a favourite with all our travellers; it dates from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and features gardens within gardens and harmonious architecture. The arrangement of pavilions and gardens is very clever, so that a small area gives the impression of great size and variety. And we love the moon gates here!
The wisteria and bamboo filled Lingering Garden, from the 16th century Ming Period, is considered one of the four classic gardens in Suzhou for its artful representation of nature in miniature scale. Wander over the wisteria-covered stone bridge to enjoy the views of mountain, lake and cloud shaped river worn rocks.
This afternoon we’ll visit Tiger Hill and the oldest pagoda in the city. Yanyansai Pagoda was first built in the Sui Dynasty (581–618) and re-built in 961AD in the Song Dynasty. Nearby by is an ancient collection of bonsai that is unmissable. Accommodation: Grand Pan Pacific Hotel, Suzhou

DAY 4
Friday 11 Apr 14
Suzhou to Hangzhou (B/D)

We step back to the 16th century with our morning visit to the Humble Administrator’s Garden. Through lacy curtains of early spring willow overhanging cool green pools are timber pavilions and bright azaleas and wisteria. There are perfectly composed pictures at every turn. This complex garden was built by the Imperial Inspector Wang Xianchen from the Ming Dynasty. The ‘Penjing’ bonsai collection here is a great place to learn where the art of bonsai or miniature landscape began.
This afternoon, relax and enjoy the scenery on the drive to one of the most beautiful cities in east China, Hangzhou, situated at the southern end of the Grand Canal in the Yangtze Delta. There is an old Chinese saying: “In heaven there is Paradise, on earth there is Suzhou and Hangzhou”. We have visited this lake for more than 20 years and find it more beautiful every year. Fertile land and plentiful waters have brought the city an abundance of rice, tea and fish, which we will savour at tonight’s banquet.
Our hotel for the next two nights is a five-minute walk from West Lake; enjoy mah jong in the games room. Accommodation: Grand Metro Park Hotel, Hangzhou

DAY 5
Saturday 12 Apr 14
Hangzhou (B)

Today we get to understand what makes up the Chinese garden aesthetic: a harmonious blending of architecture, bridges and walkways with pools, rocks and gardens.
Our first visit is a garden that faces West Lake. It’s the elegant private garden of a wealthy silk merchant from 1861, Guo Zhuang. This afternoon we visit the most beautiful and significant Buddhist Monastery in China, Lingyin Monastery, which dates from the 4th century. It’s a sensory celebration of Buddhism with incense, chanting and golden-cloaked monks in reverent prayer. Watch out for the laughing Buddha carved out of the stone mountain in the Cloud Forest. Accommodation: Grand Metro Park Hotel, Hangzhou

DAY 6
Sunday 13 Apr 14
Hangzhou to Luoyang (B/D)

Our floral fun begins with a flight to Zhengzhou, then a coach to Luoyang in the Henan Province for the annual Peony Festival. The peony, huawang, is the floral symbol of China, the flower of riches and honour. Throughout Chinese history the peonies of Luoyang are said to be the finest in the country – and we wholeheartedly agree – they take our breath away!
Tonight a local delicacy – Shui Xi, the water banquet. We’ll dine on 24 dishes, 8 cold and 16 warm, served in various broths and different-sized glazed blue bowls. Highly recommended is the ‘peony swallow dish’, which is shredded turnip in a delicious soup. The name for the water banquet comes from the dishes being served and removed smoothly one after the other, as smooth as flowing water! Accommodation: Luoyang Yaxiang Jinling Hotel, Luoyang

DAY 7
Monday 14 Apr 14
Luoyang (B)

Celebrate the exquisite beauty of the peony today – there will be thousands on show at Luoyang’s National Peony Festival. Accommodation: Luoyang Yaxiang Jinling Hotel, Luoyang

DAY 8
Tuesday 15 Apr 14
Luoyang to Xian (B)

Take a trip to see why the spectacular, UNESCO-listed Longmen Grottoes are the finest and most extensive examples of Buddhist art in the world. Thousands of perfectly preserved stone Buddhas were carved into the mountain between 316 and 907 and they represent the pinnacle in Chinese stone carving.
This afternoon an Express train will take us to the ancient capital of China, Xi’an. This walled city at the eastern end of the Silk Road is home to the Terracotta Warriors.
Our hotel for the next three nights is Golden Flower Shangri-la Hotel, a modern bookend to the day’s ancient wonders. Accommodation: Golden Flower Shangri-la Hotel, Xian

DAY 9
Sun 21 Apr 13
Xian (B/L)

One of the Great Wonders of the World today: a visit to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang where Terracotta Warriors and Horses have symbolically guarded his burial place for 2,000 years.
Meet one of the nine local farmer ‘brothers’ who found pieces of a terracotta head while digging a well. Careful excavations revealed 8,000 terracotta figures of soldiers, archers and charioteers, buried since 221BC.
Lunch today sample a local speciality: wheat noodles. We’ll watch them being made by hand before practising our slurping technique! Accommodation: Golden Flower Shangri-la Hotel, Xian

DAY 10
Thursday 17 Apr 14
Xian (B)

Before we leave this ancient capital we delve into the rich cultural history of central China at Shaanxi Provincial Museum and the Drum Tower. Shaanxi was the seat of Imperial China for 13 feudal dynasties. Over 300,000 truly wondrous items have been slowly unearthed in the province and displayed in the museum. We love the murals, paintings, pottery, coins, as well as bronze, gold, and silver objects. Or take the time for a quick course in Chinese calligraphy. Accommodation: Golden Flower Shangri-la Hotel, Xian

DAY 11
Friday 18 Apr 14
Xian to Beijing (B)

We take a morning flight to the modern capital of China and the home of the 2008 Olympic Games, beautiful Beijing. During the last 20 years we have seen towering residential skyscrapers take over the city so we always enjoy visiting the old part of town, the ‘hutong’. Here, the residences centre around an interior courtyard and house multiple generations of the one family. We’ll meet a local family and see more of the fascinating hutong area by rickshaw – a convoy of them!
Out hotel for the next five nights is one of China’s top ten hotels, the elegant, five-star Regent Hotel, which has a great indoor swimming pool and is within walking distance to food markets and shops. Accommodation: Regent Hotel, Beijing

DAY 12
Saturday 19 Apr 14
Beijing (B/L)

Wake up in a vibrant city that is home to 20 million people. After a late breakfast, we delve into the heart of Beijing and explore The Forbidden City. This was the residence of the Ming and Qing dynasty Emperors and looks familiar to viewers of the ‘Last Emperor’!
Visit some of the 9999 rooms, magnificently decorated halls and finally, the secluded garden of the Last Emperor, Puyi. He was taken at the age two years and 10 months into the Forbidden City to become the country’s twelfth – and final – emperor. We learn that Chairman Mao eventually allowed Puyi to live out his days in Beijing, where he worked in the Botanic Gardens.
Lunch is included today and so is dinner, when we celebrate with Peking Duck, the national dish of China. The duck is prepared at the table by the chef and enjoyed wrapped in a pancake with scallions and hoisin sauce.
We visit the most beautiful and significant Buddhist Monasteries in China, (AD 326) Lingyin Monastery. We note the wonderful streetscape plantings and take in the scenic beauty of West Lake. Accommodation: Regent Hotel, Beijing

DAY 13
Sunday 20 Apr 14
Beijing (B/L/D)

A star-studded day today, starting at the 800-year old Summer Palace, (known as Qingyi garden). This palace and temple is built around a beautiful lake lined with willows, peach blossom and crab apples. The Empress Dowager spent her latter years loving this garden. Kunming Lake occupies two-thirds of the total space of the Summer Palace and we take a cruise across its silvery surface to view the Palace from the water.
Lunch today is ‘Imperial’ style in a private room in the Summer Palace. To get there, we’ll walk the 728m Long Corridor, decorated with thousands of small classic Chinese paintings in the ceiling.
Beijing Botanic Garden this afternoon, with its many horticultural and historical features. There’s a glass pavilion ‘Crystal Palace’ with a fascinating collection of tropical and sub-tropical plants; theme gardens featuring peonies, roses, lilac, magnolia, bamboo, flowering peaches and crab apple. We get to know the Chinese woodland trees like gingko, linden and willow too.
Dinner and Kung Fu show tonight. Accommodation: Regent Hotel, Beijing

DAY 14
Monday 21 Apr 14
Beijing (B)

Two beautiful short walks today, to journey back to in time. We walk the Sacred Way; an avenue of giant stone sculptured animals set in serene landscaped grounds and visit the Ming Tombs, the mausoleums of the 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty. (1409-1644)
Time this afternoon to experience the gravity of another wonder of the world, the Great Wall of China. With its origins in the 7th century BC, but mostly dating from 14th and 15th centuries, the wall was built for defence. Discover the ongoing restoration process of this world heritage site. A cable car takes us to the wall and then we walk, taking in the expanse of flowering pear blossom. Accommodation: Regent Hotel, Beijing

DAY 15
Tuesday 22 Apr 14
Beijing (B)

The day begins at the ethereal Temple of Heaven, a postcard moment, with its distinctive architecture and unique lapis lazuli tiled roof. This is one of China’s finest masterpieces, classified World heritage by UNESCO. Dating to the first half of the 15th century this dignified building is set in gardens and surrounded by historic Chinese cypress forest, where locals can be seen playing, dancing and flying kites.
Next stop is Tiananmen Square. It’s flanked by red flags and overlooked by Chairman Mao Zedong. On one side is his Mausoleum and on the other his huge portrait at gates to the Forbidden City. The square has been used for hundreds of years to commemorate, protest and mourn. Today locals practise tai chi and fly kites in its expanse. Accommodation: Regent Hotel, Beijing

DAY 16
Wednesday 23 Apr 14
Beijing to Shanghai (B)

Travel to the modern bustling city of Shanghai, population 13 million.
Our hotel for the next four nights is Broadway Mansions located in the heart of the city and overlooking the pride of Shanghai, the Bund (embankment) alongside the Huangpu River. We suggest a morning walk to see thousands of locals during their daily tai chi. Accommodation: Broadway Mansions, Shanghai

DAY 17
Thursday 24 Apr 14
Shanghai (B)

Head into the ancient centre of the city, through red lantern-lined streets, street stalls and tea houses to the green jewel of Shanghai, Yu Yuan. Enter via the Zig Zag Teahouse Bridge, which built to keep out evil spirits, then feed the swirling carp, and cross the threshold into a 16th century Ming Dynasty landscape surrounded by dragon-topped walls, lakes, plants and cloud-like rocks. There’s free time for shopping this afternoon before we head out to enjoy the death-defying acts of the Spectacular Shanghai Acrobatics Show. Accommodation: Broadway Mansions, Shanghai

DAY 18
Friday 25 Apr 14
Shanghai (B)

At this time of year Shanghai Botanic Gardens has world-class orchid exhibitions, bonsai and floral displays. It was built by its late Director, Wang Dajun, after the original was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. It has now returned to international recognition and has established an extensive collection of conifers, roses, and orchids. Its bonsai collection is world-renowned, especially for conifers and pine trees.
We’ll make an afternoon visit to Jade Buddha Temple, to see two precious jade Buddhist statues, carved from sparkling white jade. Accommodation: Broadway Mansions, Shanghai

DAY 19
Saturday 26 Apr 14
Shanghai (B/D)

This morning we visit the prestigious Shanghai Museum with its collection of priceless antiques, and relics of ancient Chinese dynasties.
Then we’ll take a step into the future, rising 88 storeys into the 420m high Jin Mao Tower, which literally means ‘Gold Luxuriance Building’. We get a jaw-dropping view of the metropolis of Shanghai across the Pearl River.
Time for sharing tales and our favourite moments tonight during a farewell dinner at the hotel beautifully located in the old French Quarter. Accommodation: Broadway Mansions, Shanghai

DAY 20
Sunday 27 Apr 14
Shanghai (B)

Our last visit is a cruise on the city’s most important shipping artery, the Huangpu River which connects the East China Sea to the Yangzi River. The view of the city from the river is stunning and its fascinating to see the colonial landmarks on the western shore and the glittering modern steel and glass skyscrapers of the burgeoning Pudong financial district on the eastern shore.
This afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight home.

DAY 21
Monday 28 April 14

Welcome home

Japan in Spring

DAY 1
Tuesday 1 April 2014
Sydney – Narita

Carolyn Dwyer, your Ross Tour Leader, will meet you at the Qantas check-in counter two hours before departure for the evening flight from Sydney to Narita International Airport.

DAY 2
Wednesday 2 April 2014
Narita – Kyoto (D)

When we arrive at Narita we’ll jump straight on the bullet train for Kyoto, the beautiful former imperial capital of Japan. We’ll stay for the next four nights at Westin Miyako. The hotel stands on the Higashiyama Hills overlooking the capital and its extraordinary gardens are registered as a cultural property of the City of Kyoto. We’ve left the afternoon free to give you time to explore the gardens and soak up the peaceful atmosphere. There are also easy walking paths through the surrounding forest, which is a sanctuary for wild birds.
We’ve arranged a welcome dinner tonight at Junsei Restaurant, which is housed in a traditional building of pavilions and courtyards surrounded by a tile-capped stone wall. The building was originally a medical school, established by a remarkable doctor, Ryotei Shingu, in 1839. It became a restaurant after WWII and the traditional architecture and gardens have been retained. It’s a perfect setting for the simple, subtle and clean flavours of Japanese food. 
Accommodation: 
Westin Miyako, Kyoto

DAY 3
Thursday 3 April 2014
Kyoto (B/L)

We’ll stroll along the famous Philosopher’s Path this morning, under hundreds of cherry trees in full bloom, and with the rushing snow-fed waters of the Shirakawa River below us. Three rows of cherries line this most-admired walk, which stretches from the local temple to the entrance of the Silver Pavilion (Ginkaku-ji).
This Philosopher’s Walk is a beautiful way to reach this 15th century temple, which was formerly the villa of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa. Legend has it that the pavilion was to be covered in silver leaf, but that the shogun died before that could happen. An alternative theory for the name holds that the glistening black tiles on the pavilion roof reflected the light of the full moon in such as way as to look like silver. We’ll come to our own conclusion as we admire the elegance of the pavilion and the wonderful Zen gardens with their raked and moulded gravel. This serene garden also features ancient pines, ginkgoes, maples and camellias.
Our next stop is Hakusa Sonso, a garden, villa and museum created by the famous Japanese painter Kansetsu Hashimoto in 1915. We’ll watch a tea ceremony performed by his wife, who is a Tea Master, in the private garden. The garden is a showcase of Japanese plants and Chinese statuary and we’ll have time to admire it as we enjoy our lunch. The rest of the day is free to explore Kyoto. 
Accommodation: 
Westin Miyako, Kyoto

DAY 4
Friday 4 April 2014
Kyoto (B)

We’ll experience some icons of Japanese garden design today. First, an early start to catch the wonderful morning light glowing on the 18-carat gold leaf-covered roof of the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku- ji. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built this three-tiered pavilion in 1397. He used it for entertaining, and as a space for quiet contemplation of nature. Its perfect proportions are reflected in the broad Mirror Lake before it.
Ryoanji Temple is our next stop, renowned throughout the world as Japan’s finest example of a rock and sand garden (seki-taki). We’ll take time here to reflect on the meaning of the raked patterns and enigmatic placement of rocks. While this stone garden is the most famous part of the temple grounds, the garden itself is large and planted with Japanese cedars and hundreds of exquisite flowering cherries. It’s also home of a stone water-basin, Tsukubai, engraved with a famous Zen script.
Our final highlight today is Saihoji Temple and its beautiful Moss Garden. Access to this treasured and fragile garden is restricted to protect the moss, and the sprit of the place. We enter only after pausing to meditate in a Buddhist ceremony. Created by Zen priest Muso Soseki in 1339, this is a tranquil space of murmuring streams, groups of stones and velvety moss beneath the trees. So splendid are the 120 types of moss growing here that the Japanese refer to the temple as Koke-dera, the Moss Temple. We’ll also see the world’s first dry rock landscape, created by Zen priest Muso Kokushi in 1338. It’s called Karesansui and depicts a waterfall.
Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto

DAY 5
Saturday 5 April 2014
Kyoto (B/D)

A day celebrating the ephemeral beauty of cherry blossom today. We’ll start at Heian Shrine, with its unique pairing of Chinese and Japanese architectural styles. The entrance to this popular Meiji-era strolling garden is through an avenue of 300 weeping flowering cherries. It’s a popular venue for wedding parties, and we can expect to see brides in exquisite bridal kimono posing for photographs.
Our next stop is Nijo Castle, famous for its fortress-like interior and the ingenious escape routes built into the design by the Tokugawa shogun in the early 17th century. The garden here, Ninomaru Garden, is planted with ancient pine trees and 430 ‘Sakura’ cherry trees.
Next we turn to the Higashiyama Mountains and the towering, World Heritage-listed Kiyomizu Temple, set against a backdrop of wild cherries.
We’ve arranged a special dinner tonight at Ganko Kasegawa Nijoen, another traditional Japanese restaurant with its own beautiful garden – and an elegant geisha performance.
Accommodation: Westin Miyako, Kyoto

DAY 6
Sunday 6 April 2014
Kyoto-Kanazawa (B)

We’ll catch the express train north this morning, through Japan’s picturesque countryside, past Lake Biwa, and on to the university city of Kanazawa on the Sea of Japan. Kanazawa is a lovely change of pace. Its old districts are reminiscent of Kyoto though it’s a far less busy city, with a relaxed pace. Traditional crafts, such as ceramic, lacquerware, inlay, embroidery and gold leaf work are still practiced. Kanazawa is also home to makers of exquisite fish flies.
After checking into our hotel, the Excel Tokyu, we’ll stroll to the nearby Bukeyashiki or Samurai House district and the ancient home of the Nomura Family. This charming home wraps around a skillfully laid-out garden of meandering streams, waterfalls, lanterns and fabulous plant material.
Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Kanazawa

DAY 7
Monday 7 April 2014
Kanazawa (B)

A tour of the city will orient us for an afternoon of exploration, then it’s on to Kenroku-en, one of Graham Ross’ favourite gardens. Kenroku-en combines the six essential features of true gardens: vastness, symmetry, solemnity, coolness, antiquity and pleasure. Highlights are the mature conifer, the channel gardens of water iris and Japan’s first water fountain, surrounded by flowering cherries.
The rest of the day is free to explore Kanazawa’s Edo-period districts; its great department stores, or the art at the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art.
Accommodation: Excel Tokyu Hotel, Kanazawa

DAY 8
Tuesday 8 April 2014
Kanazawa – Awazu (B/D)

A unique horticultural, architectural and cuisine experience today, as we travel deep into the Japan Alps to visit Shirakawago Village. This village, nestled in a rural setting that looks unchanged for centuries, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The traditional farmhouses have steep thatched rooves, called Gasho Zukuri, a style used more than 250 years ago. We’ll stay tonight in a Japanese ryokan, and enjoy a traditional kaiseki dinner. Make sure you take time to enjoy the Japanese baths at the ryokan.
Accommodation: Roten-no-yu Kinkaku, Awazu

DAY 9
Wednesday 9 April 2014
Awazu- Nikko (B/D)

Today we make our way to Nikko National Park and its famous monuments and mountains. We’ll travel up the northern coastline, then cross the spine of Honshu through forests of Japanese Cryptomeria cedar and Chamaecyparis cypress dotted with maples.
Our hotel in Nikko for the next two nights is the charming, century-old Nikko Kanaya Hotel. This is the oldest Western-style hotel in Japan and many diplomats and intellectuals used it in its 19th and early 20th century heyday to escape the summer heat of Tokyo. Fittingly, dinner tonight in the hotel is western-style, complete with silver service.
Accommodation: Hotel Kanaya, Nikko

DAY 10
Thursday 10 April 2014
Nikko (B/D)

We’ll take a walking tour of the nearby Toshogu Shrine today, and hear the history behind this sacred region and its traditions. The shrine was built in 1542 to honour the founder of the Tokagawa shogunate. Rinnoji Temple, on the avenue leading to the shrine, contains three gigantic gilded wooden images of Buddha. The buildings are inspiring, but it is the natural beauty of the place that drew the rich and powerful all those centuries ago, and it still casts a spell. There are giant cryptomerias over 1000 years old, the turbulent waters of the Daiya River, and mists wrapping the mountain. The entire site is World Heritage listed.
This afternoon there is plenty of time to walk around the charming town of Nikko, and soak up the tranquil atmosphere. Dinner tonight in our hotel is Japanese style. 
Accommodation: 
Hotel Kanaya, Nikko

DAY 11
Friday 11 April 2014
Nikko-Tokyo (B)

Today our coach takes us to Tokyo, with a stop to see the sacred way of ancient cedar trees, and to visit the Omiya Bonsai Village and Museum. The village was established in 1925 when an earthquake in central Tokyo forced bonsai nurseries to look for an alternative location. They chose Omiya for its clean water and good soil. There are several nurseries in the village that specialise in bonsai and private gardens also have good collections by their front doors. The museum itself offers a great introduction to this ancient art.
This afternoon we’ll check in to the luxurious New Otani Hotel, our accommodation for the next two nights. The hotel is set in 10 acres of beautiful gardens dating back to the 16th century. 
Accommodation: 
New Otani Hotel, Tokyo

DAY 12
Saturday 12 April 2014
Tokyo (B/D)

We’ll visit Nezu Shrine, one of the famous Meiji Ten Shrines of Tokyo this morning, but our first destination is Rikugien Garden. This strolling garden was laid out in 1695 and restored in the 18th century. A path takes us around a lake, which features 88 stops, each offering a view that is a symbolic representation of scenes from classical Japanese literature. The rhythm achieved by alternating dark and bright zones, spacious and confined areas, sunlit groves and mysterious forests, produces virtually a musical effect. The azaleas and cherries will be putting on the last of their spring show.
Our farewell dinner tonight will be held in one of the hotel’s garden restaurants. 
Accommodation:
 New Otani Hotel, Tokyo

DAY 13
Sunday 13 April 2014
Tokyo – Sydney (B)

Our day is free to explore some more of Tokyo. Take a stroll through the famous Ginza district, visit Hibya Park, or catch up with some last-minute shopping. We’ll take a late-afternoon transfer to Narita Airport for our flights home.

DAY 14
Monday 14 April 2014
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