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The absolute latest updates in China travel information.

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Our tales from the trail and dispatches straight from the source.

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Insider tips on China's finer side

October 24th, 2014

A Guide to China’s 72-hour Visa Exemption Program

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Before setting off for my first China adventure, I had the option to apply for a visa at a Chinese consulate in person or pay an agent to do it for me. Being a person who enjoys travel whether it be for business or leisure, I choose to make the 3-hour road trip to the nearest Chinese consulate to complete the two day process. Either way, foreigners jetting off to China must apply for a visa regardless of whether their intended stay lasts a few days or a few weeks. Now there is good news – a growing number of Chinese cities have passed 72-hour Transit Visa Exemption Programs. Hangzhou has been the latest to join this program, as recently as October 20th, while Kunming joined on October 1st.

How does the 72-hour visa program work?
This program applies to foreign visitors from 51 countries who have continuing flights to third countries. Travelers must already have tickets for a flight that departs for a third country within 72 hours of their having landed in China and possess valid international travel documents allowing them to enter their final destination.

The visa exemption program can’t be extended beyond 72 hours. If a traveler is unable to depart within 72 hours for unexpected reasons, such as a flight cancellation or sudden illness, they need to apply for a visa from the Municipal Public Security Bureau.

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Limitations:
The 72-hour visa free stay only applies to transit via airports. Passengers by train or any other modes of transport are not eligible. Also, this program does not apply to passengers traveling on round trip flights, for example: a US citizen flying from Korea to Beijing for 3 days and then back to Korea would not be eligible.

What cities and airports offer 72-hour visa free transit?
Currently, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Xi’an, Guilin, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Kunming, Dalian, Chongqing, and Shenyang. Visitors can only travel within the precinct they fly into, which means they cannot visit other cities in China or leave the administrative region where they have landed (for example, a traveler taking advantage of this policy in Beijing would not be able to go to Tianjin for a day).

airplane

What can I experience in 72 hours?
With a limited amount of time in China, it’s important to maximize your time and minimize your stress. Our Concierge service does just that: we can pick you up from the airport, provide you with a reliable driver and transport, and / or arrange flexible guided tours and return you the airport in time for your next flight. Take a look at our preexisting itineraries below to get an idea of what you can experience during 3 days. While nearly all of these itineraries are longer than 3 days, you can pick and choose any activities you like. All these itineraries are customizable to your preferences.

Beijing
Explore China’s illustrious history at the Great Wall and Forbidden City or China’s modern side at the Olympic Park and 798 Art District. Check out our Beijing itinerary.

Shanghai
With 72 hours in Shanghai, we recommend going to the Bund, the French Concession, Yu Garden, or the Shanghai Museum. Browse our sample itinerary to discover all the “Paris of the East” has to offer.

Chengdu
Chengdu is famous for its iconic pandas, spicy cuisine, and face-changing opera. Look at our Chengdu itinerary for inspiration on how to spend 72 hours in Sichuan’s laidback capital.

Xi’an
You can get a special VIP view of the Terracotta Warriors or relax with a private taichi lesson on the city’s ancient wall while transiting through Xi’an. Our 3-day adventure is the perfect itinerary for 72 hours in Xi’an.

Guilin
This area of China is so stunning that it’s featured on the 20 yuan bill. 72 hours in Guilin will afford you with enough time to discover this area’s natural beauty and diverse culture.

For more information, contact us at info@wildchina.com

 

Find out more about 72-hour visa-free transit.

 

 

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October 22nd, 2014

Our Shared Experience in Yunnan

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

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A group of students hiking in the Abujee mountains

Adventure offer an opportunity for personal growth at any age. When we create a trip, we want it to be a meaningful journey. Here at WildChina, we strive to see people learn and grow from their experiences with us. Recently, we led a brave group of international high school students and teachers on an educational adventure in Yunnan province. Our guides shared the highlights, cultural exchanges and WOW moments of their moving education trip.

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Community service at a Tibetan family farm

Informed that one afternoon of community service at a local family farm would help complete a few days worth of hard work, the students and teachers weren’t hesitant to roll up their sleeves and help out the Tibetan family. They jumped right in and with a few instructions, chopped down barley with sharp sickles, secured their big bundles with barley ties, and put the golden barley on an old tractor to be hulled away
 to the barn.

Most Tibetans speak in Tibetan languages, so our local WildChina guides usually translate, but on this occasion, the quick-witted students took communication into their own hands. They worked side-by-side with the local Tibetan family while using universal hand motions and facial expressions to communicate. They used arm motions to signal strength, smiles to exchanging gratitude and appreciation, and big waves of goodbyes and thank yous. After seeing the huge loads of barley they harvested, the students, teachers, and guides directly saw the true value of their work at the family farm. The students’ feelings of accomplished glowed on their young, tired faces.

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Students working hard in the barley field

Spending an evening at a Tibetan home gave the students another opportunity for a shared cultural experience. After a tasty Tibetan meal, the family preformed a lively traditional dance, and then asked the high school students to join. After dancing around the room with the locals, the students decided it was time the switch things up and teach the kind family some Western dance moves.

The energetic students choose one of the most iconic 1990s dance hits, the Macarena. A student played the song from their iPhone as they taught the family the catchy dance. The Tibetan women and children had a blast! Seeing the huge smiles on the family’s faces, sharing laughs and exchanging dances, taught the high school students that while it’s great to go and experience new culture, it’s also rewarding to share yours along the way.

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Sharing dances at a Tibetan family home

Along their adventure in the Tibetan plateau, the high school students were taking trip notes of their exciting learning experiences for a paper they would create after the Yunnan trip. One student had another idea for the project; instead of writing a conventional paper, he would capture the magic of Yunnan with a video compilation. He video recorded the community service, the strenuous hikes in the Abujee mountains, the tour of a local school and villages, and every smile and struggle in between.

On their last night camping,sitting around a bright,warm fire in the Abujee mountains, the student volunteered his video for viewing. Projected onto the ceiling of the tent, the students, teachers, and guides watched their life-altering journey together. Mixed emotions overcame the group as they watched their trekking voyage unfold in front of them.

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Wildlife visiting the campsite

Outside the tent, local Tibetans who were assisting the trip, caught a view of the video as well; this was the first time some of them saw themselves on video. They were in awe at the technology and thoroughly enjoyed seeing themselves, some even wondering, ‘Do I really look like that?!’
After viewing the touching video, one of the teachers told a WildChina guide that she loved being a teacher because she can guide students to learn, but it’s breathtaking seeing students take their learning into their own hands. On this expedition, the students stepped out of the classroom to learn about Tibetan people and experience the culture hands on, changing themselves and the Tibetans they befriended along the way.

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Students’ campsite

If you would like to Experience China Differently with us, contact info@wildchina.com.

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October 21st, 2014

40th Anniversary of the Terracotta Warriors Discovery

By: Kayla Paramore | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Warriors

Four decades ago, local farmers in Shaanxi province were hard at work digging a well when they came across one of the world’s grandest archeological discoveries. Four chambers were eventually unearthed, filled with over 6,000 soldiers, horses and chariots arranged in military formation. Now travelers from around the world come to see these treasures and hear stories of the ruthless Qin Shi Huang Emperor who unified China and had a fondness for burying things, both statues and dissidents.

In celebration of the discovery a new exhibit has opened in Xi’an displaying special never-before-seen pieces including clay fragments that still retain some of their original color. The exhibition will continue until March 2015.

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October 20th, 2014

Conde Nast Recommends October for China Travel

By: Kayla Paramore | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Octoberchina

There’s just a little bit of time left to complete all of the Conde Nast travel recommendations for the month of October. Start book your Christmas tickets, get an early deal on 2015 cruises and, of course, follow the advise of our very own, Mei Zhang and go see China. Check out the full recommendation list here.

 

 

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October 10th, 2014

An Introduction to Taiwan

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

People tend to stereotype Taiwan as a little, overcrowded island centered around manufacturing industries. However, Taiwan is much more than that. Taiwan has something for everyone: stunning natural scenery, rich traditional and modern culture, beautiful beaches, renowned hot springs and delicious food.

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Culture:
Taiwanese culture is the distinct result of a mix of traditional Chinese, aboriginal, and Japanese culture, which is reflected in Taiwan’s food. Taiwanese people are known for treating others with politeness and respect and the friendliness of the local population is remembered long afterwards.

Nature:
Do you love the outdoors? Taiwan’s nature varies from sandy beaches to misty mountains, which gives guests an array of destinations to visit. Many people go on weekend trips to Hualien to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and relax on the coast. Taroko Gorge, a 12 mile long canyon bursting with green vegetation and turquoise waters, is located in in Hualien. There are activities for the whole family ranging from swimming, water sports and hiking.

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Taiwan is also home to pebble beaches, beaches of golden sand, and even black sand beaches. Recommended beaches:

1.Kenting’s golden sand beaches are located on the southernmost tip of Taiwan and are the best beaches in Taiwan. Fun family activities include boating, diving, swimming, surfing and jet skiing.

2. Hualien’s Cow Mountain Beach is located perfectly between Taiwan’s aquamarine ocean and sky-high mountains, offering easy access to both. This isolated black sand beach is a great place to relax in untouched nature.

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Tea:
Taiwan is known for refreshing, first-rate oolong tea. Oolong tea flourishes due to Taiwan’s geographical location and mountainous landscape. There are many locations throughout Taiwan that you can visit tea plantations and sample freshly picked tea.

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Hot Springs:
If you want a relaxing getaway, there are more than 150 hot springs throughout the country you can visit. The warm waters of these springs soothe, revitalize and reinvigorate the body, perfect for a relaxing vacation.

 

If you are interested in visiting Taiwan, come relax with us on our Refreshing Taiwan trip! Contact info@wildchina.com for more information.

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September 22nd, 2014

Meet Our Bloggers

By: WildChina | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Who are the people behind the scenes of the WildChina blog? Read about our team’s different personalities below!

 

Annika Frantzell

annika

Originally From: California, U.S.A.
Adventure Level: Medium
Dream City: Taipei
Travel Style: Cultural immersion
Favorite Travel Partner: Mom or girlfriends
Favorite Place: Taiwan
Favorite Mode of Travel: Moped
Least Favorite Mode: Subway during rush hour
Style : Fabulous
Should Have Been Born In: Hong Kong
Style Spirit Animal: Hedgehog – sharp but cute
Must Have Item During Travel:Sunblock
Theme Song When Traveling: La Oreja de Van Gogh – Geografía or Canardo – M’en Aller
Favorite Travel Quote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ― Lao Tzu

 

Sylvia Liu

sylvia

Originally From: Beijing, China

Adventure Level: As long as I don’t need to touch bugs.
Travel Style: Like a local, food first
Favorite Travel Partner: Random traveler with the same taste and great camera
Favorite Place: Florence
Favorite Mode of Travel: Plane flown by hubby
Least Favorite Mode: Bus
Style : Monochromatic, eclectic
Should Have Been Born In: the future
Style Spirit Animal: Scarlet Johansson, Park Sora, Nini Nguyen
Must Have Item During Travel: Polaroid
Theme Song When Traveling: Massive Attack Paradise Circus or Bach, Cello Suite No.1 Prelude
Favorite Travel Quote: Wanderlust- Travel doesn’t become adventure until you leave yourself behind

Megan McDowell

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Originally From: Indiana, U.S.A.
Adventure Level: On a 1-10 scale, I’d be an 11

Dream City: Tokyo
Travel Style: Free spirit
Favorite Travel Partner: My best friend
Favorite Place: Thailand
Favorite Mode of Travel: Plane, preferably private
Least Favorite Mode: Car, unless its a fun road trip!
Style : Super Girly
Should Have Been Born In: France
Style Spirit Animal: Peacock
Must Have Item During Travel: Big hat
Theme Song When Traveling: Depends on the destination
Favorite Travel Quote: “Strangers are only friends you haven’t met yet.”

Kayla Paramore
Kayla

Originally From: Texas,U.S.A.
Adventure Level: HIGH
Dream City: Istanbul
Travel Style: Wanderer
Favorite Travel Partner: My little brother
Favorite Mode of Travel: Bicycle – you cover more ground than walking, but it’s easy to stop off and explore at any moment.
Least Favorite Mode: none? transportation is awesome!
Style: minimalist, with accent items (sometimes).
Must-have Travel Items: compass, hard-copy map of the area I’m traveling, notebook, book for reading, mosquito repellent stick, tiger balm, sleep mask, pack towel.
Theme Song When Travel: Something off of The National’s “Trouble Will Find Me” album.
Favorite Travel Quote:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
- T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding

 

Christiana Zhu
chris

Originally From: Auckland, New Zealand
Adventure Level: Hardcore​
Dream city​: ​Atlantis – underwater city (wreck diving is so much fun)
Travel Style​: ​Live like a local, always searching for tasty morsels and hidden gems…
Favorite Travel Partner​: My sister​
Favorite Place​: Anywhere with great company
Favorite Mode of Travel​: Roadtrip
Least Favorite Mode​: Bus​
Style: Mountain Chic​
Must Have Item During Travel​: SwissCard – Swiss Army multi-tool in the size of a credit card which you can conveniently tuck away in your wallet
Them​e​ Song When Traveling: Local music of the place in which I am traveling
Favorite Travel Quote: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”​- Mark Twain​

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September 19th, 2014

Places to go During China’s October Holiday

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

National Day in China is celebrated with a full “Golden Week” off (which this year falls on October 1st – October 7th), meaning all those residing in China have time to travel wherever they want. If you don’t plan ahead, the few remaining tickets and accommodations will be around double their original price. All major tourist destinations in China will be swamped with people, so you can cross a quiet hike at the Great Wall off your list.

As a result, it’s better not to travel to popular destinations like Beijing and Shanghai during Golden Week. For those of you who have this holiday off and are looking for something to do, here are some locations and trips we recommend that go to less touristy areas, perfect for the October holiday.

Private Tours:
Sichuan Province  
Sichuan offers remote,untouched natural landscapes that are great for exploring. A trekking adventure into Western Sichuan to Minya Gongga is perfect for the adventurous traveler. Check out our Trekking Mt. Minya Gongga trip.

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Sichuan Province

Guizhou province
Guizhou is relatively isolated and untouched by tourism.Check out our Discovering Hidden Minorities of Southeast Guizhou journey, which was featured in the Financial Times.

Tibet
Tibet is home to breathtaking landscape, remote terrains, and many sacred religious sites. If you travel here in late October or early November, there will be little to no tourists. Also, Tibetans are back from work during this season so you can encounter more local people.These private trips are great for nature and culture enthusiasts:  
1.Hiking the Pilgrimage Path: Ganden to Samye Monastery
2.Soul of Tibet

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Kartha Valley

Group Trips:  
Yunnan
In the fall, Yunnan is picture perfect; skies are a crisp blue and the trees are multicolored. The weather is great for hiking and picnic lunches. Our Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan trip is a great choice for fall.

The Silk Road
The Silk Road is rich in history and culture. Head to these less known stops on the Silk Road just as Marco Polo once did. This group tour offers a first hand look at this historic trade route: Along the Silk Road.

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Dunhuang,Gansu Province.Silk Road Tour.

 
If you can postpone your vacation to the weeks after the October holiday, late October or November, there are significantly less tourists, and accommodations won’t be inflated.
For more information on our trips, contact us at info@wildchina.com.
 

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September 12th, 2014

Must Try Yunnan Recipes

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

Chinese cuisine is much more than the sickeningly sweet orange chicken and limp chow mein you may have encountered outside of China. In fact, Chinese cuisine is very diverse and varies from province to province. For example, Beijing is known for its Peking duck while Sichuan is famous for its red chili or peppercorn based dishes and Hong Kong is famous for its dim sum.

WildChina has developed a new spinoff tour of our popular Gastronomic Tour with Fuchsia Dunlop that takes you to Yunnan province, one of the most geographically, ethnically, and culturally diverse regions in China which is home to a wide variety of exotic and diverse cuisines.

Yunnan cuisine provides a twist on the Chinese diet staples of rice and noodles with the use of exotic, savory spices and herbs. This region’s dishes feature local accents like mint, flowers, pineapple, mushrooms, and lemongrass. We’ve collected some Yunnan recipes below to get your taste buds excited and introduce you to this up-and-coming, increasingly trendy cuisine.

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A local meal in Yunnan

Yunnan-style Soybeans
Soybeans (or edamame) are a popular snack in Asia served either shelled or peeled, depending on which part of Asia you are in. Here is a recipe for Yunnan-style soybeans that is simple but tasty – perfect for beginner chefs!

Yunnan Meal
For more advanced cooks, here is a whole Yunnan meal to try your hand at, consisting of Dai-style Ghost Chicken, Sichuan pepper oil, bean jelly, and salt-roasted broad beans.

Pineapple Sticky Rice
If you have a sweet tooth, try this healthy signature Dai minority dish.

Is your mouth watering yet? If you want to taste more of what Yunnan has to offer, check out our flavor-packed Yunnan Gastronomic Tour with Fuchsia Dunlop next October. For more info, contact us at info@wildchina.com.

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September 10th, 2014

Reasons You’ll Love Our Tea Travels

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

We focus on taking people on exciting, new adventures. Our Tea Travels with Jeff Fuchs is a trip designed to take you on a journey to experience local culture, ancient teas and tasty cuisines. Here are some highlights of the trip!  

1.Jeff Fuchs.
Jeff Fuchs, our 2011 WildChina Explorer grant winner, will be leading this trip. He is a well-known explorer, writer, and photographer and the first Westerner to have ever traveled the entire Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road. He has over a decade of tea exploration under his belt! Read an interview with Jeff Fuchs here.

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(Photo by Jeff Fuchs.2010 Xishuangbanna.)  

2.Homestay
While in Xishuangbanna, you’ll stay at an Aini village for one night. Here you will get a chance to spend time with the locals and see how they live. Village homestays are unique opportunities that give our clients a chance to experience local culture first hand. WildChina staff scouts out the villags in advance, ensuring they are clean and safe. Read about one of our experiences with a home stay here.

3.Chinese Cuisine
Adventurous Eater? During this journey, many meals will feature ethnic minority cuisine. In Xishuangbanna we will have dinner with Hani villagers and in each place we visit, we will try new teas, including those from ancient tea trees. We will taste the local flavors of Fujian by eating freshly caught fish and sweet, locally grown taro. You probably don’t eat like this at home but we like to give our guests the opportunity to experience this dynamic part of the region’s culture. In addition to local specialties, we make sure you’re provided with familiar Western food such as cereal and fresh coffee and tea for breakfast. (We can also provide special meals to those who have food allergies or special requirements.)

Teapicking
(Photo by Jeff Fuchs.2013 Yunnan.)

4.The locals
A trip favorite is interacting with locals. We go to minority villages where we eat and drink tea with local people. For example, you’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the lives of the She ethnic group and join them in the tea fields as well as visiting a Bulang village where we’ll meet the descendants of the first tea cultivators.

5. Knowledge
You’ll learn a lot about tea: its origin, how to pick it, and how to participate in a proper tea ceremony. You’ll also gain insight into the local culture and religion. After this trip, you might become a tea expert yourself!

Tea Travels with Jeff Fuchs leaves in March 2015, perfect for a spring getaway! If you would like more information, contact us at info@wildchina.com.

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September 5th, 2014

8 Tips for Your Tibet Trek

By: Megan McDowell | Categories: Culture, News You Can Use

WilChina prides itself on journeys that go above and beyond the typical itinerary. Some of our trips include more active adventures including hiking and trekking, so here are some tips to help you prepare for a trek.

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1.Prepare for Altitude Changes
You can climb high, but go slow! When hiking in the mountains, people can experience acute mountain sickness (AMS). People respond to changes in altitude differently – both experienced hikers and first timers can get altitude sickness. Some people don’t have a reaction while others react with symptoms such as headache, nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and loss of appetite.

To avoid these unwanted symptoms and possibly a day in bed, it’s important to hike slowly when changing altitude. When going up, plan a practical journey that allows you to adapt steadily to the high altitude. Altitude sickness is not an issue when going down, so go as fast as your heart desires!
When WildChina travels to high altitudes, we plan time for rest and elevation adjustments. In the event of altitude sickness on one of our trips, our guides take hikers to a lower level to rest. Usually after some rest and water, symptoms go away.

2.Use Local Guides
In order to get a local experience during a trek (and to not get lost!), it’s important to travel with a local who knows the land and language. Also, be sure to do your research or ask family and friends to find someone you can trust.

Here at WildChina we combat such issues by hiring local, responsible, and friendly guides that will add a personal touch to your already epic trekking adventure!

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3. Do Your Research
From our experience, it’s important to read about the places you’ll visit, even if it’s a simple Google search! Before going on a Tibet trip, WildChina recommends reading these books.

4. Be Prepared for the Worst

Rainstorms every night? Unexpected injury during the trek? You don’t know what’s going to happen! So, put this in mind when preparing for your hike.

Some things that WildChina recommends to bring for those unexpected disasters: itching cream, waterproof everything (jacket, shoes), extra batteries, headlamp, and first aid kit

5. Have Good Hiking Boots
Do your research in buying a great pair of hiking boots. These shoes become your life (and sometimes even life saver). Yes, a good pair of hiking boots is expensive, but the money spent will be worth it during long, enduring treks when your shoes are the only thing separating your feet from rain and/or snow.

 

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6. Pack Light, but Pack Right
When it comes to trekking, you must find a balance between packing enough and not too little or too much.

WildChina provides you with top camping gear and cooking supplies, however, you’ll need to prepare some things yourself. We send out a detailed list to all of our clients beforehand to make sure you’re well prepared.

7. Prepare Your Body!
Depending on the route, some hikes can be physically challenging. To get your body ready for a long hike, it’s recommended to exercise before. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – you can do small things like climbing steps instead of taking the elevator. This is one of the easiest, most cost-effective ways to get ready for high elevation trekking. It’s best is to climb up a tall building’s staircases.

8. Have the Time of Your Life!
You may be one of the few to have trekked this route, so enjoy it! Take pictures and share your tales of chatting with nomads or running into a herd of domesticated yaks with your friends and family.

WildChina ventures to Tibet frequently. We explore the land with experienced guides and high quality equipment, allowing clients to experience active adventure with more comfortable travel conditions. We have two trips that are considered moderate,Expedition to Tibet’s Far West (Winner of National Geographic’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime for 2014) and Journey to Tibet’s Mt. Kailash Guge Kingdom.These journeys are designed for you to discover the hidden sites that the scenic land Tibet has to offer. For more information contact us at info@wildchina.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Private Journeys - Ask Us a Question

Please use the form below, or email us at info@wildchina.com, to tell us more about your travel plans, so that we can craft the itinerary of your dreams.

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Please tell us about your dream trip, including your reasons for taking this journey to China (e.g. first time to China, to celebrate an occasion, better understand a specific place or cultural aspect of China, etc.). If you have questions, please browse our Frequetly Asked Questions page or post your question below.