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March 31st, 2012

Teach for China Leadership Summit

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

Early next month, WildChina will be assisting Teach for China to execute their 2012 Leadership Summit in Lincang, Yunnan. Established in 2008, Teach For China is inspired by the vision that one day, all Chinese children will have access to a quality education.  Teach For China takes a unique approach to eliminating educational inequity by enlisting the US and China’s most promising future leaders in the effort.

Over the two day summit, the Teach for China Leadership Team, Organizational Supporters, and Board of Directors will visit placement schools, meet their Fellows working there, and observe their efforts in some of China’s most under-resourced schools. Sarabeth Berman, the Vice-President of Growth Strategy and Development, says that “the program will also include in-depth discussions with Teach For China’s team about our program model and our vision for long-term impact.”

A Teach for China classroom in Lincang

WildChina is particularly proud to be working together with Teach for China on this event as WildChina Founder Mei Zhang was born and raised in Dali, Yunnan–the same prefecture Teach for China launched in 2009. Earlier this week on Weibo, Mei (yunnanzhangmei) commented, “I grew up near Cangshan Mountain, I know how hard to live in a mountain village, let alone the Lincang area. I would like to make my modest contribution.”

 

Schoolyard in Lincang

WildChina is looking forward to helping Teach for China on this exciting event. To learn more about Teach for China, visit their website here.

 

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Photo 1 provided by Teach for China.
Photo 2&3 provided by Hu Xiaodan, a second year Fellow with Teach for China. Xiaodan interned at WildChina last summer during her school break.

 

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March 30th, 2012

China’s Holy Mountain – An Illustrated Journey into the Heart of Buddhism

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

When I first came across Christoph Baumer’s China’s Holy Mountain – An Illustrated Journey into the Heart of Buddhism, I was impressed by its first quality presentation, abundance of information and beauty of its images. It is said that one should not judge a book by its cover, or its pictures – for that matter, but this work of art, I could not resist, and upon reading it, I was not disappointed.

Christoph Baumer is an internationally recognised scholar, leading researcher, photographer and explorer of Central Asia, Tibet and China. He has a background in Philosophy, Psychology and History of Art. Baumer has written other works in related areas: history, religion, archaeology and travel: The Church of the East: An Illustrated History of Assyrian Christianity, 2006 and Traces in the Desert: Journeys of Discovery across Central Asia, 2008. Dr Baumer is President of the Society for the Exploration of EurAsia and a member of the Explorer’s Club, New York, the Royal Asiatic Society and the Royal Geographical Society, London. With such an erudite background it is no surprise that China’s Holy Mountain, An Illustrated Journey into the Heart of Buddhism, bears information of such high quality and is so richly illustrated.

During his travels to one of China’s most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites, Mt Wutai (Wutai Shan, Five-Terrace Mountain), Baumer personally visited more than fifty monasteries. In China’s Holy Mountain, Baumer gives a detailed description of the pilgrimage routes to the mountain and its five terraces, as well as an introduction to the history and legends of the monasteries, monks and nuns.

China’s Holy Mountain – An Illustrated Journey into the Heart of Buddhism, is a very well organized book, it is written in an understandable style for those with greater knowledge of Buddhism as well as the uninitiated. An abundance of excellent photographs, taken by the author, maps and other illustrative material, make this book not only a wonderful information resource about the philosophical and religious heritage of China, the history of Buddhism and the major schools of Buddhism in China, but also serves as a wonderful spiritual and visual inspiration.

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Photos and blog by WildChina’s Chelin Miller.

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March 29th, 2012

Tomb Sweeping Holiday

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

WildChina’s Beijing office will be closed next Monday, April 2nd to Wednesday April 4th for the Qingming or Tomb-Sweeping Festival.  The Beijing office will be open for service on Thursday, April 5.

Our US office will be open on normal working hours throughout this time.

 

Don’t worry– we’ll be back soon and, of course, will be answering emails at info@wildchina.com.

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March 28th, 2012

Hong Kong in March: See you at the Sevens!

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

Walking along Queen’s Road Central in downtown Hong Kong this past Monday morning, there were a lot of hoarse voices and rueful smiles.  Overheard more than once was the teasing comment, “I see you survived the Sevens.” For non-ruggers out there (or loyal rugby league fans), the Sevens refers to the HSBC Hong Kong Rugby Sevens: a 3-day frenzy of international 7-a-side rugby, hilarious costumes, socializing, networking, and of course, inevitable hoarse voices.

 

The jam-packed Hong Kong Stadium

The first thing to know about the Sevens is the reason behind the name.  Standard rugby, known as rugby union, has 15 players per team and 40 minutes halves; sevens rugby has—you guessed it—7 players per team and 7 minute halves.  Although the rules are essentially the same, sevens rugby is a lot more exciting: it’s faster-paced, with more scoring, and is ultimately unpredictable.  If this is the first you’ve heard of sevens rugby, keep your eyes peeled.  Just last year the sport was entered into the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Brazil, a HUGE victory for sevens fans and sponsors.  We’ll be hearing a lot more about this exciting sport in years to come.

 

Involving the local Hong Kong rugby clubs in the Sunday March-Past

Favorites to win the Hong Kong Sevens this year were Fiji and New Zealand (who beat England in the Cup finals last year) and sure enough, the nail-biting final had these two teams pitched against each other as the crowd rose to its feet, some climbing on top of the seats in nervous expectation.  Although there were plenty of New Zealanders among the fans (and many more hoping for a Kiwi win to see the infamous Haka), the teeny tiny island nation of Fiji rallied many more to its cause as the underdog and the promise of a new reigning champion.  With a roaring crowd behind them, the Fijians went on to beat New Zealand by a single try, with a final score of 35-28.

Check out the videos below for the 7 best plays of the tournament (including a Fiji try against the All Blacks [NZ]) and the New Zealand Haka from last year’s victory.

 

 

Held at the end of March every year, fans of all ages and from all over the world descend upon Hong Kong just for the Sevens (two WildChina staff included) and the 40,000 seat Hong Kong Stadium sells out within hours–tickets go on sale in January. There are more teams competing than at other International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens Series events (24 instead of 16), and this year, victory for some teams at the Hong Kong Sevens will enter them into the core 15 countries competing on the international circuit. All this, in addition to it’s party-like carnival reputation, means the Hong Kong Sevens is by far the most popular rugby event in Asia with tickets notoriously hard to get.

 

Dragon dances – Saturday mid-day show

 

Drummers – Saturday mid-day show

 

Hong Kong Police Band – Sunday March-Past

Over the weekend, WildChina took a break from the rugby to speak with anthropologist Joseph Bosco at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who has been doing research into rugby culture and the Hong Kong Sevens, to better understand how a sports event held in Hong Kong became so immensely popular (because, let’s face it, rugby is not usually what springs to mind when you think of the Chinese urban metropolis).

Bosco says the sport itself, the nature of sevens rugby is “ideal for socializing, since it has spans of intense action and excitement along with half-time breaks (two minutes), and pauses between games (about five minutes). The Sevens game fits the Hong Kong pace of life and attention span. In Hong Kong [time] is scarce; while everyone else in the rugby world enjoys an 80-minute game, the city has shortened it to just 14 minutes.”

 

England wins line-out against Kenya

“Sevens is also easier to understand…it’s a more open game. Spectators can see the ball almost all the time, and they can see players form lines of defense, and though they may not understand how the gap was created, they can easily see the player spurt through a hole in the line to break away into open field, do a side-step on the hapless halfback, and score. Even someone who has never before seen rugby can understand the basics of sevens rugby.”

Finally, he says, “the Hong Kong Sevens means different things to different people, but the different meanings complement each other and have synergy. Spectators who come for the party also learn to enjoy the rugby. Rugby fans who come for the athletic contest also enjoy the festive atmosphere. And the businesspeople who come for branding and networking can do their work more effectively and pleasantly thanks to the party and the rugby.”

 

Waldos enjoying a corporate box

As you can see above, at the Hong Kong Sevens this “festive atmosphere” and “party” translates into one thing: costumes. The more hilarious and outrageous, the better and we definitely have our favorites from this weekend:

 

Bananas in Pyjamas

 

Sushi

 

Mail Order Brides

 

Panam

 

Smurfs

 

Miss Piggy & Kermit

 

Tooth Fairies

 

Swan Lake

With 24 countries competing, the chance that you have a personal stake in every game is next to zero, which means that fans usually pick a team for that game to support, lending a friendly air to the event.  The one exception is when Hong Kong plays—the stadium as a whole pitches itself behind Hong Kong.  This year Hong Kong fielded one of the best teams in years, emerging from their pool undefeated (beating Uruguay, Tonga, and China).  Hong Kong was competing to enter the core 15 international sevens teams which would have made them the first professional sevens team Hong Kong has seen.  The majority of the boys on the Hong Kong team came out of the Hong Kong youth rugby programs, making their eventual loss to Japan even more devastating for them and local Hong Kong fans.

WildChina got in touch with former Hong Kong sevens and fifteens (union) player, and poster boy for Hong Kong rugby, Andy Yuen, to hear his thoughts on the Hong Kong Sevens.  Yuen is currently the assistant coach to the Hong Kong Women 7s team, and much like the current Hong Kong team, he came up through the local rugby program.  “Playing for the Hong Kong team in the Hong Kong Sevens was my dream, and I made the dream come true.  I started watching the Sevens when I was a little boy playing mini rugby and to step on the pitch in front of the home crowd was a really special moment. I also think Hong Kong Sevens is the best Sevens tournament in the world. Players put on their best performance here…[and] for the crowd, it’s not only a rugby match to watch, it is also a 3 day party.”

 

Andy Yuen, former Hong Kong rugby player

This next weekend Hong Kong is heading to the first ever Tokyo Sevens and Yuen thinks, “Hong Kong has a good chance to do well and build on what they achieved in the Hong Kong Sevens.  They had a good tournament here and it was unfortunate to go out they way they did and I am sure that will be extra motivation for them to try and beat some of the ‘big teams’ in the tournament to stake their claim.”

 

Young rugby fans getting autographs from Hong Kong team

Finally, whether you are already an avid fan or not, these last statistics from the Hong Kong Tourism Board will really pique your interest in the Sevens phenomenon: A Hong Kong Tourism Board survey of the 2011 Hong Kong Sevens found that 73 percent of spectators were previous attendees, 97 percent of them said they would recommend the event to relatives and friends, and 90 percent of them planned to return this year for the 2012 Hong Kong Sevens.  Says Bosco, “The event is such a social event that “See you at the Sevens” is widely heard in March.”

With that many loyal and returning fans, we can only hope that the Hong Kong Sevens will continue to grow.  If you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, March is most definitely the time to do it.  With or without Sevens tickets, the weather is perfect—winter is over and the humid monsoon season is about a month away—and the city is alive with an almost overwhelming energy of excitement, camaraderie, and expectation.

Maybe you’ll be saying it to us next year: “See you at the Sevens!”

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Interested in traveling to Hong Kong for the Sevens in 2013? Do not hesitate to get in touch at info@wildchina.com.

 

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March 23rd, 2012

A stop at Dragon Well Manor with Fuchsia Dunlop

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

WildChina just launched Gastronomic Tour of China with Fuchsia Dunlop, a 12 day culinary trip throughout China.  From October 13-24, 2012, participants will visit the imperial capitals of Beijing and Xian – home to the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors – travel to the southwestern province of Sichuan and then on to Shanghai + Hangzhou. To kick off this once-in-a-lifetime trip, WildChina would like to highlight a few of Fuchsia’s favorite places that participants will get to experience while on trip.  The Dragon Well Manor Restaurant, which Fuchsia reviewed in The New Yorker, is absolutely on the itinerary.

At the restaurant, Fuchsia notes that “Dai [the owner] assures them that everything he serves will be made from natural ingredients, untainted by pesticides or melamine, and with no added MSG. Each morning, his buyers drive out into the countryside to collect the best of the season’s produce.”

Since Fuchsia’s article was published in 2008, Dragon Well Manor has become a “must see” while in Hangzhou. Everyone from CNN Traveler to The Telegraph has covered the story, and all to rave reviews. Not only does the restaurant serve the best ingredients, but highlights local cuisine. Dai explains that Hangzhou cuisine is “as varied as the Sichuanese, but tend to be light and bright, without that heavy spiciness. We emphasize seasonal produce, and the essential tastes of our raw ingredients.”

Everyone at WildChina is a fan of the restaurant and is a fantastic place to relax after hiking through the Longjing Terraces

Stay tuned for more insights about WildChina + Fuchsia’s upcoming trip throughout China.

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To read more of Fuchsia’s New York story, please see here.

Photos provided by Fuchsia Dunlop.

For more information about WildChina, to learn about our destinations, or to receive a free 2012 catalog, call email info@wildchina.com or visit www.wildchina.com

 

 

 

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March 22nd, 2012

Tour on Asia’s Wild Side: WildChina featured in The New York Times

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

Earlier today, The New York Times featured WildChina in “Tour on Asia’s Wild Side.” Journalist Michelle Higgins set out to highlight new off-the-beaten-path destinations and explains “Now adventurous travelers are turning to the region’s wild frontiers for stunning natural landscapes and wildlife diversity.” Higgins featured one of WildChina’s travel journeys: Hiking Yosemite’s Sister Parks.

Jiuzhaigou National Park

The Yosemite Conservancy and WildChina have organized a trip that visits Huangshan and Jiuzhaigou, Yosemite’s sister national parks in China. Sharing many of the same spectacular natural features as Yosemite, the parks also share the global challenge of accommodating thousands of visitors while maintaining a high standard for conservation.  This journey begins on the beautiful banks of Hangzhou’s West Lake, a lovely man-made lake and garden that once served as an imperial retreat for the emperor. Our visit to West Lake will be an interesting contrast to the more natural settings of Huangshan, Jiuzhaigou, and Huanglong National Park where we’ll head to next.

One of the trip highlights–a luxury overnight camping experience within the Jiuzhaigou National Park–stems from WildChina’s relationship with the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). In 2007, WildChina advised the WWF in developing an eco-tourism strategy in Jiuzhaigou, including training for park rangers and consulting on building a high-end eco lodge within the park.  Luckily for us, what goes around, comes around and WildChina now has top-notch exclusive access to the park, making this journey even more appealing to all hikers and conservationists out there.  WildChina guests were the first international travelers ever to stay overnight in the park.

WildChina’s Head of Marketing, Nellie Connolly points out that “After an inaugural trip to China’s larger cities and classic sites,” like Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, returning visitors want to go to “China’s less explored regions to see cultural and ecological diversity.” This trip is definitely off the beaten path and shows a side of China that is rarely seen.

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For more information about WildChina, to learn about our destinations, or to receive a free 2012 catalog, call email info@wildchina.com or visit www.wildchina.com. The New York Times’ article is currently featured online and  on newsstands now.

 

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March 21st, 2012

Travel over Tomb Sweeping Holiday, April 2-5

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

Based in China? Looking to travel during the upcoming Tomb Sweeping Holiday (Qing Ming Jie) that is taking place from April 2-5, 2012? If so, now is the perfect time to pull together a last minute escape. And there is no better escape than Taiwan.

 

Taiwan's East Coast

Known to the first European travelers to set eyes on Taiwan as “Ilha Formosa” (Portuguese for “Beautiful Island”), this pacific island is a thought-provoking and delightful destination that will send you off with memories to treasure for a lifetime. Join WildChina as we launch this pioneering 5-day exploration of Taiwan.  Called the “Ilha Formosa” (“Beautiful Island”) by passing Portuguese travelers in 1544 and famous for its complex relationship with Mainland China, Taiwan has a fascinating political, historical, and cultural story to tell.

Shilin Night Market, Taipei

This 5-day trip around the north end of the island will have you bathed in the colorful neon lights of Shilin night market, flying down the eastern coast on the Suhua Highway, and transported back in time in the Japanese-era Taroko National Park.  WildChina will arrange access to the Caoling Historical Trail, the first land connection between Taipei and Yilan, to follow in the footsteps of the first Han settlers to Taiwan as they foraged their way to Taipei to trade.  This journey also includes a rare opportunity to interact with some Taiwanese aborigines who have managed to retain their traditions in the face of Taiwan’s rapid modernization.  For the more adventurous, adrenaline-seekers WildChina will plan for white water rafting in Taiwan’s biggest national park.

Taiwanese fishermen

For an entire generation of western Sinophiles and Chinese enthusiasts, who studied Chinese in the 60s and 70s, Taiwan gave them access to a world unattainable through the mainland.  These insiders, for whom Taiwan remains a point of nostalgia and fondness, are now experts in the fields of Chinese scholarship, politics, history, and language.  Today, Taiwan is a vibrant Chinese democracy boasting immense modern skyscrapers, such as Taipei 101, that reign high above a medley of European and Japanese colonial architecture lending the Taiwan capital an allure all its own.

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Ready for your visit to the Ilha Formosa? Get in touch at info@wildchina.com to arrange your visit or take a look at Taking on Taiwan:The Ilha Formosa of the Pacific on WildChina’s website.

 

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March 20th, 2012

A winter visit to the Yungang Grottoes

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

Earlier this month, WildChina travel consultant Sherry Duo packed her bags and hopped on the train for a short weekend adventure in northern China.  Sherry is originally from Datong, a city of +3 million in Shanxi province, but has lived in Beijing for over a decade and only travels back home for special occasions, including, of course, Chinese New Year.

 

During her visit to Datong, the highlight of Sherry’s trip was her visit to the Yungang Grottoes which are just outside the city center and are on the south ride of Wu Zhou mountains. Included as one of the 936 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Yungang Grottoes are important as they are some of the sole remaining intact set of stone carvings in China. Today, visitors can see 53 grottoes and over 51,000 statues.

 

At the Yungang grottoes, the largest carving is over 17 meters high, while the smallest is only a few centimeters. Along with the Longmen grottoes and Mogao grottoes, the Yungang grottoes are one of the three most famous ancient Buddhist sculptural sites of China.  For those interested in Buddhist history, these grottoes are a must see while visiting China. Buddhism was adopted in this area as a result of travel along the Northern Silk Road.

 

The stone sculptures are not the only notable aspect of the Yungang grottoes. The richly colored cave paintings have retained their colors for centuries.

 

Even though Sherry has visited the Yungang grottoes, she feels that the magic “never wears off.” It is a reminder of her history and culture and makes her feel proud of where she comes from.

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Interested in traveling to the Yungang grottoes? Get in touch with a WildChina travel consultant to learn more at info@wildchina.com.

 

 

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March 19th, 2012

Save now on Chinese Treasures: Book before April 2nd

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

Last minute bookers of Chinese Treasures, a thirteen day journey throughout China, will save USD 300 if they book before April 2nd!

Lijiang, one of the highlights in Yunnan province

 

China – where the past, present and future can be experienced all in one. If this is your first and only chance to visit China, then this is the trip. Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai present the classic images of China – imperial palaces stand side by side with skyscrapers. Beautiful Yunnan province in the southwest, known for its ethnic diversity, traditional lifestyles and stunning natural scenery, forms a contrast to the developed parts of China.

Map of Chinese Treasures itinerary

 

WildChina Founder Mei Zhang handcrafted this itinerary for her closest friends in 2009. We are now making it available for very small groups of 16 discerning travelers for the first time. Travelers will explore the imperial capitals of Beijing and Xi’an, gaining access to an emperor’s childhood home at the Forbidden City, a largely un-restored section of the Great Wall and the famed Terracotta Warriors Museum. We then go off the beaten path, visiting villages and glaciers in the famed Tibetan area of Shangri-La and the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lijiang. Our journey ends in China’s bustling financial center of Shanghai – the “Paris of the East.”

Try your hand at Peking Opera in Beijing?

Some of our favorite trip highlights include having dinner with a Tibetan family in Zhongdian (Shangri-La), getting an insider view into the old hutongs of Beijing and an early morning taichi class.

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Interested in learning more about Chinese Treasures? Get in touch at info@wildchina.com and one of our WildChina travel consultants would love to answer any of your questions.

 

 

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March 17th, 2012

Gastronomic Tour of China with Fuchsia Dunlop

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

WildChina is pleased to announce that Fuchsia Dunlop will be leading Gastronomic Tour of China from October 13-24, 2012. This 12-day journey will visit the imperial capitals of Beijing and Xian – home to the Great Wall and Terracotta Warriors – travel to the southwestern province of Sichuan and then on to Shanghai to soak in its colonial charms and towering skyscrapers.  Throughout the way, Fuchsia hopes that by the end of the trip participants “will be as excited and amazed by Chinese cooking as I am.”

Fuchsia Dunlop is a cook and food-writer specializing in Chinese cuisine. She is the author of Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, an award-winning account of her adventures in exploring Chinese food culture, and two critically-acclaimed Chinese cookery books, Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, and Sichuan Cookery (published in the US as Land of Plenty). Fuchsia writes for publications including The Financial Times, The New YorkerGourmet and Saveur. She was named ‘Food Journalist of the Year’ by the British Guild of Food Writers in 2006, and has been shortlisted for four James Beard Awards.

WildChina and Fuchsia have whipped up this itinerary for travelers who would like to witness the classic sites of China while savoring the culinary specialties the country has to offer. Take in the sights and sounds of Xi’an’s bustling night market, where savory lamb skewers roast over coals and sweet glutinous rice steam in bamboo. Learn how to select specialty red chilies and peppercorns after witnessing professional chefs artfully prepare Sichuanese dishes.

During the trip, Fuchsia hopes to “give our travelers a real sense of the stunning diversity of Chinese cuisines, the complexity of Chinese cooking skills, and the richness of the country’s culinary culture. We’ll be visiting the heartlands of a number of regional cuisines and tasting a huge range of dishes, and I’ll be talking them through it all, sharing with them the knowledge and experience I’ve gained through 18 years of researching Chinese food.”

 

When asked what her favorite stop of the trip is, Fuchsia says, “Chengdu, because it’s my first love in Chinese culinary terms, and because it’s hard to beat the sheer variety of different tastes in Sichuanese cuisine, including not only the infamous ‘numbing-and-hot’ combination of chillies and Sichuan pepper, but also all manner of gentle flavours. The Sichuanese is a vibrant, colourful cuisine, encompassing everything from elaborate banquet dishes to hearty street snacks.”

 

 

For those who have a passion for cooking and exploring cultures through food, this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip not to be missed.

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Interested in travel through China with Fuchsia Dunlop? If so, see here for more details on China for Foodies, a culinary adventure throughout China.  Additional questions on this trip, please contact info@wildchina.com.

 


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