This week, in addition to updating you on our adventures in Guizhou and Guangxi, WildChina has been concentrating on providing travel tips. If you have been following our blog, then you have seen our top five tips for easy China travel, as well as heard from our founder Zhang Mei about her essentials for running and hiking. In our final chapter of recommendations for this week, we turned to our team of specialists and advisers to provide us with their travel secrets. Below are recommendations from our experts which we think will appeal both for those excited by raw adventure and those more interested in the culture and history of China.
Zhang Mei: Although you did hear from WildChina Founder Zhang Mei only yesterday on her essentials for running and hiking, she also had a few recommendations for items she will not leave the house without when she is going traveling. Simple but crucial, Mei relies on her First Ascent EddieBauer raincoat, OFF! bug spray and Lindberg sunglasses. The raincoat is great if there is a quick shower in Yunnan, the bug spray perfect protection in Guizhou, and sunglasses block out the powerful sun in Xinjiang.
Katherine Don: Having made a career running galleries in Beijing and New York Katherine has spent plenty of time crossing the globe. Her recommendations? Dig into the community as quickly as possible. Use jet lag in your favor and explore the neighborhood when you are awake in the early morning. Discover an aspect of the local community that you would otherwise have missed. Another trick is to download local applications for current listings of restaurants and major attractions. As Katherine notes, “GPS is great, but if the network is down, it’s a basic lifesaver to handover a phone number to a driver and let the other end communicate with directions. If all else fails, ask a local for directions or recommendations.” She explains, “Guanxi -Chinese for ‘relationships’- is a point of pride for people living in China. People tend to go out of their way to help make connections. Just be aware of advice that is given when you have not asked for it!”
Shanghua Zhang: One of last year’s WildChina Explorer Grant winners, Shanghua recently completed an arduous trek through the Ganzi prefecture of Sichuan province. While in the back country, he found the two things he relied on the most were a good map and simply being polite. A map got him there, but Shanghua also found fostering good relations with the people he met in the mountains to be particularly important. In addition to sharing fascinating stories about their lives, newly made friends would sometimes offer Shanghua a soft bed and warm meals free of charge – a much appreciated change from his tent and diet of increasingly stale buns.
Sean Gallagher: When he is not giving lessons to WildChina travelers on the Silk Road, Sean is tramping around the world using photography to bring light to a host of environmental issues. Needless to say, Sean is used to schlepping a true assortment of equipment across a plethora of landscapes. Sean’s travel tip is simple, yet brilliant: bring plastic shopping bags. Sean says “Whenever I travel in the field on shoots, I always pack a bunch of regular supermarket plastic bags. They can serve a multitude of useful purposes from putting dirty shoes or clothes in, to acting as temporary waterproof housing for your equipment, separating foods or toiletries, and keeping your general rubbish in. You can even re-use them on multiple trips and since they are incredibly light, you won’t be lugging extra weight around.”
Gady Epstein: Since 2002, Gady has made a name for himself covering China and Asia for The Baltimore Sun, Forbes, and The Economist. During his time working for these periodicals, Gady has spent ample time in airports. His advice for getting through transportation hubs in one piece? Good noise-cancelling headphones and a book. As Gady writes, “Air travel has become the worst part of anyone’s China experience. At some point in your trip, you’ll find yourself waiting around in an airport and, worse, on an airplane sitting on the tarmac. You may even find your ears assaulted with the musical stylings of your captors, the worst kind of muzak playing on repeat, slowly chipping away at your sanity. Escape into your own music and a great book.”