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The absolute latest updates in China travel information.

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Mei Zhang
WildChina founder, entrepreneur, mother.

Chelin Miller
Insider tips on China's finer side

August 17th, 2012

Backstage pass to Yunnan

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

Although WildChina is proud of all its itineraries, it is not every one that has a National Geographic award. One such lucky trip is WildChina’s Tea and Horse Caravan. Recognized in 2012 by National Geographic Traveler as one of 50 Tours of a Lifetime, the Tea and Horse route is truly spectacular. Led by intrepid explorer and WildChina expert Jeff Fuchs (pictured below), the trip’s course takes an uninhibited look at Yunnan province. Year in and year out, Jeff returns to lead this trip so we sat down with him to find out why. He gave us three reasons:

Unparalleled Access: The path that Jeff takes through Yunnan is one he is intimately familiar with. All along the route, Jeff has cultivated relationships, not only with the locals who live there now, but also with the remaining elders who he notes once “traveled, traded, and gave the ancient journey life.” Jeff has tailored this adventure to cross paths with these individuals, every one of whom is ready to share the oral traditions of their past. Guide books often discuss tired elements of a trip that have long since lost their bite, but Jeff’s ability to speak Tibetan, Mandarin, and Hani open the door for you to enjoy your own original experience. One of Jeff’s favorite aspects of this trip  “is that there is still so much more to dig into, both from a physical sense and from a cultural perspective.”

Historical significance: The Tea and Horse Caravan route is not simply a trip to China’s countryside–it is a journey through living history. Jeff explains that, “The Tea and Horse Road opens up not only Yunnan’s minority regions, but specifically how those minorities are related to tea, the trade route itself, and how they relate to each other. The route follows a path that has been an ancient pilgrimage, trade, and migration route for over a millennium. As each of the layers of the story of this trade route are uncovered, we see one of the most daunting expeditions on the planet, linking Asia’s eternal green commodity, tea, across a huge width of the Himalayas and beyond.”

One of a kind landscape: As you are conversing with locals and and studying the history that surrounds you, what will the surroundings be like? Simply stunning. Jeff reveals a slight smile, and his eyes light up, when he tells us he “would happily wither away in a tea swoon in the tea forests of Xishuangbanna. It is there that a sub-tropical and mystical quality creates a slightly calmer pace that puts one in a pleasant state of bliss.” The mood changes considerably as you move into the Himalayas where “the air clears and becomes sharper, the winds start to buzz and thump, and there is a really tangible sense that one is leaving one sanctum and entering into the mountains’ playgrounds.” Lush forest followed by austere mountains set the scene for getting those “WOW” photos to share with friends and family back home.

If these three reasons are not enough, consider the reviews of two 2011 WildChina travelers Rob and Lynne. Following the expedition they stated, “Getting off the beaten track was number one for us. Jeff and the guides had a unique skill at getting local folk to open up and to share their world with complete strangers.” By the time you finish this trip you won’t feel like strangers, you will feel like you have been walking this route all your life, shoulder to shoulder with those you have met on your journey.

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Interested in joining Jeff Fuchs on his next trip to Yunnan? Looking for something else? Send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will start working on the perfect itinerary for your adventure.

Photos by Jeff Fuchs and Paul Mooney.

 

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July 4th, 2012

Visa to China? Here’s how

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

International relations are different between every country in the world. Consequently, the process for obtaining the appropriate visa to a country varies considerably depending on where you are from and where you are going. While getting some visas can be as easy as buying a postage stamp, for others it is as difficult as writing a college thesis.

For an American or a European seeking a tourist visa in China the process is somewhere in between. Recently, China has been cracking down on issuing foreign visas because of the number of illegal workers in the country. This recent attention has forced all visa applications to undergo greater scrutiny. While Americans are expected to list the full names and job titles of their immediate family members, some Europeans may be asked to supply an original insurance policy with a seal, a work certificate from their country, and sometimes even their bank statements.

With few exceptions all visitors to China will need to obtain a tourist visa. In order to do this travelers must go to their local Chinese embassy or consulate. Depending on where you live these locations can be quite far away. Thankfully one also has the option of having a third party apply for a visa on their behalf. WildChina has found Visa Central (formerly known as Zierer Visa Service) to be a very good resource in this regard. Applications and instructions can be downloaded online, or you can call them directly at 1-866-788-1100 . If you will be joining us on a WildChina Trip email info@wildchina.com to get a code for preferred pricing. Though the process of getting a visa to come to China may be cumbersome, we assure you it is worth the effort, and when you have your first look at the dazzling lights of Shanghai’s Bund, we’re sure you’ll agree.

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If you have further questions on any topic of travel in China, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@wildchina.com

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June 19th, 2012

WildChina featured in CNNGo

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

Last week CNNGo featured WildChina in “New parts of Great Wall of China to open to tourists.” For anyone wishing to visit the Great Wall while traveling to Beijing, a day-trip adventure to Mutianyu or Sumatai are perfect–relatively close to the city, but still away from the crowds.

However, there are real Great Wall aficionados for whom one day at the Great Wall is simply not enough. For these enthusiasts, CNNGo journalist Sean Silbert has put together a list of ways to have a more intimate Great Wall experience. In addition to helicopter rides and a stay at The Commune, Silbert also highlighted our 11-day tour “Astride the Dragon’s Back.” On this trip WildChina travelers will have the opportunity to travel to almost all of the China sections of the Great Wall in one journey.

The adventure will take our guests along the Great Wall from Shanhaiguan (山海关) where the wall meets the sea, to Jiayuguan (嘉峪关) where the wall crosses the old Silk Road. On this trip we escape the crowds of more public wall portions and through our connections gain access to otherwise closed areas. In some of these sections of the wall, the only maintenance has been by local villagers many of whom are descendants of the Great Wall’s original builders. With tombs, towers, and mountains,  each section of the Great Wall has a different story. By the end of the trip, our clients will be privy to them all.

 

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Passionate about the Great Wall? Interested in learning more? Get in touch at info@wildchina.com.

Photos by WildChina Expert William Lindesay

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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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February 15th, 2012

WildChina & Journeys Within announce China-Vietnam cross-border adventure!

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

WildChina is excited to announce the product launch of Cityscapes & Countrysides: An Intimate Look at China and Vietnam.

Northern Vietnam

This pioneering cross-border journey will transport guests through two ancient capitals and into contact with rural ethnic minorities. The trip begins in Beijing where you will be part of modern China at its best, as business executives brush shoulders with pedi-cab drivers against a backdrop of towering skyscrapers and family-owned hutongs.  In contrast, China’s southern province of Guizhou, invites travelers to step back in time to a world of rice paddies and karst hills, inhabited by water buffalo and the Miao ethnic minorities.

On the Vietnam side of the border, Hanoi and the Vietnamese countryside represent two vastly different corners of the country, both in landscape and in culture. In Hanoi you will glimpse the history and culture behind this 1000-year-old Vietnamese capital, while the villages of Sapa, Seo Trung Ho, and Ban Ho expose the traveler to the bucolic, traditional side of life, providing interesting comparisons with China’s Guizhou to the north.

Among the rice paddies in Guizhou, China

WildChina is collaborating with Journey Within, a South East Asia based travel company and a member of the Condé Nast Destination Expert Alliance. Over the years, Journey Within CEO Andrea Ross and WildChina Founder Zhang Mei have forged a strong relationship while attending annual Condé Nast Top Travel Specialist conferences, an gathering of the crème de la crème of the travel industry (picked by the one and only Wendy Perrin, Condé Nast’s famed travel guru).  Several years ago, Andrea and Mei began speaking about how they should create an cross border adventure journey so their clients could learn about Vietnam and China’s complex shared history, ethnic minorities and gorgeous handicrafts.

Zip through Hanoi, Vietnam with Journeys Within

With WildChina and Journey Within’s access to local families in these remote villages, there’s no better way to Experience China–and now Vietnam–Differently. To take a look at more trip details, click here on Cityscapes & Countrysides: An Intimate Look at China and Vietnam.

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Ready for cross-border travel? Get in touch at info@wildchina.com and a WildChina travel consultant would love to answer any questions you might have regarding this journey.

Photos by WildChina + Journeys Within

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February 13th, 2012

The First Ever Snow Polo World Cup in Asia

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

Fortune Heights Snow Polo World Cup 2012 was hosted at China’s coastal city of Tianjin from 4 -12 February. The final, won by Hong Kong (China) against South Africa was played at the luxury resort Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club. Twelve of the best teams in the world took part, including England, Argentina, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil.

With this year’s Snow Polo World Cup in St Moritz being cancelled due to thin ice on the lake, this World Cup in Tianjin acquires even more importance. And, as the organisers stated: no sport can enjoy comprehensive development without the participation of China.  As we all know, the lack of natural snow in Tianjin is no impediment for the tournament to go ahead, the Chinese will guarantee an abundance of it by making a total of 4,000 cubic metres of snow over the arena, a process that started in late December.

Regular services by bullet train from Beijing South Station take you to Tianjin in under 30 mins, and from there a 25 min taxi drive to the luxurious Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club, the largest polo club in China.

The emerging sport of snow polo was first introduced in 1985 at the resort town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, by a handful of men attracted by the passion and excitement of polo and the extremity of the conditions. Since then it has grown from strength to strength into a recognised winter sport enjoyed among the elites worldwide.

Snow polo is very similar to traditional polo: but games are played on a snow-covered arena. The teams are made up of three players and each game consists of four six-minute chukkas (periods). The horses wear special cleated shoes to provide better traction. The ball is larger and lighter than in grass polo, and bright orange, to make it easier to see against the snow.

Polo has always been synonymous with the finer things in life, attracting affluent, sophisticated high-achievers. Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club provides an exquisite location for impeccable wine dinners through its close relationships with world famous winemakers and chateaux: Chateau Latour, Mouton Rothschild and others. The resort boasts indoor and outdoor training facilities for both the young and adults and comes with a dazzling Clubhouse, spa and leisure facilities on par with any top international resort. Staffed by well-known names in the equestrian and polo world, the Club offers a luxurious venue to relax and entertain.

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Is riding a passion? Take a look at the WildChina product Tibetan Yushu Horse Festival in Qinghai province.

Content + photos by WildChina’s Chelin Miller

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January 27th, 2012

WildChina insider tip: Best eggplant of our lives!

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

Wow! Last night we sat down to eat at Heping Yiyuan, a favorite spot of WildChina’s guests for an elegant tea ceremony or lunch. Typically the eggplant that we make at home or get out at a Chinese restaurant– while deliciously flavoured–is a tad on the mushy side.

This eggplant was entirely different.

Slightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, it had the perfect amount of salt and sweet. I only wish that the picture could convey how lovely this dish was! For those you based in China or have traveled to China, you already know that the oft forgotten eggplant in North America is magically transformed in China into a delicious dish– even our pickiest clients– the seven year old boy who professed only to like rice in China quickly devoured this dish.

During your visit– or if you are a Beijing local– take a stroll through Ritan Park and pop in for a meal. WildChina is also offering a culinary tour throughout China, where you will be able to learn more about Chinese cuisine.

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Hungry? Take a look at China for Foodies for an unbeatable culinary experience!

Question?

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January 23rd, 2012

Travel + Leisure’s World Best: WildChina is nominated!

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

WildChina just received news that Travel+Leisure has nominated WildChina in the World’s Best category  for “Tour Operators & Safari Outfitters.”

 


 

To complete the 2-minute voting process, please complete the online survey for a chance to win some fantastic prizes, including the grand prize of a $10,000 trip to a destination of your choice.  Sounds like a pretty sweet deal for two minutes of your time.

If you win the 10,000 prize, you might want to visit this courtyard restaurant in Beijing

 

Voting ends 3/31/12.

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For official Travel +Leisure Award rules, more here.

 

 

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January 12th, 2012

Leishan, Guizhou: warm heart, heavy heritage, beautiful costumes, wonderful smiling

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

Last sunny Saturday, I got a call from my friend in Leishan who told me there would be a Miao New Year festival in the Leigong mountains, which includes rural Miao villages in Leishan and Taijiang. The official Miao New Year Celebration had already passed for 20 days, but the party was still going on in the villages.

Leishan Region

 

Yes, my guess was very right, this experience was absolutely a highlight. In the late afternoon, we arrived at a township via Leishan called Fangxiang, a very authentic Miao village built right on a steep mountain. I was received with open arms by the locals, and of course, they offered lots and of rice wine.

 

A group was dancing with a bronze drum, and there were huge Lusheng pipes. We were only outsiders at the villages, and people there dragged us to go dance with them and tried to teach us the steps.

 

We started to hike around 9am and OMG, today’s hiking is FANTASTIC, plus a beautiful sunny day. We hiked through fields, pine forests, villages, and a crystal stream where we had a kebab picnic, which was tons of fun. We hiked for almost an entire day and by the time we got to the next village, it was almost dark.

We had reached Baibang Short Skirt Miao village, where we were dragged by the locals for another evening of celebrations and a bit more rice wine. No matter whether they know you or not, they cherish every single guest. For dinner, we were invited over to the villager head’s house for dinner and had delicious fresh pork.  The dinner we had with the locals was over 15 people, including the villager leaders and their wives. While we ate, we were treated as VIP guests. After dinner, they sang to us and more and more neighbors kept coming to offer us, because they heard party leader’s home had guests.

After several hours eating, we went to see their dancing. The costume of the Baibang is very distinctive from other shortskirt Miao. The locals had been farming for a entire year, so it’s such a great time to rest and have some good food. I wished badly that you everyone at WildChina could be here witnessing. Such a great great great time. In Guizhou, they have a warm heart, heavy heritage, beautiful costumes and wonderful smiling…

 

Now, it’s back to Guiyang where my lovely daughter awaits… But I found my mind is not back yet, all the images in my brains are villagers, laughter, rice wine and singing,…

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An account from a recent trip in Guizhou from WildChina expert guide, Xiao. To learn more about Xiao and see a quick clip from Guizhou, please see here

If you are interested to see Guizhou’s festivals for yourself,  we would strongly suggest looking at Sisters’ Meals Festival which takes this year from April 5-7, 2012.  More questions? Please contact info@wildchina.com.

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January 9th, 2012

The Year of the Dragon: WildChina in 2012

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

Whether your goals for the Year of the Dragon are to eat your way through China through China for Foodies or to take the most memorable family vacation yet, WildChina can help plan your journey. Highlights for the new year include new small group programs that feature intimate groups of just 16 travelers, with a dedicated WildChina Tour Director throughout the journey.

Experience Taiwan's Eastern Coast, a short trip away from bustling Taipei

WildChina will shortly be launching some exciting cross-border trips. Stay tuned for a trip that travels from Guizhou in southern China into lush northern Vietnam as well as a trip that travels overland from Mongolia’s grasslands into China’s capital city.

 

Everyone at WildChina is anticipating that Yunnan will be one of our most sought after travel destinations.  What we like about Yunnan is that there a bit of something for everyone. You are an avid hiker looking for a change of pace and a challenge? Take a look at Tibetan style trekking in Abujee. Looking to travel on an ancient trade route to deepen your knowledge of tea? You will definitely drool over Tea & Horse Caravan. And our friends over at Travel + Leisure agree that Xishuangbanna is definitely one of the Hottest Travel Destinations of 2012.

Mongolian Grasslands

 

Hiking in Southwest Yunnan in the Abujee region

We look forward to sharing another exciting year with you.  From everyone at WildChina, hope 2012 is off to a great start!

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Photo credit (for 2nd photo): iLearn Culture

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