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In The News
The absolute latest updates in China travel information.

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

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What to bring, where to go, and how to get around China.

Mei Zhang
WildChina founder, entrepreneur, mother.

Chelin Miller
Insider tips on China's finer side

August 14th, 2014

Sixth Year in a Row! Travel+Leisure Names Mei Zhang Top Travel Agent for China

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

When booking a trip, the travel company you choose can make the difference between an ordinary or extraordinary travel experience. To guide travelers in the right direction, the editors of Travel + Leisure assess hundreds of travel agents around the world and select the best to make up their annual list of “A-list Top Travel Specialists”. WildChina’s founder, Mei Zhang, is featured on their 2014 list for her standard-setting services in China travel. The elite list features 133 of the world’s top advisors, arranged by location of expertise.

“There’s a reason we use the term advisor to describe the members of our 2014 A-List,” said Travel + Leisure News Editor and “Trip Doctor” columnist Amy Farley. “These destination experts offer much more than booking services. They offer insider insights, unparalleled access, the ability to create a seamless itinerary, and value.”

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Mei can now add this accolade to her list of awards and recognitions, which include:Travel + Leisure’s   2009-2012 A-Lists of Top Travel Agents, Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist in 2010 and 2011, and The Daily Beast’s 2012 list of Women in the World. Riding on Mei’s 14 years of experience in the luxury travel industry, WildChina provides both insider access to China and personalized service. WildChina’s specialties are China, Tibet and custom luxury itineraries.

According to Mei, she “witnessed the push and pull between economic development and conservation of both nature and culture in Yunnan.” This push and pull inspired her to create WildChina to provide people with a sophisticated version of Chinese culture and nature through first-hand travel.

WildChina has also received acknowledgments for our luxury travel services, which set the bar for tailored, authentic travel experiences. In 2009 National Geographic selected WildChina as one of Adventure Magazine’s Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth, Traveler Magazine’s 50 Tours of a Lifetime, and Harvard Business Reviewed named WildChina “a leader in its field.”

Travel + Leisure’s thirteenth annual A-list will be featured in the September issue of Travel + Leisure and on travelandleisure.com. Congratulations Mei!

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March 8th, 2013

Chinese Treasures: A WildChina Original (Book by 3/31 for $200 off)

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


Back in 2000, when Mei Zhang first started WildChina, her clients were personal friends, family, and acquaintances. Because she knew these first customers well, Mei took special care to create a journey that she knew wasn’t available anywhere else–she created Chinese Treasures. Mei wanted to take her friends to the famous Chinese sites that they had heard about all their lives–the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, Shanghai’s colonial Bund–but also provide them with experiences that would take them off the beaten track, to see a very real side of China few travelers ever learned about.

The trip was a huge hit. Chinese Treasures is book-ended by China’s two most famous cities, allowing travelers an up close look at the imperial architecture of the past, the development of the future, and all the delicious dishes Beijing and Shanghai have to offer in between. Mei decided that after visiting China’s bustling metropolises, she would show her friends the place she knew best in the world–her home province of Yunnan.

In this southwestern, rural Chinese province, Mei’s friends would have the chance to break bread–or in this case noodles–with local people and take part in traditional banquets, songs, and dances. They would even get a little taste of nirvana with a trip to the heights of Shangri-La.

Upon their return Mei’s friends were euphoric. Mei’s initial success would inspire her to lay out the ethos of personal interaction and firsthand knowledge that would shape every journey created at WildChina since. Testament to her travel know-how and thoughtfulness for her travelers, Mei has been honored to be selected as a Condé Nast Top Travel Specialist for China an incredible three times since WildChina was founded. While Mei’s fingerprints are visible on every WildChina journey, Chinese Treasures is where it all started. If you are considering a trip to China, we can think of no better introduction than this; a journey of epic proportions planned and perfected by our founder.


If you have questions about travel in China, send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.


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January 24th, 2013

WildChina’s founder Zhang Mei on CNN

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

Some exciting news from WildChina! WildChina founder Zhang Mei has been featured on CNN’s “On China” series with Kristie Lu Stout. “On China” is the first regular series on the Middle Kingdom by CNN and provides an insider’s view of China from within the country’s own borders. Mei was invited to speak on Chinese explorers and the spirit of exploration in China.

In the feature Mei notes how China’s philosophy of filial piety has made exploration anathema. One Chinese proverb that Mei discusses is “Fu mu zai, bu yuan xing,” or — roughly translated — “When your parents are around, don’t travel far away.” Mei explains that “The first virtue was to be “xiao,” or filial to your parents and that held back a lot of people and they stayed home. But with the internet, young people now see the world and say, ‘Wow… why can’t I do that?’” Why not indeed. Tune in this weekend to catch the full story.


If you missed the earlier broadcasts of Mei on CNN they will be shown again this weekend on Saturday, January 26 at 9:30PM and Sunday January 27 at 1:30PM Beijing time. If you have other questions about travel in China, send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

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January 17th, 2013

The North Face to Outfit WildChina Explorer Grant Winner

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

WildChina Travel and The North Face® are proud to announce their partnership for the WildChina Explorer Grant!

The WildChina Explorer Grant is an award of up to USD 3,000 given to adventurers seeking to push the boundaries of responsible, off-the-beaten-path travel in China. This year, the grant’s third year, The North Face® has generously signed on as the apparel sponsor for the lucky grant recipient. Winners of the 2013 WildChina Explorer Grant will be outfitted head-to-toe in The North Face® gear, tailored to the winner’s individual trip needs and climate.

With both firms committed to exploration and transformational experiences, WildChina Founder Zhang Mei says, “The North Face coming on board brings the WildChina Explorer Grant to a whole new level. We are honored to partner with them and cannot wait to announce the news to the applicants in this years pool .”  Jacob Uhland, General Manager of Asia Pacific at The North Face® says, “The North Face is interested in supporting the WildChina Explorer Grant because we heard about the inspirational people associated with WildChina, like Jeff Fuchs [2011 WildChina Explorer Grant winner] and Zhang Mei. We have built relations with both of these people and we feel they embody the spirit of exploration which is at the heart of The North Face brand and the purpose behind most of what we do and support.  We have tremendous respect for the efforts of WildChina and their efforts to raise awareness of the outdoors through their Explorer Grant.”

For those of you holding your breaths for the Explorer Panel‘s 2013 decision, we’ll be announcing the winner of this year’s WildChina Explorer Grant on January 21st!  To see the English-language submission videos on Youtube click here. To see the Chinese videos on Youku click here. If you have a favorite, show your support on our Facebook, Twitter, Weibo, Youku and Youtube accounts!


To learn more about our WildChina Explorer Grant click here. If you have other questions about travel in China send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

Photos by 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant winner Shanghua Zhang and The North Face

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July 13th, 2012

What makes a WildChina guide?

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

In school, people say a professor can make or break a class. When traveling, we feel the same way about guides. It will not matter that you are visiting a wonder of the world if you have a guide who does not allow you to enjoy the experience. Vacation time is scant and precious, and any moment that is wasted is extremely frustrating. Unfortunately the standard system for guiding in China is not conducive to avoiding these problems.

In China, the majority of guides make most of their money as a percentage of what is purchased by the group they are guiding. For example, if a person goes to buy a replica of a terracotta warrior, the majority of the proceeds from the sale will go to the shop owner but then a small portion will go to the guide. As you can imagine, this scenario causes guides to take their clients to shops where this relationship exists, and also encourages them to take as big a group as they can so they will have a better chance of making more money. Not only are guides uncertain of the income they will make, but they are encouraged to seek out shops where they know they will be paid.

For these reasons, WildChina does not follow the traditional model. Since the inception of WildChina in 2001, we have paid our guides a premium so that they do not go to these stores. WildChina Founder Mei Zhang explains that the system “gives [guides] the dignity of making a decent living without feeling like they are cheating the clients constantly.” When we interview our guides, we are looking for people with warm, vibrant personalities who are eager to show you the secrets of their hometowns. In addition to providing what we feel is a better experience, the best part of our approach is how much the guides we have hired appreciate our model. Chris Cui, a WildChina guide based in Beijing, says that he loves working with WildChina because he believes it is the future of travel. Chris explains that “After people have seen the main attractions, they are interested in going off the beaten path to see the real China. This is what WildChina does. I don’t take travelers where everyone else is going. I take them into the local markets to see the real China, and people always come away more satisfied.” The feedback we have received from those who have used WildChina has been glowing, because visitors believe in our philosophy. When describing their experiences with WildChina guide Bunny, guests have said “[she] was the most personable, helpful, agreeable guide I have ever had. She went out of her way to make sure that all of us saw, did, and had everything we wanted.”

Chris says that when he talks to friends who work with other companies, they tell him that when their clients sit down in a restaurant too often the first question they ask is “We’re in China, where are all the Chinese people?” When you travel in another country, you should feel like you are in another country. A trip should not involve times when you are crammed together with other foreigners– we feel it should involve immersion into a culture where you can walk among its people. WildChina traveler Chuck Neuenschwander hit the nail on the head when he said “By sharing a bit of yourself, you become something more than a tourist there to be fed and watch the Native Show.  You interact with [the locals] “as people” and that raises the level of how meaningful this is for everyone.”


If this sounds like an experience you would enjoy come join us this fall. It is the perfect time to see Guizhou’s festivals, take a photography class along the silk road, or if this is your first time to the middle kingdom, take an insiders look at China.

Join us and Experience China Differently.If you have any questions about our guides, or would like to find out more about travel in China, email us at info@wildchina.com

Photo credit for fisherman Michael Deng


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July 4th, 2012

A trip to Guizhou: Lending a hand, gaining a lesson

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

WildChina recently helped arrange an Alumni trip for the Harvard Business School. Participant Luke Lu recounts his experience:

Prior to our departure, I had only glanced at our itinerary but I knew public service would be a part of our trip. I had my reservations. Those of us who were used to being spoiled in cities knew that we were going to a different kind of environment.While we were certain we would be afforded comfortable living conditions, most of us were very apprehensive because we had no experience with manual labor.

In Guizhou, the weather’s attitude seemed to mirror our own and we were greeted with wind and rain as we traveled through the province. Guizhou is in the Southwest of China, and like many of China’s provinces has a significant population of migrant workers who leave the countryside to find work in the city. As a result of this migration, the majority of the people in China’s rural areas are children who are too young to work in cities, and the elderly who are too old to be efficient. Our role in the village would be to provide strong backs to assist in the construction irrigation channels for the town’s rice fields.

Fortunately when we arrived, the villagers we would be assisting had already dug the majority of the earthen trenches for us. Our task would be to line these ditches with cement. Although this sounds simple, in reality there were many steps to the process. Not only did we have to carry our supplies to the work site, but we also had to mix the cement, pour it in the gutters, and then ensure that it dried properly.

The task at hand did not play to our strengths. We had developed minds, not developed muscles, and the tools we were most used to using were pens, not shovels. With no modern equipment we knew our collaborative skills would be put to the test. Our first day was very difficult. We didn’t have a good plan in place and were too disorganized. In the evening, we discussed our strategy and when we renewed our work in the morning we were much more efficient. We became so good at working together that on our last day we even managed to finish ahead of schedule. The locals said they were very impressed by this.

The last night we celebrated our success with a bonfire. Beneath a clear night sky we relaxed with the locals, singing songs and laughing as the children played around us. As we looked at the firelight playing on the smiles of the villagers our own hearts were warmed by what we had done. The result of our experience had gone beyond digging ditches, we had gained an appreciation for helping your fellow man and had discovered individual skills we didn’t know existed. Perhaps when other people hear about what we have done they will be inspired to donate their time as well. Water flows down a drain without being asked, hopefully the same will be true for volunteers in the future!


WildChina offers multiple trips to Guizhou for bird-watching, meeting minorities, visiting rustic landscapes and of course volunteering. If you would like more information about these or other trips in China please email info@wildchina.com.

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June 26th, 2012

Why China Travel has become Expensive

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

If you’ve traveled to China in the last year you may have noticed the country has become more expensive. We’ve taken some time here to explain why:

1. Appreciation of the Chinese yuan. The New York Times has reported that since 2005, the Chinese RMB has appreciated almost 30 percent.  Read – Euros and dollars are no longer worth as much in China.

2. The increase in the cost of fuel has had an effect on a number of different aspects of our tours. In the U.S. a gallon of regular gas costs around $3.43 while in China the price is $4.59. Not only has transportation become more expensive, so has supplying restaurants with food that is shipped to them. The result? Higher prices on the menus.

3. A hike in admission fees.  As WildChina consultant Catherine noted, “In the U.S., there are some parks where entrance is free, but trying to get into any park in China without paying admission is impossible.” This year many of these admission fees have increased, some as much 60 RMB per person per day. When you consider a trip that visits ten different parks and sites, these fees become significant. In Sichuan’s Jiuzhaigou, for example, which is well known for its beautiful turquoise lakes, daily admission can run well over 200 RMB.

4. Luxury cars are more expensive in China. In China, a combination of taxes and tariffs make fancy cars much more expensive than in the U.S. A Buick Enclave in America costs $36,500, however as a result of China’s fees the same car in Beijing would cost around $63,500. The end result of this higher price is a much greater car rental cost than one would encounter in the U.S.  

5. Rising salaries.  A final factor that has had an influence on travel in China is the rise in people costs. Over the past ten years, Chinese wages and salaries have grown by an annual average of 14%.   Because WildChina values high service standards, we have always paid our guides competitive wages.  Thus, unlike other travel companies, increases in this area have been minimal.

When appropriate, WildChina’s approach strives to mitigate costs, but we will always maintain our commitment to safety, personal service and comfort when exploring the wilder side of China.


If you questions or concerns, please feel to contact us at info@wildchina.com.


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April 27th, 2012

WildChina hosts Harvard Business School event

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

This past Wednesday, WildChina sponsored the Greater China Club’s (GCC) annual party at Harvard Business School. The GCC aims to engage HBS students in one of the world’s most dynamic economies on business, economic, and social issues.  But this night was all about celebrating Chinese style — toasting, listening to some of China’s up and coming pop artists, and relaxing with students and young professionals across Harvard’s professional schools and other top academic institutions in Boston.

WildChina founder Mei Zhang graduated from Harvard Business in 1996 and has stayed involved ever since.  Each year, Mei returns to Harvard Business to present the WildChina case study, first created in 2008 and later refined in 2011. Over the years, WildChina has hosted Harvard MBA students during their summers to experience working in China.

During the party, students enjoyed the Chinese style decorations and danced the night away–after all, everyone needs a break from studying. In addition to helping sponsor the party, WildChina’s hotel partners donated a two-night overnight stay in Beijing at the The Peninsula and a three-night stay at the Waldorf Astoria in Shanghai for lucky draw winners.  The Peninsula Beijing is well known for their impeccable service and delicious dining at Jing, while the newly opened Waldforf Astoria has gained a huge following for their rooms overlooking the Bund. Like the GCC, we hope that this party will encourage US-based students trip to come visit China.

Congrats to the GCC for throwing a great event and WildChina looks forward to continue to mentor and grow younger business school students.


Questions? Please get in touch at info@wildchina.com.


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April 24th, 2012

Beijing to Ulaan Baatar: A Cross-Border Journey: September 2-12, 2012

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

WildChina and Nomadic Expeditions have teamed up to create an itinerary that highlights the best of their respective destinations. The result is Exploring China & Mongolia!, designed by WildChina, founder and president Mei Zhang, and Jalsa Urubshurow, founder of Nomadic Expeditions.  Both Mei and Jalsa share  a common passion for discovery as well as the honor of “Top Travel Specialists 2011” from Condé Nast Traveler.


The 11-day cultural journey includes:


In China:

  • Two days in the Chinese capital including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
  • Access to Chonghua Palace, the playground of the mighty Qianlong Emperor, as well as a Summer Palace – a manmade watering hole built by 10,000 laborers.
  • Explore the iconic Great Wall, a lasting symbol of China’s imperial might.
  • Hike the Mutianyu and Jinshanling and snake over mountain ridges.

In Mongolia:

  • Experience Hustain Nuruu National Park – home to Przewalski’s horse, the world’s last remaining species of wild equine.
  • Explore the habitat for Bactrian camels, Agali mountain sheep, goitered gazelle and Saker Falcons.
  • Explore dunes known as the “Singing Sands”
  • Visit a camel-herding family and take in the scenery on the back of a Bactrian camel
  • Travel to the legendary Flaming Cliffs, rich with fossils and site of the 1923 discovery of the first nest of dinosaur eggs the world had ever seen.

Exploring China and Mongolia is scheduled for September 2-12, 2012. Cost: $4,450 per person/double occupancy; internal airfare (between Ulaanbaatar and Gobi) $420 per person; single supplement $1,195 per person.

For more information or to make reservations, contact WildChina at 888-902-8808 or online at info@wildchina.com.

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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.


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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