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May 8th, 2012

Reflections on “Easy China: Three Ways”

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

Last week, The New York Times published “Easy China: Three Ways,” a look at how first-time visitors can tackle Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai.  Everyone at WildChina religiously keeps up with what is being written about China– we want to make sure  our clients are not missing out on any amazing restaurants or an experience that we think would really wow.  On the whole, we think this article has a lot of interesting suggestions and serves as a great introduction into China’s biggest cities.  We invite you to read our reflections on this latest piece.

Looking over the Beijing portion, the recommendation to visit 798 is spot on and the galleries highlighted– UCCA, Pace and Galerie Paris-Beijing are definitely the big daddies to see. For die-hard art lovers, though, a visit to Caochangdi, is a bit more off the beaten path and if you are lucky, you may stumble across Ai Weiwei (or at least peek out his home…). Walking through Caochangdi and 798 with WildChina art expert, such as Katherine Don or Meg Maggio, founder of Pekin Fine Arts is a total treat as they know everyone in the scene.  Interested in meeting emerging artists? They will arrange. A passion for ink painting (the new “it” trend in Chinese art)? Done– they know the movers and the shakers.

We absolutely loved reading the recommendation of touring the hutongs. That is an absolute highlight while touring Beijing and a meal at Xian Lao Man is delicious. Whenever we have a bad day, their fried dumplings (guotie) seem to be the solution to any problem. We look forward to holding our next Where the Wild Things Are at Great Leap. The owner Carl is a hoot and a good friend.  Best beer in China. End of discussion.

One area that we were utterly confused about is the idea that a car for a full day to Mutianyu (1.5-2 hours outside of Beijing) is RMB 500). In order for this to happen, there are two things going on (or if you are very unlucky, perhaps both). First, your car will make stops along the way to visit jade markets where you will be forced to enter and encouraged to purchase dubious goods, or second, your car/driver will be so far below safety standards that if your bumper is hit, the entire car will fall apart (and don’t get us started on if the driver has a license or not….). Trust us– it is worth it to spend the additional USD 30 to book a car through a reputable agency to ensure that you get an experienced driver, working airbags and no unwanted visits to cheap markets!

 

Aqua Restaurant in Hong Kong

Heading down to Hong Kong, many wonderful suggestions were recommended, especially eating at Aqua. Yum. Roughly 70% of WildChina clients eat at one of these restaurants while in Hong Kong and we have never heard a negative word uttered– only high, high praise.

Yes, we know, the Hong Kong Shangrila has a very convenient location. But we have to admit that there is no place more amazingly relaxing and wonderful to get over jetlag than the InterContinental Pool. The picture below really explains it all. Yes, it is not on the HK side. But if you are in HK for leisure or have business on the Kowloon side, there is not better place (we feel).

Intercontinental Pool in Hong Kong

Moving on to Shanghai, again, many of our old standbys are there. Anytime I’m in Shanghai, a drink at Glamour Bar is a must. There is nothing like a champagne cocktail and owner Michelle Garnaut, a good friend of WildChina’s, runs a top-notch show. For business travelers, the Puli is fantastic and so relaxing. The location is not 100% perfect– you have to get in a cab to reach the French Concession or the Bund– but this property has been a particular hit with European clients.

Our only beef is that la grande dame of Shanghai hotels– the Shanghai Peninsula– was not listed at all in the article. The location– incredible. The rooms– they have nail polish drying stations. Come on! The service– this is the hotel that takes care of any VIP guest coming into China.

Peninsula Shanghai

We hope you enjoyed a few of our insights and reflections on the article. Looking forward to hearing your comments on this blog post.

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

 

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January 11th, 2012

And the winner of the 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant is…

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

WildChina is thrilled to announce the 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant awardees are… Zhang Shanghua AND team Bill Bleisch & Yan Lu! A split tie!

 

Mt. Gongga

Shanghua, a scientist based in Chengdu, Sichuan province,  will explore the natural beauty and local cultures of Baiyu County in the Garze Tibetan autonomous prefecture. Along his journey, he will spend time in The Chaqingsongduo Nature Reserve which houses two-thirds of the world’s population of white-lipped deer or Thorold’s deer, the second largest glacier in the prefecture, and the sources of numerous streams and rivers, and the peak of the mighty Mount Gongga.

 

Yaqing Monastery in winter

Bill Bleisch, Program Director of China Exploration & Research Society and Yan Lu of Fauna & Flora International will scout a route along the backbone of the Ailao Mountains through the Ailaoshan Nature Reserve.  They are excited about their expedition as it could be the start of a trekking trail along the Ailao Shan ridge and beyond, continuing north to Dali where it would connect with existing trekking routes, creating a long “through-trail.”

Ailao Shan

After receiving  fantastic applications from all over the world, the WildChina Expert Panel, including WildChina founder Zhang Mei had a tough job of selecting three finalists.  From everyone at WildChina, we thank everyone who submitted fantastic applications and we look forward to keeping you posted on our 2012 WildChina Explorers exciting adventures…

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For more questions about the WildChina Explorer Grant, please click here or send a question to explorer@wildchina.com

Pictures by Shanghua Zhang and Art Fund

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May 9th, 2010

What We’re Reading: “In Shanghai, Preservation Takes Work”

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

It seems that Beijing is not the only Chinese city whose rapidly-changing aesthetic and identity have visitors and residents alike thinking about its past and present.

Recently, a New York Times article, titled “In Shanghai, Preservation Takes Work,” explored Shanghai’s development in light of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, whose pavilions opened their doors to the public on May 1st.

 

A modern, European-style building on Shanghai's Wujiang Road

The article quotes both Anne Warr and Peter Hibbard, two WildChina experts on architecture and history (respectively). On Shanghai’s disappearing past, Warr notes that there is still an impressive amount of history to be seen, saying, “For a city which has developed as rapidly as Shanghai, the number of historic properties that have managed to survive is a miracle.” Hibbard comments on the remarkable restoration of the city’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, a famous 1800s-era monument built by the Bund.

We were also particularly interested in the section regarding Shanghai’s Jewish neighborhoods, as WildChina is offering a one-day Shanghai Expo Tour, titled “Shanghai’s Jewish History.” For more information, a complete listing of this and other one-day tours can be found on the WildChina website.

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Photo credit: NY Times

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February 2nd, 2010

Sichuan’s Jiuzhaigou Valley and Increasing Domestic Tourism in China

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

The February 1, 2010 edition of the New York Times features a piece on Jiuzhaigou Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China’s Sichuan province that consists of a natural wildlife and forest area.

Jiuzhaigou has experience a significant increase in visitors recently, which reflects the upward trend in domestic Chinese travel in the past year. The New York Times reports, “while the [travel] industry lost ground in Europe and the United States, China’s tourism sector posted a 9 percent jump in revenue 2009, to 1.26 trillion renminbi [Yuan], thanks to domestic demand.”

 

WildChina has done service work in Jiuzhaigou, and guests on our journey Tracking Wild Panda Footprints, which was featured on Away.com, witness the incredible natural scenery here. Here’s what we have to say about the nature reserve:

With its lush alpine scenery, turquoise lakes and multi-leveled waterfalls, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve has long been a haven for nature lovers. Jiuzhaigou, where film director Ang Lee filmed breathtaking landscape scenes for “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve. There are fixed travel routes for eco-friendly buses to drive along, with private vehicles restricted from entering the park—extremely important, given that there are 2.5 million visitors each year. Discussion on how to successfully manage mass tourism is always a heated topic here.

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Want more information on Jiuzhaigou? Send us a tweet @WildChina or ask Alex at alex.grieves@wildchina.com.

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January 29th, 2010

Mei Zhang to speak at New York Times Travel Show, February 28, 2010

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

WildChina is pleased to announce that founder Mei Zhang will speak at the New York Times Travel Show, which takes place from February 26-28, 2010 in New York City.

Her seminar, entitled “Discover China,” will discuss experiential, off-the-beaten-path travel in China for which WildChina is known.

The New York Times says of her seminar,

Join entrepreneur Mei Zhang—founder of luxury tour operator WildChina and a Travel + Leisure “A-List Travel Agent”—for a look at the new face of China travel. Zhang takes you beyond the Great Wall to the lesser known, yet equally stunning parts of China for truly experiential travel, highlighted by meaningful, personal interactions. Get tips on where to go and how to experience China differently, from ethnic minority village homestays to luxury hiking and camping in pristine natural landscapes.

Mei will present her seminar on Sunday, February 28, 2010 at 11:30 am (Seminar Room 2 of the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City). More information on Mei’s and other sessions can be found online: NYT Travel Show Travel Seminars.

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Photo credit: Lost Girl’s World

If you are interested in booking Mei for a speaking engagement, please contact Alex Grieves at alex.grieves@wildchina.com.

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January 12th, 2010

NYTimes’ “31 Places to Visit in 2010″ features Shanghai and Shenzhen

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

First the Travel+Leisure feature, and now this article in the New York Times: it is increasingly apparent that China is set to experience a tourism renaissance in 2010.

Among the 31 chosen destinations in the article, Shanghai and Shenzhen ranked at number 12 and number 20, respectively. These are impressive numbers, given the caliber and reputations of the places with whom these Chinese cities share the list.

 

Shanghai's dynamic Pudong skyline

Shanghai in particular is an intriguing destination: it has much to offer visitors, especially in light of the upcoming 2010 World Expo. Aric Chen writes,

“To many, the idea of a World Expo might seem like a dated, superfluous throwback from some preglobalized age. (Remember the one in Aichi, Japan? Enough said.) But tell that to the 70 million who are expected to attend Expo 2010 in Shanghai.

This is China, after all. And following up on Beijing’s spectacular Olympics, Shanghai is pulling out all the stops. From May 1 to Oct. 31, more than 200 national and other pavilions will straddle the city’s Huangpu River, turning a two-square-mile site into an architectural playground: Switzerland will be represented by a building shaped like a map of that country, complete with a rooftop chairlift, while England is in the celebrated hands of the designer Thomas Heatherwick, who is fashioning what looks like a big, hairy marshmallow. Other attention grabbers include Macao, taking the form of a walk-through bunny, and the United Arab Emirates, which hired Foster + Partners to build a “sand dune.” (By contrast, the United States pavilion might be mistaken for a suburban office park.)

In the run-up to the Expo, Shanghai seems to have taken this year’s theme, “Better City, Better Life,” to heart, spending tens of billions of dollars to upgrade the city. The riverfront Bund promenade is getting a makeover with parks and pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, while the subway is being dramatically expanded — including several new stations serving the World Expo site.”

— Aric Chen

Read about Shenzhen and find out what other destinations are featured on the list here.

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Photo credit: Shinathology
Interested in learning more about travel to Shanghai? Please contact our Private Journeys director, Barbara Henderson, at barbara.henderson@wildchina.com. You can also send us a tweet @WildChina.
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October 6th, 2009

Environmental Changes in Yunnan

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

Climate change often seems like an abstract concept to many of us. But as renowned China scholar Orville Schell writes in “The Thaw at the Roof of the World,” his recent New York Times op-ed, the effects of global warming can be clearly seen in a part of China close to WildChina’s heart: Yunnan province in the southwest.

WildChina recently ran a trip for Orville and a few of his friends from the Asia Society to Yunnan and the Tibetan Plateau so that they could examine these environmental changes up close. As he writes, most people visit Yunnan’s majestic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain for the beautiful views — unaware that the mountain’s Baishui Glacier No. 1 has receded 830 feet over the last 20 years due to climate change. While in the short run, the melting of the glacier will result in plenty of water, in the long run, it will in fact result in water scarcity – a serious issue, given that the glaciers on Jade Dragon Snow Mountain feed water into the uppear reaches of the Yangtze River, a major water resource for much of China.

Given that water resources are already dwindling worldwide, it’s no wonder that conservationists are drawing more and more attention to the pressing need to solve the climate change problem.  It certainly becomes much less abstract when you think about the people and lives that will be hugely affected, for the worse, by the environmental changes.

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July 14th, 2009

What We’re Reading: NYTimes on Canceled Trips

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

You’ve bought your trip, plane tickets are booked, and you’ve saved up your vacation days. Then, a month or two before the trip, you find out it’s been cancelled because there aren’t enough travelers. What do you do?

The New York Times’ prolific travel writer, Michelle Higgins, has some interesting tips. Among her helpful suggestions: ask questions to see how likely it is that the trip will depart; know the operator’s cancellation policy; and wait to buy your airline tickets.

Read the rest of this entry »

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April 14th, 2009

What We’re Reading: NYTimes Goes to Yunnan

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

New York Times reporter Edward Wong unknowingly traced WildChina’s first-ever trip in the piece he recently wrote for the Sunday Travel section. Edward travels throughout Yunnan, from the valley of the Mekong River, (called the Lancang in Yunnan), to the secluded Tibetan village of Lower Yubeng, then to several sacred sites including Mystic Lake and Mystic Waterfall.

Mt. Yubeng

Mt. Yubeng in Yunnan

The journey he takes is a beautiful one that visits sites sacred to Tibetans. Buddhists arriving at the Mystical Falls  circumambulate them 13 times with the belief that this act will accumulate merit.

In WildChina’s early years we ran this trip quite often, and promoted it heavily to guests interested in hiking, nature and Tibetan culture. In the past few years we’ve stopped visiting so much because the region has become quite touristy and lost some of its natural charm and secluded appeal. Read the rest of this entry »

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