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The absolute latest updates in China travel information.

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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.

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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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April 30th, 2014

It’s all about the tea…WildChina Expert Jeff Fuchs on the Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road

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

Musings from WildChina Explorer and Expert Jeff Fuchs on the importance of the Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road, and why we should all bump it up on our travel list…

WildChina Expert Jeff Fuchs chomps on an apple in Yunnan, tracing the Tea & Horse Caravan Road

The Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road has long held the attention of explorers and vagabonds alike for the fact that it represents one of the globe’s great and daunting adventures. A cultural odyssey as much as a physically demanding pathway that brought tea, salt, horses, and all manner of goods from the fringes of the old dynastical empires into and onto the Tibetan Plateau. Pre-dating the Silk Road, the Tea & Horse Caravan Road and its meandering pathways through indigenous zones, ancient tea forests, and stunning geographies offer up a deeper look into the very historical fabric of southwest China, Tibet, and beyond.

Across snow passes, over some of the planet’s great waterways, the route takes in three- dozen cultures, two dozen languages…all with their own histories with tea and the great trade route.

Tea figured greatly upon this ‘highway through the sky’ as it was – and to some extent remains – one of the great panaceas and commodities of time. Tea was more a fuel and medicine to the ancient tribes and its safe transport was one of the great vitals of the trade world.

Tea growing in Xishuangbanna, on the Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road

This WildChina journey along the Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road seeks to dig into and take the journey back to its roots. Authentic touches of exploration off the beaten path, serious tea-highs from some of the planet’s purest ancient tree teas, and home stays that are entirely integral with delving deeper into a culture and land are on offer. Walking through some of the oldest tea forests on the planet, and then sampling them in a cup bind the leaf to its drinker and by extension to any that partake in a cup.

Xishuangbanna, boiling tea on the Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Route.

We’ve enhanced sections to take you deeper still into Yunnan’s diversity and created more of a full-on adventure. Daily tea samplings, from fresh bitter harvests, to locally prepared specialties (including the Tibetan’s famed and pungent butter tea) from local regions.

I’m delighted that this journey has continued and been intensified to add a more authentic feel that reflects life and travel upon the Tea & Horse Caravan Road. In traveling upon this most ancient of trade routes, it is important to retain some of the original feel of travel, life, and interaction for our guests.

It is vital that such a journey keep its vitality and spontaneity. It is only in this kind of travel and attention to detail that a route’s history, legend, and truths can remain intact.

All photos by Jeff Fuchs

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If Jeff’s descriptions of tea got your heart beating a little faster, check out the itinerary & October dates for the 2014 trip here. You can also download the flyer to share around here. If you want to read more about Jeff and his travels, check out his blog here. And finally, if you have any questions, shoot us an email here: info@wildchina.com

 

 

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March 10th, 2014

Enjoy the Suite Comforts of Home at the Hilton Beijing

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

With the large range of accommodation options available to you in Beijing, sometimes it’s the little things that help you decide – like the finishing touches of the Imperial and Chairman Suites at the Hilton Beijing in Chaoyang district. This hotel lives up to the Hilton name, and then some, and is located in the city’s embassy district, not far from Beijing’s financial centers and the bustling nightlife and dining options of Sanlitun.

 

The Hilton Beijing's Imperial Suite

The Hilton Beijing’s Imperial Suite

The Hilton Beijing offers nine distinct suites–but our favorites are the Chairman Suite and spacious Imperial Suite that even boasts a zen-life relaxation room! These suites each have a large kitchen with separate access for the private chef and staff, available around the clock to prepare everything from an authentic Chinese dinner after a long day, to an opulent formal dinner party for eight people in the Chairman Suite and 15 in the Imperial.

Chairman Suite:

The living area of the Chairman Suite

The living area of the Chairman Suite

 

Bedroom of the Chairman Suite

Bedroom of the Chairman Suite

 

Relax in style in this 165m² suite located on the ninth floor of the executive tower, offering executive lounge access and complimentary breakfast. The contemporary design and state-of-the-art amenities convey a sense of blissful comfort, and to unwind you can enjoy a movie on the plasma TV with a heart-pumping Bang & Olufsen sound system that completes the ultimate in-home theater experience.

 

Imperial Suite:

Living space in the Imperial Suite

Living space in the Imperial Suite

 

This suite is called Imperial for a reason. At 200m² and located on the top floor of the main tower, this superbly crafted suite offers great views of Beijing, while the interior combines modern technology with a touch of local Chinese flair. The spacious dining and living area is perfect for hosting a private reception, while the separated bedroom and office provides a personal space to recharge from a busy day.

In addition to these suites, the Hilton Beijing offers three dining options, a lounge, and a funky bar serving signature cocktails and delicious Champagnes. There is a large health club, spa, and even a Tony & Guy salon located in the main lobby. For meetings, it is an ideal location with 12 function rooms, including the city’s first 360 degree round infinity ballroom.

We recommend the five-star Hilton Beijing for both business and leisure travelers. It is located a quick 30 minute car ride from the airport and offers easy access to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, major shopping and entertainment and more!

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Looking for more hotel recommendations? Don’t hesitate to send us an email with your questions at info@wildchina.com!

 

 

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November 8th, 2013

Interview: Bill Bleisch, 2012 WildChina Explorer

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

 
Bill Bleisch has been involved in environmental efforts in China and its neighboring countries for nearly two decades. One perennial focus of his work has been the way in which habitat loss stemming from patterns of resource management, industrial development, and environmental degradation has contributed to the rapidly declining state of wild gibbon populations. Once abundant throughout Southeast Asia, this family of apes has become critically endangered. Unfortunately, while much international attention has been given to other endangered animals,  very limited resources have been mobilized in the effort to protect these primates from extinction.
 
In his efforts to spread awareness about the existence and peril of southern Yunnan’s black-crested gibbon, Bill Bleisch spent time exploring their remaining habitat in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan. In 2012, he received a WildChina Explorer Grant to continue this research in hopes of establishing a trekking route through the Ailaoshan mountain range.
 
Bill on the trail
Bleisch on the trail
 

How did you first become interested in China?

Like many American kids, I was first introduced to China through the food.  My mother taught my sister and me to use chopsticks whenever we went to a Chinese restaurant.  People in China ask me how I learned to use chopsticks and I explain that my mother taught me.  Then I have to explain that she is not Chinese.  Later, she took a Chinese cooking class and we used to go to the Oriental market and gawk at all the interesting delicacies.   I had a collection of miniature figures from China – a fisherman, a nine-eaved padoda, an arched bridge, two scholars playing weiqi.

Later, when I was about 12, my father and I made a deal that I could stay home from Sunday school at church as long as I spent Sunday morning reading religious texts.  I happily agreed.  I read the Dao de Qing, the Analects of Confucius, Mencius, the Book of Changes, the Book of Songs,…   I took a Chinese course one summer, but it was too difficult.

It was not until I finished graduate school that I had the chance to come to China.  I received a grant from the Chinese Adventure Capital Fund, a fund managed by the Durfee Foundation and set up in honour of R. Stanton Avery, the inventor of the stick-on label, who had previously travelled in China in 1929 as a young man.  His family wanted others to have the chance that he had had to see China first hand.  I came to China in 1987, to survey gibbons in the Ailaoshan and Wuliangshan Nature Reserves.

BillBleischScouting a route along the ridge of the Ailaoshan range

What was the goal of your expedition in Yunnan’s Ailaoshan region?

My personal goal for these recent trips sponsored by WildChina, has been to bring something back to the Ailaoshan and its gibbons, 26 years after my first visit.  I had the idea that a trekking trail through gibbon habitat could increase public interest and commitment to protecting the gibbons and reconnecting their forest habitat.  The idea of a long trail in China came to me while my son and I were hiking the Appalachian Trail, which is a long trail along the ridge of the Appalachian Mountains.  The AT, as it is known, was started by local hiking clubs, but is now a National Scenic Trail managed by the National Park Service.  I know that there would be interest in such a trail in China if could be opened. So the goal of the four trips this year was to map out a stretch of trekking trail and start building local support for the idea of a long trail on the Ailao Mountain ridge.

 

What role does exploration play in spreading awareness about social and environmental issues?

I think exploration, at its best, has always been the key to building awareness of the world beyond our own everyday lives.  European explorers brought back the news that China had an advanced civilization in the 13th  century.  Later, it was the  explorers that convinced people that the world was round, not flat.  In this century, opening people’s eyes to the environmental and social problems that exist in remote rural areas is one of the best things that exploration can do.  That’s why a real explorer must also be a good story teller – either through written word, photographs or film.

 

Bleisch team on the trailBill and his team blaze a trail through the forest
 

How would a new trekking trail contribute to the preservation of the black-crested gibbon’s habitat?

I have to tell you that this is controversial.  There are those who are dead-set against opening any habit of endangered species to tourism. There is certainly good evidence that noisy tourists inside nature reserves scare wildlife away from heavily used tourist trails.  That is why the Ailaoshan National Nature Reserve is still officially closed to tourism.  (We work with the Xing Ping Provincial Ailaoshan Nature Reserve for now.) There is another view, however.

Nature reserves need support, both from local people and from the general public. The reserves have a hard time winning that support unless people have first hand experience of benefits.  Trekking by well-informed hikers is a gentle form of tourism that can build that support.  Just look at the passion with which people fought for the completion of the Pacific Crest Trail and its protection in the USA.   Trekking can  also provide direct benefits to local people in remote areas, something they do not see from big hotels or scenic hot-spots.  Local people can sell food and supplies along the trail, or open a nongjiale-style hostel.  Also, in provincial nature reserves, which have little funding, trekkers can serve as the eyes and ears of the nature reserve, reporting illegal hunting or logging that they find inside the reserve.  Their very presence can be enough to scare off poachers.  And experience in the USA has shown trekkers will fight to have protection extended beyond the boundaries of the nature reserves, many of which are too small and isolated from other natural forest.

But it can do more than that.  The trekking movement also taps people’s desire to get bck to our roots, back to basics, back to the wildness.  On a trek, you learn very quickly how to get along without many of the luxuries that we take for granted.  If you don’t really need it, you don’t carry it.  Eventually you ease into a new standard of comfort and start to find joy in the simple beauties along the way.  Many even find a kind of spiritual fulfilment on a long trek.  Tibetan pilgrims do these long walks regularly, Europeans called it the “pilgrim way,” native Americans called it a spirit walk. Perhaps in this is part of the antidote to the pointless conveyer belt of consumerism that is driving unsustainable development, global climate change, and senseless destruction of wildlife habitat.

 

Group shot by cascadeThe group rests by a cascade
 

What other efforts are being made to help these primates recover from the brink of extinction?

Many people deserve a great deal of credit for turning things around for primate conservation in China over the last 25 years.  The State Forestry Administration and the Yunnan Provincial Forestry Bureau, and especially the staff on the ground – the nature reserve staff and also the poorly paid and poorly equipped forest guards (hulin yuan) – they are often the real heroes in primate conservation now.  Field researchers, mainly Chinese scientists, have contributed a great deal.  NGOs have also made a big contribution.  They all work together now.  For example, my friend Professor Jiang Xuelong and his students, with support from the China office of Fauna and Flora International, have worked with the nature reserves in Ailaoshan to carry out a complete census of the gibbons there and develop an action plan for gibbon conservation.

All of these efforts are adding up, but there is still more that needs to be done; to protect and restore the forest habitat, and to rebuild forest connections between isolated groups of gibbons, so they can find suitable mates and pair up to breed.  Some of that work must be done outside of nature reserves, and that means that local people and local government must be more involved.

 

western-black-crested-gibbon- Fauna and Flora
Western black crested gibbon (Photo Credit: Flora and Fauna International)
 

Have you been involved in any other conservation efforts outside of southwestern China?

WVB: I have had the great good fortune to work in over 25 nature reserves all over China, in Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou, Guangxi, Fujian, Hunan, Hubei, Hainan, Qinghai and Xinjiang.  I have also worked in Vietnam, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Malaysia at one time or another.  I have been part of teams for conservation research on the Grey Golden Monkeys in Guizhou and the Tibetan Antelope in Xinjiang, but most of my work has been helping local nature reserve staff to develop their skills and to write their own management plans.  That includes helping them to focus on the conservation problems that need the most attention.

 

What’s next? Do you have any upcoming adventures planned?

There are so many exciting things that need to be done, and I hope I have time for them all.

Right now I am on my way to Luang Namtha in Lao PDR were we have started a project designed to answer the question I posed above – is trekking tourism good for wildlife conservation, or does it just scare the animals away?  I think it may help. Lao is a very poor country that cannot afford the kind of patrolling that China has, so tourist guides and trekkers may be the best defence the animals have there.  The trekking companies provide payments to the villages, which should be an incentive to keep the forest intact.  Most of the trekkers are from Europe or the USA. They are not usually so noisy and they do not ask if they can eat the animals that they see.

I will be back in Yunnan for the official launch of the Ailao Shan Trail in Xing Ping County on November 26 – December 1.  Of course I want to hike the complete Ailaoshan Trail as soon as I am given the chance.  And I want to see it extended, to Dali in the north, where it can connect with the Ancient Tea Horse Trail, and to the south along the spine of the same ridge, where there is more gibbon habitat, but where much forest needs to be restored.  Those are Hani and Lahu minority areas, so very interesting culturally.

I want to be a part of mapping out the trail, and to hike as much as I can.  Perhaps eventually the trail and the forest can stretch all the way from Dali to Feng Shui Lin Nature Reserve and the Vietnam border.  Then China would have a National Scenic Trail to rival the famous long trails in the USA; the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.  I may not live long enough to see the trail completed, but now I am sure it will happen.

 

Bleisch has been the Chinese program director for Flora and Fauna International, which works to protect some of the most endangered species in the world. He also spent time as the program director of The Bridge Fund, which works to improve the lives of Tibetan communities through their support of various educational, environmental, cultural, and economic initiatives. Now, as program director for the China Exploration and Research Society, he continues to promote the cultural and environmental protection China’s minority regions. 
 
Don’t forget to apply to the 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant for the chance to win $3000 of funding for your own Chinese adventure!
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November 8th, 2013

Breaking the Winter Cycle: Shanghai

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

Ring in the New Year… Shanghai style

Looking for an exciting way to bring in the New Year? While thousands of people are huddled like penguins in the streets of Times Square, you could be singing Auld Lang Syne in Shanghai’s historic Bund district. Though the traditional Chinese New Year does not fall on December 31, Shanghai’s vibrant international community comes out in full force to ring in the end of the annum. As one of the fastest growing cultural and financial centers in the world, Shanghai has cultivated an amazing nightlife. The only challenge this presents is choosing from the multitude of options. Join the party at one of Shanghai’s world-class nightclubs or watch the fireworks and laser show over Pudong’s iconic skyline… depending on where you end up, you could do both at once.

If you are looking for a more traditional way to “ring in the New Year”, make your way to the Longhua Temple located in the city’s southwest. Every year, to celebrate both Western and Chinese New Year, Shanghai’s natives come to the 1,800 year old temple to ring the 3,3000kg Buddhist Bell. Only the first 108 people to make reservations for the event will have a chance to ring the bell though, so plan ahead if you’re set on it. Otherwise, come for the folk performances, fireworks, and lion dances that make this event so spectacular.

 

Yu Garden
Shanghai’s Celebrated Yu Garden 

If you are in town for the Chinese New Year there are many ways to join the festivities. Fill up on some traditional holiday dumplings and tangyuan, which are said to bring wealth and prosperity into one’s life, or pay a visit to the 600 year old City God Temple near Yu Garden, where locals come to pay for a successful new year. Just be sure not to miss the Chinese lantern festival, which falls on February 14th this year, and is marked by colorful parades and astounding light shows, both traditional and modern. One of the best places to get a sense of traditional techniques and festivities is the Yu Yuan Old Town Bazaar, where conventional lanterns dominate the celebrations.

If you’re interested in a making a winter escape to Shanghai, click here to find out about WildChina’s winter tour of this world-class city.

 

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November 5th, 2013

Breaking the Winter Cycle: Lhasa, Tibet

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

 
For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, this time of year is one of mixed feelings. On one hand, the changing of the seasons is a welcome period of transition, in which we put on sweaters and watch the leaves change. On the other hand, we know that just behind the nutmeg-scented, flannel embrace of fall looms the unforgiving wrath of winter. Forced indoors by the deep freeze outside, we find ourselves confined to a state of seasonal hibernation. For those of us who like to explore, this can be a trying time indeed.
 
This year, why not break the cycle?
 
While people don’t often think of China as a winter destination, reduced crowds, local festivals, and mild weather (depending on your destination) make this season an ideal time to explore the “Middle Kingdom”. That is why we’ve put together a series highlighting some of the best places to visit during this time of year.  
 

Lhasa, Tibet

People don’t often associate Tibet’s capital with winter travel.  Some would argue that the “roof of the world” just doesn’t seem like a good place to be in January. It may come as a surprise, then, that winter is an ideal time to visit Lhasa. Though you’ll still need to bring a jacket, daytime temperatures rarely fall below freezing. If you don’t mind the cooler weather, you will not be disappointed. The light this time of year is nothing short of fantastic, with the low-hanging sun casting long shadows across the markets and monasteries. This luminescence, along with the snow-capped peaks that surround the city, make Lhasa a photographer’s playground in the winter.

 

Potala PalacePotala Palace, former winter residence of the Dalai Lama

In addition to this unique seasonal beauty, another reason to visit Lhasa during this time of year is the significant decrease in tourism that takes place during the winter. This means less crowds, cheaper accommodations, and easier access to train tickets. This also means that you will be able to experience Tibetan culture more freely. As winter puts a break on much of the farming activity in the region, Tibetans use this time to make pilgrimage to Lhasa. This influx of pilgrims will begin arriving in December, and will often stay through the Tibetan New Year, which takes place around late January.

The tens of thousands of Tibetans who descend on this city during this time, along with the reduction in tourism, make winter the one time of the year where locals actually outnumber the tourists from China and abroad. The difference that this makes cannot be overstated. Instead of being surrounded by other foreigners, you can spend your time in Lhasa immersed in the rich cultural and spiritual life that has long made Tibet a focus of the global imagination. If you don’t mind a little chilly weather, winter is the perfect time to gain a truly authentic experience of Tibetan culture.

 

jokhang courtyardJokhang Courtyard, Lhasa
 
If you would like to make your own winter pilgrimage to Tibet’s capital, find more information here.

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September 25th, 2013

Tour Erhai Lake by Bicycle

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

A WildChina employee takes off on an impromptu bike ride…

Escaping Dali

After exploring the bustling streets of Dalizhen in Yunnan Province, we needed an escape to mother nature. With the towering Cangshan Mountains encircling beautiful Erhai Lake, we decided to see what the waterfront had to offer. We considered a leisurely day trip down but, plagued by restless legs, we chose to cycle upwards of 120 kilometers (75 miles) around the lakeshore.

Our tickets to exploration

 Erhai is surrounded by small villages that exist largely oblivious to busy “old town” Dalizhen and the rapidly expanding “new town” Dali. Hopping on rental bikes and heading towards Erhai, we crossed the busy Dali 1st Class road and enter what felt like a different place. Faces changed from chatty travelers to focused villagers working the land and the lake. Once on Erhai Ring road, the road winded through fields, villages and along the waterfront. Taking advantage of August’s fall heat, villagers were drying tiny fish on the roadside. The first time we passed a net full of fish, a heavy scent swept over us, but we soon adjusted after passing net after net.

Roadside drying fish

As we weaved through villages, we were awarded glimpses into the homes of those farmers and fisherman. Small houses and temples hugged narrow roads filled with talkative village elders and children playfully rolling hoops along side us. Really starting to feel the heat, we stopped and indulged in green pea popsicles, a surprisingly refreshing treat.

Homemade popsicles

Erhai Surprises

We discovered Erhai Lake is well known for its cormorant bird fishing. Following what appeared to be other travelers, we rode down through a village to the fishing pier. Fishermen were preparing long canoes full of squawking birds before heading out to local fishing spots. The birds are trained to dive into the water, catch fish with their long beaks and return to the boat where fishermen retrieve the fish from the birds’ throats. Such a interesting process draws quite a crowd, but we were fortunate enough to see cormorants in action at multiple points along our ride. Due to inefficiency, such fishing practice has largely fallen out of use and been replaced by motor assisted net fishing teams which spot the shoreline.

Cormorant fisherman preparing to depart

Each break yielded cheerful encounters. On one particular occasion, we were invited into a Bai (白族) village to celebrate someone’s 80th birthday. In such small villages, reaching 80 years of age is quite a significant event. We were welcomed with many smiles, incredible food aroma and the honor of sitting at one of the high tables with some of the village celebrities.

Being one of China’s 56 diverse ethnicities, many of the Bai people spoke and understood limited Mandarin which made dinner table discussion particularly entertaining. One man excitedly commented that it was the first time he had met Westerners. Countless bowls of food were placed on the table, chopsticks were passed around and the celebratory feast began. Some of the dishes included the small fish we saw drying along the roadside. While they may smell overpowering when drying, they taste wonderful when supplemented with flavorful sauces. The villagers told us the fish are considered a local delicacy. Loose leaf tea was delicately served. We had a blast celebrating 80 years of life and meeting the new faces. We were even offered beds for the night but, having to continue our progress, we left with full stomachs and further invitation to return the next day for a second round of celebrations.

Rest for Day Two

Fortunately with so many towns surrounding the lake, many potential spots exist to stop and spend the night. Shuanglangzhen provided a particularly good spot with many accommodations including lakefront balcony views. Savoring a glass of wine while watching the sun dip below the Cangshan Mountains and the lake reflect a palette of colors, we reflected on an incredible day. Packing up the bikes and eating a big breakfast, we got rolling before noon the next day.

Erhai Lake, Cangshan Mountains and a beautiful sunset

Continuing on the next day along the east side of Erhai, we encountered a bit more challenging elevation change. After sweating up the climbs, we were rewarded with spectacular panoramic views encompassing most of the Dali/Erhai Lake area. After having ridden through historical villages, we approached the outskirts Dali “new town” and its towering modern developments. We could not help but consider the insights offered across China. We just happened to enjoy a 120 kilometer glimpse into the immense contrasts of China.

Erhai island jewel

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Join us on a similar adventure in Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La!

Interested in getting a bike ride in on your trip to China? Get in touch with us at info@wildchina.com!

 

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September 18th, 2013

The WildChina Explorer Grant is Back!

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

When you were a kid, did you ever try to dig your way to China? Have you always dreamed of exploring the Middle Kingdom? Now is your chance to bring these dreams to life. For the fourth year running, WildChina is holding a competition that allows you to design your own Chinese adventure. The proposal that is most imaginative in pushing the boundaries of Chinese exploration will be awarded up to $3000. Anyone and everyone is invited to apply!

Yaqingmonastary

Photo Credit: Zhang Shanghua, 2012 WildChina Explorer Grant Winner

Here comes the nitty gritty

2014 WildChina Explorer Grant Application

Purpose:

Established in 2011, the WildChina Explorer Grant gives adventurers the chance to turn their outdoor visions into real advancements in China exploration. WildChina’s own story is one of exploration, self-discovery and challenge. High up on the slopes of Tibet’s Mount Kailash, WildChina founder Mei Zhang, braved the high altitudes and harsh landscapes to experience the beauty of snowcapped mountains alight with the sunrise. The breathtaking view brought Mei a sense of fulfillment—though she stood alone and exhausted from her journey. Disappointed by how little support was available for travelers looking to get off the beaten path in China, Mei was inspired to start her own travel company dedicated to offering stress-free and responsible travel to adventurous destinations. The creation of the WildChina Explorer Grant is one more way that WildChina supports other explorers in their quest for authentic and life-changing travel experiences, while continuing to protect local cultures and environments.

Eligibility and Logistics:

All applications must be submitted by 5:00PM Eastern Standard Time on Monday, December 2nd, 2013 to be eligible for the WildChina Explorer Grant of up to $3,000. After reviewing these applications, WildChina will interview finalists before their applications are presented to the judges. The final selection will be announced in January. An additional sum may be awarded to runners up, depending on their ability to excite or inspire the selection committee. The expedition is to take place by the end of August 2014. In the case of multiple individuals applying for the same expedition, one application may be submitted but it must contain personal statements from each applicant.

Selection:

The final selection shall be made by a committee of experts in Chinese culture and exploration. They will assess each application based on its originality and relevance to the WildChina vision. In particular, we will be looking for:

  • Expeditions seeking to rediscover a long lost route, highlight a culturally significant issue, promote aid in a remote community, or otherwise deal with discovery or rediscovery.
  • A genuine excitement for exploration
  • A demonstrated interest in China
  • A risk management plan
  • A commitment to sustainable travel and the incorporation of Leave No Trace (LNT) principles
  • An explanation of how participation in proposed expedition will facilitate future contributions to the growth of WildChina’s expeditions
  • Expedition proposals that get people excited about adventure! WildChina has always been committed to supporting expeditions that our travelers are excited about. In light of this, the amount of support that each applicant’s video receives on our blog, our Facebook page, and our Twitter, Weibo, Pinterest, Youku, and Youtube accounts will be taken into consideration, so do not forget to tell your friends to support your video

 

Only applications submitted in entirety by the December 2nd deadline will be considered. Applications should be submitted to explorergrant@wildchina.com for review and potential approval. Video submission will be either by Youku or Youtube. If a video is submitted in Chinese, it must be uploaded onto Youku and then the URL must be included with the rest of the application. For all other languages, the video must be uploaded onto Youtube and then the URL must be included with the rest of the applicant’s application. Failure to include both this introductory video and a corresponding link will result in an ineligible entry.

Application:

Each WildChina Explorer Grant applicant must submit a standard application including all of the following:

 

  • Purpose and goals of expedition (less than 1 page, 12 point font)
  • Specific budget requirements with an itemized breakdown of projected cost
  • An itinerary for the expedition
  • A risk management plan including expected risks
  • A brief statement regarding the experience level of the participants
  • A brief statement about how the applicant will share this experience, in a substantial and meaningful manner, with WildChina
  • A 90 second video that introduces your proposal. The theme this year is “Adventure: Define adventure and how your proposal seeks to create an adventure.” If the video is in Chinese it must be loaded onto Youku by the applicant. For all other languages the video must be loaded onto Youtube by the applicant. In either case, the URL for the video must be included with the rest of the application

 

Terms:

  • Grant recipients will receive 70% of the approved budget in advance. The final 30% will be given upon submission of an expedition report. Recipients of the WildChina Explorer Grant will also be expected to give an oral presentation to the wider WildChina network as part of the WildChina speaker series’ Where the Wild Things Are. This event will be held in Beijing in honor of the expedition.
  • Grant recipients should additionally be prepared to make an oral presentation of their report to the Beijing WildChina office staff.
  • WildChina has the right to replicate and use all trip ideas and aspects to generate trip product material.

 

 

Are you the next WildChina Explorer?

BillBleisch

Photo Credit: Bill Bleisch, one of our 2012 winners

To download the full application and find out more about past winners, visit the WildChina Explorer Grant homepage.

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August 30th, 2013

WildChina Update: Earthquake in Urumqi

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

BREAKING – August 30, 2013

At 1:27 p.m. local time, a 5.1-magnitude earthquake was registered by the China Earthquake Networks Center in Urumqi, the capital city of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in northwest China.   The epicenter was at a depth of 12 kilometers (approximately 7.5 miles).

As of 3:44 p.m. today, no casualties or injuries have been reported. There are currently no WildChina travelers in the area of the earthquake.

As with all earthquakes of this magnitude and higher, visitors and residents are advised to travel with care and be mindful of aftershocks.

We at WildChina will continue to monitor the situation and provide any updates that become available.

Xinjiang-Map-WildChina

 

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August 19th, 2013

The Legend Behind Yunnan’s Famous “Crossing the Bridge Noodles”

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

When you have a cultural and culinary history as long as China’s, you’ll find that a lot of customs and dishes have legends behind them.

One of our favorites is the touching story of the Yunnan dish, guoqiao mixian (过桥米线) or the “Crossing the Bridge Noodles”:

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Long ago, just south of the Yunnan city of Mengzixian (蒙自县)….

There was beautiful lake with water as clear as jade. In the center of the lake, there was a small island covered in green bamboo saplings and giant trees whose ancient stalks reached the heavens.

Known for its natural beauty and pleasant atmosphere, the small island drew many neighboring scholars seeking a tranquil place to study for the imperial exams.

Among these scholars was a particularly diligent student who spent many days studying on the island.  Every day, his wife made the long walk to the lake, crossing the bridge to the island to bring him his midday meal.  However, he was frequently so engrossed in his studies that he only remembered to eat long after the food had grown cold.

Due to his irregular eating habits, the scholar became noticeably thin and his warmhearted wife grew very worried.  One day, she had an idea. She butchered a plump hen to make a hot chicken soup, and separately prepared her husband’s favorite local rice noodles, seasonings, and ingredients.

She brought them over the bridge in different bowls, combining them just before he was ready to eat. On it’s own, the chicken broth stayed hot enough to cook the noodles and other ingredients, and created a thin layer of oil that kept the whole bowl piping hot.

It worked. The scholar loved the hot noodle soup, and the wife started crossing the bridge everyday with these bowls.

Eventually, the scholar succeeded in passing the imperial exams and, remembering his wife’s great kindness and hospitality, joked that it was his wife’s wonderful noodles that helped him pass the prestigious and famously difficult exams.

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“As a result of their unwavering resolve, the husband became an imperial scholar and great honor and satisfaction was brought to the village.”

过桥米线 - Yunnan Cross Bridge Noodles

Photo credit: Google

As you may have guessed, the wife’s daily walk across the bridge to deliver her husband’s meals inspired the name “Crossing the Bridge Noodles”. The story was passed on by word of mouth through the generations and has come to symbolize affection, endearment, and admiration

Like many legends of its kind, this story helps us understand the values and morals of traditional agricultural society in China. For example, the scholar is always described as diligent and hardworking—willing to embrace solitude and hardship in pursuit of good fortune and future.

The wife is considered virtuous and kindhearted for overcoming difficulty and heartache to care for her husband; her delivery of daily hot meals is used to express deep love and affection.

The story often ends with the line, “As a result of their unwavering resolve, the husband became an imperial scholar and great honor and satisfaction was brought to the village.”

Today, guoqiao mixian (过桥米线) is still considered a Yunnan specialty—and it still comes in separate bowls, allowing you to pick your ingredients and add the hot soup yourself. In Yunnan, this dish is so popular that there are restaurant chains that specialize exclusively in varieties of guoqiao mixian. It can be found anywhere from street-side noodle shops to high-end banquet-style restaurants.

If you’re heading down to Yunnan, this dish is definitely worth a try. Who knows, maybe it’ll be all the inspiration you need to finish that next project, or pass that next exam.

Or, if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try your hand at making this dish yourself, here’s a recipe worth trying from the Australian Gourmet Traveler.

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Interested in traveling to Yunnan? Check out our sample journey South of the Clouds to get some ideas. No time to fit Yunnan into your China itinerary? Send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we can recommend great Yunnan restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai.

 

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