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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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Andrew Stein
Fulbright scholar exploring environment, agriculture, and tea.

August 30th, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are: Next Week

By: WildChina | Categories: Where the Wild Things Are: A WildChina Series

On September 5th, join WildChina for our latest installment of Where the Wild Things Are: A WildChina Series which will feature Asian renaissance man Laurence Brahm. In addition to his many academic and business pursuits in Asia, Laurence is also the founder and CEO of Shambhala Serai, a sustainable cultural and eco-tourism boutique hotel group based in Tibet and Beijing. Stop by Beijing’s Face Bar for drink as Laurence discusses the implications and future of two of his favorite topics: Global Activism and Sustainable Tourism.


When -Wednesday, September 5th at 6:30pm

Where- Face Bar  at No. 26 Dong Cao Yuan, Gong Ti Nan Street, Chao Yang District, Beijing, China.

How-The cost for the talk is RMB 80 and includes one drink and light appetizers. Reservations are required. To reserve tickets, please call 6465-6602 ext. 341 or email wherethewildthingsare@wildchina.com


To learn more about our Where the Wild Things are Series please see our past events here.

Photo by courtesy of www.laurencebrahm.com

Tags: Brahm Face Bar Laurence Brahm Shambhala Serai Where the Wild Things Are wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

August 29th, 2012

Shanghai or Beijing?

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Dining Experiences in China

Time after time, year after year Shanghai and Beijing are compared and contrasted; poked and inspected. Just like London and Paris, the question that people are endlessly scrambling to find an answer to is: which city is better? Both offer totally different experiences. Beijing is the center of China’s government, more traditionally Chinese, while Shanghai is the financial capital of the middle kingdom and exudes a more western influence.

Shanghai will whirl you into a world of sky-scraping, glass towers and then sharply switch tack and draw you into the 1930′s, with Art Deco and Art Nouveau edifices. Along Shanghai’s Bund, an international atmosphere is palpable. Visit Tianzifang and enter a maze of red brick, one story buildings nestling amidst a myriad of quaint coffee shops, and individual Shanghai boutiques that will have you wishing your time was unlimited.

Travel up north to Beijing and you will be transported back in time to a world of ancient alleyways and traditional courtyards. Plants sprout from walls, small groups of locals perch on stools inches above the ground slurping tea and passionately playing mahjong. If it’s a traditional China you’re after, Beijing is the place to be. With its meandering streets, historical monuments, the China’s capital city is one of kind.

If it’s food you’re after, Shanghai and Beijing are equally scrumptious. Last week we shared our top restaurants in both cities and we can safely say that among that list there are no wrong answers.

Architecture, food and culture; Shanghai and Beijing without a doubt have them all. But which city is best? Next time you are in China, visit them both, and let us know what you decide.


Have a question about travel in China? Send us an email at info@wildchina.com

Tags: Beijing mahjong shanghai the Bund Tianzifang wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

August 27th, 2012

Ningxia: A look at China’s Peaceful Northwest

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Chinese Culture, On the Road

Ask someone where Ningxia province is and they might be hard pushed to place it on China’s sprawling map. This region may not be as famous as Yunnan or Sichuan but what lies within its palm is worth exploring. Ningxia has it all: the Yellow River, mountains and desert, not to mention a cuisine that will have your mouth watering. Lying in between Gansu and Shaanxi provinces and Inner Mongolia, you will come across a small – ‘small’ in China terms – autonomous region in the shape of a cross. This slice of China is known as Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, a province rich in desert, mountains, lakes and lamb. Of its six million people, almost a third are Hui people, whose cultural influence can be seen in Ningxia’s architecture, religion and cuisine. While the religion most often associated with China is buddhism, Islam is the predominant faith in Ningxia.
The Hui minority, Muslim descendants of Arab and Persian merchants trading during the Tang dynasty, have a delightful array of recipes up their sleeves. Their most celebrated and succulent attribute comes from their sheep. The methods and recipes could span the province, from boiled lamb where the meat falls off the bone, to rich soup paired with steaming flat bread. Cumin, a much beloved spice in the region, recalls tastes from Xinjiang and Gansu. Sprinkled over bread, vegetables and meat and often paired with a dusting of chili, one can imagine that on a cold winter’s day the flavors nourish and warm the soul.
Beyond the dinner table, Ningxia still holds plenty of other treats. Shapotou a small section of the Teng Ge Li Desert – is a three-hour drive from Ningxia’s capital, Yinchuan, and well worth the journey. As you burst from the city into the open countryside, your eyes are greeted by majestic mountains, and endless blue skies. At Shapotou, one can leisurely approach the Yellow River as it gushes by and feel the silky sand between your toes as you enjoy nature at its finest. In the west, the Shizui Mountains hold rock paintings dating as far back as 770BC. Reproducing scenes of ancient people and set in between mountains with a bubbling stream flowing by, you can merge a relaxing afternoon with a fascinating trip into Ningxia’s past.
If you have any questions about travel in China feel free to send us an email at info@wildchina.com

Tags: Inner Mongolia Ningxia Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region shapotou Teng Ge Li Desert wild China WildChina WildChina travel Xinjiang Gansu Yellow River .

August 26th, 2012

Musings on Mongolia

By: WildChina | Categories: On the Road

On the road from Ulaan Baatar to a ger camp

You would think that China and Mongolia, countries with a lengthy common border and an inextricably linked history would boast at least superficial similarities but this is not the case. China has the Great Wall, the imperial palaces, ancient cities and centuries of recorded history. Apart from Ulaan Baatar however, Mongolia is a land untouched by time, untainted by humanity, and unfettered with 21st century paraphernalia.

Ulaan Baatar is a fascinating city–the capital of a post-soviet nomadic country that is the seat of one of the fastest emerging markets in the world. That a city with this background and these defining features even exists, is incredible. However, a beautiful city, Ulaan Baatar is not. I would even dare to say that in terms of aesthetics and infrastructure, it has few redeeming qualities. For many however, therein lies its appeal. It is a place with work to be done and immense potential.

Travelers to Beijing often comment on how Beijing is a city of contradictions: it is not unusual to see young urban professionals bike to the gleaming skyscrapers of the CBD from their siheyuan (traditional courtyard homes). But Ulaan Baatar truly takes the cake in all matters contradictory. As residential soviet-style block houses with salmon pink and baby blue roofs give way to wide boulevards and a beautiful, almost regal, statehouse, the many faces of Ulaan Baatar (or UB as residents call it) become apparent. Skirting around deep potholes at pain-staking pace, we looked up at one point to see a looming Louis Vuitton–Mongolia’s flagship store.

As interesting as UB is, most travelers are attracted to the gorgeous Mongolian steppe, so moving on to greener pastures…


Waving from the steppe

Although these grasslands get a lot of hype (and deservedly so), Mongolian terrain is actually surprisingly varied. Our journey from Ulaan Baatar to the ger camp took us through unbelievable sections of natural beauty–what started out as rolling hills around Ulaan Baatar, gave way to flat, endless grasslands with jagged peaks in the distance. We passed pine forests growing on the slopes of the hills, fields of purple flowers (highly reminiscent of the poppy field scene in The Wizard of Oz), exposed rock formations–and the best part? We passed a total of 3 cars once we entered the inner sanctum of the Terelj National Park.


One of many many many purple flowers


Mongolia looking like the Shire from Lord of the Rings

As we came over a hilltop, the white tops of about a dozen gers suddenly appeared out of nowhere. The only sign of human life for miles around, the camp looked both temporary and timelessly rooted–as if it had been there for centuries.


Ger camp

The famous Mongolian ger is a heavy felt tent held up by a wooden frame that is often painted bright orange or sky blue. In the center of all gers is a small wood-fed stove, with a smokestack peeking out the top. Rudimentary and very Little House on the Prairie, these stoves are the reasons Mongolians are able to live out their frigid winters–they do an amazing job of warming the ger, a necessity even in the summer when nighttime temperatures dip below 10C (50F). Lying in bed, listening to the crackling of the wood and absolutely nothing else, I slept the deepest I had in a long time.


Painted wooden door of a ger

A must do in Mongolia? Horse-riding! Mongolian horses are shorter and rounder than their prancing arabian brothers but as you gallop across the open grasslands, you get the feeling that the sturdy little things could go on forever. In true nomadic fashion, Mongolians do not stable their horses, but allow them to roam wild and run free. Local herdsmen will head out early to round them up and saddle them when you’re ready to ride.


Local herdsman with recently caught horse in tow

Finally, a note for the foodies out there: Mongolian food is an interesting combination of hefty eastern european fare, vegetables, and the very Chinese staple: rice. As nomads, Mongolians traditionally depended on foods that could be found or brought with them–potatoes, carrots, mutton, beef–anything that had to be planted and waited on to grow was not an option. Chances were they would have moved camp by the time it came to harvest them. Hot potato soup and mutton perogies are the perfect warm, filling, homey remedy for those chilly nights.


Mutton patties and wild rice


Wild mushroom and potato soup


Two countries, both alike in dignity… To visit China and Mongolia and uncover their intertwined histories, check out our cross-border journey: Beijing to Ulaan Baatar: A Cross-Border Journey Exploring China and Mongolia’s Shared History


Tags: China Cross-Border Travel Exploring China and Mongolia! Mongolia Mongolian yurt Nomadic Expeditions off the beaten path travel Terelj National Park ulaan baatar wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

August 23rd, 2012

Western China through the photographer’s lens

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Chinese Culture, Environment, Sustainable Travel, WildChina Experts

When was the last time you took a picture that could change the world? If your name is Sean Gallagher, then the answer could be “yesterday”. In addition to being a WildChina expert, Sean is also an award winning photographer and videographer. Sean’s work has appeared in publications including TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Der Spiegel and National Geographic China. At present, Sean has turned his talents to reporting on the environmental degradation of the Tibetan Plateau for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Recently, China has decided to pour considerable energy into the development of its hyrdo-power infrastructure, to the tune of 25,000 dams across the country. With camera in hand, and pen at the ready, Sean has tackled the task of reporting on the effects of this situation. Paragraph by paragraph, snapshot by snapshot Sean is sharing the story he is uncovering with the world. And it is a tragic story. In the midst of the zeal with which China has pursued hydro-power, the effect on the local population has been ignored. Houses, schools, and hospitals have all been completely submerged necessitating the complete reconstruction of some villages to other parts of the country. As communities have been destroyed, the local infrastructure has been crippled forcing young people to depart for the cities looking for work.

There are no easy solutions to the problems caused by China’s energy needs, but if it weren’t for Sean’s work few would even know what was happening. Would you like to get a taste of looking at the real side of China? This fall, Sean will be heading back to Beijing to lead his Silk Road Photography Trip with WildChina. His journey will traverse the Silk Road’s wind swept planes as he instructs participants on landscape, portrait, and time-lapse photography. Come join Sean in Xinjinag this fall and who knows, tomorrow your pictures may be changing the world.


Do you have questions about environmental travel in China? Interested in something else? Send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.


Tags: Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Sean Gallagher Silk Road Photography trip wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

August 23rd, 2012

WildChina’s Teach For China Interns

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Educational Travel in China

If you have had a discussion with anyone about American education then you probably have heard of “Teach for America.” But have you heard of “Teach for China?” Started in 2008, Teach for China’s website states the organization is, “inspired by the vision that one day, all Chinese children will have access to a quality education.” In order to do this, Teach for China recruits and trains highly qualified college graduates from the U.S. and China to become teachers in the poorer areas of the Chinese countryside. During summer vacation, Teach for China assists its teaching fellows in finding meaningful projects elsewhere in China. This Summer, WildChina was thrilled to welcome two of Teach for China’s finest from Yunnan: Xueling and David Li.

Xueling is a Chinese citizen from Shenyang. Xueling was originally inspired to join Teach for China because she wanted to do something meaningful. For someone who did not have any formal teaching experience prior to joining Teach for China, Xueling took to the program like a duck to water. In her classes, Xueling has even invented a clever point system whereby students are incentivized not only do well, but also to assist their classmates, and to let Xueling know if she makes a mistake on the board. In a country where the sheer size of the population can make for brutal competition, a system that encourages teamwork seems like the perfect cure.

Although David was born in the Chinese city of Qingdao, he moved to the United States when he was two and grew up in West Virgina. David graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011, and decided to join Teach for China because he was looking for a way to gain some international experience. Working for Teach for China has been eye opening for David. Not only has it shown him the incredible discrepancies in educational opportunities between China’s coast and its interior, but it has also given him a new appreciation for the social mobility allowed by the educational system in the United States. One of David’s hopes in working for Teach for China is to help increase the opportunities available to Chinese students to change their lives.

This summer, David and Xueling put their talents to work for WildChina in a whole number of areas from social media to chaperoning trips. Unfortunately, after only five weeks, it is already time for David and Xueling to return to Yunnan. When David and Xueling complete their two year stints with Teach for China in 2013, their personal journeys will continue. David is hoping to enroll in graduate school in the fall of 2013, while Xueling, inspired by her experiences with Teach for China is hoping to go into school management or eventually found a school of her own. With leaders like these, Teach for China’s vision may just come true.


If you are interested in visiting a Chinese NGO when you are in China, send us an email at  at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to try and work one into your journey.  


Tags: David Li Qingdao Teach for America Teach for China University of Pennsylvania wild China WildChina WildChina travel Xueling Yunnan .

August 21st, 2012

The best bites in Beijing and Shanghai

By: WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Dining Experiences in China

Crackling, succulent duck, wrapped in a transparent pancake with julienned cucumbers and drizzled with a dark plum sauce. Ah, the joy of Beijing’s Peking duck. Shanghai’s masterpiece? Soup dumplings. Warm, delicate dough, twisted into the shape of chocolate kisses, and filled with steaming broth and your choice of pork, scallions, or anything else your heart desires. Truly, they are bites of heaven.

There is no denying it. One of the best parts of travel is the culinary delights that greet you in the cities you visit. But where to go? WildChina gives you our three favorite dining destinations for China’s two metropolises, Beijing and Shanghai.


Green T. House
Looking more like an art gallery than a restaurant, Green T. House was launched in Beijing by internationally renowned musician, artist, and master chef JinR in 1997. Recognized by TIME magazine as China’s first celebrity chef, JinR strove to incorporate not just food, but art, architecture and design into her restaurant. Green T. House not only launched the modern Chinese cuisine movement in Bejiing, but also served as an inspiration to restaurants around the world. With clean white walls and subtle odes to traditional Chinese interior design, the setting is stylish and sophisticated: a living work of art.

Huajia Yiyuan
Set in a renovated traditional Beijing courtyard, Huajiayiyuan serves classic and modern renditions of Beijing’s favorite dishes, including Peking Duck with an assortment of crudités and “Squirrel Fish” which has been scored and deep fried so that each section of its back is a perfect bite. Every evening a variety show in the main dining room offers an amusing introduction to local arts and culture.

Tian Di Yi Jia
Tiandiyijia is a high-end restaurant just east of the Forbidden City, featuring traditional Chinese cuisine and atmosphere. With carefully chosen Chinese elements, including ancient paintings, lanterns, and other antiques which have all been collected by the owner, Tiandiyijia has a sophisticated and vibrant atmosphere.


Yi Long Court
Under the guidance of Michelin star chef Tang Chi Keung, fresh from the Peninsula Tokyo, this restaurant in the Peninsula Shanghai serves up some of the finest haute Cantonese cuisine in town. Classic Hong Kong-style Cantonese cuisine means the emphasis is on seafood, and you can’t go wrong with the meticulously prepared seafood dishes. The Western-style dining room with Art Deco flourishes provides a handsome setting, and table service is impeccable.

Lost Heaven
Located in the French concession, this restaurant serves foods from the communities in and around southern Yunnan province. Its dark, vermillion interior, sparely decorated with ethnographic art, is a good place to try dishes like sea bass with black bean sauce from the Dai tribe and Yunnan chicken salad with chili and sesame.

FU 1088
The grand halls of this refurbished villa play host to a menu of traditional Shanghainese dishes joined by a few guest stars of the modern variety such as delicious deep-fried prawns with wasabi mayonnaise. Your Lao Shanghai and deep-fried boneless duck go down all the more smoothly as you are serenaded by the pianist’s chosen score.


If you are interested in sampling Chinese cuisine our Chinese Treasures journey will lead you through the areas of the major cuisines of the country. Bigger foodie than that? Join us on our Gastronomic Tour of China with Fuchsia Dunlop and learn how to make the dishes yourself. If you have something else in mind, just send us an email at info@wildchina.com.

Tags: FU 1088 Green T. House Huajia Yiyuan JinR Lost Heaven Peking Duck Soup dumplings Tian Di Yi Jia wild China WildChina WildChina travel Yi Long Court .

August 20th, 2012

Shangri-La Family Style

By: Chelin Miller | Categories: Chelin Miller, Chinese Culture, Environment

WildChina featured blogger Chelin Miller catches us up on her recent trip to Yunnan:

The Millers (mum, dad and three daughters) spent a week in Yunnan’s Shangri-La, on a relaxing tour of the ‘Kingdom South of the Clouds’. We stayed at the wonderful Songtsam Lodges. It was a perfect trip to visit a part of China that still has not been spoiled by mass tourism, is off the beaten-track, and yet remains very comfortable. We were surrounded by amazing landscape, easily found activities to keep everyone entertained, and enjoyed friendly people and delicious food. Here are each family member’s favorite moments:

Dad: Turning up to a lodge and being welcomed by smiling, friendly faces – every time! Walking through the rain up the mountains to see the golden monkeys in Baima Nature Reserve.

Hannah (17): Hunting mushrooms in the mountainous forests near Benzilan and then BBQ-ing the mushrooms under the stars.

Eli (13): Making moon cakes in Tacheng – and eating them!

Nina (8): Horse riding in Shangri-La and chanting prayers with our guide, Dolma, who also taught me how to turn the prayer wheel in Tibetan temples.

Mum: Getting caught by the rain after picking up watermelons and stopping for shelter at a Naxi household. While waiting for the rain to stop, we sang songs with girls in the lodge, and ate fresh fruit. The best aspect though, was taking wonderful landscape photographs at dawn –in my pajamas, from my bedroom balcony! If you have a chance to come to Yunnan, we can assure you will not regret it.


If you are interested in travel to Yunnan, we would recommend WildChina’s Cultural Family Vacation, or if you are looking for a little more adventure, check out our Tea and Horse Caravan. If you have something else in mind, send an email at info@wildchina.com and we can begin building the perfect adventure for you.

To read more of Chelin’s blogs click here.

Photos by Chelin Miller.

Tags: Baimai Nature Reserve Chelin Miller Naxi Shangri-la Songtsam Lodges wild China WildChina WildChina travel Yunnan .

August 17th, 2012

Backstage pass to Yunnan

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Dining Experiences in China, Environment, Exclusive Access China, WildChina Experts

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.


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.


Tags: 50 Tours of a Lifetime Jeff Fuchs National Geographic Travel Rob and Lynne Tea and Horse Caravan Tea and Horse Route wild China WildChina WildChina travel Xishuangbanna Yunnan .

August 16th, 2012

Where the Wild Things Are: Activism and Sustainable Tourism

By: WildChina | Categories: Where the Wild Things Are: A WildChina Series

WildChina’s latest installment of Where the Wild Things Are: A WildChina Series is going to feature Asian renaissance man Laurence Brahm. Laurence has made a career out of activism and engagement in Asia for over twenty years. In addition to serving as an economic advisor for Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Mongolia, and China over the last two decades, Laurence is also the author of over thirty books on Asian topics ranging from Art, to intellectual property, to business. Laurence is the founder and CEO of Shambhala Serai, a sustainable cultural and eco-tourism boutique hotel group based in Tibet and Beijing. Join us for a drink when Laurence discusses the implications and future of two of his favorite topics: Global Activism and Sustainable Tourism.


When -Wednesday, September 5th at 6:30pm

Where- Face Bar  at No. 26 Dong Cao Yuan, Gong Ti Nan Street, Chao Yang District, Beijing, China.

How-The cost for the talk is RMB 80 and includes one drink and light appetizers. Reservations are required. To reserve tickets, please call 6465-6602 ext. 341 or email wherethewildthingsare@wildchina.com


To learn more about our Where the Wild Things are Series please see our past events here.

Photo by China Whisper

Tags: Face Bar Face Beijing Laurence Brahm Shambhala Serai Where the Wild Things Are Where the Wild Things Are: A WildChina Series wild China WildChina WildChina travel .


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