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Fulbright scholar exploring environment, agriculture, and tea.

November 29th, 2013

Breaking the Winter Cycle: Tropical Xishuangbanna

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Exclusive Access China, On the Road, WildChina Travel Tips

Hammock in Tropical Xishuangbanna 

If cold weather is not your thing, head south to the subtropical region of Xishuangbanna.

Nestled in the southernmost tip of Yunnan province, just between neighboring Myanmar and Laos, this region hosts a vibrant intermingling of cultures and landscapes. With average daily highs of 26 degrees Celsius in January, the forests and villages here are immune to the annual chill that is felt in the north.  It’s no wonder Xishuangbanna was picked as Travel+Leisure’s 2012 Hottest Travel Destinations.

What better way to spend the winter than in the mountains and rainforests of Southeast Asia?

The winter months are the ideal time to visit this part of the world, as they mark the end of the wet season. Imagine finding your inner naturalist as you walk among the regional flora, keeping an ear out for the song of the elusive black-crested gibbon.

The home of peacocks, wild oxen and various primates, Xishuangbanna is also the only place in China that still has a wild Asian elephant population.

Xishuangbanna’s biodiversity is matched by an equally astounding cultural presence. Of more than a dozen different ethnic groups living here, the most prominent is the Dai population, which makes up nearly a third of the region’s one-million inhabitants.

Dai culture is markedly different from that of other Chinese populations. The language spoken here is more similar to that of the Thai, which draws heavily upon Theravada Buddhism and the indigenous practices that predate it. Both geographically and culturally, this is the one part of China that really belongs to Southeast Asia, and that feeling is impossible to miss.

If you are looking to get a taste of this unique cultural identity, your best bet is to take a trip into one of the many villages that dot this region. Here, you experience life as it has existed for centuries – something that is increasingly precious in a country that is rocketing into the 21st century. Visit the age old Buddhist pagodas, or step into a villager’s home for a cup of tea. This is, after all, the corner of the world where tea originated.

If you’d like more travel ideas or to join WildChina on a trip to China’s subtropical south, see our journey:

Pushing China’s Southern Boundary: Trekking in Xishuangbanna.

 

On the road in Xishuangbanna: Manfeilong Stupas. Photo Credit: Chris Horton On the road in Xishuangbanna: Manfeilong Stupas.
Photo Credit: Chris Horton

 

 


Tags: adventure travel China Dai people Manfeilong Stupas travel to Yunnan WildChina travel WildChina Travel Tips Xishuangbanna .







November 8th, 2013

Interview: Bill Bleisch, 2012 WildChina Explorer

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Sustainable Travel, WildChina Causes & Partnerships, WildChina Experts, WildChina Explorer Grant

 
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!


Tags: adventure travel China sustainable travel China travel in China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel WildChina Travel Tips Xishuangbanna Yunnan .







November 5th, 2013

Breaking the Winter Cycle: Lhasa, Tibet

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Exclusive Access China, On the Road, WildChina Travel Tips

 
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.


Tags: adventure travel China China Jokhang Temple Lhasa off the beaten path China tours Potala Palace sustainable travel China Tibet travel in China travel to China WildChina WildChina travel WildChina Travel Tips .







September 18th, 2013

The WildChina Explorer Grant is Back!

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Uncategorized, WildChina Explorer Grant

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.


Tags: 2014 WildChina Explorer Grant adventure Adventure Travel in China China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant .







July 19th, 2013

Get Lost in Gansu

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Chinese Culture, On the Road, WildChina Travel Tips, WildChina's Newest Journeys

It’s not hard to lose yourself in the mesmerizing beauty of the Gansu wilderness… the immense mountains and sweeping meadows of China’s northwest promise a majestic realm far from the hustle and bustle of coastal cities, and offer a tantalizing glimpse into what life is like on the “roof of the world.”

Stay the night at the Norden Camp under the infinite sky, surrounded by a rugged landscape painted in hues of powder blue and lush green. Wander through the Labrang Monastery, passing red-robed monks, marveling at the intricate architectural detailing throughout the vibrant complex. Visit a Norlha workshop and learn how yak wool – khullu – is transformed into luxurious woven textiles as a part of a sustainable social enterprise; venture out to see the striking Milarepa Temple in Hezuo City.

Our WildChina travel consultants especially love trekking to the Sangke Grasslands, vast and breathtaking plains that are roamed by Tibetan nomads. Take a peek into their modest tents and try a bite of what’s stewing in their pots – these intimate interactions are precious experiences that will linger long after you leave the highlands behind.

Under Gansu’s simmering summer sun, there are endless sights to be seen and countless adventures to be had. What are you waiting for?

____

Looking for a last minute summer getaway? Contact WildChina about traveling to Gansu! Email us at info@wildchina.com.

All photos by WildChina’s Gloria Guo.


Tags: adventure travel China camping China China travel Gansu Hezuo highlands Labrang Monastery Milarepa mountains nomads Norlha roof of the world Sangke Grassland summer travel wild China WildChina wilderness yaks .







May 2nd, 2013

Venturing off the beaten path in Tibet

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Sustainable Travel, WildChina Travel Tips

Tibet is located in the heart of the Himalayas, and is one of the world’s most hidden and valuable treasures.

Traveling to Tibet can take you back in time to the Guge Kingdom’s ancient civilization, give you the chance to hike up the remote, arduous, and scenic black peaks of sacred Mt. Kailash and amble along the towering, fortress-like crisp white walls of the Potala Palace.

Northern Yunnan is also home to many Tibetans–some of whom have made the spectacular panoramas of Abujee their home.

Khunu, a yak wool clothing company that sources its material from Tibet, was founded on the combination of an audacious spirit, the appreciation for far off cultures, and the desire to develop functional and fashionable products of the highest quality while facilitating direct and equitable market access for isolated Tibetan villages.

The word “Khunu” represents the name given to the first true Mongolian dynasty a thousand years prior to the rise of the legendary Ghengis Khan in the 13th century. Vast, majestic scenery populated by a hardy people who respect and live in harmony with their environment embodies what this brand is about.

For us at WildChina, Tibet is a must-see for any adventurous spirit.

Here are few ways to venture off the beaten path and delve into the spirit of Tibet:

1) Guge Kingdom

Guge Kingdom Photo credit: China Daily

For the history-loving explorer with the desire to go above and beyond the typical itinerary, WildChina recommends an expedition to the remarkable Lost Kingdom of Tibet. This is an opportunity to see unforgettable sights that are as far away from coastal eastern China as you can get.

Immerse yourself in the far western area’s mysticism and beauty to unearth the hidden sites and artifacts of Tibet’s ancient civilization.

Walk in the shade of the pyramid-shaped Tholing Monastery and breathe in the crisp fresh air in front of an uninterrupted view of the Himalayan border stretching between India, Tibet, and Nepal. Head past Lake Mansarovar to the Ruins of the Guge Kingdom for a historic site steeped in mystery.

2) Abujee

Meaning “delight” and “wonder”, the name Abujee perfectly embodies the beautifully serene, uncluttered landscape of this mountainous Tibetan region of northwestern Yunnan.

Known to few, the picturesque scenery of Abujee offers snow-capped mountains, lush forests, and deep, clear lakes. An area sacred to the nomadic Yi and Naxi ethnic minorities in the area, travelers to this remote region are treated to a private experience away from the prying eyes and jostling crowds of coastal China.

Make your way past sacred temples, mountainous terrain, nomadic settlements, and above the tree line towards breathtaking views.

3) Mt. Kailash -

Situated in a far western corner of one of the most remote plateaus in Asia, Mt. Kailash (at a height of at 6,638 meters/21,778 feet) is a striking peak in the Himalayan mountains of western Tibet.

It has long been a sacred pilgrimage destination for no fewer than four major religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Bön.

The peak has a recognizable deep black tint and symmetrical diamond-like shape. With a surrounding landscape that is rugged and dry, Mt. Kailash overlaps the crystalline streams of several lakes, including the vast Lake Manasarovar.

Stop by isolated monasteries and take the time to savor the endless horizon and staggering snow-capped peaks. Camp out each night under the stars in the company of annual pious pilgrims who walk around the mountain for good fortune.

_____

Is your interest piqued? Send us an email at info@wildchina.com for more information on traveling to Tibet!


Tags: Abujee camping in China Guge Kingdom Khunu Mount Kailash Tibet travel travel in wild China WildChina yak wool .







April 15th, 2013

The Great Wall at Mutianyu

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, WildChina Travel Tips

With just a two-an-a-half hour long car ride, you can travel back in time from modern Beijing to the days when emperors ruled China.

Step out into the crisp fresh-aired haven of ancient China’s Ming Dynasty. Walk up the Wall, making your way past lines of street vendors shouting out prices, all of them salesmen in the making.

Just one more step to the top.

Breathe in, breathe out.

Look up at the immense overlapping mountains and touch the vast clear sky with your fingertips as you imagine yourself standing on the top of the world.

The Great Wall at Mutianyu is a relaxing escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Besides its characteristic watchtowers, lush beautiful scenery, and rugged brick stone, this fully-restored and distinct section of the Wall is filled with fresh air and rich history.

The air is colder on the Wall due to high altitudes and exposure to the wind, so remember to pack some extra layers. Once you have explored all of the Wall’s picturesque views, embrace your inner adrenaline junkie and ride the toboggan down the mountain.

Now that’s a roller-coaster ride!

 

_____

To explore the Great Wall at it’s restored and unrestored sections, send us an email at info@wildchina.com!

 


Tags: Beijing China travel Great Wall Great wall of China Mutianyu toboggan down the great wall travel in China trips to the great wall WildChina WildChina travel .







March 25th, 2013

Photography in Jiuzhaigou: Snap the shutter, roll on adventure

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Exclusive Access China, WildChina Announcements

Jiuzhaigou National Park isn’t as likely to be visited by people traveling to China as the Great Wall is–but it should be.

This region represents an oasis of natural beauty striking enough to rival Yosemite National Park and the Galapagos Islands. Indeed, this breath taking landscape is the very reason WildChina has teamed up with National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita to offer a photography trip to this “picture perfect” destination.

For those of you on the road to becoming the next Ansel Adams, this adventure provides an exciting opportunity to hone your skills.

Jiuzhaigou–a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve–is a national park worthy of the international recognition it has received.

Home to exotic birds and the giant panda, Jiuzhaigou is a China wildlife safari all unto itself.

But honestly, can you blame these creatures for making their homes in the area? Book now to reserve yourself a spot in the neighborhood from April 2-8.

Throughout your adventure in this utopia Michael Yamashita will be at your side ensuring you get the most out of both your shots and the experience.

If you are interested in this journey be sure to reach out to us sooner than later as April is around the corner and spots on this adventure are getting snapped up faster than the shutter on your camera.

———-

 If you are curious about participating in this journey, or have other questions about travel in China, send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

For those of you looking for a fantastic photography adventure to another region of China, WildChina also offers an expedition along the Silk Road with Sean Gallagher. Sean’s work has appeared in publications including TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, Der Spiegel and National Geographic China. In 2010, he was the official photographer for the visit of British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to China. If you’re up for a focused look at this ancient highway look no further.

 


Tags: Ansel Adams Gallagher Jiuzhaigou Jiuzhaigou National Park Michael Yamashita Sean Gallagher Shangri-la UNESCO wild China WildChina WildChina travel World Biosphere Reserve World Heritage Site China .







February 22nd, 2013

The New York Times Asks: “Are there people who want to visit remote locations in China?”

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Chinese Culture, Zhang Mei

This past week, The New York Times did a feature with travel expert Kurt Kutay. Kurt has made a name for himself in the travel world having worked both with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and The International Ecotourism Society, in addition to currently serving as the president of the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association, CEO of Wildland Adventures, and director of the Travelers Conservation Trust. The focus of The New York Times article was Kurt answering questions posed to him by the baby boomer generation about travel today. Baby boomers, due to their numbers, have always had an outsized impact on the travel industry.

WildChina’s name came up in the discussion when Kurt was asked the following questions by Mr. Mitenbuler of Chicago: “Are there people that want to visit remote locations in China? Do you think there is an awareness of ‘wild China,’and if so, is it a destination that will see increases in travelers?”

Mr. Mitenbuler was so close to the right answer! If he had just combined “wild” and “China” he would have had our name-sake and an organization deeply devoted to showing travelers the less traveled parts of China. As it was though, WildChina was at the fore of Kurt’s mind when he responded due to his friendship with WildChina founder Zhang Mei. Kurt reached out to Mei before answering the question and she replied that she feels there is indeed a growing number of people interested in exploring off the beaten path in China. Mei said that business men and women who have traveled to China’s major cities for work have acquired a curiosity to visit the more rural areas of the Middle Kingdom with their families.

Kurt noted several other examples of the burgeoning number of travelers interested in taking the road less traveled before closing his answer to the question with remarks from Mei that Tibet is quickly becoming one of the most popular destinations for travelers. So at this point it’s clear there are people who want to visit remote locations in China, the real question is, are you one?

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

Photo of Kurt Kutay by The New York Times


Tags: Adventure Travel Trade Association ATTA International Ecotourism Society International Galapagos Tour Operators Association Kurt Kutay Kurt Mitenbuler Travelers Conservation Trust wild China WildChina WildChina travel Wildland Adventures Zhang Mei .







February 21st, 2013

Why Anhui should be on your travel radar

By: WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Chinese Culture, WildChina's Newest Journeys

What do Ang Lee’s ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ have in common? Both were critically acclaimed films that ignited the global imagination like wildfire, and both can be traced directly back to an unassuming province in Eastern China called Anhui.

Anhui, which is characterized by its ancient merchant towns and misty mountain views, hasn’t been on the international radar for long. The golden fields that border the region’s rustic villages belie the fact that Anhui as a whole lacks large swathes of arable land and has never been able to rely heavily on cash crops. That, coupled with the lack of readily available natural resources, inspired the residents of Anhui to seek creative new ways to make a living. The result was an aggressive mercantile culture that flooded the region with novel business practices and a tenacious desire for wealth and affluence. Anhui’s merchants grew richer and richer, consolidating their gains and constructing entire towns filled with spacious ancestral halls, temples, and academies.

Feng shui, the widely marketed but rarely understood system of Chinese divination which was believed to appeal to the natural powers of both Heaven and Earth, was put into practice in determining the auspicious configuration and layouts of everything from individual residences to large-scale water systems and entire villages. The resulting townships were both practical and beautiful, and in 2000 UNESCO officially paid tribute to the region’s legacy by listing the Anhui’s Xidi and Hongcun villages as official World Heritage sites.

Xidi and Hongcun’s status as World Heritage sites means at times they can be more crowded, but they certainly aren’t the only worthwhile villages in Anhui. To experience the province’s tranquil towns as they are meant to be experienced, we recommend a meander through Chengkan, a lesser-known village that is every bit as beautiful as the better-known villages. Framed against a gentle backdrop of cobalt slopes and buffeted by ancient waterways, Chengkan has remained very much the same throughout the centuries, and we mean it—the ornate structures here have not been re-coated in gaudy paints like many of China’s other monuments, and whenever a family slaughters a pig they smear its blood across their front door so that their fellow villagers know where to go for some fresh bacon. Local artisans whittle away at elaborate woodcarvings, and plants adorning the more prominent ancestral halls have been cultivated to resemble traditional Chinese dragons. Feel free to get lost for a while.

But what about Avatar? For a glimpse of James Cameron’s inspiration for his floating mountains on the Na’vi planet of Pandora, look no further than Huangshan, or ‘Yellow Mountains’, just an hour north of Anhui’s merchant villages. As you ascend past the clouds blanketing Huangshan on what may be the most epic cable car ride of your life, it won’t be hard to see how Cameron and his graphic designers ended up finding their muse atop these misty peaks.

Beyond its crowded urban jungles China is a trove of natural wonders, and its magnificent mountains are no exception. However, Huangshan separates itself from the other mountains in that its scenic views are not only breathtaking but also distinctly Chinese, from the swirling mist that never seems to fully recede to the haunting amphitheater of granite pillars and crags. Pop culture aside, Huangshan is deeply rooted in Chinese history and art, and many of the mountainous Chinese brush paintings you may have seen in passing are unambiguous portrayals of Huangshan.

No trip to Anhui is complete without a visit to Huangshan, and although the pathways here can be crowded during peak seasons if you take the time to set out further you will be able to escape the crowds and catch some spectacular views along the northwest section of the mountains. Allow yourself to be engulfed by the same scenes that have enraptured countless generations of artists and poets. After all, rather than spending hours etching out Huangshan’s beauty with an ink-brush you can now catch a breathtaking panoramic on your SLR or iPhone in just a few seconds. Just don’t take it too far—eight centuries’ worth of deceased Chinese artists and scholars turn in their graves whenever an American teenager Instagrams one of Huangshan’s sacred peaks.

Whether you are interested in history, architecture, art, or nature there is no doubt that Anhui is worth your time. The region’s bucolic villages and inspiring peaks offer the perfect remedy for wanderlust, a peaceful way to wind down a long journey or the perfect setting to reboot your system.

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If you have any questions about visiting Anhui, or traveling to China in general, feel free to send us an email at info@wildchina.com and we will be happy to assist you.

 


Tags: Ang Lee Anhui Avatar Chengkan Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon Feng Shui Hongcun Huangshan James Cameron UNESCO wild China WildChina WildChina travel Xidi Yellow Mountain .








 

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