April 30th, 2014
WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, WildChina Experts
Ancient Tea & Horse Caravan Road China travel Dali Jeff Fuchs Lijiang october 2014 Shaxi Tea & Horse WildChina WildChina expert Xishuangbanna Yunnan .
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…
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.
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.
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
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: email@example.com
November 8th, 2013
WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Sustainable Travel, WildChina Causes & Partnerships, WildChina Experts, WildChina Explorer Grant
adventure travel China sustainable travel China travel in China WildChina WildChina Explorer Grant WildChina travel WildChina Travel Tips Xishuangbanna Yunnan .
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.
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.
Scouting 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.
Bill 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.
The 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 (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!
July 3rd, 2013
WildChina | Categories: Bishan, Luxury China Travel, WildChina Experts
Hainan italy kyle johnson tourism wild China WildChina WildChina travel WildChina Travel Tips .
Would you exchange luxurious material possessions for the opportunity to to take an extraordinary journey around the world?
From the towering snow-capped mountain peaks of Alaska to the age-old charming hutongs located in the heart of Beijing?
Kyle Johnson, an avid world traveler, would without a doubt say ‘yes’.
From the northernmost tip of North America to the southernmost end of South America, checking off a list composed of an impressive 36,000km’s worth of thrilling adventures along the way, Kyle has spent a quarter of his adult life out on the road; therefore, traveling is a fundamental part of his life, more important than material possessions.
What does Kyle love the most about traveling?
He thoroughly enjoys the way it has broadened his perspective on life, giving him freedom and promoting an overall more vivacious lifestyle that is enriched by all of the remarkable individuals, rich scrumptious cuisine, and mesmerizing scenery he encounters. This vagabond way of life makes him reflect on and rethink the sometimes slow pace and mundane routine of our every lives. With a camera in one hand and a pen in the other, Kyle frequently uses photography, drawing, and writing to document his journeys. His journal is constantly overflowing with sketches inspired by medieval architecture and writings inspired by specific moments while traveling.
Kyle’s most memorable adventures?
His ‘top five’ would include: exploring the amazing wildlife and fishing in the vast beauty of Alaska, hardcore motor cycling through the Andes, hiking around the seemingly endless lush grasslands native to New Zealand, long boarding with local surfers in the villages of Hainan, and dining on the most flavorful of dishes made with the freshest ingredients while enjoying some of the world’s finest wine in the tranquil Italian countryside of Tuscany.
For Kyle, the key to a successful and insightful trip is maintaining a bright attitude. While working at a surf shop in Hawaii, he clearly remembers seeing a couple arguing. Rather than appreciating the mesmerizing and soothing waves of the ocean that lay just a few steps away, this couple was getting caught up in a heated argument. So in the wise words of Kyle, “Be aware of your surroundings, appreciate the moment, remain open-minded, and most importantly, smile”. When you smile, you get a smile back. Who knows, a local might even invite you into their home to enjoy a cup of tea – what better way to understand a specific culture than with the locals themselves?
“Be aware of your surroundings, appreciate the moment, remain open-minded, and most importantly, smile”.
On his upcoming trip to Italy’s Tuscan countryside with Bishan, Kyle hopes to expose fellow travelers to the idea of traveling on a more human level, focusing on “Experiencing Tuscany Differently”, interacting with locals and understanding the regional history, produce, and overall culture through activities such as visits to organic farms that make their own cheese. While staying at an one thousand-year old restored castle surrounded by olive trees and a vineyard, travelers can truly get away and travel back in time a few hundred years to fully appreciate the beauty of site with some delicious cuisine, flavorful wine, and lovely company – a truly valuable and luxurious journey!
With international progress, overall higher levels of education, and Chinese outbound tourism on the rise, the mindset of the traveler is also evolving – they are stepping away from the stereotypical large group tours that efficiently cover multiple locations in a short period and moving towards a more effective and independent way of travel, spending extended time in a specific location to get a more in-depth look at the local culture.
As the ultimate world traveler, Kyle epitomizes the future of outbound travel amongst up and coming generations of Chinese travelers.
All photo credit to Kyle Johnson
June 18th, 2013
WildChina | Categories: Exclusive Access China, WildChina Experts
alison friedman Beijing censorship Gossip Girl journalism LA theater works LATW Margaret Colin national center for the performing arts ncpa pentagon papers performance ping pong productions screenplay top secret Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers wild China WildChina .
What is more important – national security, or people’s right to be informed?
The screenplay, “Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers”, further explores the themes of freedom of press, government secrets, and the role of the judiciary with its inside look at the Washington Post’s decision to publish a study labeled “top secret” that documents the history of the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. The following epic legal battle contended the public’s right to know against the government’s need for secrecy, eventually going on to arguably become one of the most important cases in Supreme Court history.
We had the chance to talk with Alison Friedman, founder of Ping Pong Productions, a company fashioned around the mission of promoting cultural diplomacy through the performing arts. As a longtime resident of Beijing, Alison has witnessed first-hand the changes in the Chinese mindset regarding censorship, especially amongst the younger generations.
According to Alison, the main reason the screenplay returned to the Middle Kingdom was because although there were some difficulties the first time around, the show was overall a huge success, receiving positive, but more importantly, engaged reactions.
Post-performance discussion on stage at Tianjin Grand Theatre Opera HouseSo what has changed between the first and second tours?
When “Top Secret” came to China a little less than two years ago, they were playing mostly to student audiences in small venue. This time around, with more financial support, especially from the U.S. Embassy, the cast was able to perform in grand theaters in every city they visited, the highlight obviously being the National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing, the most prestigious venue of its kind in China. Quick fun fact: LA Theater Works is the first American theater company to perform at the NCPA!
Another major difference is the audience – this time around, their viewers are much more mainstream, not simply theatre or journalism-focused spectators. In terms of the reactions that the screen play has received, there has been just as much enthusiasm because the issues discussed are both timeless and universal.
”[It] is in essence, not simply about the story behind the publishing of the Pentagon Papers… but rather revealing the multi-facets of this complicated subject, forcing its viewers, Chinese and American alike, to raise questions about censorship and the public’s right to know.”
The cast visiting the Forbidden City
What interested Alison was the demographic of Chinese audiences compared to that of their American counterparts. The show’s popularity amongst younger audiences in China reflects the country’s vibrant theater-attending community, which avidly frequents both domestic and international performances. This highly contrasts the much older demographic (50+) of American audiences, most of whom attended the screenplay because they had lived through this period of U.S. history.
LATW cast and Ping Pong Productions producer Alison Friedman back stage at the National Center for the Performing Arts with US Ambassador Locke
The organized interaction between the cast and the audience included coordinated discussions in every city, a master class in Suzhou, and a variety of theater workshops in Chongqing. What impressed Alison the most was the level of sophistication and the amount of nuance that the discussions reached. Rather than asking Margaret Colin about her favorite scene in the the popular drama, “Gossip Girl”, the participants were genuinely interested in the substance of the play, often asking the cast about their personal opinions regarding the characters they were playing.
“Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers” is in essence, not simply about the story behind the publishing of the Pentagon Papers or being “pro-” one thing, or “anti-” another, but rather, revealing the multi-facets of this complicated subject, forcing its viewers, Chinese and American alike, to raise questions about censorship and the public’s right to know, both in terms of current and future issues.
First and last photos by Matt Petit, third photo by John Vickery, second and fourth photos by Darren Richardson
February 27th, 2013
WildChina | Categories: WildChina Experts, Zhang Mei
Anna Bosco Christian Adams Claudia Pumarejo Devin Corrigan Elmer Chen Justin Ong Nellie Connolly wild China WildChina WildChina travel Zhang Mei .
Each year WildChina’s staff eagerly await Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), and the week-long government-mandated holiday that ensues because it means that we get a week off to do what we love most–TRAVEL!
This year was no exception. When we closed the doors to our Beijing office for the holiday earlier this month, we were scattered to the winds. From New York to Hawaii, the Philippines to Sri Lanka, from Singapore to Thailand to Sweden to Dubai, WildChina staff set a new office record for number of countries visited in a week. Of course, many of us also stayed in China, visiting family and exploring the Middle Kingdom.
Whether traveling by plane, train, car, bike, surfboard, or rickshaw, there we were, notebook in hand, recording the best travel ideas we saw on the road. It’s how we stay inspired to keep our WildChina adventures fresh and new for our clients. Below are some snapshots from the WildChina family:
WildChina founder Zhang Mei‘s digs on her trip to Thailand with her family:
Our marketing director Nellie Connolly‘s photo of her favorite part of Sri Lanka: the tea fields.
Senior travel consultant Devin Corrigan on a six-day, 883km bike trip from Chengdu in southern Sichuan province to Xi’an in the north (he’s on the right, his friend Ben is on the left):
Senior travel consultant Claudia Pumarejo enjoying lunch at Capitol M in Beijing (somebody has to tend the office, even when we’re closed!):
Justin Ong, who does business development for our corporate services team, moseyed through the Myeongdong shopping district in Seoul, Korea:
Anna Bosco from our marketing department sleeping on the beach on the island of Palawan in the Philippines:
Leisure travel consultant Elmer Chen’s photo from his trip to Staten Island in New York City. Elmer said his favorite part about being in the Big Apple was going for a run on the high line.
Christian Adams from our marketing department surfing it up in Kauai, Hawaii:
If you have any questions about travel in China send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to assist you.
December 5th, 2012
WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, WildChina Experts
Beijing luxury travelers Taichi taiqi wild China WildChina WildChina Guide Chris WildChina guide Stewart WildChina travel .
At the end of fall, two travel specialists from Argentina joined WildChina for an adventure through Beijing, Xi’an, Guilin, Hong Kong, and Shanghai. We hear some amazing stories and experiences from WildChina travelers–but it is particularly humbling to get great feedback from professionals in the travel industry. Read on to see what caught these travel specialists’ eye!
“Our guide in Beijing, Chris, was not only flexible and knowledgeable, but also very kind and polite.”
“The best experience we had with our guides was with Stewart [in Guilin]. He was accommodating and sympathetic, while also demonstrating excellent attention to our questions and requirements. He advised us how to take the best pictures and was always joyful and in a good mood.”
On WildChina expert access:
“The visit to the courtyard home of WildChina’s Director of Leisure to have dinner with her was a very important moment–not only because she made time for us in her busy schedule, but also because that day we were not tourists anymore. It was like being back in Buenos Aires sharing a good time with friends.”
Support during the journey:
“We also wanted to let you know how grateful we were that our trip operator was available to be reached throughout the entire journey.”
Thoughts on China:
“We think this is the new kind of luxury travelers seek. It offers authentic experiences that allow people to feel China is their own, even within a short period of time. This is hard to do for someone coming from the West as the food and customs are so different, but with activities like a taiji [tai-chi] class or a yo-yo lesson, clients can forget about their books and preconceptions. They can relax and stop feeling like an outsider in the country they’re visiting. This was our first China experience… and we’ve had such a blast!!”
If you are a travel agent and would like to learn more about our journeys, or just someone interested in joining one, send us an email at email@example.com and we will be happy to assist you.
Photos by Ana Checchi
November 16th, 2012
WildChina | Categories: Exclusive Access China, WildChina Experts, Zhang Mei
Conde Nast Condé Nast Traveler Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist Top Travel Specialist wild China WildChina WildChina travel Zhang Mei .
WildChina is honored to announce that for the third year in a row WildChina founder Zhang Mei has been recognized by Condé Nast Traveler as a Top Travel Specialist.What is a Top Travel Specialist? The Condé Nast website says it best: “Offering an unbeatable combination of expertise, access, and good value, these select travel consultants are the pros to turn to for your next big vacation.” Mei was among a total of three specialists chosen for all of China with particular attention given to her expertise in her native Yunnan in addition to Guizhou and Sichuan.
Mei has said she is extremely honored to have received the award and notes “my attention is still on improving our customer satisfaction and overall experience–there’s no time to rest now.” Onward and upward! If you have traveled with us in the past, we hope your trip has been enjoyable. We are looking forward to continuing to help people Experience China Differently in 2013.
If you have questions about travel in China feel free to send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be happy to assist you.
November 8th, 2012
WildChina | Categories: Adventure Travel in China, Chinese Culture, Educational Travel in China, WildChina Experts
Denali Foreign Policy Mt. McKinley Stefen Chow wild China WildChina WildChina travel .
Just last week, WildChina’s Beijing offices were pleased to welcome WildChina expert and renowned photographer and mountaineer Stefen Chow. Stefen has just returned from leading a group of students on a photography trip through Guizhou. After catching us up on what the students thought of the trip, Stefen took a moment to give us the inside scoop on his life adventures:
(Denali, or Mount McKinley, Alaska)
Stefen, who originally trained as an engineer, explained that he first fell in love with the mountains when he was 16 years old. But it wasn’t love at first sight. Instead of an inspiring story of breath-taking views, or the discovery of a zen-like solitude–which we admit, we were expecting–Stefen told us about an encounter with a pack of hornets. It goes something like this…
On a school trip to hike Mount Ophir, in Johor, Malaysia, Stefen and his classmates were assailed by a pack of hornets and were forced to retreat from the mountain.
What struck Stefen (other than an all-consuming panic) was how the chaos of the attack completely threw all preassigned roles and responsibilities out the window. The “leaders” of the trip were no longer in control of the situation–shy classmates stepped up to the plate and class clowns lost their voice and looked to others for direction.
Stefen says he was honestly taken aback by the people his classmates revealed themselves to be, in that moment. Stefen recognized how being in the wilderness can bring out the best and the worst in people, and really give you insight into a person’s character. He realized that out in the thin mountain air, you have the opportunity to see who people really are… and from that moment, he was hooked.
(The Poverty Line – China)
Since that trip, Stefen has hiked and back packed all over the world. Some of his favorite expeditions have been the ascents to Denali and Everest (which thankfully were not plagued by angry hornets!). One life-altering realization that did hit him on the mountainside a little more traditionally was his love for photography. Chosen as the impromptu photographer on his Everest adventure, Stefen realized that not only did he love the art of capturing his surroundings on film, but he also had enough material to launch a career.
(Portrait of Peking Opera. Collaboration with Ministry of Culture, China)
Trying to balance these two passions has proved tricky, and while Stefen continues to pursue as much time outdoors as possible, he is currently focusing his efforts on his career as a professional photographer. In addition to leading WildChina photography trips for students, Stefen’s work tackles a whole range of topics and subjects. Today his resume includes acting as the official photographer for the Miami Heat-LA Clippers tour in China, features in Foreign Policy magazine, and judge for Nikon’s 2012-2013 photo contest.
While Stefen’s career in photography has sapped some of the time he used to spend exploring the mountains of the world, he has not, he says with a smile, “officially retired” from mountaineering. In the (hopefully near) future, Stefen has plans for a five week Shelf to Shelf crossing of Greenland, where perhaps he will discover yet another piece about himself.
If you are interested in learning some tricks of the photography trade on your China travels, send us an email at email@example.com and we will be happy to assist you.
Photos by Stefen Chow
October 28th, 2012
WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, WildChina Experts
Lijia Lijia Zhang Socialism is great wild China WildChina WildChina travel Yangtze River .
It isn’t everyone who drops out of high school to work in a rocket assembly line and then goes on to become a wildly successful journalist. But most people are not WildChina expert Lijia Zhang
. Born and raised in Nanjing, on the banks of the Yangtze River, Lijia managed to escape her job at the government rocket factory by teaching herself English. Lijia’s language skills enabled her to eventually move to England with a Scottish man (who would later become her husband) she had met at the Forbidden City.
In the British Isles, Lijia began what would become her professional passion: writing. Over the years, her work has been published in South China Morning Post
, Far Eastern Economic Review
, Japan Times
, The Independent, Washington Times and Newswee
k. The rest of her time, she has put towards writing books; Lijia’s most famous book, “Socialism is great!
” is a memoir of her time working in the rocket factory and has been translated into Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian.
(A young Lijia)
Recently, Lijia has been concentrating her efforts on two books concerning prostitution in China. While she is only a couple months from putting the finishing touches on a work of fiction, she has yet to really dig in to her second book. This second book, a work of non-fiction, brings to light many realities of prostitution in China–an issue that has received relatively little attention. And as she notes, “the history of prostitution in contemporary China is a barometer of the country’s changes throughout the modern era.” For her book Lijia has interviewed multiple sex workers, but says that building relationships with them has been difficult. One day a girl will be available to talk, the next she will refuse. Sometimes girls disappear completely.
It has not all been bad news though. Some of the women Lijia has spoken with were able to escape their brothels and dedicate their time to educating other prostitutes about the dangers of sexually transmitted infections. Lijia always hopes her writing can lead to more such stories.
Lijia says that when she thinks about her writing, she sees it as pushing her towards her greater goal. As someone who grew up in China she has access and insight into local society, but also has the education that allows her to share the realities of Chinese life with the rest of the world. “My self-appointed mission in life is being the bridge, being the cultural bridge.” Lijia’s life goal is to increase global understanding. If that isn’t why we travel, what is?
If you have any questions about Lijia’s work, or are curious about meeting her on your next trip to China, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos courtesy of Lijia Zhang
October 12th, 2012
WildChina | Categories: Chinese Culture, Exclusive Access China, WildChina Experts
Chan Dany Jagannath Panda Kimiko Yoshida L'Asie en Vogue Lavanya Mani Li Xiao feng Man Fung Yi Opposite House Pagoda Paris Peng wei Ran Hwang Tiffany Beres wild China WildChina WildChina travel .
Paris: Delicious food, incredible history, but Asian art? You bet. Thanks to the curatorial work of WildChina expert Tiffany Beres, the inaugural exhibition for the newly-renovated art gallery, Pagoda Paris, will be L’Asie en Vogue or “Asia in Style.” Drawing on pieces from eight different Asian artists, the show will seek to honor the original intention of the Pagoda and foster ties between east and west.
Situated in the famous 8th district of Paris, the Pagoda was originally purchased by Mr. Ching Tsai Loo, a connoisseur of Chinese and Far Eastern art and antiques. Tiffany’s show will feature works by Peng Wei, Man Fung Yi, Kimiko Yoshida, Ran Hwang, Jagannath Panda, Lavanya Mani, Chan Dany and Li Xiao Feng. With pieces that range from oil paintings, to pencil shaving tapestries, to multidimensional sculptures made of buttons, there is truly something for everyone. Those of you who have had a chance to visit Beijing’s Opposite House may have noticed the hotel’s attention to quality art–Li Xiao Feng’s ceramic haute couture exhibition was the belle of the ball here. If you are in Paris, you will have a chance to see it again along with the rest of a truly incredible collection that Tiffany has organized.
At present, Tiffany is in France supporting her exhibition, but when that wraps up in early November, she will be headed home to Beijing. In China’s capital Tiffany assists Chinese artists both in planning events and working with collectors to sell and purchase various works. Tiffany’s experience wheeling and dealing in the Chinese art scene makes her one of WildChina’s most coveted experts; in addition to leading fascinating tours for interested art students, she also offers up her expertise for the occasional art buff who wants an insider’s look at the Beijing art world. In a press release from the Pagoda Paris, Tiffany said, “it is an honor to organize such a groundbreaking exhibition.” It’s funny–we feel the same way about counting her as a member of the WildChina team.
If you are looking to get an in depth look at the art in Beijing with an expert send us an email at email@example.com and we will be happy to assist you.
Bird Photo by Tiffany Beres; Opposite House Photo by Opposite House