WildChina Blog


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In The News
The absolute latest updates in China travel information.

On the Road
Our tales from the trail and dispatches straight from the source.

Travel Tips
What to bring, where to go, and how to get around China.

Mei Zhang
WildChina founder, entrepreneur, mother.

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

March 30th, 2010

The Magic of Mt. Kawagebo and Yubeng

By: Mei | Categories: Chinese Culture, On the Road

At 1 am Beijing time this past Saturday, I received this email below from my colleague, Sunshine. I am used to his quick email responses to my last detailed request for a flight or a trip proposal at those ungodly hours. This is one of the hardest working individuals in WildChina’s Beijing office, and I often have to prod him to go to bed.

I have never seen him this emotional.

His email reads,

Last evening, we went to visit Yubeng Primary School in the upper Yubeng village, and sat down for a chat with the only teacher there, a Han Chinese girl from Hebei, who settled in Yubeng four years ago, now looks and acts like a local Tibetan, even her temperament.

It gradually got dark, and so enjoyable just staring at the flaming stove, drinking the ginger tea. Imagine the life of a girl who volunteers to teach in a remote Tibetan village, something I know I will never do in my life, then me, busy with work and life every day, like a clockwork rabbit, never stop, I have to say I got somehow touched, life can be so amazing and unique, here and this moment, really want to do something to help, no big promise, but something practical.

So I readily promised when she mentioned she would like to have some books about stones and plants, then she can tell the kids what the plant or stone is when they see it. I will buy the related books when get back to Beijing, welcome to join in. And if WildChina wants, can also have a WildChina library there, she refused TNC’s request of putting up the TNC exhibition there, but I guess she will be happy to offer one room for the library.


From Sunshine

Reading his email, I could practically see the flames and smell the wood burning. Yubeng is a magical paradise, hidden in the valley of Mt. Kawagebo in Northwest Yunnan (太子雪山). That’s where I took Ed Norton and Ann McBride of the Nature Conservancy to visit in 1999. On a beautiful October day, on those trails, we discussed the possible name for this business I planned to start. Wild World? No. Wild Asia? No. WildChina? Yes. I wanted to build a WildChina that is dedicated to showcasing the wilder parts of China in a sustainable way.

It’s now been 10 years; I am glad WildChina’s staff still finds magic in that valley. It’s time WildChina does something new to give back to the local villagers. A few books and a library is the least we can do.


Stay tuned on the Wild Library progress, and in the meantime, look at our complete hiking trip to Yubeng Valley.

Tags: guided trip to Yunnan Mei Zhang Mt. Kawagebo off the beaten path China tours Sunshine Shang sustainable travel China travel in China wild China WildChina WildChina Library WildChina travel Yubeng Primary School Yubeng Valley .

March 18th, 2010

“Yes, I am the salesperson”

By: Mei | Categories: On the Road

These days, I seem to be doing a lot of traveling and a lot of talking. The traveling, unfortunately, does not take me to the mom- and-pop pickle store in Dali, or a breathtaking valley in Shangri-la, but rather New York or Boston. The talking is less about traveling to China, and more about why I have choosen travel as a profession. People tend to be very curious after they learn that I have a Harvard MBA and used to work for McKinsey as a management consultant.

Just last week, I took our young DC office intern, Sammie, along to Boston, because I was the guest speaker in a Harvard Business School classroom where the MBA students were to examine the WildChina case. Sammie was eager to see what a famed MBA class looked like. I don’t know what she got out of the classroom, but I got something out of the journey.

I pre-warned Sammie that I travel light, a carry-on suitcase and a purse. No checked luggage. She came prepared. Well done, I thought, until we got to the security line. I breezed through the detector and was putting on my boots at the other end. Two people cut in front of Sammie while she was busy removing her metal bracelets, belts, laptop, digital camera… she was obviously getting frazzled. I smiled at her, and told her she should watch “Up In the Air.” George Clooney’s Ryan definitely got the airport system worked out, and that comes with repetition.

The Blue line subway station at the airport didn’t seem anything new to Sammie. She was used to subway rides in Beijing, where she studied at one of the top universities. However, the “Downtown Crossing” stop was an eye opener: “ WOW, 美国的地铁怎么那么破呀?´ (Wow, How can American subways look so grungy!) Yes, the walls were dirty and covered with dust that had accumulated over the years; the lighting was dim; and there was a musician playing guitar in a corner.  Her shock was justified — who would have expected to see subways of this condition in America, after riding the brand new lines in Beijing? The subway stations in Beijing all sport bright lighting, with colorful ads for the newest model of cell phone and Nike shoes.
Mei jie (“Sister Mei” in Chinese – that’s what she calls me), you walk so fast! Do you do this all the time? Is this what an entrepreneur does?”

I told her that the English word of “entrepreneur” glorified my job. Entrepreneur is often translated into Chinese as 创业者,or 企业家, but the version I like best is 个体户 — a single-unit entity, pronounced GE-TI-HU. GE-TI-HU often reminds me of the dumpling vendor in the old alley way not far from my apartment in Beijing. It was a husband and wife stall. They got up at 4am to start making the fresh dumplings for the day by hand. The first clients would arrive around 6:30 am, and the last ones left around 8 or 9 at night.  They mixed their own dough, cleaned all the tables, and washed all the dishes themselves. They made a grand total of RMB 3000 per month — about $350 in those days. They had a baby and thought they had the best lives, compared to their relatives back at home in the villages near Shanghai. I went back to look for them again last year, but they were gone. Where their stall once was is now the construction site of a new apartment building. I just hope they have a similar stall in other parts of Beijing, or back home.

On the trip, I told Sammie that my job is “搞业务的”, or “Sales or Business Development” in English. A long time ago, I never really understand what 搞业务的 meant in Chinese. To me, it often conjured up the image of a young male in a cheap suit, holding a fake leather case, handing out business cards with a huge smile on his face. But, after years of airport travel, subway rides, and rental car trips, I have finally came to terms with this title for myself. Yes, 我是搞业务的。 I am a salesperson, because I am proud of what I am selling – a different experience in China.  www.wildchina.com

Tags: Beijing Boston Mei Zhang sales travel in China wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

January 29th, 2010

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

By: Alex G | Categories: In the News, WildChina Experts

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

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

The New York Times says of her seminar,

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

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


Photo credit: Lost Girl’s World

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

Tags: experiential travel Mei Zhang new york times New York Times Travel Show travel in China travel seminar wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

January 19th, 2010

Mei Zhang speaks at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business on January 19th and 20th, 2010

By: Alex G | Categories: In the News, WildChina Experts

Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business

WildChina founder Mei Zhang will speak at Georgetown University‘s McDonough School of Business on Tuesday, January 19th and Wednesday, January 20th, 2010.

Her talks, regarding doing business in China, will focus on China’s changing start-up environment and the challenges of entrepreneurship in China – both specifically and relative to the United States. Mei will offer insights on her personal experiences in the Chinese market as well.

Mei is pleased to share her expertise with Georgetown’s business school students about such a creative, competitive and exciting market.

The exact schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, January 19th (11:50 – 12:05 pm) – Full-time students
Wednesday, January 20th (6:30 – 8:00 pm) – Evening students


Photo credit: Bloomberg Businessweek

For more information on booking Mei Zhang for a speaking engagement, please contact Yu Zhang at yu.zhang@wildchina.com.

Tags: business in China China entrepreneurship Georgetown University McDonough School of Business Mei Zhang travel in China wild China WildChina WildChina travel .

January 8th, 2010

Mei Zhang to lead Smithsonian “Chinese Treasures in Washington” tour on February 26, 2010

By: Alex G | Categories: Chinese Culture, In the News, On the Road, WildChina Experts

WildChina is pleased to announce that as part of the D.C.-based Smithsonian Resident Associate Program, Mei Zhang will lead the “Chinese Treasures in Washington” tour on Friday, February 26, 2010.

The tour covers a range of activities and topics, from observations of the famed Terracotta Warriors at the National Geographic Museum to modern reflections on China’s rapid development and change.


15 of the Terracotta Warriors grace DC until late March

The Smithsonian Resident Associate Program elaborates,

We begin with insights into modern China—from its towering skyscrapers and busy factories to smart-phonetoting youth—provided by our guide, Mei Zhang. Next are a guided tour of the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery permanent collection of Chinese art—which includes jade objects from 5,000 years ago, early Buddhist sculpture, and paintings from the 10th century— and a hands-on session designed to give us a taste of Chinese calligraphy. Then we discuss the many flavors of Chinese cuisine over a lunch served at Asia Nine. We proceed to the Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China’s First Emperor exhibit at the National Geographic Museum and close the day with an insider visit to the Chinese Embassy, designed by the architectural firm headed by I.M. Pei’s sons.

Mei is extremely pleased to share her expertise on China with her DC neighbors in conjunction with such a prestigious institution.

While the tour is fully booked, visitors may observe the Terracotta Warriors at the National Graphic Museum until March 31, 2010. For more information, visit the exhibit homepage.

More information on the “Chinese Treasures in Washington” tour can be found on the tour homepage.

Tags: Chinese Treasures in Washington Mei Zhang National Geographic Museum Smithsonian Resident Associates Program Terracotta Warriors travel in China wild China WildChina WildChina travel .


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