China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sanjiang - Home of the Dong People

As a China Tour Operator for the past  25 years, I often receive inquiries from people wanting to visit culturally rural China to see areas outside of the large cities and major sites.  Usually I recommend south central China with Sichuan, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces being the favorite places as it has so much to offer in a compact area.  There are over 57 minority peoples in China each with their own customs and unique dress.  Many of these are located in these three provinces although there are others.  Sanjiang pictured here is about 100 kms. north west of Guilin in Guangxi Zhuang region, and very typical of a minority group called the Dong people who settled this area over 1000 years ago. 
Other nationalities you can visit in this area are Miao, Yao, Zhuang and Han.  This to me is the real China of the past far from the large busy modern cities.  Sichuan province to the north is the most populated province with over 100 million people in it; however some of the most remote villages are also located here that have changed little in hundreds of years.  I plan personal customized tour itineraries for my clients so that they see and experience their personal interests.  Group tours seldom if ever visit these areas as they will never be crowded so that you can have your own personal visit and often be able to visit people in their homes when accompanied by a guide who can translate for you.  I hope I can do a personal tour for you...check my web site at

Modern China

As a Tour Operator to China only, I send a Profile sheet to each Inquiry asking them to list some information on their personal interests, way they like to tour, level of hotels, etc. etc.  After I receive it back from them, I develop an outline of cities and number of days for them to tour based on their input.  Many are  looking for the ancient culture of China with such spots as the Great Wall, Forbidden City, Terra Cotta Warriors etc.  Few ever ask about MODERN China.  Of course you need to see all the cultural sights but don't overlook some of the modern sights and experiences of China.
Here you see the modern engine of the Fast Train that runs from Beijing to Shanghai in as little as four hours.  In the past it took 12 hours by regular train and only went at night since leaving during the day made arrivals in the middle of the night inconvenient.  Part of your tour should include one of the new fast trains that routes are being added every year.  Going from Beijing to Xian by train was only available by night trains as it also takes 12 hours so you would see nothing on the way.  Now the new fast trains are available for day time trips where you can see the countryside as you go.  I took a fast train this past year from Chengdu to Chongqing and it was unbelievably smooth with no clicking of the tracks and only took 2.5 hours. There is no longer air service between some of the closer cities today because the trains are so fast and convenient going from center or each city eliminating airport transfers too.  The only negative is that stations are very busy and crowded; however the experience is well worth the time.  If you want another train experience going 285 mph. there is the train from Shanghai to the airport.  It takes one hour + by taxi or bus...but only 7 minutes by the MagLev train.  And top speed is reached for only 2.75 minutes of that trip as it takes time to get up to speed and time to slow down on arrival.

For more modern sights of China contact me at   My friends call me
"ChinaDave"   My web site is 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Why Tour China?

As a tour operator to China for the past 25 years, I have  come in contact with many people  who inquire about China.  Sometimes one partner is not as excited about going on a tour as the other but is going along with it.  Mostly it is a lack of information or pre-conceived ideas on China but both become excited about their trip when they return.  I have travelled throughout China for 26 years.  During the off season my wife and I have travelled to many other countries for several years.   Although each country has it's distinctive culture and sights; China I think has the most diverse sights to offer with over 57 different nationalities each with it's own culture and dress. You can visit as many as 20+ cultures in one or two provinces.  As example, one culture does not marry and lives around a fairy tale like lake in the mountains.  Another once a couple marry, the man retires and the women do all the work. :-)  Another culture the men sleep in one room and the women in another and each has a different entrance to their house.  These are just examples.  Each area of the country is quite different and there is so much to offer.  I have made over 50 trips to China in 26 years and I never tire of my travels there as there are always new things to see and do.  I retired early at 47 from a business career and needed something to do.  I visited China with a business friend in 1989 and saw first hand a country in transition from ancient ways to modern ways and wanted to watch the progress of this large country.  It has been exciting to say the least to watch both their economical progress as well as the social changes such as the one child policy amongst others.  As they have had more exposure to the West, the changes in China have been rapid.   I continue to scour the countryside to find places that are not changing as fast since the young people want to leave the countryside and go to the larger cities for as they say  "For a better life".  Ancient China with all its fantastic sights and modern China with their fast trains, modern airports, (continued below)

architecture, and preserved sites has become a mecca for tourists from all countries.   Be sure put China on the top of your list of countries to visit in the future.  You can check my web site at  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Cost of Touring China

As a Tour Operator I receive many inquiries about how much it cost to tour China.  Many think it is very inexpensive because IT IS CHINA with their low costs of labor etc.  That was true just 10 years ago but things have changed.  There is Old China in the rural areas and there is New China in the cities.  Costs vary a great deal.  My Chinese friend who lived near Boston for one year while going to school, returned to China this past month and could not believe the difference in prices of food and many other things.  She said prices in China for many food items were much higher.  Many other costs in the U.S. were less for many items including hotels.   I travel to China myself often and find the same things.  A cup of Chinese coffee at the airport in Chengdu was 20% higher than Starbucks  which was just 50 feet away as an example.  If you see a very inexpensive tour to China on the internet, there is a reason why which you will find out when you arrive.  Expect to pay at least $3,000 to $4,000 per person not including international air for a 15 to 17 day private tour.  Group tours may be about 10% less but some can actually be more. Tours that are less costly or budget tours usually include two to three shopping stops each day often masked as cigarette or toilet stop breaks.  Many tour companies are now making some sights optional or not including many meals to make their tours look less expensive.  China tours normally include most meals, all transportation, hotels and all sightseeing that they list.  Tips and Visas are usually extra and visa costs can range from $150 to $250 per person for the visa alone. You get what you pay for in China!  You spend about the same to get there so you should be able to see what you are interested in without having "shopping stops" taking up your touring time.  For more information on Cost of Travel in China contact me with any questions.  I am always glad to be of assistance in your planning without pressure to book a tour.   My name is Dave and you can email me at

Monday, May 5, 2014

Friendly Faces of China

I have travelled China for 26 years and everywhere I go I see friendly faces like these in the photos.  The people of China are very open and friendly always welcoming me wherever I go.  In the countryside you will often be invited for tea if you just show up at their doorstep.  Even when they do not want their pictures taken, they give a broad smile and shake their heads.  Getting into the culture is very easy no matter where you go.  In restaurants no one hurries you to eat and leave.  You must ask for a check as it is impolite to give a check to a guest without them asking even when they are very busy.  When travelling with a guide, they will often just shout out to the home  (no door bells in the countryside) and say,  "There is a foreigner here who would like to visit you if you are not busy".  Even when they are busy, they stop to invite you in and serve tea while they continue to work.  Exchanging questions asking about your life as well as you asking about their lives is common.  In the city it may be quite different however you will still see friendly faces even if they can not speak the language. Parks are a great place to have those personal encounters.  If you have children with you they will often be approached by Chinese children who are very curious about young foreigners. 

 Children see t.v. and learn English after 3rd grade and you always get a friendly "Hello" from them.   I hope you get the opportunity to have those personal encounters too.
     My web site is:   Click on the photos for a full screen view!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chengdu - a Relaxing City

Chengdu in Sichuan province which is in the central part of the country is not always included in many group tours.  I like to send people there on private custom tours as Chengdu has so much to offer in the surrounding areas.  Home of the Panda, you can visit the Experiment Station which has only Pandas  including new born ones in the nursery.  You can also have your photo taken holding a Panda too. Chengdu has many relaxing parks and tea houses where the local people gather to play Mahjong and other games during the warm afternoons. Dufu's Cottage park is one of my favorites.  You can often see an orchestra practicing, choir groups and children playing games.  They have a fantastic Bonsai collection also.  The Wen Shu Temple park is another with vegetarian lunches and tea with snacks in the park.  There are also several areas of the city that have preserved the old buildings and left as they were 100 years ago.  Here you see Jinlin Street as one example.  Another is the beautiful Kuan Xhai Xiang Zi Alley with its beautiful courtyard restaurants and tea houses.  I often stay at the Buddha Zen Hotel which is a traditional hotel built around a courtyard and the area around the hotel has been preserved in the old style too. There are many small towns and villages surrounding Chengdu like Huanglongxi town which is very scenic as one example.  If you want to visit remote mountain areas with small villages and Tibetan people you may want to visit my web site at       Look under packaged tours:  10 Day Mountain Tour.

You may even stay in a Tibetan family hotel in one of the small villages if you like.  For more information check my web site or email me for details at    email: