China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How To Select a Good GROUP Tour Company

With China it is very difficult to pick out a good GROUP tour company because of all the "fluff" often used in describing tours. With 25 years experience in planning Tours to China, I can give you some good tips. I only do custom private tours for individuals or groups that come to me with their agenda. I do not sell organized group tours, so I can give you my observations without trying to sell you on my company. I have taught a class on Travel To China at the University of Washington and some of our community colleges. When I work in China I often see group tours in which the people are unhappy with it but of course it is too late after they arrive in China and realize that they purchased a poor tour. I started teaching the class to help people decide how they want to tour and how to select a tour company. It is too much information here to give you a complete list of what to watch for but if you contact me directly by email, I will be glad to send you the two page attachment with no obligations. I am semi-retired and enjoy helping people to select a China Tour which will leave you wanting to go back again. My 50+ trips in 25 years gives you an idea of what I think about the most interesting country I have ever visited and continue to go back and I don't even lead tours. Whatever your interests are; China has more to offer than you can ever imagine. Contact me at my email address which is and you can call me ChinaDave as my friends all call me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

River Cruises

Most people know about the Yangtze River and the famous cruise through the beautiful Gorges and the new Yangtze River Dam Locks. Few people know about another cruise which is equally beautiful but just a day cruise. Near what use to be a sleepy little town along the Li River, Guilin is now a thriving city mostly because of the Li River Cruise there and the work of the local Tourist Bureau. The Guilin area in ancient days was actually the bottom of the ocean now pushed up with the many hay stack like hills for many miles around. Snaking through these beautiful carst hills is the narrow and shallow Li River. The cruise on these many small boats includes lunch and lasts about 4.5 hours of fantastic scenery through the countryside to the village of Yangshuo once visited by Presidents Carter and Clinton. The real attraction of Yangshuo village now is a wonderful evening show on the river with over 900 local people participating along with many animals. Having been produced by the man who did the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, it is not to be missed. If you like caves some of the boats stop at Crown Cave on the way but you must book that specific cruise to include the cave tour. The area around Guilin has much to see also and as a Tour Operator and China Travel Agency, I have worked several years in developing tours in that area to include hiking, biking, art, and many other wonderful things to see and do. Check out my web site for more information.  Click on the photo for a full screen view!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lama Temple in Beijing

As a Tours To China, China Travel Agency and Tour Operator to China & Tibet only, I get many questions on China with my 25 years experience of travelling in China. One of the comments I get when I do custom tours for clients is...."Not too many Temples, please". Its like seeing too many churches in Europe as they all start to look alike and you can only see so many. I have checked out many temples in China but one of the most interesting ones in all China is right in Beijing. Few group tours go there because of the lack of parking facilities. It is the Lama Temple complete with monks and their afternoon chanting. What makes it interesting also is the 5 story tall Buddha in the photo above. It has been carved from one Sandalwood tree trunk and then the temple room built over it. Located on the near north side of Beijing it is worth the time to visit along with the rest of the buildings and grounds. I plan custom tours to sites that fit your interests rather than the convenient ones that Group Tour Companies take you to where they take you on shopping stops or just where they have access to with their bus. Check my web site at and my photo album at A list of references of past clients who do not mind being contacted either about their tours or my services is available for the asking.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3rd. World Country ?

As a China Travel Agency doing tours to China only, I receive many inquiries about tours to China. A question like how much does it cost to go to China for two weeks? I try to be respectful and ask "How much does it cost to come to the U.S. for two weeks? China is about the same size as the U.S. so it depends on how far you want to travel within China, how many weeks and of course the hotel level you want to stay in. That narrows it down a bit. Four star hotels are the best value, yet there are good 3 star hotels too as well as wonderful and exotic 5 star hotels. China is thought of as a 3rd World Country yet but that may have been true 25 years ago but hardly today anymore. The photos above show you a very modern and lively Shanghai today when just 25 years ago it was definitely a 3rd world country with donkey carts on the streets etc. Now it is crowded with Mercedes and BMWs. Landing at the new Beijing Capital Airport will give you an idea of what modern airports will look like in the future. Pudong International Airport in Shanghai is another example with the MagLev 280 mph train that takes you into the city in just 7 minutes while the bus or taxi takes over an hour. For more information on China tourism, check out my web site at and sign up to receive my blog stories automatically here on the web site. My 25 years experience of working in China and 50+ trips will give you many insights on up to date information as I travel each year.  Click on the photo for a full screen view!

Hotels In China

The most questions I get asked about is the hotels in China. Pictured above are good representations of 3,4 and 5 star hotels. Tourists do not usually want to stay in anything less than a 3 star. The top photo is a good 3 star hotel in Beijing called the Tian Rui Hotel which is very well located.  The second is a 4 star hotel in LiJiang and the third is a 5 star hotel in Xian. There are many other luxury hotels too with even more deluxe rooms. What is usually quoted is the standard room in each hotel as the price. There are actually 5 price levels of rooms within the hotels. The standard room in China is two single beds and is about 75% of the rooms. The next level is Superior rooms, then deluxe rooms usually on the business floor and then Jr. Suites and Deluxe Suites and then some hotels have a Presidential Suite. I have stayed in all of them in 25 years and inspect hundreds of other hotels in the cities all across China. The latest is that hotels are starting to have their own names for rooms so you can not compare hotels. One 5 star hotel calls their Superior rooms, "Landmark" rooms and so on. Many hotels are eliminating the name "standard" room in favor of something more exotic or simply call them "Superior" rooms which are the same rooms. Some hotels also change their names to better attract new clients or if they remodel also change the name of the hotel. An excellent hotel in Shanghai use to be called The Grand Nation just a few years ago, then changed it to the Ramada Plaza Hotel until they realized that Ramada is not a top class hotel in the U.S. and just this January changed it to the Majestic Plaza Hotel. Check with me if you want more information on hotels. My 25+ years experience in working all over China in the Tour Business has given me excellent insights to hotels. I have given lectures to hotel staff in the Sofitel Hotel chain at their request and often get called upon for sales meetings in China.
Click on the photos for full screen views!

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Fun and Friendly Experience

One thing I have learned after 50+ trips to China in over 25 years is that every day is a new experience to look forward to. I was down in Xishuangbanna area of Yunnan province in southern China where Burma, Laos and China come together. I heard about the Wild Elephant preserve there and wanted to see it. There is a beautiful jungle there in the mountains with many rubber tree, banana and pineapple plantations. The wild elephants are deep in the jungle and seldom seen but the area is interesting to visit with few if any western tourists. It was a weekend and they had an elephant performance in the village which I attended. Two rows in front of me in the stands was the "little girl" in the photo above. She spotted me and moved up and sat along side of me speaking in her local dialect. I told her in very rough Chinese that I didn't speak their dialect; but it made no difference to her. She continued talking about the elephants and who knows what else to the delight of all around us including her mother. She shared her lunch with me and I gave her some candy that I always carry with me and we had a delightful time. I was the only foreigner there so I am sure she was curious about me but she was not inhibited one bit. My guide was not with me so to this day I do not know what she was talking about but it makes no difference. I enjoyed it greatly and so did all those around me I am sure.

TIBET - The Roof of the World

As a Tour Operator to China, I travel to all parts of China to work directly with my Chinese associates to keep up on all the changes going on in China.  The photos above are from a former trip showing the Potala Palace in Lhasa. The two Tibetans were my Sales Mgr. guide and his driver. We went to his home town of Shigatze about 5 hours from Lhasa. I enjoyed a visit to his home to meet his wife and mother seeing how they lived. We toured the Monastery there also. At about 10,000 feet above sea level the air is thin and the sun is very intense. I had left my hat in the car when we went into the Potala Palace not knowing we would be up on the roof which you can see in the photo above. I burned the top of my bald head after only being up there 20 minutes. Sun glasses and plenty of sun screen are needed when visiting there. One flies to Lhasa and arriving you feel the difference in altitude immediately and feel a bit light headed for a day or so. For more information about going to Tibet contact me directly at and I will be glad to answer any questions you might have about going to Tibet.  I have since been to Tibet and noted the many changes including the big increase in population in Lhasa as well as the new hotels and many restaurants

Friday, April 10, 2009

The Zhrung People

There are 57 minority peoples or tribes in China. The Zhrung people, photo above are one of the most interesting ones living in southern China. This lady was doing needlework when I found her in a small village in Guizhou province. They make their own thread and dye it from natural plants as well as making their own cloth. The shoes are very small but they make them in many sizes and colors. I have friends who collect individual things so when I travel, I often find something to add to their collection that is different. My eye doctor's nurse collects miniature shoes and of course these were perfect for her. A neighbor collects salt and pepper shakers, another collects frogs and I collect stone tea pots which I wrote about earlier. One of a kind items can be found all over China and it is fun to find unique items to collect and bring back with memories of where you obtained them. I always take photos of those artists to remember them by. There are many places in China where there are few tourists and you can see the real China as they live day to day rather than the tourist traps. For a real culture tour, check out my web site. I have been doing private culture tours for 17 years and I have spent 25 years and 50+ trips travelling all through China exploring and finding new places to send my clients. Tours to China is my business as a China only Travel Service. Let my experience help you plan a tour. Click on the photos for full screen viewing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Xinjiang China - on the Silk Road

The Silk Road stretches from Xian to the northwest of China at Urumqi and to Kashi or Kashgar as it is also called on the Afgan boarder. The nationalities are often mixed in this area with ancestors from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Siberia, Ugars and others. Mostly Muslims, it is one of the most interesting areas of China. Above photos are from Kashgar once known as the largest trading area on the Silk Road. Today the Sunday Animal Market is still held and the shops and stalls are full of merchandise of all kinds from surrounding countries all during the week. The calling to prayers in the main square of Kashgar is interesting to see. The Square can be quiet and mostly empty until the announcement on the loud speaker calls them to prayer and all of a sudden the Square is full as you see above. The food is fantastic and you must try Goat Ice Cream which has to be the best in the world. Travel on the Silk Road includes Turpan in the middle of the desert at the second lowest place on earth, Dunhuang with its Buddhist Caves and of course Xian with the Terra Cotta Warriors site. I will be working this fall up on the Silk Road inspecting hotels and checking out some of the changes since my last trip there to keep updated for my tour business. This is my 25th year doing Tours to China and acting as a China Travel Service and Tour Operator to China. Let my experience with 50+ working trips to China and my Chinese Associate partners help plan a tour just for you.