China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

China Collectibles

I never thought I would be one to collect anything much less tea pots as you see above. I do like the unique and different and while traveling through China for the past 25 years and over 50 trips, one of the things I have collected are these very rare and unique tea pots. They are actually chiseled out of solid stone and then dyed taking on average 6 weeks to make or more. No two are ever alike on purpose. I look at it as an art form rather than to be used as an ordinary tea pot. Little did I realize the first time I found an artist working on one in a park in Suzhou, that they are indeed extremely rare as a lost art. 10 years ago when I first found them I paid $65 on average for one which the ordinary Chinese wouldn't pay using it for a tea pot since clay ones could be bought for less than $2. So there was little market for them and no one was making them except a very few people located in a private school just outside Nanjing where clay tea pots is a very large industry. I have 8 of these wonderful pieces of art in our home and have never found any more again. One seller in Shanghai who was selling them in a park no longer is there having seldom sold any. The location of the quarry for this stone is also unknown other than the stone floors in the Forbidden City are made from the same rock. People in the Ming and Qing Dynasty referred to them as "gold bricks" as the cost of the material at the time was as much as gold. I wrote about them earlier in my blog and have more photos of them including my large family tea pot. Some day you may see them on EBAY of course but for now they remain a rare collectible in my home.  Click on the photo for a full screen view!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Old Summer Palace in Beijing

There is one site in Beijing that is seldom visited but is historically interesting. That is the Old Summer Palace built during the 12th Century by Emperor Qianlong which was later destroyed by invading British and French during the Opium War of 1860. The Old Summer Palace was built in the French Style and held many artifacts which were taken during the war. This is all that remains of the building but some gardens still exist although the whole complex was abandoned. Empress Dowager Cixi began rebuilding the new Summer Palace in 1888 with money that was ear marked for the construction of a modern navy. In 1900 foreign troops once again during the Boxer Rebellion tried to burn it down. Some renovations were made a few years later and then a major renovation was done after the 1949 revolution and can be seen as it is today on Kunming Lake. The Old Summer Palace is worth a walk through since it is near the newer Summer Palace and Beijing University. Referred to as Yuanming Yuan (Perfection and Brightness Garden) the Great Fountain Ruins pictured above is the best preserved relic in the palace grounds and definitely a part of modern history of Beijing and China. As A China Tour Operator doing Tours to China only for the past 25 years, I will be more than happy to do a custom private tour just for you or any Group that comes to me with special interests. Check out my web site at

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Choosing a China tour can be difficult especially on the internet. So many brochures, choices and so many companies besides the wide difference in prices. I have been a China only Tour Operator for over 18 years and travelled all through China for 21 years. I only do customized private tours for individuals or groups that come to me with a special agenda or interest. "A Poor Tour selected is long remembered and too late once you are there. A GREAT tour is also long remembered with good memories long after the cost is forgotten" How do you know which is good and which is poor? I teach a class here in Seattle on Travel in China and spend time on what to look for in a good tour and what questions to ask. Send me an email at and I will send you two essays I have written on this very subject. #1 "How Do I Select a Good Group Tour to China" #2 "Custom & Packaged China Tours" Both these will help you. I do not organize group tours to sell so I can be impartial. Above is myself with two delightful ladies that were sampling tea in a small village. You will find Chinese people to be very friendly and hospitable. Your tour should be one of enjoying the culture and country.

Tours to China as a China Tour Operator is my business and my only business.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Best Place to Visit the Great Wall?

As a China Tour Operator for the past 20 years people always want to know where the best place to visit the Great Wall as there are several. It really depends on your physical ability I think. The Group Tour Companies always take you to Badaling because there is a freeway going out there and a large parking lot for buses (usually 80 buses or more) It is very crowded with many sellers there hawking their wares and a fairly long walk up to the Wall. Above you see a section called Mutianyu which is a bit further out but more beautiful and if there are two buses out there that would be a lot. Since I do custom private tours to China, I always send my clients to this section as it is seldom crowded and has a nice cable car up onto the Wall which I include. You have a choice of going either direction once you get up onto the Wall. Going right (top photo) it is more difficult but the view is wonderful. Going to the left (bottom photo) the walk is more level and you can go out to the section where it was not repaired to see how it was many years ago before they repaired it. Much less crowded and the scenery is better. Simatai and Jinshanling sections are more difficult and usually for hikers. A really wild section is from Huanghua to Zhuangdaokou Guar and takes about 3 hours to hike or climb it. For more information on the Great Wall, contact us at Tours to China is our only business. Check our web site for a list of China Tour Packages and Yangtze River Cruises.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hiking the Tiger Leaping Gorge

As a China only Tour Operator, many clients ask me about the Tiger Leaping Gorge either to hike along it or to see it. Located about 2.5 hours from LiJiang in Yunnan Province of China, it is part of the Upper Yangtze River. There is a hiking path along the river which can be hiked in two days with a overnight at a hostel or can be hiked for just a few hours too. It can be seen on the way between LiJiang and Dali or LiJiang and Shangrila by car. It can also be a day trip out of LiJiang for the day. Many adventurers have tried to raft it for many years losing their lives until the 1980's when five men tried it and three of them succeeded while the other two were drowned. The Gorge gets its strange name from an ancient myth that said a tiger was being chased by local people and leaped across the gorge at the point you see in the middle photo above landing on the rock escaping capture. There is a walk way now and a viewing platform that puts you right next to the roaring water rushing down the gorge. Visiting the Gorge can be worked into most tours that include Kunming, Dali or LiJiang visits. For more information contact us through our web site at Doing Private Custom China Tours for individuals or groups for 25 years and over 2,500 people from around the world.  Click on the photos for a full screen view!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Morning Exercises in China

If you are out for an early morning walk in China you will see the local people doing a wide variety of exercises. Social Dancing at 6:00 a.m. is hard to believe but you will find them often dancing in parks all across China. Fan dancing as above for the women, shadow boxing, Tai Chi, sword fighting, and a wide variety of other exercises can be seen. Some of the more interesting places in China are on the Bund Park in Shanghai along the water front, 7 Star Park in Guilin and just about any park in Beijing. Mostly done before they go to work between 6:00 and 8:30 a.m. you can still see some of the older retirees doing morning stretching exercises in just about any park all over China. You are welcome to join in as many tourists choose to do. During the evenings in some parks you will find local people doing Line Dances of all kinds too. Exercise in China is as much for the mind as for the body as they will explain to you. Tours to China is my buisness but China continues to provide an interesting education in life for me as well. I hope I can share some of it with you by providing a custom tour of China to you for your interests too. Check us out at

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Li River Day Cruise

Everyone seems to know about the famous and beautiful Yangtze River Cruise but few seem to know about the Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo village in southern China. If you do not have the four or 5 days available for the Yangtze River Cruise but still want to take a short cruise, the Li River 5 hour cruise is fantastic through the hay stack like hills that surround the city of Guilin. A bus or your guide with car if taking a private tour will take you through the countryside to the boat dock located about 30 minutes from Guilin. Lunch is served on the boat and large windows make sure you do not miss anything viewing the farmers and fishermen along the river. There are also some sailings that stop at Crown Cave on the way which is a commercial cave as good as the Reed Flute Cave in the city. Arriving in Yangshuo village you can either go back to the city or stay over and enjoy this small town and especially the Night Show on the river produced by the man who did the Opening Ceremony at the Chinese Olympics. With over 900 villagers in the show, animals, lights and great music. It is a show not to be missed. Once a sleepy fishing village Guilin has become a tourist destination included in most tours. For more information, contact us at Tours to China is our business as a China Tour Operator. Over 20 years experience of doing China Tours.