China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Shenyang Puppet Government 1930's

In 1931 the Japanese invaded China and set up a Puppet Government in the Shenyang area of north-east China. General Zhang and his son lived in the house below and were part of that government. Shenyang which is an industrial area of China with automobile factories although has modern buildings is still like China of the 1980's in many ways. Few western tourist go there and I stayed in the old Holiday Inn although a new one has just been built for mostly foreign businessmen to stay when working in Shenyang. The house was built at the turn of the century and was occupied by the Last Emperor who left Beijing after being driven from the Forbidden City and replaced by the first President of China, Sun Yet Sen about 1916. The house is fantastic to visit and all the furnishing are still there and original. Shenyang is also the site of the founding of the Qing Dynasty in 1644 and a small Forbidden City is still there and being well maintained as a tourist attraction although few people visit it each day. It may not be a major tourist city to visit but it has a great deal of history connected to it from the 1600's through the Japanese occupation with a beautiful memorial museum shown here. For more on Shenyang contact us.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Be Careful Booking Hotels in China

You need to be careful booking hotels in China. For my clients I do not book less than 3 star hotels except in very remote areas where it may be necessary. Trying to save money in China can be a disaster if you try to save it with hotels. Here is a typical 2 star or less hotel as an example. The photo with the t.v. is actually the lobby with a desk in the corner as a front desk. I stayed at this hotel in a small tourist town just outside Chengdu just to show people what a local 2 star or less hotel looks like. No western tourists stay here but it was the "best" hotel in the town. Yes, that is a Squat Toilet you are seeing in the bathroom. The shower with no hot water available was a shower head out of the wall and drained onto the floor which had a drain. Note the sink had no hot water faucet. Cost was $35 a night. Breakfast was not included. It did have heat but no air conditioning and this area becomes very hot and humid during the summer. I write this just to show what to expect from most 2 star or less hotels although some can be fairly clean. Tours to China has been my business for almost 25 yearss; but my real passion is the culture and the people.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Don't Overlook Factory Workshops

When guides mention Workshops, it doesn't really sound that interesting at first; but don't overlook the opportunities to see crafts and local products being made by hand. You do not have to buy them of course. Above you will see a rug workshop where they are all made by hand. I think it is amazing that they can make these rugs using just a photo or drawing to make each rug individually. I have several in my home and they wear like iron. The other photo is a small workshop that makes leather products. I sketched out a shoulder bag that I wanted made for a day bag to carry my cameras, water and snacks in during the day. The young man made some suggested additions and I picked out the leather and color that I wanted. I came back in three hours and it was all finished. The quality and workmanship is excellent and only cost me $22 U.S. There are many large workshops as well as local small ones that craft many different products including pottery, rugs, clothing, cloisonne, furniture, jewelry, jade and the list goes on. Ask your guide to give you some suggestions and I am sure they will be able to give you ideas. One of my favorite places for seeing and buying hand made crafts is LiJiang Old Town north of Kunming. As a tour operator I go to China often and will be spending four days in LiJiang and I am sure to find some special gifts to bring home for Christmas too. For more ideas contact us at

Biking in China

There are many places to go biking in China; however Yangshuo area outside of Guilin is my favorite because of the scenery and the town. You can take the Li River Day Cruise from Guilin to the small town of Yangshuo set amongst the haystack like hills surrounding it and along the Li River. There are flat roads and trails to ride and you really will get the feeling of being out in rural China amongst the locals. It does help to have a guide with you and there are many local guides who speak excellent English and can translate and show you the places to visit. Bikes rent for about $2 to $3 U.S. per day. You can also hike in this area as well as go on a motorized rickshaw ride if you do not want to go biking. Guide costs vary depending on the length of day. The shirt I have on I picked out because the Chinese characters seemed actually says, "I have No Money". Great to ward off the sellers and got many chuckles from the locals who thought I didn't know what it said. As a Tour Operator to China for over 25+ years, I still like to take time out to enjoy myself with a day of fun now and then. For more information and details on Travel in China and specialty customized tours to your interests, contact us at Our web site is at

Monday, October 17, 2011

Best Place to Visit and Hike the Great Wall

Probably the top interest destination in China for most tourists is visiting the Great Wall. Perhaps no thought is given to where the best place is to visit for lack of knowledge however. For the average tourist, my favorite area on the Wall is the Mutianyu section. Not many tourists here and it is the most beautiful section with lush green vegetation. The large group tours go to a closer section to Beijing accessible by freeway which is called the Badaling section where you will often find 80 or more buses in the parking lot and very crowded. Both sections have cable cars that take you up onto the Wall. Once you are on the Wall at Mutianyu you may hike out left which is quite level. About one mile out is a section not repaired to show you what it was like when it was in ruins. Few tourist go beyond 100 yards so often you may hike out to areas where there are few if any tourists for great photos. For avid hikers there are other sections with more challenges which I will be glad to share with you if you contact me by email. Tours to China and Tibet has been my business for almost 25 years. Let my experience and local Chinese associate partners help you plan your own special tours to China. Customized tours to your interests and needs is our specialty.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hotel Deals on the Internet

For those searching the internet for the best deals in hotels; one needs to be very careful to read the fine print. My wife and I just returned from a trip to Spain. Although I am a tour operator to China, it is our off season vacation which she arranges every year. Needing a hotel the night before we left Madrid, she looked for a location close to the airport and reasonable just for one night. On Price Line she found the Hotel San Pablo just 5 minutes from the airport since we had a 07:00 flight the next morning. The cost was $49.90 Euros or $67.37 U.S. dollars. When we arrived posted behind the desk was their rack price of $39.00 Euros or $52.65 U.S. The clerk was embarrassed about it and gave us a large suite to compensate since we had pre-paid the one night. No breakfast was included. In China it can be the same when booking a hotel. Be sure the hotel is as they listed as a Sofital and Sofitel are two different hotels. One being a major international hotel and the other being a "knock off". One is well located and the other in Beijing although advertised as close to Tiananmen Square is actually 1.2 miles away.
Is Breakfast included as well as the 15% to 20% service charge included. Breakfast per person can be from $12 U.S. to $25 U.S per person if not included. You get what you pay for not matter where you travel these days so be careful what you are purchasing or booking. For more tips on travel in China check our web site at 25 Years of Experience and we too get hooked now and then travelling in other countries during our off season.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Taking A Train in China

Taking a train in China is a bit different than other countries. You can only buy a train ticket 3 to 5 days before the departure date. You can only buy a ticket from where you are departing from to your first destination. When you get to your first destination, the same rule applies for on going destinations. You can not buy train tickets at one place for your entire tour by train. Many trains are over night. Take only First class Sleepers as second class is very noisy and the car is all open only separated by metal mesh and are three bunks high. First class has two uppers and two lowers and closed compartments. If you are less than four people you may share the compartment with others of mixed sex. The people who have the upper bunks have the right to sit on the lower bunks until it is time to sleep. The toilet facilities can be both western and Chinese depending on the age of the train cars. Some only have the hole in the floor in the more remote areas. Dining cars usually have poor food so plan on taking food or snacks with you. Vendors come through the cars on a regular basis with snacks, noodles etc. too. If you are being met by a guide, they will know which car you are in and will usually be waiting outside your car on the platform. Sometimes because of Security, guides are not allowed on the platforms so you must exit with the crowd and the guide will be at the exit holding up a sign with your name on it. For more information on train travel in China, please contact us at    Today  there are also the special  fast trains between many cities that are ultra modern and take less time going 184 miles per hour....but of course cost more too.

Arriving At Airports in China

Before you arrive on your international air flight to China, your airline will hand out an Arrival card and a Health card. The health card asks simple questions wanting to know if you have a fever, where you came from and where you will be staying. You will drop this card off at a collection station as you arrive. The Arrival Card will ask your Airline, fight number, date of arrival and where you will be staying the first night. Keep this card with your passport. Upon your arrival follow the crowd which will take you to the Security counters. There you will present your passport and the Arrival Card. You then go to the luggage area where you will see your flight listed on a board in English and the luggage carrier number. After you pick up your luggage you may exit the luggage area (there is no customs check) through double doors (once you exit you can not return to the luggage area) There you will find a crowd of people with many of them holding up signs with names on them. If you have a guide meeting you, your name will be held up by your guide. If you need a taxi to take you to your hotel, DO NOT PAY ANY ATTENTION to anyone asking you if you would like a taxi. (they are rip off artists) Exit out the doors and watch for the sign that directs you to taxis which will be written in English. Taxi drivers never speak English, but there is a "Starter" at the head of the line who does speak English and he will advise the taxi driver where you want to go. They run the meter although if a toll way is used, you must pay the toll fee in addition to the taxi fare. No tip is required but just round off the fare to the next highest yuan. For more questions answered, contact us at

Monday, August 22, 2011

How Do I Plan A Trip to China?

China is the size of the U.S. in square miles; so think in those terms when planning a trip to China. Questions to ask yourself: 1. What are my interests? 2. How much time do I have to tour? 3. What budget should I set? All good questions as you can not see everything so you should plan to see what interests you. The average person goes for about 17 to 19 days. If you only go once in your lifetime a good basic introduction to China is Beijing, Xian, Guilin and Shanghai and maybe even a Yangtze River Cruise squeezed in. That gives you a fairly good idea about China. People going a second time might consider LiJiang, Chengdu, Lhasa, and the Silk Road up through the Northwest part of China. For national parks, historical or more remote interesting areas, you should use an experienced tour planner who is more familiar with China and can help you plan to your specific interests and needs. I teach a one session class on Touring China each quarter here in Seattle and many realize how complex China can be as well as being very different from one area to the next. Reading up to date travel books, checking the internet and viewing Forums such as Frommers and the Lonely Planet web sites will be even more beneficial. Just make sure you plan early as China really is not a last minute "Let's Go" kind of country. With 1.3 billion people travel can be difficult at best without help. Check my web site for more information: We have been doing China and Tibet only for over 25 years. Tours to China is my business but the Culture is my passion.
Click on the photos for a full screen view!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Visiting MInority Peoples in China

China has over 57 different minority peoples in China. Each has their own cultural ways and dress. The Han people consist of the majority or over 85% of the people in China. Above you see the Zhrung women sewing. The women all wear their hair in the same style as reflective of their culture. The Mosuo people seen rowing a dug out boat live around a fairy tale like lake called Lugu Lake about 7 hours drive from LiJiang in Yunnan province. The majority of the minority peoples live in south central China in Yunnan, Guizhou and Guangxi provinces. Tours can be arranged to visit many of the minority peoples in their villages to see how they live and learn about them. Sadly many of the young people are leaving the villages and going to the large cities shedding their native dress and culture. There are still many remote areas however where you can visit and learn about each one and I continue to visit these areas myself. I will write later about some of the unique customs of individual cultures such as the Hani people who when they marry, the man retires or one culture where the women only cut their hair once in their life time and then wrap it up in a large bun on top of their heads which I wrote about earlier. Click on the photos for a full screen view.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hotel Reviews on the Internet

As a Tour Operator to China for the past 25 years, I have made over 50 trips myself working with local Chinese associate partners. I review sites, restaurants, hotels, shows, and transportation throughout China. Hotel reviews seem to be the most common interest for most people. What is happening is that some hotels are being given bad reviews which they do not deserve and some are given reviews better than they should be. Competitors often are paying people to give poor reviews on certain popular hotels in hopes of driving them to their hotels by giving very positive reviews on their own hotels. Your best advice comes from a knowledgeable tour operator or travel agency with first hand knowledge. Hotels are rated with stars however China hotels are often not always representative of international standards. Always look for a central location near sites you can walk to. There are often 5 level of prices in each hotel. Prices sometimes include the 15% service charges, breakfast and taxes and sometimes they are not included and there may be a surprise on checking out. Your China Specialist Tour Operator will know your best choices according to your needs and requirements. Do not be fooled by names that sound like familiar hotels such as Sofitel and Sofital. They are not the same. For more information please contact us at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Choosing A Tour Company

With so many tour companies and travel agencies; how does one choose a tour operator to do my tour to China or Tibet? That is a question many people might ask. Is Bigger; Better? Bigger means more overhead with many employees doing many countries. You might take a look at the smaller operators like Interlake China Tours of Seattle who SPECIALIZES in one country and has all the latest information. We work with local Chinese associate partners in China who have contracts with hotels at their best local prices. Working with a network of associate partners all over China we have control of the tour quality and communications with them. Our clients have a 24/7 emergency phone number so they are always in good hands 24 hours a day. Each tour is individually planned to the clients interests and needs so you see and experience what you are interested in rather than a cookie cutter tour of general interest. Dave goes to China each year working with our associate partners inspecting hotels, viewing new sites and noting all the changes that occur each year. With 25 years experience and over 50+ trips, Dave travels all over China to work first hand with the local operators seeing to it that the quality of our tours meets a high standard. Check our web site at

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

River Cruise in China?

When planning a tour to China few people think about river cruises but usually know about the Yangtze River because of the famous Dam site there. Actually one should consider a river cruise perhaps in the middle of their tour to take a short rest during a 17 to 21 day tour. Touring in China can be tiring and a few days of relaxation is helpful. Most people know of the Yangtze River Cruise from Chongqing to YiChang or reverse for 4 or 5 days. Or there is a longer cruise all the way from Chongqing to Shanghai or reverse for 7 to 9 days. Another Cruise which few people know about is the Li River Day cruise from Guilin down to the small town of Yangshuo on smaller river boats shown above but one of the most beautiful cruises in the world. Yangshuo is also known for the fantastic Night show, Impression Liu Sanje, on the river with over 900 local people taking part in it. In Guilin there is an evening cruise on the 4 city lakes lined with many beautiful lighted sites and a close up view of fishermen fishing with their birds. All cruises are an excellent way to enjoy China and relax a bit during your tour and travels in China. For more information contact us at Tour Operators for China and Tibet only for over 25+ years working with local Chinese Associate Partners.

Using an ATM in China

Just a few years ago there were next to no ATMs available except at the major airports. Today there are more but still difficult to find sometimes especially in the rural areas or small cities. Make sure your card is acceptable by checking the instructions which are in English on the ATM. You then insert your card and use your password asking for funds in U.S. dollars or your local currency. Out comes Yuan at the bank rate. Be aware there are charges in China as well as your home bank that will be deducted from your account. Keep the receipts as they will be needed to exchange your yuan back into U.S. dollars or your local currency at the airports when you leave. Actually China still accepts American Express travelers checks which get the best rate of exchange as well as a very low charge at most hotels in the major cities that you will be staying. It is more of a convenience service by the hotels for their guests. You will need to show your passport to make an exchange at the hotel or any major department store too for large purchases. For more information contact me at

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weddings In China

Weddings in China are much different than we experience in the U.S. Couples apply for a license from the State first. Few have a religious ceremony. They then set a date for a banquet and photo session. The photo session is in a studio and perhaps at a church grounds, local park or some specific site. They will dress up in casual clothes as well as their traditional wedding clothes to make a large album. That is usually done in the mornings or early afternoons. The banquet is usually in the late afternoon or evening and by invitation which is all paid for by the couple. The traditional gift however is money. The closer the relationship the more money is given. In some cases a whole months salary of a close relative or friend. In the past the bride wore a red gown but most today wear a white gown as you see above. The banquet signifies the community recognizing the couple as being married but not before then. So most couples must save a lot of money before they are married to be able to pay for it first. Note my wife and I were working one day, stopped to view a wedding and the decorated car which the couple will parade through the streets before and after the banquet. When visiting the minority cultures in China you will find many different traditional cultural weddings too.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Planning A Trip to China

As a China and Tibet Tour Operator for over 25 years, my long suit is knowing China very well. I have taught a class on Touring in China each quarter at local colleges and Universities for Adult Education here in Seattle. As most people think in terms of only going to China once in their lifetime; they want to see just about everything. China is a large country, the same size as the United States in square miles. You may only have 2 or 3 weeks time but think in terms of trying to see the whole United States in that same time. You would of course be spending your time in airports and flying rather than sightseeing. China only has about 10% of the flights that we enjoy in the U.S. and with their huge population and prosperity these days, all flights will be full at all times. Plan on booking your tour at least 3 months in advance or more. If your tour includes a Yangtze River Cruise, plan on booking at least 4 to 6 months in advance. A good tour operator will make the best use of your time and money so that you see what you are interested in rather than a cookie cutter general tour. Tours to China has been my business for 25 years and 50+ trips working with my Chinese Associate partners directly taking advantage of their contract local pricing. Don't try to see it all; but see the sites that you are most interested in with a well planned tour.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Best Months to Tour China

As a tour operator to China and Tibet for over 20 years, I am asked many times which are the best months to travel in China. The summer months of course are very hot and humid but if you have to go then, there are places to visit that are cool. North Yunnan province cities of Kunming, Dali, LiJiang and the mountain areas are cool plus the mountains of Sichuan province and Tibet. In the spring late March through April is the best but the rainy season starts in May and it becomes more humid and hot. The two best months of the year are September and October. September is generally the #1 best month for weather and October for the fall leaves but it can get cold in the mountains with snow towards the end of October. Prices are highest during September and October with the lowest prices being during the winter months. Summer months the prices are less and early spring the prices are still low through March. You should plan on booking your tour about 4 to 6 months in advance and if you want to take a Yangtze River cruise be sure to book that about 6 months in advance as the cruises book up early having only about 150 cabins per boat.
Doing private custom tours to China has been my business for over 20 years. I hope I have the opportunity to do a tour just for you to your special interests.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hiking in China

Many people ask me about hiking in China. There are many places to hike but few regular trails as we have in the U.S. except perhaps in National Parks. Much depends on your hiking wishes whether it be leisure or difficult hiking. The Great Wall is a favorite place to hike but can be difficult too depending on which section of the Wall is chosen. Hiking in National Parks is often on wooden plank trails to preserve the land. The Dragon's Back is a favorite hiking area outside of Guilin at the Terraced Rice Paddies of Longsheng. Huashan mountains near Xian is another favorite area as well as Huangshan mountains in south China. I have hiked all over China for over 25 years and can give you recommendations for hiking at the level you choose including Tibet even though sometimes you might need to make your own trails in more remote areas. Light day hikes of course are always available for Birding or just the enjoyment of nature whether it is in the forests of the Bamboo Sea National park or the jungles of southern Yunnan around Xishuangbanna and their Botanical parks. Let my 25+ years in China and Tibet give you more ideas about visiting and hiking in China. Check my web site at Private personal planned tours are my specialty.

The Last Matriarchal Society in China

The last Matriarchal society in China are the Mosuo people who live around Lugu lake at 8,000 feet about 7 hours drive across 4 mountains from LiJiang in north Yunnan province on the border of Sichuan province. The society has changed a little over the last 25 years that I have visited it, but I still enjoy this colorful minority group. New modern hotels are now available and one of the mountain tops is being leveled to allow an airport to be built in the future which will bring a flood of tourists. Presently few tourists reach this area and it is still pristine area to visit. You can even rent a dug out canoe or go with the Mosuos for a tour of two islands in the lake with one of them having a small Monastery with a few monks that you may visit. There is a show each evening with Mosuo dancing and traditional music mostly for the few tourists however the local people also like this show too. There is no real city, just a small village on the lake. The Mosuo tradition of not marrying is still common and it is quite interesting to visit them and learn about their culture. Although remote, there are small restaurants available with local food and fresh fish from the lake. In a few years this will all change with so many tourists coming so plan on visiting them soon or in the next couple years. Let my 25 years of experience in China help you plan a China and/or Tibet tour just for you. Click on the photos for full size screen.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Culture Show in Dunhuang

There are many culture shows in China based on history, individual cultures as well as celebrations. In 22 years of travelling in China, I have seen good ones and bad ones. I recommend only a few of them that I consider outstanding. One of them surprised me as being excellent as it is never included in group tours and only by accident did I find it. Dunhuang on the Silk Road tour is a small city in the desert but very historical and site of the Great Sand Dunes. I was in the city inspecting hotels when I saw a brochure on an evening show there. The guide asked me if I would like to attend it. Not expecting much but having nothing special to do other than check a good restaurant, so I went. The show is a historical show of ballet and music with fantastic costumes in a small theater that I loved. I now include it in all of my tours of the Silk Road. There are no speaking parts which is typical of Chinese shows like this so you don't need a translation. The cost is little but the show was great for such a small town. For more information on shows in China, email me at

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Tibetan Art in Yak Butter?

After travel in China and Tibet for the past 26 years and over 50 trips I still am fascinated by Chinese and Tibetan art. During festivals the Tibetan monks prepare displays of art made from yak butter that is dyed many different colors. The monks design and make displays for the festivals that often takes weeks to make which are beautiful and so unusual. After the festival is over, the displays are taken down and melted to be used again or to be burned in the monasteries. To me this is art and a special art that only exists for a short time and then lost forever in the melting pot. Most monks will let you take pictures without flash to preserve this art. So when you travel throughout China and Tibet watch for these special pieces knowing that you may have the only photos of them.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bezeklik Thousand Buddha Caves

Some of the most beautiful art in the world is in the many Buddhist caves in China. Seldom visited, the Bezeklik Caves outside of Turpan are not the most famous caves since much was destroyed or robbed; however there is still much to see yet without the crowds of tourists. In this remote valley, the caves are all open to view with a few of them being worked on to restore the art. Turpan is the second lowest place on earth as well as being in the desert and very dry preserving the art that is there. You may walk freely into the caves that have good lighting to observe the art close up and take photos without flash. You will also see where whole frescoes were removed by the German, Albert von Le Cog on a caravan of 57 camels and put into the Berlin Museum prior to the second world war. Unfortunately most of them were destroyed during the war. So the remaining frescoes and art that remain are that much more precious. Turpan although small has much to offer with the Jiaohe Plateau ruins and the more famous Gaochang Ruins, Grape Valley, Ancient Water wells and the wonderful Flaming Mountains on the way from Urumqi. Be sure to try some of the local sweet wines too for which they are known. A home visit will give you a great taste of the local food and also a chance to see how they dry grapes for the best raisons which they are known for in Turpan. It is worth a two to three day visit if you are not in a hurry along with the local markets and relaxed atmosphere. Best times to visit are the month of April, and late August into early October to avoid the very hot summers and very cold winter months. The Silk Road is a wonderful and very historical part of China.  Check my web site for several special package tours on the Silk Road or I can put a custom tour together for you for your special interests rather than a generic package tour.   

Thursday, May 26, 2011

China is a Vegetarian's Paradise

If you are Vegetarian or just love a variety of fresh vegetables, China is your cup of Tea.... A refrigerator has been a luxury up until a few years ago and Chinese people got use to buying fresh vegetables, meat, live fish etc. every day at the markets. Many are still without refrigerators but fresh is best and the people still cling to buying fresh every day whether it be at the market or "home delivery" as you see above by enterprising farmers. Markets are everywhere in China. Would you believe the cheapest prices are in the mornings when everything is freshest and plentiful. As the day wears on the price goes up....Why? The market people say, "Because there is less of it". Supply and Demand! So you will see people out in the early mornings buying what they will have for dinner that night. Going out for an early morning walk is the best as you see the villages and cities coming to life with early morning shopping, exercising in the parks or going about their daily errands. Afternoons are Tea time in the tea houses and parks which is another good time to mix with the locals. Tours To China is my business but the passion for their culture is my main interest and hopefully yours too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Group Tour or Private Tour Meals

Do I take a Group Tour or Private Tour in China? Both have their pluses and minuses. Above you see my wife and I having lunch while on the Silk Road. When it comes to food, group Tours are everyone is served the same food and usually prepared in advance. Many today are Buffet meals not often kept hot or have been on steam tables for some time. To serve large groups it must be done this way unfortunately. For Private tours, you can advise the guides what you do not like or can not eat and adjustments are made. Private tours usually are sit down and eat meals with the food prepared just for you. If you have food allergies, are vegetarian or are unable to eat certain foods, those adjustments can be made with a private tour. Breakfasts are all buffet style but many many tables of food and eggs prepared individually for you the way you want them cooked too. Don't expect western food to taste exactly like it does at home. Chinese have different tastes than us and a trip to Kentucky Fried Chicken or Pizza Hut will show you why. Just like our Americanized Chinese food is quite different from Chinese food in China. Tours to China is our business but as you may note, I haven't missed too many meals in China or at home! :-)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Home Workshops in China

In China you will often hear about Home Workshops but tours seldom visit them. It is a great experience to visit home workshops as they are common in China especially in the rural areas or small villages. You find very unique crafts or products being made by families in their homes or small workshops. One I reported on earlier of a family of 8 generations making their famous Black Pottery in their home. What a fantastic find. Above while visiting Kashgar next to the Pakistan boarder area we went into one of the old Muslim neighborhoods and found this lady making her pottery from the local clay. Both pieces are beautiful and her family has always made pottery to sell to the local people as a second income. Jewelry, pottery, woven pieces, cloth, clothing etc. etc. are only a few of the items that you will find in home workshops. They make wonderful gifts and conversation pieces when we bring them home. The smile on her face was genuine and offered us tea and a wonderful visit to her modest home just glad to see foreigners interested in her pottery. She was so proud to hear that the pots we bought would be displayed in our kitchen...where they still are today. Customized private tours can take you to these special places when you are interested. We have been doing Tours to China for over 20 years. Let us do one to your special interests and needs too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chinese Dumplings

Northern China is known for dumplings...and I have eaten quite a few over the years. In Xian, known for Dumplings, there use to be one or two special restaurants that specialized in Traditional Shaanxi Dumplings. The group tours filled these restaurants every night and soon many restaurants were featuring Chinese dumplings trying to get the attention of the tourists that flock to that city each year. I spend a great deal of time in China seeking special places to send my clients that are off the beaten path or just a unique culture experience that not every tourist is able to enjoy. Above you see some dumplings made into animals, like the rabbits, frogs and some lotus flowers. There are many more in a special restaurant that I found in Xian that specializes in Shaanxi local food and of course wonderful dumplings with a wide variety of fillings including pork, shrimp, vegetables and many more. Finding special restaurants, sites and unique experiences is what I do. I hope I may do a tour for you one day and share these special places in China for you too. Tours to China is my business, but the Chinese Culture is my passion for over 25 years.  Click on the photos for full screen viewing!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Visiting Schools in China

Many people ask to visit schools in China AFTER they arrive in China. This is usually not quite possible unless it is arranged in advance and then is also a bit difficult. So many tourists would disrupt classes of course. When arranged in advance it is both educational for the students and interesting for the visitors. Above you see my friend Mr. Li, a guide and myself having lunch at Mr. Li's dairy farm located in the countryside near Xian. He wanted to show me the new school in the village where he was born as it is newly built and a far cry from the little one room school that he attended as a child. He pre-arranged my visit and you can see that the kids were all very happy to have a foreign visitor come to their new school.
Another place to visit when you have children with you or are just interested in what Chinese children do is the Children's Palace. These are schools where they teach classes in art, music, computer, dance, calligraphy and many other classes. There is also a sports school in Beijing that you can also visit and participate in some sports with the children. Both of these must have prior permits to visit but may be done through your tour operator when planning your tour. Tours to China is our business but bringing the culture to you is our passion.  Check out my web site at