China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

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