One thing I love about China is that if you do not see exactly what you are looking for; you can have it made your way just like at Burger King! I had been looking for a one strap over the shoulder day bag as I call them. Handy to carry water, cameras and day needs Checking out many places during my last trip in China I was in LiJiang walking the back streets nosing around as I usually do looking for unusual places for my clients. I found a one strap bag in this small shop. I didn’t like the way it was designed and I noticed they were making other purses, bags etc. in their booth. So I asked them if they could change a few things and make one for me the way I would like it. I selected the leather, buckles and details that I wanted. They quoted 220 yuan which is $32 which I didn’t even bargain with and they would have it ready in 6 hours. Double thickness leather and lined with zipper pockets both inside and one outside for my cell phone. I had a choice from 10 colors of leather and strong buckles and nylon zippers. Many small booths in China you will see sewing machines and products being made by hand including shoes. Custom made and at reasonable prices. For more information check out my web site. www.interlakechinatours.com
Here is an example of a new Chinese style hotel located in LiJiang. There aren’t a lot of this new style hotels but more are being built in the tourist areas now as the demand for them is greater. Small Chinese style family hotels are available as you see in my next story below but the cost is high because there are few rooms and few with modern facilities. Many have Chinese style facilities if you are up for that but the cost is often as much as a nice 3 or 4 star hotel. LiJiang in Yunnan province which happens to be my favorite town in the mountains has more of these hotels than any place in China. I stay at this one often as it is in the quiet end of Old Town but within 20 mintues walking of the center of the Old Part and 30 mintues from the main entrance to Old Town with narrow streets and no cars allowed. The Wang Fu hotel shown here is only two years old and very comfortable having internet access and a full western and Chiense breakfast. Each evening in front of the hotel for about an hour they have local dancing around a Bon Fire with locals participating. I spend about 4 weeks each year going from city to city inspecting hotels and checking sites and have been doing this for 16 years all over China collecting on site information so that I can plan custom private tours for my clients with up to date information. I have worked with my same Chinese associate partners for many years and always have timely and interesting new out of the way places to visit. See my web site at www.interlakechinatours.com
One request I often get is that my clients would like a small family inn in the traditional Chinese style. They want clean, western style facilities but typcial Chinese style. They do exist and above is one of them in LiJiang called the Qian Li Hou Dan. The type of Inns clients want are in tourist towns or villages however and seldom in common Chinese cities or remote towns. The cost of this one runs about $350 to $500 per night. Far from the $25 a night people are looking for. Backpacker type hotels are plentiful and usually run about $15 to $25 per person per night in dormitories. Private rooms usually cost about $35 to $55 per night. Shared bathrooms and usually no breakfast included. There are other better family run hotels however the cost usually starts at about $65 to $200 per night per room. A blog that I will write next will be on larger Chinese style hotels being built with all modern facilities and usually cost around $100 to $165 per night depending on the city and area. Again the majority of these are in the tourist areas rather than in the countryside and small villages where it is more difficult to find such hotels. Rural area hotels are usually very plain and basic with Chinese style bathrooms and Chinese only breakfasts. 3 star or better hotels are usually the order of the day for western tourists. Anything lower other than backpackers hotels often lack facilities and good conditions.
In Xian one of the standard tour sites has always been the Big Wild Goose Pagoda; but with limited time I have found many other sites as well. This last trip I mentioned this to the guide and she said that there is a new park there now so of course I had to see it. It is a wonderful park with trees and these wonderful bronze pieces through out the park. This one is a man getting a haircut. Of course with my Buzz cut I didn’t really fit in. But if the wonderful park is not enough, there is a Dancing Waters section of the park that is the size of a football field complete with music that one just has to see. The Chinese never fail to amaze me coming up with many new things year after year. If you ever are planning to go to China you need to do a lot of reading and keep checking my blog. Tour Operators who take people to the same old sites year after year need to be up on all the new sites. This is just one that I discovered this trip as I spend a month each year looking at new areas to send my clients as well as keeping up on the rest of the country too. It is a job; but I love it. After 25 years of travel and 50+ trips I never tire of the many adventures I experience.
Check out my web site for some packaged tours that I have designed myself. www.interlakechinatours.com
As a part of my business I inspect and try restaurants in most tourist cities so that I can recommend them to my clients as a China Only Tour Operator. In my favorite small city in the mountains of Yunnan province, LiJiang, I continue to go back and eat at LAMU’S House of Tibet. Both good Chinese and western food but don’t expect gormet western food in any restaurant in China. In 25 years I have not found that restaurant yet. Meat Lover’s Pizza is my favorite at Lamu’s and I had it twice this last trip even talking my guide friend Jack Zhao into trying it. After a long day of checking small local hotel locations, we enjoyed some good beer with our pizzas. Lamu’s has a upstairs area which is very comfortable as you can see as well as a new balcony outside overlooking the pedestrians only street below. Old Town as it is known in LiJiang has no cars allowed in the narrow streets wtih winding streams of water flowing through the town and over 350 bridges leading to quaint, funky and deluxe restaurants…..but I still love Lamu’s for the food, comfortable seating and they never rush you to move on once you are served. Free internet upstairs, library and oh so comfortable furniture after a long day of site seeing. Sign up here on my blog to automatically have sent to you all my latest blog writings each time I write one telling stories of my latest adventures and tips on visiting China. .
Jade and Pearls have both escaped an understanding by most people. I learned more about Jade this trip to China than ever before. Above is a Jade piece that I should have bought if it weren’t the price of $17,500. What makes the cost so high? When you go to Xian check out the Jade and Jadite pieces at either the Hua Hui Arts and Crafts or Yu Hua Arts and Crafts centers. Mr. John King shown above is a Lecturer on Jade and extremely knowledgeable. I learned that the hardness and color of Jade determines the value. Yes, color of Jade we think of as green but there are many shades of green as well as white, lavender, pink and others. Some Jade is found in streams and can be translucent while other Jade is found in the mountains in veines like gold. Each has its own properties and colors. The piece above is light green with streaks of lavender in the background. Artists are given stones and they do the carving with diamond tipped tools to carve what they see in a stone. The better the stone and artist the higher the value of course. There are many places in China to see Jade carvings but the two mentioned above places I visit the most. My appreciation for good art is always satisfied in China but beware the imitations at low prices. I love my Jade ring set in 18 ct. gold and get many compliments on it. The cost has gone up 10 times since I bought it back in the early 1990’s because good jade finds are less and less these days. Click on the photos for full screen views.
I just returned from China Oct. 20th after visiting the earthquake area in Sichuan province. One needs to see it to really understand what happened. Imagine a 100 mile long area by 30 miles wide being fully destroyed by the earthquake. I was allowed to go to one city at the southern end of the earthquake called Dujiang Yan City. Part of the city was unaffected but the rest is as you see above. 11,000 + people were killed, 20,000+ injured and 279 people still unaccounted for. 30,000 15′ X 15′ emty rooms have been erected for the survivors from several cities. No facilities in them. 15 rooms share one room for cooking and 50 rooms share a group bathroom with no showers available. One woman was walking down the street. She told us she had just stepped out of her house onto the street when it struck and that her whole house fell down and killed the rest of her family. She does not know what to do and just keeps walking around in disbelief as she has no family left. Most have jobs in other cities now but it will be years before they will have normal living conditions again. Meanwhile all along the road are tents made from blue tarps in which farmers are living in order to be closer to their land and to make some kind of living. Keep watching my blog for more stories from my recent trips. Check out my web site at www.interlakechinatours.com .
While in France on vacation I met a couple who had been to China on a “Bargain” Tour this past year. They complained about the number of people on the tour, poor food, wasting time waiting for people who were late, poor hotel locations, noisy restaurants, crowded buses and other complaints. They went all the way to China and had a bad experience in which should have been the trip of a life time. Bargain tours are no bargain. One couple told me they were going to stay at the Beijing Hotel on their bargain tour. After we checked closely it was listed as “a” Beijing Hotel which turned out to be way out in the suburbs and a 3 star very old hotel. One needs to check bargain tours very closely. Ask the tour company for references. If they can not furnish them, do not book the tour. Past customers surely will tell you the truth. Group tours should not be over 16 people. If it includes a Yangtze River cruise, ask which Line they use as there are many very poor ones as well as excellent ones. Then check it on the internet. Private customized tours to your interests do not cost that much more and are far more enjoyable. You might as well see what you are interested in and how you want to tour as well. Private tours with your own guide and own private transportation with meals in non-group restaurants and non-group hotels are much more quiet and enjoyable. For more information check our web site. wwww.interlakechinatours.com