Food is Culture in China

As a Tour Operator to China, I am often asked about the food. Food is a major part of Chinese culture as a sign of hospitality. If you clean up your plate your host will think you did not have enough and loses face. You should always leave a little food on your plate. It goes against our grain I know but it does not go to waste as the farm animals will get it. One funny story to tell. I was in the remote mountains and we were having breakfast and normally it is boiled eggs. My Chinese friend knows I prefer fried eggs, so he had the cook make some fried eggs. He brought out 3 fried eggs on a plate and we were so involved with our conversation, I ate all 3 eggs. The cook had a frown on his face when we left and I knew I had screwed up and caused him to lose face. The next morning at breakfast I could hear him singing away in the kitchen as happy as he could be. A few minutes later, he came out with a platter of 12 fried eggs and placed them on our table. He smiled from ear to ear as to say, is this enough? I could only give him a thumbs up and thank him and of course I only ate a few of the eggs. He smiled and waved goodbye when we left. I always appreciate the thoughtfulness of the Chinese people and even more the differences in our cultures. Tours to China is my business; the Love of China is my passion. I hope you can enjoy it as much as I do.


Earlier I wrote about the ART HOTEL which is one of the most unusual hotels in the world. The 300 acre complex with two hotels and the owners mansion is devoted to modern art and in particular Sculpture like the one above that had just been finished. The grounds has many large pieces in a natural setting and the museum is devoted to smaller pieces. The hotels themselves have rooms with no two alike and are decorated in modern art through out the hotels as well. There is one large building used by artists from around the world to work on their pieces which are often shipped to other parts of China or exported to other countries. I doubt that there is another place like this anywhere in the world. The luxury hotels have wonderful meals too. It is located in the countryside near Guilin and seldom crowded. As a Tour Operator to China I often have my clients stop here for lunch and a tour of the facilities or if they have a real zest for the unusual to stay overnight and experience the whole complex which can include dinner in a cave on the grounds or dinner in the middle of a meadow with water buffalo and fantastic scenery. I told you it was unusual. Check my web site at if you would like me to plan a tour just for you.

Culture Shows in China

There are many shows in China with some of them being excellent and some of them being very poor. Over 25 years I have seen most of them and always try to see the new ones when I am working in China each year. When in LiJiang the Naxi people have several shows. The best one I think is at the Dongba Palace. Group Tours often take you to a less expensive show but if you have a free evening you may want to go to the Dongba Palace Show which includes Dance as well as the Naxi Orchestra which they are best known all over the world. Above are photos from that show. In Xian there is the Tang Dynasty Show and again there are several shows but the best one is the Tang Le Gong Dinner Show which is a bit more expensive but my over 2500 clients judge it as excellent. In Shanghai one needs to go to the famous Shanghai Acrobats Show and again there are three of them but all are excellent. In Beijing I have enjoyed “The Legend of Kungfu” which is a colorful story of Kungfu rather than just an exhibition of kungfu. Many ask about the Peking Opera however the performances are very poor probably due to the fact that the Chinese themselves do not support it. It is mainly put on for the tourists and is in a hotel auditorium with little or no scenery with few actors. The best Peking Opera is the traveling troupe that goes from country to country. Tours to China is my business for 20+ years. Check my web site for more information.

English Signs in China

As a Tour Operator to China on the internet for the past 25 years, I am asked many questions about travel in China. Ones of the questions is, “Are there signs in English”. The answer is yes, as English is the second language in China being taught from the 3rd grade on. Also English has become the international language in many countries and China is no exception. Signs in sites, on the street, airports and hotels are often in Chinese and English. In restaurants in most cities you will find English/Chinese menus even though perhaps the waiter or waitress may not speak perfect English. Most restaurants however do have some personnel that do speak English to assist you. With that said, there are some great translations also in English that can be comical and you will enjoy them like solving a puzzle. Above is a sign “Be Careful of Landslide” Actually what is meant is that the “floor is slippery” as this sign I took a photo of was on the bathroom wall in my hotel room. This hotel was in the remote mountains far from the large cities. There are many others as well. When in hotels, there is a book in the desk which often has the rules of the hotel. I never have found out why one rule is “Do Not Bring Radio Active Materials into the Room” Or Do Not Eat Watermelon in the Room. It is just part of enjoying the culture and translated mistakes. They grin and smile when we call it a “Bathroom” The British of course call it the “Water Closet” and The Chinese simply call it the “Toilet”. Enjoy the differences!  Doing Tours to China for over 25 Years!  


After 25 years of travel throughout China one develops many friends. Here is the Shi family that I have known for 20 years. Unfortunately Dad died last year but I want to show him as a memory to his life. He could neither hear or speak but he always showed great heart and hospitality. Mrs. Shi runs this small shop 7 days a week and 14 hours each day. Grandma helps out now that she has moved into the home which is in back of the shop which is open to the street. Mao Ting Shi or Sherry as we have named her, I have known since she was only 3 years old. I and my wife when she is with me go back to see them almost every year. The village which is called in English, Yellow Dragon Creek Village, is located not far from Chengdu in Sichuan province. It is a UNESCO village and is kept exactly the way it was built over 200 years ago. A great place to visit with many restaurants and tea houses on a river. Sherry emails or writes us during the year so we know what is happening in their lives. Having friends in China and keeping up the connections is really rewarding and interesting. Hopefully you will have an opportunity to visit China yourselves and experience the real China and the hearts of the people. As a China Travel Agent and Tour Operator for the past 25 years we are very experienced in doing private and customized tours to China. Check our web site at

Mansions of China

Prior to the revolution in 1949, there were Land Owners with large Mansions similar to the system in Europe that produced wonderful castles. Many of the mansions have become museums now or stand empty being used sometimes for movie sets. Most of these mansions are in remote areas of the countryside; however there are a few in cities like the Gao Family Mansion shown above. This mansion is in Xian and is over 400 years old. You can tour it when you go through the Old Muslim Quarters as the entrance is right on the main street shown above. There is a Shadow show and and Marionette Show too. This is a small mansion but there are many more much larger ones in other parts of the country. There are two near Taiyuan with over 200 rooms each. Outside of Chengdu is one of the better ones often used for movies since all the furniture was left when the Land Owners tried to escape leaving everything behind including their 1940’s American made automobile. I have traveled through China for 25 years checking out everything in order to be able to provide the best tours for my clients who want to visit China but not just typical basic site tours.
Keep reading my Tips on Travel to China blog and as a China Tour Operator, you will want to check my web site as well. China Tours is all we do since 1993. Custom and Private Tours to China is our specialty.  Click on the photos for full screen viewing.

Chinese Food

As a China Tour Operator I often get questions concerning Chinese food. Unlike our Americanized Chinese food in the U.S. food in China is much different and such a variety you will not believe. Unfortunately if you are on a Group Tour with all or most meals included you may not have the opportunity to sample some of the great dishes. Group Tours must take tour members to restaurants that cater to groups and the food is a bit westernized and pre cooked to serve large groups. There is also a budget to consider as well. Private tours for 2 people are a bit better because you can go to any restaurant and we stay away from group restaurants which tend to be noisy and very busy. There is still a budget but at least your guide can find out what you can not eat or do not like. Breakfasts at the hotels are very large western and Asian food and lunches in China are as big as dinners…see the photo of a normal lunch above. I highly recommend that when you are in China that you go out on your own for dinner now and then with the guides suggestions on where to eat and then order on your own. It is easy as the menus are in English and Chinese. I supply a list of excellent restaurants to my clients for the larger cities however your guide will be your best source of information. One example for a light lunch in Beijing is the Beijing Old Noodle King for a fun lunch with the locals. For more information see my web site at


One of the interesting places to visit in China especially during the winter months is Xishuangbanna which is an area in south Yunnan province just over the boarder from Burma and Laos and north of Thailand. It is semi tropcial with fresh fruits and vegetables surrounded by low growing jungle trees and plants. It has the only airport in south Yunnan province located at the city of Jinghong. Prior to the revolution in 1949, this area was used to study tropical plants and shrubs. There is also a large assortment of palm trees here that were being studied. These areas are now Botanical parks that are well kept and worth visiting. Few tourists go here so it is a great place to visit without hords of western tourists. There are many minority peoples with colorful clothes and cultural practices that you may visit in their villages. There is also the wild elephant preserve, rubber plantations, as well as countless fruit growing farms amongst the hills. Outdoor restaurants in the countryside have wonderful food and you will visit large markets and probably be the only western people there. In the parks, I get a massage for about $2 for an hour as well as having local tea or beer. The slow pace and colorful clothes of the many different tribes of people make this a great place to visit for 2 or 3 days. Check my web site at We do customized private tours to China and Tibet only. Over 25 years experience in doing tours.  Click on the photos for full screen viewing!

Shopping in China

Many clients ask me about shopping in China and hear about tours that make you stop and shop. If your group tour was inexpensive it probably requires 2 to 3 shopping stops each day. Tour Operators get kick backs for having their tours stop at retail outlets. Quality Tours ask you about shopping. There are Work shops where you can see products made like the Cloisonne Worshops as you see above or simply hand made items in shops that feature artists. There are markets that feature over runs, slightly irregulars or “knock offs” that are fun to shop and have great bargains too. Or there are department stores that feature quality goods and real antiques. It depends on what you are looking for. I usually include one or two Work shops in my customized private tours if the client wishes. I even put in some of the Markets that I call Bargain shopping like the Rainbow or Silk markets in Beijing. You will see hand made products being made in craft shops or art gallaries. Earlier I wrote about a Day Pack that I had made to my own specifications made from leather. I chose the leather and color and drew out on paper the design for an over the shoulder bag. Cost was less than $20 and was ready in 4 hours. For more ideas or questions on shopping in China, check my web site or contact me directly. We do Tours to China only.