As a tour operator to China for the past 18 years, I am often asked to recommend books to read about China as well as other sources of information. A great DVD that came to my attention is “Wild China” which is a BBC video. There are two discs to the set with 5 hours of beautiful back country and cultural scenery in China. I have been to many of the places and shot photos myself; but this DVD is extremely professional of course having been done by the BBC. It may be purchased from Amazon.com but I am not sure of the cost. It was a gift to me from a friend. We often think of China as large cities and many people but “Wild China” certainly shows you the many beautiful and fantastic back roads of China with few people and great scenery. In 2010 I will be offering some 3 to 5 day Nature tours that may be combined or taken as a single add on tour based on your interests. As examples you might check my web site under packaged Ecological tours which has one long one and two short ones as samples of what we will be offering next year on my web site coming out in late November. We do private custom tours for individuals or groups that come to us with an agenda or would like us to plan a custom itinerary based on their interests and needs. Check us out at www.interlakechinatours.com
There are many festivals in China that are fun and interesting. You can obtain a list from the China National Tourist Office. A Link is on my web site. One festival that I have gone to for a couple years is the Weifang International Kite Festival in Weifang, Shandong province just south east of Beijing. It is held about the 3rd week in April each year and countries from all over the world attend with delegations of kite fliers from each country. Kites were first flown here centuries ago and there is an original “Flying Field” where they were believed to be first used by local people. There is a kite factory there yet which still makes hand made kites which you can buy. I have several here at home mostly of hawks that I tease our local sea gulls here in Seattle. Kites range from small hand held to large ones over 10 feet tall. The largest I have seen was as big as a bus and light cables where hooked to it and pulled up into the air by a jeep. You see the opening ceremony shown above which is like the opening ceremony at the Olympics. They conclude the festival with a giant fireworks display on the last night. If you would like to see this festival, incorporate it into a China Tour but plan on booking at least 6 months in advance in order to get tickets to the Opening Ceremony. My kite that I flew is in the Kite Museum yet today and I was honored by being in the Opening Ceremony parade for all invited Kite Fliers. Weifang is just north of where Confucius lived 2500 years ago and the site of his family cemetery which is the largest single family cemetery in the world.
One of the most popular sights that tourists enjoy seeing is the fisherman fishing with their cormorant birds. This ancient way of fishing is still done today and when you see it you will know why. They catch a great deal of fish and not just little ones, but nice big 3 to 5 lb. ones too. The birds are often tethered by some light string and the fisherman actually orders them into and out of the water. They are his pets and they are fed well One thing interesting is that cormorants do not have oil in their feathers and often have to shake off the water sometimes holding up their wings to dry off. They jump into the water and actually swim down to catch the fish in their wide mouths while their throat has a small band around it in order that they do not swallow the fish. There are a few good places to see them and one easy place is in Guilin when you take the evening boat cruise on the 5 city lakes which are linked together. You get very close to them and can take good photographs. Another is the Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo. I am sure there are other places in China but these are probably the best.
International air travel today often incurs stops to other cities or other countries before arriving in China. There are few non-stops flights; however Hainan Airlines has service Non-Stop from Seattle to Beijing with service returns from Shanghai and Hong Kong if desired. As a Tour Operator to China based in Seattle this is a great service to offer my clients. There are very low add-on fares from most U.S. major cities to Seattle connecting with afternoon departures direct to Beijing. In my blog earlier I wrote about the beautiful non-stop flight up the Canadian coast, the Alaska coast out over the Aleutian islands and across Siberia, down North China and into Beijing. It’s the shortest route to Beijing and less than a 11 hour flight. Flying New Boeing 787 planes the seating is 2-3-2 in coach and pictured above are the Business Class seats that make into a flat-reclining bed. First class seating and Service at a Business Class price with the latest in in-flight entertainment technology. For the best in Quality Private Custom Tours to China combined with Hainan Airlines Service to China, check out my web site at www.interlakechinatours.com Hainan Airlines and Interlake China Tours, Inc. both doing business since 1993. 25 Travel Experience in China to insure you the best Service and Tour.
One of the most beautiful places on earth is Jiuzhaigou Valley in Sichuan province. I was there several years ago when there was only a well worn dirt road very narrow at some points which took two long days of travel. This valley was only discovered in the early 1970’s and inhabited by Tibetans who hunted for a living. It was made a National Reserve Park in 1982 and listed by UNESCO in 1992. The valley is about fifty miles long and very pristine. Just a few years ago they added an air field with many flights in and out each day. The park is shaped like a “wish bone” with restaurant facilities in the middle. One goes up one side of the park by bus in the morning and the other branch in the afternoon by bus which makes many stops for you to get off and on catching another bus later. Fall colors are unbelievable and with over 144 crystal clear and sparkling lakes make it a fairyland of unspoiled beauty along with the emerald clear ponds as you see pictured above. The earthquake of 2007closed the area until recently when another road was opened to use by car and bus. You can fly one way and go by car or bus the other. Zharu Valley nearby is opened this coming year which has been kept pristine and only allows a small number of people to visit it each day. The people living there were only found in 1975 and still practice the Old “Ben” religion which is the worship of nature. For more information contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Of the many books that I have read over the years, I have read a second time only two of them because I enjoyed them so much. One of them is “The Forgotten Kingdom” Among the Nakhis of LiKiang by Peter Gouffart. I purchased the book in LiJiang at the recommendation of my friend who is also a Bai Nationality guide there. The time frame is 1939 when the Russian author lived amongst the Naxi people of LiJiang. I have never read a book with so much clear detail of what life was like at a period of time giving so many insights to historical life in pre-war China before the communist government came to power. LiJiang is on the border of Tibet in the mountains above Kunming in southern China. LiJiang today is one of my favorite small cities in China although becoming a tourist mecca, much of the historical and old China remain in tact. I am not sure if copies of the book can be obtained in the U.S. or not. Another book available here is “Life and Death in Shanghai” which is about the Red Guards in Shanghai written by a woman who lived through that period. For humorous reading, “Coming Home Crazy” is another book written during the 1980’s in China some of which I experienced myself before the great Leap Forward of the 1990’s. Tours to China is my business; but Chinese history and culture is my passion. Read this fall about my 54th trip to China covering the Western part of the Silk Road and Sichuan province around Chengdu.