Hiking & Climbing at Mt. Hua

As a Tour Operator to China only, people often ask me about walking, hiking and climbing in China. Chinese people hardly ever go hiking as we know it but do go for walks and some might call it hiking or climbing as well. One of those areas is Mt. Hua outside of Xian about 2 hours by car. It is one of the four famous mountains in China but easy to get to and a great thrill to hike, walk or climb whatever you want to call it. My wife and I were there this year. You take a cable car up onto the mountain and from there either hike or walk up stairs built into the face of the cliffs and peaks to little tea houses, restaurants and picnic areas all along the peaks. For those who want a real thrill adventure, google Huashan and see the trail on the other side of the tallest peak leading to the very high Tea House. I have traveled through China over 50+ times for the past 25 years seeing everything there is to see and do in order to plan trips for my clients to their interests. You might check out my web site at www.interlakechinatours.com and have me plan a tour to china just for you. Click on the photos for full screen viewing.

Jiuzhaigou National Park

The most beautiful National Park in China has to be Juizhaigou in north Sichuan Province. I was there 16 years ago when it took 12 hours by car over rough narrow roads and only a hand full of hotels were there. Today there is a full service airport with many flights per day from Chengdu to this fabulous remote National Park. Blue Turquoise ponds and streams with many fantastic waterfalls all with wooden walk ways through out the very large park. The Eco friendly green buses carry you through out the park with many stops to get on or off the bus or you can walk on wooden stairs and walk ways. This area only was open to the outside world in 1975 and allows only 5000 people per day into the park. Many first class hotels and facilities are now available including a 5 star Sheraton Hotel close to the entrance of the park. It is the most pristine park I have ever been in and the whole day I did not see one scrap of paper anywhere. Tours to China is my business and we can fit a park visit into any itinerary for private individual tours or Custom Group tours to your interests and needs. Click on the photos for full screen viewing!

Pottery Find in Remote Village

On our way from Shangrila to LiJiang, our driver knew of a family that made pottery that he thought we might be interested in. They live in a small remote village that was very difficult to find. Eight generations of this family have been making pottery for centuries the same way. Above the father and son were working in a room with only light from a single window. Another son was working in another room. Two grandsons were blending clay in the basement. The remarkable part is that they do not use a spinning wheel but turn a wooden platform around by hand while forming the clay with the other hand. I asked why they didn’t use an electric or foot operated wheel. They replied that it has been made the same way for centuries that way so they do not change. The samples above are blackened with a by product of the process and is the only color they use. They only sell it out of their home to the surrounding villages and often have standing orders. We of course bought some pieces and brought them home with us more for decoration than to use. During my 50+ trips of travel throughout China looking for new places to send my clients, I often find very unique places like this to experience the cultures in China. Tours to China is my business and I hope I can do a tour for you too. Check us out on our web site at www.interlakechinatours.com  Click on the photos for full Screen!

Dunhuang on the Silk Road

Another place which is a must visit on the Silk Road is the city of Dunhuang. A very small town in the desert but that is where the famous Mogao Buddhist Caves are located. More than 700 caves of very well preserved frescos, and art are kept behind doors leading to the caves. You must go with a local guide who takes you into the caves and explains the details taking about 2.5 hours. It is recognized as the best preserved caves and art in all of China. No photos are allowed but there is a wonderful book store on the site. There is a new railroad station now and takes about 12 hours from Turpan overnight on a sleeper. I prefer to drive back to Urumqi for a good night’s sleep and fly to Dunhuang the next morning arriving about the same time the train does. There are good hotels in the city but the 4 star Dunhuang Shan Zhuang hotel on the edge of the city overlooking the great Sand Dunes is in the desert traditional style. There is a wonderful stage show in the evening at the city theater called the Dunhuang Goddess shown above. It is not included in Group Tours but you can usually get tickets for the evening performance on your own or on our private tours, we generally schedule it for our clients. Check our web site for 2010 as we have many new package tours this year that can give you ideas about planning a private tour of your own. Quality Tours to China is our business since 1992

Shangrila – Tibetan Culture Visited

Many people try to squeeze too much into their Tours to China including Tibet. For those who want to visit some convenient Tibetan culture there is Shangrila conveniently located near Kunming and LiJiang. I hadn’t been there for a few years so this trip included it in my trip and was very surprised to see that it had expanded greatly. Once a quiet little village it now has 5 star hotels and a modern town next to their Old Town. Above you can see that each night in the City Square is a dance and time for socializing with the locals. At 10,000 feet it has the feel of Lhasa complete with a nearby Monastery that has greatly expanded also since I had been there last. It is just a short flight away from Kunming and there is a fantastic road excursion to LiJiang through the mountains and overlooking the upper Yangtze River. Stopping along the way you can visit remote villages and even the new rare Golden Monkey Preserve that just opened this year. If you do not have the time to visit Lhasa, then Shangrila is a great place to visit some Tibetan culture. Tours to China is my business and we can create a special itinerary just for you. Visit us at www.interlakechinatours.com and look over our packaged tours too. Click on the photos for full screen!

Belzik Caves at Turpan

Another site at Turpan which escaped the Mongols invasion are the Belzik Caves a short way from Turpan up a remote valley. It is difficult to take photos of the caves which were dug into the side of the cliffs. Caves are fairly well preserved and have doors on each cave to keep the remains clean and safe. An explorer, Stein, a British citizen in the early 1900’s with 300 camels removed many of the murals, Buddhist statues and art from these caves and are now in museums in Europe today. Much remains to be seen yet including the Buddhist Monks residences along the river below the cliffs. The above photos were taken from the cave entrances of the river and cliffs across from the caves.

Turpan’s Grape Valley

Another great site at Turpan, second lowest place on earth in the desert is Grape Valley. This area is known for the sweetest grapes and melons in China. The locals make raisins from the grapes in drying rooms above their homes. In this dry climate it only takes about one month for the grapes to dry into raisins which are shipped all over China. The grapes are grown on arbors about 7 feet off the ground so they may be harvested from below during the hot weather. Although Muslims do not drink wine, there is a winery located in Grape Valley and I bring a bottle home with me with each visit. The Hami melons named after the city of Hami are the sweetest melons I have ever had and very inexpensive when bought from the growers along the road. We visited a local family and had lunch at their home. I usually include lunch at a local Muslim home as the food and culture experience are one to enjoy and learn first hand about the Turpan history and area. Check my web site for two new tours of the Silk Road that I added for next year. www.interlakechinatours.com

Turpan on the Silk Road

Turpan is a 3 hour drive east of Urumqi and the second lowest place on earth below sea level. I find it one of the most interesting places with so many historical sights. Here I want to tell you about the two ancient cities outside of Turpan that are in ruins after being invaded by the Mongols in the 13th century. Jiaohe in the top photo was a well fortified city with a King on top of a plateau. The other is Gochang both which can be visited in one day. In the desert both cities had large populations ruled by Kings and were very important to the trade routes of the Silk Road. You can visit these ruins and walk down their streets and visit some of the old buildings some of which are still in good condition. I was there late in the day and we had the ruins almost totally to ourselves for great photography. Jiaohe you can walk up a path through the city but Gochang is a bit further out and you can either walk or take a donkey cart out and back which gives some income to the local people besides having a ride if it is a hot day. The Silk Road is best seen in September for best weather and cooler temperatures. October starts to get cold in the higher elevations.

Learning About Muslims and Ughurs in Kashgar

When in Kashgar on the boarder of Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is a great time to learn about the Ughurs and the Muslim religion. Our friend, Ekbar pictured above is an excellent guide and source of great information since he is Ughur and has lived in Kashgar all his life. Although most known for the Saturday/Sunday market at the Bazaar; Kashgar has many Mosques since it is populated mostly by Muslims. As I wrote earlier it is common to walk into a strange home when both doors are open to visit with the family even though you are a stranger to them. Note above Ekbar and my wife and I just walked in and Ekbar picked up one of the musical instruments and started playing to the delight of the family. Note the colorful rugs in the living space as well as the highly decorated walls. The family eats and sleeps in this room. Unfortunately group tours are not able to do home visits but perhaps you will be able to find some free time to visit the Ughur Old sections of the city on your own. Private tours for two to six people are better able to do home visits and I do provide this service for my clients who are interested in learning more about the local cultures in all areas of the country. I have introduced some new tours along the Silk Road this past year so check my web site at . www.interlakechinatours.com   Click on the photos for full screen viewing.

Kashgar Saturday/Sunday Markets

When going on the Silk Road everyone wants to be sure to be in Kashgar on Saturday and or Sunday usually. Actually the Grand Bazaar is open all week long but on weekends expands into one more building with more of the same goods that are available all week long. The only difference is that the Sunday Animal market is only held on Sunday. Pictured above are a few views of the market but it is extremely large and photos do not do it justice. You will find everything under the sun and at bargain prices. I love the hand made inlaid knives and buy a few each time I am in Kashgar. My wife buys the hand made embroideries. We even bought a Ughur silk rug this trip folded up and I carried it home in my back pack. If shopping is your thing you will enjoy the Bazaar as well as the wonderful Ughur food which I have become fond of and crave when I am on the Silk Road. I have added two more tours as extensions from Kashgar and Urumqi along and around the Takamankan desert to the ancient town of Hotan which actually has markets as famous as Kashgar but not as convenient being on the southwest part of the desert. Both new extension tours are now available as packages however we do custom private tours to any place you wish to visit. Check out our web site at www.interlakechinatours.com  Click on the photos for full screen viewing.