Kashgar….on the Silk Road

I will be writing about my 50th trip to China this coming week having just returned home after 30 days. We covered the Silk Road, Shangrila, LiJiang, Jiuzhaigou National Park, the Yangtze River cruise, Beijing and Shanghai this trip. Kashgar is known for the Saturday and Sunday Market however the markets are open all week now but one additional building is open on weekends. Just more of the same huge variety of goods and products. The Sunday Animal Market is still held too. Most tours do not include the Old Ughur sections of Kashgar of which there are five. Above pictured is one large settlement near the center of the city. As old as 500 years it is a maze of crudely built homes and apartments attached to each other with narrow walk ways throughout the huge complex. Pictured above is Ekbar our local guide who is Ughur and had a splendid description of the history and culture of the Ughur people. Many hand crafted products are made in homes. It is very common to walk into a Ughur home. There are two doors to each home. If the lock is on then no one is home. If the lock is on and open, someone is home but does not want to be disturbed. If the right door only is open. The woman of the house is home and welcomes any female visitor but no men. If both doors are open, then the man and woman of the house are home and you can just walk in and visit them. It was a bit shocking to just walk in with Ekbar and walk around their homes visiting with them for a short while and then politely walk out. It is the hospitality of the Ughur people. Be sure to do that when you visit Kashgar. It is culturally extremely interesting. More about the Silk Road in the next week. My 2010 web site will be up in about 4 weeks.

Chinese Food While Touring China

As a tour operator food is one of the top subjects that I get questions asked. There is of course a difference in food quality not only in China but in any country when you are on a tour. Tour Operators need to be competitive yet most want to offer a quality tour. Hotels and Food are two areas where Operators can save money in order to be competitive. It is my toughest challenge to provide a quality tour and excellent food and still be competitive. Clients sometimes just make decisions based on price only when there is so much more to the cost of a tour. Group tours must be taken to restaurants that provide pre-cooked food or Buffets and the quality of food is often middle of the road as we are use to more bland food in the West. Private tours can choose any restaurant they want but still must adhere to a budget in order to be competitive. Private tours can adjust to your diet requirements or some of your likes and dislikes. You can request to have some dinners on your own where you can order better dishes. This seems to be the best answer rather than providing more expensive meals that make us less competitive. The Lunch in the top photo is lunch for two at a normal cost. The meal shown below is about 40% more in cost. Both include a beverage and soup. For more information on Food in China contact us directly at interlak@eskimo.com

Huashan Sport – Climbing & Hiking

For those people looking for sport climbing or just a remarkable hike in a breath taking area, Huashan is the place to go. Outside of Xian about 2 hours by car to the base and then a cable car ride about 3/4ths of the way up gets you there. There are wooden and stone stairways or if you really want some sport climbing there is the Huashan Sport-Climbing Training Base should you have the time and skill. I was there this fall and realized I was way over my head in ability but loved the thrill of this wonderful granite mountain with fantastic views, small hotels and temples on peaks that reached to the sky. For more information contact us at our web site at www.interlakechinatours.com  Click on the photos for a full screen view.

Buying Antiques in China

Many people ask me about buying antiques in China. Actually over 90% of the ones you see in flea markets are very well made fakes or reproductions. The Government requires antique dealers to have a red seal on them given by the government. Of course many are sold by families and others which do not have the seal on them. Where do you find these? It is difficult sometimes but one place I found is right in Beijing. Li Songtang has been a collector of antiques by going into old buildings and houses being torn down and collecting them on his own recognizing that sometime in the future they will have value. When some of the Hutongs were being torn down to make way for new buildings, he went through the rubble to save some of the time worn pieces for his collection. You can visit his museum and shop at 3 Guozijian Dajie in the Dongcheng district between 08:30 and 6:00 His phone number in Beijing is 6401-8718. I myself have collected some pieces when I saw a temple being torn down that was over 700 years old. They were burning all the wooden pieces and I saved a worm holed monk from the fire and have it in a case in my home. Other carved wooden pieces adorn our walls from homes in LiJiang destroyed by an earthquake in 1996. For more information and places to visit to collect these rare pieces check my web site at www.interlakechinatours.com

What Time is it in Kashgar?

I am back from a month in China and will be writing many stories of one of my best trips ever in the coming weeks. Having been out to the far west in Kashgar and Urumqi in Xinjiang province shortly after arriving in Beijing, I was still having a bit of jet lag. There is only one time zone in China which is as large as the U.S…..except in Kashgar. There is local time and Beijing Time depending on who you ask and what you are doing….and they are two hours apart. Airports, t.v. and bus schedules run on Beijing time but most everything else including businesses, schools, government etc. runs on what they call local time. Offices open up at 10:00 until 1:30 and then from 3:30 to 7:30 five days a week. Stores open at 11:00 until 9:00 at night. Lunch is from 1:30 until 3:30 and dinner is from 7:30 until 9:30 EXCEPT on Friday and Saturdays. Dinner then is usually between 9:30 and 11:00 and most people do not retire until midnight. Breakfast is whenever. So if you are going out on the Silk Road for a tour you may need to make some adjustments to your normal times depending on who you ask, “What time is it”? For someone like me who likes to get up early and is usually in bed by 9:00 p.m. it is quite an adjustment. Looking for a cup of coffee at 6:00 a.m. local time just doesn’t work even though it is 8:00 Beijing time.
Anyway breakfast starts at the hotels around 8:30 for the “early birds”. 🙁