As a Tour Operator to China since 1992, I travel each year to China checking new places to visit, inspecting hotels and restaurants as well as looking at new places and sites for my clients. I have been to Tibet a few years ago but with all the changes going on, I must go to Tibet more often. The new train to Lhasa is only one of the many changes. I took that train down the mountains to Chongqing where I boarded a new boat of the Century Line to sail the Yangtze River for the 7th time. Lhasa has changed a lot with new hotels, parks and growth. How it has affected the people and the city will be interesting to note. I try to experience everything when I am working in China so that I can recommend places for my clients to visit that aren’t always on the normal touristy list and are interesting to their particular interests. Part of every good tour is viewing the culture either in their homes or in their places of gathering. One needs to see the Potala Palace of course which is only open during the morning hours and there is a limit of so many people per day controlled by the number of tickets available. I also like visiting people in their homes which reveals much about their culture and the opportunity to visit with them through a guide who speaks the language. Tours to China is my business but the culture is my passion.
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As a tour operator to China for 20 years, I get many comments from clients that say, “NO FACTORY STORES”. Unfortunately they get a bad rap and sometimes well deserved. However there are many excellent ones where you can see talented handicraft workers too. As a Tour Operator who has personally travelled China myself for 21 years, I have seen the worst and the best. Group Tour guides and some private tour guides go a bit overboard to take you shopping where they get commissions from the stores or the Travel Service may require them to take you to some stores where they get kick backs. As a Custom Private Tour Operator, I do not allow this. I do however often recommend and put in my tours Workshops that are honest and worth seeing. Just to name a few is the Cloisonne Workshop in Beijing, Rug workshops in Shanghai and other cities where they actually make them, Jade Carving workshop in Xian, Silk Factory in Suzhou and many others. Rugs are freehand made from a pattern on a piece of paper so no two are exactly alike. The woman above is painting a divider with gold leaf and enamel paint by free hand and no pattern other than a photo. You should visit some of these workshops where you can actually see things being made rather than just a retail store selling over priced goods. You do not have to buy of course but enjoy seeing the processes.
Amongst the more interesting natural formations in China is what is called the STONE FOREST which are really grey limestone pillars. Pictured above it is located about 2.5 hours by car south east of Kunming in southern China. It can be seen in one day having a guide and car with driver go there in the morning and have lunch. You can walk around through the stone formations although it covers many square miles as you can see in the above photo. From a distance it looks like a great metropolis. Near by are the Sani branch of the Yi people who have grown tobacco for many years but have given in to the commercialism of the Stone Forest. My personal opinion is that it is over rated as a site not worth a full days journey; however clients interested in rock formations find it very interesting and worthwhile. China Tours custom designed for our client’s own interests is our business for over 25 years. Whether your interests are Culture, Yangtze Cruise, sightseeing, hiking, cooking, food, shows, antiques, shopping or whatever, we can put a tour together just for your personal interests. Check us out at www.interlakechinatours.com
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Most clients who come to me to do their tours are interested in the rich culture of China. One of the best ways I know of experiencing any culture is face to face talking to the local people especially in their homes. I encourage my clients to have home visits. These are not set up situations at all as most people might believe. Chinese people are extremely hospitable especially in the countryside and small villages. Often it is the custom to open your home to strangers on request and offer them a cup of tea. They are as much interested in you and where you come from as you are in them. Your guide serves as the go between in conversation as they may continue doing their household chores while talking to them. It is a great way to learn about each culture as there are 57 different minority peoples besides the Han Chinese. Above the elderly lady is Mosuo woman at Lugu Lake. The young man is in a Tibetan home in the mountains of Sichuan province where 1/3rd of all Tibetans live. The three woman are Dai minority people living in Xishuangbanna. In 25 years I have been in several hundred private homes all over the country and have learned so much directly from the people first hand that can’t be found in books. The more I learn the more I realize I have yet to learn.
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