China is a fiery dragon at the forefront of everything that moves the world these days, and tourism stands at the center of its vision. As visitor numbers, both inbound and outbound, show no sign of slowing, one tour company in particular is making sure that those who want to see and experience the real China have all the support they need.
WildChina was established in 2000 by Yunnan native and Harvard Business School grad Mei Zhang who believes that visitors to China seek truly authentic travel experiences. She set out to broaden travel to China well beyond the Great Wall, and WildChina has since crafted rare and immersive itineraries that are usually missed by most mass tourism excursions.
WildChina presents the real China beyond the “Golden Route” of Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, the river city of Guilin and the over-crowded Yangtze river cruise that most first time visitors to China book. This one-of-a-kind travel company allows clients to be immersed in explorations into regional foods, experiences of unusual subcultures, once-in-a-lifetime adventures and historical discoveries. Moments like these can only happen off the beaten path with a knowing guide.
A visitor to the WildChina website will find tours of Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macao. Even Chongqing and Guilin are featured. But the visitor will also find places like Urumqi and Kashgar, Kailash, Lhasa, and Everest Base Camp on the map. In a country roughly as large as the U.S. containing one fifth of the world’s population, with 56 identified ethnic cultures amid 23 provinces, there is, in fact, no one experience of China that you can bottle up and sell. There are many versions of China and a vast variety of hidden wonders beyond the borders that separate the regions.
The traditions, histories, and regional characters of the various destinations in China are explorable under the care of the right company. With WildChina, visitors can peek into the past and immerse themselves in China’s 5,000 years of rich history. Modern developments inform the present and future of a country that only recently opened its borders.
WildChina offers clients plenty of choices: Where do they want to go in China? How do they want to travel? Where do they want to stay? What do they want to learn? What do they want not to miss?
The variety of choices means travelers can travel privately, just their small party, a guide, and a driver, or they can travel in a larger group of like-minded tourists. These people can be strangers or members of a group brought together for a unique experience. They can choose luxury stays or they can be adventurers heading to remote camps in places that need special permits and guides to visit. “It’s a matching process,” Zhang has noted in published reports. This can only be done by an experienced, high-end travel company with plenty of deep knowledge of its destinations, strong relationships on the ground and a dedicated staff who pulls it all off without a hitch.
WildChina, a Virtuoso member, has offices in Beijing, Texas, Washington D.C., and Europe. They offer a variety of themed destination experiences to whet any inquiring travelers or agents’ appetite for adventure. The company’s uncommon, curated journeys include retracing the trade routes on the Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road from Yunnan to Tibet, hiking through bamboo forests to observe giant panda habitats, wandering through the spicy kitchens of Yunnan, and trekking through sun-dappled meadows in Tibet to remote nomadic villages. Guests visit Hakka homes, ancient Buddhist strongholds, and vanishing urban hutongs. They can even explore Jewish quarters in Kaifeng, Tianjin, Shanghai and Harbin where refugees were given shelter in the tumultuous years between the two world wars.
A journey finder on the WildChina website divides tours into navigable choices. Does a travel want to explore with a small group, in a larger group (WildChina’s small group size caps at 12), or in a private car? Does a client want to go to China or to countries beyond China, such as Bhutan, Myanmar or Laos? If it is China they seek, would that be the Silk Road, the Tibetan Plateau, the panda country or the mountain kingdoms? Other choices include China’s southern region and great river valleys. Then they can choose destinations based on interests. Does a client want adventure or immersion into art and architecture? Are they a first-timer to China? Do they want to learn about the food,the history, or the nature and wildlife?
Options might lead to a camel trekking expedition along the routes of Marco Polo or a trek to a tiger habitat in southern China with some days spent helping Tibetans in a community service project. Even the classic itineraries are laced with exceptional activities: walking a lesser known section of the Great Wall that has some of the most striking and best preserved architecture on the 5,500-mile medieval monument; having a private Tai Chi lesson with a master; taking a class in Yunnan cooking in a village home kitchen, taking a calligraphy lesson in Xi’an and participating in morning prayers in Lijiang.
These life-changing experiences are tailor made for independent-minded travelers, Zhang has noted, in line with trends that show travelers are not as interested in getting on and off a tour bus. Contemporary tourists crave life-changing memories such as a community service project, a lesson they can take back with them from a remote location, and a mind-opening interaction with a cultural sage. WildChina goes the extra distance for its clients, making them feel that their time and money are well spent on a life-enriching visit to China.
China is quickly becoming the pre-eminent business destination in the world, so airlines are following through with plenty of flights from just about everywhere. From the U.S. alone, China is served with direct, non-stop service by eight airlines: China Eastern, Air China, Delta, United, American Airlines, China Southern, Hainan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines. Visas are easily obtained through tour operators and Americans passing through Beijing and Shanghai are now issued a quick 72-hour visa on the spot once they land.
A visit to China through WildChina finds a fitting analogy in an old, Chinese fable.
During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589), a famous painter named Zhang Seng-Zuong was putting the finishing touches on the wall of the temple of Andong. It was a riveting portrait of four dragons nearly breaking into a gallop beneath a layer of clouds, but in its vivid expression it lacked one thing. “Why,” asked one bystander, “didn’t you put pupils in their eyes?”
“If the pupils are put in,” answered the painter, “the dragons will surely fly away forever.”
The people laughed at his joke, but continued to ask him to paint the pupils in the blind dragons’ eyes.
At their request, Zhang Seng-Zuong picked up his brush and began to work. He hesitated at first and then resolutely dotted the eyes of two of the dragons with the pupils that would bring them their sight.
Before he could put down his paintbrush, a great thunder and roar rumbled from the wall as half of it crashed and fell. The two dragons took off for the heavens. The crowd dispersed in an explosion of chaos, hiding behind pillars and ducking under rocks. But when the dust settled, two dragons remained. They stayed there resting peacefully, happy and purposeful where they stood emblazoned upon the temple wall.
Like the dragons on that temple wall, recent modernizations have brought the pupils into the eyes of the sleeping dragon. China has awakened and taken a colossal leap to the forefront of the global economy. This once dormant country is now en route to become the world’s wealthiest.
Yet, part of China’s greatness remains in the preservation of its past. There is a China where sleeping dragons lie: in ancient monuments, medieval neighborhoods, Taoist fishing villages, precious temples and colorful minority traditions. The beautiful contrasts between antiquity and modernity make China a melting pot of the old and new worlds. Like the dragons on the temple wall, WildChina showcases tours that serve as a reminder of where the world’s oldest civilization has been and where it hopes to soar.
WildChina, Destination Specialist
Kurtz-Ahlers & Associates– Curator of undiscovered luxury travel locales with insider info and news from our worldwide portfolio of hotels, wellness retreats, and eco-resorts. View our portfolio on our Online Directory.
Sign up up for our Wellness Travel Updates and our monthy newsletter for the latest exclusive offers and news from around the globe, follow us on twitter, like us on facebook or follow us on Instagram and Pinterest.