Tag: china

weekend in zhaoqing’s lakes and waterfalls

Come with China Tea Leaves on a weekend jaunt from Shenzhen to nearby Zhaoqing!

Zhaoqing (肇庆) is located in Guangdong province, to the west of the Pearl River Delta, rich in both history and green mountains, but a bit off the tourist track.

We will depart by shuttle from Shekou in Shenzhen, on Saturday March 24 (ask for other pick up locations). In Zhaoqing we’ll stay one night in a sweet and stylish hotel overlooking one of the city’s most famous sights, the Seven Stars Crag park (七星岩). With its classic landscape of rocky mountains and peaceful lakes, you’ll see why Zhaoqing is called a “little Guilin.” (Hotel: Yuese Theme Hotel, right on Seven Stars Lake)

On Saturday June 17, we’ll visit Dinghu Mountain (鼎湖山), one of the four most important mountains in Guangdong province. This biodiverse park is full of greenery and tropical flowers, a butterfly sanctuary, a majestic waterfall, and a quiet lake.

Zhaoqing also is full of history, including an intact city wall dating back to the Song dynasty.

On Sunday, we will head back on our shuttle for an afternoon arrival in Shenzhen.

Enjoy a weekend away from the city for reinvigorating views in Zhaoqing with China Tea Leaves.

Depart: Saturday March 24, 8:00am
Return: Sunday March 25, 6:00pm

Adult price: 1480RMB (double occupancy)
Kids 7-18y: 980RMB
Kids under 7y: ask for price (please inform me if seat on shuttle or extra bed required)

SWIC or ABNet members: Get a special price of 1380RMB for adults or 920RMB for kids 7-18y.

Includes: round trip shuttle from Shenzhen, 1 night hotel (double occupancy), all meals Sat lunch – Sun lunch, entrance tickets, butterfly sanctuary and Dinghu park shuttle, travel insurance and guided tour by Greta.

Minimum: 8 people, Maximum, 14.

Payment by cash or WeChat, deposit of 700 per person to hold your spot, please pay in full by March 23.

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

If adding me for the first time, be sure to mention Trips or Zhaoqing in your introduction.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com)

trip to heaven’s peaks and gates in zhangjiajie

Experience a touch of another world in the wonders of Zhangjiajie – on this trip November 14-19! You may know these otherworldly stone formations as the inspiration for the “Halleluiah mountains” of the planet Pandora in the movie Avatar. After hiking beneath, around and over these columns and bridges you will have a new appreciation for the wonders of nature on our planet Earth.

The Number 5 Valley will be our hotel base for the first part of the trip. This is a secluded resort built in traditional Chinese style as a village overlooking a private valley. Each room is a combination of luxurious comfort and rustic warmth.

At last we’ll find the stairway to heaven at Tianmen (“heaven’s gate”) Mountain Park. This is a unique karst cave located at nearly 1000 meters elevation. It truly looks like it opens up to the heavens. We will also visit the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, which is the site of the famous Glass Bridge. There you can really walk over the clouds while looking safely down into the vast gorge. Nature has been at work sculpting these panoramas for hundreds of millions of years, be sure you see them during your time in China!

Tuesday, November 14:       8:00pm flight from Shenzhen, check into our courtyard hotel
Wednesday, November 15: hiking in the Zhangjiajie National Forest – see the Avatar Mountains, First Bridge under Heaven, hike through stone gardens
Thursday, November 16:     hiking in the Zhangjiajie National Forest – Golden Whip Stream, hike up through the Halleluiah mountains
Friday, November 17:           shuttle to Tianmen Mountain, gate to heaven high up among the clouds, check into town hotel
Saturday, November 18:      shuttle to Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, see the world famous Glass Bridge
Sunday, November 19:         early flight back to Shenzhen

Price: Adult: 7950RMB per person (double occupancy), Kids 1.2m+ 5350RMB

Early Bird Promotion: Book with your deposit by Friday October 13 and get a special rate of 7600RMB

Price includes:

Round trip airfare from Shenzhen
Private shuttle around Zhangjiajie area
3 night (double occupancy) at No. 5 Valley Inn, 2 nights (double occupancy) at city hotel
(flyer price is based on No. 5 Valley’s “Moon Villa Suite” with extra bed. other options are available for upgrade to valley view suite, or smaller room for discount. contact Greta by methods below for more details)
Entrance tickets, planned cable car tickets, Glass Bridge
Travel insurance
and full service guide by Greta of China Tea Leaves.

Payment: cash preferred, deposit of 3500RMB per person to be made by October 31. Balance must be paid in full by November 10.
contact Greta below for other payment options

Minimum 6 people, maximum 12


How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

If adding me for the first time, be sure to mention Trips or Zhangjiajie or Avatar Mountains in your introduction.

or contact me by email (chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com)


putting the fun in funghi – a gourmet tour of yunnan

Lofty mountains and flowing waters, a wildflower for your hair and a mushroom for your umbrella. Yunnan in summer is wet with dew and rain, but it is the perfect playground to discover all the wonderful things coming to life in fields and mountainsides! Come along with China Tea Leaves on this unique Yunnan tour, Summer of Mushrooms edition!

This five day tour celebrates the mighty mushroom, and all the many varieties which can be found in Yunnan province. Yunnan is wonderfully biodiverse, with microclimates, forests, and mountains harboring thousands of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on earth, including many, many varieties of mushrooms. Actually, epicureans from around the world source their funghi from Yunnan, including as much as 2,000 tons of matsutake which make their way to Japan every year (in China called 松茸 song rong).


We will fly from Shenzhen direct to Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m). There we will be picked up by private shuttle to head to Shaxi (沙溪 elev. 6890ft/2100m), a pristine valley with a well preserved Bai minority village and world class historical sites. Our hotel for two nights will be the Old Theatre Inn, located right inside a temple/theatre that served entertainment for the gods of the Bai people. Here we will be treated to a tour by a local guide to pick wild mushrooms, and for lunch we will cook a few dishes based on local produce and our own foraged mushrooms. We can also visit the famous Sideng market in the village, where your eyes can savor a rainbow of edibles, teas, herbs, as well as the diverse minorities of the region.


From Shaxi we will head back to Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m) near Lijiang, an old town located on the ancient Tea Horse Road. We will continue to eat our way through Yunnan, savoring mushroom hot pot with the summer’s bounty, fresh fruit, local walnuts and more. We can shop the markets of Shuhe and Lijiang for matsutake and black truffles to bring to friends and family back home. We’ll take a short hike on the Tea Horse Road itself, peeking in on wildflowers and mushrooms growing along our path. At last, mushrooming complete, we can lay back and relax in our courtyard home at the Lazy Tiger Inn, sipping tea and letting the mesmerizing guqin take us on a mind-bending journey.


Wednesday, August 30: Morning flight Shenzhen to Lijiang, shuttle to Shaxi
Thursday, August 31: Local mushroom tour in Shaxi
Friday, September 1: Visit Sideng market in Shaxi, shuttle to Shuhe
Saturday, September 2: Tea Horse road hike in Shuhe, visit market in Lijiang (or Shuhe as weather alternate)
Sunday, September 3: Afternoon flight Lijiang to Shenzhen

Price: 6988 per person (double occupancy)

Plus – If you book 2 or more people together, receive 100RMB off per person in your group!
For example – book 2 together, 200RMB off for you and your friend. Book 4 together, 400RMB off for each person! Maximum 600RMB off the original price.

(price above if booked by August 16. after August 16 dependent on current airfare and other last minute fees)

Price includes: Round trip airfare from Shenzhen, local ground transportation in Yunnan, four nights (double occupancy) at quality courtyard hotels, meals, local guide fee, entrance tickets, travel insurance, and full service guide by Greta of China Tea Leaves.

Payment: by cash, payment to be made by August 16

Minimum 6 people, maximum 8

Contact Greta on WeChat (lilies-of-the-valley) or by email (chinatealeaves@yahoo.com) to book your spot.


Note: On this trip we are only picking and eating safe mushrooms, nothing hallucinogenic or dangerous. Puns are for literary purposes only. 🙂 Please pay attention to our local guide in Shaxi, who will advise us which mushrooms are safe to pick and consume.

Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 6890ft/2100m and higher. Travelers may feel effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. This itinerary does not include intensive hiking, but please notify us of any health conditions when booking. China Tea Leaves is not responsible for any injuries or accidents sustained during the trip.



nation of travelers


China’s national holiday (国庆节 guo qing jie) is coming up, with seven days off from work from October 1st to 7th. The first marks the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and more and more every year travel reigns as the national pasttime for this holiday. The internet is filled with nightmare stories and images of stone bridges and great walls overflowing with humanity. So what to do if you’re in Asia while 1.3 billion people are on holiday?

Here are some tips and ideas.

  1. Seek out secondary cities, and even in major tourist cities, escape the crowds by going to lesser known sites.

Most Chinese tourists travel in large tour groups, and for the most part visit locales designed to hold busloads of people. So, this is a case where the 80/20 rule can be applied – often 80 percent of the people are just in 20 percent of any given area in China. So, when you’re in Hangzhou, and find the east bank of West Lake swimming with people, get yourself to the west banks with its private gardens, a nearby mountain, or a quiet tea village.

east side of Hangzhou’s West Lake
garden of the east side of Hangzhou’s West Lake

2. Relax and have a sense of humor.

The crowds may be maddening, but everyone’s out to have fun. Relax, find humor in the craziness, chat with other tourists. Chinese people, especially on vacation and especially with foreigners, are incredibly friendly and charming.

having fun on Qingming Festival

3. Don’t go to Beijing.

For your sanity’s sake, just don’t go to Beijing during the October National Holiday.

4. Consider traveling abroad, but remember that Chinese international travel is skyrocketing.

It seems like everyone I know this year is going to Japan during this National Holiday. Other spots across Asia are becoming popular with Chinese tourists, including South Korea, Thailand, and Singapore.

5. Stay home.

Donghu park in Shenzhen

Finally, you may decide to simply stay home. Shenzhen and other modern cities will clear out for seven days, so take these days to enjoy the city without traffic. Go to a park or museum you’ve never been to.

China Tea Leaves has spent two national days abroad, and one at home in Shenzhen. This year, we’ll be venturing to the farthest reach of Yunnan province. We hope to find quiet and beauty, and hope you can too, wherever your travels take you.


an evening along erhai lake

On one of our last evenings in Yunnan, I took a short walk at dusk around the Xiangyangxi Village (向阳溪村) where we were staying on the Erhai Lake of Dali prefecture. As Yunnan is located relatively well west in the single Beijing Standard Time zone of China, the sun wouldn’t set until well past eight o’clock. This made for very leisurely dinners around the communal table of the guest houses we stayed in, allowing time to chat with the owners and our traveling companions as the blue skies tinged violet, then rose, and then were taken over in a dazzling sunset filling the heavens with a multitude of colors.


The name of Erhai Lake (洱海) describes it as a sea shaped like an ear (耳), and its north-south elongation makes it look like a Daoist immortal’s drooping earlobes from above. Xiangyangxi Village lies towards the northern tip of the lake, closer to the old Bai market town of Xizhou than to Dali Old Town. Dali prefecture includes the entire region of the lake, with more than a dozen villages circling the famed waters of Erhai.

During the day the lake ring road buzzes with vespas rented by holidaying twenty-somethings. But in the evening, the village streets turn serene again—a few kids goofing off with musical instruments, Bai women in petunia pink kerchiefs chatting on a doorstep, a man finishes his cigarette before returning home. The east gate of Bai homes is traditionally the grandest, decorated with beautiful stenciling and fantastically intricate stone carvings. I admired many of these in the dimming light—blue and ochre paintings against white stucco and grey stone. A temple protruded from the street out into the rice paddies. Since its gates were already locked, I could only admire the wind diverting wall, the 屏风 (pingfeng), an element in feng shui design, across from the main entrance. It was covered in symbols and mythical creatures, some of which I recognized and some of which may only be understood by the Bai people of this very village. Back in the guest house, I watched the last light of the sunset fade to stars behind a tile roof decoration, the clay cat of the Bai house, which absorbs bad energy. A few hours left in Yunnan, to spend between the stars and the quiet lapping of the ink dark lake.

interactive iBooks now available on iPhone!


In today’s parade of updates from Apple, we received an unexpected bonus. With the update to iOS 8.4, Multi-Touch iBooks are now compatible with the iPhone, in addition to the iPad and Mac. All China Tea Leaves guides are available to download today on the iPhone! And they include the full functionality of the original iPad version, with interactive maps and food guides, audio guide to speaking Mandarin, and full color photos and sketches.


Now’s your chance to experience the interactive features of a Multi-Touch iBook, right on your iPhone. You can pinch and zoom to see text better, show your waiter in Chinese what you want for dinner, and take our interactive hand-drawn maps with you.

More features have also been added to iBooks Author, so stay tuned to find out what else these updates will bring China Tea Leaves.

the world is so big

tiger leapaing gorge rays
light rays and waterfalls in the tiger leaping gorge


The world is so big, I want to go see.

Handwritten on a sheet of school stationery, this was the reason given by a Chinese middle school teacher for her recent resignation in April. The image of the note and its spirit have since gone viral throughout China.

Variations on the theme have been spun, from a simple switch to make China the subject, to jokes about having a wallet that is 这么小 (so small). Youku (China’s YouTube) promoted a video in which a young man travels the world with a selfie stick, while hundreds of locations spin past his extended arm. In my WeChat feed, I saw an even more strongly worded urging: 世界这么小,你还没去看?The world is so small, you haven’t gone to see it yet?

The world—China—is amazing. Let’s go see.

journey to the west

We transferred planes at Kunming, the green capital of Yunnan, where the lines of a grand ultramodern airport came into view and then receded as we huddled back on another 747 bound for Lijiang. As we boarded, attendants handed us herbal candies for altitude adjustment and a bottle of water. Rows of wide brimmed hats and backpacks laden with hiking gear gave away the Shenzhen city slickers’ plans to escape to the wild side of Yunnan. Our journey to the west had begun.

lijiang valley
viewing shuhe and lijiang from the old tea horse road

Yunnan (云南 literally south of the clouds) in southwest China is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with 25 of China’s 56 ethnic minorities represented here, and innumerable rare types of wildlife and edibles flourishing in its river valleys, plateaus, and mountain foothills. The province borders Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Tibet Autonomous Region, and Chinese provinces Sichuan, Guizhou, and Guangxi. The peoples, landscapes, and cultures of Yunnan are as varied as the mental pictures this list summons.

shaxi market
the weekly market of shaxi, drawing women from the diverse villages in the nearby mountains

Our plane would take us from Kunming over rolling mountains on to Lijiang, an old merchant town along the ancient Tea Horse Road (茶马古道 cha ma gu dao). This ancient trade route was carved north-south through the region, to carry tea in past millennia from the southern part of the province at Pu’er near Burma into Tibet and beyond, and horses from Tibet into China. It was a kind of southern parallel to the northwestern Silk Road, which took silk and porcelain from central China west into Central Asia and Europe. These trade roads were a path to other lands and cultures, taking Chinese treasures and ways out into the world and receiving peoples and ideas in return. This international exchange has shaped China and Eurasia since the Han dynasty, for over 2,000 years.

tea horse road
following the ancient tea horse road

Chinese history is accented by individuals who made these journeys, for commerce, for scholastics, for exploration. In the eighth century, a monk named Xuanzang went on an expedition from the Chinese capital throughout India in search of original Buddhist scriptures, and brought back new words and ideas, and inspired the epic tale Journey to the West. Marco Polo’s father and uncle pursued business in Central Asia, but ended up as emissaries for Kublai Khan and the Pope, bringing religious teachings and culture east and west. In the twentieth century, Peter Goullart fled political turmoil in Russia and was able to secure a post in the Republic of China government, setting up rural cooperatives in Yunnan province. But his greatest legacy was accomplished through his book Forgotten Kingdom, a kind of true life Lost Horizon, in which he describes the peoples, traditions, and complex social and business structures which he found along these crossroads. This book is a major reason the west knows the existence of this corner of the world in Yunnan province.

Whatever takes you out your door—necessity, business, or adventure, you are bound to discover something you unexpected. Travel the world. Come to China. You never know what you will discover.