Tagged culture

dragon clouds so high above – yunnan may 27-31

Lofty mountains and flowing waters, a wildflower for your hair and a mushroom for your umbrella. Yunnan in May has sprung to life, expanses of playful clouds drifting by snow mountains and river valleys. Come along with China Tea Leaves to discover some of our favorite places in colorful Yunnan.

Yunnan province is located in southwestern China, tucked between Tibet, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with dozens of ethnic minorities; flowers, mushrooms and other wildlife; and dramatic landscapes with the weather of eternal spring. This five day tour celebrates two distinctive cultures of Yunnan, that of the Bai people in Shaxi, and the Naxi people of Lijiang and Shuhe.

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. The Bai people are a Sino-Tibetan ethnic group, known throughout Yunnan for their intricately carved architecture and fine cooking with local ingredients. Shaxi was an important trading post on the ancient Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan).

Our hotel for two nights will be the Old Theatre Inn (alternative Miss May Hotel), located right inside a temple/theatre that served entertainment for the gods of the Bai people. We will visit the market area, with its temple and theatre complex, recognized by UNESCO for its articulate restoration. On our full day in Shaxi, we will journey into the rolling hills to find a secluded temple and the fascinating sculptural grotto of Shizhongshan.

From Shaxi we will head back to Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m) near Lijiang, another town located on the ancient Tea Horse Road. On the day of our arrival, we will stroll the colorful streets of Shuhe, in the view of the imposing Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, sampling the bounty of spring, while locals offer fresh berries, foraged walnuts and more.

On our full day in the Shuhe area, we’ll venture yet closer to the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain to Baisha (白沙 elev. 8170ft/2490m), the capital of the region’s former Naxi kingdom, and today a small village that still holds its authentic, traditional feeling. We can chat with locals, taste unique street food, and hunt antiques and fabrics in the shops of the old town. We can also take a smooth hike from Baisha up to the Fuguosi temple, an active Tibetan Buddhist monastery, with grand views over the mountains and peaceful valley.

After one more night at our courtyard home at the Lazy Tiger Inn, we will visit one of the most classic sights of the Lijiang area, the Black Dragon Pool in Lijiang, before setting out on our return flight to Shenzhen.

After days dreaming in the heights amongst a rainbow of wildflowers and curling dragon clouds, you will return to Shenzhen with a vision of paradise in your mind’s eye and a burning desire to come back to Yunnan province.

Monday, May 27: Morning flight Shenzhen to Lijiang, shuttle to Shaxi
Tuesday, May 28: Hike and temple visit in Shaxi
Wednesday, May 29: Shuttle to Shuhe, visit Shuhe
Thursday, May 30: Visit Baisha, hike to Tibetan Buddhist monastery
Friday, May 31: Visit Lijiang, Afternoon flight Lijiang to Shenzhen

Price: 5280 per person (double occupancy)
Discount of 250 available for SWIC or ABNet members

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

(price based on current airfare Shenzhen-Lijiang; if airfare increases total price will be adjusted. so book early with Greta to get the best fares)
Not in Shenzhen? No problem. Contact me to find out the required arrival time in Lijiang airport to join the group.

Payment: by cash, or WeChat, deposit of 2500 at time of booking

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

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

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

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

day trip – flower markets february 2

Come experience the frenzy of preparation for Chinese New Year – at the grand, traditional flower markets of Guangzhou.

The capital city will be filled with throngs of people, readying pots of orchids, tangerine trees, bamboos, and other lucky flowers for decorating their homes. Every city has places to buy flowers like these, but Guangzhou’s markets are destinations in of themselves. Lanterns stream from ancient trees lining the streets, gates and floats are constructed to welcome the year of the pig, plum blossom branches sway throughout the crowd. What better place to find the spirit of Chinese New Year?

After touring the markets, we can head to the nearby Guangxiao Temple, a Buddhist temple with nearly 2,000 years of history. Make your new year wish, visit the early Song dynasty iron pagoda, and soak up the atmosphere as families come to pray and the faithful workers quietly beautify the lush surroundings of the courts and gardens.

We will go by train from Luohu to Guangzhou East station, then take a short metro ride to reach the Yuexiu Flower Market. From there, we can walk the old streets of Guangzhou, past the classic People’s Park to the Guangxiao Temple. Return train will also arrive at Luohu.

Price: 249RMB per adult, 160RMB for kids between 1.2-1.5m (20RMB off for ABNet or SWIC member), kids under 1.2m get an additional discount – contact me. Price based on tickets available at time of writing; confirm price and schedule when contacting me.

Saturday, February 2. Meet at 9:00am at Luohu train station to pick up tickets, for 9:36am train. Planned return to Luohu at 17:48.

Price includes rail tickets, entrance to Guangxiao Temple, and tour.

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

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

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

chinese new year – custom trip in blossoming hangzhou

Travel with China Tea Leaves for a classic Chinese New Year in 🌸🍃🍵 Hangzhou!

Hangzhou has always been one of our favorite places in China for its graceful beauty, and was one of the first inspirations for the concept of China Tea Leaves travel. On this trip, you can seek out the plum blossoms in the bamboo forest, taste the best green tea in China, see heaven on earth around the fringes of West Lake, and take a day trip to Wuzhen, a classic water town known as the Venice of the East.

This trip is arranged a little differently, to give you the most enjoyment with your family and the best value at a peak travel season. I am offering this trip as a featured private custom plan – not a guided group tour. This means that I can make all arrangements totally custom for what you and your family prefer, with special low planning and booking fees. I have suggested dates and activities below, but just let me know if you’d like to change something. I create the plan for you and make all the bookings, and provide you a very detailed itinerary document which acts as your guide, even though I am not actually there in person to guide you. You will also be provided an ebook – China Tea Leaves 杭州 Hangzhou, with photos, local food, and interactive maps to help you get around in Hangzhou.

(These dates are for example; trip may be arranged custom for your preferred schedule.)

February 5 Flight from Shenzhen to Hangzhou
Transfer from Hangzhou Airport to hotel

February 6 Visit West Lake – the inspiration for gardens throughout China and Japan

February 7 Taste green tea in the best region in all of China – Longjing village

February 8 Optional – Day trip to Wuzhen, Venice of the East

February 9 Transfer from hotel to Hangzhou Airport
Check out of the hotel and depart by flight Hangzhou to Shenzhen

Price: Will be quoted fully customized for you and your group

For example: (prices below are approximate. Contact me for current prices.)

2 adults

Round trip flights for 2 Shenzhen to Hangzhou: 2600RMB
Boutique hotel near West Lake (4 nights): 2980RMB (other options available)
Private airport transfers: 700RMB
Private car for Wuzhen daytrip: 700RMB
Planning and Booking fee: 700-800RMB

Total for 2: 7,680RMB

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

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

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

day trip – foshan january 19

Come on a day trip to see Foshan, the colorful hometown of Cantonese traditions! Around southern China we still get to enjoy some autumn weather for a while, making for a great day out to learn about kung fu, lion dancing, ancient ceramics and traditional culture.

Foshan city is part of the Pearl River Delta and the third largest city in Guangdong, with distinctive Cantonese cultural traditions and rich history. Its name means “Buddha mountain.”

On this day trip, first we will visit the Nanfeng Ancient Kiln. Here you can see a ceramics kiln that has been in continuous operation since the Ming dynasty, for over 500 years. There are also many charming sculptural alleyways and shops to find a wonderful ceramic souvenir.

From here, we’ll head to lunch in Lingnan Tiandi, a historic district developed with many restaurants and quaint cafes. Cost of lunch is on your own. I will recommend a few restaurants to choose from, and provide a suggested menu to order from. I will recommend that groups of 3-5 dine together, rather than our entire group together for efficiency at the restaurants.

After lunch, we will explore the Ancestral Temple (祖庙 zu miao), which has been a central part of Foshan people’s religion for centuries. In this well preserved temple, you can also learn about Ip Man and Wang Fei Hong, two major kung fu masters from Foshan. The elements of Cantonese opera are demonstrated at the temple’s own traditional stage. And don’t miss the heart of the Ancestral Temple, the ornate halls of Beidi, the northern emperor god, to whom locals pray to watch over Foshan.

We will catch a lively performance of the temple’s students demonstrating the Foshan styles of kung fu and lion dance. The thrilling colors and traditions of Foshan will add to your best memories of your time in China.

Price: 315RMB per adult, 225RMB for kids between 1.2-1.5m (15RMB off for Shenzhen ABNet or SWIC member), kids under 1.2m get an additional discount – contact me.

Saturday January 19
Depart 7:30AM, return Shenzhen 6:00PM

includes round trip private shuttle, entrance tickets, including kung fu and lion dance show, and tour

Minimum 7

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

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

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

day trip – guangzhou april 26

Trace Guangzhou’s history in the footprints of a few blocks of the city’s core. Our neighbor has been a diverse metropolis for centuries and has played an interesting part in China’s history. On this day tour, we’ll discover some of beautiful and important sites in Guangzhou.

First we’ll visit one of the enduring symbols of Guangzhou, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall. Sun Yat-sen, popularly known as Sun Zhongshan, was the first president of the Republic of China after the Xinhai revolution overthrew the imperial Qing dynasty. Sun Yat-sen was a native of the Pearl River Delta, and it was from Guangzhou that he initiated some of the first movements in overthrowing the Qing government. The memorial here was built soon after his death in 1925.

After our walk of the grounds and look inside the exhibit halls about Sun Yat-sen’s life, we’ll have lunch together in old Guangzhou. (Cost additional – just split the bill with the group) Lunch will be either dim sum or an authentic Cantonese restaurant.

After lunch, we’ll visit the Guangxiao temple in central Guangzhou, one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Guangzhou, as the site dates back to 230AD. Grand halls and green courtyards are decorated with fresh flower offerings, and left and right of the main halls are two iron pagodas, the oldest of their kind in China. 

 

 

Next we’ll make our way to Chen Clan Academy, an ornate complex built in the Qing dynasty. You can see the educational, social, and religious purposes the academy served, as well as learn about the traditional building techniques used and other ancient handcrafts preserved by Cantonese artists.

In the center of this modern city, you can discover some of the beautiful and fascinating history of Guangdong and the Chinese nation.

Adults: 315RMB
Kids 1.2-1.5m: 225RMB

SWIC or ABNet members receive a discount of 15RMB off each 

includes round trip private shuttle, entrance tickets, and guided tour by Greta. Lunch additional.

Thursday April 26
Departure: 7:30am

Return: 6:00pm

Private shuttle picks up from Shekou (for other pick ups contact me). Journey to Guangzhou about 2 hours.

Minimum 7

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

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

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

day trip – foshan april 7

Come on a day trip to see Foshan, the colorful hometown of Cantonese traditions! Enjoy a day out in the spring weather, while you learn about kung fu, lion dancing, ancient ceramics and traditional culture.

Foshan city is part of the Pearl River Delta and the third largest city in Guangdong, with distinctive Cantonese cultural traditions and rich history. Its name means “Buddha mountain.”

On this day trip, first we will visit the Nanfeng Ancient Kiln. Here you can see a ceramics kiln that has been in continuous operation since the Ming dynasty, for over 500 years. There are also many charming sculptural alleyways and shops to find a wonderful ceramic souvenir.

From here, we’ll head to lunch in Lingnan Tiandi, a historic district developed with many restaurants and quaint cafes. Cost of lunch is on your own. I will recommend a few restaurants to choose from, and provide a suggested menu to order from. I will recommend that groups of 3-5 dine together, rather than our entire group together for efficiency at the restaurants.

After lunch, we will explore the Ancestral Temple (祖庙 zu miao), which has been a central part of Foshan people’s religion for centuries. In this well preserved temple, you can also learn about Ip Man and Wang Fei Hong, two major kung fu masters from Foshan. The elements of Cantonese opera are demonstrated at the temple’s own traditional stage, so you can hear the orchestra or singer practicing (few performances each day at select times.) And don’t miss the heart of the Ancestral Temple, the ornate halls of Beidi, the northern emperor god, to whom locals pray to watch over Foshan.

Price: 280RMB per adult, 190RMB for kids between 1.2-1.5m (20RMB off for Shenzhen ABNet or SWIC member), kids under 1.2m get an additional discount – contact me.

Saturday April 7
Depart 7:30AM, return Shenzhen 6:00PM

includes round trip private shuttle, entrance tickets, including kung fu and lion dance show, and tour

Minimum 10, maximum 14

How to Book:

Contact Greta on WeChat (Scan QR code)

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

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

yunnan paradise – china tea leaves tour of lijiang and shangri-la

China Tea Leaves First Guided Tour – Yunnan 9-Days 

Shuhe, Baisha, Lugu Lake, Shangri-La and Tiger Leaping Gorge

April 22-30, 2017

Personal Tour with Greta Bilek

Are you dreaming of a land of blue skies, colorful clouds, people living a quiet traditional life? A place where you can stretch your legs, climb green mountains, wade amongst wildflowers, and discover temples, new friends and always a bit of adventure? Sounds like a fairy tale, some kind of Shangri-La, you say?

You would be right. And you can find your own paradise in the northwest corner of Yunnan province.

Come with Greta Bilek, author of China Tea Leaves travel guides and explorer of China, on your dream trip to Yunnan province.

Yunnan province is located in southwestern China, tucked between Tibet, Sichuan and Guangxi provinces, Myanmar, and Vietnam, and is one of the most diverse provinces in China, with dozens of ethnic minorities; flowers, mushrooms and other wildlife; and dramatic landscapes with the weather of eternal spring.

I’m Greta Bilek, and I’ve lived in Shenzhen for nearly five years. During my time here, I’ve often traveled to Yunnan province, among other places, writing and discovering the hidden treasures of China. I’ll be your personal guide, taking you to my favorite places and sharing stories that open up the symbols, history and culture we will encounter. This is a small group tour (6-10 people), so we can relax into the pace of Yunnan life and discover places off the beaten track.

We’ll be visiting Shuhe and Baisha, outside of Lijiang; Lugu Lake; Shangri-La; and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

We will fly into Lijiang (丽江 elev. 7900ft/2400m), a major stop on the ancient Tea Horse Road in western China. Our home base will be the old town of Shuhe, a village on the old Tea Horse Road, which connected Tibet to southern Yunnan and beyond, for centuries of trade of horses (from Tibet) and tea (from southern Yunnan).

Once we check into our courtyard hotel in Shuhe (束河 elev. 8000ft/2440m), all the knots of your hectic modern life will start to melt away, as we sip tea, listen to the ancient guqin played by Liping, and fall into a slow rhythm of life.

We’ll visit Baisha (白沙 elev. 8170ft/2490m), the capital of the region’s former Naxi kingdom, and today a small village that still holds its authentic, traditional feeling. We can chat with locals, taste local street food, and hunt antiques and fabrics in the shops of the old town.

Then we’ll hit the road to head to Lugu Lake (泸沽湖 elev. 9095ft/2770m), a clear lake in the mountains on the border between Yunnan and Sichuan provinces. This is the home of the Mosuo people, also known as the “kingdom of women” due to their specific matrilineal customs still practiced today. The clear blue waters dancing under your wooden boat and the Tibetan religion of the area will also leave their impression on you.

After going back through Baisha, we will head north towards to Shangri-La (香格里拉 elev. 10,370ft/3160m), the center of the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Yunnan province. You will really feel like we’re in Tibetan country, even though we won’t have crossed the border. Ladies in traditional pink headwear do their shopping and older folks grasp their prayer beads throughout the streets. We will visit a lively market, the old town of Dukezong, the largest prayer wheel in the world, and the Songzanlin monastery, which is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Yunnan.

From Shangri-La, we will head back south to start our two-day hike of the Tiger Leaping Gorge (虎跳峡 elev. 6230-8690-6890ft/1900-2650-2100m). This is one of the most renowned hikes in the world, a deep gorge along the Jinsha River, which becomes the Yangtze River as it flows through Sichuan province. Every view is breathtaking, gazing up at snow mountains so close you think you could reach out and touch them.

After one tough day of hiking, we will stay overnight in a guesthouse on the trail, and wake up to silent mountains looking on outside our window. We will continue hiking through farming enclaves, waterfalls and vistas to reach our shuttle back to Lijiang.

Our final night will be spent in Shuhe, before we fly back from Lijiang to Shenzhen.

After days dreaming in the heights amongst a rainbow of wildflowers and prayer flags, you will return to Shenzhen with a vision of paradise in your mind’s eye and a burning desire to come back to Yunnan province.

Day 1: Evening flight Shenzhen – Lijiang, stay Shuhe

Day 2: Visit Shuhe and Baisha, stay Shuhe

Day 3: Shuhe to Lugu Lake, stay Lugu Lake

Day 4: Lugu Lake visit, Lugu Lake to Baisha, stay Baisha

Day 5: Baisha to Shangri-La, Old Town visit, stay Shangri-La

Day 6: Visit Songzanlin Monastery, stay Shangri-La

Day 7: Shangri-La to Tiger Leaping Gorge, hike, stay TLG

Day 8: Finish hike TLG, return to stay in Shuhe

Day 9: Afternoon flight Lijiang – Shenzhen

All-Inclusive: Round trip Airfare (direct flight on Shenzhen Airlines), Ground Transportation, Hotels 8 nights (double occupancy), Entrance Tickets, Meals

7128RMB

(Note: Much of this trip is at high elevation – 7900ft/2400m and higher. Travelers will feel the effects of the elevation, but can usually adjust to normal activity level within 1-2 days. The Tiger Leaping Gorge hike has some steep inclines and is at high elevation. Hiking at this elevation is tough and incurs a real risk of altitude sickness. There are donkeys available on the trail for those who feel uncomfortable, for an additional fee. But this hike is best suited for those in good physical shape. The trail is in good condition, and no special prior hiking experience is necessary.)