Tagged travel

summer trips – jun-jul 2019

Ready to travel to the China you have been dreaming of? China Tea Leaves is here with countryside jaunts, seaside escapes, hiking adventures and more, all starting from Shenzhen, going on through the summer. All trips are organized and run by me, Greta Bilek, American in Shenzhen for over 6 years. Browse the rest of this site for more information about our trips and approach to travel in China, and a special thanks to our media partner Shenzhen Party for featuring China Tea Leaves trips. 

zhuhai june 7 (dragon boat festival)

Beach or mountain? Zhuhai treats you to both and much more, in a one day jaunt from Shenzhen. We’ll start out by taking the ferry from Shekou to Zhuhai. From there, we’ll use public transportation to tour around some of Zhuhai’s top sights.

We’ll walk along the Lover’s Road, with swaying palms above and the delta’s lapping waters stretching out to the horizon. We’ll visit the symbol of the city, the Fisher Girl, standing stately in the waves of the delta, and her lover the Fisher Boy, who looks on from the top of Jingshan Park, a small mountain park. After lunch at a nearby restaurant, we’ll have the option of free time on the beach or heading to a historical curiosity of Zhuhai, the recreated Old Summer Palace of Beijing. (Adult: 405RMB/Child: 245RMB)

macau june 11 (tuesday)

Beyond the glittering lights and tourist-flooded streets, you can discover another side of Macau. Ornate temples wafting with incense, traditional bakeries, craftsman’s studios, and chapels and shrines with curious history can be found if you take the time to explore this tiny city’s winding alleys. 

On this insider tour of Macau, we’ll see a relic of a Christian saint, a secret garden inside a public library, the most beautiful black-and-white mosaic street in Macau, and a temple dedicated to the snake goddess held to be creator of the Chinese universe. In the afternoon we’ll stop by a cozy wine bar for a glass of Portuguese wine. After the end of the tour, you can stay on in Macau to enjoy its nightlife and fine dining. (Adult: 550RMB/Child: 280RMB)


watertown june 15 (saturday)

You don’t have to travel to Suzhou and Shanghai to see the Venice of China, since we have such a quaint village right in our backyard across the Pearl River Delta.

On this day trip, we’ll head by private shuttle bus to the outer villages of Shunde district, part of Foshan city, famous for Cantonese culture and culinary excellence.

We will experience the landscape and lifestyle of two water towns, where shaded streets line the water ways connecting the many rivers of the region. Locals still base their lives around the central clan house and a relaxed game of Chinese chess. Simple dumplings and fisherman’s noodles make up lunch, and in foodie town Shunde, local desserts and sampling the tasty snacks are a must. Round out your day by hiring a boat to paddle you around the canals. (Adult: 330RMB/Child: 235RMB)

dapeng june 18 (tuesday)

Shenzhen has its own share of distinctive destinations, prime of which is its eastern bookend of Dapeng Ancient Fortress. Dapeng is a fortified village that dates back to the Ming dynasty, predating the urbanization of Shenzhen, and was in charge of controlling pirates off the coast of China. Today it still retains many narrow alleys to walk, with people living a quiet life in the village and shops selling traditional foods and gifts.

First we’ll visit a grand Buddhist temple with a history equal to the neighboring fortress, under the misty hills which ancient cartographers first marked this area for. After touring the streets and homes of the generals inside the fortress, we’ll head to the beachside town of Jiaochangwei. Now it takes the form of a young Chinese surf town, with many restaurants, cafes, and hostels in its colorful blocks. There we’ll enjoy lunch and some free time on the beach. (Adult: 200RMB/Child: 150RMB)

guizhou june 22-24 (weekend)

One of the most beautiful villages in China, hiking, rice terraces, minority culture…all on a quick trip from Shenzhen? Yes, and you can come join an easy escape to the smoke ringed mountains of Guizhou province.

We will be whisked away by high speed train to southeast Guizhou province, known as Qiandongnan, an autonomous region of the Miao and Dong minorities. This trip will focus on the area of Congjiang, where we will encounter one of the most beautiful villages in all of China. 

We’ll stroll the charming village, crossing covered bridges and ducking under drum towers rising out of the tangle of the hidden village. The town’s museums will also inform about the local Dong culture, their grand song tradition, and textile arts. On the second day, we will journey up the valley to a neighboring village for a view over the rice terraces, and hike back through the misty fields and other village clusters. With a third day (Monday), we can visit yet another area, a Miao village that has kept its unique customs since the Qing dynasty. It is also possible to attend only day one and two of this trip and return to Shenzhen on Sunday. (Adult: 1680RMB/Child: 980RMB)

kaiping july 6 (saturday)


Come with China Tea Leaves to Kaiping (开平), for a one day getaway to a place with stunning architecture and pleasant villages, not far from Shenzhen. 

Kaiping is part of the five counties known as the hometown of overseas Chinese. It is also the home of diaolou (碉楼), a unique building type that acted as a fortress, watchtower, and clan house. Thousands of diaolou are sprinkled throughout Kaiping’s districts, often rising seven, eight, or nine stories from low-lying villages. These architectural wonders combine elements of vernacular buildings with Western designs the overseas Chinese encountered abroad. This building phenomenon put Kaiping on the map as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, and makes it a must-see in Guangdong province today. We will visit three of the UNESCO listed sites, all fantastic scenes with villas and castles sprouting out of the rice fields. (Adult: 545RMB/Child: 295RMB)

zhuhai bridge and tai o july 9 (tuesday)

Come experience a modern marvel of China, the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge, and see the Pearl River Delta from the cutting edge to the traditional, a snapshot of China in one seaside adventure.

One of the main features of this trip will be to cross the new Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. This mega structure is 55 kilometers in total length, and is now the longest sea crossing in the world. This is one of the greatest engineering feats of our time, and it is right in our backyard!

We will travel by official bridge shuttle from Zhuhai to Hong Kong. After we arrive in Tung Chung Hong Kong, we will journey on to Tai O, the quintessential fishing village of Hong Kong. Scarcely a kilometer away from the modern marvel of the HZM Bridge lies this quiet port, where life in many corners has not changed for centuries. Wander amongst the fisherman’s houses teetering on stilts over the water. We will also take a short cruise to get a closer look at the stilt houses and venture out into the bay in search of the famous pink dolphins of this side of Hong Kong. Head back to Tung Chung for dinner or stay on for a sunset drink over Tai O’s quiet bay. (Adult: 458RMB/Child: 328RMB)

watertown july 13 (saturday)

You don’t have to travel to Suzhou and Shanghai to see the Venice of China, since we have such a quaint village right in our backyard across the Pearl River Delta.

On this day trip, we’ll head by private shuttle bus to the outer villages of Shunde district, part of Foshan city, famous for Cantonese culture and culinary excellence.

We will experience the landscape and lifestyle of two water towns, where shaded streets line the water ways connecting the many rivers of the region. Locals still base their lives around the central clan house and a relaxed game of Chinese chess. Simple dumplings and fisherman’s noodles make up lunch, and in foodie town Shunde, local desserts and sampling the tasty snacks are a must. Round out your day by hiring a boat to paddle you around the canals. (Adult: 330RMB/Child: 235RMB)

dapeng july 16 (tuesday)

Shenzhen has its own share of distinctive destinations, prime of which is its eastern bookend of Dapeng Ancient Fortress. Dapeng is a fortified village that dates back to the Ming dynasty, predating the urbanization of Shenzhen, and was in charge of controlling pirates off the coast of China. Today it still retains many narrow alleys to walk, with people living a quiet life in the village and shops selling traditional foods and gifts.

First we’ll visit a grand Buddhist temple with a history equal to the neighboring fortress, under the misty hills which ancient cartographers first marked this area for. After touring the streets and homes of the generals inside the fortress, we’ll head to the beachside town of Jiaochangwei. Now it takes the form of a young Chinese surf town, with many restaurants, cafes, and hostels in its colorful blocks. There we’ll enjoy lunch and some free time on the beach. (Adult: 200RMB/Child: 150RMB)

yunnan mushrooms july 24-28

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 its hills and valleys! 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.

We will visit the regions of Shaxi, and Shuhe of the Lijiang area. Both were important trading towns on the ancient Tea Horse Road running between Burma and Tibet through Yunnan province. The town markets in July will be brimming with local fruit, nuts, and of course funghi of all kinds, just brought in from the wild mountainsides. Take a custom mushroom foraging tour, and immerse yourself in Bai style cooking and Naxi courtyards back in the villages. Massive mountains, grand temples, fields of green and gold—Yunnan’s treats will have you coming back for more. (Adult: 3808RMB plus airfare/Child: price on request)

foshan august 3 (saturday)

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

On this day trip, first we will visit the Nanfeng Ancient Kiln, a ceramics kiln that has been in continuous operation since the Ming dynasty, for over 500 years. From here, we’ll head to lunch in Lingnan Tiandi, a historic district developed with many restaurants and quaint cafes.

After lunch, we will explore the Ancestral Temple, which has been a central part of Foshan people’s religion for centuries. The highlight of the day is the heart-pumping kung fu and lion dance demonstration. 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. A day in Foshan is a must when living in Guangdong province! (Adult: 360RMB/Child: 270RMB)

Note: posted prices typically are all inclusive: transportation, meals, guide, tickets. Contact Greta for exact details for each trip and for information about partner discounts.

custom travel planning

Besides joining the set date group trips above, I can also offer custom plans for your group to many destinations throughout China. I draw on my own experience and resources to create a plan tailored to your group, interests, and timeframe, whether you are a couple wanting to get away from the city for a weekend, or a family coming to the Middle Kingdom from abroad for a two week adventure. I am able to coordinate and arrange everything in advance, providing you with maps and illustrated guides so that your experience is as smooth and informative as a guided tour, even if I am not with you. I have arranged for custom travel to Guilin, Yangshuo, Yunnan, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Zhangjiajie, plus even more destinations available – just let me know what you’d like to see in China!

For booking and more information:

Contact Greta on WeChat:

or contact by email (chinatealeaves @ yahoo.com)

also featured on Shenzhen Party at: http://www.shenzhenparty.com/events/elsewhere-china/summer-travel-china-tea-leaves

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)

nation of travelers


IMG_4161

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.

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east side of Hangzhou’s West Lake

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

the world is so big

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

世界这么大,我想去看看。

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.