Back to blog index

CNN Travel: 20 China adventures you won’t find in most guidebooks

Girl Shepard KashgarAs travel in China gets easier, more visitors are searching for experiences outside the ordinary.

I’m one of them. Traveling for the past few years from my home base in Shanghai, I’ve gotten to parts of the country even many Chinese never see.

These 20 destinations and experiences are among the most memorable — and often most photogenic — I’ve found…

CNN Travel: Tea lover’s guide to traveling in China

Woman Picking Tea on Tea PlantationTea, that most ordinary of beverages, was once so highly prized that traders, travelers and seafarers risked their lives to bring the precious cargo from China to the rest of the world.

Now, a small but growing band of tea aficionados is traveling across the country in pursuit of tea at its source, fueled by an appreciation of China’s ancient tea culture and traditions and a more modern interest in green methods of cultivation and artisanal production.

Tea tourism within China is still a relatively new phenomenon, gaining traction in the last few years and generally associated with an educated and upwardly mobile Chinese middle class.

For Chinese people, traveling for tea brings with it a certain cachet…

Saveur: Postcard: A Rare Tea Harvest

Harvesting Tea ChinaEvery Spring, the harvest of China’s most famous and expensive green tea begins: longjing cha, or Dragon Well tea. The best leaves, mingqian cha, are harvested in the fifteen days between the Spring equinox and China’s Qingming festival on April 5th, when Chinese families pay respects to their ancestors by tending their graves.

This first flush of pre-Qingming leaves is thought to be the most tender and possess the most refined taste; it can fetch a price upwards of US$1000 per kilogram. The price drops gradually with subsequent harvests as the weather warms up and the leaves become more robust and slightly bitter. Tea-pickers start at first light before the dew has dried, deftly removing two leaves and a bud. The leaves are then roasted over low heat in a brass wok, which folds them into their characteristic needle shape. When brewed, the resulting tea is clean and light, but complex too, with notes of chestnut, fresh-cut grass, and spring flowers. If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on some (available from specialty tea purveyors like Seven Cups), steep them with water heated to 180°F until the leaves fall to the bottom and unfurl, preferably in a clear glass so the pure jade color of the leaves can be appreciated…

20 China Travel Tips

Great Wall Sun and HazeExploring China can rattle even veteran travelers.

And understandably so.

It’s a huge country with enough languages and dialects to leave even many native Chinese flummoxed at the thought of communicating away from home.

But traveling away from the big cities isn’t scary, and it’s not unmanageable.

Traveling for the past few years from my home base in Shanghai, I’ve picked up a lot of tips — both from my own experiences and from others — that make life on the road in China a little bit easier and a lot more rewarding.

Here are 20 of them to get you started…