Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

How to Solve China’s Two Biggest Tourism Problems

Billie Cohen | March 29, 2016

Hi everyone, this is Billie, coming to you from Beijing. I’ll be traveling this week and next in China and sharing with you all the cool things I’m seeing, doing, and eating—and all the ways the right travel planner can make all the difference. Especially in a challenging destination like China.

That’s right, on this trip, I’m traveling with WildChina, run by Mei Zhang, one of our Trusted Travel Experts for China. Wendy keeps constant tabs on the travel planners she puts on her WOW List to ensure that they are delivering on “wow” experiences that live up to your (and her) standards, and Mei is doing some interesting work over here that we wanted to check out and share with you.

We were inspired to set up this trip, because we were hearing from readers and from travel planners that many people think China is a hard place to visit or not worth it. They couldn’t be more wrong.

Beijing skyline from Rosewood Hotel

The Beijing skyline on a late-March morning, from my room at the Rosewood Hotel—and there’s no smog! Photo: Billie Cohen

Everyone talks about Beijing’s smog like it’s the monster in a horror movie. But the trick to avoiding it is simply to know when to visit. Mei knows: early spring (right about now) when the weather is mild and beautiful (high 60s, low 70s) and the seasonal winds keep the air quality nearly as low as in other international cities.

Forbidden Palace China

The skies were blue and the smog nonexistent on the breezy spring morning I visited the Forbidden City. Photo: Billie Cohen

As for crowds, I haven’t been part of one yet. That’s because Mei’s guides have insider knowledge and special access. The first means they know things like what time of day to hit the Great Wall so that you’re not swallowed up by tourist hordes; the second means they can whisk you past queues and ticket takers so fast you’ll feel like a VIP. And of course you are.

Forbidden City Chin

My guide Chris found us a completely tourist-free nook in one of the Forbidden City’s gardens. The peace and quiet was wonderful. Photo: Billie Cohen

To remind travelers that there’s more to China than traffic-clogged Beijing or crowded Shanghai, Mei likes to take them way off the beaten path. So in addition to urban touring, she encourages travelers to explore rural areas, like Yunnan Province, where I’m headed in a few days. Mei grew up in that region, and therefore has deep local connections—connections that her travelers get the benefit of.

That’s what I know to start, and that’s what I’ll be checking out on this trip. Follow me for the next two weeks as I share my experiences (on instagram too a @billietravels). Leave any questions below and I’ll try to get them answered.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

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2 Comments

  1. Linda Kolb

    Billie,
    I’ve been to China several times and everything you just wrote is absolutely true. Yunnan Province is great, because the farther west you travel in China, the more of the “real China” you see. My only quibble with what you wrote is that, in my experience, China’s idea of a “rural area” is Westerners’ idea of a big city..

    1. Billie Cohen Post author

      You are so right, Linda. What China calls rural is different from what we picture in America. I will be sharing pictures from Yunnan Province soon so that everyone can see what we mean. Thanks for your comment!

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