Taipei, Taiwan, cityscape, including Taipei 101
Downtown Taipei, scene of many late-night strolls
(photo by Chris; click to enlarge)

During the period of my life when I was studying abroad in Taipei, Taiwan, I was an inveterate walker. Whenever I visited a new place, I would buy a map and set out on a peripatetic exploration at the first opportunity. And while in Taipei, I routinely spent long stretches of time walking around the city by myself at all hours, familiarizing myself with its geography and making serendipitous discoveries.

One of those discoveries occurred late one night when I was walking down a narrow sidestreet. I came upon a forklift that was unceremoniously picking up cars parked on one side of the street and depositing them on the other, proceeding car by car down the block. The scene was so surreal, and yet the manner in which the driver was going about his work was so casual, that I could only stare for a moment, chide my lying eyes, and then resume walking. In the years since, I’ve sometimes wondered whether that strange sight was actually just a product of my febrile, sleep-deprived brain, which was on constant stimulus overload back in those heady days abroad—especially since it was the dead of night, and I had quite possibly been drinking beforehand. Now, however, after a quick search online, I have video evidence that such things do happen (in Taiwan, at least):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pu83oVW6qo

For all I know, this sort of thing is a routine occurrence that the locals don’t even bat an eyelash at. At the time, it felt as if I had wandered off into some kind of Bizarro World where people with forklifts could do whatever the hell they wanted, where Dude, Where’s My Car? had a radically different plot, and where street cleaners had a better option than punishing hapless residents with $40 parking tickets. (I make this comment as a former San Francisco resident who, like many others, unwittingly helped fill the city’s coffers by sometimes forgetting to move my car.)

But just as one person’s geeky is another person’s cool, what seems absurd in one society is completely normal in another—a fact I’ve often been reminded of during my adventures in China (and probably just as often living in the United States, which I’m well aware is by most international standards a strange country). In any case, it’s nice to know that this, at least, was not something I merely hallucinated.

group discount icon - 75 x 75 Group Discount: Groups of 6 or more who book a 2012 standard tour together will receive a discount of $50 per person! Please note: “Standard tours” are our Mainland China tour packages, tour codes CIT001 through CIT012; China International Travel CA’s discount offers may not be combined and may only be used once per tour participant per tour.

We’ve made some additions and revisions to our China travel brochure. Download it today and enjoy browsing through photos and detailed descriptions of the fascinating places our China tours will take you to!

CIT Digital Brochure Cover with pages - 215 x 275 Download this PDF for a convenient introduction to us and our services:

  • All of our standard Mainland China tour packages in one file
  • Complete, detailed itineraries
  • A wide array of beautiful photographs
  • Complete booking information and forms
  • Optimized for the iPad, with internal links for easy navigation
  • Perfect for offline browsing, anytime, anywhere
  • Share it with friends and family
  • Get it today and start planning your dream vacation!

For information about our specials and tours outside Mainland China, please visit the pages in the navigation menu above.

We pride ourselves on offering our clients exceptional value. These new discount tour packages will take you to some of China’s greatest wonders for an especially low cost:

CITS11 and CITC11 banner - 150 x 750

Jiangnan + 5-Star Yangtze Cruise + Chongqing
11-Day Discount Tour (CITC11)

Departing on May 18, 2012

Enjoy all of these tour features for the low, all-inclusive price of only $1980:

  • Visit these popular destinations: The Yangtze River’s Three Gorges and Chongqing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Hangzhou, and Shanghai
  • Travel through the spectacular Three Gorges on a 5-star cruise ship
  • Indulge in the comfort of deluxe 4-star hotels for the entire trip
  • Avoid wasting your time with a frustrating, ultra-cheap shopping tour: A limited, reasonable number of well-chosen shopping stops

Open our CITC11 tour information page to find out more!
打開 CITC11 的中文行程

Please note: As a limited-departure discount tour, CITC11 will be conducted in Chinese, and the tour guide may not be fully proficient in English. This tour is recommended for Chinese speakers or people traveling with Chinese speakers.

Beijing + Jiangnan + Yellow Mountain
11-Day Discount Tour (CITS11)

Departing on June 15, 2012

Enjoy all of these tour features for the low, all-inclusive price of only $1899:

  • Visit many of the favorite destinations of China travelers: Beijing, Suzhou, Wuxi, Hangzhou, Yellow Mountain (Huangshan), and Shanghai
  • Witness the grandeur of Yellow Mountain firsthand
  • Indulge in the comfort of deluxe 4-star hotels for the entire trip
  • Avoid wasting your time with a frustrating, ultra-cheap shopping tour: A limited, reasonable number of well-chosen shopping stops

Open our CITS11 tour information page to find out more!
打開 CITS11 的中文行程

Please note: As a limited-departure discount tour, CITS11 will be conducted in Chinese, and the tour guide may not be fully proficient in English. This tour is recommended for Chinese speakers or people traveling with Chinese speakers.

Image credits (top to bottom): Dave Lau, Tan Wei Liang Byorn, Gustavo Madico, Curt Smith, and J. Aaron Farr

The photo below was taken at Moon Pond in Hong Village (宏村) near Huangshan (Yellow Mountain), China. Known as “China’s most beautiful mountain village,” Hong Village is considered so representative of the traditional Chinese hamlet that parts of the Ang Lee-directed kung fu blockbuster Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were filmed there. You can walk its narrow cobblestone streets, admire its classical architecture, and soak in its traditional atmosphere yourself on our Jiangnan Gourmet Cuisine/Yellow Mountain 10-Day Tour—or just let this tranquil scene serve as a relaxing desktop background.

More wallpaper images are available on our Free China Travel Desktop Wallpaper page.

Click on the wallpaper image to display a full-sized image, then right-click on it and choose an option
such as “Set As Desktop Background” or “Save As…” to save it on your computer.

Reflected Buildings on Hong Village’s Moon Pond
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Read on for specific information about the China tour discounts we’re offering in 2012. We hope these special offers will help you make your China travel dream a reality!

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Early Bird Discount (extended to the end of February): Customers who book a 2012 standard tour and pay by 2/29/12 will receive a $100 discount! (Tour must be booked 90 days or more before departure date.) Image credit: Unit66

2012 - Year of the Dragon icon - 75 x 75

2012 Discounts: Seniors (age 60 and up) and Dragons (customers born in 1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, etc.) will receive a $50 discount on standard tours booked in 2012!

Please note:

  • “Standard tours” are our Mainland China tour packages, tour codes CIT001 through CIT012.
  • China International Travel CA’s discount offers may not be combined and may only be used once per tour participant per tour.

Chinese New Year fireworks icon with text - 150 x 150To celebrate Chinese New Year in China, especially with family, is a fun and fascinating experience: the festive atmosphere, both at home and out on the town; the excessive consumption of food and alcohol; and, perhaps most exciting of all, the fireworks. In 2003 I spent Chinese New Year in Shanghai, and the amount of gunpowder detonated in that city in the 16-day period from New Year’s Eve through the Lantern Festival (on the 15th day of the lunar year) absolutely blew my mind. As a childhood pyromaniac who hadn’t indulged in fireworks in many years, I was on fire with excitement—though to some degree it was like being in a war zone, with so many fireworks going off at certain times that you could barely have a conversation outdoors and had to be constantly on guard against wayward rockets. My father-in-law and I burned a completely unjustifiable amount of cash on long strings of firecrackers, big batteries of missiles, and various other explosives. I strolled through the city streets, tossing firecrackers to and fro and setting them off in every nook and cranny to magnify the sound of the explosions. Obnoxious and environmentally irresponsible, to be sure…but also gloriously Dionysian, especially because it seemed like everyone was doing it. To put it simply, I had a blast. But I’m fortunate to have emerged from the experience with all ten fingers and all five senses intact.

In celebration of the lunar new year, I present some spectacular photos and a couple of video clips that will give you an idea of what the experience of celebrating Chinese New Year in China is like. We at CIT are looking forward to another successful year, and we’d like to wish all of our family, friends, and customers a prosperous Year of the Dragon. Thank you for your support!

Chinese New Year Fireworks Photo Gallery

Click on any photo below to open a full-sized version in a separate window.

Chinese New Year fireworks exploding in Shanghai, China fireworks exploding during Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China
Explosions amidst residential buildings…
(photo by Jaye Zhou)
…now THAT’s what the Chinese
term
熱鬧 (rènào; “lively”) means
(photo by Aapo Haapanen)
Chinese New Year fireworks exploding in Shanghai, China Chinese New Year - Shanghai fireworks store - Marc van der Chijs
Viewing from high-rise balconies is hazardous
(photo by Harry Alverson)
Fireworks stores pop up during the New Year
(photo by Marc van der Chijs)
Chinese New Year fireworks boxes - Christopher Chinese New Year fireworks - fountain
Let’s hope they’re well-shielded from stray sparks
(photo by Christopher)
“Fountains” light up streets and alleyways
(photo by Fox Z.)
extremely long strings of Chinese New Year firecrackers in Taipei, Taiwan Spectators turn their backs and shield their faces during a massive Chinese New Year fireworks explosion
Mile-long strings of firecrackers scare away evil spirits…
(photo by Ming-Yang Sue)
…and people, too, if they know what’s good for them.
(photo by Ming-Yang Sue)
a street covered by firework remnants left behind by Chinese New Year firecrackers in Taipei, Taiwan fireworks exploding during Chinese New Year in Shanghai, China
Firecracker aftermath
(photo by Ming-Yang Sue)
There is an ironic beauty in all
that potential destruction…

(photo by Jakob Montrasio)
view from the Bund of Chinese New Year fireworks exploding over the Huangpu River and Pudong in Shanghai, China Chinese New Year 2011 - Hong Kong fireworks - N.C. Burton - small - 300 x 200
…especially in picturesque places,
like Shanghai’s Huangpu River…

(photo by Sebastien Poncet)
…and Hong Kong’s Victoria Harbour
(photo by N.C. Burton)
Chinese New Year fireworks over Hong Kong Island in 2009 Chinese New Year fireworks - fire - Jinjian Liang
Hong Kong’s 2009 Chinese New Year fireworks
(photo by N.C. Burton)
China during the Lunar New
Year: a country on fire

(photo by Jinjian Liang)

Check out these video clips to get an even clearer idea of just how crazy it can get (you might want to turn down the volume first):

Creative Commons photos icon - 75 x 75Our company and this website have benefited enormously from the generosity of Flickr users (and photographers on other sites as well) who have made their photos freely available for our use through either a Creative Commons license or the special permission they have given us. We’d like to express our gratitude for their generosity and “pay it forward” by licensing a number of our own China travel photos for noncommercial use. The slideshow below features a few samples, but many more of our photos are available in our Creative Commons Flickr set, and more will be added soon and in the more distant future. We hope that people out there will be able to put some of our photos to good use. And although the license is a noncommercial license, we will gladly consider requests for commercial use too—just contact us by e-mail and let us know what you have in mind. If you’d like to use any of our photos, just credit them to China International Travel CA, and link to our homepage (www.chinatravelca.com) where possible. Thank you, and thanks again to the many generous photographers out there!

[slickr-flickr type=”slideshow” search=”sets” set=”72157628946766605″ items=”10″ align=”center” captions=”off”]

A smoking man in the Huxinting Tea House in Shanghai, China The man Dos Equis claims is the most interesting man in the world
“I don’t always drink tea, but when
I do, I prefer Dragon Well.”

(photo by “Pitz76“; click to enlarge)
The SECOND most interesting man in the world.

This month’s Random Discovery Photo is a little different from my usual choices: a striking, artsy, black-and-white photo of a guy who exudes coolness and looks to me like he could give “the most interesting man in the world” a run for his money. The photo was taken in Shanghai’s famous Huxinting Tea House, which you can visit when you tour the nearby Yuyuan Gardens on any of our Mainland China tours that stop in Shanghai. Who knows, you might even run into this interesting character there and have a chance to imbibe some of his hard-earned wisdom along with a relaxing pot of tea. I know I’ll be on the lookout the next time I’m in Shanghai.

In a recent travel article for the Times, international journalist extraordinaire (and fellow American Chinese speaker) Nicholas Kristof recommends traveling to two countries above all others to gain a better understanding of the world in 2012: China and India. Among his recommendations for places to visit in China are Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin/Yangshuo, and Xi’an, popular destinations featured in a number of our Mainland China tour packages.

Some of his comments echo the perspective I tried to express in a recent blog post (and some earlier posts like this one) about the touching and exciting experiences that travelers can have in China’s rural and less-touristy areas:

But don’t just visit the giant metropolises. Go also to the countryside that is China’s soul[…]Wherever you go, drop in on a village. Residents will be surprised but hospitable, and if you have a Chinese speaker to translate, then you can have great conversations. Or drop by the local school, and you may find an English teacher delighted to practice conversational skills.

Kristof also mentions some amazing places that are less well known among Western tourists:

Visit a town like Datong, west of Beijing, home to stunning carved Buddhas several stories high. They are 1,500 years old and one of the most amazing sights in China, yet few foreign tourists know of Datong.

Not far away is the stunning Hanging Monastery, perched precariously on the side of a cliff. And Datong can be used as a base to see parts of the Great Wall that haven’t been restored. Nobody charges admission: they just sit there, waiting to be explored.

The Yungang Grottoes at Datong and the Hanging Temple (Hanging Monastery) at Hengshan are both featured in our Roots of Chinese Culture 14-Day Tour (CIT006).  Side trips to see unrestored sections of the Great Wall can also be arranged.

Another Times travel article published on the same day, “The 45 Places to Go in 2012,” also mentions a number of places we can take you to: Lhasa, Tibet; Ha Long Bay, Vietnam; and Moganshan, near Shanghai. Lhasa is the highlight of our Mysterious Tibet 16-Day Tour, and Ha Long Bay is one of the attractions on our Vietnam/Cambodia Highlights 7-Day Tour, which also features the ancient city of Angkor Wat. We’re also happy to arrange custom getaways to the tranquil mountain retreat of Moganshan, where you can relax in a new luxury hotel, admire its historic villas, and explore its tea fields.

If you want to create your own unique China travel experience, we are always happy to modify our existing tour packages to include the places and activities you want or to help you design your own, completely original itinerary.  Just contact us and let one of our agents know what you have in mind!

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