More Impressions from Beijing

1. Beijing’s got blue sky. Here’s the proof on the left. 

  1. 2. Milk delivery and bill collection. My door bell rang at 5:40am this morning, I stumbled out of bed to peek through the keyhole, aha, it’s the milk delivery man.   I opened the door, and said, “That’s an early delivery.”. He said, “yes, but I am also here to collect payment!”.  “how much?” I asked. “RMB 840.” (USD 130) How was I supposed to have that much cash at this ungodly hour?  “I’ll pay you next week.” “OK” he said, and I closed the door behind me, and went back to bed.  I love the fact that I can get everything delivered at no extra charge, but what happened to online payment? Nope, it’s all cash upon delivery, at any hour of the day!

 

  1. 3. A permanent conversation topic – food safety It’s a safe conversation starter with any parents in China. where do you source healthy food items? Where do you buy chicken, celery, or milk.  Yes, the supermarket is stocked full with large varieties of these, but no one really trusts them. So, we searched, and found, Wonder milk (full or low fat), they don’t make them in skim or in cartons larger than half a quart.  Apparently, the organic chicken should come from BHG supertmarket. I had some super sweet chestnuts the other day, and wondered if they soaked the nuts in artificial sweetner ahead of time.  Eat, but keep on questioning.

4. A well thought through road sign.  This is the sign that’s in front of our apartment. My son discovered it.  Whoever made this sign gave it a lot of thoughts, and decided to lay out the letters from left to right to match the direction the sign was pointing to.  Reading from left to right, it says:  “Beijing of Hospital Force Police Armed People’s Chinese” , but try it the other way. Genius!

5. Every Chinese is traveling the world.  Went back home in Yunnan the other day, and my aunt told me that she was going on a leisure trip to Dubai! She’s usually a good parameter on where the hot destinations are.  A selection of a few places she went in the past 5 years: America,  新马泰 (Singapore-Malaysia-Thailand on one trip.), Japan, 欧洲10国 (10 European countries), and Russia. I have no doubt she’ll be headed towards the Maldives, and Maritius soon.  By the way, the 7 day Dubai, air inclusive journey costs around RMB 7000. (USD 1100).

 

6. The automated verification process on Chinese internet.  Usually, on craigslist, you are asked to key in a few jumbled letters to verify that you are a human, not a machine.  In China, the process requires higher level of intelligence. For example, 16+20=?, please type in two numbers that’s the answer to this equation.  Example two, what’s the capital city of Russia: please input 3 characters to answer this question. (莫斯科 is the right answer)。

6. Kids study hard. “Ayi, it only takes me two hours to complete my homework!” a nine year old boy told me proudly.  I had to ask his parents to make sure that I heard him right. “Yes, it takes other kids 3-4 hours to do homework, so he’s very proud!”. WOW, how are the American kids going to catch up?

 

 

WILDCHINA 的旅游精神是从那里来的?

昨天跟中国日报英文版的一个编辑作了一个访谈。讲旅游的新趋势,等等。在采访快结束的时候,记者问我什么时候到美国居住的。 “5年”我说;她又接着问,“那以前就没有到过美国吗?”我又加了两年,把以前念书的时间也算上了。 她再次仔细地确认,“那您一共在美国7年?”。

我还在奇怪她为什么对数字那么感兴趣,她就接着说,“那能不能说您作WILDCHINA的旅游观,是受了美国文化影响才形成的?”

这个问题让我非常不高兴。我第一次到中甸是1990年,那时候得从昆明坐两天的公共汽车才到。我住在藏族朋友的家里,自己打车去了纳帕海。那里唯一遇上两个外地人,其中一个是现在蛮有名气的野生动物摄影师奚志农。如果我问奚志农他排野生动物是不是有美国文化的影响,一定得把他也给气晕了。

我不明白,WILDCHINA的精神在于,深度旅游,强调回归自然,强调与当地村民的进距离交流。这不用到美国学习。她问我动力来自那里。 我告诉她,动力来自本身对自然和人文文化的好奇,强烈的求知欲,还有,就是中国传统文化的熏陶。

抬起头看见我办公室墙上挂着的毛笔字,是一首李白的诗

问余何事栖碧山

笑而不答心自闲

桃花流水然去

别有天地非人间

 

这样的修身养性的意境,跟WILDCHINA所追求的意境是非常相似的。追求的是接近自然,欣赏自然,借自然的力量来疗养身心,已达到自身意境的提高。从自然出发,我对旅游的偏好更倾向走访小山村,寻访当地的文化艺人,或者是徒步外人没听说过但当地很有名的寺庙;去这样的地方给我带来的愉悦远远超过到纽约这样的大都市。比如到大理南边的巍宝山,跑到山顶,跟那里的道士一起喝杯道家茶,聊聊天,我觉得那是最幸福不过的一件事。

可能在很大程度上,我对旅游的个人嗜好在WILDCHINA 的基因里。物以类聚,人以群分;自然而然,WILDCHINA吸引了一批对旅游有同样体会和嗜好的客户和员工。

让我困惑的是,为什么这样的旅游方式被诠释为美国进口文化?是从什么时候开始,中国人的旅游等同于旅游大巴,进店,团队自助餐,啤酒可乐瓶子满地,游客吵吵嚷嚷,大大咧咧,走马观花。而WILDCHINA追求的,跟古诗和山水画描述的旅游意境一致的旅游确被视为舶来品?

我想了半天,想出两个可能,但是,并没能最终解决我的困惑。

1。 我们目前的客户大多是讲英文的外国人。为什么没有中国客户呢?第一,我们的收费高。往往,我们的客人一天的最低收费都在2000人民币左右,而在中国人在国内旅行,自己觉得不用花那么多钱。我们服务的卖点,细致入微的量身定制,我们很环保的操作,带客人去他们自己去不到的地方,请当地知识最丰富的导游或专家作向导, 24小时的服务。 因为有这样的服务,我们的外国客户还真不少,好莱坞巨星罗伯特 德 尼罗, 前任联合国主席科菲 阿南; 还有最近美国脸书facebook 的CEO 马克 撒德波格。但是,在国内旅游提供类似的服务,好像没有什么市场。

为什么呢?首先,国人对高端旅游服务的认可程度尚在初级阶段,往往把旅游和简单的买机票,订酒店联系到一起。愈演愈烈的价格竞争让人忽略了对服务和旅游体验的关注。 一提及旅游,大家往往想到的是去携程网找折扣,那什么都可以预定。 其次,为了凸显个人人际网落,去旅游总是喜欢找关系, 再高端的酒店,或许一个电话找到它的投资人,打个5折,这才显得我的重要性。 第三,时常为了彰显身份,去旅游还不得办个政府接待?动用地方关系,专家,村民表演一应俱全,但往往劳民伤财。WILDCHINA几乎就没有存在的意义。

国内旅游还是处于初级阶段。初级阶段的旅游主要目的还是“某某到此一游” 的精神,图的是名——我去了多少多少地方,以此作为向亲朋好友炫耀的资本。这才导致了一周七国游类似的旅行线路。这个阶段旅游服务需求只是基本的吃饱喝足,最好有朋友一起热热闹闹的。跟徐霞客和李白主张的旅游境界是大相径庭的。

旅游的更高一阶段,就开始追求对旅游目的地的更多了解,放慢旅行的速度。可能出行前还有可能对目的地先研究研究。 最高阶段,才是李白诗里所描述的境界——自身意境的提高。旅行是为了探索心灵的更深处。这时候,往往愿意一个人去徒步环绕岗仁博齐神山,有时间思索。或者是去一个意大利骑自行车,晚上把车子一停,住在一个历史悠久的古堡里,仔细品味葡萄酒。或者,到东非的某个村子里,帮助那里的孩子修修学校。作所有的这一切,都不是作给别人看的, 是为了提高自身。用国内比较难听的话就是,提高自己的素质!

我期待着更多的中国游者能尽快走上旅游的最高境界。这样别人就不再说WILDCHINA的旅游精神是美国进口的了。

Adventure Travel World Summit Opening by Mei Zhang

When I first came to the Adventure Travel World Summit in Quebec last year, I didn’t know anyone. I was one of two people from China. And the other person, I didn’t know either. So I had no idea what to expect. I was feeling a bit like an outsider.

Then I went on the beautiful adventure day hike, donned on my comfy Eddie Bower down jacket. On the hike, I met my best friends since, Judith Fein, and Andy Levine (@Duvine) We shared the joys and pains of running your own business, and shared tips on how to crack open the Travel + Leisure A List. I was feeling like, hey, I like this. This is a bunch of hiker/business people that I could hang out with. It’s sort of like my tribe.

Over the next few days, I met more people; shed tears over other people’s travel stories. And most importantly, fell in love with adventure travel business again.

I don’t know about you, but for me, when back at home base, I often get bogged down by the mundane details of a cancelled flight, a 3am client phone call or the balancing act of figuring out staff year end bonuses. The business often became just another business, with the glamour and fun of adventure already worn off.  It’s at times like this, I asked myself why I was in this business. It’s a lot of work and it doesn’t pay much. I could be a venture capitalist in a different life.

Then I come to an event like this one, and realize that I just love connecting with people. I love the great outdoors and enjoy sharing with others what I love. How lucky I am to be able to make a profession out of a hobby? And, even better, there are a lot of us like minded people here. We are the lucky bunch, and we just love what we do!

So, when Shannon invited me to join the ATTA advisory board, I was delighted. Now I have more excuses to go on adventures, connect with like-minded people. Just like last night, I met Frank Murphy from Tahiti. How often do you get to meet someone from Tahiti? Not to mention someone with an Irish last name (@tahitimurphy)?

The them of this year’s Summit is Share & Inspire. I want to remind us all that sharing and inspiring is a two way communication. Everyone has a story to tell, and a simple story may inspire another person in a way you didn’t expect. So, I want to encourage all of you to extend your hand and meet the one next to you. Share your story and enjoy the conference. And who knows, next year, you may be on stage doing what Praveen and I are doing right now.