World ? Asia ? China

China: Special-Interest Tours

Audubon Nature Odysseys (U.S.): The Audubon Society has just started to experiment with bird-watching tours in China, and works through a specialist U.S. company with a Sino-American operator based in Kunming. The tour leader is a bird specialist from overseas, the tour is joined by local birding experts, and the local operator provides a bilingual guide. The itinerary is a clever combination of mainstream sightseeing and visits to out-of-the-way bird-watching areas from mountainous Yunnan Province to coastal migratory areas in Hebei (tel. 800/967-7425;

See MacKinnon and Phillipps's Field Guide to the Birds of China (Oxford) for a sample of what you might see. Bird-watchers visiting Hong Kong should see the Hong Kong Bird-Watching Society site at, and First Step Nature Tours at

Bike China Adventures, Inc. (U.S.-based, with an office in China): Still one of the leaders in this field, with great organization and some of the best guides. Cycling group sizes range from one to eight participants, who have ranged in age from 18 to 86. The company is based in Chengdu and tours are accompanied by a bilingual local or foreign guide. More than 50 tours operate both around the company's Sichuan base, in neighboring provinces, and as far away as Hebei and Xinjiang, always using local hotels, guesthouses, and restaurants so there's no camping or cooking (tel. 800/818-1778 in the U.S.; fax 515/322-0300 in the U.S., or 01388-2266-575 in China;

Mongol Global Tour Co. (U.S.): Custom tours are created for adventurers, gourmet food and wine-lovers, lovers of culture, and more. Their tours offer many sites and experiences not generally offered and can be designed with economy in mind. There are local guides in each city and a national guide accompanies tours of 10 or more people. For specialty groups there is often an international guide as well (tel. 866/225-0577 or 714/220-2579; or

Myths and Mountains (U.S.) is an adventure travel company that specializes in getting inside the culture of a country. Their customized trips focus on the themes of China -- the culture and arts, religions and holy sites, ethnic groups and trade routes, and environment and how people have adapted to it. Tours range from the eastern coastal cities and villages all the way west and north into Tibet, Inner Mongolia, and other less-traveled areas, such as Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan, and Qinghai (tel. 800/670-6894 or 775/832-5454; fax 775/832-4454;

You might want to consider, one of the few online booking agencies I'd recommend for travel in China. Run by a returnee ABC (American-born Chinese) from Harvard, Wild China acts as a clearinghouse for specialized China tours. Great attention is paid to comfort and yet the destinations, such as a section of the Great Wall currently under renovation, are a little different from the usual spots. The site's collection of press articles is particularly encouraging.

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