Even after years of living, working and traveling both inside and outside of China, the truth is that many tourists or business travelers don’t get to connect with China on a local level. Most people think of China and think of the Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, or maybe just pandas. Of course China has pandas, but it also has so much more! China’s culture is rich and complex, full of history, legends, and traditions. Many tourists or travelers leave China seeing only the inside of their hotels or a few popular museums or local restaurants, having missed the intricacies of Chinese culture that make this place so vibrant.
Now thanks to a new international travel company called VAYA, tourists and travelers can take in a more authentic Chinese experience! VAYA is a peer-to-peer platform that lets travelers connect directly with local hosts who can show them a deeper and more authentic side of China. Think AirBNB, but for travel experiences; where AirBNB helps travelers find unique local places to sleep, VAYA helps travelers find unique local experiences. Want to hike trails or mountains that are off the beaten path, or shop from fresh markets tucked away in hidden alleys? Book an experience with a local host, guide or teacher, and let them show you this magnificent culture first hand. Enjoy a special meal cooked just for you in the home of your host, or take a personalized Kung Fu lesson from a true Kung Fu Master! These are just a few of the many experiences waiting for you in China!
Free for a few hours in Shenzhen, we took advantage of the opportunity to experience an authentic Chinese ceramics lesson with Master Artist Sheng Zhang. Born in Fujian province, Mr. Zhang has always had a passion for art, specifically ceramics. After graduating from Jingdezhen Pottery & Porcelain University in 1987 with a degree in art & design, he established himself as the go-to designer for traditional Chinese style interiors. During this time he founded a successful design firm, and was named as an honorary professor at his alma mater.
Now after 30 years of tremendous success in his industry, he’s finally decided to return to his passion for ceramics and share his wisdom and knowledge with the world! So if you’re planning a trip to Shenzhen and looking for something more interesting than the usual cheap shopping outlets, try a 2 hour ceramics lesson with Mr. Zhang for only USD $18! Traveling with a group? No problem. His ceramics studio can accommodate up to 30 people.
One of the most memorable experiences so far this year was when our team traveled to Guilin, in Guangxi Province, to witness the Yao ethnic group celebrate their annual Red Clothes Festival. During the festival local Yao girls wear beautiful and eye catching hand-made red clothes, and more than a thousand local Yao people turned out to celebrate.
The Yao ethnic people are known for their singing, dancing, and other folk activities such as the long-drum dance, village beauty contest, long-hair competition, tug-of-war, and more. Traditionally, these ‘competitions’ are more friendly than competitive, and give the local people an opportunity to get to know each other better. The Yao people have a history that can be traced back 2000 years, and are currently one of 55 ethnic minority groups that are officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China.
When we first arrived in Guilin we were greeted by the magnificent local topography. The cool mountain air was refreshing, peaceful and calm. It’s fair to say that calm was quickly overtaken by excitement as we rushed to the edge of the mountain with cameras and phones to capture the beautiful moment.
The best part about experiencing China with VAYA is the ability to connect with the culture and its people in a real way. Spending time with a certified host, or even a local guide or translator is an awesome way to get to know a deeper and more authentic version of China than you would on your own or as part of a large tour group.
Even for experienced travelers, China can be difficult to navigate. Beyond the broad range of exciting experiences, VAYA also offers both translation and local transportation services, making getting around as easy and comfortable as possible.
Special Offer: first 1000 registered users will earn 2000 VAYA credits! That’s a value of USD $20, and VAYA credits are good for up to one year.