Guilin, China: “The Most Picturesque Place on Earth”

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Guilin, China

I’ve photographed in over 40 countries but on a recent trip to China, I found what I believe may be the most picturesque place on earth.

I was on an extended trip to Asia with my camera, hoping to photograph some of the Mysterious East’s beauty spots. What I found stands firmly in my mind as one of the most exotic and incredible landscapes I have ever seen.

Guilin, which means “Osmanthus Forest”, is one of the best-known tourist destinations in China. It’s hailed across the country as one of the most photogenic landscapes in the world. Yet it remains relatively unknown in the West. I wanted to find out for myself.

But Guilin wouldn’t be easy to get to. I had to take a 24-hour train ride from Shanghai to get there.

Guilin has been populated since around 300 BC and its central city is built around interconnected rivers and lakes.

The waterways are traversed by numerous distinctive bridges that have a way of making you want to wander across and experience the other side. Weathered limestone pinnacles rise sharply into the clear blue sky from the dense green vegetation that surrounds them. These otherworldly formations are sometimes up to 650 feet tall and are found in only a handful of places in the world.

The incredibly beautiful Li River is the beating heart of Guilin and the focal point for much of the region’s tourism. The 50-mile-long waterway from Guilin to nearby Yangshuo is like a beautifully painted masterpiece that seems like it was lifted right out of a Chinese scroll painting. You just can’t take your eyes off it.

The landscape is peppered with towering limestone columns, mysterious cave systems and small rural villages all banked by vast forests of lush, green bamboo.

People here still travel the river on low bamboo rafts and locals use trained cormorants to catch fish from the waters of the Li. It’s like stepping back in time. I viewed the scene from the deck of a large river boat. Cruises take about six hours and if you ever choose to take one, I promise it will be something you will never forget.

My camera could barely keep up with the incredible photo opportunities. I filled my camera’s memory card with images of landscape after landscape.

For me, this was more than just a pleasure cruise. I uploaded my images to microstock photo websites that have accepted my work over the years. From there, people who need photos of this area can buy copies of my images. They use them for sales brochures for hotels…or tour company posters…or on travel websites. Each time someone buys an image, I get a commission. It’s a great way to earn money from my favorite pastime.

10 Remote Travel Destinations From Around The World

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robinson crusoe

Robinson Crusoe Island

The largest island of the Chilean Juan Fernández Archipelago, Robinson Crusoe Island is 419 miles west of South America in the South Pacific Ocean. In 1704, a man named Alexander Selkirk asked to be put ashore here after a dispute with his ship’s captain, and spent four years living on the island alone. This lonely man on a lonely island gave Daniel Defoe the inspiration for one of the most famous literary characters in history. With less than 900 inhabitants, the community depends heavily on the spiny lobster trade. The main reason to visit this island is its unspoiled beauty, with excellent diving and hiking and an array of landscapes like mountains, valleys, rainforests and rugged terrain from ancient lava flow. ATA runs flights there from Santiago depending on the weather. Fliers will descend on a small landing strip on the Aerodrome Robinson Crueson, and will then be taken by boat to the village of San Juan Bautista.

greenland

Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland

Although Greenland is large in size, it’s home to numerous remote areas, the most remote being the settlement of Ittoqqortoormiit. With less than 500 inhabitants, locals have ample space to roam around. Visitors can take part in activities like dog sledding, trophy hunting and sailing the largest and longest fjord system in the world, Scoresby Sund. To get there, you can take a flight with Air Iceland, Iceland Express or Iceland Air, although flights aren’t daily. Once you arrive in the destination airport of Constable Point, you’ll take a helicopter to Ittoqqortoormiit.

pitcairn island

Pitcairn Islands

These tiny islands are the last of the British colony in the South Pacific and the most isolated British dependency. Of the four islands, Pitcairn is the only inhabited island of the group, with Adamstown being the capital and only settlement containing the islands’ entire population. Visiting Pitcairn is extremely difficult due to irregularity of transport. First you’ll need to pay a $100 fee and get a license from the governor by showing proof you’re in good health, have a way to leave the island and have at least NZ$300 (about $246) per week to cover your cost of living. To actually get there, you’ll take a plane to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands, 330 miles away from Pitcairn. Then you can catch a charter vessel, which takes 32 hours. Once you are there, you’ll be able to see the shipwreck of the “Bounty” in Bounty Bay, Polynesian petroglyphs at Down Rope cliff, a Galapagos tortouise named Mrs. Turpin and the sea-level cave and picturesque beach of Gudgeon.

macquarie island

Macquarie Island

Located about halfway between Australia and Antarctica in the Southern Ocean, Macquarie Island is a Tasmanian State Reserve managed by the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site for two reasons. One, it is the only place in the world where rocks from the Earth’s mantle, nearly four miles below the ocean floor, are actively exposed above sea level. Additionally, the fact it’s so remote allows the island to have a windswept landscape featuring dramatic changes in flora, unspoiled beauty and huge colonies of penguins and seals. To get there, travelers can get a boat from Hobart in Tasmania or Bluff in New Zealand, which takes three to four days. Some transportation companies that do the route include Quark Expeditions, Aurora Expeditions and Heritage Expeditions. Because there is no port on Macquarie Island, visitors are brought to shore on small boats.

concordia

Concordia, Pakistan

Residing on the border of Pakistan and China, Concordia is the meeting point between Baltoro Glacier and the Godwin-Austen Glacier, in the center of Pakistan’s Karakoram range. Around Concordia, you’ll also find four of the world’s 14 “eight-thousanders.” These include the mountains of K2 at 8,611 meters, Gasherbrum I at 8,080 meters, Broad Peak at 8,047 meters and Gasherbrum II at 8,035 meters. In fact, Concordia is the only place in the world where four peaks higher than 8,000 meters can be seen. While a beautiful place, you’ll have to walk for about 10 days until you reach the foot of K2. You’ll first fly into Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, to fill out the necessary trekking papers, then fly or drive for two or three days as for as you can toward Askolie, the last village before Concordia and K2.

barrow alaska

Barrow, Alaska

Barrow, the largest city of the North Slope Borough of Alaska, is the ninth northernmost city in the world and the northernmost city in the United States. It’s a great place to enjoy the Iñupiat Heritage Center, bird watching, experience an unusual tundra tour, browse traditional markets and visit the northermost most point in the U.S., Point Barrow. While remote, you can into Wiley-Post Will Rogers Memorial Airport via Alaska Airlines and Era Airlines.

deception island

Deception Island, Antarctica

Located in the South Shetland off the Antarctic Peninsula, Deception Island is the caldera of an active volcano. People visit this remote island to view wildlife like fur seals, sea birds and Chinstrap penguins, swim in Pendulum Cove’s volcanically-heated waters, take in ash-layered glaicers and sometimes even experience an icy scuba dive into the restless volcano. There is also history and ruins, as the island was once home to the whaling and Antarctic bases of many countries until violent volcanic eruptions pushed them out. The island was named after a pilot who misjudged his landing and crashed, killing four passengers and leaving one to die waiting for help on the isloated island. To get to Deception Island, you’ll need to arrive by ship via a cruise or tour.

tristan de cunha

Tristan de Cunha

Located 1,750 miles from the nearest mainland of South Africa’s Cape of Good Horn, Tristan de Cunha is another world. This group of remote volcanic islands in the south Atlantic Ocean is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, with a population of less than 300 people. Reasons to visit include the brilliant basalt cliffs and a volcano reaching 6,760 feet above sea level, the most isloated settlement in the world, bird watching and coins and stamps, one of the island’s main sources of income. Because there is no airport, Tristan da Cunha can only be reached by taking a six day journey from Cape Town.

Svalbard, Norway

Svalbard, Norway

This Artic archipelago is the northernmost part of Norway, located above the Arctic Circle about 400 miles off Europe’s mainland. Out of Svalbard’s 2,700 residents, about 2,000 live in the town of Longyearbyen (shown above), with the rest of the population being scientists and miners. One special facet to the destination is it houses the Global Seed Vault, an underground cellar that safely stores the planet’s plant seeds in case of a global emergency. Reasons to visit the destination include exploring untouched arctic wildnerness, seeing polar bears, bird watching, visiting national parks and seeing Norway’s largest glaicer, Austfonna. To get to Svalbard, you can fly into their airport in Longyear, located about two miles from Longyearbyen.

[Images via Shutterstock, Pato Novoa, Hanes Grobe, Shutterstock, Shutterstock, sjorford, Shutterstock, Shutterstock, Michael clarke stuff, Shutterstock]

Sustainable Tourism Observatories Look To The Future Of Travel

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Sustainable Tourism Observatories
Sustainable Tourism Observatories aim to provide standardized, usable information to recognize sustainable tourism providers. Travel agencies use this information to help in choosing sustainable suppliers and certification programs. Consumers use it to identify sound sustainable tourism programs and businesses they might use when traveling. Monitoring the environmental, social and economic impacts of tourism, two new observatories have been set up in China.

A product of the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism, Sustainable Tourism Observatories have been set up in 155 countries. Representing the private sector, educational institutions, tourism associations and local tourism authorities, the UNWTO tackles challenges like climate change, poverty elimination and others that will be affected by tourism.

“UNWTO’s Sustainable Tourism Observatories are providing decision makers with the information they need to make more responsible tourism decisions,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai in a statement.

Sustainable Tourism ObservatoriesKanas Lake Nature Reserve in the extreme northwest of China and the city of Chengdu, one of China’s most populous cities, are the locations of two new UNWTO Sustainable Tourism Observatories, which will gather and report sustainable tourism indicators and help ensure more sustainable tourism growth.

For those who have traveled to some of the most beautiful, unspoiled places on the planet, this effort aims to keep those destinations that way while supporting tourism, often a major economic factor in those areas.

The city of Chengdu, for example, sees tens of millions of tourists each year, sourced both domestically and internationally. These tourists contribute a great deal to the city’s economy and add an estimated 600,000 direct jobs. Is that amount of tourism sustainable? Will future generations be able to see what we see there today? These and other questions are what the UNWTO hopes to answer.

“The establishment of the Chengdu and Kanas Observatories will allow these destinations to better understand the impact of their many visitors, evaluate the impacts of existing sustainable tourism initiatives and ensure tourism benefits both the people and environment of the surrounding areas for years to come,” added Rifai.

For more information on sustainable tourism, visit the UNWTO website and check this video:

[Photo credit: Flickr user dcmaster]

Filed under: Asia, North America, China, United States, Ecotourism

Autumn scenery in Tianshan Mountain, Xinjiang

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Photo taken on October 11, 2012 shows the autumn scenery of the east Tianshan Mountain in Hami, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 11, 2012 shows the autumn scenery of the east Tianshan Mountain in Hami, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua


Photo taken on October 11, 2012 shows the autumn scenery of the east Tianshan Mountain in Hami, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 11, 2012 shows the autumn scenery of the east Tianshan Mountain in Hami, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua


Red deer look for food among pinery in the east Tianshan Mountain in Hami, Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, October 11, 2012. Photo: Xinhua</p>
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Red deer look for food among pinery in the east Tianshan Mountain in Hami, Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, October 11, 2012. Photo: Xinhua

How Can Brands Use China’s Media Landscape To Their Advantage?

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Leverage Domestic Chinese Media For Maximum Impact

90 percent of China’s billionaires plan to send their children overseas to study

Luxury brands are actively seeking to attract and engage Chinese consumers as they continue to venture abroad for education, investment, business opportunities… and shopping.

The volume of international travel from China – on track to exceed 80 million travelers in 2012 – as well as the unprecedented growth in big-ticket spending, makes this novel audience an attractive target. Winning the hearts and minds of these new customers, however, is far from foreordained.

Since the turn of the millennium – a blink of an eye, in China’s long history – we have witnessed the development of an uncommonly brand-conscious incarnation of the luxury consumer. In this supercharged environment, leveraging targeted media exposure to ensure that your brand is top-of-mind is of crucial importance.

The New Players

A jumble of new Chinese-language publications has disrupted the traditional travel media establishment, breaking down into three main categories:

1.) Travel-focused media (mainly based in Mainland China) providing information, advice and ideas in advance of an overseas trip. We are also seeing an upsurge of travel and destination-related inserts in existing luxury-focused publications.

2.) Chinese-language publications with impact during the process of travel: in-flight magazines, embassy publications, VIP lounge, etc.

3.) Publications that target Chinese tourists and other travelers at their destinations.

Vogue China still bursts at the seams with advertisements

Don’t Ignore Online Media

When evaluating the landscape, pay attention to online travel media. China’s luxury consumer is far younger than those of most other countries – the average Chinese millionaire is 37, compared to 55 in the West. Chinese consumers are far more active and engaged online and via mobile than their Western counterparts.

Online platforms and presence must be an integral component of any media strategy in China, including in a travel context.

Getting Your Hands Dirty

Brands may employ both PR and advertising strategies to reach this category of media, but any strategy needs to be evaluated in the context of a given brand’s existing awareness in China and overall PR and advertising scope in the Mainland.

Media relations in China are challenging and time-consuming – some might say messier – than in other markets, frequently devolving into a pay-to-play situation. Chinese media operate differently than in most other countries, with low levels of transparency and opaque advertising rates. Investments in PR and advertising should be weighed carefully from an ROI perspective.

The unavoidable fact is that no amount of travel media advertising can trump an already strong brand perception and awareness in China. Opportunities to target specific travel media should be evaluated in the overall context of each brand’s unique situation.

- Jing Daily

Charming autumn scenery in China’s Tibet

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Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows flowers near Gyangze County, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows flowers near Gyangze county, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows flowers near Gyangze County, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows flowers near Gyangze county, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows the Baiqoi Monastery in Gyangze, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows the Baiqoi Monastery in Gyangze, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows the Baiqoi Monastery in Gyangze, Southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 1, 2012 shows the Baiqoi Monastery in Gyangze, Southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Photo: Xinhua

Nanji Island in E China’s Zhejiang Province

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A tourist plays on the beach of the Nanji Island, east China's Zhejiang Province, October 14, 2012. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China's first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua
A tourist plays on the beach of the Nanji Island, East China’s Zhejiang Province, October 14, 2012. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China’s first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows a scene of the Nanji Islands, east China's Zhejiang Province. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China's first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows a scene of the Nanji Islands, East China’s Zhejiang Province. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China’s first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua

Fishing vessels anchor in a port of the Nanji Island, East China's Zhejiang Province, October 14, 2012. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China's first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua
Fishing vessels anchor in a port of the Nanji Island, East China’s Zhejiang Province, October 14, 2012. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China’s first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua

Aquatic products and fishing vessel are seen at a port of the Nanji Island, East China's Zhejiang Province, October 14, 2012. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China's first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua
Aquatic products and fishing vessel are seen at a port of the Nanji Island, East China’s Zhejiang Province, October 14, 2012. The 7.64-square kilometer Nanji Island, as the largest island of the Nanji Islands, was named for its muntjac shape. The archipelago were listed as China’s first level-five marine nature reserve in 1990. Photo: Xinhua

China to open atomic bomb site to tourists

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An atomic bomb model during China's 60th anniversary exhibition in Beijing, 23 September 2009China detonated its first atomic bomb in 1964

China has unveiled a plan to open the site where it detonated its first atomic bomb to tourists, state-run media reports.

About 6m yuan ($960,000, £595,000) will be spent making the remote Malan base in Xinjiang region tourist-friendly, an official told Xinhua news agency.

Visitors will be able to see scientists’ laboratories and a 300-metre tunnel used for air strikes.

China tested its first atomic bomb on 16 October 1964.

More than 40 nuclear tests have been carried out in Xinjiang over the decades before a moratorium was called in the 1990s.

Beijing’s Tsinghua University and the local government are developing the site, located in a desert area in north-western China, Xinhua says.

Officials say that the base at Malan will be turned into a “red tourism site” – locations designated by the Communist Party to celebrate what it regards as historic events, says the BBC’s Martin Patience in Beijing.

However it is not clear how many tourists the nuclear facilities will actually attract, as it is in one of the remotest regions in the country, our correspondent adds.

Gorgeous sunglow scenery in Shanghai

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Photo taken on October 12, 2012 shows gorgeous sunglow over the Huangpu River in Shanghai, East China. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 12, 2012 shows gorgeous sunglow over the Huangpu River in Shanghai, East China. Photo: Xinhua


Photo taken on October 12, 2012 shows gorgeous sunglow over the Huangpu River in Shanghai, East China. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 12, 2012 shows gorgeous sunglow over the Huangpu River in Shanghai, East China. Photo: Xinhua 

Maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, NE China

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Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua


Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua


Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua


Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua


Tourists visit Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China's Liaoning Province, October 14, 2012. Photo: Xinhua
Tourists visit Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province, October 14, 2012. Photo: Xinhua

Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China's Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua
Photo taken on October 14, 2012 shows the maples on Guanmen Mountain in Benxi, Northeast China’s Liaoning Province. Photo: Xinhua