And also -- and this is the main thing -- to do that with someone else planning all the minutia of proper hotels, guides, itineraries, non-poisonous food, transport, plane bookings, and whatever else totally crap about traveling.
100 Laowais to Xiamen is currently accepting booking for the September 12 to 14 trip. SmartBeijing talked to one of 100 Laowai's organizers, Bill George, to get a little more background on the thing and to find out what this Xiamen place is all about.
If you want to skip right to the tour info and logistics, click here. Deadline for getting your slot sorted is September 5.
SmBj: So, maybe to start, you could introduce this whole 100 Laowai thing.
Bill George: So, the idea of 100 Laowai was devised right at the beginning of 2014. Ctrip runs some really interesting tours all over China and we thought that it would be great to introduce some of these great destinations to expats in China who may not be aware of them. The trips are different from regular group tours and more like events that we run ourselves… we try to make them fun, educational, and as affordable as we possibly can. The main point of the 100 Laowai events is for expats to get together, meet like-minded people who are keen travelers and explore new places in the country they are living in.
China has the second most UNESCO World Heritage sights (after Italy) so there is certainly a lot to see! We always hold the events over a weekend so it is a way for people to see different parts of China without using up their holiday time.
SmBj: What's the appeal of the thing? What are the elements that people are being drawn too?
Bill George: I think the biggest draw is the chance to meet and socialize with like-minded expats who are living in other parts of China. For some people who are perhaps fairly new to the country or don’t speak the language it is a really convenient way to travel as all the hotels, meals, and tours are arranged for them, along with English speaking guides to introduce the local area. It makes the whole thing really easy for people. A lot of people are solo travelers so it's a great way for them to meet new people. Due to the numbers of people involved there is usually a great atmosphere and even if the weather isn’t great one day we can still crack a few beers open and have a good time! Plus, the trips are also discounted and therefore very affordable.
SmBj: Do you specifically get 100 Laowais?
Bill George: On the first trip to Huang Shan, we were just a few shy of 100. On the trip to Zhangjiajie, there were around 55. 100 is not a limit, rather the number we would expect on the trips. The numbers will really depend on the location, number of flights going there, etc. Huang Shan’s proximity to Shanghai probably helped with the numbers -- Zhangjiajie is a little more out of the way -- and the next one in Xiamen should see a lot more people join.
100 Laowais to Huang Shan
100 Laowais to Zhangjiajie
SmBj: What sorts of people are you getting on the tour? What's the age range?
Bill George: The people who joined the first two trips have been pretty diverse. We have had families with young kids, young professionals, retirees… and the great thing is everyone got on great. I think the main thing that everyone on the trips had in common was that they were all foreigners in a different country, from different parts of the world but with that similar bond and passion for travel that makes it easy to share experiences. So, while the demographics we are appealing to are very broad, most people coming on the trips do have a surprisingly lot in common.
SmBj: Can you talk about this installments destination, Xiamen. What's the deal with that? What is the tour going to do?
Bill George: Xiamen itself is a beautiful seaside city on the coast of Fujian province and it has two major attractions that the trip focuses on. The first is a visit to the local tulou -- huge earthen buildings and an impressive example of human settlement that have housed communities of Hakka people since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Several stories high and built for defense purposes around a central open courtyard, they feature tall fortified mud walls capped by tiled roofs with wide over-hanging eaves. One of these tulou -- the UNESCO Word Heritage-listed Hongkeng Tulou -- is comprised of roughly 100 of these structures and is a really impressive sight.
Another highlight of the trip is a visit to Gulangyu, a small island just a short boat ride from the coast. The cobbled pedestrian-only island has many quaint beaches and is peppered with colonial Victorian architecture from its days as an international settlement. With a distinctive old world charm, the narrow streets wind through the island and offer many attractions such as creative boutiques overhung with flowers that blossom throughout the year, small galleries, tea houses and some breezy gardens ideal for relaxation and quiet contemplation.
SmBj: What's the damage?
Bill George: All participants get the tour at the specially discounted rate of 1,380rmb when booking by 15 August 2014, and 1,580rmb for bookings made from 16 August - 12 September 2014. These are both reduced from the regular price of 1,780rmb.
[Ed's Note: The package includes the following: 2 nights in a 5-star hotel; 2 complimentary buffet breakfasts; 1 seafood meals; Your own English-speaking guide; All admission fees; Transportation in Xiamen.]
SmBj: Is it a quarterly thing? When / where's the next one?
Bill George: We have not set out to make it a quarterly event but with our third trip this year coming up in September you could say that it is shaping up to be that way. The one following Xiamen should be sometime in winter but has not been confirmed yet.
100 Laowais trips out to Xiamen September 12 to 14. For logistics, booking, and info on Ctrip's 100 Laowais to Xiamen, click here.