Discover China

By Emlyn L., Founder

I’m rounding the corner for my final stretch in China, and heading to Shanghai before my return back to the States. I just spent the past 5 days in one of my favorite areas of China- the Guilin/Yangshuo area. This is one of the most aesthetically beautiful parts of China that provide inspiration to many artists, poets, and is printed on the 20RMB Chinese currency bill. Yangshuo has been known as a backpacker and adventure travel haven for years, and the infamous West Street has developed even more to be a hub for bars, cafes, restaurants, vendors, and discos to appeal to the Chinese and foreign markets alike.

The beautiful Guilin/Yangshuo area

The reason I came out here was to meet up with and check on our Discover China – Travel, Volunteer, and Cultural Exchange program. Cultural Embrace has partnered with a local non-profit to provide a wonderful blend of Chinese cultural, educational, adventurous, and humanitarian aspects in the area. We have created weekly programs to offer a diverse opportunity to experience the ‘real’ China, allowing our participants to: integrate within the local village, learn more about the Chinese culture, including several ethnic minority groups that live in and near the area, embark on some fun and adventurous recreational activities, and give back to the communities.

Our local coordinator, Isabella, is a delight, one of my favorite coordinators that we work with around the globe. She is a former English teacher in the Northern region, and genuinely cares about the community, participants, and village people. Plus, she’s fun, adorable, and has the most pleasant ‘hao de’ (translated okay or alright) and smile that will make anyone reciprocate her happy demeanor. My brief description does not give justice to the a la carte week options you may choose, so go see for yourself, to gain a better understanding and experience of fascinating China.

Isabella!

Cultural Week: Participants will fly or take the train in to Guilin. You will be met by a local representative, and depending on the time of arrival, you will either overnight in downtown Guilin, or go straight down to Fengyan village. The gender divided bunk bed accommodations is a highlight of the Fengyan experience. Our base is home to an ancient building, over 100 years old, that has been recently renovated to include wi-fi, Western toilets, and hot water, yet preserves the ancient old ambience. All meals are included and cooked by a private chef and served family style. This cultural week orientates the traveler with Chinese culture, basic and essential Chinese phrases, social habits, and expectations of our participants in China. The week is filled with sight-seeing excursions, such as: Confucius and Buddhist temples, farm lands, ancient Chong Shen village, Li River cruises, and much more. Participants will get a chance to have tea and visit local homes and families, and a chance to meet local farmers, students, and decide what type of work they want to do if they are on the volunteer week.

Yangshuo Adventure & Travel Week: As I mentioned earlier, Yangshuo has been a backpacker and adventure traveler refuge in China. Rock climbing, mountain biking, white water rafting, tubing and much more are available during this weekdays, and your evenings are at leisure to relax your muscles, or check out the hip nightlife scene of Yangshuo. Our accommodations in Yangshuo are upgraded dormitories in a local private school. All of the foreign participants are situated on the 3rd and 4th floor of a hall, and have wi-fi, Western toilets, hot showers, and included meals.

Trekking Week: Three hours North of Yangshuo is Long Cheng, home to the Yao minority, and a spectacular area for trekking and hiking. We include a week-long trek, led by local minorities to maintain sustainability within the local community, and they will take you through farmlands, local villages, and the backroads of China. These spry older ladies, aka as Longhair villagers, will wear their minority clothing (not sure how they don’t get hot), skipping along the steps without catching their breath. These ladies are also known as Longhair minority, since they do not cut their hair after 18 years old, and wear their floor-length hair in an unique bun. Every day’s trek ranges 4-8 hours of leisure-paced hiking. You will overnight in comfortable, clean and conveniently located hostels/hotels each night, with all meals included.

Me with a Longhair villager

TaiQi/Kung Fu Week: There are two kungfu and tai qi academies located near Yangshuo district. Participants that want to learn, practice, and discover the beautiful art form and disciplinary workout will love this opportunity. Be the “Karate Kid” during your time in China, and learn from nationally praised kungfu masters. Participants will live on site in clean, comfortable, and Western friendly accommodations, with all meals included and instructions in Chinglish.

Volunteer Week: Giving back to the community is a major part of our mission and passion at Cultural Embrace, and we provide several opportunities for our participants to volunteer in China.

If you wish to stay in the Yangshuo/Fengyan area, you may opt to:

  1. Tutor and teach basic oral English at public elementary, middle, or high schools (depending on your age preference)
  2. Help local villagers and farmers during their harvest season (seasonal).

I recommend joining our Teach in China program if you are able to commit 14+ weeks, as we may be able to offer you a paid stipend for your longer-term teach placement.

If you wish to spread your wings and visit other parts of China, we have a fantastic opportunity for you to work at a Panda Conservation Reserve in Chengdu, and help at a local orphanage in Henan Province. There is a local coordinator in each destination that will inform you of your duties, schedule, and expectations, and assist with all ground transportation, language translations, etc. Both sites have shared clean and comfortable accommodations for the foreign volunteers with all included meals.

All of these weeks are available throughout the year, and you may choose the weeks and types of travel and program you want to do. Come and join us to Discover China!

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Sep 25, 2021 @ 15:47
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