The Jones, Tenai-Barron, and Kuhl Families
Ingrid and Clay Jones, and their two kids: Avery (age 13) and Ethan (11), both students at Beijing City International School. The Jones family has been living in Beijing for 1.5 years and comes from Denver, Colorado.
Kimberly Tenai, Brad Barron, and their son Lucas (age 10), who attends the International School of Beijing. The Tenai-Barron family has been living in Beijing for three years and is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Nina and Mark Kuhl, and their two daughters: Isabel (age 10) and Lillian (8). The Kuhls were visiting from Denver.
Destination: Yunnan (Jingjong, Ganlanba, Manfeilong,
Bulangshan, Menghai, and Kunming)
Dates: March 30-April 5, 2013
Cost: Around RMB 10,000 per person, plus a little extra for credit card fees. The entire trip came to around USD 6,800 (RMB 41,700) for a family of four. This included airfare, transportation (including bike rentals), hotel stays, food, and activities. We spent maybe USD 150-200 (RMB 900-1,200) on extras like massages, gifts, tea, and tips.
Tour company: The Hutong. Co-Founder Mark Thirlwall and Corporate Events Manager Jake Laband joined the trip. Yunnan locals Echo and Wendy managed the sag wagon and rode the lead motorcycle carrying water.
Last June, I saw a posting from The Hutong about a bike tour they would be offering in October. I sent it to our friends, the Tenai-Barrons, and suggested customizing it for our spring break trip in 2013. As great adventurers and experienced bike tourists, they immediately agreed, so I emailed [General Manager] Morgan O’Hara at The Hutong.
We then found out that the Kuhl family would be visiting us. We’ve been friends for nearly 22 years, so it was so exciting to plan another adventure together – this time, with the kids. It was four months before we actually met up with The Hutong to plan the trip, but they were excited about adjusting the itinerary, which would have been too much mileage and hilly terrain for the kids. The new itinerary provided sag wagon support for cyclists ranging from in age 8 to 13.
The trip was a true glimpse into Yunnan and rural living in China; each day was filled with great sites and adventures. On day one, we got used to our bikes and riding as a group. We cycled through Jinghong’s busy streets and on to back roads for our first stop, Ganlanba. The highlights were eating fresh pineapple by the side of the road and staying at the beautiful Ganlanba Spa and Resort for the night.
Day two included lots of scenic riding, including a stop at the Ganlanba Market, a ferry ride, and a visit to a village called Manfeilong. We took a pottery class and learned how to make teapots by hand and on the potter’s wheel. The potter also served us a family-style dinner. That night, we stayed with local families and learned about the day-to-day details of rural living.
On day three, we rode to Manbo Elementary School. The school prepared a lunch for us and the children taught us how to pick tea. They were delightful – shy and curious. After the school visit, we started the most arduous part of our biking, a huge uphill climb that became steeper and more winding as the day wore on. Most of us wound up in the bus following our group, but the adults and Lucas made it the entire way!
Day four started with a great morning ride with more uphill climbs and a rocky cobblestone road, capped off with lunch at a local family’s home. We then bused it to a small town to learn papermaking – the very paper that our tea would be wrapped in once pressed and ready for packaging. We then attended a cooking class and prepared several dishes. The most memorable were the barbecue and spicy salsa and peanut sauce that we could add to everything.
On day five, we visited the tea factory where our tea was processed and packaged. We decorated our own paper and were taught how to wrap the tea. After a quick lunch, we enjoyed a downhill ride back to Jinghong – it was well-deserved, given all the uphill we had done the previous four days! We ended up back in the hotel we had stayed at on arrival, enjoyed drinks by the pool and a Dai barbecue dinner. The ladies then visited a night market for some shopping while the men had tea tastings at local teahouses.
We departed for Beijing the next morning. There were a few hours to spare at the stopover in Kunming, so The Hutong took us to a local spot for lunch and a spa for massages.
Besides the biking itself, Clay and I would say that the best part was seeing the tea process from start to finish and experiencing it for ourselves. In addition, the food was the best I’ve ever had on vacation. For Avery, it was the papermaking; she loved trying her hand at making paper by distributing the pulp across a screen. For Ethan, it was the tea picking near Manbo Elementary School. He loved being so high up and having kids his own age to show him how it was done.
I highly recommend this trip to any family that wants an out-of-the-ordinary adventure. Biking really immerses you in the environment; you see, smell, feel everything, not separated by bus windows and air conditioning.
However, be aware that the parts of Yunnan that The Hutong goes to are the least touristy. Accommodations weren’t cushy; they were down and dirty. None of the hotels – except for the first, second, and final nights – were anything close to Western. That part was still wonderful, but at times challenging.
And yet, we got to visit amazing places, stay with kind people, and eat delicious food. We were sweaty and dirty, but happy and smiling at the end of every day. As our kids get older, I know that this adventure will stay with them. We will definitely be signing up for more of The Hutong’s tours!
photos courtesy of Ingrid Jones
This article originally appeared on p34-35 of the beijingkids July 2013 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com