Virtuoso Life - July/August 2017 - 88
we loved, a perfect balance of
"see" and "do." That meant we
spent a mom-pleasing morning at the National Museum of
China, followed by a familyfriendly lunch at a stretchyour-own-noodle restaurant.
Later, we toured old hutong
neighborhoods by rickshaw,
with a stop for hot chocolate.
Dicker recommended an
acrobatics show rather than the
opera, saving us from a wave of
teenage whining. She also saved
us from a potential nightmareon-the-tarmac scenario by
suggesting we opt for the highspeed train over a domestic
flight to see the Terracotta
Warriors in Xi'an, thus avoiding
sudden delays - wise advice that
we hadn't found online.
In addition to setting our
course, she turned to one of
Virtuoso's in-country tour connections to make it all happen.
WildChina, founded by Harvard-educated entrepreneur
(and mom of three) Mei Zhang,
specializes in tailor-made
luxury travel. While some
companies cater to tourists
with a bucket list, Zhang aims
to appeal specifically to those
who want a deeper dive into the
culture - to "experience China
differently," she says.
An increasing number of her
clients are families with children 12 and older, she notes.
Parents hope a visit to China
will inspire their children
to study the language, and
they also want to convey how
important China could be to
their future careers, she says,
adding that several young
people who had traveled with
WildChina decided years later
to study diplomacy.
"Our mission is to create
Zhang declares. "It sounds so
big and hollow, but that's what
V I RT U O S O L I F E
1. A cricket trainer's prized
collection. 2. The Great Mosque in
Xi'an's Muslim Quarter. 3. Tiananmen Square by tricycle. 4. Beijing's
Temple of Heaven. 5. Popsicles
on display in Beijing. 6. Xi'an
happens when you go beyond
the tourist sites and meet real
people - that's how you find
the beauty, and that's when the
best comes out."
Zhang and her team definitely
made the best come out for us.
HEADING EAST WITH EASE
VPN, ASAP. If social media or email access is critical to your child's happiness (or yours), you'll need a
VPN, or virtual private network, to get around China's
"Great Firewall." Before you leave, subscribe to one
and download it to the devices you'll be bringing. (Tip:
Get two, just in case.) There are many VPNs to choose
from, but some work better than others. Your advisor
can help you decide which is best for your itinerary.
Sanitation Preparation. Indoor plumbing is everywhere in China - but Western-style toilets are not. By
the end of our trip, my daughters and I actually favored
squat toilets; we found them to be cleaner, plus they're
good for the quads. We also learned to bring our own
toilet paper: Even when it's provided, there's often only
one dispenser for the entire bathroom.
Embrace the Mask. The pollution in China is
no joke - it can be dangerous even on a clear,
blue-sky day, and even if you've never had respiratory problems before. We used a free app called Air