Inner Mongolia tour : Grassland & desert adventure routes

Grassland – Gegentala

How to get there :
First of all, we arrived at Hohhot. At Hohhot Airport we met our driver & English speaking tour guide who took us in a private van to Gegentala Grassland. Gegentala Grassland is 140km away from Hohhot, about 2 hours’ drive heading to the north.


What to do :
We received a ceremony – warmly welcomed by the local Mongolians colorfully dressed.

Horse Hiding with the locals


Then we had a typical lunch, with some fresh lamb. And right after that we went to the stud farm to select our horses for a 3 hours horseback riding.



Yurts Sunset


The sunset on the grassland is one of the greatest marvellous spectacle in nature. With the sun coming down, before everything turns darker and darker you can see plenty of different colors: orange, yellow, pink, red …



Where to stay :
We stayed in a local yurts lost into the wild ; to really experience the Mogolian adventure. For a couple of nights we really recommend that – It was such a great feeling !

Our Yurt

When to go there :
In summer and autumn, it s definitely the best time to visit this area. During that time, you will enjoy a pleasant climate with the blue sky and the rolling grass.

It will leave you with a deep impression !



Kubuqi Desert – Baotou

Location :
The Kubuqi Desert is located north of Baotou City’s Ordos Plateau. You need one hour and a half by taxi.

Having never visited a desert before, it was a unique and memorable experience for me and my friends. The place is quite big with a lot of things to do. We spent the all day there. The only problem is due to the fact that this place is too commercialized, with no decent food. So I advice you to bring your own snacks and drinks.

On the top of that as you may know the sun is strong there. The sands reflect the sunlight and with the altitude, you will probably need some sun creams and hat to avoid getting sunburns.

Camel hiking

Activities :


One ticket cost you $260RMB – includes almost all the rides (except the camel ride and ATV – all terrain vehicle), like an amusement park The cable car takes you into the desert. A modified van steers you to the main hub. There is as well a swimming pool, the train ride, sand dunes slides, sand sculptures viewing…


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Jinshanling – An amazing trip to the Great wall

We really wanted to avoid being with a lot of tourists, that is why we did not pick other section – often crowded areas where most of the people goes.

On the contrary the section of Jinshanling is a peaceful part of the great wall which is really worth it. Indeed the landscape is unbelievable – with almost nobody there, you will be able to experience a nice adventure. The scenery is spectacular and particularly beautiful.

For the ones, who do not like hiking you can take the car cable to reach the peak (50 yuan for the rounds trip or 40 yuan for one way).

As soon as you arrive on top, take a moment to relax and enjoy the countryside. You will need at least three hours to walk up there between Jinshanling and Simatai. Some parts have been repaired and others remain like before. In other words different kind of landscapes are waiting for you – for  a truly “authentic” wall experience.

Fortunately, the weather was sunny and made us a perfect day. There are a few local people that will follow you around on the wall and if you did not take enough snacks or drinks, you will be happy to buy something from them.

Warning : this section is often dangerous – which made it not really appropriated for children.

How we got there: we opted for the quickest and the most convenient way – a personal driver who drove us directly there from our hotel in Beijing.

As you can notice it was spectacular and here aren’t any other people in our pictures!


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Stay at Qin Inn on Kinmen island

Jinmen is a Taiwanese island located only 1 hour by boat from Xiamen.
If you want to escape cities, I invite you to consider this place for a 3 day weekend.


When to go:
The best period to go will be May & June and from September to December. Average temperature is 20 degrees.
Avoid January, February and March as it will be colder there, March & April as it might be foggy and summer as it will be really hot.

How to get there:
You can either fly to Xiamen then take a boat or fly to Jinmen.
Be sure you have a Chinese visa which will allow to come back to China after.

Info for the ferry to/from Jinmen
The ferry leaves from Dongdu matou (东渡码头) and it will cost you 160RMB and 1 hour to reach Jinmen. The ferry leaves every 30minutes from 8am to 5pm.
The last ferry leaving Jinmen is at 5:15pm (be careful there’s also another boat leaving to Xiamen but not to the Dongdu pier) and it will cost you 750NT$.

It is possible to exchange RMB to NT$ at the ticketing.

Where to stay
I definitely recommend you to stay at ChiangLin’s place in Shuitou village.

Qin Inn

Qin Inn

ChiangLin is a Taiwanese with long black hair and a big smile to welcome you that you will immediately like. He left Taiwan for Jinmen to learn more about his family history and prepare a documentary about them, but so far some documents have still not been released by the government so his documentary remains unfinished.
After having renovated this 100 years old house (mix of Minnan and western architecture style), he started to have his friends coming over and decided to start this home stay 2 years ago.



The house is really quiet and beautiful, impossible not to feel relax there!
It has different kind of rooms, single, twin or double and quad, some with private bathrooms and some to share. Altogether 7 rooms to rent.
During my stay I met this lady who told me that each of her stay were getting longer as she loved the place.



From the pier, you can either take the bus (7, 7A or 7B) which will cost you 12NT$ or a taxi for 200NT$.

How to travel in the island

The best way to visit the island is to rent a motorbike. Even if some of them will refuse because you have no Taiwanese license some of them will be more indulgent and will only ask if you know how to ride.
If you feel scooters are not for you, you can either take the bus to Jincheng (7, 7A & 7B) which those 3 choices should be every 30mins, or take a cab (and ask the price for the day) if you feel like exploring further the island.





Jinmen was a strategic military area to attack China until 1960, so today there are still traces left of this period. Bunkers, tanks and transverse peak to attack the enemy at sea are still visible along the coast. It is mostly on small Jinmen (small island on the west of Jinmen) and also on the north of Jinmen island that most armament were.
All the mines have supposedly been  removed, the last ones a few years ago. It seems also that the government is trying to forget about this time and has started to dismantle the military proof (as the bunkers), which as Chianglin (owner of  QIn Inn guesthouse) told me is a shame as it is part of history and should then remain visible so people can witness history.                                                                                                                                            This island used to inhabit 100 000 military, today it has only a few thousands.

Tanks and bunkers

Tanks and bunkers

Where and what to eat

The specialty of Jinmen is the beef noodle, here are 2 different addresses I tried.

Beef noodle

Beef noodle

Noodle shop

Noodle shop

Best beef noodle soup

Best beef noodle soup














Jincheng feels very relaxing and if you want to go out at night this is not the good place, but while exploring the city I found an Irish pub “White Lion”, opened by an Irish/canadian guy and his wife Amy – both are industrial designer – who decided to open a pub for fun.

The pub is not open everyday but you can always try!

Pub in Jincheng

Pub in Jincheng

Pub opening hours

Pub opening hours








Special thanks to Begona who intoduced me the idea to go there and stay at Qin Inn.


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A tour in Guizhou, part 3: from Kaili to Yintan

This day we go on exploring further the Bala valley: I wanted to visit Xijiang. I was told it was too touristic but I wanted to judge by myself. And here we’re in the worst of Chinese tourism: a huge parking, a very expensive entrance (RMB 100) followed by a little train (a good measure of the degree of “tourism”) that we had to pay extra and finally we see the village… at least 50 shops in a row, selling statues, food, souvenir, anything…the classic trap. It’s a pity, the village was nice and its location is great. In conclusion, don’t go there unless you want to have a live experience of what is Chinese mass tourism. We wanted to go to the end of the valley, we took another road, a huge expressway that starts from Kali towards Duyun and then to Rongjiang. The little road along the valley is much nicer and I would rather recommend it, though it’s quite slow, not much more than 40km/h.




The expressway is interesting too: a feat of Chinese engineering, very large and modern, going through countless tunnels, some more than 3km long. It crosses gorgeous landscapes, bordering areas with a different geology, more karstic (like in Guilin) near Duyun. And no one on the road. Sometimes we saw some villages walking along the road as if it were a dirt road… Finally we rejoined Rongjiang and we went up the Bala valley, towards Pingyong and then a smaller road towards Dong villages, like Wangli. This new road, very small, follows another river and it’s really magnificent: nothing fancy, but the river, Miao and Dong villages, you feel so far away from the Chinese mega-cities, a rest for the eyes.It was late and we didn’t had time to go till the last villages, it’s safer not to drive by night on such little roads (and we wanted to find a restaurant for diner). But just driving this road was worth it. And if you have time, go higher to the Leigong Shan area (the biggest mountain aroun), it seems breath-taking. You feel like in Switzerland… which is not the first time I had this strange feeling in Guizhou.   We spend the night in Rongyang in a decent hotel, the Dongxiangmi. Nothing to say about Rongyang. The following day was the return day, just time to visit a Dong village 1 hour to the East, in Dong country, Yintan.

A piece of Switzerland in Guizhou

Quite large, another wood village, you can see a few differences that makes it Dong: the people’ attire, the lack of horn on top of the houses and more obviously the 2 Dong towers: every Dong village has such towers which are used as a public place for the community. They must have had some party the day before, it was covered of remains of firecrackers. If we had more time, the ideal plan would have been to go further East in Dong country to these famous villages like Zhaoxing and Chengyang and its famous covered bridge, another Dong distinct feature. Until Guilin.

Yintan village and its tower

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A tour in Guizhou, part 2: from Shuitouzhai to Kaili

The following day, we went to Pingzhai and discovered a few Miao villages, like Mashizhai or Xienchao. I highly recommand Mashizhai, a very quiet village, where people lives their life as usual, not for tourists. It’s quite close from Shuitouzhai (less than 1 hour).

Miao woman

The women dressed in blue cultivate the field, the men are driving the animals, the house are made of wood, the corn dries at their entrance, the pigs are in their shelter and the chicken run free everywhere. A world that doesn’t seem to have changed for centuries.
A little comment on the ethnic minorities “tourism”: I’m always afraid by the concept of visiting traditional folks: afraid of the artifice of all of it, which climaxes in the “ethnic minority park” in Beijing or in Kenya, with the Massai warriors coming from the city to dress like Massai warriors during the day. And there is plenty of this in China, you will see… But sometimes, you just watch a village living its life, business as usual, and they don’t wear traditional clothes to please you, don’t sing to get money etc.

fields in Mashizhai

And you can still experience this in Guizhou, if you’re properly guided. (There is much to discuss, even in that case, about the meaning of the entomologist look of the tourist: what does it mean? what are we looking for? is it insulting for the people… food for thought.)

Then we reached Kaili and started visiting a few of the Miao villages in the Bala valley. The valley is really a must: you follow a small road along the Bala river. And on the other side of the road you see multiples traditional Miao village, always separated from the road by a bridge.

Before Leishan, there are a few nice villages, like Qi Dao or Lang Hua (still quite close from Kaili, roughly 1 hour drive).

The first stop was in Shuidian after the bigger city of Leishan. A nice Miao village, a bit too close from Leishan maybe, you see it from the village.

On our way back to Kaili, we stopped at Langde, the upper village. Interesting experience: it’s a bit of a touristic village, where the mayor was one of the first one to organize dances on the main place on demand for groups.

top of Langde

A bit scary at first. But no, it’s really worth it: we arrived late, no groups, just a few people. No big shops, just one or two local grocery stores. And the village is very nice, then you can walk up, pass some rice fields, go to the top of the hill behind the village and walk even more, with a beautiful view on the valley. In a word, it’s a bit touristic but worth.

It is possible to sleep in homestay, they were full and I couldn’t visit it. I suspect it to be very basic.

Langde village

Most of the time, there is no sleeping option in these wooden villages and we have to go back to the modern, big and boring city of the district. At least you have a clean room.
Then we went back to Kaili, which is completely interest-free. We stayed at the Heaven-Sent Dragon hotel, probably the best, still at a very reasonable price: large room, decent bathroom, perfect for a quick night. Be careful, restaurants close early: sometimes at 7.30pm. Even in the hotel… There are always food stands around the market: simple but true local food.
What about the food in these areas? As you may know, it’s quite spicy. The specialty you’ll find a bit everywhere, even at the breakfast is the beef noodles: beef in a noodle soup and pepper… Breakfast is usually Chinese, if you need your western fix, bring your nescafe and your cereal bars.

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A tour in Guizhou, part 1: from Guiyang to Shuitouzhai

Guizhou is a beautiful and relatively unknown province of China. Let’s go and explore it.

Your typical entry point is Guiyang. No reason to stay there or to visit the central square with its unique flame, ode to to something you don’t really understand.
There is a little old modern Chinese charm, for people used to China: a few old “new” buildings, crumbling in the middle of the arrogant new towers and surrounded by a luxuriant vegetation, give Guiyang here and there a lost town allure, but that’s an acquired taste.
Guiyang is a good stop after the flight, before exploring Guizhou. There is a large choice of comfortable hotels at reasonable price, the Pullman is a very good deal (you also have the classics like the Sheraton etc.) and you will have a good western breakfast, probably the last before a few days.

The first pleasant thing when you leave Guiyang is that just 15mn away from the city, you’re in the middle of nature: a lot of small hills, you already feel far away from Beijing and Shanghai. You progress towards the valley, and you see your first village: Xiangzhigou.

Buyi house in Xiangzhigou

There must be tourists sometimes, there are a few signposts but we were the only ones: you can see the typical Buyi house with their white walls and their timbered architecture (“colombage”) with the green scenery around, you feel a bit like in Normandy.



A bit further, we saw on the right another valley, which seems quite nice but for another time.

We went to Nanjiang He gorges. At first it seems awfully touristic: a big reception, a little train between the reception and the park itself. And probably it can be borderline sometimes. But it was the end of the day, there was no one besides us, and the scenery is quite impressive: it’s worth a tour, just choose the right timing.

We finished our day at Shuitouzhai, another Buyi village. A great location, with the Qinglong river running through the village. It’s slightly touristic and we were on the middle of an official visiting the village with his court.

the river through Shuitouzhai

It’s still worth going there, the village is really pleasant and there are not so many people, even better is to spend the night, when everyone is gone. However I would avoid the village during Chinese holidays and maybe during week ends.

If you cross the river, you can walk for a long time, it makes for a very pleasant and easy hiking, going through the paddy fields.

We slept in a guesthouse in Shuitouzhai, the Indigo Lodge: you’re at the border of the village, just in front of the river, it’s really charming, especially when you wake up.

view from the Indigo Lodge

Most of the time it’s a hot region, however in november, the nights are colder and the rooms are not heated: bring hot pajamas… I would recommend the “honeymoon” room, surrounded by glass windows, just on the edge of the river.


We had dinner in the small modern village just before Shuitouzhai. We heard some music and we saw someone dancing to some cheap techno music. It was clearly the attraction of that day. Finally we understood it was a truck selling merchandise but there was a bit of a cheap dance show to entertain the town, then they were selling miracles sweeper and other articles. A bit like the moving seller we we had in our countryside not so long ago. With a dance show twist…

a night to remember in Shuitouzhai

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Jimbaran, Fishing village, Bali

This place is actually my favorite sightseeing within Bukit Peninsula !
Located in the south of Bali Island, it will take you not more than 30 minutes to reach Jimbaran from the International Airport.

As soon as you get there you will meet a long sandy beach that offers an amazing scenery; a full color painting with its numerous fishing boat and its local market where fresh fishes get dry under the sun.
I strongly advise you to see what’s going on there at the beginning of the evening when the fishermen return from the sea. It will also enable you to watch the most beautiful sunset of the island.
Finally give yourself some time to eat the best seafood of Bali in a nice restaurant.

I let you enjoy some of my pictures that I hope will make you want to go there to check this out by yourself and feel the real atmosphere of Jimbaran…

Enjoying the seafront

Enjoying the seafront

A fisherman selling some sea food

A fisherman selling some sea food

Fish getting dry under the sun

Fish getting dry under the sun

Fish Market

Fish Market

Jimbaran's Sunset

Jimbaran’s Sunset

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Japanese Onsen near Beijing

Last weekend I decided to find new spots around Beijing as you keep asking me where to go to take a break from the city. I heard a few years back about this place, where they had those Japanese rooms and hot spring in the middle of nature.

After questioning my driver about it, he told me it was near the Great Wall of Huanghua.
How cool would it be to combine a morning trek on the wall and then the quietness and zenitude of a Japanese bath, and even stay over for the night?
After 1hour30 of car, we left the main road to take a small dirt path, and here we were far from the Beijing noise…countryside here we come!
Just by leaving the main road, we felt the calm and relaxing feeling we were looking for. The small complex was there… but bad news, it is not in activity anymore. Obviously a discord between the landlord and the tenant and that’s a real shame because the place is worth it.



The complex had a few Japanese rooms made in tatami and bathroom with a bath.
The place had only one common bath, so couldn’t welcome too many people but that’s what made it perfect.

Also a wooden terrace with a view on a small lake, where you could imagine a table in summer to take your meals or even long chairs to read a book.



If you are looking for to invest, you should check it out before the place definitely falls apart.
Well, it was a real disappointment, but this is China… hopefully we’ll find other spots (if you know any, let us know!).

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Travel to North Xinjiang


The Xinjiang province, also known as the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region is located on the north west of China and is the biggest province of the country. To move from one site to another takes quite a long time, but the scenery is amazing and changing all the time, you won’t get bored.

40% of the population of Xinjiang is from the Uyghur minority. Uyghur people are Muslim, you will see both Chinese characters and Arabic scripts everywhere on the streets. Uyghur people are a mix of Caucasian and East Asian, so maybe you can see Asian type people with beautiful green or blue eyes. The Uyghur people do love dancing and you can enjoy traditional dance and music shows almost everywhere.

In Xinjiang you will find the hottest, the coolest, the highest and the lowest points and cities of China. You will see deserts and mountains, you have to take an umbrella and some sun cream, both warm and light clothes. From one site to another the temperature can change very fast and nights are pretty cold. You can also find great spots to ski in winter.


Urumqi is the capital city of Xinjiang. The city itself has no real famous sites, except the big bazaar and the Great Mosque. You can also find a lot of night markets and nice places to do shopping. The surroundings of Urumqi are more interesting.

Turpan city

Turpan is located at about 3:30 hours from Urumqi in the east side. In Turpan, the majority of the population is Uyghur, and you can see the difference: the architecture of the houses are typically Arabic and you feel like you are in the Middle East, not in China anymore.




The Grape Valley

In Turpan, you can go the Grape Valley and try the very famous raisins of Xinjiang. The grape valley is located in a small village where the majority of the population is Uyghur. Don’t hesitate to escape from the touristy part of the site and walk around in the village, meet the local and buy them some very tasty raisins. You can also eat with them and sleep in their houses to have an authentic experience. You first have to register at the security office of the village then you can spend the night there.

Grape Valley

Grape Valley


The Flaming Mountains

The Flaming Mountains bear a well chosen name : the temperature of the site can reach 50 degrees! You can try a camel riding, or more exciting, you can enjoy a fly above the mountain with a delta plane.

The Kariz irrigation system: the Turpan Water Museum.

If you want to refresh from the heat of the flaming mountain, you can visit the Turpan Kariz underground water system in the museum, a very interesting place where you will understand the process to get water into town from the Tianshan Mountains.

Flaming Mountain

Flaming Mountain


Jiaohe Ancient City

In the middle of the desert of Turpan, you can visit the ruins of Jiaohe city, 10km west of the city of Turpan. Jiaohe used to be an important stop for the Silk Road but has been destroyed during the Mongol invasion. The ruins have been dug up and renovated and the place is now preserved.

Have a look at the ancient city walls and houses and try to imagine the city thousands years ago. The place is extremely hot in summer and also very cold in winter, from 50 degrees to minus 20!





About 5 hours driving from Urumqi in the North, the city of Karaway is well-known for its oils fields, which make the wealth of the county. Visiting the oil fields itself is not the best thing to do, it’s like visiting a gas station but crowded with tourists.

Wuerhe, the Ghost City

Wuerhe is located at about 100km from Karamay. The wind and the erosion created natural sand hills with characteristic shapes. The place is now called “the Ghost City” because of the constant wind which makes scary sounds, like if the place was full of ghosts. Unfortunately, I did not see any ghost, only camels.

With a lot of imagination you will maybe see that the shapes look like different kind of animals, a pig head, a horse foot, or a turtle…

After the rain, the salt comes out from the underground and the soil is white.

Kanas Area: the Kanas National Park

The area of Kanas is located at the northest point of the Xinjiang province, close to the Russian border, in the Burqin county. On the way to Kanas, you will leave the desert and the wild camels to the green, wet pastures of the Altai Mountain. On the roads, you will see the Kazakh minorities yurts, where they live during  summer time and take care of their cattle, sheep, goats and horses. They are very good horse riders too.

In the Jiadenyu village, you can stay and enjoy horse riding with the local Kazakh  in a beautiful landscape. Walk around the place and meet the Kazakh people, and if you can, have a dinner with them and try the Kazakh food and cheese.




Kanas Lake

The Kanas lake is one of the most famous lake in China. It is a nice and big, very deep lake squeezed between the mountains. You can enjoy a cruise on the lake to have the best spot of the scenery.

The Fish Viewing Pavilion

Close to the lake you can climb the 1068 stairs to get to the Fish Viewing Pavilion and have an amazing overview of the lake and the surroundings… when the weather allows it.

Xinjiang Food

You can not leave Xinjiang without trying the famous lamb kebabs! You will find it everywhere on the streets and the night markets. You can eat your kebabs with naan, the flat bread, some mutton soup and Muslim homemade noodles and to finish (if you still feel hungry after that) you can try the yogurt and the very tasty Xinjiang fruits, grapes or melons.

Give a try to the Xinjiang wine, but with moderation: the Xinjiang wine has the reputation to be strong, and trust me, it is. And of course like everywhere in China you will find plenty of tea, black tea and Turkish tea principally.

Xinjiang food stall

Xinjiang food stall

You can also follow up the blog of the Family Yvon who also traveled to Xinjiang lately.

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Discover Halong Bay with Bhaya cruises

Halong Bay is one of the natural gems of Asia- and maybe of the world, which you can not miss!

Renowned for its sugar loaves and tranquility, it is the most visited place in Vietnam. Hard not to escape the ten boats carrying many tourists on the same route.

To avoid this, we recommend you take a mini-cruise on the Bhaya boat.

Bhaya Cruises is a boat company that offers cruises aboard their traditional sailing junk that combines oriental style with contemporary luxury. These are the perfect recipe for an enchanting and relaxing experience. You can choose between a day trip or a one/two night cruise.

First, you’ll have to count 3h drive in private transfert from Hanoi to reach the pier of Bhaya.

Late in the morning, you’ll get on board in one of the boats of the company:

- The Bhaya classic: 20 luxurious private cabins including two suites, accommodating up to 40 people. Relax on the upper decks, have some drink and food at the bar and restaurant or enjoy the spa with a traditional Vietnamese massage.

 - The Bhaya legend: 2 to 4 cabins for personalized services (like meals in the cabine, special activities for wedding, birthdays etc. or the ability to customize the boat route). Ideal for couples, groups or families.

To not miss something, a rigorous schedule will be provided upon arrival during the presentation of safety rules by the captain. You can do as much, or as little, as you want during the cruise.

We test the cruise one night/two days aboard the Bhaya Classic, here is the program:

Visit of the floating fishing village on bamboo boat, swim in the clear water, kayaking, Tai Chi lesson, cooking classes and farnient on the sundeck … you will not see the time spent!

During a little break, a lunch buffet is offered. Then, you will go to the floating fishing village.

In the evening a delicious seafood dinner will be served at the restaurant. The evening will finish on the top deck with a cocktail.

The next day, the brave will wake up with the sun for a Tai Chi lesson on the  top deck! Unforgettable moment in the middle of the bay with a coffee!

The boat will sail to one of the many caves that you can visit before brunch.

After a last swim, it will already be time to release the cabin.

 We like:

- Quality of services
- The luxury cabins
- The different and original route
- The kindness of the crew at your service
- The activites: tai chi, cooking lessons…
- Seafood dinner
- The SPA on board

We do not really like:

- Kayaking extra fees
- The inflexible hours for the meals

For more informations about the boat: Bhaya Cruises

To book your trip to Vietnam you can contact us:



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