Dépaysement garanti à Hong Kong loin du bruit de la ville

Hong Kong, sa skyline, ses magasins de luxe, ses rues grouillantes, les clichés abondent et sont sans doute justes. Mais Hong Kong, c’est aussi un territoire dont plus d’un tiers de la superficie est classée comme parc naturel et qui résiste encore aux pelleteuses, une nature que l’on ne croirait visible qu’au fin fond de la Chine.

Un des lieux les plus dépaysants, qui vous rappelle plutôt une plage perdue au Vietnam, est Tai Long Wan, au bout de la presqu’île de Sai Kung, dans les Nouveaux Territoires. Tai Long Wan se mérite et son accès quelque peu difficile la protège. Le chemin qui vous y emmène est déjà une joie, entre a mer et le High Reservoir, une des curiosités de Hong Kong pour lesquels nous devons remercier la guerre froide.

Tout d’abord vous devez rejoindre Sai Kung. Cf. ci-dessous pour les différents transports qui mènent à Sai Kung. Le dimanche offre plus de moyens de transport, mais il y a plus de monde, ce qui complique l’usage de ces mêmes transports: les taxis, bus et mini-bus sont souvent pleins. Je recommanderais plutôt le samedi. Une fois à Sai Kung, le plus simple est de prendre un taxi vert (à la sortie du bus): direction Sai Wan Pavillon (ou Sai Wan simplement). Tous ceux que nous avons pris connaissaient. Cela coûte dans les HKD 80. Une solution plus économique est un mini-bus en face du McDonald: il n’est disponible que le dimanche et est souvent plein.

Le taxi vous dépose à un petit pavillon à l’intérieur du parc naturel, environ 20 minutes de taxi.
PRENEZ SON NUMERO: vous pouvez convenir d’un rendez-vous pour qu’il aille vous chercher au retour.

Un seul chemin, on ne peut pas se tromper. Vous longez sur votre droite le High Reservoir, quelques bruits d’oiseaux, vous êtes déjà loin. Il paraît que des pythons birmans rôdent, si jamais vous en croisez, on dit qu’il faut juste les tirer par la queue, facile.

Après 20-30 minutes, vous croisez un autre chemin, continuez tout droit: descendez vers le village de Sai Wan vous arrivez au bord de la mer. Il y a une plage, beaucoup moins belle que celles qui vont suivre.
Continuez sur le chemin vers la gauche, passez une piste d’atterrissage d’hélicoptère (autre solution de transport…), continuez à travers la grande plage et retrouvez le chemin sur la falaise en face. C’est le passage un peu délicat: encore 30 minutes de marche environ et il fait chaud (casquette ou chapeau c’est mieux). Passez la falaise et redescendez sur la plage. En tout de la dépose du taxi, cela met entre 1h00 et 1h30.

Vous arrivez sur une plage perdue au milieu de nulle part et deux petites paillotes si vous avez faim ou soif Une autre plage est encore derrière la falaise, avec une mer un peu plus agitée. L’eau est une des plus propres de Hong Kong, presque claire. Quelques heures loin de tout, à lire, à courir sur la plage ou à nager.

Retour, plusieurs solutions:
- le resto de la plage a des bateaux qui ramènent à Sai Kung pour 100 RMB par personne (aux dernières nouvelles).  S’il y a de la mer, ce qui est fréquent, les bateaux ne sortent pas.
- demi-tour, il faut appeler un taxi pour qu’il vous attende
- continuez le chemin derrière la plage vers la montagne. Bonne montée puis descente vers un petit village. Juste avant le village, prenez à droite vers la jetée: un ferry y passe régulièrement et vous dépose au terminus de bus et taxis (Wong Shek Pier, le dimanche, le 96R vous ramène directement à Diamond Hill, sur la ligne verte). Environ une heure de la plage jusqu’à la jetée.

Les plus courageux peuvent continuer après le village et rejoindre la route: encore une bonne heure de marche et vous retrouverez le bus 94 qui vous ramène à Sai Kung. Cela fait une grosse journée, mais vous aurez la tête vidée et aurez l’impression d’être partis en vacances. Vous pouvez aussi camper sur la plage.

Pour un prochain numéro, à proximité de Tai Long Wan se trouve la plage de Long Ke, mais Tai Long Wan reste notre préférée, la plus sauvage.

Pour aller à Sai Kung, comptez un peu plus d’une heure:

- prendre le métro jusqu’à Choi Hung (ligne verte), sortie C2 et minibus A1 ou bus 92 jusqu’à Sai Kung (les minibus sont plus rapides)
- ou prendre le métro jusqu’à Hang Hau (ligne violette) sortie B1 et minibus 101M jusqu’à Sai Kung: probablement le plus rapide de Hong Kong Island.

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Itinéraires en français

Travel-Stone lance ses itinéraires en français pour les francophones qui souhaitent venir découvrir la Chine. Etant de plus en plus contactés directement de France, Belgique, Suisse et Canada nous avons décidé de vous faciliter la tâche en créant “Les incontournables”. Tous ces itinéraires sont bien sûr à la carte et donc modifiables en fonction de la durée de votre séjour et de vos envies.

Pékin – Guilin – Yanshuo (9 jours):

http://www.travel-stone.com/travelstonepp/Les_incontournables_P%C3%A9kin_-_Guilin_-_Yangshuo.html

Pékin – Xian – Guilin- Yangshuo (11 jours):

http://www.travel-stone.com/travelstonepp/Les_incontournables_P%C3%A9kin_-_Xi’An_-_Guilin.html

Xishuangbanna -Yunnan- (6 jours)

http://www.travel-stone.com/travelstonepp/Les_incontournables_Xishuangbanna.html

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Flooding in Thailand

The last few days has seen the water levels begin to subside in some of the affected provinces. The most heavily affected area is the Nakhon Ratchasima province, a gateway to the northeastern region. The floods have spread to another 33 provinces in the northeast and the low-lying rice fields in the centre of the country, cutting off some roads and railways.

A minimal amount of flood water has now reached the outskirts of Bangkok, though all possible measures are being taken to prevent the flooding reaching the central Chao Phraya areas, with water flows from the Chao Phraya, Pasak and Rama VI Dams being controlled to manage the water volumes. 2.5 meter high dykes have been set up along parts of the river and the gates to the canals have all been closed to prevent excess river water getting into the inner parts of the city. The next 48 hours will be monitored carefully with the high tide due on Wednesday and Thursday.

Inner Bangkok areas, including the Grand Palace near the river, business districts and big shopping malls are currently unaffected and safe. As of this morning our Klong Tours were still operating in the city. Out of the city, specifically in the Ayutthaya region, we are currently recommending to any clients to avoid cruise trips, as the waters are running high, though some suppliers are still operating these trips. In Ayutthaya the main roads and tourist sites are unaffected, with Wat Phanang Cheng and Wat Chai Wattanaram still open for tourists as usual. In Khao Yai, the main road can be used as usual, allowing visits to the Khao Yai Historic Park and Moo Baan Dan Kwen. However the Pimai Historical Park and Baan Prasat are currently affected by the flooding, with reports anticipating they should return to normal in a week.

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Volcano and Tsunami in Indonesia

On Tuesday 26th October, just after 17:00, Mount Merapi in the island of Java, Indonesia has erupted for the first time in four years. Authorities had started already to evacuate many villages in the vicinity of the volcano but unfortunately there have been 28 recorded deaths, mainly due to locals choosing not to follow the evacuation warnings. The main tourist areas of Yogjakarta, Borobodur and Prambanan are well away from the danger zone with everything there and open for visitors as normal.

Jogjakarta and the main tourist attractions on Java lie a minimum of 27km from Mount Merapi, with current warnings in place for the immediate 10km radius around the volcano.

Mount Merapi is one of Indonesia’s most active volcanoes and Indonesian scientists had warned of a pressure build up in the dome of the volcano. As a result of these warnings authorities have evacuated tens of thousands of local people to temporary shelters outside of this radius. The official status from the Institute for Research and Volcanic Technology Department has changed their classification of the situation from ‘Standby’ to ‘Beware’ and has called for all people living within a 10km radius from the summit of Merapi to evacuate. All climbing activities, feeding of livestock and mining within this area have also been stopped. At this current stage it is hoped that the energy that has built up will release slowly, with immediate signs indicating towards this.

On Tuesday 26th October, an earthquake also triggered a tsunami hitting the Mentawai Islands of West Sumatra, causing 108 fatalities. The area of Mentawai is very remote with difficult access, the only way to reach the archipelago is by overnight ferry from Padang in West Sumatra, meaning this group of islands are rarely visited by tourists.

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Perhentian island

Hotels in Perhentian island in Malaysia will be close during from November 1st, 2010 till February 28th, 2011 due to the Monsoon season.

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Club Med Yabuli Promotion

Book before October 31st, 2010 and get the promotion: for 1 adult going, 1 adult free. Of course lots of conditions apply, like it is not available during Chinese New Year, a minimum of 3 nights stay, it does not apply on the flights, the Club Med membership card and transfers.

But it is definitely a great offer so call us to get a quotation!

Check the offer on: http://www.travel-stone.com/travelstonepp/Club_Med_Yabuli,_China.html

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Commune by the Great Wall

This winter the hotel Commune by the Great Wall (Kempinski) will be close from November 21st 2010 to March 31st 2011.

There will be upgrating and renovating of the hotel and facilities in order to make it even nicer.

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Travel-Stone store

Since December 2009, we’ve opened a point of sell inside April Gourmet (http://www.travel-stone.com/travelstone/product/our_address) where you can come and meet us to discuss about your travel plans.

You can find us Monday to Friday from 5pm to 7:30pm, on Saturday from 10:30am to 7:30pm and also on Sunday from 5pm to 7pm.

If we are not there you can leave your request on the box so we can get back to you.

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Myanmar

Did you know…

  • Myanmar borders China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh and India?
  • “Hello” in Burmese is “Ming-ala ba”?
  • For 62 years, Burma was under the rule of the British Raj (British India)?
  • Mohinga, rice noodles with fish is considered to be it’s national dish?
  • It is compulsory for all Bhuddist boys to become a monk after 20?
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Eco-hotels in China

Despite its dubious distinction as the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, China has a handful of accommodation options where you can reduce your travel carbon footprint. These eco-hotels are leading the way toward sustainable tourism in China, promoting low-impact business practices in environmentally sensitive areas.

The river town of Yangshuo is one such place where these green hotels have appeared in recent years. Located one hour from Guilin, Yangshuo has experienced explosive tourism growth as large groups of mainly Chinese visitors come down the Li River on huge tour boats to experience the mystical beauty of the area’s otherworldly limestone formations. This once quiet western backpacker town has become a must-see destination for domestic groups, which has brought a massive influx of tour buses, large hotels and river traffic. 

Just outside of the town, which now features both a McDonalds and KFC (Starbucks is sure to be next), there is one hotel that has been a haven for Asian expatriates and western travelers. It was stared by an American educator whose idea was to create a sustainable business model that would help preserve Yangshuo’s natural beauty, as well as promote its unique culture. Chris Barclay has spent 18 years in China and opened the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat in 2000.

building

It was originally planned to function as an offsite retreat for his corporate clients in China, but grew into a full-service tourism hotel. The property is situated on the banks of the Yulong River (which does not have any motorized boat traffic), and is surrounded by towering limestone peaks. It features 29 guest rooms, and has made concerted efforts to minimize its impact on the environment. 

To begin with, the hotel does not use any disposable products, such as chopsticks, napkins, or single-use items in bathrooms. The entire Retreat has a policy of no plastic bags. Instead of bottled water, guests will find a traditional hot-water thermos and an aluminum flask filled with drinking water in their rooms. These practices save the Retreat over two metric tons of waste per year.  All of the food cooked in the kitchen comes from local farms or specialty items from local markets and is recycled for use as animal feed. The Retreat also has its own herb garden and grows pumpkins and bananas on the property. To protect the local water supply, the hotel uses water from its own wells, and features a natural waste system where sewerage is filtrated underground and gray water is contained in nearby lily-covered septic fields. The grounds have been landscaped with flowering osmanthus trees, bougainvillea, and local grass which require little watering.

The Mountain Retreat also uses solar hot water and is implementing a unique waste-briquette fuel to supplement the hot water boiler. These briquettes are made from recycled newspaper, sawdust, clay and rice straw, with a small amount of glycerol to reduce smoke. Using a hand-screw press build at the Retreat, the briquette fuel initiative intends to replace coal as fuel in the near future. 

In addition to these sustainable practices, all the staff at the Mountain Retreat are hired from nearby villages, where the Retreat has created a village homestay network, to encourage all guests to spend a night in the local villages and have dinner with the local farmers. This has helped to develop several village B&B business, and help guests experience authentic local culture. The Mountain Retreat rents Trek mountain bikes and has a locally drawn map of trails for both hiking and bicycling. 

Inside the Retreat you’ll find handmade bamboo furniture made from local trees and reclaimed wood to make the plank floors in the bar and restaurant, as well as river stone wainscoting throughout the buildings. It has the feel of a lodge, but with modern comforts and a distinctly rustic Chinese style.

Although, the Retreat has been following these green practices for nearly ten years, it is only now that other hotels in China are beginning to move in the same environmentally friendly direction.  So far, few are paying the same attention to detail, but there are nonetheless some very interesting developments in in the other southern provinces.  One fascinating example is the Jilongbao Holiday Resort near Xingyi, in Guizhou, just an overnight train ride from Guilin and Yangshuo.  China’s best kept tourism secret is the brainchild of a local hydro-power baron (or should that be magnate?), who has purchased almost the entirety of Wangfeng Lake and its surroundings, the spectacular karst peaks of the ten thousand hills scenic area.  This breathtaking luxury complex might not fit the traditional eco-lodge description with its swanky Cantonese restaurant, a bar that is secreted away inside a cave, and an island castle that boasts honeymoon suites with circular water beds and private jacuzzis, but looks can be deceiving.  The resort has been built around a state of the art hydro power station that is now bringing electricity to thousands of poor farmers in this rugged, poverty stricken area.  But this is not any old power plant.  On the roof there are tennis and badminton courts.  The outflow is an enormous waterfall dropping away into the lake, whose constant flow brings an air of peace and tranquility to the adjacent guest rooms, as well as unlimited amounts of electrical power, allowing everything from screaming fast internet to automatic mahjong tables into what was until very recently a very remote backwater.  Across the water, perched atop an isolated rocky outcropping, the Jilongbao citadel conceals even more surprises.  As well as a vast health centre, the swimming pool is fed by a five meter cascade that doubles as a condenser for the resort’s air conditioning systems, constantly bringing up fresh water from the lake bed.  Power profits continue to be put to good use, with the resort’s latest projects including an organic farm, and the restoration of a magnificent Qing dynasty villa, that was once the home of famed Kuomintang General, He Yin Qin.  Jilongbao shows quite clearly that eco tourism need not be back to basics.  Guests here can enjoy deluxe accommodation as their base while still being able to explore minority villages, hike among the stunning karst peaks or fish the well stocked lake.

Further west in Yunnan province, large scale institutional investment has seen more vast real estate projects rather than eco tourism developments but there are still a few shining examples.  By far the most well known of these is the Wenhai Ecolodge near Lijiang.  First initiated by Canada’s Simon Fraser University in the early 1990s, it has since received additional funding from The Nature Conservancy, UC Davis and even the Japanese Government, when the project was nearly destroyed in the 1996 earthquake. A 56-household cooperative was formed in 1995 where each Naxi family (one of China’s indigenous minority groups, numbering about 275,000, and living mostly in Lijiang) chipped in a minimum of sixty Renminbi to get the lodge started.  Each family contributes an agreed yearly quota of work, sharing the income in return.  Traditionally, they are involved in farming, raising livestock, fishing, collecting fuelwood, hunting and charcoal-making, all of which impact the area’s natural resources.  The eco-lodge concept helps promote ecotourism in the area where the surrounding forests are threatened by unsustainable agriculture and illegal logging.

13_Wenhai

The ten room lodge is a converted Naxi courtyard style house, fitted it with many alternative energy systems  These include a biogas pit that converts livestock manure and toilet waste into methane cooking gas, and electricity for the kitchen’s light bulb, as well as providing heat for the greenhouse where many of the organic vegetables are grown.  Along with water purifiers, a microhydropower unit powers the lights, and cozy electric blankets, while a solar collecting tank provides hot showers.  This means that snuggling up in soft, toasty beds with fluffy pillows is always a cozy experience, while just outside the carved wooden windows, Wenhai Lake sits in a sub-alpine valley that harbors one of the world’s most biologically diverse temperate forests. Located at about 3,100m, the valley boasts a broad-leaf forest of moss-carpeted earth with lichen-draped poplar and Quercus trees, and green, rolling meadows.  From early spring to late summer, the slopes are awash with bursting rhododendrons, exploding with pink, white, red and purple.  Beyond the waters of the lake, Yulongxueshan (Jade Dragon Snow Mountain), a cluster of 13 snow-laden peaks, tops out at 18,467 feet (5,596m), unfolding before visitors like a vast open air, Imax screening.  Just an hours walk away through the acorn littered trails lies Xue Hua Cun (Snow Flower village), and the chance to visit an authentic shaman’s home in the nearby Yi village.

Wenhai Lake

Thanks to the fantastic local widlife, Wenhai ecolodge was recently ranked as one of the world’s ten best eco-lodges by the US-based “Outdoor” magazine.  In the lake below, endangered water birds continue to thrive. Black storks and black-necked cranes migrate here annually, but patient twitchers can also spot giant laughing thrushes, winter wrens, Hainan leaf warblers, Northern Goshawks and sometimes even very rare species, for instance, the Lady Amherst’s pheasant.  At an altitude of 3,100m, Wenhai boasts an oak forest rich with endangered plants, including the Chinese yew, Lijiang hemlock and Changbao fir. Twelve different species of rhododendron complement, orchids, primroses, gourmet mushrooms and medicinal blooms, such as the snow lotus, a traditional remedy for menstrual cramps.  On the upper slopes, villagers claim to have spotted wild cats, wolves, Asiatic black bears and even the elusive blue sheep.  For Yetis, abominable snow men and other crypto exotica, one has to journey still further up into the Himalayas.

The bad news is that the lodge has struggled since its official opening in November 2002. Visitors were non-existent during the SARS epidemic and more recent events have also hurt this as yet slow and seasonal business.  On good months, the lodge sees fewer than one hundred visitors while at other times, there are practically none. More than 90% of visitors to Wenhai are from overseas, as ecotourism has received a lukewarm response from domestic tourists, many of whom still feel that China has suffered so much in its recent history, that they are now entitled to consume aggressively and excessively, as the west has done in the past.
Back in Yangshuo, there is another eco-hotel worth mentioning. It is part of the new boutique hotel Yangshuo Village Inn, currently the #1 rated guesthouse in Yangshuo on TripAdvisor. Water buffalos in YangshuoSituated in Moon Hill Village, just behind the Village Inn there is a traditional mud brick farmhouse that will soon feature 5 guest rooms and some innovative new and traditional energy-saving features. The farmhouse is one of the mud brick designs that are disappearing across China, as they are replaced by multi-story concrete buildings that many Chinese farmers can now afford to build. Unfortunately in the process of new construction, the farmers raze the original mud brick then use it for the new house foundation. 

Rescued from demolition, this farmhouse is ideal for small groups or a large family, with 3 ground floor bedrooms and 2 loft bedrooms in the space formerly used for grain storage. The farmhouse uses radiant heat with a low wattage electric heater and pump circulating warm water through flexible tubes in the floor. These tubes are sandwiched between layers of fiberglass and bamboo batting to provide heat retention in winter. The mud bricks are built to form double walls which also provide excellent heat retention and an ideal thermal mass to keep in the cooler air in Summer. The traditional roof tiles were removed, fit with waterproof sheeting, fiberglass batting and woven bamboo mats then replaced. This helps shield the guests in loft rooms from the intensity of the Summer sun. 

In the roof above building’s 8m high main hall, glass tiles were used to provide more natural daylight and guestrooms were fitted with oversize insulated glass windows. The building shares solar hot water and a natural septic system with the Village Inn, which also follows strict sustainable guidelines. Traditional metal and glass lanterns and a unique replica antler chandelier, were made with small, low wattage bulbs to provide ambiance in the evenings. 

The guestroom furniture features hand-made beds, tables and chairs, from local bamboo, with antique Chinese wardrobes. The rest of the building is furnished with refurbished antiques giving the farmhouse a kind of rustic chic. The owner has rented the vegetable garden and pomelo grove behind the farmhouse with the agreement that the farmers will continue to cultivate the land. Overlooking the garden is a large covered deck for guests, which offers views of the village and surrounding mountains. 

Guests of the farmhouse can enjoy an open pantry and afternoon tea included with their room and dining facilities are right next door at the Village Inn. The farmhouse distinguishes itself from other traditional village accommodation in its attention to comfort, reduced energy use and enhanced use of traditional building materials. Truly a unique experience in the heart of rural China.

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