The initial idea for creating a China and Hong Kong tour actually came from client inquiries, which I feel represents a growing interest in the area. For the first time in maybe 2000 years we have unprecedented access to the country. More and more schools are now teaching Mandarin and China is becoming an increasingly important international player. Previously I have worked as a guide, escorting groups through China and Hong Kong so the project naturally fell in to my lap.
China has an incredible musical heritage which differs so vastly from traditional Western forms in everything from notation to instrumentation that it is of immense interest to any music-lover. It is also such a culturally rich area it seemed a perfect destination for our Youth Groups.
My first port of call on this mission (or any RT venture) is to find the perfect partner in the destination country. You are always searching for someone who can grasp the complex requirements of a tailor-made Youth tour.
They have to be able to appreciate the whole spectrum of your needs, most importantly the health and safety aspects of the venture; the fact that the hotels and coaches need auditing thoroughly and quickly to make sure they are up to scratch and the need for variety of experiences and activities for the students involved.
Crucially they also have to understand that above all this is a performance tour and so there has to be venues in which to perform and audiences to perform to!
Luckily I was able to find just such a partner who went above and beyond my expectations, even organising visits to local schools. Here our students could attend a music class and then perform at the school, which will provide a fantastic peer to peer cross-cultural experience.
I was pleased with the sample itineraries we manage to concoct, which are aimed more at the youth market, focusing on the less-touristy, more out-of the way spots. Also steering clear of the slightly overwhelming shopping opportunities I have experienced in previous trips to that part of the world. Vitally they understood the need for flexibility (after all we are offering completely tailor-made trips to any part of the country) and a very competitive price. In fact I think clients will be surprised how low we have managed to keep the cost.
There are opportunities for groups to perform at such breath-taking venues as St John’s Cathedral in Hong Kong, St Francis Catholic Church in Xi’an and the Temple of Heaven Park in Beijing, not to mention the chance to perform at such iconic sites as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square.
There are also plenty of chances for the students to soak up the culture of the country and have fun along the way. Lessons in traditional Chinese instruments, a visit to The National Centre for Performing Arts and a trip to see the famous Terracotta Army are possible activities, as well as a bike ride round the city walls of Xi’an, a visit to the fantastic animal centre and theme park Ocean Park Hong Kong or a thrilling evening at Peking opera and culture show.
I think students will get so much out of this experience, it truly is a once in a lifetime trip and China is culturally so different. It is a country jam packed with things to do and see. China is a place that is changing so rapidly and where the past and future really do intertwine before your very eyes.