Chinese tourists chart a new European Grand Tour

According to BBC Travel and the China Daily, approximately 70 million Chinese nationals traveled abroad in 2011, up from 10 million in 1999. A chunk of this new crop of Chinese tourists is traveling to Europe, but their itinerary veers a little off the trodden path.

BBC Travel outlined some of the historical highlights of the “new” European Grand Tour: cities like Trier, Germany, the birthplace of Karl Marx and home to the Karl Marx Haus Museum, and Montargis, France, where a small group of Chinese youth studied in the early 1900s and lay the foundation for the Chinese Communist Party. Many tour groups also make a stop at King’s College in Cambridge, England, to visit a willow tree mentioned by Chinese poet Xu Zhimo in a famous poem called On Leaving Cambridge.

According to the article, Chinese travelers also seek out culture and shopping when visiting Europe. That brings them to Bonn, Germany, to visit the birthplace of Ludwig van Beethoven, and Verona, Italy, backdrop of Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet. Shoppers apparently go crazy on High Street in London, at Louis Vuitton in Paris, and at the Hugo Boss factory outlets in Metzingen, Germany (who doesn’t love a great bargain?).

The Chinese may have the right idea when it comes to off-the-beaten-track European itineraries, which tend to be cheaper and less crowded. Start creating your own with these top underrated European travel destinations.

[Thanks, BBC Travel]

China covers suicide bridge in “butter,” safety margarinally improved

Does anyone know when April Fool’s Day is celebrated in China? Because if this article isn’t a result of some media hoax, then I’ve got a lot of unanswered questions…

According to China Daily & the UK’s Metro Newspaper, Government officials in Guangzhou have ordered a 1,000ft long steel bridge to be covered in greasy fat, to prevent people from climbing on the structure. The bridge has a history of attracting jumpers that often attempt to gain media coverage or draw attention to personal problems.

Government spokesman Shiu Liang said that they’ve tried employing guards at both ends of the bridge, and went as far as installing special fences with notices asking people not to commit suicide. And every new attempt, successful or not, means several hours of backed up traffic and a wave of complaints from local residents.

The butter however, has seen positive results. Bridge guard Wong Man stated, “Since we put up the butter there have been no problems with these attention seekers.”

No word yet on if Nintendo intends to sue for breach of intellectual property.

So, travelers, bridge climbers, and citizens of China – please be careful out there. And if anyone knows if this is actually true, please drop us a line.


Panda Spotting Becomes Easier

It just got a little bit easier to see Giant Pandas–there are more of them. The Chinese government reports that 2006 has been a banner year for panda cubs. According to China Daily, the government’s official English language newspaper, artificial insemination done at panda breeding centers around China has produced a record 27 healthy cubs, out of 30 born live. Scientists first started breeding them in 1960.

Only 1,590 are thought to live in the wild, while another 180 live in zoos or breeding centers worldwide.

We traveled to the Chengdu’s breeding facility last year, which is just outside the city of Chengdu, right in the center of China. It’s a beautiful park, and well worth the visit. If you choose to travel to see the pandas, be sure to also read up on the much larger Wolong Nature Preserve, further north of Chengdu. And don’t forget to sample the wonderful food of the Sichuan region!