Remote Lands takes clients to unexpected places in China

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Remote Lands, a New York-based luxury tour operator, is promoting its custom itineraries to less familiar Chinese destinations, such as Dunhuang, Kashgar and Wulingyuan, as pre- and post-Olympics options to U.S. travelers bound for the Summer Games in Beijing next August.

Remote Lands said that forays beyond large Chinese cities such as Beijing and Shanghai ensure that clients "experience China in a truly intimate, enriching way."

"We love really authentic experiences, and it's harder to get those if you go to the same old places," said Catherine Heald, co-founder and CEO of Remote Lands, a tour operator focused exclusively on Asia. "The more remote you go, the more you can go back in time and get off the beaten tourism track."

Although most business at Remote Lands is booked direct, the tour operator does work with travel agents.

"We don't do groups or fixed-date departures," said Bruce Lazarus, director of marketing. "The more agents understand what we do, the better it will be for both agents and us."

Along the same lines, Remote Lands takes pains to understand each client, the better to customize each China journey.

"We get to know our clients extremely well personally, and we don't just give them the same old itinerary," said Heald. "Each [trip] is painstakingly written by hand after an extensive interview process."

Remote Lands' land-only, all-inclusive journeys are priced from an average of $1,000 per person, per day. That's before popular high-end perks -- such as private jet charters, helicopters, private chefs and photographers -- are tacked on. 

The following are some of the less well-known destinations in China sold by Remote Lands.

" Dunhuang: The desert town of Dunhuang, on Crescent Lake in Gansu province, is home to the Magao Caves, also known as the "Caves of a Thousand Buddhas." Remote Lands arranges tours of the caves, complete with private viewings of the Diamond Sutra, said to be the world's earliest surviving printed book in scroll form.

" Kashgar: At the foot of the Tian Shan mountains, on the Silk Road in Xinjiang province, the city of Kashgar is home to China's largest mosque, the tomb of 17th century Muslim leader Abakh Khoja and what's said to be the largest open-air market in the world.

" Wulingyuan: This UNESCO World Heritage Site in China's Hunan province is distinguished by more than 3,100 quartzite sandstone pillars, some reaching more than 650 feet high. From Wulingyuan, Remote Lands offers tours of the Suoxi Valley and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and picnic lunches in the Tianzi Mountains.

" Zhongdian: On the Tibetan border, Zhongdian, also known as Shangri-La, is home to the Rhingha Temple, where Remote Lands hangs personalized Buddhist prayer flags in honor of guests. Other highlights include dinners in local homes and visits to the Zong Gu monastery, home to the world's largest Buddhist prayer wheel.

Remote Lands may send clients to far-flung destinations, but services and accommodations are up to U.S. standards, said Lazarus.

Local, bilingual guides accompany clients, and accommodations -- such as the Hotel of Modern Art in Guilin, a Relais & Chateaux member -- are rapidly reaching or exceeding Western levels.

Remote Lands gives 10% of profits to local charities in developing countries.

"We believe strongly in giving back to people in these destinations, who bring us so much joy," Heald said.

For more information, call (646) 415-8092 or visit www.remotelands.com.  

To contact Destinations editor Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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