Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for this tour. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they took this tour. Although we do our best to make sure what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose contents supersedes any information contained here.
ENTERING CHINA: United States citizens will need a passport valid for at least six months from the scheduled date of departure and with at least two blank pages for entry and exit stamps. A tourist visa is also required. Visa information is available from the Chinese Embassy, Washington DC at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/ . If required by the embassy or visa-granting entity, WINGS can provide a letter for you to use regarding your participation in the tour.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/china.html and the CIA World Factbook background notes on China at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ch.html.
PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: On Happy Island we will be almost exclusively on foot – it’s a small island and while there are some tiny electric vehicles, these are primarily used for transferring people from the quay to the accommodation.
On the mainland around Jingtanggang and Beidaihe we will use a small coach on most of our birding excursions.
On most of our days we’ll have the option of starting early, sometimes even as early as 05 00 or 05 30, and most days we’ll return around about 09 00 to have breakfast at our hotel or guest house. After breakfast we expect to head out again for the remainder of the day. Unless the weather is particularly bad or the birding very quiet we expect to have a picnic lunches most days we are in the Jingtanggang and Beidaihe areas. On Happy Island and Old Peak we will probably return to the hotel for a sit down lunch.
Our excursion up to Old Peak will be the earliest start of the entire tour beginning at 04 00.
There will be no fixed itinerary for the trips afield The leader will use his knowledge of the area to decide each day where the day trip will go. The goal will be obtaining good views of the birds using a relaxed pace, and of course having fun.
Wherever we are we’ll have dinner together in the hotel’s restaurant at about 19 00 and will usually have a meeting and bird list session after that.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travellers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
They further recommend that most travellers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Please contact your doctor well in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
The most current information about travellers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
CLIMATE: In May the weather is similar to the Northern U.S. at the same time of year, although rain is less likely, it’s typically warmer and the sun is stronger. The average daytime temperatures range from 12°C to 30°C. (54°F-86°F), although lower temperatures can be experienced after a cold front has passed through. Humidity is usually low, and conditions for birding are often ideal. It can be hot, especially towards the end of our stay and during our time in Beijing, so we recommend that you bring good a good sunscreen as well as a sun hat and possibly some shorts. A warm sweater, a waterproof jacket and over-trousers are also essential. Gloves and a warm hat may be useful on the colder days, more particularly for those participants opting for the Old Peak excursion.
ACCOMMODATION: At Jingtanggang and Bdeidaihewe’ll stay in hotels of a 3-star standard, each room has an en suite bathroom with western toilet, shower and 24 hours hot water; the hotel has its own restaurant, a bar and a small business center. Our Old Peak hotel has no internet. The other hotels have free cable internet in most of the bedrooms and in the lobby but no WIFI anywhere in either hotel.At Old Peak we’ll stay in a newly refurbished two star hotel. The rooms are again good and clean with two (hard) beds, en suite bathroom, a shower and western toilet, though again there is a shortage of water. Hot water is only available in small quantities (usually only for one or two hours each day – though in the past the leader has been able to specify to the hotel the times that we would like hot water). Cold water is available 24 hours a day. There is no internet access on Old Peak.
At Happy Island, we’ll stay in a new hotel wwith very comfortable, well-appointed rooms there. Each building has four bed rooms and a shared lobby, each bedroom has an en suite bathroom with shower, western toilet and wash basin. There is 24 hours hot water here. At the time of writing (May 2015) there is no internet access on Happy Island but this is likely to change.
We’ll spend the last night of our tour in Beijing at a modern 4-star hotel that boasts several very good restaurants. All the rooms have two beds, a television with several western channels and en suite bathrooms with a western toilet and a shower. There’s wireless internet access in the rooms, a good bar, a business centre, gym and both indoor and outdoor swimming pool. There are also currency exchange facilities in the lobby here.
FOOD: Chinese cuisine is well known and widely appreciated. Beer, soft drinks and green tea will be served with the meal.
The Chinese way of eating differs from that in the west in that those sitting at the table share selections of different dishes. Food is almost always plentiful. Only a small number of the restaurants that we’ll visit provide knives and forks. Instead chopsticks, often disposable wooden ones, are used.
In contrast to evening meals, typical Chinese breakfasts are disappointingly poor and unappealing to most westerners. They consist mostly of cold dishes: soya milk, steamed dumplings and rice porridge.
Food Allergies/Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
TRANSPORTATION: Most of our travels, including the journey from Beijing to Jingtanggang, around there, at Beidaihe and on the trip up to Old Peak will be by minibus or coach but we will take the train from Qinhuangdao back to Beijing at the end of the tour. During our time on Happy Island we’ll be entirely on foot – there are a small number of electric vehicles on the island and we will use these to transfer us and our luggage when we arrive and again when we depart but there are rather few roads other than between the quay and the hotel buildings and we will be exclusively on foot thereafter.
Updated: 12 August 2015