We say it a lot: having the “travel bug” is a requirement on this team. Ker & Downey’s Regional Business Development Manager Barrett Caldwell definitely qualifies; before he landed at Ker & Downey he had visited 55 countries and been on the go all over the globe for four years. Even after all that travel, Barrett still learns something new with every journey he takes. We caught up with him for a reflective Q&A after his eye-opening journey to China.
Where were you? In Beijing, Chengdu, Lijiang, and Shanghai. Beijing is the governmental capital in the northeast; Chengdu is known as the “Panda Capital” and a culinary hotspot in the Sichuan Province; Lijiang in the Yunnan Province is a UNESCO World Heritage Site full of ancient history and unique cultural groups, located in southern China in the Himalaya foothills; and Shanghai is the commercial capital and the bastion of business for China on the global stage.
Favorite activities? Lots! It was unique to be in a communist country and learn about the history of the Forbidden City, the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, and the government’s omnipresence in the everyday lives of the Chinese.
I absolutely loved the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China—the part of the wall that used to guard the Northern Border and the imperial tombs. It was originally built in the mid-sixth century and rebuilt in 1569.
Visiting the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding was special as we saw both Giant Pandas and Red Pandas up close and personal. These animals live in natural habitats as they rehabilitate, breed, and offer researchers important insight on the indigenous Giant Panda of south central China.
I also loved immersing myself in the Naxi people group of southern China near Lijiang. They’re the last ethnic group on earth to use pictographs as their written language. The Naxi include about 300,000 people and are unique in that women are the head of the family and also pass on the inheritance to the next line of women in the family.
Highlight of the trip? A highlight of the trip was having private guides that are unique to Ker & Downey help me better understand the government, language, cuisine, and customs of China. I was able to communicate effectively, gain a better understanding of Chinese history dating back thousands of years, and try foods that are found only in China. My trip went “off script” several times, including in Lijiang. My guide took me into the Himalayan foothills and into his ancient Naxi village, set against the backdrop of the 18,360 foot Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. We arrived to visit with his aunts and uncles, meet with a Shaman, and practice drawing out the characters native to their language.
Don’t miss… Be adventurous and unafraid of trying the street foods of China. Be open minded to the cultural differences, traditions, food, and customs… and roll them all into one intrepid itinerary through multiple regions of China, crafted by Ker & Downey. Definitely plan to include the bright lights and soaring skyscrapers of Shanghai on your trip.
Anything else you want to add? If you want the best chance of good, mild weather, the best times to visit are April-May and September-October. A journey to China can be overwhelming with the amount of regions, destinations, festivals, complexity of language, and so on. Go with the trusted and knowledgeable experts at Ker & Downey!
Contact your Ker & Downey designer to start planning your own customized journey to China.