The test for any great destination is to return two, three or more times and see whether you can uncover new and exciting real life experiences. Julian Hanton, presenter of Travel Channel series Asian Times, recently did just that in China, but he had a secret local weapon named Alan…
“China is a power house of an economy and holds so many treasures and sites that on a visit there, you’re swamped by choice. I was lucky enough to travel to China with Intrepid Travel as part of my latest TV series Asian Times, which we filmed for Travel Channel in May 2013. I’d been to China before and in fact I lived there briefly when I was a child. However this time around, it was incredibly different.
As a presenter of travel programmes, I have travelled with many tour leaders but Alan, our Intrepid tour leader, was one of the nicest and most knowledgeable I’ve ever had. He seemed to have the uncanny ability to only tell us information when we actually wanted to hear it. Too many tour guides bombard you with pointless facts which you will never remember. Alan knew the real secrets, like where to find the best pizza in Beijing, how to get an upgrade on the sleeper train and what was the correct price to pay for almost every trinket imaginable. I even landed an incredible bargain when I brought a t-shirt (which I’ll probably never wear) for just 10 US cents.
When I tell people it’s the locals who make a trip great, I’m not lying and Alan not only had incredibly useful inside knowledge but he also had numerous local contacts who made our time in China incredible, and incredibly easy. It really was like being shown around by someone who not only knew their country well, but who loved it with a passion.
China is an amazing place. It is hard to put it into words; it’s so huge and has so much to offer. It has changed so much since I lived there in the 1970s. It no longer has the look of depressing grey which was ever-present in the majority of my childhood photos. That has been replaced by a shiny, progressive China whose people are not only upwardly-mobile, driving German cars and drinking lattes, but who I also found to be incredibly friendly, helpful and fun.
Intrepid really took us to the heart of the country both physically and culturally, something we would have had difficulty doing if we had been travelling on our own. I will definitely return to China, but it’s a place that’s hard to travel on your own, so when I return it will be with Intrepid – and hopefully with Alan, because I’m not sure I could find Hutong Pizza by myself and it was incredible!”
Julian’s tour through China with Intrepid was filmed for the series Asian Times, which will first be broadcast on the Travel Channel on September 19, 2013. Click on the country below for more info on screenings in your region:
Europe and Middle East
About the author
Julian Hanton is an offbeat traveller with a passion for journeying to the more unusual parts of the globe. Born in New Zealand in 1975, Julian began travelling at the age of three. Almost seventy countries, seven cases of dysentery and 567 hours on cheap local transport later, he still vows to continue. Julian has been shot at in California, auditioned for Kenya’s next top comic, pinned to the ground by a Mexican wrestler, chatted with Noam Chomsky about world politics and gone looking for love in Poland. He was named ‘Travel Broadcast Writer of the Year’ in 2011 and was a finalist for ‘Travel Broadcaster of the Year’ in 2012.