Specialists in small group, in depth travel throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo & U-Tsang Tibet. On Guided Travel in China & Tibet

Every day a quarter of the world's population wakes up and they're Chinese. Added to this, here in China's SW they might be Tibetan, Naxi, Yi, Lisu, Hui or any number of smaller nationalities contained within or interfacing with the Han majority. Obviously things are remarkably different over here - which is rather the point.

The Philosophy...
Travel in the modern day reality of SW China & Tibet is amazing enough without using gimmicks or claiming the existence of mythical “ancient kingdoms” - except as a historical perspective, it's unnecessary. Although a certain tendency towards flowery language is inevitable, we try to approach the whole subject intelligently based on the logic that that exploration is exhilarating without skimming things over with a palatable and dumbed down "mystical" gloss. We do this safe in the knowledge that, in any case, in this part of the world, truth really is often stranger than fiction.

This translates into...
Our intention has always been to facilitate exploring and experiencing this difference to the full. Often a little intimidating and sometimes outright exhausting, it is coming face to face with this difference (be it the people or the landscape) that gives a trip its exhilaration. Just remember that most people you meet will be just as interested in you as you are in them, and given the opening would be as thrilled to know a little bit more about you and your world, as you theirs. Consequently, the ingredients of a good trip seem to be twofold - firstly, by in large this kind of experience isn't to be found in sites that have been worked over and set up for tourism, as all this allows is a glimpse of how the tourist industry works! And secondly, you should be at the forefront of your own experience. We see guiding as a process whereby we provide the means for you to follow your own nose - not ours! In this, our philosophy as guides is to be facilitators, and not 'mothers' - the trip should be personal to you - not us.

Are we an eco-tourism company?
Honestly? No - but then really, who is? In our experience, this is a label dreamed up by marketing departments, and represents some very fuzzy thinking indeed - a huge simplification - that at its worst turns into an oddly neo-colonial justification for imposing structures, both business and social, upon local cultures - enough said. However, if anyone can give us a clear definition of what eco-tourism really means, and wishes to take us to task on it, we'll take the question seriously!

It should go without saying, however, that we do look out for the environment, both natural and social, through which we travel.

Specialists in small group, in depth travel throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo & U-Tsang Tibet. On Working Methods

It's a matter of fact that most tours in China are run by either agents in the big cities or big foreign 'adventure travel' companies with no on-the-ground presence, who contract out their tours. Haiwei Trails both works and hires locally, for two reasons: firstly, because not doing so keeps money and resources away from the communities in which we spend our time, thereby increasing the concentration of wealth in the big towns and cities while marginalising the villagers, making them bystanders in their own community; and secondly - a more practical reason - it's been proven over and over again that in this area, the better drivers and guides are found not in the big cities, but in the very villages and towns which we generally visit on our trips. Additionally, by keeping things local our sources of information are infinitely more reliable, enabling us to keep abreast of changing conditions, the opening and closing of roads, and new trail options as they turn up. This in turn has been the key to much of our success, and is what handily sets us apart from other companies running tours in SW China.

Another key has been the way we as a company work together. Trips are run on a team basis with no sharp division between many of the tasks - if you take a trip with us, you'll notice that the drivers may lend a hand with the meal preparation, while the guides will take a turn at washing the cars. Under such a system, and with profits distributed proportionate to work put in, everyone has a stake in the success of a trip.

Finally, much of our efforts have been directed along the principal that finding the right people for the task is everything - the extremely high quality of our specialist guides and our drivers stand testament to this. If we can't do something, then we find somebody who can, and this will be somebody upon whom we unreservedly stake our reputation.

Our Philosophy

We tend on our trips to opt for local over international, and the 'simple' over the 5-star as it's here that the particular culture of a region is found. We therefore encourage spending as much time as the pace allows in everyday situations, be it a roadside restaurant or somebody's house. We do, however, recognise that new experiences, rough roads and local lodgings can often be exhausting - and therefore we put a lot of effort into providing the right balance between comfort, and a real experience - as while the balance of a trip's experience is ultimately in your hands, one of our jobs is to smooth out the rough edges so that you'll be refreshed enough to take maximum advantage of your days! As an indication of this, we have over the last few years taken people ranging from 18-70 years of age, from a wide variety of backgrounds, and their response has been generally highly enthusiastic.

Additionally, as no people or landscape exists in historical isolation and cannot be understood on this basis, we like to provide a large amount of contextual information within which you can place your experience. In this way, by coming to SW China we hope to give you a window into the wider Chinese and Tibetan civilisations.

What to Expect On Our Trips

What's a Haiwei Trail... What are we doing here and why... How will that affect what you'll be doing here ... and why?

Keep reading -

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Specialists in small group, in depth travel throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo & U-Tsang Tibet.
Specialists in small group, in depth travel throughout SW China and Tibet, including Yunnan, Sichuan, Qinghai, Kham, Amdo & U-Tsang Tibet.
Haiwei Trails got off the ground in 1996 as a grouping of Americans and Brits living in Asia with a penchant for travelling deep into China's far-off south-west regions (in the bad old days of closed areas and police checkpoints!), who desired to form a travel company founded on their particular special interests in the area. After much prospecting, in 1997 we decided to set up base in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, so as to be more responsive to conditions on the ground, as we quickly realised that if we were going to be an organisation known for its ability to access untrodden areas, then the front-line was the only place to be.

Since then we have developed naturally into the non-hierarchial cooperative effort that exists today. Comprising an inner core of four to five people, complemented by a wider circle of specialist guides and drivers whom we have worked with over the last 8+ years, as well as a far-reaching network of contacts throughout the SW and Eastern Tibet area which keeps us informed of local conditions and changes, and provides local resources where needed.
About Haiwei Trails