Working in China? Learn how to take short trips over weekends

Working in China? Learn how to take short trips over weekends
The beach at Okinawa in Japan features beautiful clear waters and white sands, great for diving and snorkelling.
PHOTO: Dynasty Travel

We all agree Monday comes too soon. More Chinese are tacking on an extra day or two to their weekends to travel overseas, Yang Feiyue discovers.

Beijinger Zhang Feifei and four friends spent two days hauling heavy guns while hacking through the mucky woodlands-occasionally taking position in lookout towers and surveying the Russian mountainside from their jeep.

They'd tacked an extra day on either side of the weekend to hunt in the forests surrounding a mountainside farm near Russia's Lake Baikal in November.

They lodged at a cosy, family-run boutique hotel nearby.

"It was exhausting but thrilling," Zhang recalls.

"We saw a leopard, pheasants and other wild animals."

We all agree the weekend is too short.

But a growing number of Chinese travellers like Zhang are doing something about it-adding an extra day or two to take international trips.

"It was unlike any of the longer, conventional tour packages I'd ever booked," the 36-year-old says.

"Usually, I'd wait until a weeklong holiday to go abroad. That's usually the only time friends and family can join."

He'd previously travelled much of Europe and the United States on Golden Week trips.

"I found our in-depth exploration of a single destination more fun than just scratching the surface of many sites in a city," he says.

Tour agencies have taken note of the trend and are developing extended-weekend overseas packages, especially to court Chinese hoping to avoid peak travel times.

Their itineraries are often half as long but twice as intense as traditional weeklong packages.

Zhang's group also went night fishing in Baikal aboard a private yacht. The package also offers museum, hovercraft and cableway experiences, plus special Russian cuisine.

And travel costs are lower outside holidays, says Beijing-based travel agency Brilliant Trip Club's founder, Zhang Yue.

"Our goal is to enable travellers to take just two days off around the weekend to go abroad without interfering too much with their work," he says.

Zhang Yue's club provides the Baikal package Zhang Feifei booked. It also offers three-day trips to Tokyo and Okinawa.

The Tokyo package features hot springs, traditional cuisine, Fujiyama, Oshino Hakkai, Yokohama Chinatown, Japanese performance arts and shopping.

Tourists can choose among recommended hotels and restaurants, or even extend their trips if they wish.

The Okinawa trip features Japan's royal cuisine, the local air force base, the aquarium and a duty-free shopping plaza.

The company's standard extended-weekend packages average 6,000 yuan ($910) and don't include airfares. Tourists' selections of restaurants and hotels influence customizable packages' prices.

Brilliant Trip is scouting new routes. They must be within four hours by air, Zhang Yue explains.

"Russia, Japan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and Mongolia all make ideal three-day destinations," he says.

Zhang claims his tours enable travellers to enjoy 80 per cent of their time on the trip, versus the average 40 per cent for conventional packages.

Most agencies arrange suburban hotels to cut costs, forcing tourists to spend more time in transit to sites, he says.

"They may have no choice but to stay in all night, since there isn't much to do in the middle of nowhere," he says.

Brilliant Travel claims its hotel options are based purely on local ratings and adjacency to ports of call.

Zhang wants to change the mindset of many Chinese, who believe they should pack in every attraction at a destination in one visit.

Zhang entered the sector in 2003 and established his custom-made travel business targeting the affluent in 2013.

"More customers need in-depth visiting and dining experiences," he says.

They're tired of "conventional and bland" sites crowded with holiday visitors.

"Some of our customers, for instance, want to RV in the US or fish aboard private yachts," he says.

The upside of the company's single-destination trips is everything is taken care of, from visas to exclusive transportation. They can change their schedules whenever they want. And an online travel expert is at their beck and call 24/7, Zhang Yue says.

That's perfect for travellers like Zhang Feifei, who believes the prep work kills the fun.

"The visa, pickup service and Chinese-speaking guide were all taken care of," he says.

"All I had to do was kick back and see what fun may surprise me."

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