Our Guides

“Having the China Host was exactly the sort of service they enjoyed and made the trip flawless”

Our Guides

Guides, China Hosts and Experts form the window through which you see and understand China, so in our role as cultural mediators, it’s vital we introduce you to the very best.On our Ultimate China tours, you will be assigned a China Host. This is a Chinese-speaking Westerner, who acts as a traveling concierge to provide real-time customization, flawless logistics and cultural insights.

In addition, at each destination, you will enjoy a local Guide, versed in history and culture but also prepared to talk frankly about whatever topic interests you.  And then, depending on your itinerary, you will probably meet a range of Experts, who enable specialist talks and activities as diverse as Palace Bone Setting, Contemporary Architecture and Traditional Candy Blowing.

Our China Hosts are part of what makes us unique; they help explain our success for over twenty years. They have been hand selected and expertly trained to provide you with the most unforgettable journey. From seamlessly ensuring flawless logistics, to deepening your cultural immersion, to effecting last minute adjustments, in the words of a guest, they take a trip "from excellence to perfection". Before you travel with us, it's hard to imagine what a China Host brings to the party. After, it's hard to imagine traveling without one.

Apart from English and Chinese, many of our China Hosts speak multiple languages including German, Spanish, French and Italian. As long-term residents of China, each has been inspired with a passion for this magnificent country. It is this love for China, coupled with a deep knowledge of its culture, which enables our China Hosts to bridge the East West divide. The impact your China Host can have on your holiday is limitless - for more information on our China Hosts please visit Frequently Asked Questions.

There were many terrific aspects of the tour. In particular, the China Host – both as a concept and the specific individual – turned out to be much more important than we anticipated. We would have never gotten as much out of China on our own as we did with Imperial.

Michael Hammer

Voted by Time Magazine as one of the 25 most influential people in the U.S.

How they enhance your trip

Organizing a soccer match between your kids and some local villagers in Guilin
Interpreting your conversation with a local, for example, once for a guest meeting with a provincial governor.

Giving priceless tips for haggling at the local bazaar

Further customizing your menus based on dishes you've enjoyed.

After learning your interests, embellishing a tour with activities, such as bar hopping in Shanghai or little known biking trails near Yangshuo.
Giving you the peace of mind to not worry about logistics and to enjoy more fully your precious vacation time instead.


Since arriving as a student in Guangdong Province in 2002, Garth has spent more than a decade in awe of China's cultural, linguistic and culinary diversity. Armed with degrees in both Government & International Relations and Chinese Studies from the University of Sydney, Garth moved to Beijing permanently in 2009 and since then has worked on a diverse range of government and private sector development projects. During this time, he was also working to uncover the city's best bars, restaurants and nightlife as a freelance writer and columnist for local publications, City Weekend and The Beijinger. When he isn't searching for Beijing's newest (or oldest) eateries, Garth also  consults the local bar owners and restauranteurs as a menu, management and media collaborator. 

Katherine Rivett

Kate, originally from the east of England, qualified to practice law as a barrister in the UK. Her legal career took her frequently to the US, where she grew increasingly fond of the Mid-Western scenery, people and lifestyle. When she sought something new, she looked Eastwards however, traveling to fast-paced Shanghai to work in the award-winning UK Pavilion at the 2010 Expo. She has never left the mainland's most sophisticated city, and replaced the intellectual riggers of the bar with work in the more personable travel industry, relishing her role introducing visiting guests to Shanghai and China.

Jaime Orellana

Lured by China’s unique dynamism and potential, Jaime, Mexican by nationality, combined Asian Studies with Economics in his degree at the University of British Columbia in beautiful Vancouver, Canada. Shortly after arriving in Beijing, over a five year period he founded, managed and sold a heritage courtyard hotel, this being a considerable first step into both practicing business in China (with its myriad complications) and the hospitality industry in general. A triathlete in his spare time, there’s no question that Jaime has the stamina, aptitude and linguistic skills to keep abreast of China’s future.

Our guides are over 27 years old, local to and knowledgeable of their destination, and prepared to discuss frankly whatever topics interest you. Bear in mind that like any other country, guides' opinions on social, political and historical issues will vary and may even contradict one another. We recommend asking all your guides the same one question to sample this diversity of opinion. China is addictive and learning why and how Chinese peoples' opinions might differ with age and geography is something to discuss with your China Host.

We understand that your guide is a window onto China. A fews years after your trip, you might well have forgotten which Emperor is interred with the Terracotta Warriors, but still remember that your Xi'an guide's parents were farmers educated in the Red Universities of the pre-liberation era, that she had recently turned to Buddhism for spiritual suppose but had become an avid consumer when it came to buying devices for her son. In this way, you will understand how and how much China has changed over the past thirty years.

Our guide helped us make sense of this almost overwhelming city. He was very well informed on a wide range of subjects and made sure everything worked out smoothly for us.


How they enhance your trip

Brings cultural sites to life, such as at the Imperial Palace in Beijing
Makes sure you are always safe, for example, when cycling along Xi'an's city wall

Gives you a local perspective on anything you want to know about life in China

Handles varied requests from arranging a KFC stop for the kids to locating an urgent medicine you forgot to bring with you

Learn through the guide's life, from his family backstory to visiting an aunt to learn to make traditional "baba" or bread in Lijiang

Help with shopping while not taking any commission at all for the service.

Beijing guide: Leon

Leon, whose Chinese name is Yeechun, compares his job as a guide to an octopus managing lots of things at once with each of its tentacles – with nearly three decades of experience, he is now adept at caring for the differing requirements of visitors to his hometown of Beijing. In the early 1980’s China began to open her doors to the outside world. Foreign language skills were much sought after for new occupations such as that of a guide. After graduating with a degree in English in 1989, Leon was assigned to work as a guide and hasn’t looked back since. Leon has a passion for introducing travellers to his city and has never lost his desire to help others.

Guilin guide: Michael

Growing up in a small rice farming village, Michael owes his passion for hiking to the daily 1.5 hour walk he used to make to the nearest market most days. His love of reading translates into a deep knowledge of Chinese history and medicine, as well as a natural curiosity for other cultures. After his studies, Michael volunteered for "Doctors Without Borders" for one year. In so doing so, he developed his empathy for others and learned to appreciate the little things. Grateful for the opportunity to meet and interact with new people, as well as learn from guests and other cultures, Michael makes sure all visitors to his home are welcomed with warm hospitality.

Lhasa guide: tashi

Tashi, originally from the Amdo region of Tibet, studied Tibetan Buddhism and English literature in Varanasi India for five years, before returning to Tibet. During his time in India, Tashi learned to speak fluent English as well as some Hindi. His passion for his homeland led Tashi to dive into the rich history of Tibet and also explore the road less traveled by venturing out into central and western Tibet (Kailash region). Tashi returned to Tibet to educate and share his passion for his homeland with visitors.

Shanghai guide: lily

Typhoon Lily, as she is known, prides herself on being one of the best guides in Shanghai. As a native of Shanghai, Lily has introduced people from around the world to her beloved and ever evolving Shanghai. With her vast knowledge of Chinese culture and history, she is often a crowd favorite for travelers interested in getting first-hand knowledge of the city. Lily credits her success as a guide to her untamed inquisitiveness, zest for adventure, sense of humor, and also her love of food.

Our Experts offer advanced knowledge in a narrow focus of interest. So, for example, we can suggest an art dealer to provide a contemporary art tour in Beijing, or specialist curator to introduce ceramics in Xi'an. During the itinerary design process, it's important you share your interest with us so that we can suggest activities or specialists that will resonate with you and provide greater texture to your travels through China. We don't want to send you a laundry list of experiences to choose from, but to learn about you and then suggest appropriate experiences.

Please don't think our Experts are limited to history and high culture. There's a massive range to explore from journalists to furniture makers, from bakers to musicians, from freedom fighters to dancers. All of them offer specialist knowledge and a different perspective on China. We try and provide experiences for every budget. For example, whilst some parents might want their kids to play table-tennis with an Olympic champion, others might wish for a table-tennis lesson at a local club. We want to create an itinerary that suits you.

To start in Beijing, and then go to Xi'an, Guilin, ending up in Shanghai was history put right in front of our eyes. Bravo on planning the trip to China we will never forget!


How they enhance your trip

Have an architecture expert introduce colonial and contemporary buildings to you in Shanghai
Let a former Sotheby's decorative arts expert introduce you to Court Life in the Imperial Palace
Walk the Great Wall with the conservationist responsible for its legal protections
Discuss Tibetan spirituality with a reincarnated deity in Lhasa
Whether in Beijing or Shanghai, have a specialist introduce you to the artists and galleries making waves at the cutting edge of contemporary art
Learn why the Japanese refused the Gestapo's orders to exterminate the large population of Jews in Shanghai during the second world war

Matthew Kelly

Matthew Kelly has worked as a photographer for over 35 years, documenting the cultures of more than 50 countries. He has been published in innumerable magazines and journals around the world and held exhibitions in Britain, China and South Korea. Kelly and his Chinese wife moved to Beijing in 2007 when Matthew immediately fell in love with the street life in the historic hutong area. He has not stopped exploring and photographing it ever since. (Much of this was done in partnership with Prince Charles' Charitable Foundation, which has preserved many courtyard homes in the area.) Matthew wants to help improve your photography, but most importantly he wants you to interact with residents so as to experience the traditional local culture and to leave Beijing with some wonderful images.

Chen Hangfeng

Chen Hangfeng has called Shanghai’s bustling metropolis home since he was born here in the early 70’s. Trained as a painter, Chen obtained his BA from the Fine Arts College of Shanghai University. His work spans all media, drawing inspiration from such issues as commercialization, environmentalism, globalization and cultural transmutation. Chen’s work has been displayed in museums and galleries across China, Europe and Australia. Whether you’re an art professional or an amateur, you will be enthralled by Chen’s introductions to the best artists, contemporary galleries and museums in Shanghai.

Han Feng

Han Feng, is an international fashion designer with installations in major exhibitions at the Victoria & Albert museum, Neue Galerie and Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, among others. Han was born in Nanjing and trained at the China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. She moved to New York in 1985 to launch her first ready-to-wear collection in 1993. Han made her costume design debut in Anthony Minghella’s Madame Butterfly at the English National Opera and Met Opera. Finding inspiration from her exploration of highly refined textures, materials and craftsmanship, Han Feng is also an avid collector of contemporary Chinese art which you can view in her newly established Han Feng Art Space in Shanghai.

William Lindesay OBE

William Lindsay first came to China to recee the Great Wall in 1986. The following year, he undertook the first-documented traverse of the Ming dynasty ruin covering 2,470 km on foot. Since 1990 he has resided permanently in China, spending more than 2,800 days on the Wall. He has written five books and fronted various documentaries that have been screened internationally. For his tireless work in raising awareness of the need to protect the Great Wall and its environment, he was given permanent residence by the Chinese government and received an OBE from the Queen. Having devoted his adult life to the preservation and history of the Great Wall, few can match his intimate knowledge of this monumental landmark.