About

“Zouba Tours started somewhere in a lush valley in the south of Yunnan. It might have been while trekking in the jungle, on the road touring on a bike or during some of the great meals. I felt like I got hopelessly entangled in the most fantastic story lines, and I just had to share them.”

– FRANK HITMAN, FOUNDER OF ZOUBA TOURS

Straight after we started with our tours in Southwest China, we noticed the immense value adding component of having a good guide. Not only does it have a time saving effect, it will also allow you to go straight to the point of what we think high-quality traveling is essentially all about: connection.


You can connect on different levels; having a wonderful meal, befriend outstanding local people and learning how to cook it. You can connect to magnificent nature, set foot on a winding mountain path and relive local history. And the good thing about genuine connections is that they benefit everyone.

“We think that travel should involve connections, and that’s why we believe it’s important to be conscious tour planners.”







Our Team




Yuan Luxi
CHEF – LEADER CULINARY TOURS

Born and raised in Sichuan, Luxi has always been into cooking. At home, she was taught to cook classic Sichuanese cuisine, and to appreciate food with rich flavors and warm colors. She soon became captivated by the amazing diversity of Chinese cooking styles. After a short stint in Europe, she opened a cookery school in Dali in 2009 called Rice & Friends, which rapidly became one of the most popular attractions in the region. While living and working in Yunnan, she developed a fascination for local Yunnanese cuisine. She is in charge of all of our culinary tours.


Yang Xiao
HEAD MULETEER – HIKING TOUR PLANNING – RESEARCH

One of China's leading field equipment experts, Yang Xiao is an itinerant native of Sichuan Province. After having outfitted countless international expeditions to the wild parts of the Great Wall with William Lindesay, he discovered some stunning Yunnanese trading routes on an expedition retracing Mao’s Long March, and has been hooked ever since. Well-known to Chinese outdoor enthusiasts as Gear Guy, he sleeps poorly in the city and has even been known to erect a tent in his living room in order to feel more at home. When not dreaming up new mule caravan hiking tours in Yunnan’s northwest, Yang Xiao writes features and gear reports for Chinese outdoor adventure magazines.


ED JOCELYN
GUIDE – HISTORIAN – WRITER – MULE TREKKING SPECIALIST - RESEARCH

Ed began his trek through China in 2002, when he embarked on the "New Long March" to retrace the epic journey of the Chinese Red Army in 1934-36. After the first 10,000 kilometers or so, Ed and his marching partner, Yang Xiao, tired of hauling heavy backpacks themselves and invested 4,000 yuan in a tough little Tibetan horse named Khampa. Khampa is now happily retired on a pasture near Shangri-la, but Ed and Yang Xiao have continued to use pack animals to support their expeditions, which in recent years have focused on the historic network of trading routes in Yunnan Province.



Matthew Hartzell
RESEARCH - ROUTE DESIGN

California native Matthew Hartzell's traveling philosphy builds on his background studying world history at Harvard and human geography at Penn State and five years traveling the far corners of Yunnan province and meeting and befriending people of every stripe. He is thrilled to be able to share his enchantment with Yunnan's geographic, cultural, and agricultural diversity with Zouba's guests. Matt recently relocated to the US, and will operate much more in the background. Matt is still our main expert on southwestern Yunnan and he still makes all our custom maps of the region.


Anne-Sophie Markus
Photographer - Graphic Designer

Without Anne-Sophie, you would probably not have clicked all the way through to this page. When she came to Yunnan in 2012 and met Frank, she took up an almost lost cause of deleting all the shaky photos on the Zouba Tours site and began to replace them with her own photos, which were actually worth looking at. She then went on to criticize his half-hearted attempts at building a website, and she set in motion an ongoing crusade towards better online visibility. She joins us in our passion for the mountains, and we can't wait to take her out on the trails again!


Jim Goodman
GUIDE – RESEARCH - WRITER

Jim Goodman is an American living in Asia since 1972 and based in Chiang Mai, Thailand since 1988. He has published over twenty books on Nepal, Thailand, Yunnan and Vietnam and worked with ethnic minorities in Nepal and Thailand in handicraft production. Jim began traveling in Yunnan from 1992, concentrating on ethnic minority areas, in dozens of excursions over the years. He wrote The Exploration of Yunnan, a portrait of the province and its people past and present, a biography of Joseph Rock, as well as separate volumes on the people and cultures of the northwest, Ailaoshan, Nujiang and Xishuangbanna.



ANDREAS GSCHWANDTL
GUIDE – TIBET SPECIALIST – MOUNTENEER - RESEARCH

A native to the Austrian Alps, Andi lived more than 10 years in China, spending a sizable share of that time exploring its rugged south-west. In the early 2000s e organized and led numerous expeditions and tours in the Tibetan regions and the surrounding ethnic melting pot. Later on, he revisited these areas from a different angle as a coordinator for policy research for China's remote areas. He's an outdoor enthusiast who has always really enjoyed showing his guests the unique magnificence of the Sino-Tibetan borderlands. It has been his dream to one day take his backcountry skis to the Tibetan winter!


Dan Siekman
DRIVER-GUIDE – RESEARCH - FIXER

Dan is a China-loving entrepreneur has spent 8 years in the country, living for stretches in Shanghai and Beijing, traveling to many far-flung locales across the country, and acquiring a deep understanding of contemporary Chinese society along the way. He calls Yunnan home because of its vast diversity (both in terms of nature and culture) and wealth of surprising and delightful people, places and traditions. Dan’s specific interests include regional cuisine, the collision of modernity with tradition, and Yunnan’s role as a crossroads between China, Southeast Asia and Central Asia. He is an avid cyclist, rides around on a motorbike and is always scouting for new climbing routes near Kunming.


Gary Sigley
GUIDE – RESEARCH – TEA CONNAISSEUR

Gary has been tramping the hills and valleys of Yunnan since 1990 and returning to the land 'South of the Clouds' on a regular basis ever since. In so doing he has thus personally witnessed Yunnan's remarkable transformation from an 'isolated backwater' to a 'dynamic crossroads'. In recent years Gary has focused his research on the rediscovery of Yunnan's rich tea culture. To this end he has personally explored the cultural legacy of the 'Ancient Tea Horse Road' and published numerous essays on the results. He is very familiar with Yunnan's complex history and multi-ethnic traditions. As an established scholar and teacher of contemporary Chinese culture and society Gary is well-equipped to share many fascinating insights with guests.



Frank Hitman
FOUNDER - ROUTE DESIGN - TOUR LEADER

After traveling in Asia for 10 years, Frank moved to Yunnan in 2007. Soon after, he mastered Mandarin and started communicating. While working on theater and education projects in local schools, he developed a strong passion for the region and its inhabitants. In 2011, Frank started focusing on mapping out his favorite areas for providing a "perfect introduction" to these exotic locations. He has developed expertise in creating sustainable outdoor activities throughout the region and the more he does this, the more passionate he gets about it. Frank lives in Amsterdam and visits China usually in the spring and autumn seasons.


DANI AUDEOUD
DRIVER GUIDE – RESEARCH - FIXER

Daniel was born in 1974 in France. After graduation, he worked in different places until 2006, when he said: “I’m going around the world”. Little did he know, one month into his trip, he came across Dali and there, he met Fei. Now they live in Dali with their two kids. Daniel truly loves Yunnan, which sometimes reminds him of the Alps, sometimes of the Provence. For two years now, he has been developing a passion for guiding travelers to unique and off-the-beaten path destinations. 


Gaetan Green
GUIDE – RESEARCH – FIXER

Gaetan spent most of the last twelve years in China, with a few extended periods of time in Europe and North America. In 2003, while studying Mandarin in Chongqing, he developed a passion for out-of-the-way places. He conducted ethnographic and academic research in China's remote ethnic borderlands. Although he finds Chinese cities are fascinating urban jungles, he welcomes every opportunity to go and explore South China's hidden ethnic villages before they get crushed by modernization. Gaetan created Travel Cathay, a website devoted to documenting these places with photos and stories.