As the winner of the #MyChinaExperience photo contest, Cathay Pacific sent Kevin Mao on a two-week adventure through China. For him, it was an opportunity to explore his ancestral motherland more deeply than he ever had before.

After exploring the skylines of Hong Kong and the rice paddies and rivers of Guilin, Kevin spent his final week getting to know the high-energy city of Shanghai. As soon as he landed, he turned to friends he’d previously known only through social media.

“I had some friends that are pretty well versed in some really photogenic spots, some cool spots, they definitely helped me a lot. It would’ve taken a lot of time to research some of the places that they showed me,” he said. These were friends he’s known through Instagram for awhile, some as long as two or three years. One even flew in from southern China to visit and photograph the city with Kevin.


“It’s something that was a long time coming, you feel like you’re pretty good friends with these people. You interact with them more than I do with some of my friends in San Francisco,” he reflected after returning to California. “To meet them finally, it feels really good to extend the friendship in real life. But it feels really natural, because you kind of know that we all like to take photos and we’re always trying to do as much exploring as we can and find good shots.” He considered those meetings a highlight of the trip, along with the all-star treatment he received at the Shangri-La hotels throughout the two-week stay “We were treated like VIPs, they were so nice to us. That definitely left an impression, all of the hospitality we had,” he said. “In Guilin one of the employees from a hotel acted as our tour guide, and came with us everywhere.”

“So from the Instagram friends, to the hotels, it was the people who were the highlight of the trip.”

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