It must be getting old for eLong (NASDAQ:LONG), living under's (NASDAQ:CTRP) shadow.

Shares of eLong took an 8% spill yesterday after the company posted uninspiring first-quarter results. The Chinese travel portal posted a loss of $0.09 a share, whereas the lone remaining analyst was looking for a deficit of just $0.06 as of last week.

It really isn't much of a surprise, since the company has now come up short on the bottom line in each of the past seven quarters.

In all fairness to eLong, the company's results were rocked by a foreign-exchange hit. The company's operating loss actually narrowed during the period, but what the heck is eLong doing posting losses when Ctrip is rolling in dough?

Investors will find temporary hope on the top line, where net revenue climbed 24% to $10.9 million. Unfortunately, the company's guidance is looking for net revenue during the current quarter to climb just 6% to 18% higher.

Obviously, the Sichuan earthquake has created a mourning nation without much of an appetite to travel, but Ctrip -- in adjusting its quarterly outlook yesterday -- is still looking for 30% top-line growth during the quarter and 35% for all of 2008.

The Motley Fool Hidden Gems newsletter certainly chose well when it picked market leader Ctrip as a recommendation two years ago, instead of banking on eLong as a coattail play. If you lay eLong's performance from this past quarter over Ctrip's sterling showing during the same three months -- with net revenue and operating profits soaring 47% and 55% respectively -- eLong believers will need to let out the coattails a little more because Ctrip keeps getting further away.

Thankfully, playing the travel boom in China isn't limited to just Ctrip and eLong. Airport advertiser AirMedia (NASDAQ:AMCN) and lodging specialist Home Inns (NASDAQ:HMIN) are logical beneficiaries. If you widen the net to find Chinese companies that are positioned well for the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing, search engine leader (NASDAQ:BIDU), outdoor ad guru Focus Media (NASDAQ:FMCN), and official online portal (NASDAQ:SOHU) are sound choices.

However, if you want a specific travel portal, you would be nuts to choose eLong over Ctrip. Yes, eLong is sitting pretty with $6.27 per American depositary share (ADS) in cash, but shareholders will keep talking about floors instead of ceilings until the company turns the corner of profitability.

eLong should eventually get there, but Ctrip is the quickest direct flight.

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