After a turbulent flight, I landed early in Lisbon. I was too early to check in to the hostel, but I was able to drop off my bags and take a walk around the city.
I walked up the hilly parts of the city to Castelo de Sao Jorge and was able to get a good view of the city. After my stroll I was able to head back to the hostel to check in and take a nice hot shower. I then headed out with a group from the hostel for a nice walking tour of the city to see all of the highlights. One of the most interesting stories I heard was regarding a time where there was a fire, an earthquake, and a tsunami all on the same day. Very tragic and interesting story. After the tour I headed back to Home hostel for Mamma’s dinner and a few drinks. The hostel was great because it had a bar in it and Mamma cooked a homemade dinner every night for the guests to eat complete with beer and port wine. Over drinks I met up with a woman who happened to be on the same flight as me from New York and in the same hostel, so we decided to become friends.
I met up with my hostel friends in the morning for a quick breakfast, and then we headed over to the train station for a day trip to a nearby town called Sintra. We purchased the train/bus day pass, and jumped on a train for an hour long ride to Sintra. We were able to jump on a bus and got off to take a look at the Moorish Castle.
We had a great view of the countryside almost all the way to the ocean. We jumped back on the bus and got off at Pena Palace. This palace was very interesting with a lot of interesting middle eastern architectural influences. We took the bus back to the city center for a quick bite to eat before jumping on another bus to Quinta da Regaleira, which I think was the highlight of my visit in Sintra. Not only was the architecture outside beautiful, but the gardens themselves were amazing. There are caves you can explore that lead you to a very interesting inverted spiral tower underground. By then it was getting late, so we headed back on the bus and then the train back to Lisbon. We headed over to Bairro Alto for some delicious sangria and dinner followed by a few drinks at the hostel and then bed.
My hostel friends decided for another journey together. We jumped on the tram to Belem and stopped off at the Jeronimos Monastery briefly before walking over to the Tower dos Decembrios and gazing out over the city. We then walked over to the Torre de Belem and gazed at the castle in the sea.
I recommend seeing it from outside, but it is not worth the money or time to go inside. The stairway system they use is not very effective and forces a lot of backup. We then headed over to the pastry shop to pick up one of the famous and delicious pastel de nata before jumping on a train to Cascais. The sleepy little beach town was a great stop for some beer and olives on the beach. After wandering around for a bit, we jumped back on the train to Lisbon and back to the hostel for another one of Mamma’s delicious dinners.
Woke up nice and early for some breakfast and then onto the airport for my journey to Barcelona. I sat next to a very smelly man on the plane who was promptly arrested when we got off the plane in Spain. I took the areobus from the airport to Plaza de Catalunya and walked on over to my hostel.
I checked in and made some friends in the lobby. We headed out for a few beers and tapas followed by an evening pub crawl. We went to a really cool punk bar called Nevermind followed by a not as good club. On our way back to the hostel, one of the guys got aggressively touched by the prostitutes and it was pretty funny.
I woke up and met a walking tour in the lobby to see all the sights of the city and learned a little bit about the history of Catalan wanting to separate from Spain and how that all went into forming World War 2. Had some delicious tapas for lunch and then headed over to Sagrada Familia to check out the church. I highly recommend buying your ticket in advance. The line was 3 hours long, but because I bought mine in advance, I was able to walk right in. The church was very beautiful and interesting combining a lot of naturally occurring geometric patterns into the building.
It was great to walk up in the towers and city the city from on high and see the construction that is still going on. I then headed back to the old city and took a walk to the Picasso Museum, which was nice but I think I expected to see more iconic pieces. I headed back to the hostel for piaya night with the group! Super delicious!
I slept in and had some breakfast before heading to the old city and checking out the Natural History Museum to see the old Roman city still standing underneath Barcelona. I took the metro up the Gaudi house, which was pretty but a little too expensive for what it was. I walked down to the beach and had a cup of coffee while staring out into the sea. It was very relaxing. After awhile, I walked by a beautiful fountain also designed by Gaudi and then back to the hostel to get ready for my friend’s wedding.
I walked over to the Ohla Hotel for a beautiful and small service of the marriage of my two friends on the roof. There were cocktails followed by dinner and more cocktails. It was very beautiful. After a fun evening, some friends walked me back to my hostel to turn in for the night.
Had a late breakfast and took the metro up to Park Gaudi for a walk around the park to see all the interesting art built by him.
I headed back to the old city for some sangria and tapas before heading out and exploring some of the old churches and areas in the gothic area. Had a few more drinks at a bar before going to see a flamenco show, having a few more drinks, and turning in for the night.
Woke up very early to get to the airport, rushed through all the transfers, and made it safely back to NYC in one piece.
I know this post is a little off from what I normally talk about, but after the recent tragedies with the hurricane hitting New York and the subsequent chaos that followed, I have a handy little list of things I’m going to do and purchase now after experiencing a near post-apocalyptic New York City.
- If you hear tell of a big storm coming that might knock out power, start eating the food in your fridge since you will probably have to throw it out soon anyway.
- Check to see if your stove is gas or electric. Even if it is gas, check to see if an electric spark is used to ignite the gas. If you are unsure, purchase extra matches to light the stove just in case.
- Purchase at least 2 gallons of water for everyone in the house.
- Fill the bathtub up with water (this is for flushing the toilet and washing yourself, not to drink)
- Purchase a variety of dried goods to eat including cereal, peanut butter, canned soups and veggies, beef or veggie jerky, fruits with a case like apples bananas and oranges, pasta, rice, etc…
- Purchase chewable multi-vitamin and vitamin C tablets to take daily to help keep your immune system up
- Unless it is the dead of summer, have your extra blankets and your winter coat on hand
- Purchase a crank powered flash light radio combo. The power comes from you cranking the device, allowing for longer lasting lights and radios if you run out of batteries
- Candles are great to buy to place in the bathroom since holding a flashlight and doing…well anything in the bathroom is difficult
- The day before the storm hits do your laundry!!!
- Be sure before the storm hits to also fill your car tank completely up with gas, or if you have a generator, get several cans of gas to last you.
- Have an alternate method of transportation set up for after the storm. Public transportation will be down, you might have run out of gas…bikes, skateboards, boats, or other vehicles should be kept on hand.
- If you are told to evacuate DO IT. There is a reason for it and if something happens, help might not be able to reach you for a long time.
- Take out around $200 in cash. When power is out credit cards are useless and only cash will be able to get you what you need.
- Be inside before dark and lock all your doors. Keep the vampire rule. Things get very confusing and scary with dark buildings looming over you, and you might make an easy target for someone who is desperate and hungry.
- Check in on neighbors. Some of the elderly in your building might not be doing so well, so check up on them and make sure they are doing ok.
- Carry items that need to be charged and power cables wherever you go in case you happen upon electric.
- Try sending text messages to loved ones instead of calls. It takes less data so it will be easier to go through.
- If you are a lady be sure to purchase lots of extra tampons and pads. I would actually recommend purchasing a Diva Cup for more long term apocalyptic events because it is reusable for a year.
- Get all prescriptions filled at the pharmacy before the storm. Even if you don’t need them get them filled. You don’t know if you might need them or when the store will open next.
- Buy those instant heat packet things so you can heat yourself up if freezing.
- Have a medical kit and a fire extinguisher on hand.
- Have some board games or Sudoku on hand to keep yourself and your company more calm and together.
- Buy several bottles of red wine. Even if you don’t drink it during the storm, you can always drink it later.
- Stay calm and stay together. You have yourself and others. Stay strong for each other and know that everything will work out and you will all get through this together.
If we are in the wedding or attending the wedding, in town or out of town, friend or family…weddings happen. They can be fun and they can be a disaster. Here are some tips to make sure your wedding experience is the best:
- Don’t forget to RSVP. It may sound silly, but you don’t want bridezilla coming after you when you show up un-announced.
- Book your mode of transportation early! Make sure your flight arrives in plenty of time, and you have transportation to and from the airport worked out ahead of time.
- Make SURE you plan out your transportation from the service to the reception and back home or to the hotel. Set up a designated driver, book a limo, hail a cab, use public transportation, but make sure it is planned out in advanced. After drinking all night no one wants to realize that they thought everyone else was going to drive.
- Book your hotel! Even if you think you might not end up there after the wedding, chances are you will and you will probably not be in a state to make it anywhere else after that, so I recommend getting a room regardless. You can usually cancel the room up to a day ahead of time or less depending on the hotel.
- Book your hair/nail/makeup appointments in advance. Don’t expect walk in service in a city you might not be familiar with. Take some time to look up the local locations before-hand to save yourself some stress.
- Pack your dress/suit and shoes in your carry on. Nothing worse than losing your luggage and nothing good to wear.
- It’s not a bad idea to pre-eat before the wedding if you have allergies or dietary restrictions just in case the dinner was not exactly what you were expecting.
- Don’t forget a present! For the sake of space and simplicity, I usually get a nice card and write a check to give as my present. Let’s face it, everyone can always use money. You don’t have to worry about shipping or lugging some Martha Stewart blender in your car/on the plane.
- Have morning after plans. Make sure wherever you ended up you have a way to get back to your car/house/airport or wherever you need to go so there is no last minute rushing.
- Pack a lot of Advil. Just do it.
- Print out the directions and bookmark them in your GPS/Phone. There is nothing worse than being lost or late.
- Don’t forget to have fun and be safe :)
6-5-12 Savannah/Charlotte/Miami/Saint Georges, Grenada
After my wonderful masters degree graduation ceremony, I plane hopped from Savannah to Charlotte to Miami to Saint Georges. I somehow made all of the connecting flights and did not get my electronics taken away in customs. A word to the wise: do NOT EVER declare that you have a laptop or any electronic devices with you when entering Grenada. They will tax you on your item for sometimes more than the price of what it is worth. You’re safer leaving the laptop and the iPad at home, but if you must bring just make sure you do not declare. I arrived at the humid tiny airport with my friend waiting in open arms to greet me, which I was very grateful for. We piled into the car and with my exhaustion and the heat I was quite confused but then delighted at the British style cars (left side of the road driving!). My friends drove me through dark stretches of beaches and up through mountains and jungles onto a dirt road where we ended to their cute abode. My wonderful hosts prepared me a delicious dinner of pumpkin soup and a variety of fruits, some I have never even heard of. After their consumption I laid myself to a very long and solid sleep.
6-6-12 Saint Georges, Grenada
My other travel companion, Leisl was unfortunately delayed in Trinidad, so myself and my hosts gathered in the kitchen to make delicious island smoothies. We walked the dogs and headed down to the ATM so I could pick up some Eastern Caribbean currency. After breakfast and our walk, we headed over to the Saint Georges campus to visit where my friends take classes and spend their life studying in med school. It was then time for Leisl to arrive, and we grabbed her from the airport for some more campus exploring. After much picture taking, we headed back to the house to change into our bathing suits and go swimming. On the way back we drove a different way through a shanty town. The dirt road was filled with chickens, sheep, goats, and dogs. My friend told me you had to be careful when walking alone and take a stick with you because sometimes the packs of dogs got vicious. The shanty towns themselves were also a sight; pieces of wood and metal fashioned together for a living situation. When we reached the edge of the shanty town, we encountered a rasta man living in a squat. My friends are on good terms with him since they live so close to the shanty town. He makes sure people do not bother my friends and brings them fresh fruit, and my friends give him burned DVDs in exchange. We headed back to the house, put on our bathing suits, and back to the car for a trip to our first beach, BBC. The BBC was a great beach. It was a lagoon with sandy beaches and calm clear water. The bottom was so shallow and the water was so calm, it was perfect swimming time! We could swim far out and down and all around with no worries. During our swim, we noticed it was going to rain. Not wanting to get our cameras wet, we gathered up our things and headed to the car, and just in time! We drove awhile through the rain until it stopped. Since it lasted only about 15 minutes, we decided to continue our beach day at a different location, Grand Anse beach.
This beach was also beautiful with white sand, but a little more rough in terms of waves and the drop off was much steeper. This was probably my least favorite beach because it was not terribly good for swimming, and there were too many creepy men leering about to lay out in the sun. We encountered several very aggressive ones and it was not pleasant. After our beach adventures, we headed to the grocery to pick up some food for cooking, and headed back home to make a delicious dinner. By the time we were done cooking, the sun had set and we spent the evening drinking some island beer and relaxing.
6-7-12 Saint Georges
After our sleep, we woke up and had some delicious breakfast. We packed some lunches in anticipation for the long day. Our first stop was one of the highest points on the island, Fort Fredrick. It was a fort built in the 1700s by the British to keep out the French. After walking around the fort with windblown hair and sunburnt cheeks, we headed back to the car for our journey to Magazine Beach. This beach was the most difficult to find. It was tucked in a tiny off-road by a place called the Aquarium. This was another fantastic beach. Private to the resort and closed off to other beaches by jungle, this was the perfect beach. There were rocks and white sand with cute little waves lapping at you. After taking our time around the beach, we travel snacked our way around the island visiting various scenic places of interest and taking pictures until the sun went down. We headed home for our next evening of cooking adventures. This night we made veggie Cajun food and breadfruit salad. Breadfruit is some weird fruit that grows in Grenada and tastes exactly like potato salad. After our meal, we kicked back with some beverages and watched MIB3 as we headed into dreamland.
6-8-12 Saint Georges/Gouyave
Got up nice and early before the sun started baking and headed into downtown Saint Georges. We walked through the market and bought some spices, some fruit, and a variety of different rums. I had a coconut hacked open for me so I could drink the water straight from it. Lesil was the champion rum taster. She would sample all of the rums right up with no problem while me and my other friends would make faces and pass the cup along. After walking all through downtown and up and down the steep hills, we headed back to Grand Anse Beach where there was a blind massage center set up. We walked in, filled out the forms, and proceeded with our blind massage. I have had a lot of massages in my day, but never a blind one. While it was a good massage, it was nothing to terribly special. We headed back home for lunch and to rest a bit. We then gathered up the neighbor and she guided us to another hidden and amazing beach called La Sagesse. Everything is actually hidden in Grenada, there are no street signs or anything to help direct or indicate to you where you are or where you’re going. Make sure you have a pictured map drawn by a local if you chose to go driving. You will get lost. After getting lost ourselves, we found the beach. There was a beautiful river running right under the palm trees and into the ocean creating an amazing title basin. The waves were large and perfect for jumping in and through them. As the sun started to set, we headed back to the car and to the house. Back at the house we all piled in the neighbor’s van to take a trip up the coast to Gouyave. They have a tradition every Friday for all the fisherman to get together and hold a festival. There are a variety of stands set up in town you can purchase different foods to eat. We ate the local food, danced to some island drums, and headed back in the car to home for some sleep.
6-9-12 All of Grenada
We started our day bright and early for a guided tour of the island. Our first stop was a beautiful place called the Concord Waterfalls.
The falls were beautiful surrounded by flowers and the plant-life of the rainforest. We then headed over to the Douglaston Spice Plantation to see how all the spices on the island are made, and we were able to pick a coca nut from the tree and suck on the seeds. So chocolate is a fruit then right? :) We then headed north to a place called Carib’s Leap, which is a place where the native island people jumped to their death rather than be taken prisoner by the French. After our somber visit, we stopped on a beach at the side of the road to eat our picnic lunches. Back into the van to visit Lake Antone, which was one of the largest freshwater lakes and created by a volcano. Back into the van and off to the River Antone Rum Distillery, which was built in the 1700s and is one of the oldest distilleries in North America. My friend and I tried the rum and it was way too strong for us. I needed to run for the water. Lesil took the rum like a champ and bought a little extra present for the trip back. Back in the van to stop at a village to grab bananas. We took the bananas to the Monkey Barz in hopes that the monkeys will come out to eat the bananas. Alas, they were full by the time we got to them. Our last stop on the tour was at Grand Etang Lake, which is the fresh water lake that supplies the whole island with water. We fed some fishes, and headed back to the house. We found that the water main had broke, so the water was all gross and we needed to go to a friend’s house to shower. After our shower, we took all of our lovely hosts out for a farewell/thank you dinner. When we returned, we found that the dogs had eaten all of my 100% coca. The rest of the evening was spent making the dogs throw up so they would not die from the ingestion.
6-10-12 Saint Georges/Puerto Rico/NYC
Woke up extra early and headed to the airport. There was only 1 gate and the flight departures were listed on a restaurant sign board. After boarding a terrifying propeller plane, we were on our way to Puerto Rico. Now when they say Puerto Rico is a US territory, I didn’t know it was actually the US. I had to go through US customs in PR, but not when I arrived back in NYC. The people at the food stands in the airport would only accept US dollars as well. It was quite strange, and makes me question more why PR isn’t a state if we consider it a part of the US. In any event, I made it safely back to New York. Another adventure had and hopefully more to come soon. Safe travels everyone.
That holiday time of the year is fast approaching, and I’ve written some tips for dealing with holiday travel, stress, and the family.
- Be sure to book flights early. If you haven’t booked your flight already, you must do it ASAP. Not only will it be difficult to find flights you want, but the longer you wait, the more expensive they will be.
- Have a travel backup plan. In the northern hemisphere around this time of year, the weather can be rather tricky and unpredictable with snow, blizzards, and ice. Have a backup plan in case your flight is canceled or the roads are too slippery to drive.
- When traveling with children, have multiple games and activities packed. Make sure some of the games do not require batteries so that if your flight is delayed and the game dies you won’t have a screaming child on your hands. Also, think about games you can play together as a family. This can make airport waiting time and car rides seem shorter and more fun.
- Always pack additional winter clothes. It always gets colder than you think it will.
- When driving, its a good idea to have some chains for your tires in the car in case you run into bad weather. If your in need of a quick fix getting out of a patch of icy road, keep some roof shingles in your trunk. Place them under your tire to help gain some traction over the icy patch.
- Bring an extra suitcase or one that is half full. Don’t forget you will be getting presents and be needing to get them back home somehow.
- The “I Have Never” game has saved long car rides of falling asleep drivers many times. How you play is everyone in the car has 10 fingers up, and every takes a turn saying something they have never done. If you have done it, you put a finger down. The first person with all fingers down wins (or loses depending on how you are playing).
- Make sure you turn off your holiday lights and unplug them before you leave so you don’t start a fire.
- If you start to feel like your family is getting to you, offer to play a board game together or work on a craft together to bring you all to a common ground.
- Don’t feel like you have to do everything. Sure you’re back in town and everyone is having a holiday party, but be sure to pace yourself. This is your vacation, and you need to make to sure to have some time to yourself.
Stay safe and happy travels. Happy holidays!!
Alas, we are coming to the last leg of my China trip, Shanghai. The city was so modern I almost forgot what country I was in. The plane touched down on another rainy evening. Our car sloshed through the puddles and over to our hotel near the railway station. Stephen and I settled into our gorgeous and nice hotel. After surveying the monsoon outside and our nice living room and hot water maker, we opted to run across the street to pick up some ramen for dinner. Being a vegetarian, I casually threw away the meat containing spice packets and rocked that ramen raw. We curled up for sleep and were ready for the next day.
We woke up and met our tour guide in the lobby. We headed over to the Shanghai museum to get a nice view of Chinese history and culture in that area. After our speedy walk through the museum, we journeyed over for a foggy view of the Bund. There were so many interesting buildings of varying shapes sticking up into the clouds. After our sojourn down the river in the rain, we headed to the ancient main shopping district in the city. The old style buildings were beautiful with their carvings and pointed roof flourishes. It is quite a pity that style of building is almost non-existent in the city any more giving way to high rises and western buildings. We saw an ancient beautiful palace with carved wood and amazing waterways filled with large goldfish. The market was full of every trinket imaginable and a large amount of delicious food. We headed over to the main modern shopping district where Stephen splurged on his love of clothes. Our tour guide brought us back to our hotel, and we spruced up for our night out. We dressed to the nines for some delicious dinner and clubbing. We took the metro back over to the shopping district we were at earlier and grabbed some dinner. We then walked over to the Bund for a view of it lit up at night. The rain had mostly let up, so we were able to see a lot of the buildings in all their glory. It was quite an intense sight to behold, even for this New Yorker. Stephen and I headed up to Bar Rouge to get our dance on. There was some good beats playing and a small crowd when we walked in. I ordered a vodka ginger ale, he ordered something straight. We took a table towards the back, but with still a good view of the Bund lit up outside. The liquor flowed, the people poured in, the beats kept playing. Stephen and I danced the night away to those sweet techno beats. After clubbing quite late, we grabbed a cab back to our hotel. It had begun to rain again and the metro was closed by that time. We made it back to catch a quick hour or 2 of sleep before it was back up and to the airport.
Stephen and I packed all of our things and headed to the airport on our way out of China. The trip was long, but very satisfying. Even if the government denied me entry into Tibet, I still had fun at the cities I did visit in China. China is such a huge country and I feel like I barely caught a glimpse of all it has to offer. Special thanks also to our tour company, Travel China Guide for a really fantastic and amazing tour. I would recommend them if you ever get the itch to head over to China.
I’m sad to see this chapter in my blog entries to end. I don’t know when or where I’m headed to next, but I’m always thinking of the next adventure. Stick around for some helpful travel tips until the next adventure. As always, live big and travel safe. Peace love unity respect. Until next time.
On our flight from Xi’an to Gulin we ran into quite a bit of thunderstorms and turbulence. I could start to see lightning in the distance as our plane moved through the sky. I was reminded of that poster in the Truman Show where the airplane has a lightning bolt through it. Luckily though we landed safe and sound in the city of Gulin, located in the southeast of China. It was a relief to finally leave all the big cities and come to an almost jungle-like atmosphere. We arrived in the city too late to catch any dinner, given that of course the airline never serves me vegetarian meals in any country on any flight no matter how much I tell them…so we just had a quite dinner and some drinks in the hotel.
Stephen and I woke up and headed over to a dock for a boat ride adventure down the Li River. The boat ride was simply amazing. Jungle crept over the sides of the banks as towering peaks and mountains jutted up around and in the distance. Water buffaloes and peasants came to the water to pluck their chickens and drink. It was as though I was watching a scene from an ancient movie, or I had suddenly been transported back 500 years. Our boat ride ended in the small backpacker town of Yangshou. We dropped our things off at the hotel, and then it immediately began raining, but we forged ahead! We rented bikes and rode far into the country side with ancient farm houses, workers wearing conical hats in the rice paddy fields, and ending at a small tributary to the Li River. We parked our bikes and took an ancient log boat ride down the river. The mountains were again surrounding us and our boat man started singing ancient river songs in a strange dialect as we floated down the river. After our relaxing boat ride, we biked back through the country side to the city and headed for some dinner. Stephen and I got delicious Chinese food and huge beers at a cute little corner cafe. Our waitress was excited we were foreign and kept practicing her English with us. It was fun. We headed back to the hotel to freshen up, and then went down to the river for a night light show. There is beautiful song, dance, lighting, and choreography all tied together with the river and the mountains. It was quite beautiful. We got some ice cream and walked back to the hotel for a good night sleep.
This was Stephen and I’s lazy catch up day. We slept a lot, took nice hot showers, and wandered down to this delicious vegetarian restaurant called Lotus. I had delicious eggplant, and the food was so amazing. I was starting to really like this town with its hippie backpacker feel, the closeness to nature, amount of veggie places to eat, and the amount of English spoken. We wandered through the markets and the shops, and I bargained and bought a pair of flowy pants. After walking, we found a nice indian place to stop for dinner and then bar hopped the night away.
We woke up and drove back to Guilin to see Elephant Trunk Hill, which is an interesting rock formation worn away by the river. Stephen and I hiked to the top of the hill and found an ancient pagoda. We came back down and saw where they made rice wine. Whew it stank! We then took a drive over to Seven Star Park where we saw wild monkeys in the trees and they came right up to you! We saw some interesting rock formations and where Bill Clinton gave a speech, and then headed over to Reed Flute Cave. The ancient and beautiful cave was lit up with hundreds of colored lights. It was impressive and amazing. We packed up our things and jumped the plane to Shanghai! Stay tuned for my last China trip update! :)
We arrived in Xi’an in the evening our taxi gliding down the streets looking off into empty housing complexes going on for miles in every direction. Ghosts of novels like Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? start running though my head. We got to our hotel, which was over the top gaudy and in the middle of what looked like a poor area. We wandered around the neighborhood looking for some dinner, but only found abandoned buildings with neon signs and women washing their underwear in bowls on the street. We headed back to the hotel for some food and beer, and ended the evening with a relaxing foot massage.
We woke up and headed over to the terracotta warrior ruins. It was amazing to see all of these stone figures and horses lined up to pay tribute to the emperor. There are so many figures, many of them haven’t even been un-earthed yet. We were luck to see an archeological team digging up some more warriors at the site. The warriors were built by the 1st emperor of the Qin dynasty (same dude who built the Great Wall and unified the modern Chinese language). After our warrior adventure, we headed to the Shanxi History Museum to learn more about the periods in history and see some artifacts. We then headed to the Wild Goose Pagoda, which was a Buddhist Temple made to house the 1st scriptures that came to China from India. We climbed to the top of the pagoda and looked out over Xi’an…it seemed to go on for miles. After our exciting day, we headed over to the Tang Dynasty Dance Show was some AMAZING vegetarian dumplings and traditional Tang Dynasty music and dance performance. It was very satisfying.
We woke up and headed over to the Muslim Temple to look at the Islamic influence that came from the Silk Road. We wandered around the bazaar for awhile and then headed to the southern wall to see the city gate. The next part of our tour consisted of going over a local woman’s house and having her cook a traditional Chinese meal for us. It was slightly awkward, but the food was REALLY good. I think I turned into a dumpling afterwards. Stephen and I then decided to walk through the entire city on foot. It was quite hot, but we found some cool places like a chill hippie bar near the south wall, a large expensive mall, and then a local mall for young people. Traffic in China is CRAZY. Cars drive in the bike lanes, bike drive on sidewalks, and people basically do whatever they want. Given this, I was unfortunately struck by a scooter that was going the wrong way on a one way street. Luckily, I was ok save for some minor bruises, and we continued our walk on. We then made it to the area around the Wild Goose Pagoda and had some dinner at a chain ramen place. We then went on the square to see everything lit up at night and people gathered in various areas to dance the night away. We walked to the other side of the temple to see a water and light show set to music. We then celebrated Stephen’s 27th birthday by bar hopping in a small bar area near the pagoda. It was quite a pleasant day.
We slept in a little after our adventures from the previous evening. Packed up our gear and headed on to the airport. On the way, we stopped at the Yangli museum to see a Han emperor’s tomb with different looking warriors surrounding it. On the way to Gulin! Stay tuned for the rest of the Chinese adventure!
6-4-11 – 6-5-11 NY/Beijing
This was a long 14 hour plane ride. Air China did not give me a vegetarian meal, and the inflight entertainment was awful. I also sat next to extremely rude lady who thought it was acceptable to continue to elbow me the entire time and play Angry Birds on her iPhone with the volume turned up as loud as it could go. I finally arrived at the Beijing airport only to realize I was meeting my friend Stephen at a different terminal. I had to get on a long and epic bus ride, but I was able to meet up with him and our tour guide Sara where we then headed to our hotel to stay. I’m normally used to staying in hostels, so this hotel was super fancy. It had a mirror in the bathroom where a circle of it didn’t fog up, delicious continental breakfast, bathrobes and other amenities. I felt like I was living like a queen!
I didn’t sleep too well given the jetleg, but Stephen and I were able to wake up for our delicious breakfast and meet up with our tour guide. She took us to Tienanmen Square where Chairman Mao was buried, and then into the Forbidden City.
The Forbidden City is where the emperor lived with his 3000 concubines and 9000 eunuchs. The concubines were lucky if they ever got to sleep with the emperor just once! The Forbidden City was huge with many walled gardens, statues, areas for concubines, etc… After the palace we headed over to a fairly fancy looking restaurant where Stephen experimented eating donkey meat and other such foods. Rain started to come down as we headed over to the Temple of Heaven. We walked through the park to the temple where they sacrificed cows to the god of heaven. The number 9 was favored in architecture of this temple. It was considered lucky. In Chinese culture men were considered dragons and women were considered phoenixes which is why you see so many statues of them. After the Temple, we headed over to a tea house for a tea ceremony. It was really interesting regarding the different teas and how you taste them. My favorite ended up being the oolong tea followed by jasmine is close second. I bought some tea and some tea cups and we were on our way to the Red Theater for The Legend of Kung Fu show. It was the story of a young boy and his quest for learning kung fu and becoming a master. It was a really great show demonstrating fantastic acrobatics and kung fu skills. After the show, our guide dropped us back off at the hotel. Stephen and I walked down the street to a small hole in the wall place where I ate some fried rice and egg and a 24 oz. beer. Our communication skills included menu pointing, finger holding, calculator displaying, and a nifty Lonely Planet Mandarin iPhone app I downloaded.
We woke up to another fantastic breakfast and our tour guide started out the day taking us to a jade factory. She explained how jade was very important in Chinese culture. Women wore certain pieces of jade to show if they were in a relationship or they would wear their zodiac symbol for protection and good luck on certain calendar years. After taking a look at the factory and I bought some jade chopsticks, we realized that the place was pretty much a tourist trap and we were disappointed we had been taken there. After the factory we headed over to the Sacred Way where stone animals lined the pathway, guarding the way to the emperor’s tomb. We entered the Ming Tombs to see where one of the emperors from the Qing Dynasty was buried. People threw money in different parts of the burial place for good luck. After the tombs we headed to a hotel that had a delicious spicy tofu and broccoli dinner. Beijing cuisine is notoriously salty. After our food, we headed to the Great Wall of China!
Stephen and I climbed the difficult part where there were not too many people. Despite the heat, we were able to get some stunning pictures of the wall. The Wall was originally built to keep out the Mongols from the north. It stretches for thousands of miles and can be seen from space! After our walk on the wall, we headed back to our car for the journey back to the city center of Beijing. Our guide dropped us off, and we headed to the Lama Temple (the largest Buddhist temple outside of Tibet) to meet up with a friend of a friend and her husband. She took us to a delicious vegetarian buffet near the temple and the food was delicious!! Apparently Buddhist monks have been making fake meat for thousands of years to help make their meat-eating guests feel more at home. We picked up a hostel staying friend at the veggie place and he joined us on our trip to the night market.
The market was crazy! You could get anything from a sheep penis to a centipede to a live scorpion on a stick! The power went out at the market, so we headed over to a bar for a few drinks with our new friends before grabbing a cab back to the hotel for some sleep.
We woke up early again and checked out of our hotel. We made a quick stop at the Beijing Zoo to see the 4 pandas they had there. Panda Bears are endangered and there are only about 1000 left in the world! We then headed over to the Summer Palace to see what the Empress Cixi used as a retreat to pray to Buddha. She built a temple on a hill overlooking a lake with a female Buddha inside. We walked through the longest corridor in the world that contained over 14,000 hand-painted murals of certain events in Chinese mythology and literacy. Stephen was very happy to see all of these paintings. We then climbed to the top of the temple to the Buddha where we could over look all of Beijing. It is a huge city! We climbed back down and headed to our last meal in Beijing. I tried a 100 year old duck egg, but it smelled, looked, and tasted like death. I was happy enough to eat some gluten and peas instead. We headed to the airport and were off to Xi’an!
Stay tuned for updated from my stay in Xi’an and other parts of China!