Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yangshuo: Li River Boating

After a morning spent hiking in Longji, we traveled south to the town of Yangshuo. It was just before dusk when we arrived but we still managed to sneak a few peeks at the towering mountains around us.


The views in Yangshuo are nothing short of breathtaking. Hundreds of limestone mountains dot the countryside, jutting sharply out of the landscape. Because of this, both foreigners and Chinese tourists flock to the area. Thankfully for us, we managed to visit prior to start of the busy season.

To best view the area, our guide arranged for us to boat down the Li river from Yangdi to Xingping old town.









The back of the 20 RMB note displays a painting of some of the karst mountains. Our boat guide happily pointed out the location of the drawing. So we posed with money. The only people that ever seem to pose with money are drug enforcement agents and gangsters. And now apparently us. 




While not as serene as floating down this river may have once been (our boat did have a motor after all), it was a rather relaxing way to view the awe inspiring landscape of Yangshuo.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Letting the cat out of the bag

Matt and I were riding our bikes home from brunch on Sunday when I saw this couple zoom past us. Thankfully my husband whipped out his phone and snapped this photo for proof. I doubt Snowball would be very enthusiastic about the dusty, Shanghai air blowing through her whiskers.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Guangxi: Longji Rice Terraces

In April, two of my college besties, The Blondes, came to visit. Within 24 hours of landing in Shanghai, we had boarded a plane and jetted off to Guilin, in the southern province of Guangxi. 

Two hours northwest of Guilin is nestled the beautiful town of Longji. We wandered through the quaint town which was only accessible by a lovely swaying bridge. Not a fan.



Along the way, we were greeted by women from the Yao minority population, famous for their long hair. The Yao women cut their hair only once during their lives at age 16 when beginning the search for their husband. Considered masters of handicrafts, they are also known for the wares they peddle throughout the village.




The only way to reach the top of the rice terraces is on foot. While the hiking isn't too strenuous, it does require that you carry your suitcase to the top if you are staying at one of the local hotels (we were not).  Or you could pay one of the local women to do it for you.


Once at the summit, we were surrounded by beauitful views of the rice terraces below, established over 700 years ago. The terraced fields were built along the slope winding from the riverside up to the mountain top, the highest part reaching 2,800 feet (or 880 meters).









After a few hours of hiking in the rice paddies, we sat down for a lunch of traditional local food. This included rice stuffed inside bamboo shoots and cooked over an open flame.



We also feasted on Guilin noodles, eggplant, and a little Chinese beer.





Our meal did not include roasted mountain rat which was apparently a local delicacy. My guests were more than happy to miss out on that experience.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013


When my friend K was visiting in March, we decided to leave the hustle of modern Shanghai for an afternoon and headed to the once sleepy water town of Zhujiajiao. Unfortunately, we weren't the only ones with this idea and were greeted with throngs of people upon our arrival. Sigh.


Located in a suburb of Shanghai, the town of Zhujiajiao is an ancient water town that is roughly 1,700 years old and served as an important trading post for the surrounding countryside. Traditionally, goods and people were ferried on the small canals from house to house, passing under the stone bridges that are still in use today.


We opted to buy the 100 rmb entrance tickets which provided us with a boat cruise and entry into nine scenic spots such as the Y-Art Gallery, a traditional medicine shop, the City God Temple, and Kezhi Garden. While I enjoyed Kezhi Garden and the City God Temple, the majority of the other attractions weren't overly interesting.






After watching our boat man row for awhile, I figured I would give it a try. Harder than it looks, trust me.



We wandering around for the better part of an hour until the intense shoving of the crowd wore down both my nerves and civility. Thankfully, Matthew and K were happy to break off from the main streets as we made our way back to the entrance. We meandered down small alleys, past walls filled with children's drawings and adorable puppies.




Zhujiajiao is certainly touristy but in a starkly different way than the city of Shanghai. Here, life seems a little more simple and a little more, well, ancient. You cannot yet see skyscrapers peaking above the roofs of temples. Though with the rapid pace at which China is growing, I imagine it's only a matter of time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

DIY Chair

Do it yourself tutorials are all the rage these days. I constantly see headlines and blog titles that apparently will tell me how to make a pillow out of my favorite T-shirt or the best way to clean my baking pans.

So today, I present you with a simple tutorial from the streets of China.

How to make a chair

Step 1: Grab two water bottles of identical height
Step 2: Sit on them
Step 3: Relax?


Ok, that last step might not be too clear. Too much relaxing will probably break your brand new chair. And then what would you have to blog about?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Napping 4.0

Napping was one of my favorite things to do in college. I would sit in class, counting down the minutes until I could go home and snuggle under my plush comforter. In Shanghai, I inevitably end up falling asleep, cat on my lap, whenever I attempt to do my Chinese homework. No matter the circumstance, napping for me conjures up images that involve the words warm, soft, and comfortable.

But in China, hard, metal, and thong will apparently do the trick.

Photo courtesy of my friend Tom, who clearly has a knack for finding odd nappers.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Panda Loving

While visiting the Panda Research Base, Matthew and I held a baby panda. I cannot even begin to describe how excited I was for this. My face actually hurt from smiling. I was more enthusiastic than a tween at her first Justin Bieber concert.


But holding a panda isn't cheap. However, I considered this opportunity to be a once in a lifetime event and happily ponied up the 2000 rmb/person ($325) "donation". (Note: Friends of ours only had to donate 1300 rmb in November 2012 for this experience. The price appears to increase rapidly every few months).

The base does a decent job of stretching the panda holding into an experience of sorts. We were first given a lesson on the breeding practices that take place on the base. There isn't much natural procreation going on there, in case you were wondering. We next learned about feeding the pandas and finally, we got our up close and personal experience with the panda.

After washing our hands, we were outfitted with booties and sterile gowns to wear. Totally attractive, right?


Then it was time to snuggle with the panda. The zookeeper handed me a piece of bamboo coated in honey to feed the panda in hopes of keeping him occupied during our little photo session. He must have though I was pretty sweet, because when his honey ran out, he gave my cheek a nice slobbery lick.


Matthew missed out on a panda makeout session during his turn though as the little guy was rather preoccupied with an apple slice.



While we may have left the Panda Research Base with a little (okay, a lot) less cash in our pockets, I would absolutely pay to hold a panda again. Besides, at least our donation went towards the conservation of pandas. Because the world is just a little bit cuter (and slobbery) with these gentle beasts around.
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