It’s pronounced “Jina” 


Sorry if it’s too soon to make that Donald Trump joke again. But it’s funny, and you know, we’re pretty edgy.

We want to do a quick China size up since we are getting ready to leave the country. 

Overall, we really enjoyed our trip to China. We were able to see everything China is known for: the Great Wall, the Terra-cotta Warriors, Pandas, millions of people, and some lovely scenery. We were very fortunate to not experience too much smog, but that came at a price.

What We Learned

Bring lots of warm clothes if you’re traveling during winter.

Learn to speed walk in the major cities.

Learn to be pushy. No one waits for their turn in line or stops to let someone in.

It’s best to just close your eyes when in a moving vehicle. The driving is pretty terrifying.

“Spicy” doesn’t really mean hot, it just means it has spices, unless you’re in Chengdu.


What We Loved

The sites, specifically the pandas.

Most of our hotel breakfasts – they were always huge with mostly Asian foods, but a little western food.

The country is super clean.

The public transportation is amazingly efficient and cheap.

Free wifi everywhere.

Public toilets everywhere. Even the “bad” ones (without stalls) were very clean.
Struggles

The language barrier. Pointing works to an extent, but really won’t get you too far. Sometimes that’s the best you can do though.

Finding a place to do laundry.

Smokers all over the place.

The air quality. Like I mentioned above, we really didn’t have bad smog days, but the air certainly isn’t what we are used to.
Doing a package tour was the best way to be introducted to China. Our tour company did a lot of handholding as far as getting us around and introducting us to the country and culture. It was necessary.Without our tour guides we would have been totally at a loss for 90% of the time. There are travel agencies around the different cities that could have set up individual trips, which could have saved a little money, but would have been an added headache and added unnecessary days to our trip. 

From Hong Kong With Love

Hong Kong seems to be a super international city. It seems like in our 24 hours we have been here we have seen people of every race. It’s also a very busy city, in a good way. Just walking through the city there is so much to see. Walking is one of the best ways to see a city. It seems like a way to get a feel for how the locals live. 

Last night we had some great dim sum, although we might have had too much. Our WHOLE table was full of food. And of course my chopstick skills still aren’t up to par, so it looked like a toddler had been eating there.

Left to right: pork lotus rice, bbq beef buns, vermicelli wrapped chicken, a Chinese meatball, and Chinese broccoli

Our dim sum was totally appreciated after what was kind of a long afternoon. We look a bullet train from Guilin to Shenzhen. Why we don’t have these trains in the U.S. is beyond me. They are pretty awesome. It was about a 3 hour trip and probably went about 340 miles. Once we got off the train we couldn’t find our driver. On our tour we’ve had really good luck of finding our drivers & the tour company has been great at lining us out in the event that our driver wouldn’t be where we think to look. This time, unfortunately, we didn’t get any info from the tour company. The train station had 4 exits and our driver was at the 4th one we looked at. We walked ALL the way around this massive train station before we found our driver. While we were walking and not finding him, we were thinking should we take a taxi? Or a subway train? Or what do we do? We really didn’t have a clue. Luckily we did find him because it was over an hour driver into Hong Kong, where we had to go through customs.

Now we are here and the city is lovely. Unfortunately we both have colds. I feel like I’ve used almost a full box of Kleenex.

Because of our colds we had a pretty slow start today, but we did get some Starbucks! Then we took off to see some sites. We took the subway to Hong Kong Island (we are on the mainland) and took a cable car up to Victoria peak. From there we did about a 3 miles walk through a little mountaintop park. Once we were back at the bottom of the island we took the Star Ferry across back to the mainland.  We are finally in some warmer weather, so it’s been great day to site see. 


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12/1 &12/2

Miles walked: 13ish

Amount spent: $71

Sneezy, snuffily travels: 2

Naps taken: 1

China Tourists

The last couple days we have been being tourists just like the Chinese. In fact, we have been only with Chinese people. 

Yesterday we took a river cruise on the Li River. The cruise was about 4 hours with stunning views! Once we made it to Yangshuo our tour guide took us on a drive to see some farm lands. It seems like the grow just about everything here: sugar cane, cotton, broccoli, carrots, strawberries, peaches, tangerines, rice, and the list goes on. The tangerines are in season and oh so tasty.

Jarrod checking out the fields.

We were then left to our own devices at our hotel. Our hotel is on a very busy walking street full of food and goods vendors. Across the street from is us an ice rink that plays “Let It Go” from frozen all afternoon and night. But we found our new favorite food here. I don’t know what this food is actually called, but they are like dough stuffed with meat, noodles, veggies, or a mix of all, and then deep fried. They are about the size of a small tortilla, but very thick. Holy smokes are they delicious.

Today we rented bikes and rode about 15 miles around the valley, through the farm lands.We laughed because our bikes were extra cheap because we fit the kid sized bikes! I guess sometimes being short has it’s perks. 

Nothing screams “watch out” in China more than a white girl, wearing a helmet, in a bright red coat on a bike!

We rode through a couple villages and many farms. We also hiked to a famous Chinese landmark called Moon Hill. 

——

Miles biked: about 15

Amount spent: 28.75

Near bike wrecks: at least 20

Actual bike wrecks: 0

Stops left on our tour: 1

Plan B

After leaving China, we were planning of going into Vietnam and visiting the city of Ho Chi Min. We hastily brought our tickets while in Washington D.C. getting our Chinese visas. China will not process your initial visa without proof you are leaving their county. I didn’t know that when I gathered everything for our visa trip, so we ended up buying the cheapest flights we could find that fit our timeline without doing much research on the actually trip. 

A few days ago, we started thinking about our next stop after we leave Hong Kong. Previously, when we went into Vietnam we could do a visa on arrival for about about $45 per person and was ready in about 3 days. That rule changed on September 1 of this year. Now you have to bring your visa to a consulate and pay over $150 per person. That is more than our plane tickets combined, so we decided to skip Vietnam (since they won’t even let us in), and go directly to Bangkok and reset there.

Shaq went onto Air Asia to buy our tickets to Bangkok. They were pretty cheap, like less than $80 each and gets us there in less than 3 hours.Unfortunately, he spaced out the fact that I changed my last name after we got married. So yes, ladies, even a year after you get married the name chance process is still a HUGE pain! 

In the U.S. if a name was booked incorrectly it’s easy enough to call customer service, explain what happened, and make the correction. Here we don’t have a way to make a phone call. The next obvious choice is email. Air Asia doesn’t list a costumer service email. They answer what they call Live Chat. The fastest wait we ever had to Live Chat was 20 minutes, the longerst over an hour.When you factor in our itinerary and the fact the internet doesn’t always hold, especially in the evening when we have free time, it was nearly impossible to even get onto Live Chat. And we were supposed to fly out in 4 days! We were literally getting ready to buy a new ticket the other morning because we were stumped on what else to do…but the internet kicked us off before we could get all the way through the process. Things were not pretty at our breakfast yesterday morning!!

We decided to text my mother (hero) and asked her if she could PLEASE help us. After she spend over an hour waiting to get on the chat all she found out was she needed a case number associated with our form and by the time we get her text saying that it was the middle of the night in the states. I was getting pretty worried I might be taking up residency in Hong Kong while my husband ran wild in Bangkok. Perhaps he put my old name on purpose?!

I was getting worried and he was pretty frustrated with the mistake, as well as, the difficutly in getting assistance. To top it off Shaq has a little cold, which I might be getting, and we slept on a bed that I’m fairly certain was cement with a sheet on top. Finally yesterday afternoon we got decent internet, a short wait on the Live Chat, and help! My name got changed and we didn’t spend $150 buying a new ticket for me! Now, if I can just get my tickets cancelled from Jetstar Airways it would be great.

I share this story just to show travel isn’t easy. We are very fortunate so far to have had an easy trip. We have also seen some truest amazing sites. Little problems quickly become much bigger problems that grow into frustrations. It’s a challenge and a skill to be able to take things in stride, not make the situations worse by getting in a fight or taking out your frustration on the person you are literally spending 24/7 with, and find a solution. 

Hot Potting

Tonight we took our guide’s recommendation and had Chinese hot pot. We had hot pot before in Laos and other parts of Souteast Asia. This was different. 

We went into a restaurant that looked nice. We could see the tables were set for hot pot, and it was an open air restaurant. Most places we have gone into have menus with pictures so we can point to what we want. That wasn’t the case here. Luckily our guide had us take pictures of her phone with information and recommendations on hot pot. It had Chinese characters for the common foods to put in it. We ended up ordering fatty beef, bamboo shoots, sprouts, needle mushrooms, regular mushrooms, potatoes, and a side dish of fried pork. 

See all those little balls? Those at the fire peppers that make your mouth numb.

Our guide also gave us some pointers. One of the pointers our guide gave us was to make sure to dip our food in the seaseme oil after we cooked it. Our waitress showed us how to prepare the seaseme oil. They give you pouch of it that you pour into a small bowl and then add garlic, cilantro, clam sauce, and vinegar to your taste. 

The hot pot they brought us had a small ring inside of a bigger ring. The inside was pretty bland, but he outside was like the ring of fire. When they brought it out it was just about 15 small red peppers, but then once it started boiling all sorts of things started floating up. One stand out item was the Chinese fire peppers. They look peppercorn, but they are red and green. And they make your mouth go numb. Our pot was full of these. We think the restaurant made ours as spicy as possible to see if we could handle it. We didn’t see any other tables with even close to as much spice as we had.

We knew when it came out it would be spicy! Luckily the middle ring isn’t spicy at all.

As a nice, little, white girl I have to say I think we did pretty good. The spice was actually really good and almost addicting and rarely overwhelming.

All and all, we enjoyed our hot pot.

Big and Fat

The story goes pandas are called pandas because when a French explorer came to China he saw a panda fur in the farmer’s house. He pointed and asked what it was. Since the Chinese farmer didn’t speak French and the Frenchman didn’t speak Chinese it was difficult. The farmer said in Chinese pang, meaning fat, and da, meaning big. The French explorer heard Pan-da. Now we say panda for big and fat!

Time for a panda nap.

Obviously we went to see pandas today. We saw Giant Pandas and Red Pandas. The Giant Pandas have to be the cutest animals in the world! They are just so silly and funny. Speaking of silly and funny our guide took us to see a panda sculpture here in Chengdu at a very highend mall.

The giant, Giant Panda sculpture.

Once we were done with that she took us down an ancient street that had a lot of street food, tea houses, and shopping vendors. We did some pretty awesome eating. We had some rabbit. It was my first time ever eating rabbit. We also had some small stuffed pancakes, tofu that was long and skinny like a lasagna noodle, and some cold noodles. The food here in Chengdu is very tasty and a bit spicier than other areas we’ve been so far. Later tonight our guide suggested we get hot pot for dinner.  Appearently that are 5000 hot pot restaurants in the city. She also suggested we get it with pig brain. I’m not sure how that is all going to work out. Our guide found it very funny that we don’t eat brains of any animals.

In other big news we are finally doing laundry! Currently I am sitting in shorts, a swimsuit cover (because it kind of looks like a tank top), and my raincoat because that they are my warmest, clean options. I cannot explain my excitement about having clean clothes. I think we are on day 8 with the same clothes. And this might be an overshare, but I think I only brought 4 or 5 pairs of underwear. Somehow I made it work, but I am not exactly sure how. 

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11/26

Miles walked: 14.15

Pharmacies we had go to get contact solution: 2

Amount spent: 86.40

11/27

Amount spent: 220.05 (200 for plane tickets to Bangkok)

Travels plans changed: 1

Times my husband forgot I changed my last name & booked the airline ticket in Parker: 1

New foods tried: at least 5

Xi’an First

Hey, do you get the joke? Xi’an is pronounced She-on, like she-on first? Or second? Once again the Sayers are comedic geniuses.

I just took a shower and took off the same clothes I have been wearing straight for 36+ hours, those are the same clothes I have been wearing since we arrived in China, and the same clothes that happen to be every item of warm clothes I packed. Needless to say, we need to do laundry. Things are getting weird around here.

Anywho…We spent most of yesterday walking around Beijing just killing time until we got on our sleeper train to Xi’an. We did a lot of eating, including eating some pigeon, some chicken and  “goat” on a stick. We also went to a very westernized micro-brewery and a dumpling shop.

Pigeon, it tastes just like chicken

Later last night we had to say goodbye to our guide Marco (a name he gave himself) and get on a soft-sleeper train to Xi’an. It was a 12 hour journey, where we were supposed to have 4 people in a little room. Luckily the crabby people in our car paid the train company extra money and got their own cabin. For some reason we were charged by the train company and extra 19 Yuan because those people left…Appearently it was because it’s extra money for us to both sleep on a bottom bunk, rather than a top and bottom bunk.  I am still confused on that one. That is only about $3, so it was worth it. The guy seemed like the kind who might fart in his sleep.

Today we got into Xi’an where we saw the Terracotta Warriors. They were simply amazing. Each warrior was done in great detail. How that was done thousands of years ago is beyond me. 

Terracotta Warriors

We then went to the Muslim Quarter for more food tasting. Our guide got us some soup with rice noodles and wheat noodle bites in a beef broth, a “hamburger” that was sort of like a Pita, but not Pita Bread, filled with pulled beef, and a beef broth and cilantro soup. It was all very tasty. He also warned us not to eat the meat on the stick because often times the vendors reuse the sticks or pick them up off the ground. I didn’t tell Rocky (another self-given name) that bridge is already burned.

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11/24

Miles walked: 13

Amount of Tangerines we have to eat: 20

Amount spent: $85, including an extra 7 Yuan because Shaq tried to sneak his GoPro into Chairman Mao mausoleum

Number of Australians scared out of our train cabin: 2

11/25

Amount spent: $2.60

Dallas Cowboy Victories: 1

Days cut off my life from secondhand smoke on overnigt train: at least 2

Unknown meats: 0

Miles walked: 6.5