Dalat

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People compare Da Lat to the wine country of Southern France, and although I would not go quite this far it is beautiful and reminiscent of the wine country. Riding on the back of a motorbike is the best way to see it-there are few cars in the countryside, so your heart no longer jumps out of your chest every few seconds as a motorbike lunges at you. I almost wished I rode from Da Lat to Nha Truang, my next stop along the coast, but I was pretty nervous to be on a bike in the first place. I saw an accident on my way to Da Lat and a girl I met on the way to Hoi An recounted a horror story of a night bus hitting three bikers and killing at least two of them. At least I was on the open road in broad daylight. 

It only takes about 5 minutes to get out of the  city.  Lush

terraced hills and farms make it the perfect day trip. In a few hours I went to a pepper farm, strawberry farm, flower farm, a rice wine making place, and finally, the family farm of my driver. See the album to the left for more pictures. You will see rice being fermented in large plastic barrels. The liquid is then cooked to a very high temperature where it becomes 100% proof or something ridiculous like that. Then it undergoes another process to be converted to 30% and tastes much better. In one picture, the alcohol is being light on fire (hard to see though). After the rice farm we made our way to the family coffee farm. On our way there, my driver told me we were going to his brother-in-law’s house.

IMG_3085We arrive at the house and a young woman in a pink tank top waves at  us-almost as if she is expecting us. I wonder if he comes to his brother-in-laws house everyday. I thought he said he lived in the city but maybe he makes this drive a lot. We were about 2 hours away from the city at this point. He gives me a tour of the farm. They grow coffee, bananas, and passion fruit. He takes me over to some sugarcane growing around a big dirt hole which he says will eventually be a reservoir for their crops and peels a cane for me. We are both are biting the stalk, IMG_3073sucking out its sweetness, and spitting out the chewed pieces. We then have to put our fingers in our mouths to get the thick strings out of our teeth. I am looking at my dirty hands and thinking about the last time I washed them, but I am too caught up eating the sugarcane to stop for mere sanitary purposes. We start walking back to the house and I notice his brother-in-law working a little further up in the field.

IMG_3061 IMG_3063  IMG_3065  IMG_3067  IMG_3068IMG_3062       When I went into the house I noticed that the picture over in the sitting area is of him with a lady who must be his wife. I thought it was a little strange that his picture would be there instead of his brother-in-laws and sister, but maybe their photo is in the bedroom. Or, perhaps you have pictures of your brother-in-law in your living room in Vietnamese culture? I am not sure but something does not feel right. On our way over to the house while we were drinking our orange sodas, he told me that his father had died recently. He had tears in his eyes. I said I was sorry. He showed me pictures of his father and said that he had been an easy rider. In the photos, his father definitely looked like an easy rider wearing a leather jacket with his bike behind him IMG_3083posing with some foreigners. All of a sudden two people drive up to the house. He says his mother is here and I notice the man in front looks exactly like his father! I say, “that man looks just like your father” and give him my best questioning look. He sheepishly replies, “yeah, that’s my IMG_3080father.” His sister-in-law or whoever this nice young lady is now bringing me another delicious passion juice and it is so good I really do not know how to refuse although I am praying that the water is purified. I think I can see a bottle in the back so it must be, right? She is offering me candies and sweets and she is being so crazy nice to me I am starting to feel very embarrassed. The two strangers then come into the house. They can’t speak any English, but no one seems to mind that a strange looking person is in the room. In fact, I think they might even be excited I am here! I am now thinking that his family are all farmers and that the whole story about his father being an easy rider was just a tall tale to help him get a bigger tip at the end. I am really not sure what is going on, but this farm is nice and these people seem harmless and I really like this passion fruit juice. “I hope it isn’t poisoned,” I think.  We all sit down and start trying to communicate. Before I know it the girl is taking out model-type photographs of herself, and I am IMG_3086sitting there telling her she is really pretty and eating more candies than I think I should since I think they must be expensive and then I ask to take a picture of us. The driver tells me he can’t take me to the other places he told me he was going to since we have run out of time. I say okay, and we get up to leave. The girl is waving like crazy looking very sad that I am leaving and I am waving and waving and saying thank you a lot and then we take off. Even though I see a lot of good photo opportunities I prefer to keep moving and we drive all the way back to the city without stopping. I give him his money and he looks relieved. As I suspected, he is not an easy rider at all. I think he is trying to become an easy rider, but his English is not good enough yet. So, he is very happy I have paid him and we say good-bye on good terms. I am thrilled that I got to see the “wine country” and a real Vietnamese farm! I still don’t understand why he told me the story about his dad and then took me to his parents house, but I feel lucky to have had such an authentic experience and be back safely.

 

Nha Truang

IMG_2811 What a beautiful beach!

IMG_2841  I love ASIAN babies! They are so cute! Sarah agrees :)

IMG_2856I lived off sandwiches made at these stands when I was at the beach.

IMG_2861 The final product. Oh so good with lots of hot sauce!

IMG_2887 At the aquarium on the 4 island tour…doesn’t this turtle look mean?

IMG_2906 Here is a view of the area from the aquarium.

IMG_2912 Here is our crew which suddenly turned into a really great band!

IMG_2918 Aussies and Brits are crazy. They drank the entire boat trip. Teenagers.

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So great to get beach time and R&R.

Hue

 

 

We stayed in Hue, the imperial capital of Vietnam for approximiately150 years starting at the beginning of the 19th century, for two nights. I was ill for most of the time with stomach problems thus I did not venture out until the evening before we were leaving for our next destination. That evening we took a little boat trip on the Perfume River. The sun was about to set and negotiation time and clarity of view had an inverse relationship, so we wasted no time getting out on the water with what seemed to be a 6 month pregnant captain/crew. It was just the three of us and in no time she offered us drinks and a diverse array of postcards.

Hue The next day we had a few hours to tour the city before our bus left for Hoi An. Since time was of the essence, we hired a taxi and rushed through Hue’s most important historical sites: the Citadel, the seat of the Nguyen Emperors where a forbidden city once existed and is now being reconstructed, and the Thien Mu Pagoda (see picture above). The Pagoda is located along the Perfume River which crosses the city in its central province. We arrived at the Pagoda 15 minutes before we were supposed to check out so I literally ran up the steps to get to the base of the Pagoda and did a fast jog through the rest of the gardens. At that moment my iPhone died, but luckily my hand-me-down Canon camera (you know something is not quite right when you have your little sister’s old camera for your big trip through Asia) suddenly started to work again! Glad I could capture this moment! We then raced back to our bed-and-breakfast where we quickly checked out and were taken to the bus station.

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Hue is cute and charming and we were there right before Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, which shares the same exact dates as Chinese New Year. The city looked beautiful and tranquil and there were flowers everywhere in preparation for the biggest holiday of the year. This also made traveling during this time a real challenge. Thankfully none of us had to sleep on the street although, at times, this seemed like a very real possibility.

As I left the city I was a little upset about not seeing more, but I realized I had been on the road for a month and sometimes you just need to not do anything and rest. At least my stomach was feeling better. I decided that hanging out in the nice hotel watching movies was okay every once in awhile. After all, they did put roses on our pillows, and the room was immaculate with a big window that let lots of light in. And, trust me, the picture above does not do the B&B justice. It was great to kick back and watch some soccer and sleep a lot.

 

Ha Long Bay

We did the two day, one night trip to Ha Long Bay that our hotel offered through a local agency. You basically have to go through your hotel or a travel agency because it would be difficult to arrange for transportation otherwise. For much of the first day we were herded like cattle with all the other tourists. Once we got onto our private boat, and got out on the bay, the effort was worth it. They served Americanized Vietnamese food and even used silverware, but we had private hot showers and cabins. I think to go longer than one night would be too long, and the best part is staying on the boat at night. The pictures say it all.

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Getting to Vietnam was fairly easy from southern China. However, the first step was getting visas. We knew we could do this in Kunming and set about finding the Vietnam Embassy in the early afternoon. Despite all our experience finding obscure places in China and knowing that it is sometimes like an obstacle course, we definitely underestimated the challenge of finding the Vietnam Embassy. We knew it was on one of the three blocks that we continued to walk up, down, and around. At one point we wished for a helicopter to give us an overhead view. Finally, a concierge in a hotel knew where it was. He had friends there! Even the woman who worked across the street from the Vietnam Embassy was not aware that the building she looked at all day long contained the Vietnam Embassy. We took an elevator, went through a few doors, and finally stumbled upon the hidden office that is the Vietnam Embassy. No wonder no one knew where it was! It was actually very quick and easy to get a visa. We gave them our passports, paid some money, came back in about 2 days, and our visas were ready.

The next day, we took an overnight train from Kunming (in the Yunnan Province) to Nanning (in the Guangxi Province) to get us closer to Vietnam, and avoid an overnight bus trip that was the only direct option from Kunming to Vietnam. Once in Nanning, we walked around the dirty city and then promptly jumped on a train to cross the border in Pinxiang. The train ride itself was very quick but we had to get off the train in the dead of the night on the Chinese side and then again on the Vietnamese side. This process took a couple of hours and looking back it seems like a dream I was so tired. We underestimated when we would arrive in Ha Noi but taxis were waiting and ready to rip us off at 4 am. We were tired, cranky, hungry, and only wanted to be in our hotel in bed. So we paid a little extra and woke up our kind concierge at the family run bed-and-breakfast where we were staying. He said it was no problem, but the poor boy had only gone to bed a few hours ago and had to get up for university at 6 am. He immediately set to making us tea and said we could have breakfast in about an hour after the pho stands opened. Wow, this is different than China. They opened their bed-and-breakfast for us and are also making us tea and breakfast soon! Then another thought popped into my head, "my first real pho."

IMG_2616This was a serious moment for me. You notice I have no pictures eating pho because it is such a transcendent experience for me and I can't do anything except just eat the pho. I have been eating pho since I was 3 or younger. My mother would take me to the Tenderloin, saying she hoped the car would not get broken into while we religiously ate our delicious soup. I would line my side of the table with paper napkins in preparation for my vermicelli soup feast and the mess I would inevitably make (as I got older this stopped). On a good day we would get a parking space right outside of the restaurant and could even watch the big yellow car! Other times we would have to run back to the car to put more money in the meter. Sometimes Mom would even order a lemon soda which is the most refreshing drink you could ever have. It is made of lemon, soda water, sugar, and lots of ice. I had more than my fair share of these in Vietnam where they truly do make them the best. The lemons there are much sweeter too.

So, having pho in Vietnam was frankly, something I had been thinking about for years. Around 5:30 am the pho stand down the street from our bed-and-breakfast opened. The pho lady brought me pho bo (beef pho) on a tray along with a sliced lemons and jalapeno peppers. Eating pho with these two simple ingredients is the Northern pho style. Northerners do not put bean sprouts or mint in their pho. I first tasted the broth as I judge all pho by the broth. It was light, delicate, but still was bursting with flavor! Sooo delicious. I then dived in and finished the entire thing in 2 minutes forgetting to put the lemon and peppers in. It didn't need it. I could not believe it. This pho was better than I expected. I was now on cloud nine and resolved to eat pho as much as possible in Ha Noi. I actually did this all through northern Vietnam. I prefer the northern style of pho much more than the southern style which contains more vegetables and other unnecessary things that, in my mind, that distract from the pure broth, noodles, and thinly sliced beef. I went around Ha Noi trying various pho stands and trying to not be too disappointed if the pho was not as good as the first stand I had pho at on that dark early morning.

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While I am talking about food--you'll notice this is a recurring theme in my blog, I should mention that Ha Noi is food heaven. Some foodies actually say that Vietnamese cuisine is the best in the world, particularly in the capital. I also think that the food in Ha Noi is the best bang for your buck. You are filled with novel and interesting cuisine in a clean and relaxed settings for more than affordable prices, and I was rarely let down when asking our college-aged concierge where I could find some good pickings on the cheap. We happened to get lucky and find a very honestly run family bed-and-breakfast that gave us a treasure-chest of advice. Almost all of the bed-and-breakfasts we stayed in throughout Vietnam were superb and pretty honest, but this spot, HaNoi Guesthouse, was above and beyond and is located right in the middle of the old quarter for 9 dollars a night. Plus, some places even have little puppies to play with!

To be honest, we spent most of our time sipping thick iced coffees and thinly boiled broth in the charming capital. We stopped at our favorite bakery daily for croissants and flan. We grabbed Vietnamese sandwiches--pork with cilatro, and fish sauce; egg, cheese, and tomatoes; or just plain cheese, cucumbers and Sriracha sauce! We tried to avoid the singeing burn of the motorbike's engine as they rushed past us while we walked down the shared streets in our food comas. For dinner we went to the Ladybug and had green papaya salad, imperial rolls, lemon sodas, and other delicious Vietnamese dishes.

The motorbikes were everywhere! There was a constant hum noise from their engines and you really had to be careful walking about the city or else you could easily get hit! I saw an old man and an old woman fall off of their bikes due to traffic congestion. The old man fell very hard on the cement sidewalk and the motorbike rider next to him promptly picked him up trying to make him stand up. The old man could not stand and was pretty shaken up so they put him in a small plastic chair and served him some tea. 

Even worse than bike accidents there was a bus that hit three motorcyclists and killed at least two of them. Luckily I did not witness this event but our Australian bunk mates on the train recounted the horror story to me. The most surprising thing is that most of the Vietnamese did not react very much--as if that getting hit by a bus was common. They had to pull one guy out from under the bus. Their rubber slippers were thrown all over the road. Later on my way to Dalat our bus drove past a motorbike accident and there was a child lying a few feet away from the bike. There was blood on the ground and the parents were sitting close to each other near the accident. The bike was lying next to them. It looked like they had crashed and their son was killed. I don't know if anyone else on the bus saw this since no one else seemed to say anything about it or look upset.

IMG_2649IMG_2640 We went to a restaurant called Koto and one of the best things about it is that kids from poorer families work there and cook the food. Koto is an NGO that trains underprivileged children for a career in the food industry. Some of the graduates of the program have gone on to become top chefs at major hotels! They often go back to the program and teach the new generation of chefs. It was a lot of fun to eat there, be waited on by young kids who were quite professional, and see them at work in the open kitchen! The food is truly excellent too.

Here are some more pics of Ha Noi.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

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IMG_2917 Tiger Leaping Gorge is a canyon on the Yangtze River. Its name comes from an old legend about a tiger trying to escape from a hunter and jumping the river at its narrowest point (about 25 meters). There is a hiking path, “the high road,” which offers glorious views of the gorge and mountains while the low road is a stretch of pavement, frequently beset by rockslides ,that we used to transport ourselves home via taxi . Tiger Leaping Gorge is located about 60 kilometers north of Lijiang and an key part of  the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan World Heritage Site.

We completed the high road hike in three days although if you are a bit more adventurous you can do it in two. There are guesthouses right along the trail that I thought offered perfect accommodations for trekkers. There was no heating or any amenities for comfort, but we paid around 20 yuan ($3.00) per night and they had electric blankets. What do you really need besides a bed and some hot food after a good hike? We deliberately planned not to shower the whole time as we had to carry all of our stuff and a towel seemed excessive, but one guesthouse had some surprise hot showers. I opted for a cleaning and my shirt suddenly became my towel. Check out the view from the bathroom in the picture below!

IMG_2987Let me backtrack a bit and tell you about getting to Tiger Leaping Gorge. We left Mama Naxi’s, our hostel in Lijiang, armed with brightly colored goodluck charms, aka the best marketing gimmick ever, and arrived at the trail in the afternoon after stopping on the way for Nick to throw up and later for us all to change from a mini van to a small car as well as the driver once we entered the Tiger Leaping Gorge area. These kinds of changes are always nerve-racking as you are not really sure why you have to change and what is going on. Mama Naxi who had arranged our transportation had apparently omitted telling us this piece of information before we left. Finally at the start of the trail, we stopped for a quick lunch at a hostel where a quick cat licked my steaming plate of fried tomato eggs. I am highly allergic to some cats and not wanting to take a chance in a remote area in China I went to the kitchen and told them I needed another dish. I made a real @$$ of myself standing there in the kitchen watching them make it again but telling someone I could die if I eat a cat hair in Chinese just doesn’t come through the way it would in your mother tongue. Plus, I have a feeling that a lot of uneaten food finds its way onto a different plate in China. The ladies all started laughing at me and my allergies but they thankfully brought me a new plate of food. This time although the cat was fast, I was faster and hungrier. I think the owner was glad when we left so her cats could rule the hostel again. We were all glad we were not staying there.

After being on the trail for a couple of hours we spent the night at a really nice hostel that had no cats. The next morning we started off early and walked at a good clip. It was quite sunny outside. Just after being a few minutes on the trail we had all stripped down to our shorts and tee shirts and applied sunscreen. Nick was feeling like death and weak after not eating for an entire week due to chronic stomach issues, but he made it through the “28 bends” or the steepest and most difficult part of the hike. Thank goodness for some sun too! We had been pretty chilly in Dali and Lijiang. It was not that cold but there was no heat anywhere and only the bedrooms were inside-everything else was pretty much open and the temperature dropped a lot after the sun went down. In Lijiang I was still wearing long underwear and a wool sweater and jacket and wishing I had brought more clothes!

Asia 2010 171It was wonderful to be in nature though. We had been breathing in polluted air, listening to the raging sounds of traffic and crazy drivers-actually as I type this right now I can hear cars driving madly down the street outside my window and every few minutes someone will honk loudly. We were used to using public bathrooms (I have mastered being able to go to the bathroom anywhere without touching anything-even in the dark of a bus bathroom that is also used a a broom and mop closet and that has probably never ever been cleaned), smokey restaurants, dirty air, and Chinese people all around us, often staring, shouting hello at us, and hearing them say “waiguoren,” or foreigner under their breathe. No joke. If my mother knew I had used those bathrooms she would have grounded me. But, sometimes you really don’t have a choice-like when your bus breaks down and the ride suddenly becomes 10 hours instead of 3. But, now at the contender for the world’s deepest river canyon, we felt far removed from city life. 

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So, we were all loving being in nature and in sunshine! As I mention above, Nick was suffering from stomach problems which did not allow him to eat for almost a whole week. The hike was quite arduous for him, but he still made it not one step behind. He had gone to the hospital in Kunming and received some clear liquid that he was supposed to take but unfortunately problems persisted. Mama Naxi benevolently gave him some brown pellets that looked like horse pills, and he tried them like a good patient, but sadly to no avail. He made it though! Getting sick unexpectedly is probably the hardest part of traveling, but luckily we rarely got sick. If we did, it was almost always due to stomach issues.

 

Disastrous Dali

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IMG_2440IMG_2443Dali proved to be quite an adventure. A quaint Southern town in the Yunnan Province, with a relaxed atmosphere and bohemian tourist scene, we had quite a shock that made us all appreciate the US very much.

On our second day in Dali we decided to rent bikes and take a little ride down to the lake. On our way there Sarah fell off her bike. Luckily, we were only a few minutes walk to a hospital so we decided to take her there. She started to feel a lot of pain as we walked towards the hospital. Upon arrival no one seemed to be at the hospital and I could see ill people in their beds moaning.     Finally I found a nurse and she led up across the street where the main hospital was located.  After waiting around we were led into a doctor's office. The doctor eventually took an xray of Sarah's arm. She was led into a small exam room while an assistant roughly pushed her arm down on a cold metal slab and she cried out in pain. Well, at least the x-ray was done. While waiting around for the results we saw him looking at a different x-ray and smoking a cigarette in the exam room at the same time. Way to do it all at once Doc!

Asia 2010 149Asia 2010 183The doctor kept on speaking to Nick, the only boy in the group, and did not ask Sarah questions although she was the one with the broken arm. Nick would then ask Sarah the same question the doctor asked him and Sarah would respond to Nick, and then Nick would tell the doctor what she said. The communication just got so difficult with our basic Mandarin we finally called our Chinese friend, Huang. Huang told us the doctor said Sarah would need surgery and that her arm is broken and bleeding internally. That news sent us on a whirlwind to call Sarah's parents, find an international flight to Kuala Lampur where they live, as well as a car that could drive Sarah to the airport in Kunming (about 3 hours away) in the middle of the night so she could get to her parents asap. We found the flight and then proceeded to figure out what to do about the intense pain Sarah was experiencing although she would not admit it. Nick and I went to the pharmacy and asked for the strongest pain killers they had. Hopefully that medicine was strong and would last her until she arrived in Malaysia.

Asia 2010 056Upon getting back to our hotel, we received an email that Sarah's reservation had been canceled. OH NO! We could not figure out why and then finally realized it was probably due to using an international credit card versus a local Chinese card. After phoning the airlines and booking through an agent who could not understand much English we thought the ordeal was over. However, the flight was canceled again. We finally used Sarah's father's Malaysian credit card and Sarah left promptly after that. We crossed our fingers she could get on the flight. She had no bandages or even an ace wrap-only some snake venom oil with codine, and IB profen for pain. After picking up her bags in Bangkok and transferring to another international flight with the help of some good Samaritans, she finally got to KL with her broken wing. Her parents were there and the docs took over from there. Well, actually, the specialist she needed to see was on vacation but she was able to get some good drugs at the hospital and see the specialist in a few days in the comfort of her parent's home. No surgery was needed and she met back up with us in Vietnam is 2 weeks looking happy and healthy with her broken wing on the mend. The point is, healthcare in China is suspect and be ready for an international flight if surgery or something serious is needed!

Also, THANK YOU to Sarah’s parents for taking all of us to dinner in Ha Noi. That was so kind of you and we hope to meet you soon! Have fun in Singapore!!

Lijiang

Lijiang is my favorite place in China. Naxi, one of the ethnic minorities there, architecture abounds as the its diagonal structures proved to be the strongest structure and best against Earthquakes. Much of the buildings were restored in this style thus the town looks quite new and probably receives money from the government to keep it looking clean and welcoming to the many Chinese tourist that love to see it. Lijiang is composed of a maze of little streets with narrow alleys where vendors sell similar items in similar stores one after another. We constantly got lost!

In the photo album above you can see men in orange suits cleaning the streets early in the morning. No wonder that town looked so clean! All the shop workers come out to clean in front of their shop as well. They use soap and scrub the streets until they look pretty and new! There are some decent western restaurants and many small Chinese ones that we opted to go to. The kitchen shown in the album was one of our favorites until we realized that was the place that made Nick suffer severe stomach issues for an entire week and during our 3 day long hike at Tiger Leaping Gorge.

We stayed at a hostel called Mama Naxi’s. Boy was this lady a character too! She was a complete business woman and knew how to make 10 dollars from 1. The bathrooms were under construction, the laundry machines halfway worked, but all of us were still staying with Mama Naxi. She had two young girls, supervising with her and she worked then from sunset to sundown. When we first got to Mama Naxi’s she immediately led us to the large room where everyone was eating dinner. She ushered us to a table and forcibly said “chi fan, chi fan” or “eat, eat, eat!” She had it seem like a welcome meal but as soon as we were finished she asked for money. At the next meals we always paid up front. Interesting. We could also do laundry there which she charged by the piece to make a nice profit. You could also do it yourself but goodluck finding a free machine! Mama Naxi arranged transportation for us to Tiger Leaping Gorge only when we needed a ride back she somehow could not help us out. It probably did not pay her enough money to provide transportation for only 3 people versus a bigger group although she said to call her and it would not be a problem. At the end of our stay Mama Naxi gave us goodluck charm necklaces. I have seen these charms on other backpackers packs and we all have a good laugh about this. What a fantastic marketing tool! Still, staying at Mama Naxi’s is the place to be and we all enjoyed ourselves a lot. You feel comfortable there and know you will be taken care of-for a fee-but yes our bellies were full, our travel to Tiger Leaping Gorge arranged, our clothes clean, and we had the chance to exchange stories with many other interesting travelers.

I'm Back At Blogging!

Dear Family and Friends!

Thumbnail image for Asia 2010 033.jpgI am sorry it has been a few moons since I have posted last. A number of issues prevented me from making my updates such as computer problems that made it difficult until now for me to get my pictures off of my camera, photo sites being blocked, and a slow server! Almost all is resolved and I have resolved to start blogging again!

The above posts will include a summary of my Spring Festival trip throughout Asia. I will take you from the calmest province in China, from the north to the very south of Vietnam, and into Asia's most powerful and vibrant cities-Hong Kong and Shanghai. I was on the road for a full 2 months and have some hilarious stories to share with you.


Please always know you can contact me for more specific info and travel advice to these regions. I would be happy to give you or your friends any advice.

After these posts, I plan to share some of the simple Chinese recipes my students have recently taught me. These are perfect for a one or two dish meal or great for the single person who wants to get all food groups in one go! 

The Yunnan Province

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Yunnan is Chinese southernmost province. It is also the province people say you should visit if there is only one province you can go to in China. This is ever more true for travel in China during the winter as nights there can still be quite cool-especially in the moutains. I went to four different places in Yunnan-Kunming, the capital, Dali, Lijiang, and the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

The image below was taken at the Golden Temple right outside of the city of Kunming. IMG_2606.JPGThis was essentially the Summer Palace for a high Chinese official although now it is mainly for tourists. It was only a 1 minute drive from the city and a wonderful escape from the busy streets of the capital.

Due to its spring like climate Kunming is known as the City of Eternal Spring or Spring City. I arrived here on January 14th and was relieved to find a welcoming and warm city. I actually did not even feel like I was in China anymore. It was thrilling to know that China could feel so different. IMG_2435.JPG