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I’ve noticed that the more I travel and the busier I become, the more impossible it becomes to keep up with my travels in real-time. Well, never fear monthly recap posts are here!
Thanks to Raphael of Journey Wonders for all the awesome Temple of Heaven and Great Wall shots of me!
What I was up to this month
This month had so much packed in, I don’t even know where to start! Firstly, I had a long weekend for the Mid-Autumn Festival, where I hosted another blogger in Beijing. We went to the Temple of Heaven for a photo shoot, and then visited an off-the-beaten-path “wild” section of the Great Wall.
Last week I took a trip to Shaanxi province with six other incredible bloggers to showcase the wonders of this Western Chinese gem. I studied abroad in Xi’an four years ago, so it was great to be back after all this time! I had the opportunity to explore some very off-the-beaten-path sites, and I finally got to hike the most dangerous hike in the world! (or so they say)
This month I also attempted to do a blogging challenge where I had to write a blog post every day for 10 days. I did a pretty good job at first, but unfortunately, I failed. With work piling up, hosting another blogger, and a press trip in Shaanxi all over the course of 10 days, I don’t know how I ever thought I would be able to keep up. Even though I failed the challenge, I’ll still finish those other blog posts… eventually.
What can I say? We can’t all be perfect.
Where I Went
While I spent most of the month in Beijing, I played tourist for a weekend, exploring the Temple of Heaven and the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall!
In Shaanxi I spent some time in Xi’an and took a day trip to Hua Shan, where I hiked the plank walk of death (sorry mom). I also went up North to Yan’an and the Yellow River where I saw the Hukou Waterfall, the second biggest waterfall in all of China! Then I went down south to Tai Bai Mountain and Famen Temple.
1. My First Press Trip!
Am I a real blogger now? While some more experienced bloggers roll their eyes at press trips, I honestly thought last week was an incredible opportunity to show some much-needed love to China’s Shaanxi province. I absolutely love Xi’an, and I had so much fun exploring Shaanxi off-the-beaten-path.
Most people that come to Shaanxi province just see Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors and then promptly leave. While I had heard about Hua Shan, I never would’ve made it to Tai Bai Mountain, Yan’an and the Hukou Waterfall if it weren’t for this trip. Why? No one is writing about these places… in English.
While Chinese people are pretty good at exploring their own country, most international tourists stick to the same places. The goal of this trip was to introduce a few bloggers to Shaanxi’s hidden gems so that hopefully more international tourists will come!
To be honest, on the plane ride to Shaanxi, I had a major imposter syndrome moment. I honestly couldn’t believe people were paying for me to fly to a destination and write about it. Is this real life?!
But once I joined the trip and met all of the other bloggers, I felt right at home. Seriously, the other five bloggers on my trip were so incredibly kind, open-minded, and talented. They also couldn’t stop talking about how much they love China, which made me so unbelievably happy. I’m so tired of people hating on my home!
Hua Shan and the Plank Walk
Originally I wasn’t going to be able to make it in time for the Hua Shan portion of the press trip (since I have an office job) but I was able to negotiate an extra day off to make it just in time. Hua Shan has been on my bucket list FOREVER, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to make it. Seriously, you CAN NOT miss Hua Shan if you go to Xi’an.
Hua Shan is stunning in itself, but its famous for the plank walk dubbed “the most dangerous hike in the world”. To get to this plank, you have to climb down a ladder-esque contraption and wait your turn to walk along a tiny plank bolted into the rock wall. It’s a straight drop to your death below, but thankfully you have a flimsy harness, which you have to unclip around every bolt in the wall. Oh… did I mention people are going both ways?
I’ve never been so scared in my life, but it was AWESOME. I can’t wait to go back! (Again… sorry mom)
More Shaanxi Favorites
Since I want to keep this post from being a million words long, I’ll just fill you in on a few more “teaser” highlights so you can wait for my additional posts with bated breath.
In Xi’an I visited an art museum where an awesome English-speaking guide gave us a brief history of Chinese art and informed us all about the stereotypes of our Chinese horoscopes. Then she took us into a private room to learn Chinese calligraphy! It was my first time ever trying my hand at this ancient art, and I wasn’t half-bad! I will say I had a leg up since I actually know how to write Chinese characters.
Later that week nearTai Bai Mountain, we had the opportunity to spend time in the local hot springs. Honestly, they were so incredible I went twice! There were pools filled with coconut milk, red wine, apples and more. There was also multiple fish spas, pools to help your liver and spleen, and a kiddie pool filled with mini rocks and shovels. I felt so pampered!
Needless to say, Shaanxi was amazing and I’ll be telling you all about it over the course of this next month.
Hiking the Great Wall
Have you seen all of those photos of the Great Wall packed with people for National Day? Yeah, screw that. Most people who visit the Great Wall head to Badaling. Under no circumstances should you ever go to Badaling… EVER. Unless you want to document the insane crowds for a news site or something.
A few weeks ago I headed out to the Gubeikou section of the Great Wall, which hasn’t been restored since the Ming Dynasty. It was completely empty and so beautiful! The wall is crumbling so it’s mildly dangerous, but thankfully none of us died. It also only cost about $4 to enter!
I Had to Poop in a Toll Booth
While the Great Wall was amazing, the van ride was a bit rough. Firstly, it was supposed to take 2 hours, but due to Mid-Autumn Festival traffic, it took over 4 hours. Secondly, my friend and I ate extremely spicy hot pot the night before, and we awoke to stomach turmoil. I actually thought I was going to die in the stop and start traffic.
At one point we couldn’t hold it any longer, and asked the driver to pull over at a rest stop… but unfortunately for us, there ARE NO REST STOPS. Seriously. So he pulled over on the side of the road and had us run about 100 feet to a toll booth where we asked to use their squat toilet outhouse.
That was fun.
Frozen on Tai Bai Mountain
Our Chinese guide had been building Tai Bai mountain up for the entire trip. “It’s better than Hua Shan” she told us. “It’s a real hike without all the stairs!” What could possibly be better than Hua Shan??!
Needless to say, I was excited! I needed some exercise after two days spent driving in a van. But as we arrived at Tai Bai mountain, the skies opened up and rain poured down on us. We purchased flimsy ponchos, but that did little to alleviate the damp chill. Since I’m an idiot who forgot to bring her tennis shoes, I was wearing hiking sandals, and my feet were soaked.
Then as we began the steep bus ride up the mountain to the cable car, the weather took a turn for the worse. At the base of the cable car, we were shocked to find that we could even see our breath! There we were, in light jackets and ponchos, while all of our Chinese companions were wearing heavy coats.
We took the miserable cable car ride up the mountain, with windows so fogged we couldn’t see anything. Eventually, we finally reached the top where we learned the temperature was -10 DEGREES CELSIUS. That’s -2 degrees Fahrenheit for all you Americans. My feet were so cold I actually thought my toes were going to fall off.
We hiked a little bit and then decided to turn back around, considering our frozen state and the white wall of clouds in front of us. Instead, we spent the afternoon in the hot springs which was an amazing decision.
While we had an unfortunate visit to Tai Bai, apparently the mountain is actually very beautiful and we just had bad luck. Maybe next time?
An Epic Plane Delay
On the way home my flight was supposed to depart at 10pm and arrive in Beijing just before midnight. Due to weather delays at our plane’s previous destination, I didn’t end up leaving Xi’an until almost 3am, and I didn’t make it home until 6am!
I was exhausted, frustrated, and annoyed at the fact that Hainan Air decided to keep the lights on the entire flight. Next time I’m taking the four-hour high-speed train.
Flying in China is actually the worst.
My Most Popular Post
While I originally thought the blog challenge would be a bit boring for all of you, I was surprised to find that most of you liked my introspective business-lady posts. I thought I’d have to hide the majority from my homepage, but some of them ended up being very popular!
My very first post of the blogging challenge, “My Biggest Blogging Challenges” actually went over very well with all of you. I try to avoid talking too much about blogging, especially since most of you aren’t bloggers. But many of you expressed interest in learning more about what happens behind the scenes and the decisions I make about this site on a daily basis.
I also asked you all to share how you would describe this blog to a friend, which was super helpful for me!
To be honest, I was getting a bit frustrated with Instagram. I felt like everyone and everything about the platform was fake, and I was tired of posting old photos while trying to come up with interesting captions, knowing the only responses I’d get would be a generic “awesome” or “nice feed”.
Well after this month, I have a ton of new photos to share with you all, including way more photos of myself (finally!). I’ve really been enjoying sharing recent photos from my journeys to Instagram, and I love that I’m actually having genuine conversations on the platform now!
I FINALLY understand what people like about Instagram. It only took me two years…
Song of the Month
I’ve been listening to a lot of new music this month, but here’s one I especially like! No music video this time, but you can still find it on Spotify.
What I’m Watching
I love this video by Jean of Holy Smithereens recapping our incredible adventures in Shaanxi! Maybe I should start making videos…
What I’m Reading
Still working on Game of thrones Book 5, but here are some awesome reads from September!
My Hopes for the Travel Industry– Adventurous Kate
I love Kate’s emphasis on sustainable travel, supporting local businesses and climate change concern. Those issues are so important to me! However, I do disagree with her stance on boycotting countries and states for political reasons. In my opinion, travel boycotts do more harm than good, and only negatively impact small local businesses who have no say in the country’s laws.
If I boycotted countries based on horrible government policies, there’s no way I could be living in China… and I probably wouldn’t be able to go home to the US as well! What do you think?
How I Earn Money Online– The Sweetest Way
For those of you who are interested in making money online through your blog or by offering a product or service, check out this post by Leah! Not only does she do an incredible job explaining all of the details of her business, she also expertly inserts tempting email signups throughout. This girl has skills!
(and I gave her my email in both boxes because I WANT that first chapter and affiliate marketing e-book!)
Why I’m Not Writing a Sequel– Neverending Footsteps
Lauren’s book is at the top of my list when I finish reading Game of Thrones (this epic saga never ends!). Throughout the process of writing her book, I’ve appreciated her honesty. While her book has been extremely successful, she hasn’t shied away from writing about the toll creating this novel took on her health. It was really eye-opening to me to see more from her about why she’s not going to put “success” ahead of her sanity.
Life and Death Whitewater Rafting on the Padas River– Aussie on the Road
This post is storytelling at its finest. Chris told me he didn’t want to just write another generic action-adventure blog post, so he turned his whitewater rafting into an epic short story instead. Seriously, when is this guy going to publish a novel already?!
What’s Next for October 2016
If you thought September was good, just wait for October! I’ll have a week off for the National Holiday, and my friend Chris from Aussie on the Road (you know, the one with the awesome whitewater rafting story) will be visiting from Nanjing! We’ll be heading to another off-the-beaten-path section of the Great Wall, and tomorrow we’re even visiting a poop themed restaurant!
A week after the National Holiday I’ll be heading to Manila for TBEX Asia, only the coolest travel blogging conference ever! I’m so excited to see all of my blogging friends and visit one of my favorite countries in the world (for the third time).