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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!
It kind of feels like I shouldn’t be writing this right now. Didn’t I JUST write a recap? Oh right, I was two weeks late on the last one…
Anyway, April was a beautiful month with blue skies, warm weather, and literally the best birthday of my life. But there were many low lows as well, from the worst eye infection ever to the government ripping down my beloved hutongs.
Let’s get on with it, shall we?
Where I Went
April was spent entirely in Beijing, but I was sure to take advantage of the great weather. I went for walks around Houhai lake, explored the hutongs, had one too many brunches at the Orchid and even took a surprise trip to a wild section of the Great Wall!
Overall, April was a pretty amazing month, and I can’t wait to share all of the incredible things that happened these last few weeks!
1. People Actually Came to My Birthday Party
Many of you might remember that my birthday last year was a bit awkward. Despite having lived in Beijing for almost 8 months, pretty much no one came to my birthday party.
Well, this year, I did have a ton of people who could show up and I had a great time. I was able to get off work a little early and I made my way down to the hutongs where my friends and I ate Mexican food at Pebbles on Wudaoying Hutong. While I would’ve loved to eat spicy Sichuan Zhang Mama, there’s no way the group of us could’ve fit in that tiny restaurant.
After Pebbles the plan was to head to Tiki Bar, my favorite hutong cocktail bar, however, it was closed due to a fire(?!) so we hit up Peiping Machine Brewery instead. While Peiping was a bit crowded for my taste, we were eventually able to get a table where we sipped on craft beer and shouted over the noise.
Now that I’m 26, the party was a little less crazy than my last few birthdays which all ended with getting a little too drunk. I guess I’m finally becoming an adult? I also didn’t want to be hungover for the next day’s adventure Chris had in store!
2. An Incredible Birthday Surprise
I think I’m noticing a pattern here. But basically, it was the best birthday ever.
Chris told me that for my birthday I would need to pack an overnight bag with tennis shoes and hiking clothes, but refused to tell me anything else. It was to be a weekend of surprises, but of course, I had a few suspicions.
First Chris took me to the Orchid for brunch, which has become our go-to brunch spot. But after our wonderful meal of smoked salmon, goat cheese, and fresh bread amazingness, Chris orchestrated a surprise check in at the Orchid hotel, aka the BEST hotel in all of Beijing (in my humble opinion).
The Orchid is basically a hutong dreamland. Cozy refurbished hutong rooms with rainfall showers and memory foam mattresses, a complimentary Orchid brunch breakfast… what’s not to love? Did I forget to mention Chris booked the room with a private rooftop balcony?!
After a wonderful day of wandering around the hutongs in the sun, a lovely dinner of Yunnan food, and an evening of drinking wine on the roof, Chris and I headed out early the next morning to Gulou Dong Dajie where we had a car waiting.
Dressed head to toe in hiking gear, I knew we were headed to the Great Wall, but I had no idea which section we were visiting!
3. Great Wall Picnic Adventure
The driver took us to a wild wall section near Huanghuacheng (no, not the Secret Great Wall, but something similar). After receiving vague directions from the driver (something about a lake and A to B?), Chris and I headed out to hike an unrestored section of the Great Wall not officially open to tourists!!!
I have to say, this section of the Great Wall is probably my favorite to date. Not only was the weather perfect, the wall was so unrestored we had to climb through bushes and teeter on thin strips of the wall where the wind made me extremely nervous… Not to mention that time we had to jump into the window of a tower above a precarious deathly drop… It’s okay, we didn’t die.
But near the end of our hike, we finally had a view of Huanghuacheng Lake, and it was stunning. Chris and I settled down to a picnic on the wall just above the lake and feasted on smoked salmon, homemade pickles, goat cheese, strawberries, and sparkling wine. It was heaven!
Obviously, Chris gets major boyfriend points. He even wrote about how he did it here!
4. My Travel Blog Monetization Summit Talk Was Released!
Last month I had the opportunity to record a talk on email marketing with Tommo and Megsy for the Travel Blog Monetization Summit. Just in time for my birthday, the talk was released!
I was extremely nervous to see how my talk went, but I was so happy to get great feedback from everyone who watched it! Unfortunately, my face froze one too many times for my liking, but what are you going to do?
I’m hoping that this talk will be the start of many great things on the public speaking front, and I’ll get to share my email marketing love with all my fellow travel bloggers!
Heads up; If you want to watch the talk and join the summit, you still can! It’s not even half-over yet and all of the talks are available forever. Be sure to use my discount code AAASIA10 for 10% off the course and submit package!
Not everything about this month was perfect. Let’s have a look at the downsides to April.
1. Catkins ATTACK
Seriously, Beijing’s catkins are out of control. Last year we suffered through breathing in willow tree fluff for about a week, but this time it lasted the entire month of April and it’s still not gone!!
Long story short, the Beijing leadership thought poplar trees would be a nice edition to the city. Unfortunately, they thought planting ONLY female poplar trees would be a good idea. Now we all have to wade through a sea of white fluffy mess everytime we go outside. Seriously, they call it “spring snow” for a reason.
The catkins have gotten so bad that the government is going to start performing sex change operations on trees. TREE SEX CHANGES.
2. My Poor Eyes
At first, I thought my constantly crying eyes were a result of the evil catkins willow fluff, but after taking allergy meds, trying eye drops, and wearing a mask outside, I realized I needed some professional help. So after about 3 weeks of suffering, I went to the hospital and got my eyes checked.
Fortunately for me, I’m not actually allergic to catkins, I just had an eye infection. Unfortunately for me, I had to throw out half my makeup and use two sets of eyedrops 3 times a day. My eyes got worse before they got better, and some days my eyes were so red I literally looked like a vampire.
I ran out of eye drops and my eyes still aren’t completely back to normal, but it’s probably just from the catkins… or this cold I’ve had on and off for three weeks. Who knows.
3. I Lost My Private Office…
One of the major perks of having a job as a college counselor was getting to have my own private office. I can meet with students in peace, decorate however I want, and it’s PURPLE.
But two weeks ago I was informed by a coworker that we would all be moving upstairs. Bye bye private office….
Losing my private office sucks for many reasons: Firstly, I have a lot of one-on-one student meetings. While our offices will still be open for private meetings, I’m going to have to fight for a spot in them. It also means I’ll be without a computer since I have a desktop at work. Some days I have up to five hours of one-on-one meetings, so this is super annoying. Basically, I’ll only be leaving my desk when I actually need privacy, meaning the upstairs is going to be super loud with all of our one-on-one meetings happening in the same place.
Secondly, we’re combining with a different college counseling program full of Chinese people I don’t know. This means that there will be twice the amount of people in a tiny space. UGH.
Thirdly, I’ve accumulated a lot of stuff in the last year and a half. I have no idea what to do with all of it. It’s basically going to be like moving to a new apartment. Fourthly, I actively try to get my work done in a very efficient manner so that I can work on blog stuff in my gaps between students. Now everyone can see my computer…
…And They Weren’t Too Great With the Delivery
Finally, the way they informed us about the move was just plain rude. First, there was the unsubstantiated rumor. Then all of my Chinese coworkers received an email about the move, but my foreign coworker and I didn’t get an email at all. We had to find out second-hand from our Chinese co-workers.
Then my manager messaged the counselors asking for us to pick a seat in the new arrangement, along with a matter-of-fact statement that they wouldn’t be hiring the new foreign employee who was supposed to come in March because his visa was denied for the second time.
Just a quick recap, we lost our third Western counselor in February of 2016, literally ONE YEAR AND TWO MONTHS AGO. We finally hired two more counselors, but they won’t be arriving until the summer. About a year ago were promised more than once that we would have a new employee by September at the latest… and by September, I mean September of LAST YEAR.
Now we’ll be lucky if we get our third counselor in July.
4. Beijing Is Tearing Down My Favorite Hutong Spots
It’s no secret I’m in love with Beijing’s hutongs, but in these last few weeks, Beijing has been boarding up and tearing down all my favorite restaurants, bars, and cafes. Literally every day I get on Facebook and see a list of more spots I didn’t even know were in danger.
First, it was Tiki Bar and my beloved Cat Cafe.
Then it was the speculation of Fangjia hutong. The places that may be in danger? Hot Cat Club, Moxi Moxi, Ramo, and basically all of the bars on that street.
Next, the government completely bulldozed half the bar street in Sanlitun. Seriously.
Then I discovered Rager Pie would have to close.
Next, they tore down an entire street of restaurants near Chris’ apartment. Let me rephrase: the ONLY strip of restaurants near his apartment with good, local, cheap, Chinese food.
SERIOUSLY BEIJING. YOU NEED TO STOP.
My Most Popular Post
Now that I’ve gotten that anger out of the way, the best post of the month is 10 Things You Need to Do in Xi’an. I absolutely love Xi’an, and apparently, many of you do too! I got some great love on social media for this one, and it was even featured on Lost Plate’s facebook page!
By far my most popular Instagram shot was this photo of starfruit in Hainan. I love the colors if this photo and I’m so glad you all liked it too!
My second most popular shot is this one taken on the beach in Hainan. While it wasn’t as sunny as I would’ve liked, I love the composition with the trees!
I also started doing this thing where I write really long Instagram captions. I figured it would be a fun way to connect with my Instagram friends rather than just posting generic pretty photos. Check out my Instagram and let me know what you think!
Song of the Month
Well, two weeks isn’t really enough time to fall in love with a new song of the month, so I’m posting a repeat offender. Sue me.
Today I wanted to showcase Sia The Greatest’s music video again because I just discovered that the video is a post-modern interpretation of the Orlando Massacre. Notice the rainbow tears, coming out of the closet (aka a cage), “don’t give up” lyrics, dancing in a club, and the bullet holes in the walls.
I’ve also been rocking out at work to Les Gordon’s album, mainly this song Atlas. It’s both catchy and easy to listen to while writing because there are no words!
What I’m Reading
This month I finished reading The Comprehensive ENFP Survival Guide. Yes, I’m a huge nerd, and no, I don’t care. Not sure what ENFP is? Take this personality test to find our your own Myers-Briggs type.
Overall, I thought this book was pretty interesting. While some bits were dry and a bit amateurish (Seriously, this girl has an entire chapter entitled “Don’t Date an ENFP” which is just a list of why ENFPs are awesome. Hasn’t that been used to death already? ), it was super interesting to learn about the introverted and extroverted functions of my personality: Ne Fi Te Si.
Why is it that ENFP’s are the most introverted extroverts? Why can’t we sit still? Why do we suck at boring office jobs? Why do we have such a big problem with routine? Why can we never choose between a million options?
I want to be a full-time blogger. I’m interested in politics. I want to get my divemaster certification. The list of countries I need to visit never stops. I want to live in Beijing, and I want to live in Taipei, but I also want to travel. There are so many things I need to do and so little time!!!
Well, this book has me all figured out. The only thing that makes me feel better is that by 30, I should be able to better make decisions on which of my passions to follow through with, and in my 30’s I should be a little more okay with stability and routine… probably.
I also started reading the first of the three Oryx and Crake books by Margaret Atwood. So far I’m a HUGE fan, and I even started reading my kindle as I walk like a real-life Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Best Blog Posts of April
Here’s what I’ve been reading this April!
“Do You Have Any Regrets?” – Adventurous Kate
Not gonna lie, I really enjoyed this piece of travel writing. Life is full of choices, and one small change can make a big difference!
Cool Kids Don’t Travel – Heart My Backpack
Sometimes it’s better not to be cool. I’m not that cool. To be frank, I’m a bit weird. Did you just see me get nerdy about a Myers-Briggs personality type? Yep.
The Little Viking Part 2 – Unlocking Kiki
One of my favorite expat lifestyle bloggers is pregnant in Iceland! Here’s what it’s like to have a baby in a socialist country. Hint: it’s pretty awesome.
10 Things I Didn’t Know About Bhutan – The Broke Backpacker
Okay… I already wanted to go to Bhutan but now my wanderlust is out of control. I guess I should start saving now?
Kicking the Can: How I Broke My Addiction to Diet Coke – Alex in Wanderland
While I’m definitely not a huge diet coke addict, I’ve been frustrated with the weight I’ve gained working in an office, and I’ve been feeling really sluggish lately. That’s why I plan to do a giant detox in June. Alcohol, caffeine, processed grains, dairy, and sugar. WTF?? Seriously. My goal is to discover what habits are making me feel tired, sluggish, and chubby.
Maybe it’s my multiple cups of coffee a day. Maybe it’s all the white rice I consume. Maybe it’s the glass of red wine I love so much in the evenings. Who knows?! Hopefully, my healthy habits will make me feel as good as Alex did after she quit coke, or better!
What’s Happening in May 2017?
Aside from losing my private office (sob), and making the most of Beijing’s sunshine with rooftop bar hopping and picnics in Ditan park, I’ll also be heading to Napa California for my friend’s wedding! I’m super excited to see one of my best friends from high school get married, and I’m a huge fan of this power couple.
Not only did I go to Tibet with her future husband without her (yeah I know, it’s a bit strange), I also stayed with them for a week in San Francisco two summers ago. I’ll be booking a weirdly expensive motel with one of my other high school friends, and we plan on drinking a lot of wine in our spare time! (You can see why I’m postponing my detox until June…)
Also, the wedding is black tie, so I definitely plan on breaking out the one fancy dress I brought with me to Beijing. I still haven’t had a chance to wear it yet, and it’s been YEARS.
Questions, comments, concerns? Want to know my favorite color? Get in touch below! (My favorite color is blue.)