This Beijing Life: Month 22

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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!

This Beijing Life

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Wow. SO MANY things happened in the month of June, it took me a solid fifteen minutes to write them all down. From attending my second Chinese wedding to moving in with my boyfriend, succeeding at my first major diet to showing friends around Beijing, to another Great Wall hike and Beijing flooding like crazy… I don’t even know where to start.

Get ready for 3,000+ words of amazingness.

Chinese wedding

Hanging with my coworkers (and boyfriend) in Fushun

Where I Went

At the beginning of June, I took a train up to Fushun in Liaoning province for my coworker’s wedding. I was literally in Fushun for less than 24 hours, but I still managed to see an incredible local sauna!

As for day trips, I had the opportunity to head to the Great Wall (again) with a big group of friends. I hiked the section I was SUPPOSED to hike last time and didn’t almost die in the process.

Highlights

So many things went well this month, it was hard to pick! Here are the best things that happened in June.

Chinese wedding

Chinese people take their wedding photos before the wedding, so we got to see them all!

A Chinese Wedding

The first weekend of June I took a train up to Fushun, a tiny city in Liaoning province, for my coworker’s wedding. This was officially the second Chinese wedding I’ve ever been to, so in addition to my excitement over seeing my coworker get married, I was also pretty pumped to discover some of the major cultural differences between Chinese and Western weddings.

With just one wedding experience, it’s hard to know what the cultural norm of a Chinese wedding is. But after attending two, I’m pretty certain I can point out the major differences. I’ll be sure to write another post about my Chinese wedding experience later, but for now, I’ll mention that the bridal party produced a spy movie which was shown before the ceremony. Yes, it was amazing.

Fun Fact: Fushun is famous for their “Korean Spas”, and many people come from all over northern China to relax in the hot springs and saunas. I had a lovely awkward experience of lounging naked in a hot spring with two female coworkers I’m not very close to. Then I headed out to the co-ed (clothed) sauna, where I sweat profusely with a salt bag on my belly and rolled around in a pit of little stones. Because…. why not?

Overall, it was a great weekend, and I may or may not have shed a little tear when my coworker walked down the isle. However, the trip was fast, and in less than 24-hours, I was on a train back home.

Houhai Lake

I got a lot of exercise in, showing everyone around Beijing!

A Successful Diet

Last month I went on the first real diet of my entire life (unless you count shoveling protein down my mouth hole when I rowed crew in high school). For one month I decided to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle by giving up alcohol, sugar and simple carbs. I was also going to give up dairy and caffeine, but then I almost died from caffeine withdrawal on the first day and changed my mind.

The goal of this diet was to develop healthy habits that I could continue after the month ended. While the first week was HARD, once I got used to my restrictions and ordered a week’s worth of salads to the office for lunch, things were pretty easy. Sure, I had MANY temptations, but I felt so much better after just a few days.

Two weeks into the diet my coworker came back from her honeymoon and commented on my weight loss. Two separate coworkers also complimented my complexion. After over a year of hitting the gym with zero results, it’s been crazy to see a slight change in my diet make such a big difference in how I look and feel.

hiking great wall

The best part of the diet (besides the fact that I didn’t fail) was the incredible meals my boyfriend Chris and I concocted. Actually, let’s be honest, Chris cooked most of them.

Lemon and olive chicken, Thai green curry over brown rice, beef stroganoff, fresh fruit smoothies, overnight oats with homemade cinnamon applesauce inside, pork roast… my mouth is watering as I write this.

The diet has been over for a little less than a week and I’ve still been eating healthy… as long as you don’t count the night I had five drinks, drunk ordered McDonald’s, and then ate a pizza the next day when I was hungover. Whoops.

Beijing hutongs

Chris bonding with my college friends

Showing My Friends Around Beijing

Last year I took a quick trip to Vietnam with my two college friends, Sarah and Breanna. But this year the two of them came to visit me in Beijing! After over a month of traveling through China and Southeast Asia, their final stop included four full days in Beijing. While I’ve had the opportunity to show plenty of people around my China home, it was especially exciting to finally introduce my close friends to all of my favorite spots!

We spent one full day exploring Beijing’s Hutongs, Lama Temple, Drum and Bell Tower, and Houhai Lake. We snuck into a few residential hutong courtyards, ate jianbing pancakes and spicy malatang, and ducked into multiple cafes to avoid the oppressive heat.

Anytime friends are in town, I also use their visit as an excuse to head to the Great Wall. While the original plan was to just take my two college friends, travel blogger Angela from Angela from Angela Travels and her boyfriend Andy were also visiting Beijing and were dying to hit an off-the-beaten-path section of the Great Wall! Oh… and another friend from Beijing came along too.

We squeezed seven people and a driver in a car meant for only six passengers, but hey, it was cheaper? The group of us hit the Huanghuacheng Wild Wall section Chris and I attempted to climb last time. This section was actually pretty well restored and did have other hikers on it, but the view of the lake at the end of the trip was incredible!

Beijing appartment

Our new room!

I Moved in With My Boyfriend!

Yeah, so that happened.

Long story short, my landlord sold our apartment and we all needed to move out by the end of June… and then it was postponed until July. Now, who knows what’s happening with my old place. In the meantime, I moved into an apartment near Xizhimen and Beijing Zoo with my boyfriend Chris, and Chris’ brother, his partner, and their toddler.

It’s been a tight squeeze with five people in a two-bedroom apartment, but it’s also been really fun. I get a lot of quality time with the baby, and I basically have a built in alarm clock, which is both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it’s “cuddles and kisses at 8:30 am”, other times it’s “screams of agony and terror at 5:30 am”. You win some, you lose some.

While the first move was super stressful, it was great to be able to finally move in all of my things and get organized. Now I love my our room, and I’m obsessed with my beautiful big desk! Next step: making our teeny tiny kitchen and living room a livable space for five people. Wish us luck!

I don’t have any pictures of him, so here are some of my other coworkers!

We Got a New Coworker… FINALLY.

After over a year of waiting, it FINALLY happened. I received a third Western counselor at my College Counseling job, which has been incredible for lightening my workload. Too bad I’m leaving at the end of August, so they’ll be back to two counselors again. I’m still taking applications for college counselors if anyone is interested…

Challenges

Not everything was amazing in June. Here are some of the worst moments I had this last month.

Huanghuacheng

This waterfall was a LOT bigger than it was last October

Major Flooding in Beijing!

The weather this June was awful. Seriously, if you come to China avoid the winter and summer and head for the fall and spring. Not only is the weather great during those months, the pollution is better too!

This June we went from sunny skies, fluffy white clouds, and a light breeze to moderate pollution, scorching heat, and oppressive humidity. When it wasn’t scalding hot, humid, and hard to breathe, Beijing was literally pouring buckets of rain down on all of us.

One evening the rain was so bad that in the course of an hour my entire street flooded, and I had to walk 15 minutes to my apartment with my feet and ankles entirely under water. Granted, our horrible drainage system in Beijing is mostly to blame for that.

PS- If you come to Beijing during the summer or winter, be sure to pack some PM2.5 masks. If you already live in China, you can always order some AQBlue masks via WeChat instead.

Vietnamese coffee

I’m a coffee girl at heart

Trying to Quit Coffee

I love coffee. I always have. Even when I was a little kid I used to eat coffee beans out of the dispensers at the grocery store. Seriously, you can ask my mom.

I never really thought I was actually addicted to coffee the way that some people can be. I never figured I’d have any withdrawal symptoms if I tried to quit drinking it. But coffee gets me through the day. I like to start my morning with a cup, and sip on a steamy mug to get over the mid-afternoon slump. I love the taste, the experience, and the social aspect too.

Man, I sound like a smoker right now.

The first day I tried to give up coffee was miserable. My coffee maker sat on my desk, taunting me. I was so exhausted and just wanted a sip of fresh coffee to wake me up… and I had a headache.

China cafe waffles

Fancy waffles and coffee in Tiananmen

Eventually, after a day of torture, I decided that there was no point in giving up coffee for this diet. While my month-long food experiment was supposed to be about overall health (which is why I included caffeine), after a chat with a few friends I decided that trying to handle my caffeine withdrawal cold turkey while also going on a restrictive diet was a poor choice.

I allowed myself my coffee as a vice while working on my diet and health. Giving myself one small thing to look forward to every day made me more likely to stick with the diet too. I needed SOMETHING to cure my cravings.

While getting over my mild caffeine addiction is something I’d love to do for my overall health in the future, last month was not the right time. I’d rather do it gradually, substituting coffee with tea, over the course of a few weeks. Thankfully, I’m not as far gone as some of the people I read about online (6 cups a day?!). But I still think coffee should be something I drink because I enjoy it, not because I need it to survive.

Great Leap beer

None of this.

Missing Out on Life Because of My Diet

While the diet itself was pretty easy, missing out on socializing because of it was HARD. If you’ve been around for a while, you’ll know that I eat pretty much anything. Spicy food? Yes. Adventurous eats? Of course.

So for someone who is literally one of the least picky people on the planet, it was bizarre to be the one awkwardly dictating what my friends and I could or couldn’t eat. One day my coworkers and I all went to a noodle restaurant and there was literally not one thing in that entire place I could eat or drink. So I just sat there and drank hot water while my stomach rumbled at all the delicious plates of fried noodles.

How could I have known that the month I picked would be so full of social engagements?! June just happened to be the time I attended a wedding, got a new coworker, and had friends visiting.

Why couldn’t I have done this diet earlier in the year when I didn’t have a life?!

Houhai Lake

Houhai Lake

My Most Popular Post

While I only wrote two blog posts last month (whoops), my favorite and most popular post by far was the one on Pulau Weh, Indonesia’s best-kept secret for incredible diving. This paradise, just north of Sumatra, has hot springs, underwater volcanos, and some of the best diving in Indonesia. It’s also the place where Chris fell of a dive boat and broke his arm… whoopsies.

Best Instagram

Gotta love them Great Wall photos!


I think the success of this photo has more to do with the caption than the photo itself…

Sometimes when you’re at the beginning of something (like a Great Wall hike), the journey ahead almost seems insurmountable. 😨But then once you get to the end, you realize you’re not quite ready to move on. What am I talking about here? I’m quitting my job in less than 3 months!! . I’ve been waiting for this moment for over 2 years now- the point in time when I’d get to take my blog full time. I started this job in China 2 years ago as a way to save money to pay off my student loans while still living in China with plenty of time to travel. Two years ago, my life was like this photo: looking up at at an intimidatingly steep, long climb with no end in sight. But now I’m at the end of the climb, I’m feeling accomplished but also scared of the crumbling staircase off the wall. What if I fall? What if I went the wrong way? But there comes a time in every persons life where they have to move on. I’ve been at this job for 2 years and it’s time for me to follow my dreams. It’s time to finish my hike and start a new one. ☀️

A post shared by Richelle (@adventuresaroundasia) on

Song of the Month

While I’ve never been a huge fan of Miley Cyrus, I can’t stop listening to her new song Malibu. It’s honestly a little too catchy.

I’ve also had Feels stuck in my head for the last two weeks. Another song that’s crazy-catchy (with a bizarrely entertaining music video), I prefer to change the line to “Don’t be afraid to catch fish”.  Because A) that’s what it sounds like and B) why not.

Book of the Month

Last month I told you all about Oryx and Crake, my new obsession written by Margaret Atwood (who wrote the Handmaid’s Tale). Well over the course of June I finished the first novel in the 3-part MaddAddam series, and now I’m over halfway through the second one: The Year of the Flood.

Seriously, if you read one series this year, these books should be it. I literally can not put them down. I even walk down the street reading my kindle like a real-life Belle from Beauty and the Beast.

If you liked the Handmaid’s Tale or Black Mirror, you’ll love these books. I’ve never been more scared of Earth’s future, especially when it comes to science, technology, and the environment. Thankfully, this series was picked up for an HBO series also titled MaddAddam. I honestly can’t wait.

hiking great wall

Chris and Andy being awkward on the Great Wall

Best Blog Posts of June

Here are my favorite blog reads of June 2017!

The Quirks of Taipei Living – Expat Edna

I love, love, love, LOVE Taiwan, and I can’t wait to live there someday soon. From musical garbage trucks (yes this is a thing) to restaurants that are literally only open in the morning or evening, Taipei is one of my favorite cities on earth. My friend Edna lived there for three months, and here are some of the fun things about Taipei she couldn’t get enough of.

On Influence and Using it Wisely – Adventurous Kate

While Kate and I don’t agree on everything when it comes to ethical travel, I do think this is a really important issue to address. How has the rise of the Instagram travel model affected the industry? Should travel influencers really be taking press trips without considering the ethics of the destination and trip itself? Is it fair for a travel blogger not to get political? All great questions to consider.

Tibetan sand art

Tibetan sand art at the Lama Temple

I Finally Eat Durian For the First Time – Slightly Astray

Durian is a love it or hate it fruit, and surprisingly, I actually really like it! In this post, Anna heads to an all you can eat Durian buffet in Kuala Lumpur, and let’s be real, I actually want to go.

Is Central America Safe? – The Broke Backpacker

Leave it to Will to be very comprehensive. I love how this article addresses the safety of Central America from all sides and gives you the tips you need while avoiding any sort of fear mongering or generalized scare tactics. If you want the real information about traveling safely in Central America, this is it.

Why I Don’t Want to Visit 100 Countries Before I Turn 30 – Neverending Footsteps

I’ve always been a person that prioritizes quality over quantity when it comes to the places I visit. I’m a SLOW traveler… I’ve been living in China for four years!! The thing that’s always bothered me about country-counting is superficiality and money. As Lauren says in her article, she finally realized that “almost anyone with a powerful passport and their health can visit 100 countries if they have enough money.”

Chris Walker Bush

Chris chillin’ in at his desk

What’s Next for July 2017!

Next month I’ll be taking a quick trip to Nanjing to see Chris’ old stomping grounds and hike Purple Mountain. I’m also in the process of creating a second website (!!) focusing on teaching abroad in China, which should be ready for all of you sometime next month. I figured life would be a little easier if I split up the teaching and travel/expat lifestyle stuff so that everyone can find what they need.

Get excited because I designed this new site myself and it looks AWESOME.

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I’ve spent the last few years living in China and traveling around Asia. In my spare time I enjoy salsa dancing, exploring night markets and stuffing my face with street food.

16 comments on “This Beijing Life: Month 22

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for awhile, and comparing your recaps in the beginning to your recaps now, you seem so much happier and enthusiastic for life. I’m glad things are going well for you!

    I’m really excited to see your post about Chinese weddings. I’ve been going to a lot of weddings recently and it’s always fun comparing and contrasting what I see in Asian cinema to Western culture.

    I feel you when it comes to having a social life and eating healthy. Pretty much all my social engagements revolve around food. I tried giving up meat for a little over two months and while I was pretty much successful, I ended up scheduling my meatless phase during my trip to Korea. Knowing that I wouldn’t be satisfied with my trip if I went without eating kalbi or bulgogi, I decided to forgo my new diet for the week I was there and I don’t regret it a bit! Treat yo’ self!

    • Wow that’s so nice that you see a difference between then and now. I guess I can finally see the light, and I’m finally starting to get my career and life together! hahaha. I will definitely get that Chinese wedding post together sooner rather than later. Also, I totally agree with you about slightly abandoning diets while traveling. I love trying all of the local delicacies, and you can’t do that if you’re on a strict diet. While I was in Fushun I allowed myself to have a small bite of everything just so I could say I actually tried Fushun food!

  2. Thanks so much for this! I lived in Beijing for 3.5 years and I miss it all the time. But then I remind myself about the pollution and summer rain dumps and I don’t miss it quite so much ;)
    Thanks for transporting me back there with your awesome recaps and photos!

    • wow that’s a long time! I’ve been in China for about 4.5 years (with a semester in Beijing and 2 years in Beijing this time around). The summer here is definitely not that nice. The spring and fall are where it’s at! I know I’ll miss Beijing when I eventually move to Taiwan or something, but then I’ll just check the AQI or the weather and I probably won’t miss it anymore.

  3. Such a crazy month you’ve had! Congrats on kicing off the new diet. It’s hard work and I can never fully give up wine but that smile shows how good it is for you. Can’t wait to see your next adventures

    • Wine was a hard one for me too! But really, if you’re already depriving yourself of most food items, alcohol was almost the least of my worries. I’m very happy to have wine back in my life again though.

  4. Very interesting post, I really feel like I get a glimpse into your life in China especially between experiencing a Chinese wedding and traveling in the region. That’s so funny and cool about the bridal party leading to a spy video…who would have thought! I was actually born in China but I haven’t been back since I left as a baby so always enjoy reading posts about the country :)

    • The spy video was definitely awesome. It had the groom meeting up with different bridesmaids and exchanging red envelopes for information. Eventually, he ends up at the traditional “morning before the wedding” challenges where the groom has to compete for the bride’s hand. I’ll try and see if I can get a copy from my friend. Do you have any plans to head back to China at all?

  5. I love reading tales from people living overseas. You experience so much more when you live in a country rather than just travel through it. I’m glad I’ve found your blog and look forward to reading future posts.

  6. That’s so cool that you’ve gotten to go to two Chinese weddings! I think going to weddings is such an intimate look into culture. In Ukraine it’s pretty easy to slip in the back door of church weddings in the summer — they all go on Saturday so it’s just like a revolving door of bridal parties — but it’s my dream to get invited to the afterparty sometime, haha.

    • hahaha let me know if you’re able to make some Ukrainian friends and get invited! This was my first Chinese wedding actually going as a friend rather than a +1, but both weddings were such a cool experience.

  7. Sounds like you have settled in so well! Being invited to a Chinese wedding must have been an incredible experience. Lots of happy moments in your life, really wonderful!

  8. Wow! What an amazing life you have! I can’t imagine living in China, I have only been to Shanghai and Sanya, loved them both. Would love to explore Beijing, I have always wanted to see the Great Wall. I am going to read the rest of your blogs now, so interesting!
    Happy Travels!
    Lucy

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