• Asia,  China

    Plan Your First Trip to China

    So you have decided to visit China?! Yeyy (little dance move)! So here are a few tips to help plan your first trip to China from someone who has just planned it all from scratch, no agencies used and with that I saved a lot of money. Now, it can be overwhelming to decide where to go. China is the 4th largest country in the world, with 22 provinces and 5 autonomous regions. It’s so much more than just the Great Wall (and that is already pretty awesome on its own by the way). FIRST: you need to ask yourself a few questions: HOW LONG ARE YOU PLANNING TO GO? China…

  • Asia,  China

    The Language of the Heart – Yangshuo

    Sitting on small wooden stools, the silence was only broken by the sound of heavy rain and the vigorous brushes the woman gives to the soaked clothes in the red round plastic container. The husband astutely maneuvers the knife removing the tip and the stringy bit from the side of the green beans, separating those into a different container. Their son, maybe 6 or 7 years old, oblivious to us, holds a pencil in his hand, scribbling mandarin characters on his dusty notebook, determined to finish his homework. The silence isn’t disturbing at all. It only gives space to contemplate the question “how could they trust us, such strangers, and…

  • Asia,  China

    Stairway to heaven? Or Longji’s Rice Terraces?

    Gold, brown and green collage of steps mold the mountain wall, forming terraces covered in shallow muddy water. Chinese farmers scarcely stood across the terraces, feet in the water, round pointy hats on their heads, concentrating on the task of planting rice. So picturesque! The scenery I had only seen in paintings was now a feast to my brown eyes. We were in Longji’s Rice Fields, 2½ hour drive from Guilin. Longji refers to several ancient villages spread across Longsheng County. We visited two of them: the Ping’an and the Jinkeng Dazai villages. Hiking up the mountain was (not) easy. The air was hot and humid. My damp dress was…

  • Asia,  China

    17 Hilarious Facts about the Chinese

    When you go to a country culturally so different with an open mind, the things you come across can be part of the fun of traveling. From north to south,  the Chinese showed me some generosity but also challenged my sense of what is “normal”. So here I present you 17 hilarious facts about the Chinese. 1 – Chinese STARE a lot at white and black people! On the bus in Shangri-La, a man sits at a 90º angle to turn his head another 90º back to stare at me and my friend for like 90% of the journey. It was rather uncomfortable, since we were sitting right behind him.…

  • Asia,  China

    Fenghuang – Life around the River

    The smell of noodles and fried food woke me up just before 7am. Climbing through the balcony, the life outside our bedroom was invading our sleep. My first thought was: where am I?! Slowly the memory of the day before returns. Fenghuang. A remote town located in the west-south province of Hunan, China. As much as I love noodles, the whole combination of smells put me off breakfast. I am the kind a girl who is happy with a bowl of milk and cereal (or toast and hot-chocolate, or smoothie and pancakes or …………). Chinese breakfast is like lunch to me. We arrived in Fenghuang the day before at midday,…

  • Asia,  China

    Tianmen Mountain – Zhangjiajie

    Even with my eyes closed I could feel it. An emptiness of everything and a simultaneous filling of nothing. Walking as far as the edge goes, I opened my arms to embrace the nothing and the everything. The breeze kissed my cheeks and messed up my hair. With the Tianmen Mountain behind me, saying I was walking on top of it wasn’t quite the truth. In fact, I was following a path built on the cliff face of the mountain, with metal railing painted and sculptured to look like wood. At 1400 meters high, initially it felt like walking on the clouds, but when they disappeared, the houses were like…

  • Asia,  China

    “Avatar” Mountains exist… in China – Zhangjiajie

    We climbed 2000 steps to the top of the mountain to get an “unbelievable view”. Well, all there was to see was fog and Chinese people taking selfies in the fog. Then it started to rain, but in a way it made me believe that the skies were mad at someone somewhere. My rain proof jacket was letting me down (and wet). We found shelter in a KFC at the end of the path, asked for hot chocolate and were served with hot milk. After several failed attempts to say/mimic chocolate in Chinese, we turned to our hot cups of milk and tried to sink our frustrations in it. Well,…

  • Asia,  China

    Hanging Temple and Yungang Grottoes – Datong

    Hanging Temple When I read “hanging temple” I didn’t really expect 1500 year old wood sticks sustaining a 40 rooms temple built into a mountain cliff. Scary? Yes and yet I am standing inside it! This is the Xuan Kong Si Hanging Temple, 65km from Datong, in China. To me, architecture is yet a mystery art when mixed with other beliefs, such as religion. Over 1500 years ago, a genius monk hoping to get some peace and quiet decided that the ideal place to build a temple would be, not on the top of the mountain (it can snow), not on the valley (for the risk of floods), but in…

  • Asia,  China

    Night train from Beijing to Datong

    Eighteen minutes past midnight. Night train from Beijing to Datong. The lights go off and an awkward silence settles in while everybody curls up in their soft beds trying to calm down the excitement of the journey ahead. Well…I am feeling this way, at least. The only Chinese person in this four-bed compartment is already asleep by the time I write this, no excitement, just another journey to work perhaps. Did I say soft bed? It isn’t soft at all. Even my feet are softer. (Yes, I just squeezed my feet to get the comparison accurate). But they provide us with a nice soft pillow and a duvet. The air-conditioning…

  • Asia,  China

    24 hours in Beijing

    Walking down a street looking for a place to have dinner, music attracts us into this park like honey attracts a bear. Without any warning a party was imminent, we were upon what looked like a middle age Chinese street club. People dance in pairs in this improvised dance floor at sun down to the music that echoes from speakers installed on top of a motorbike parked in the middle of the square. A quick screen of the place made me realize there were no westerners here, only my friend and I. I didn’t know how our presence was going to be digested by the Chinese people. We had been in…

  • Asia,  China

    The truth about the Great Wall of China

    Notice: the following post has spoilers! Do you know that feeling of sadness blended in disappointment when you find out that Santa Claus does not exist?! I believed it for 7 years when another kid in school unveiled the sad truth. First I refused to believe him and later at home I asked my parents who confirmed it. I will never forget that day. Twenty years later I experienced that same feeling again. I was happily hiking the Great Wall of China when someone told me that it cannot be seen from Space. It’s a myth. I felt my thoughts crumble like a biscuit. WHAT?!?! Apparently it is too thin…