August 2012 archive

The Amazingly Awesome Great Wall of China

THE BEST PART OF MY TRIP!

(sorry for the caps, but I’m just really, really excited!)

Johnny and I originally wanted to go to the Jinshanling section of the wall as most reviews say it’s not crowded and relatively peaceful, but we waited too late, so we just decided to take the public bus 919 to the Badaling section.

We might have missed the whole thing, as we look the wrong exit out of the subway station and walked 15 minutes out of the way. If it weren’t for a really nice Chinese man who helped us out, we probably would’ve been lost forever. The bus cost about $6 per person and took about an hour.

I wore a tank top and shorts expecting the Great Wall to be on fire, as most people who go in the summer have said they’ve basically died trying to do the hike. It was COLD. I actually wished I had brought some sort of jacket or sweatshirt. Of course, once you got moving, it wasn’t bad at all, and I’m so thankful it wasn’t blazing hot.

Being on the Great Wall was incredible. Yes, the Badaling section is quite crowded. But once you pass the major areas, things die down significantly and you can just sit on the steps and marvel at the sights around you. It was really grounding. For the longest time, I wouldn’t really believe that *I* was on the Great Wall of China. I just felt so grateful, so blessed, so in awe of my life at that moment. Even with a panda hat on.

I took at least a million pictures, so it was super hard to narrow it down. I hope I’ve done the Great Wall justice.

SO MANY PEOPLE.

After we finished our awesome hike along the Great Wall, we made a huge mistake and walked back down to where the buses dropped us off. It was a ghost town, not a single bus in sight. I freaked out, as the last bus back to Beijing was leaving in about 40 minutes. To add to the hot mess, we found out the actual bus stop back to Beijing was about 5 miles away, completely on the opposite side of the Great Wall from where we were. After turning down a number of black (scam) taxis wanting to charge us way too much money for a 15 minute cab ride, a family of 5 offered to shove us in their small car for 10 Yuan each (roughly $3 total). We made it to the bus stop JUST in time. Apparently, you are supposed to take the cable cars down the Great Wall to the bus departure area. Keep this in mind if you visit the Badaling section!

The Great Wall was obviously the highlight, and the best part of my trip to Beijing. Words can’t express how awesome it was. Once I got past the crowds, it was some of the most beautiful and breathtaking views I’ve ever seen. I still can’t believe I went.

China Day 2: Beijing Zoo, Olympic Stadium, and Houhai Bar Street

Sorry for the long delay in between posts. I had everything almost ready, then there was news of Typhoon Bolaven headed towards Korea. Needless to say, I’ve been juggling between freaking out, buying water and flashlights, and taping my windows. For some crazy ass reason, I still had to come in to work today. Not sure what the logic is behind it, but…..yeah.

Anyways, on to more posts about my trip to China!

The second day of our trip to Beijing was slam packed! I heard all about how awesome the Beijing zoo was, and I knew I wanted to see the pandas, so we headed there later in the afternoon, hoping to avoid the crowds.

Sadly, the Beijing zoo was probably the most crowded place we went to during our time in Beijing. But the pandas were worth it!

They were adorable! Pandas are my favorite, so I was really excited to see them. They just look so big and cuddly!

SIMBA! (that’s what everyone kept yelling)


This guy had the bright ass idea of jumping over the fence to get a better look at the tigers. UM WHAT?! Shortly after, 3 more people decided to do the same thing.

Sadly, the pandas, the lions and the tigers were the highlights of the Beijing zoo. All of the other animals were kept in really close quarters, and sometimes just a concrete cage with nothing resembling a natural habitat at all. So many of the animals looked visibly stressed. The elephants in particular were kept in a very, VERY, hot and humid concrete room, with just enough room to move around in a small circle. One of the elephants kept tugging at his gate, clearly looking miserable. As an avid animal lover, seeing the animals in these really terrible conditions just broke my heart.

After the Beijing Zoo, Johnny and I decided to take a short subway ride to the Olympic Park. Since the London Olympics were still going on, everyone else seemed to have the same idea. Luckily, the streets are so wide and spacious, you truly didn’t notice the crowds at all.

Really random plaque at the Olympic Park, but I loved it!

Aquatic building!

The stadium is huge, much bigger than I expected it to be. The energy in the air was palpable. There were several big screen projections around the park playing Olympic coverage. The McDonalds at the park had really awesome rooftop seating with flat screen TVs. It was perfect for sipping on a mocha and people watching.

Sadly, after this, my camera died, so pictures from my favorite part of the day are from my camera phone. I apologize for the low quality!

After a long day, I just wanted to get a drink. After a quick Google search, I found out that Houhai Bar Street in the Shichahai area of Beijing was the perfect place to go. And my gosh… I have no idea on how to get there. We took subway to the closest stop, then used the GPS on my phone to lead us there. The GPS lead us through traditional hutongs, alleyways and all sorts of craziness, but it was so cool to see a completely different side of Beijing.

The Houhai bar street is situated around Houhai lake. It was a Sunday night, so I’m not sure how it normally is, but Houhai bar street was perfect. All along the lake there are little bars with outdoor patios that were great for couples and small groups of friends, no loud music or anyone trying to get you to buy something, and no tourists (except us). It was the exact opposite of Sanlitun bar street (more on this later).

Like I said before, excuse the shitty camera phone pictures. I just wanted to give you a glimpse of what it looked it. After a long day of sightseeing, we settled into one of the bars, ordered some Tsingtaos and watched the US vs Spain Olympic basketball game. It was the perfect way to end the day.

China Part 1: The Forbidden City

Oh China.

I spent 5 days in China, and it was everything I imagined it to be, and everything I didn’t imagine it to be at the same time.

I always pictured Beijing as a city with tiny little streets (and a lot of them are), with just mass chaos EVERYWHERE. It was partially true.

It’s crowded. It’s dirty. There’s a lot of poverty. The mythical babies with no diapers and a hole in their pants DO exist. People stare 20x more than in Korea. And then there’s the continuous  hacking and spitting that just never ever seems to stop. People shove to get onto the subway, even more so than in Korea where I thought I’d seen it all. Johnny and I were approached by 2 different “tea ceremony” scam artists. And everywhere seems to have this weird, slight, musky odor.

But, the main roads and streets were very spacious and open. The subway is extremely cheap and easy to use. The weather was GORGEOUS. I’m talking very low humidity, cool, crisp nights, and very mild days, the exact opposite of the sauna that has been Korea for the past 3 months. The shopping was great. The food was TO DIE FOR. The upper class areas of Beijing are super, super nice, and definitely rival some of the hot spots in Seoul. The beer is great.  The people were friendly. Everywhere wasn’t a clusterfuck of people, and we actually spent some nights walking around the city with not a single soul around.

One of the highlights of the trip was our visit to the Forbidden City. So grand! So beautiful! So well preserved! SO huge! We spent half of the day there and there was still so much to see.

The Forbidden City is the number 1 tourist site in Beijing, so be prepared for long lines and massive crowds of people. We went later in the afternoon, and the crowds weren’t too bad, but I can only imagine what it must be like when it is busier.

Of course, I took a ton of pictures, but here are some of my favorites.

China was the one place I really never had a desire to go to, and I have to say that Beijing totally changed my mind. I really did enjoy my short time there. Have you ever felt surprised about a country/city you never wanted to see, but got there and it changed your mind?

Programming Note: I’m Still Here!!!

Hey everyone!

I know it’s been over a week since I’ve last posted, and there’s plenty good reason for that. I just got back from my trip to China on Wednesday at around 2:30am, and then I had to go right back to work on Thursday at 8:30. I haven’t really had time to process anything or get my life together (my apartment is a disaster!). I’m working on editing all of the awesome pictures from Beijing today and this weekend.

On another note, now is the time that a lot of my friends are leaving South Korea. There are 2 times ESL teachers come and go: August and March. Tonight, I’m going out clubbing for the first time since I’ve been here (gasp! I know…), and I’m SUPER excited! I can’t wait to tell you about my first Korean club experience!

Until next time! Stay tuned for awesome posts from China next week!

My Three Favorite Travel Moments – The Travel Blogger Relay

If you didn’t now already, there’s a cool travel blogger relay race going on, hosted by LowCostHolidays. The general idea is that each blogger that is tagged in the relay blogs about their 3 Favorite Travel Moments. The lovely Audrey from That Backpacker passed me the baton, and I’m officially part of Team Green, headed by my favorite people at Over Yonderlust.

The wonderful thing about this post is that it gave me the chance to revisit my European travels from this past year. After I came back from Europe, everything was full speed ahead for my move to Korea, so I feel like I never really got to sit and process everything that happened. I’m thankful to be able to relive the memories and share with you today!

Conquering my fear of heights in Madeira, Portugal

I am deathly afraid of heights. I hate them. I frequently have ruined others travel plans by refusing to go on top/inside/near tall buildings (Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, etc). When Johnny and I went to Madeira, Portugal, we decided to take a trip to the beach near our apartment. Looking over the gorgeous cliffs and down to the crystal clear blue water, I felt a pang of dread.

We were high up. REALLY high up. TOO high up. Huge gusts of wind threatened to knock me off balance and send me tumbling down the mountain to my untimely death (overdramatic much?) When Johnny suggested that we take a CABLE CAR down the mountain, I looked at him like he was insane. There was no way in hell I was going to be in a little capsule, riding down a mountain with the wind blowing all crazy. Nope. No way. But as I watched the cable car slowly ascend up the mountain, something in me changed. I glanced down at the gorgeous, rocky, beach below me and took a deep breath. I was going to conquer my fear of heights once and for all.

So I did it. And I survived (even if I did freak out). And I was rewarded with the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever set foot on.

Ringing in the New Year in Paris


New Years Eve. Johnny and ran to our local Carrefour to grab some champagne, plastic champagne flutes, cheese, and sausage for our trek to the Eiffel Tower to ring in New Years Eve. The buzzing excitement was almost tangible. We made our way to the iconic landmark, gasping in awe at all of the Parisians (and tourists) who flocked to the champagne stands to buy their last minute bottles, or even opting to buy them from street vendors selling their bottles on thin, flannel, blankets. I marveled at the scene: Lovers making out, groups of stylish girls wearing giant 2012 glasses and taking pictures of themselves, children setting off sparklers. It was magical. Even though the weather was cold and rainy, it didn’t seem to stop anyone from the celebrations.

As the countdown began, I closed my eyes and remembered where I had come from. At that time the last year I was depressed, angry, fat, and miserable at my job. And now I was in Paris, celebrating the start of the New Year, new beginnings. At precisely midnight, the Eiffel Tower began to sparkle and twinkle. The crowds roared and I gave Johnny a huge kiss. As Johnny picked me up and twirled me, life was the best it had ever been.

Drinking Local Wine on the Canals of Venice


Venice is trés expensive. I’d been warned numerous times, but couldn’t imagine the prices once I got here. 1.50 Euro just to use the public bathroom! Yikes. But, as I used that expensive ass bathroom, a cute little wine shop caught my eye. Or more specifically, the sign that said”4 Euro 1L Local Wine!”, caught my eye. When a bottle of wine in a restaurant is running about 50EUR or more at the cheapest, you take advantage. To seal the deal, Johnny and I bought 2 pizzas from a local pizzaria and settled down to eat alongside on the canals. It was breathtaking. Although the weather was frigid (the coldest weather we’d experienced our entire time in Europe), being in the sun warmed us up instantly. It was surreal. Seeing the gondolas pass us by, watching the tourists try and get the perfect shot, drinking from a liter water bottle filled with wine…it was the perfect day. I just kept exclaiming to Johnny, “I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ARE DOING THIS!” It was the simplest moment, but sometimes the simplest moments are the best memories.

I now pass on the baton to the lovely Amanda from Farsickness. Can’t wait to read about your three favorite travel moments! Hell Yeah for Team Green!

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