Luv’in Xi’an

Our next stop after Beijing was Xi’an. Conrado and I have been dying to see the Terracotta Warriors so this was a must-do on our trip.

We took an overnight train ride (the Z19) from Beijing. Man, the walk into the Beijing West station was very sad and humbling. There are so many poor people and families with tattered bags sitting around. I know there are dirt cheap but crazy long train rides to the country, I can only assume they were waiting for one of those. Made me feel guilty about our splurge for a private 2-bunk sleeper.

The sleeper was a bit more dirty than what I remember seeing in the Europe trains, so that was disappointing but the ride was smooth. When we finally got to Xi’an we were hustled with a swarm of people toward the exit. Despite not having a great taxi experience in Beijing, I figured it would be better to take a cab to our hotel at this point since I was unfamiliar with Xi’an’s bus system (no subways there). However, the line for the taxis was hopelessly long and not moving. It was 8am, we were tired and wanted to drop our bags off.

I’m sure we could’ve walked a little ways from the station and hailed a cab, but I checked the public transportation directions on Google Maps (thank goodness for smartphones and international data plans!). It appeared there was a bus that would head right by the hotel so we went for it. We hopped on the 611 heading to the Drum tower (there was a booth near the stop and I had to show my phone to the attendant to ensure we were taking the bus in the right direction).

Once again, I found myself as the only white person on the bus. But on that ride, I immediately felt a connection with Xi’an that I didn’t get with Beijing. It was so much more quaint with a lot of traditional architecture.

We ended up having enough energy after checking in to go see the Terracotta Warriors. Luckily, the hotel offered us a driver for around $60 USD that would take us there, as well as two other nearby attractions. Since we got there later in the day, the crowds seemed relatively low and it was AWESOME. I absolutely loved seeing the Warriors with my own eyes. We walked around the pits but returned to the main one about a half hour before closing, there were hardly and crowds by this point and it was magical. Highly recommended.

Back in Xi’an, we decided to check out the night market in the Muslim Quarter. What an experience! Despite the crowd levels, it was so exciting being there. And the food, oh gaaaaaaaaaawd, the food. I loved the pork buns they had and the fried squid on a stick. Yum yum yum.

The next day we checked out the city wall and rented bikes to ride the perimeter. It was surprisingly relaxing. Xi’an also has some bad smog, but it didn’t bother me as much as it did in Beijing.

We only had two days here which felt like enough time, but Xi’an is definitely worth a stop if you are coming to China.


Impressions of Beijing

When I pictured Beijing, I was expecting a bustling yet traditional metropolis that would throw me out of my element. What ended up happening was me… not really feeling much of anything. Really.

It was an odd feeling. Even seeing hardly any signs in English and hearing the people around me only speaking in Chinese dialects, I didn’t feel like I was in another country. Perhaps all the time I’ve spent in Manhattan’s Chinatown numbed the effect.

Even more surprising is the fact that I felt this way despite being one of the few Westerners around. Domestic tourism is such a huge thing here and the tourist sights are clogged with Chinese travelers. My pasty white skin was such a rare sight, people were taking photos of me (some were even bold enough to ask for a photo).

I really enjoyed the Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City. But my favorite sight, by far, was the Lama Temple. It was so beautiful and quiet - the only place in the city where I felt relaxed. Of course, as I mentioned in my first post, even here people were coughing, hocking and spitting. A few times Conrado and I would sit and watch people praying, enjoying the silence - only for it to be interrupted by the sound of someone’s coughing/spitting fit carrying through the space. We didn’t let it ruin our time there, though.

Smog was definitely an issue our first full day in Beijing. Although, I wasn’t so bothered by the air quality as I was by the haze muting all the photos I took, making them appear so lackluster. Luckily, on our last day the sun came out and we got to take some awesome shots around the city.

The subway was really great and easy to use. It was only $.32 (2 CNY) per ride! Conrado got scammed on our first taxi ride (we were charged 50 CNY for what we later realized was only a 15 CNY ride) and it left a sour taste in our mouths, so we heavily relied on it. Kudos to Beijing on their public transport.

Final thoughts: as great as some of the tourist sights are, I didn’t really feel a connection with the city. I honestly wish I had spent more time closer to the Great Wall. Won’t be coming back.


The Great Wall in the rain

So one thing I am finding out in China is just how bad the wifi and cell service is. Here I was thinking “I’m going to blog everyday about my travels.” Nawp. Couldn’t make it happen. So here’s a recap of my Great Wall trek a week after it happened.

After doing a ton of research on the Great Wall, I picked out which sections I wanted to walk through and the date to go. I wanted to hike from Jinshanling to Simatai West on 9/23/14. Conrado and I really didn’t want to walk with a guide that during the 2-4 hour hike - we figured if we stuck to the Wall, we couldn’t get lost right? So I found a driver willing to drop us off in Jinshanling and pick us up in Simatai West.

About two weeks before the date we were set to go, I checked the weather forecast on both Accuweather and Weather.com. Every time I checked, rain was forecasted for that day. I started getting nervous. I contacted the driver asking if we could reschedule, he said we could but mentioned the Great Wall can actually be pretty beautiful in the rain. He sent me some pictures of the Wall amongst clouds of mist and fogged, and it did look pretty cool. I decided to take my chances and keep the date.

When the day finally came while we were in Beijing, it was pretty damn rainy. Conrado and I bought two ponchos from a vendor outside the hotel (who charged us 12 CNY each and only gave me back 10 CNY of the 50 CNY note I gave him - shame on me for not double checking!). The driver, who didn’t speak a word of English, picked us up on the dot at 10:30am. I watched with weariness at the rain through the car window during the 2 hour drive to Jinshanling. But suddenly, I saw these beautiful green mountains with mist smoking through them, and my spirits lifted.

Before we got to the entrance of Jinshanling, we drove by this tourism center that the driver pointed at enthusiastically, we took that to mean he would pick us up at that center.

When we got to the entrance, there weren’t a whole lot of vendors which was kind of refreshing. One lady did follow us for a little bit after we entered but she gave up quickly. We took the uphill path instead of the lift in order to see more towers, it was exhausting, but holy moly it was worth it.

We got to the top and were completely blown away by the views. I instantly fell in love with the Great Wall. And I’m so glad we kept the date and got to see the Wall snaking through the mist. Such a magical sight to see.

We did get a little lost but that’s a story for another day.


I’m in China!!

This is my attempt at making a travel journal of sorts. I am four days into a fourteen day trip to this massive country, and I’d like to log my experiences for recollection down the road.

So far I’m having a blast. It’s always a great experience to be pushed out of my element. I can only say a few phrases in Mandarin (which I’m probably not pronouncing correctly) so the language barrier is quite difficult, but it’s amazing how much you can communicate simply by pointing. Food and beer is so cheap here and I love it. America, maybe you can take a hint when it comes to food pricing.

I do of course have my gripes. The main one is the public hocking and spitting - SO. FUCKING. GROSS. Everywhere I go, even in restaurants and museums, people are coughing like they have emphysema and proceed to spit wherever they are standing. And they never cover their mouths. I can’t believe this is something that is culturally accepted.

Another thing I hate (and I’m sorry to generalize) is the obliviousness that seems to be ingrained in the Chinese people. Nobody seems to be aware of the environment around them. They’ll bump into you, walk directly into your shot when you are trying to take photos, suddenly stop or walk directly into your path and so on. They don’t seem to be oblivious just to other people too - I see them walk into trees, poles, parked motorcycles, etc. I saw a man on a motorcycle turn directly into traffic without looking. It’s insane. How are they not all dead yet?

But so far on this trip, we spent 3 days in Beijing and 1 day (today) in Xi’an so I know I’m getting a small sample of the country. Let’s hope I am left with a better impression over the next few days.


Whoever took the time to create this is either insane or a genius. Or both.

Whoever took the time to create this is either insane or a genius. Or both.

(via kraken-research)


If you are a weirdo like me and you like to document the healing process of your injuries, than you may be interested in looking at this photo. Taken over the course of 10 days, this is how my hand looked after I burned it with boiling water.

If you are a weirdo like me and you like to document the healing process of your injuries, than you may be interested in looking at this photo. Taken over the course of 10 days, this is how my hand looked after I burned it with boiling water.


Filippino Independance Parade! (Taken with Instagram at Madison Avenue, New York)

Filippino Independance Parade! (Taken with Instagram at Madison Avenue, New York)


NYC: The Mecca of pizza (Taken with Instagram at Lombardi’s)

NYC: The Mecca of pizza (Taken with Instagram at Lombardi’s)


Making a new friend. (Taken with Instagram at Madison Square Park - Jemmy’s Dog Run)

Making a new friend. (Taken with Instagram at Madison Square Park - Jemmy’s Dog Run)


I smell freshmen! (Taken with Instagram at University of Toronto Wallberg Building)

I smell freshmen! (Taken with Instagram at University of Toronto Wallberg Building)