I sit here writing this blog, still recovering from the whirlwind eleventh month we’ve had on the road. It’s a month that has certainly taken it’s toll on us physically, but what an incredible time we had in China!
We’ve been fairly quiet and only posted intermittently whilst in China – partly because of the lack of signal and not always being able to connect to our VPN (to allow us access to blocked sites), but also because we just couldn’t keep up with the amazing things we were seeing and being able to share them! A few highlights have made it to Instagram and Facebook, but rest assured there’s many more to come.
We also wanted to take time to actually enjoy the things we were seeing without the pressure of sharing immediately – that’s why I spent so much time in Kuala Lumpur prior to leaving to finish writing all our content on Hong Kong and Cambodia, and schedule these stories and images to post throughout the month. I also didn’t want to post any blogs on China whilst in China… JUST in case!
Now that we’re safely and successfully out of the country, we’ll be able to share over the coming months all our stories, guides and tips for enjoying the same experiences we did whilst in China as well as many more incredible photos!
Our trip started as smoothly as we could have hoped – our flight into Shanghai was on time, and our pre-organised ride was waiting to pick us up at 1.30 AM. After a looooong sleep in, we set about exploring Shanghai – taking public transport, buying food, finding SIM cards, and not getting lost – a huge success as far as we were concerned!
Then on day two, I lost my wallet with over 1500 RMB inside it – around $300 AUD. That sucked. We’d just gotten cash out that morning, and split it – normally Mike holds onto the cash but I held onto half that day for whatever reason, and somehow, in between paying for egg tarts and half an hour later buying an umbrella, my wallet was gone. I can’t say if it was stolen, or that I put it down, or it fell out of my bag – I just don’t know what happened to it. That incident, coupled with the cold and rain made for not a lot of fun.
We left Shanghai for Beijing, successfully taking our first high speed bullet train, where we spent several days in a fabulous neighbourhood trying lots of incredible street food that surrounded our hostel. We visited the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square, the Summer Palace, and made our way out to visit the Great Wall of China – an absolutely mind-blowing experience!
Onto Xi’an and we ate our bodyweight in the most delicious noodles we’ve ever eaten, as well as all sorts of other tasty morsels from the Muslim Quarter, near where we were staying. We took a day trip to see the Army of Terracotta Warriors, and spent an afternoon cycling around the ancient city walls of Xi’an.
Taking a 14 hour train to the north-western province of Gansu, we arrived in Zhangye to visit the Rainbow Mountains – one of our most anticipated stops in China! We had two full days to explore the national park – a blessing as we had rather mediocre weather one day and a perfect sunny day the next – we were able to capture the most incredible photos of this incredible part of the world which we can’t wait to share!
We then flew in to Chengdu – domestic flights in China were great, cheap, quick, on time and food included! Our hostel in Chengdu was fantastic, and right next door the this hole-in-the-wall restaurant that served the most INCREDIBLE dumplings – pork with ginger and leek, encased in delicious pastry in a delicious peppery and chilli broth. We ate there for nearly every meal – until they ran out of dumplings! We took a day trip to Le Shan to visit the Big Buddha, and also visited the Chengdu Panda Breeding Centre where we fell in love with pandas – honestly the cutest animals in the world!
From Chengdu, we took a taxi, a flight, a bus, and then another bus, and a taxi – over a 14 hour period – to our next stop, Zhangjiajie. You may have heard of this as the home of the ‘Avatar Floating Mountains’ – whilst this is technically not the case, China likes to sell it as such and the mountains do indeed bear a striking resemblance to those in the film. We spent several days in the national park, which was probably one of our most difficult experiences in China purely because it was so confusing! We managed to nut it out and will share all our top tips for exploring in a blog post soon!
Our last stop in China was Guilin where we pressed the pause button for a day to catch up on some much needed rest – something we need to do more of going forward. The day off gave us the opportunity to meet Maud, from France, and Morgan – also from France. Maud is running marathons around the world to raise money for cerebral palsy and had just competed in the Great Wall Marathon in Beijing, and Morgan is a highly qualified Judo teacher teaching at schools around the world. It was so much fun exchanging travel stories with two passionate individuals! The four of us explored the Longji Rice Terraces together the following day in the mist and rain before the sun came out to play – such a fabulous day!
After a jam packed four weeks in China, we began to make our long journey home… that’s right – instead of going our separate ways – Mike back to Australia for work, and myself off somewhere in Asia – we’ve BOTH come back to Australia, for the first time in nearly a year! Why the return, you ask? My travel insurance was almost up, and as our future travel plans take us further away from Australia over the next little while I didn’t think there’d be another opportunity for a visit – nor such a cheap flight (it cost just $250 to fly Guangzhou to Perth). So, I decided to return to Perth with Mike and whilst we were initially planning just a short visit, we’ve decided to extend the stay back as we didn’t have concrete plans for the next two months or so.
So, that means for the next two months we’re officially ‘off the road’ however the travel planning doesn’t stop! We have lots of content to share with you over the next few months, plus our own travel plans to confirm and organise for the rest of the year. We’re both excited to have a ‘rest’ so to speak, slowing down the pace and spending some quality time with our family and friends for the first time in a year and to re-focus as to what we want out of our travels and what’s next for us.
That’s a wrap – it’s been a whirlwind of a month, we’ve had some incredible experiences, plenty of frustrations but most of all we’ve come away from China wanting to put it back on our ‘to visit’ list – there’s so much in this incredible country to see! For now, we’re looking forward to a bit of time lolling around and recovering from our travel fatigue and to see some very special people whilst we’re back home!
Be sure to follow along on Instagram, where we share photos that don’t appear elsewhere, like our Facebook page and also add us on Snapchat! We’ll have some new travel videos up on YouTube soon too, so be sure to subscribe!
Til next month!
Mike & Amy