All About Aruba: 5 Hints for Making the Most of Your Trip

As mentioned in last week’s photo-gallery based post, I recently had the blessing of vacationing on the beautiful arid island of Aruba. The trip was made all the better by the company: my husband, my best friend, and her fiancé.

For my readers contemplating their own Caribbean getaway, I wanted to offer reflections on what made our Aruba trip a successful escape: Continue reading “All About Aruba: 5 Hints for Making the Most of Your Trip”

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Terra Cotta Men & Mercury Poisoning

Having lived in China for over a year now, I’ve nabbed a few opportunities to venture out exploring from my home base of Chengdu. I have under my belt multiple visits to the glittering capital of Beijing; I’ve stopped in Guangzhou, an important southern port city. My husband and I visited Jiuzhaiguo and its breathtaking nature park; we made our way up to Harbin, a Chinese city located near the Russian and North Korean borders (a phenomenal trip that included visiting the world’s largest ice festival, as well as snow fox and baby tiger-snuggling moments).

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See?! Baby tiger!

But of all the Chinese spots I’ve been blessed to see, perhaps the most pleasantly surprising was Xi’an. Continue reading “Terra Cotta Men & Mercury Poisoning”

Great Wall, Great Experience

According to China’s late Chairman Mao, “Bù dào cháng chéng fēi hǎo hàn.”

Or, in our own tongue:

“He who has not been to the Great Wall is not a true man.”

This sentiment is one of a few about which Mr. Mao and I disagree. But I will give the man this: The Great Wall (aka: cháng chéng) truly is one of China’s must-see sites.

Believe it or not, this was actually a point of debate a few months back. As I worked with my parents to plan their 10-day trip to visit my husband and me in China, it became quickly apparent that we wouldn’t be able to pay homage to all China’s premier tourist locales. Since both my dad and I are surfers, we seriously considered jettisoning Beijing in favor of Hainan Island, the Hawaii of China:
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Tempting, right?

But in the end, we went the traditional China route. And I’m so glad we did. Continue reading “Great Wall, Great Experience”

Tailors, Qí Páo & Silks… Oh My!

Given the haul I collected on my trip to the Hongqiao pearl market, you may be surprised to learn that my main Chinese vice is not pearls (though probably only because I’m not living in Beijing). In fact, custom tailoring snags that title–as my poor, bursting-at-the-seams closet can attest.

It isn’t that I’ve never spent time with a tailor before. As someone whose height tops out at 5 foot-nothing, I’ve paid my fair share of visits to have pants, dresses, and blazers nipped up along hem, sleeve, and shoulder.

But prior to my move to China, that’s all tailoring meant to me–someone to trim normal-adult-sized clothes down to fit my oompa-loompa-sized body. Post China-move, I see the tailor in a whole new light. Continue reading “Tailors, Qí Páo & Silks… Oh My!”

Big Buddhas & Tang Era Tales

The secret no one tells you about living adventurously is this: sometimes you get lazy.

Living in China, I have at my fingertips some incredible opportunities to explore, to experience new things. Some days I’m great at availing myself of them; when last I attended hot pot (for more on this unique eating experience, peruse here), I said, “Hey, when in Rome” and tried the cow tendon and throat our Chinese friends had ordered up. I was actually disappointed when all the duck kidney got snapped up before I could give it a go.

Other days, however, I become incredibly slothful. Just tired in that unique way only intercultural interfaces can make you. Those days, I’ve no interest in practicing my Mandarin. I don’t want try exciting new food. I cannot even face the thought of going to the dry cleaners, knowing the visit may be riddled with land-mine-style language barriers. These are the days I’m in danger of sleeping my way through our China tour, closing my eyes when I should be jumping on opportunities that may never come my way again. Continue reading “Big Buddhas & Tang Era Tales”

Livin’ in Pearl-adise

An Advisory: To my male readers, I hereby issue fair warning: the following is an unequivocally girly blog post. Read at your own risk.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the important stuff: pearls.

This past week, I was fortunate enough to take a short business trip to Beijing. (I know; boo hoo for me, right?) It really was a work trip, so I didn’t have much time to explore Beijing’s touristy side. But there was one spot I knew I had to make it to, even if it meant facing off with Beijing’s infamous rush hour traffic to get there: Hongqiao Market (a.k.a: the Pearl Market).

As a pearl enthusiast, I’ve been hankering to pay Hongqiao a visit since my move to China. Having now made the trip, I can officially endorse it; if you share my fashion icons–women like Jackie Kennedy, Grace Kelly, and the incomparable Audrey Hepburn–you’ll want to make a stop there, too. Continue reading “Livin’ in Pearl-adise”