Tea Tips

While in Guilin, we visited the Guilin Tea Science & Research Institute, an organic tea plantation where every step of the production process is done traditionally by hand. We experienced a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and enjoyed Osmanthus tea, Liu Bao Compressed Tea, High Mountain Yellow Tea and a variety of oolongs. Do you know it takes 50,000 tea needles to make a half-kilo of white tea?

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Tea serves many purposes, to quench thirst, aid digestion, fall asleep or stay awake.

The Chinese believe tea should be drunk when you are calm so that you can fully appreciate it. You should not drink it when you are busy and it should be enjoyed with few people to avoid excitement (the opposite of alcohol.)

All tea comes from the same evergreen shrub (camellia sinensis); there are some varieties of this shrub, however tea is distinguished by the time the leaves are picked and how they are treated.

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I learned how much the Chinese value not only the plants, but the water used to make tea. It is said that, “water in mountains is best, in rivers is ok, and in wells is second rate.”

Here are a few tea tips that I learned while in in China:

When drinking black or oolong teas, drink from a clay pot. There are many pores that absorb the tea and after 2 years it absorbs the teas flavor. The clay also helps maintain a high temperature. Pour hot water over of the pot and when the outside is dry the tea is ready to drink. Porcelain pots are best for white and yellow teas as it cools quickly. Green tea is preferred to be drunk in clear glass so that the tea drinker can observe the tealeaves floating and sinking. Remember to always rinse the tea leaves before steeping to purify.

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Tea process: manual picking of tealeaves, checking and selecting of leaves, withering tea leaves indoor, drying tea, kneading tealeaves, manual parching of tealeaves.

White Tea – These leaves are young and/or minimally processed, it includes 1 shoot and 2 leaves, it is light in flavor and good to have in the morning.

Yellow Tea – This tea is good for sleeping or for a sore throat. It has virtually no caffeine and was discovered while making green tea, the fermentation process is called “annealing yellow.”

Green Tea – Not fermented and tastes simple and elegant. It retains the original flavor of tea.

Black Tea – Fermented for 72 days, this is sometimes referred to as “red” tea due to the color the leaf turns the water.

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Oolong Tea – This is somewhat of a combination of green and black tea as it uses green teas finishing techniques and black teas fermenting skill (fermented for 36 days), it is high in energy and good to have in the afternoon.

Pu’er – a specific aged and fermented dark tea produced with leaves from the Yunnan Province. It is a roll tea and is pronounced “pu’ar.”

Compressed Tea – This tea is fermented for 3 months. It is made from combining white, green, yellow, black and oolong tea. It is said that drinking compressed tea helps to burn fat and lower cholesterol. This tea is good for digestions and has no caffeine; it’s good to have after dinner. This tea comes in a brick and should be cut with a tea knife as needed. Due to it’s compact structure it will last for years.

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*ps. Did you know that Japanese matcha whisks are made with a single peice of bamboo?

Kyoto to Tokyo as Fast as a Bullet

Kyoto

Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine – Hike 1 mile under thousands of ionic orange tori gates and spot locals wearing kimonos. This is an easy established hike, surrounded by dense forest and tori gates (this took Nick and I about 40 minutes total). There is a small overlook before the summit and you can take an alternative route down. After hiking in 99-degree weather, enjoy fresh fruit, shaved ice or mochi at the bottom.

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Sanjūsangen-dō – This building holds 1,000 Buddhas from the 1400s (that’s before the U.S. was even discovered by Europeans!). These Buddhas, bodhisattvas and deities come from a combination of Buddhism and Hinduism. Although historic and beautiful, there are many other worthwhile things to see in Kyoto if you have limited time.

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Kyoto Station – Get lost in the Kyoto Station! Explore shops, noodle restaurants, drug stores, bakeries, clothing stores, cosmetics and more! If you plan to purchase a JR pass or take the train as your primary mode of transportation (highly recommended) search for a hotel/hostel near the station.

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Golden Pavilion – Walk around a short loop and enjoy the view of a golden pavilion. This took us less than 20 minutes and is not a highly recommended stop, although the pavilion is very beautiful (a remake from when it was a victim of arson).

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The Rock Garden of Daisen-In Temple – Although the extensive rock gardens were astonishing, the Zen Buddhist mantras written on the walls will stick with me for years to come. 490 years ago, Kogaku- Zenji, not only founded this temple, he wrote compassionate words that we can help guide every individual. The characters below are translated to the following: Have a long mind, soft heart, no anger (sideways character for stomach), small mouth (do not speak too much and never speak poorly of others) and this will lead to a long life.

A variety of this mantra ends with 2 different characters: you (written largely) and me (written extremely small), signifying the importance of always putting others before yourself.

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Nijo-jo Castle – Built in 1603, this was the official Kyoto residence of the first Tokugawa Shogun or samurai. The elegant and simple architectural style and art was favored among the warrior class and today is a world heritage site.

Here, I learned where the phrase “not my cup of tea” came from, and it was not what I was expecting. The Shogun of the time would have hundreds of concubines and when a concubine brought him a cup of tea that he was not interested in, he would simply say “not my cup of tea” and another concubine would be sent to him…

Bamboo Forest – Walk for a half mile surrounded by near hundred foot tall bamboo stalks. Although this tourist stop was crowded, it was a pretty site to see. Each of these stalks grow to their maximum height within a month and die within 20 years. Did you know an entire matcha whisk is made from a single piece of bamboo?

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Gion Distrcict – In the evening we explored the Gion Distrcict where we got a glimpse of the old city and searched for geishas. This is a beautiful quaint area where old geisha schools and homes have been turned into restaurants and stores.

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Hakone- Yumoto

Hot Springs – The town of Hakone is known for it’s natural hot springs. Stay at any hotel and enjoy a variety of hot spring pools overlooking lush green mountains. The pools are always nude and divided by gender. Make sure to follow others, as there are many traditions involved in this process! Wear a kimono to the bath area, the left side should always be on top before you tie it closed, sit on a bench and use a bucket to rinse your body before entering the pools, do not bring a large towel into the pool area, etc.

While in Hakone we decided to take the public bus to Lake Ashi, where we took a boat ride to Tokaido. The lake, volcano and old cedar forest were beautiful, however could have been enjoyed in other more outdoorsy ways.

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Tokyo

Harajuku Street – This “fashion district” is about 7 blocks long, extremely crowded and is must see while in Toyko! This was everything I imagined and more! Wander inside shops with pink fluffy platform sneakers and full leather/ chain costumes. Spot girls dressed head to toe in the weirdest styles with hair extensions and fake contacts. All in the name of fashion, right? This was extremely fun and the street was lined with sweets, including: crepes, boba and mochi.

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Head to Shibuya, the busiest intersection in the world. Hack: Starbucks (of course) is located on the corner of this intersection and if you walk up to the second floor you will have a overview of the hundreds of people crossing from every direction. Explore this area for food and young culture.

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When all you have to do is hit the vegetarian button…

The best meal I had in Japan and the best sushi I’ve had in my life. We went to Sushi Aoyagi, which is inside of the Tokyo Station Hotel and indulged in real sushi (not cheap!). If you have ever seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this was a similar experience. You order combinations that include matcha tea, miso soup, and x number of pieces. I assume the fish served is based on the season and availability at the market. Most pieces are served individually and you are advised how to eat it. For example, “This piece of squid has a pinch of seasoned salt on it, so do not eat it with soy sauce.” Although a vegetarian, the only fish I have come to enjoy is raw tuna. Nick enjoyed a variety of fish but I only had the tuna, which was the richest, and softest tuna I have ever tasted. It literally melted in my mouth.

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Despite having to wake up at 2 am, my only regret is not having a chance to see the fish market. This is just another reason to return to Japan, right? Nick and I used our JR passes to get to the Tokyo Station where we hopped onto the Narita Express Train, which took us directly to the airport. Besides the Burlington or Harrisburg Airport, this was the easiest commute to an airport we have ever experienced. The train runs almost every 15 minutes and is easy, clean and efficient.

Now we are off to Mongolia. I am so excited to embark on a new adventure but am nervous, as I have no idea what to expect. My mind is open and my fingers are crossed.

Japan by Rail

Japan overview, thus far…

  • Do not J-walk in Japan.
  • Automatic doors in stores, on trains and on buses, must be opened and closed by the press of a long button usually located on your right.
  • There are 7-11s everywhere, offering a variety of great rice balls and mochi.
  • Japan is extremely clean, however you’ll have a hard time trying to track down a trashcan in a public area.
  • Prices are comparable to that of the states.
  • We purchased a Japan Rail Pass which made traveling extremely easy. The stations (especially in Koyoto and Toyko) are the size of large shopping malls. They have everything you may need, boutiques, restaurants, beauty stores, dug stores, etc.
  • Vending machines and bakeries are extremely popular and make for the perfect breakfast. Get a cold can of black coffee from the vending machine and try a variety of pastries from a local bakery.

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Osaka

We arrived in Osaka at 15:45 and thought we would get to downtown by dinnertime. The subway ended up getting very delayed (supposedly unusual for Japan) at Otori station. After 90 minutes of delay and the sun setting we decided to catch a cab. The entire ordeal ended up costing $20 per person, still cheaper than the $120 a cab would have cost from the airport. People were extremely helpful but still no one seemed to know what was going on, however there was suspicion of a suicide.

Mt. Koyasan

The next morning we took 3 trains, a cable car and a bus to arrive at the town of Koyosan. The public bus dropped us off at the Ekoin (hotel monastery) and we were so impressed with the efficiency of the public transit (definitely proved yesterday was a fluke). After dropping our bags off and getting the details on town from the extremely helpful staff we left to explore the world heritage site!

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We first went to the Kongobuji Temple, the headquarters of Koyosan Shingon-shu Buddhism. There we saw the beautiful rock gardens, intricately painted sliding doors and observed devote monks. The enormous cedar trunks that build the rafters of temple were unlike any structure I had ever seen.

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The next stop was the Sacred Center of Shingon Buddhism, a multi stupa complex dominated by the orange Konpon Daito. When entering the stupas you purify yourself with rubbing a pinch of ground cloves in your hands, an invigorating smell.

After exploring, we returned to Ekoin for some Ajikan meditation and training. We both found it very challenging but immediately felt the calming and centering affects. Hopefully this is something we can practice more in the year to come.

We had a traditional Shojin Ryori cuisine, which included sesame tofu (extremely soft, unlike any tofu prepared in the states), miso soup, potato jelly, noodles, frozen tofu, radish, wheat gluten, salted plums, and rice. While very unique and strange to us, it was still delicious and we ate it all.

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In the morning we went to the Buddhist morning prayer and a fire ceremony conducted by the monks. There was meaning in every signal movement, object, tool, prayer and sound. While we respected and admired the amount of superstition, it was unfathomable. However, siting in a tiny building with 30 people burning a large fire listing to monks chant was uplifting and beautiful.

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The final stop in Koyasan was the Okunoin, a large cemetery with over 200,000 tombs. We started on the Sando approach with many tombs of ordinary people, samurais and past emperors dating back over a thousand years. The end of the cemetery was the moralism of Kobo Daishi the founder of Shingon Buddhism in Japan, which reached eternal meditation in 835. The moss and pine bouquets accentuated the 500-year-old tombs. Some companies even had tombstones for their employees. An extermination company had a tombstone dedicated to all of the termites that have been killed and wishing them peace!

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Hiroshima

We traveled from Koyasan to Osaka then to Osaka to Hiroshima via the bullet train. This is such an efficient, reliable and comfortable form of transportation.

Our first stop was the Hirsoshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park. We walked through the museum with heavy hearts. We learned the story of Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who died of leukemia as a result of the bomb blast despite folding 1,000 origami paper cranes to appeal to the gods to make her well. Now, individuals fold cranes and leave them at her memorial wishing for world peace. We also saw the frame of the Gembaku Dome, the sole building to withstand the explosion. Words cannot explain our experience; you must experience it for yourself.

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A memorial for Sadako Sasaki
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A painting of a dead mother and child in running position
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Gemmaku Dome – the only building to withstand the explosion

We took a ferry to Miyajima Island, explored the Itsukushima shinto shrine and explored the beautiful daishoin temple. This was the first temple that I saw specially worshiping the Dalai Lama. We saw a beautiful sand mandala and explored little shrine caves. We decided to hike up Mt Misen (approximately 2.5 km each way), and was rewarded by a beautiful overlook of Hiroshima. There were many locals visiting the island dressed in traditions kimonos for the festival and fireworks.

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Nick adding a rock to a cairn on top of Mt Misen

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We ended the night eating Okonomiyaki, and learned that “hibachi” was created by westerns. Okonomiyaki is the closest dish cooked similarly to that of hibachi. This was a like a pancake make with egg noodles, crepe, egg, oyster sauce, cabbages, tempura crumbs, green onion, and/ or seafood. It was one of the most delicious meals I had in Japan.

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Stay tuned for a post on Kyoto and Tokyo! ps. if you have any helpful feedback on how we could better organize/present this blog, we’d love to hear it!

Shanghai Shenanigans

Maglev – This is the fastest train on earth. We were able to cut a 45 minute train ride to 8 minutes by taking this magnetic levitation train. We hit 180 mph (300 km/hr) and it only cost 50 yuan (~$8). On the weekend they run it at “top speed” which is 400-600 km/hr. A must do in Shanghai; it saves time, is cheap and is very simple out of the airport. *So maybe not the most flattering photo haha but at least you can see our speed, 301 km/ 187 mph.

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Lu bo Lang restaurant and the Yuyuan Garden – Great dim sum restaurant just before the entrance to the Yuyuan Garden. There are many great dishes but the room temp spare ribs were definitely a highlight along with the water crest soup. At this point in the trip we have seen some gardens and great architecture but this was above and beyond. Every single corner was immaculately done. There were pebble lined walkways with matching stones, highlighted by carved walls with wooden statued Windows. One of the most impressive to me were the natural root furniture and rock art.

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Shanghai   Museum – Usually when you go to a museum in the states you might cover 400 years of history on one subject, at most. However, this museum covered over 5000 years at times, with specialized exhibits in ancient Chinese bronze, paints, seals, jade, currency and dress. We spent just an hour an a half here but could have spent a full day with time. If you enjoy any of these subjects or museums in general I highly suggest dedicating the time.

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Thousand Buddhist Stele, A.D. 557 – 581

Bund – Although crowded we lucked our with our first truly clear day and a great view of the world’s second to largest building.

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Explore – On our last night in Shanghai we decided to explore the “real” city. We ended up in the Laoximen residential district, waking past old women doing tai chi, a commercial movie set and many less crowded streets. We stumbled apron a local restaurant that looked very clean and had a very nice young man order some delicious noodles. Three meals, dumplings and drinks cost 68 yuan (~$10). Don’t be afraid to check out the less touristy areas just be mindful of your surroundings!

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Xi’an & Guilin

Xi’an

Xi’an is a young city, home of dumplings and noodles. There is an enormous amount of ancient culture and history in the “small” city of 9 million people. The smog is similar to that of Beijing, and the summer months (July and August) are busy with Chinese tourists. As you know, Nick and I are spending most of our time in the cities of China and hitting the major tourist stops. This is not how we will be traveling for the rest of Asia, however beneficial in many aspects.

Weijia – Great “fast food” noodle shop with over 300 locations in Xi’an. It has high quality food and is open 24/7. You can get a meal for 10 Yuan ($1.50 USD) and can easily point to photos to order.

Terracotta Soldiers – With 30,000 visitors a day the terracotta soldiers are insanely crowded but as the locals say “the 8th wonder of the world” and worth the chaos nonetheless. The culture and history of the soldiers in the 3 pits are astounding. With a love for pottery it is remarkable to see the life size soldiers being recreated and sold, especially knowing it took multiple years to create one solider with the technology of 2,200 years past. These soldiers were made during the Qin (Chin) Dynasty, and my family name Chin is now a relatively uncommon name in China. Therefore, it’s interesting to think that although unlikely, my family may have ties to the first emperor of China.

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Although Qin’s clay army remains impressive it pales in comparison to a more recent discovery. Emperor Qin had over 8,000 life sized terracotta soldiers buried to protect him in the afterlife, however 50 years later, during the Han dynasty, 100,000 soldiers, concubines, eunuchs, and animals were buried to protect a later emperor. These were much smaller statuettes with wooden arms. They have opened a number of pits (182 have been found) and although we only saw about 10 other visitors, I can only imagine how popular this site will become in a number of years.

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As a female, I understand that I need to keep an open mind to other traditions and cultures. However, I want to share something that I found extremely interesting. For every 1 emperor (don’t forget we are talking over 2,000 years ago) he would have about 3,000 concubines. It was an honor to serve as a concubine, however when the emperor died, whichever concubine did not have the opportunity to bear a child with him, would be been buried alive to serve him in his afterlife.

Tea Tip – Ku Chao Cha, is a sweet buckwheat tea that tastes similar to Japanese Genmai Cha. This is a must try and available at the Old Xi’an Restaurant.

City Wall of Xi’an – Although touristy, it is worth walking or biking on top of the 8-mile city wall of Xi’an. Enjoy views of the old city and various Buddhist temples.

Tang Dynasty Cultural Performance – Anyone interested in traditional music, clothing, and dance should check this out. Although it’s a little cheesy and overpriced, it may be interesting to some. For us, it felt too expensive.

The Dumpling House – If you have the opportunity to visit a traditional dumping house, be sure to try the 18 dumpling banquet, where chicken dumplings look like chickens, pork dumplings look like pigs, duck dumplings look like ducks and vegetarian dumplings are green. Tip: combine soy, vinegar, oil, cilantro, and chili sauce for the best dumpling dipping sauce.

Daming Palace Ceramics Art Museum – Any potter would be in awe by this museum. We are so lucky to have bumped into the curator who introduced us to the unique properties of Song dynasty porcelains. We viewed ceramics that were 2,000- 7,000 years old and learned how to identify the dynasty the ceramics came from. The most popular, “typical Chinese design”, white porcelain pieces with blue designs, come from the Song Dynasty about 1,200 years ago! All of the pieces have been discovered from mausoleums of various emperors. There is so much talent in the museum and I have such a deep respect for these artists. *We started discussing bound feet with the curator and she was generous enough to show us her ADULT grandmother’s shoe from 1911 (see photo below).

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Muslim Quarter – A bustling pedestrian street with tons of street food (lamb, sweet sticky rice on a stick, Turkish ice cream, taffy, pomegranate juice, and fried crab).

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Guilin

Although China is often associated with rice, it is only the primary crop in the south. Here they use rice flower to make a variety of noodles, deserts and buns. The Chinese cook similar foods in the north, however they are made with wheat.

Zhengyang Pedestrian Street- I found the most unique fruits in Guilin and enjoyed eating jackfruit, mangosteen, durian, rambutan, passion fruit, longun, and “Guilin yellow berries”. Unfortunately, we missed lychee season by 1 month. We strolled down the pedestrian street while munching on fruit and Nick enjoyed bbq oysters. The end of the street leads you to a lake and pagoda.

Yangshuo – We enjoyed views of stunning limestone karsts on a 4-hour boat ride from Guilin to Yangshuo; iconic to the Chinese landscape, these same mountains adorned my childhood from the walls of the home where I grew up. The town of Yangshuo is small, however definitely targeted toward tourists. Nick and I have researched this area, as it’s known for it’s climbing. We plan to return to southern China at the end of our trip to climb in Yangshuo and later visit my grandparent’s village.

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Cloud 9 Cooking Class – Exploring the local market was quite the experience. As a vegetarian, it was definitely hard seeing the dogs, rabbits and other local livestock being butchered. However, the actual cooking class was a blast, and Nick even managed to make good-looking food.

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Guilin Tea Science & Research Institute – Outside Guilin, we visited an organic tea plantation where every step of the production process is done traditionally by hand. This is a must do for any tea lover. We sat in on a traditional Chinese tea ceremony and enjoyed Osmanthus tea, Liu Bao Compressed Tea, High Mountain Yellow Tea and a variety of oolongs. Do you know it takes 50,000 tea needles to make a half-kilo of white tea? I’ll make a more detailed blog post specifically detailing this process later, because everyone wants to know more about tea, right?

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Yao Mountain – This is the highest peak in Guilin, reaching 903.3 meters. If you want some exercise, take an easy and straightforward hike up to the top. Don’t bother paying to take the gondola up, in the end; it’s all targeted toward tourists. However, it was enjoyable watching over 200 people take photos of and with Nick, the white guy, also referred to as a “hello”. Maybe I should start a business, 10 Yuan for a photo with Nick?

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Beijing

Highlights of Beijing 

There is so much to do in Beijing and as usual with travel you only have so much time to explore. We chose to do most of the tourist highlights in Beijing as they are so important to Chinese culture and political history. We were not expecting Beijing to be so crowded as the weather is very hot in July, however we soon discovered that it was tourist season for the Chinese because students are out of school. The public transit is very reliable and we felt safe the entire time. Taxis were cheap, Uber was easy and the subway was extremely clean. People were very friendly but very few spoke any English. Feel free to just scroll for pictures as we all know that’s the best part!

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Tiananmen Square and The Forbidden City 

Both locations were very busy but the process for buying tickets and navigating the area was very simple and streamlined. It was interesting to see how important these two sites were to the Chinese for both spiritual and political reasons. Many people travel very long distances to see the tomb of Mao and to take pictures with his portrait in the background. Many people also struck the door on the gate to the Forbidden City with coins until it stuck without sliding. They did this to bring good luck to their family.

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Portrait of Mao
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Forbidden City

Summer Palace

The Summer Palace is gorgeous and relaxing. Spend time reading or walking as it is the only nice to get out of the city and in nature. If you want to splurge rent a peddle boat on the lake. The lake and mountain are both man made for the palace.
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Pandas! I would obviously rather see animals in the wild and I understand the controversy of zoos, but I had to respect the effort being done to protect pandas in a developing country. With the limited time we had we wished we had spent it some where else in the end.
Great Wall (Mutianyu Section)

Everyone goes to the Great Wall, but after we saw pictures of how busy it was in other sections we were so glad we made it to this one. It was more expensive and hard to get to as there is no public transit. Sharing a über and hiking instead of taking the gondola can make it much more reasonable. Bring lots of water as they will rip you off at the wall! The wall is very well maintained near the gondola but walking left up large hill allows views of what it really looks like after thousands of years!

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Great Wall of China

Wangfujing Market

Last minute decision to go on our last night and so glad we did! So many weird and delicious foods to choose from. It looked sketchy but did not bother our stomachs. We did not have the courage to try any bugs or reptiles yet! Sorry, but here is a hint of what we saw: scorpion, tarantula, cicada, centipede, gecko, snake, starfish, seahorse, cricket, mealworms, lizard, and starfish.

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Temple of Heaven

We were fortunate to get a mini lesson on tai chi in the park. Very beautiful and nice to get out in the green after the city. Check out the old men working out and swinging upside down on the park bars. So impressive!

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Drum Tower and Hutong 

Hutong is the old quarter of the city and is a sneak peak into how people have lived for hundreds of years. If you can try to get a meal with a local family or least tour a courtyard. While it might look like a run down neighborhood it was clear the people loved and cherished the homes their families had owned for generations. This was definitely a highlight in Beijing.

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Courtyard in Hutong

Feel free to contact us with any questions on Beijing and thanks for checking out our blog!

What to Pack for a Year in Asia

No matter who you are, where you are going or for how long, everyone requires different supplies. Nick and I spent a year in Asia and had to pack warm clothes and camping gear for Mongolia and cool clothes and climbing gear for Southeast Asia. Again, you have to pack what makes you comfortable, but here are some helpful tips and our favorite brands. Always remember, you can leave items behind and pick up new treasures. Be flexible.

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Guidebooks – Lonely Planet is our favorite, and they have great phrasebooks too. Remember to do research before you leave (checkout guidebooks from your local library to save money) or download the electronic versions to save space when packing.

Packs – Try on various packs to see what works best for you. I am carrying a Deuter Traveler 55 L +10 L daypack. This backpack has the ability to zip up into a duffel, zips around the bag for easy access and has an attached daypack. Nick is using the Osprey Aether 85L with a small daypack that straps onto the front. He also purchased a Sea to Summit waterproof duffel / rain cover to use when flying and in rainy weather. Don’t forget luggage tags so you can track down lost luggage.

*Both of our bags weigh 35 pounds, however as we travel we will constantly be gaining and shedding weight.

Clothing – Always think about how you can layer your clothing and try to wear loose fitting clothing. If you wear leggings, make sure you have a tunic or something that covers your butt. I favor merino wool as I love the natural benefits of wool and synthetic quick drying materials as washing will be frequent.

4 pants – 2 Outdoor Research trekking pants, leggings, and rain pants.

6 tops – 2 merino wool tank tops, 1 merino wool short sleeve shirt, 1 linen tunic, 1 Patagonia sun shirt, and 1 fleece

2 jackets – 1 down puffy and 1 rain jacket

2 shoes – Chacos and trekking boots

1 black patagonia maxi dress

3 of each underwears – 3 Point6 merino wool socks, 3 exofficio underwear bottoms, 3 sport bras and 2 bathing suits.

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Accessories – sarong, bandana (use over your mouth for pollution, over your eyes to sleep or as a wash cloth), fake wedding bands, and a watch.

Med Kit – We are brining 2 small med kits. 1 kit has individually labeled and bagged emergency items we hope to infrequently use and the other has easily accessible compartments for frequent use.

Emergency Med Kit –

Emergency- Quick clot EMS rolled gauze, scissors to remove clothing, Latex gloves, ammonia inhalant, large emergency trauma dressing, and burn gel.

Survival – Whistle, lighter, hand warmers, peanut butter, waterproof matches, wax treated cotton balls, aqua tabs, compass, and a foil blanket.

Prescriptions – See your doctor for what best suites you, however consider Malaria meds, altitude meds, antibiotics (wound, GI, and respiratory), pain meds (for my herniated back), yeast infection meds (incase you take an antibiotic) and of course, make sure you are up to date on all vaccines. We went to our local VNA, which has a travel department and got all vaccines that were recommended (Japanese Encephalitis, Rabies, Typhoid, etc.)

Preventative- World Health Organization oral rehydration salts, Probiotics, and Emergen- C

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Everyday Med Kit –

Medications – Aleve, Immodium, DayQuill and NightQuill, Dulcolax, Peptobismol, and Pepcid AC

Accessories – Thermometer and eye drops

Skin Care – Hydrocortisone cream, anti itch (Triamcinolone Acetonide), and antibiotic ointment (Mupirocin)

Wound Care – Various Band- Aids, blister specific Band-Aids, tweezers, razor blade, butterfly bandages, Moleskin, gauze, alcohol prep pads, and a small roll of duct tape.

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Camping – International MSR WhistperLite stove, MSR micro Water filter, cooking pot, sporks, fuel can, tin mug, Therm-A-Rest Z-lite sleeping pads, Nalgenes, MSR dromedary, knife, Big Agnes lightweight tent and sleeping bags (Steamboat, represent).

Climbing – 2 black diamond harnesses, 1 60 m rope (70m is not necessary and a 30m is good for most), 13 quick draws, 1 guide ATC, 1 GriGri, 1 ATC, comfy multi pitch shoes, tight single pitch shoes, 2 anchor systems and chalk bags. *We are fortunate enough to have people meeting us in Vietnam with our climbing gear, however look into ways to store your gear when it’s not necessary (hostels, lockers at airports or expensive shipping). Anyone have any suggestions how to trad climb in Asia, as the gear was too heavy for us to bring.

Sleep – Earplugs, sleeping bag liner, mosquito net, pillowcase, inflatable neck pillow (great for long bus or train rides).

Electronics – Camera (GoPro and Refurbished Leica D-Lux), phones, charges, extra batteries, goal zero battery pack, solar charge, and laptop (I choose to bring it to keep our blog up to date and edit photos).

Safety – Locks, rubber door stop and pepper spray.

Toiletries – Quick wick towel, Dr. Bronners (all in 1 soap, shampoo, conditioner & laundry detergent), contacts, 2 pairs of glasses (make sure you have access to your prescriptions), contact solution, contact case, retainer (we are nerds), 2 pairs of glasses, tooth paste, 1 shared toothbrush (we have no hygiene standards), floss (the dentist told us to floss more), Ben’s bug spray, hand sanitizer, hair ties, brush, nail clippers, wet wipes, and sunscreen.

TIPS & TRICKS – When you are doing a homestay it is always nice to be able to give something back. Nick and I are brining toothbrushes (Global Grins) and maple candies. We are also bringing a fabric Frisbee, hacky sack and a small photo album to create shared experiences.

* Don’t pack prescription pills in bottles; pack them in small zip lock bags with your prescription label visible inside.

* If you have bad eyes, pack 2 glasses in 1 case. I brought my glasses, a backup pair, prescription sunglasses and sunglasses and fit them in 2 cases.

*Make copies of your passport photos to bring with you, and remember, you will probably need 2 photos per visa.

*A lot of my friends who have spent long periods of time in Asia suggested we buy cheap fake wedding bands as some hotels and hostels won’t house single females or non-married couples.

*Spray key clothing items with permethrin spray (insect repellent) – good for 6 washes

* In order to utilize space, don’t forget to use packing cubes (we like Eagle Creek) and stuff your trekking boots.

* Cut the handle off of your hairbrush to save the absolutely necessary 2 inches of space…or not.

* Wrap duct tape around your Nalgene for emergencies.

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Before You Go…

Vaccines, prescription medications, visas, evacuation insurance (MedJet Assist), and Google Drive. Make a checking account with Charles Schwab (no ATM fees) and apply for a Chase Sapphire credit card (no foreign transaction fees).

Create a Google Drive folder that you can share with your family. Include copies of important documents, visas, flight receipts, a budget, prescriptions, and an itinerary. Before you go, download these documents to your device so that you can access them even when you don’t have access to wifi. You can store photos on this drive so you never have to worry about losing them.

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