It’s easy to dwell on everything that is not going well in 2020, plans that fell through and things we don’t get to do. Since it was Thanksgiving last week, I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon of everyone reflecting on the things they are grateful for. Here are my 5 things:


I’m not just thankful to have them but that so far, everyone is staying healthy.


I’m really grateful for having so many lovely people in my life across the world. Right now, I’m especially grateful for our Shanghai friends who will make sure I don’t just cry straight through Christmas but actually enjoy the holidays.


I love living in Shanghai – it’s a great place with so much to do, see, explore and eat. I appreciate it even more in 2020. Besides a short sort of lockdown after CNY, things have been pretty normal here. We’re going out, dining out, meeting friends and just living life. If it weren’t for the masks in public transport and other public places, you’d hardly know there is a pandemic going on.


Seeing family and my friends abroad, living in Shanghai and Covid don’t really go together, so getting together in person is not possible. Therefore, I love WeChat, E-Mails and Instagram more than ever because it let’s me stay connected across borders and time zones. While our family video calls may be a bit chaotic, they are really fun and it’s great being able to chat up and see each other in real time.

Thanksgiving festivities

Finally, I’m thankful for the 2 fantastic Thanksgivings we were invited to. The food was almost as excellent as the company. We don’t just have great friends but friends who are great hosts and cooks 🙂 Both potlucks were really fun and the food just as yummy as what we enjoyed last year with my host family in Arizona.

China Travels: Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La

China Travels: Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La

Tiger Leaping Gorge

After exploring Kunming, Dali and Lijiang, it was time for some nature and hiking, so we went to Tiger Leaping Gorge and embarked on a two-day hike. Tiger Leaping Gorge is a 15 km long canyon with a depth of almost 3,800 m. Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is on one side and Haba Snow Mountain on the other, separated by a river. The name of the Gorge comes from a legend, which claims a tiger escaped its hunter be leaping across the river – after seeing the mountains, gorge and river, I’m quite impressed by the tiger! 😉

Hike Day 1: Start / Naxi Guesthouse – Tea Horse Guesthouse

A driver picked us up in Lijiang and brought us to the beginning of the Gorge to buy tickets. While Thorben, Tim and Freddy started hiking from there, I took a little short-cut and had the driver drop me at Naxi guesthouse to start the hike. I was told the first part was not as nice anyway and since I hadn’t recovered from the cold completely, it seemed like a good idea. Steph was so nice to accompany me and deal with my very slow hiking.

I don’t know if it was the altitude, the remainder of the cold or my general fitness state (or all of the above), but the hike and especially the 28 bends were brutal. A lady with a horse sensed my weakness and followed us for an hour trying to get me to take a ride. Thankfully, she gave up, otherwise I might have eventually caved 😉 After the big climb, it was really beautiful! We had great views and the rest of the hike to the guesthouse was really enjoyable.

Our guesthouse had an amazing terrace with beautiful views, where we reunited with the rest of the crew plus 4 friends from Shanghai.

Hike Day 2: Tea Horse Guesthouse – Tina’s

On the second day, the guys started hiking a bit earlier, because they wanted to add on another hike down to the river at the end. I decided to join our friends from Shanghai and hike at a more moderate pace. The second day was even more beautiful than the first – pictures really don’t do it justice. The gorge is massive! It was a really nice hike with lots of beautiful scenery, waterfalls, goats, flowers and fresh air … and most importantly, not too many inclines, just a lot of going down at the end.

After lunch at Tina’s, the guest house where most people finish the hike, we continued on to Shangri-La, our last stop.


Old Town

Our first day in Shangri-La was mostly rainy, so we hung out in a Café in the Old Town until the afternoon and had breakfast, lunch and tea there while playing card games. It was quite the relaxed day. In the afternoon, we walked around a bit and also explored some more the next day. For food, we tried Yak burgers – tasty, just like a beef burger – and had some Tibetan barbecue. The town itself is made mostly out of wood which really gives it a mountain feel. Most of the buildings are rebuilt because of a big fire in 2014. They did a good job, it’s very pretty!

Songzanlin Monestary

On the second day in Shangri-La, the weather was much nicer, so we headed to Songzanlin Monestary. There is a lake to walk around and get some pretty views with reflections. When we went inside to explore the different buildings and temples, it cleared up even more – the bluest sky I’ve seen in a while. What a beautiful place!

After another taxi and train ride, we arrived back in Kunming for some more Yunnan food and of course Snicker’s ice cream at Salvador’s. Yunnan was really beautiful, and tasty. I’m glad we got the chance to cross it off the China bucket list!

China Travels: Dali & Lijiang

China Travels: Dali & Lijiang

And back to the October holiday travel recap …


Our next stop was Dali, a two hour high speed train ride from Kunming. It has a beautiful ancient town, is close to Erhai Lake and mountain ranges and home to the 3 Pagodas. We spent 2 days exploring and loved it.

Three Pagodas

After lunch on our first day, we headed to the Three Pagodas, which are within walking distance from the Ancient Town. We found out soon that the Pagodas are just a part of the attraction – they belong to the Chong Shen Monastery, which has several layers of temples, pavilions and Buddha statues. At the top, the view of the temples with Erhai Lake as a backdrop is breathtaking. Really worth the trip!  

Dali Ancient Town

The rest of our time in Dali was spent wandering around the streets and drinking tea while reading. It is a beautiful place and we especially enjoyed it because it was not so crowded yet, maybe due to us staying there before the official start of Golden Week. The bright blue skies didn’t hurt either 🙂

We also really enjoyed trying different local foods (and many more rose cakes) and listening to live music, which almost every place had in the evening.


Another 2.5 hour train ride later, we arrived in Lijiang, the most famous town in Yunnan. As I usually do on vacation, I got a cold, so while the rest of the crew explored nearby Shuhe Old Town, I stayed at the hotel on the first and most of our second day in town.

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain

Jade Dragon Snow Mountain is one of the most famous attractions in Lijiang. It’s a mountain range with several peaks, the highest is at 5,596 m. There a many things to do, such as taking a cable car to different view points, watching a show by Yunnan’s ethnic minorities or seeing the Blue Moon Valley.

Yak Meadow

We opted for the least crowded cable car option and took one to Yak Meadow. Yak Meadow is at an altitude of around 3,700 meters and has a beautiful view of the mountain peak on a clear day. Unfortunately, we had a cloudy day, so the mountain stayed hidden in the clouds. We did a hike around the meadow, saw some Yaks and a small temple.

Blue Moon Valley

Also located in the scenic area is Blue Moon Valley. The White Water River flowing through the valley looks very blue and makes for great photo ops. We saw several brides and grooms getting their pictures taken. Despite the clouds and drizzle, it was still beautiful.

Lijiang Ancient Town

Lijiang Ancient Town, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is over 1000 years old and has lots of pretty buildings, alleys, waterways and bridges. It’s quite commercial with lots of not so traditional shops and crowded with tourists. Nonetheless, it is beautiful and we were able to get away from the crowds sometimes to enjoy the scenery, flowers and restored buildings.

Black Dragon Pool

On our last day, we went to Black Dragon Pool. You get a picture perfect view with a reflecting pond, pavilion, temple, white bridge and the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background. It was much more quiet than the Old Town, so a great spot to stroll around or just sit down and relax. Probably my favorite spot in Lijiang.

China Travels: Kunming, Yunnan

China Travels: Kunming, Yunnan

October = Golden Week = Time to travel!

Due to the current circumstances we couldn’t leave the country, but thankfully, travel within China is still pretty unrestricted and China is huge with many beautiful regions. For this year’s October Holiday we picked Yunnan, a province in the Southwest of China. It’s a mountainous region with beautiful landscapes, home to different ethnic groups and borders Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. There is lots to see and do, so we planned a 2 week trip covering Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge and Shangri-La. The first and last stop of our two week trip was Yunnan’s capital Kunming.

Green Lake Area and Yunnan Food

A taxi ride, a 3.5 hour flight and another taxi ride later, most of our travel crew arrived at our hotel, close to the Green Lake in Kunming. We started the trip right – by trying lots of delicious local food at Heavenly Manna. Mashed potatoes, eggs, mushrooms, goat cheese, beef … exactly what you need after a day of travel. After that, we walked around the Green Lake to make room for dessert, which we found at our designated Kunming Hangout spot, Salvador’s, where we went for breakfast, tea, snacks and drinks pretty much every morning and night we were in town. Can’t go wrong with Snickers ice cream and bagels!

Wild Animal Park

The Wild Animal Park was recommended to me by a local guide as a quiet place with lots of nature and animals. We spent a few hour wandering around and getting sunburned (that was mostly me). Some areas looked like the depressing parts of a zoo, others were quite nice with lots of space and well taken care of animals. My highlights were feeding a giraffe and some very hungry raccoons. They also had pandas and red pandas, which are so fun to watch 🙂

Yunnan in a Bowl

All that walking made us hungry, which was perfect, because for the evening, we had a food tour on the agenda. Our guide Joy from Yunnan in a bowl took us around town, showed us some sights and most importantly, made sure we tried lots and lots of local specialties.

We started with Bridge Noodle Soup, picked up spicy pickled fruit at our second stop and sweet mystery dessert plus fried potatoes cakes at a little stand in a market street. Our next sit down stop was a bit more adventurous: besides sprouts, beef and lotus root, we also tried stinky tofu (not as bad as it smells) and pig’s brain – surprisingly small and actually pretty tasty. Next up: Fried tofu, thankfully not stinky, and a yummy rice cake dish.

After a bit of a walk, seeing 2 pagodas and part of the city wall, we went for noodles and wontons, one of the best things on the tour, which we went for again on our last night of the trip. Our final stop was at a busy local place, where we had veggies with ham, grandma’s mashed potatoes, beans, fried goat cheese and some maggots and grasshoppers. The maggots just tasted like oil and the grasshoppers were not too bad actually 😉

Dessert is not pictured but was delicious: Kunming rose cakes! It was a challenge to find room for it but we managed 😉

Shilin/ Stone Forest Scenic Area

About 90 km from Kunming is an area which has a lot of limestone formations called Shilin or Stone Forest. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site, so we took a day trip to see it. In the beginning it looked a bit like Disneyland for stones with nicely manicured lawns and wide, paved paths.

When we wandered more inside, it became a lot more quiet and rugged with lots of small trails and things to explore. It was really cool to see the different stones and formations (spot the elephant, the mushroom and the phoenix!) and besides getting a lot of steps in, we also took many cool pictures. Really worth the drive!

After some more ice cream at Salvador’s, we headed to our next stop Dali in the morning.