China Travels: Dali & Lijiang

China Travels: Dali & Lijiang

And back to the October holiday travel recap …

Dali

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.

Lijiang

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.

Summer Vacation 2020: Hello again Sanya

Summer Vacation 2020: Hello again Sanya

Like most people’s summer vacation stories this year, ours also starts with “Well, I wanted to do X, but Covid …”

In my case, I wanted to fly to Germany and spend 2 weeks visiting family and friends but Covid didn’t let me. China still has a 2 week mandatory quarantine for anyone coming back plus (until the end of the month) all visas becomes invalid when leaving China. Therefore, we had to stay put and decided to go to Sanya again. While I would have loved to go home, relaxing by the pool and beach for a week is not a bad option 🙂

Dadonghai Bay

The first part of our trip was spent at Dadonghai Bay. We loved our hotel, private little patio and having happy hour and breakfast with an ocean view. The pools were amazing as well, one had sand on the bottom and there was always shade thanks to lots of palm trees. It was pure bliss.

Haitang Bay

For the second part part of our vacation, we went back to Haitang Bay. Our room had an amazing view and walking along the beach in the morning and evening was just as nice as it was in May. We also had fun playing at the arcade in our hotel. Not pictures: me losing at whack-a-mole against a maybe 5 year old adorable Chinese girl. We had a bit of rain some afternoons, but overall we still got lots of nice pool and beach time – I think I read 4 books during our trip.

A Moganshan Wedding

A Moganshan Wedding

on 8/8, a lucky date in China, our friends Kwaki and Jason got married in Moganshan. Due to the current situation, their family and friends from abroad couldn’t come to China, so they turned it into a full weekend with the Shanghai crew.

But first things first, of course before a wedding there needs to be a Bachelorette party – so that’s what we did the weekend before in Shanghai.

The Bachelorette Party

Brunch

Kwakis bachelorette Party was an all day affair. We started early with decorations because who doesn’t want a gigantic diamond helium balloon at their party? Also, a champagne brunch, matching shirts and photo props are clearly a must.

Korean Spa

Up next: relaxing and getting pretty! We headed to Koreatown to go to New Star, a Korean Spa. Sauna, soaking in different temperature pools, a scrub that took off at least 2 layers of skin, followed by face masks and chilling made for a great afternoon.

Dinner in Koreatown & Dancing

When in Koreatown, do as Koreans do – to fuel up after an exhausting afternoon of doing mostly nothing, we ate lots of Korean Food and drank soju 🙂 We had a nice seafood dinner, followed by a stroll through a night market. The night ended back downtown with more drinks and dancing – a really fun day!

The Wedding

All dressed up with somewhere to go

A week later, we headed to Moganshan for the big day! The color code of the wedding was beige and sage, which meant a trip to the fabric market for Thorben and some intense taobao shopping for me. The effort was worth it I think, the group pictures turned out really cool.

The first 4 pictures are from Thorben’s camera, all other group, couple and party pictures are from the very talented https://nicolasderouge.com/.