Category: Travel

China Travels: Yangshuo

China Travels: Yangshuo

Originally, I wanted to travel for the first 2 weeks in May. Between my project ending at the end of April, a 5 day holiday in China for May 1st and the big 3-0, it seemed like a great time for a big trip. Plan A was to go to Hawaii, Plan B was Australia and Singapore … Here comes Corona and therefore we were in need of Plan C: The COVID-19 contingency plan.

Luckily, domestic travel is still possible, so we decided to stay in Shanghai for most of the holiday, and then went on a week-long trip to the south of China. Our first of three stops was Yangshuo which is located in Guangxi province. Yangshuo might not ring a bell, but usually Guilin does. Guilin and the surrounding area is famous for its beautiful nature with the Li River and its surrounding karst formations. It’s even on the back of the 20RMB note, that’s how beautiful it is. (Yes, we went to the 20RMB spot like the good tourists we are, picture proof below).

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Our vacation started right as we arrived at the hotel. Built directly next to the river and surrounded by mountains, having breakfast was already the first sightseeing activity of the day.

Big Banyan Tree

To make things easier, we hired a guide to take us around. The first thing she showed us was a 1.500 year old Banyan Tree. It was really cool to see with roots growing everywhere. From further away it looks like several trees, it is truly a Big tree.

Gold Water Cave

Walking up to Gold Water cave was already worth the trip there. The surroundings are amazing (we realized they are pretty much everywhere in Yangshuo) and I really liked the wall art of the local people.

On the inside, Gold Water Cave is basically an explosion of colors. Add a DJ and it would be a unicorn rainbow disco cave πŸ™‚ The formations are beautiful and the cave itself is quite big.

Moon Hill

Moon hill is a pretty formation of karst mountains which we passed on our way to the next stop. It’s called moon hill because the opening in the rock is like a moon which changes based on where you stand. You can hike up but we were promised a better view point the next day, so we just snapped some pictures.

Local market and Xingping Old Town

Up next: a local market with all sorts of interesting foods and stuff. Toys, rice, rat poison, dried tofu, live chickens and ducklings, a hot lunch, plants, produce or a haircut? The market got it covered.

Afterwards, we had lunch in Xingping Old town. I’m not sure how authentic it still is but the streets are definitely pretty. The local food and special eggplant our guide recommended were quite tasty.

20 RMB Spot

No trip to Yangshuo is complete without seeing the beautiful scenery depicted on the back of the 20 RMB note. Obviously you have to take a picture while holding a 20 RMB note. Because of the wonders of WeChat and Alipay we never have any cash but our guide had us covered πŸ™‚

Bamboozle Boat Trip

We didn’t just see the 20 RMB spot from land, we also saw it from the river. A trip on a bamboozle boat down the Li River was the next order of business. Bamboozle boats are made out of plastic pipes shaped like bamboo and have a (very loud) motor. The boat ride isn’t exactly peaceful but the views are amazing.

Impression Sanjie Liu

In the evening we met up with friends from Shanghai who were also in town. Together we went the an impression show which consisted out of lights, music, singers, boatmen and of course the river and the karst mountains. I didn’t understand what was sung, but the show was great nonetheless.

View points

Our second day started with the promised view points. On our way to Xiangong Hill, where you are supposed to have a great view over a bend in the river, we made some photo stops. I don’t know if they have any names but the views were amazing. The landscape around Yangshuo is just incredible to see.

Da Mian Mountain

When we arrived at Xiangong Hill, they told us we couldn’t enter the area because no foreigners are allowed. Thankfully, our guide came up with a Plan B, which meant a much longer hike but in return we were also promised an even prettier view. The climb to the top consisted of lots and lots of stairs and in my case lots of breaks to catch my breath. The view from the top was definitely worth all the efforts. You could see a horseshoe bend in the river and many many mountains. It was truly spectacular.

Jiuxian Ancient Village

After a very sweaty hike, we drove to Jiuxian Village for some lunch and pretty scenery. We had the local specialty, beer fish, which was so tasty we had it again for dinner. After lunch, we took a walk around the pretty village. As with many of the spots we visits, we were almost the only people there, which made it even better.

Bamboo rafting on Yulong River

Besides the amazing views from Da Mian, my favorite activity might have been the bamboo rafting on Yulong River. Rafting might give the wrong impression, as it was a very quiet and serene boat ride for the mot part. Other than the plastic boats with a motor, these little rafts are made out of bamboo and are moved by the boatman with a long bamboo stick and lots of arm muscle. We did go down some little rapids, which was refreshing in the heat (36 degrees!). The scenery was again beautiful and we had even more clear weather that afternoon.

Tea tasting at the tea farm

On our last day, we drove back up into the mountains to visit a tea farm and taste some teas. We learned about white, green and black tea (or red tea as it’s called in Chinese), and tried at least 5 different kinds. It was really relaxed and we may have ended up buying 2 bags full of tea to take home.

And that was Yangshuo, truly a beautiful spot in China!

I’m very glad we went there and were lucky to have such clear weather. To wrap it up, here are some pretty sunset pictures from our trip:

Incredible India – Part II

Incredible India – Part II

After Agra, I thought, that we’d already done the best part and did not expect too much else. While seeing the Taj Mahal and enjoying the Baby Taj in the sunshine was definitely one of my highlights, India had a lot more incredible things in store that blew me away.

So here is the rest of the trip:

Day 4: Fatehpur Sikri, Abhaneri and a Night of Camping

Our next destination was Dhula Village to experience the rural life in India. On the way there we stopped in 2 places to do some more sightseeing.

Fatehpur Sikri

Fatehpur Sikri is a town 40 km away from Agra. It was once the capital of the Mughal Empire for a few years. We went to see the beautiful red sandstone fort, which was built in the 16th century.

Abhaneri

There were three reasons for us to stop in Abhaneri: Lunch, the Chand Baori step well and the Harshat Mata Temple. All three things made for a really worthwhile stop πŸ™‚

Chand Baori Stepwell

The stepwell was another surprise of the trip. I couldn’t really picture anything when Mo started explaining about stepwells and how people used to collect water from it. There are many across the state of Rajasthan and we were told this is one of the biggest and most beautiful ones. It’s almost 20 meter deep and definitely something to look at.

Harshat Mata Temple

The Harshat Mata Temple is a small Hindu temple with lots of beautiful stone carvings. We saw a really cute puppy on the way there which distracted us all a bit. Nevertheless, the temple itself was very pretty and the sight of one of my favorite pictures from the trip – an epic photobomb from my fellow travelers πŸ™‚

Dhula Village Camping

We arrived at our campground around sunset and if I ever camp again, this is definitely the way to do it. The “tents” were like little hotel rooms with individual bathrooms and the whole grounds were really beautiful. Just a really peaceful spot, perfect for an evening around a bonfire and storytelling – which is exactly what we did.

Day 5: Dhula Village Bike Ride, Jaipur City Palace & an Indian Cooking Class

Village Bike Ride

The next morning started bright and early with a 7 am bike ride across fields and through the village. We saw a few peacocks, an owl, beautiful ruins of some sort and in the end stopped at our guide’s house for some chai. While I’m not a fan of biking (or waking up early) it was really worth it.

Jaipur City Palace

After enjoying the more quiet rural life, our next stop was another big city: Jaipur, also known as the pink city. Our first stop there was the City Palace, another, I know I’m overusing the word, beautiful place.

Cooking with a Local Family

Part of our group went straight from the palace to our next optional activity: A cooking class with an Indian family. We got to know a lot about Indian spices, had masala chai, and then helped to make vegetable biryani, Shahi paneer and some other yummy dishes I’ve since forgotten the name of.

Streets of Jaipur

After a crazy tuk tuk ride back to our hotel, Mo took us for a walk around Jaipur. It was really interesting and such a contrast to the forts and palaces: Basically, spices, tuk tuks, food stands, noise, craziness, crowds, and lots of hustle and bustle everywhere. Our night ended on a beautiful rooftop restaurant.

Day 6: Discovering Jaipur and Bollywood Dancing

The next morning, we ventured out for more sightseeing. First up was at the Palace of the Wind, or the facade of it to be precise. It was just a short photo stop but a really pretty one.

Amber Fort

The big sight of the day was the Amber Fort, another one of places that blew me away. It was simply stunning with so much to see … and we got lucky with the weather once again and got to enjoy it with lots of sunshine. Instead of writing more about it, I’ll just upload lots of pictures. As always, I took way too many.

On our way back, we made another photo stop, this time at the Water Palace, which is in the middle of a lake.

Bollywood Dancing

To get the full India experience, Mo set up an hour long Bollywood Dance class for us in the afternoon, and it was so much fun. We learned a minute long choreography which we videoed at the end. So far, watching it has not failed to make me laugh πŸ™‚ Here is a poor resolution screenshot compilation:

Day 7: Bike Tour through Jaipur and back to Delhi

Jaipur Morning Bike Tour

The next morning was another really early wake up call because our Jaipur bike tour started at 6:30 am. It was a pretty wild tour. We fed cows, had chai, saw the Albert Hall Museum at sunrise, went to a flower market, joined the morning chanting at a temple and then a sort of laughing yoga circle in a park, ate pakoras and drank fresh lassis … and all of that in the span of 3 hours. Definitely a different and very cool way to experience more of Jaipur!

Back to Delhi

Sadly, it was time to head back to Delhi after that for a final farewell dinner with the group. The next day, it was time to say goodbye to India and I flew back to Shanghai.

Looking back, it’s amazing how much we got to see and experience in only a week. Truly, an incredible trip with so many great memories. Shout out to the fantastic G Adventures travel crew and our guide Mo! You made this trip so fun and interesting, and so much better than I could have hoped for!

And a special thank you to Emma, Karen and Catherine for all the laughs and being my Instagram girlfriends πŸ™‚

Incredible India – Part I

Incredible India – Part I

It has been almost 3 weeks since I got back from my trip to India so it’s time to try putting this adventure into words. True to it’s slogan, India was really incredible: Incredibly beautiful, chaotic, interesting, noisy, colorful, dirty, fascinating, unique and crazy. So many different impressions and contrasts, I’m really glad I went and got to experience it.

First things first: I got to see the Taj Mahal and it was amazing! Seeing one of the Wonders of the World was one of the reasons I wanted to do this trip and it was even better than I thought.

It was my first trip by myself, so I was a little nervous. In order for my solo trip not to turn into an all-alone-trip, and because I was a bit intimidated (okay, a lot) by India, I signed up for a group tour through G Adventures. Within one week, we covered the Golden Triangle, which consists of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Day 1: Delhi and Meeting the Travel Crew

I arrived in Delhi on Thursday night, got picked up at the airport and then went straight to the hotel and to sleep. My first impression was mixed, so I was a bit worried if this trip was the right decision. Spoiler: it 100% was. The 7 days that followed were fantastic πŸ™‚

Lodi Garden

In the morning of my first full day in India, I was scared to leave the hotel by myself but thankfully 2 other girls from my group had arrived early as well and together with them I ventured out. Nothing really went as planned, but in the end we still had a great day. We wanted to go to the Red Fort and India Gate, but wound up at Lodi Garden since our Taxi driver insisted we go there. We tried to argue but in the end we went with the flow and it was really nice.

First Indian Food

After exploring the garden, we went back to the hotel and decided to do a late lunch at Kitchen with a Cause, a project that was recommended by G Adventures. We had great lassis, curry, naan and rice, a great culinary start to the trip. During the day with company, the area around us still seemed chaotic, but much less scary πŸ™‚

Meeting the Group

In the evening we had our welcome meeting and got to know everyone in the group. We were a total of 14 people from all over: England, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore to be exact, and me as the only German, thankfully πŸ™‚ Our guide Mo from Jaipur, gave us an outlook on the week and took us for dinner.

Cheers to new friends! πŸ™‚

Day 2: More of Delhi and Drive to Agra

Streets of Delhi

We started our second day in Delhi by exploring its streets. Our guide came from the project City Walk, which belongs to a trust helping children. He showed us their headquarter and also told us about the life of street children in Delhi and all over India.

Jama Mosque

Our next stop was Jama Mosque in Old Delhi. We wandered around the buildings and the huge courtyard and also climbed one of the towers. The view was really nice – we managed to see the Red Fort from above after failing to get there the day before πŸ™‚ According to a sign, “unaccompanied woman and child are not allowed to visit the tower” but thankfully Ben, one of 2 men from our travel group, escorted us and made sure we did not get into any trouble πŸ˜‰

Sikh Temple

Our next stop was a Sikh Temple, Gurudwara Sis Ganj Sahib to be exact. We visited the inside where people were chanting and then saw the kitchen. Every day volunteers prepare free meals for thousands of people. Anyone is welcome to help and also to have food there.

Afterwards, we got some pakoras and samosas for lunch and drove to Agra, where we had more delicious Indian food for dinner. Paneer twice a day is never a bad idea πŸ™‚

Day 3: The Taj Mahal and other Agra Gems

The Taj Mahal

Day 3 was definitely the most anticipated day for me: it started with a morning at the Taj Mahal. I can’t even really put it into words. It was pretty surreal seeing it in person and we got so incredibly lucky with the weather. No fog, not much smog, and sunshine with a bright blue sky. I pretty much smiled the whole morning and took way too many pictures. Thankfully, the girls from my group indulged me in snapping all of the touristy shots I wanted πŸ™‚

Agra Fort

Agra Fort, our second stop, was really beautiful as well. Surprisingly, one of the things I liked most about the trip was that I was not prepared. I roughly knew the agenda but because it was so close to Christmas, it just snuck up on me and I didn’t really do any research. That meant that basically every day my mind was blown by all the sights we saw and different things we got to experience. Agra Fort was one of them. Having zero expectations walking in just meant that around every corner was something new and beautiful to see.

We also had fun taking silly group photos – the theme was supposed to be “boy band album cover” or “Beverly Hills 90210” πŸ™‚

Baby Taj

The Baby Taj was another surprise. According to our guide Mo, it’s a small, really beautiful and underrated monument that often gets forgotten next to the much much bigger Taj Mahal. He was definitely right. It was really peaceful and so pretty there. Walking around barefoot in the warm afternoon sun made it even better.