Category: Travel

China Travels: Xi’an and the Terracotta Army

China Travels: Xi’an and the Terracotta Army

Last week it was Golden Week and there is much to tell but before that, I have to finish recapping our week of China Travels πŸ™‚

After Luoyang, the second stop of our trip was Xi’an. The major attraction is of course the Terracotta Army, about an hour outside of the city, but Xi’an itself also has lots of cool stuff to see. Here is what we managed to do:

Muslim Quarter

On our first morning we walked past the Bell Tower and the Drum Tower to the Muslim Quarter. There is a ton of different street food and we tried a few different things including sticky rice, pomegranate juice, scallion pancakes, yogurt, lamb skewers and a bun stuffed with lamb meat. Thankfully, we also took a food tour the next day so we could try even more goodies.

Great Mosque

The Great Mosque is located in the Muslim Quarter and it’s one of the biggest and oldest mosques in China. It consists of several courtyards and different archways and buildings. It’s built in traditional Chinese style and looks more like a temple. However, there are some inscriptions in Arabic and Islamic art, so it takes a little exploring to discover it’s really a mosque.

City Wall

Xi’an also has one of the oldest, biggest and best preserved city walls in China. It wraps around the inner city and has a total length of 14 kilometers. It is a massive wall: 12 meters tall and also 12-14 meters wide at the top and you can walk or cycle the whole thing. We walked a portion of it and it is really impressive!

Big Wild Goose Pagoda

We came for the water show in front of the pagoda which is supposed to be really cool, but sadly it was not running the week we were there. So all we got was a couple of photos of the outside and silly selfies πŸ™‚

Morning Food Tour

As already mentioned a few times, I love going on Food Tours to discover all the local goodies. In Xi’an we went with Lost Plate, which offers a breakfast tour by tuk tuk. We tried fried beef stuffed buns, a spicy stew with meatballs and veggies, some bread, a persimmon and a sesame red bean “donut”, some moon cake (it was right before mid autumn festival) and finally delicious hand-pulled noodles in a beef sauce – I think everyone’s favorite dish. Or maybe it was the fried beef bun? πŸ™‚ In any case, we all left full and happy.

Terracotta Army

And finally, one of the trip highlights: The Terracotta Warriors of China’s First Emperor. We visited all 3 pits and it was really cool to see, definitely an item on the China Bucket List. It’s crazy to think that the statues are over 2,200 years old but were only discovered 40 years ago. While most pictures only show the rebuilt part, the site is still a huge work in progress, so it would be cool to go back in 20 years to see it again.

Xi’an by Night

While we were lazy at the hotel, Thorben headed back to the Bell Tower, Drum Tower and Muslim quarter to capture some pretty pictures by night.

China Travels: Luoyang

China Travels: Luoyang

The first stop on our week-long China trip was Luoyang in the Henan province. From my research, it’s mostly famous for 4 things: The peony gardens and festival, the Shaolin Temple, the White Horse Temple and the Longmen Grottos. At least that’s what we did, minus the peonies because they only bloom in the spring.

Shaolin Temple

The Shaolin Temple or Shaolin Monastery is about a 2 hour drive from Luoyang. It’s on Songshan Mountain, one of the 5 holy mountains in China. The Shaolin Monastery is the birth place of Kung Fu and also an important place for Chinese Buddhism. We visited the main temple, had lunch in the vegetarian restaurant and then saw the pagoda forest, where many of the Shaolin monks are burried.

The Shaolin temple also includes a Martial Arts Training center, which is the most famous school Kung Fu school in China, and we saw many kids practicing outside. At the boarding school, the kids study half the day and practice Kung Fu the other half. The last thing we did during our visit was to watch their half hour performance. According to our guide only the best students get picked for the show and in exchange they get free tuition. It was really impressive and I couldn’t stop singing”Everybody was Kung Fu Fighting” for the rest of the day πŸ™‚

White Horse Temple

After visiting the birthplace of Kung Fu we visited the birthplace of Chinese Buddhism on our second day. The White Horse Temple is the first Buddhist Temple in China and was built almost 2,000 years ago.Β  The temple was named after the two white horses who carried 2 Indian monks, their scriptures and Buddha statues to China. In the past 20 years, more temples have been added in the new, international section. There are Buddhist temples built by India, Thailand and Myanmar to celebrate the relationship between the countries.

Longmen Grottos

The last place we saw were the Longmen Grottos. 2345 grottos (or caves and niches) in various sizes are carved into the lime stone. We walked along the river for about 1km to see many of them. In addition, there are over 100,000 Buddhas sculptures and carvings. The smallest Buddhas only reach 2cm, the biggest one is 17m tall. They were carved by different dynasties, and construction started over 1,500 years ago. Depending on the beauty standard at the time of carving, the Buddhas either have a round face and a double chin or look more slim.

We also tried some local food in restaurants our guide recommended. Pro Tip: The portions in Luoyang are much bigger than in Shanghai.

After 2 days of sightseeing we hopped on the bullet train and zipped over to Xi’an. Almost 400km in 1:26h! Taking the train in China is great πŸ™‚

A Foodie Weekend in Taipei

A Foodie Weekend in Taipei

Last weekend I took a 3 day trip to Taipei to visit Jana and Ellie. It’s been almost a year since I last saw Jana (Golden Week last year!) and 5 months since Ellie’s business trip to China, so to say I was excited is a bit of an understatement πŸ™‚

To sum it up, all we did was eat and talk and take pictures of us eating. The 2 tourist shots I got were more of a coincidence. We saw Taipei 101 several times on our way to and from food places and then a nice temple was in front of a night market we went to.

Din Tai Fung

Let me start at the beginning. After I landed the first order of business (after dropping off my bag) was to go to Din Tai Fung. While we have several of them in Shanghai, they have one major flaw: They don’t serve chocolate xiaolongbao! So I had to get my fix of them and they were beautiful.

Jamie’s Italian

For Friday night dinner Jana and I headed to Jamie’s Italian. While this might not be the obvious choice when going to Taipei, Jana and I have a special place for Jamie’s Italian in our hearts after our trip to Budapest last year. We ended up eating 3 pizzas, because they were just so good πŸ™‚ This time we “only” shared an appetizer, 2 pizzas and 2 desserts. The waitress was still impressed with us – she suggested we share one pizza because it’s big. What an amateur.

Toasteria

For Saturday brunch we went to Toasteria. I’d researched brunch places in Taipei before my trip and Jana made the reservations – team work πŸ™‚ They have lots and lots of options, including omelettes, classic breakfasts, pasta, paninis … I got french toast and then shared a grilled cheese. Apparently they’re famous for those so I just had to have one. It was delicious.

Raohe Night Market

In search of greasy street food we went to Raohe Night Market Saturday night. I don’t remember the name of any of the food we had but it was all pretty good! We had scallion pancakes, ice cream with caramelized peanut shavings and cilantro wrapped in a crepe type thing, passion fruit jelly on a stick, a deep fried salted egg yolk pork thing with sweet potato, fruit juice (vitamins!) and baked pork buns. In that exact order. Also, we wore matching dumpling t-shirts. Just because we’re awesome πŸ™‚

Pool time

Our original plan was to spend all the time we were not eating at the pool. Sadly, it was closed all day Saturday for maintenance and when we got there early Sunday morning we were told we could only swim with swimming caps … which we didn’t have and they didn’t provide. Oh well, so we only got to relax next to the pool for a couple of hours.

The Hello Kitty Taxi

When we got into the taxi on our way to brunch on Sunday we were in for a treat. It was completely decked out in Hello Kitty merchandise! I’m glad we took some photos as proof πŸ™‚

Sugar Pea

Our destination for that cab ride was Sugar Pea. We all agreed, if Instagram was a place, this would be it πŸ™‚ Anyhow, the food was really yummy … and pretty. Of course I took pictures. And put them on Instagram.

Thanks for a fantastic weekend, Jana and Ellie! I can’t wait to come back soon and continue eating our way through Taipei!

5 Great Things About Visiting Germany

5 Great Things About Visiting Germany

With 2 Germany trips within a few weeks from each other I’ve neglected this blog quite a bit, sorry to the 3 people still reading! πŸ™‚

I got back on Monday so it’s time to get on with the blogging. Here is my Top 5 of why visiting Germany was awesome.

1. Seeing Family and Friends

Obviously the best part of visiting. I forgot to take pictures because I was having too much fun. So thanks to my sister for making us take that one πŸ™‚ And yes, that’s a castle in the background. When in Germany …

2. Butterbrezeln, Maultaschen und KΓ€sespΓ€tzle

There are 2 Paulaner and a couple other German restaurants and I’ve never been to one of them (with the exception of the Christmas market and a cheese fondue event but that doesn’t really count as German food). I don’t really miss German food in Shanghai that much, there is a lot other great stuff to eat. So far I’ve really craved Maultaschen once, and then we just made them ourselves. However, when I’m home I love eating my way through all the delicious regional food we have and the goodies my mom makes.

3. Driving

Flying down the Autobahn at 100 mph is fun and somehow very relaxing. I wouldn’t want to drive in Shanghai but I love it in Germany. Unless you’re stuck in a massive traffic jam around Stuttgart of course πŸ™‚

4. Drinking the tap water

Back in Germany we almost never bought water, just drank it straight from the tap. It’s super easy, tastes good and is almost free (important for me as a Swabian πŸ˜‰ ). In Shanghai we don’t even use the tab water for cooking, so it’s just a nice change.

5. Long summer nights

The sun doesn’t set until 9:30, so I never noticed how late it was getting. These extra 2.5 hours of daylight are fantastic and something I miss here. Eating ice cream in the dark is also fine if there’s no other option πŸ™‚

And I guess views like this also don’t hurt:

Though my trip was great, I’m happy to be back in Shanghai now, especially since I was greeted with perfect blue skies and relatively mild temperatures (only 33Β°!) and low humidity. I’ll back in Germany again a couple more times this year so until then I’ll be eating dumplings, meeting Shanghai friends and enjoying this crazy city that has become our second home.

Surprise visit!

Surprise visit!

I just got back from a Germany trip this morning at 7 am. Why I thought it would be a good idea to fly all night and then go straight to the office I will never know πŸ˜‰ But it was definitely worth it!

The visit was to surprise my sisters who celebrated their birthdays together last weekend. I managed to plan a visit almost 2 months ago and to keep it a secret until I arrived … which was pretty hard! To sum it up, they were definitely very surprised when I showed up πŸ™‚ We were very busy having fun but manged to take one slightly blurry picture together.

Besides the birthday party I also met up with friends and old coworkers and we invited both my grandparents over for a barbecue – they didn’t know I was visiting either :). Last Monday was Dragon Boat Festival so I used the chance to hang out with my mom all day, eat ice cream and stock up on summer clothes – today it was 35 degrees in Shanghai.

Also on the agenda: Butterbrezel, Maultaschen, KΓ€sespΓ€tzle, Hefezopf, Pizza from my favorite place and berries and cherries fresh from the garden πŸ™‚ The weather was great too, I got a good fix of blue skies, sunshine and fresh air.

Time went by so quickly and now I feel even less ready for Shanghai summer. Especially not for this getting dark at 7 thing. I guess it’s good I’m going back again for business trip in a couple of weeks!

Moganshan: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo

Moganshan: Bamboo, bamboo and more bamboo

Last weekend it was outing time! Our company here gives each employee a budget and an extra day off to go on a trip, aka the outing, with coworkers. Thorben’s department always does something pretty fancy:Β  Japan last year and Vietnam this year – I’m still bugging him to finish his blog post. My department wanted to take it a bit easier so we stayed in China. Our destination was Moganshan, which is a 3-hour drive from Shanghai.

Moganshan or Mount Mogan is both the name of the mountain and the village we spent 2 1/2 days in. Our hotel was located on the edge of the town and – as everything in this area – was surrounded by bamboo. Besides lunch and dinner we didn’t have any planned group activities. The weekend can be summed up in a few words: Relaxing, reading, hiking and eating. Many of my coworkers brought their spouses and kid(s), so you could also call it “31 Chinese and Marina in a bamboo forest.” πŸ™‚

On Saturday and Sunday we got quite a bit of rain, so when I ventured outside the air was pretty misty. I joined some colleagues on a little hike to a waterfall on Saturday and then on a bigger one through the bamboo forest and up the hill for some good views on Sunday. Sadly, just because there is bamboo doesn’t mean there are pandas. They prefer a different he climate, so I’ll have to wait a bit longer to see some.

Monday morning we had beautiful weather but unfortunately our bus already picked us up at 10:30am. I took advantage of the sunshine for as long as I could and took lots of pictures. If anyone asks, that’s what Moganshan looked like the entire time πŸ™‚

Overall, it was a very relaxing weekend (especially after all the kids returned to Shanghai Sunday after lunch πŸ™‚ ) in beautiful surroundings.