Adventures in China: Day 32

Day 32 and Technically Day 33: Traveling to Beijing, Wondrous Sightseeing, and then Getting Kicked Out of Our Hotel


As I left off in my previous post, call was at midnight. We were taking a bus overnight to Beijing. We were doing this so that we would get there in the early morning and have all day to sight see. If we took a flight, we would waste half a day getting there. So the bus it was. We were told it would be a 6 hour trip.

Four pit stops at the grossest toilets ever and TEN HOURS LATER, we arrive at our hotel in Beijing. Yes, you read that right. We were told 6, and it was actually 10. I do not understand how that miscommunication happened. In case you didn’t know, trying to sleep on a bus, even a nice charter one with reclining seats, is more uncomfortable than sleeping on an airplane, imo. So we barely slept. Dozed is more accurate.

But we arrived! We checked in, were told our rooms may not be clean because they weren’t ready for us yet (wth?), and had 45 minutes before we had to be back on the bus for sightseeing. I took a quick shower. We were starving. We had missed breakfast because well, we arrived at 10:30 instead of 6. So back on the bus we go, heading to the Great Wall! It was an hour bus ride.

P.S. I never want to ride in a bus again. EVER.

But, we were very thankful to have this bus for the whole day to take around sightseeing. Seriously, it was really great to not worry about transportation from place to place.

We started spotting the Great Wall about 45 minutes later. It was very exciting!


And we arrived and there’s so many pictures that I’m doing to direct you to my Great Wall set on Flickr. You can browse to your heart’s content

It was an amazing experience. A very good workout too!!!

Then back on the bus we go, heading back into the city for the Forbidden City. With afternoon traffic it took us 2 hours to get back. Oy. Here is my Flickr set of Random Sights Along the Way. Many beautiful structures that I have no information on what they were lol.


Then we arrive at the Forbidden City, but it was 4:15 and they close at 4. I was super bummed. I really wanted to walk around. But we knew it was a whirlwind sightseeing day, and so just had to be thankful for what we could see. Here are the pictures we snapped from the outside (sadly looking in).

Forbidden City Flickr Set


After that, it was back on the bus and head to the Silk Market. Not a ton of pics from there, so I’ll just show them on here.

First of all, we were STARVING! After 31 days of Chinese food, Subway never looked (or tasted) so good.

I was so busy and distracted shopping that I didn’t even think to take pictures of the actual market. Bummer. It was really neat. Despite what you may think when you hear the word “market”, it’s not an outdoor one. It’s all indoors, with five floors, escalators, and shops all along. Basically like a mall. I did manage to snap one picture …


We spent hours in there, and it still wasn’t enough to look at/buy everything I just had to have ;) We were supposed to meet back at the bus at 9:30pm.

Here we are, exhausted but happy.

We head back to the hotel. Dinner was on our own, so we headed over to a noodle place down the street. They spoke no English, and we spoke no Chinese, so it was interesting trying to order vegetarian. Especially when there concept of vegetarian is just “oh you want so vegetables in this lovely meat dish”. They brought us out a meat dish, and we somehow then were able to communicate that we didn’t want meat. They were so nice and brought us out something else, no charge. We’re pretty sure it still had meat stock or some meat in it, but we were sooo exhausted we didn’t care. And we weren’t going to make a fuss again and give Americans a bad rep.

So we slurped up our noodles.

Then we went back to the hotel with the intent of showering and passing out for a few hours. We had to be in the lobby at 5am for the airport. We. Were. So. Exhausted. But as we were going to our room, we were told that the hotel was asking all of us to leave because of our visas. Whaaaa? Yeah, our visas clearly state that they are good for 30 days, but we were on day 32. The hotels check these things. So we sadly gave up on our hopes for a shower and sleep, and instead packed up our bags (which were barely unpacked anyway). It took a couple of hours to round everyone up, and get all 100+ bags to the lobby.

Then we had to just sit around and wait. I think for the bus to take us to the airport. I think it was about 11:30 pm by now. Well, this could have turned into a huge bitch fest. But instead it turned into such a fun party. Everyone just made a run to the convenient store, bought beverages of choice, and sat around having a great time.

Everyone’s attitude just turned what could of been a stressful situation into such a fun, relaxing, great end to our adventures.

The bus finally arrived, and took us to the airport (about a 45 minute drive). I think it was about 1:30am by now?? I was so, utterly, beyond exhausted that even the cold, tile floor looked inviting. And I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

I guess Phil snuck pics while I was passed out.


And that’s what we did. We’re technically on Day 33 now. We just slept there until we could check in for our flight. About 6am I think. As you know by now, that takes awhile. Our flight was for 8am. But we were not bound for home yet. It was  3 hour flight to Hong Kong. I barely remember it. I was pretty much like this the whole time.

Then we transfered flights at Hong Kong airport. Not really a layover. Just had to get off, go through security (again) and then wait to board our next flight to L.A

Then we board and our finally on our way home!

Errr, to LA, that is. We had a 9 hour layover. Ugh. So we went to the beach.

We got pizza and rootbeer, ate it on the beach, took a nap, then went back to the airport to finally fly home.

And that, folks, was the Great American Dance Tour.




Adventures in China: Day 31

Day 31: Our Last Show

Phil went to the theater. Ellie and I headed out to explore.

We found an interesting statue …


A dog with the most awesome haircut ever …


And a legit market!


Our goal was to find suitcases, which we did, and were even able to bargain. Then we found some loose-leaf tea, and had quite the experience communicating to the person helping us. We also found the grossest food item yet:



EWWWWWWWWWWWWWW. What. The heck. What are those even used for? I’m so confused.


Then we went back to the hotel for lunch with plans to return to this shopping-haven after we ate. We shared our find with others, ate lunch, and headed back with a group of eager shoppers. Here’s some pics along the way there:


We all kind of went our separate ways, but I spent several hours there finding a good chunk of the gifts and items I wanted to bring back. And bargaining for all of it. It was fun! And good practice for the silk market.

Then I went back to the hotel to freshen up and rest before the show. Some interesting details about this hotel …

It looks like any other hotel we’ve stayed in.

But then you enter and have to take an elevator up to the 4th floor, because that’s where the lobby is. I have no idea what’s on the floors in between. Then you go through this awesome hallway/entrance/walkway thingy.

I did not photoshop or instagram-hipster-vintagefy this photo. This was really how it was in the daytime!

Then, you get to the lobby.

This is where we were hanging out the night before drinking wine.

Then you take a different elevator up to your floor. Not the most efficient system.

Anyway, on to the last show! The theater was way cool! We were in another port city, so they made it all ocean-y.

They also really loved the LED lights. I felt like I was walking down Candy Cane Lane.

See what I mean? It was so cool. I wish I would’ve had more time to walk around and enjoy it. But I was really rushed bc I barely remembered to go outside and take pictures, and then I got locked out of the theater bc it was after the show and they were closing up shop. I’m doing this out of order. Sorry.

Here’s the lobby:


Here’s the house:


Here’s Phil’s sound board:


And his view of the stage:


The last show was a lot of fun. There was tons of energy from the dancers in every song. Everyone was being silly backstage. Lots of pictures and videos were being taken. My role that night was photographer instead of stage mom. I took pictures for anyone who wanted on their camera. It was just a lot of fun, and a great last show!

After the show, (and after I ran outside to get pictures, got locked out and begged to get let back in) we went back to the hotel for dinner and packing. We were leaving right after dinner for Beijing. Yep, call was at midnight. This is the start of the most exhausting experience we have ever had. To be continued in Day 32, because technically midnight starts the next day, in case you didn’t know.


Adventures in China: Day 30

Day 30: Second to Last City

Crazy. Only two more cities left. Yinkou and Beijing. And the last show is in Yinkou. This trip has flown by! We had a full day for travel, and it was only flying. A short flight. From an airport in the actual city we were in. Heavenly. (My, how my expectations have changed!). Oh, and we didn’t have to leave until after lunch. Which meant we got to eat two more meals at the awesome hotel buffet. Yummmm.

So, off we go to the airport where we see the cutest kid ever (except for Dragon Plum, of course) pulling around a suitcase for entertainment.

The mom (she’s the one in pink) was actually walking around in circles so that he/she (I still can’t tell) would follow. Adorable!

Anyway, we do the airport thing – check in 46 people, and then wait in a long line for security.

Ken blended right in with all those Asians.

We fly like 2 hours or something. Then land.

Oh my, we are starting to blend right in! I have super squinty eyes and Phil has the classic Asian pose. (Yes, I know that statement was not politically correct. But if was funny, admit it).

Saw some more funny Chinglish signs …

What that is, I don’t even …

We arrive at the hotel and have dinner. There was a vegetarian table ready for us. Woohoo!

Actually, this is a pic of the carnivore table that I sat at before I knew there was an herbivore table.

We go up to our tiny, but very nice, clean and functional room.


The night view of the city was beautiful!


It was pouring rain, but we needed to make a convenient store run for water. So we trudged through the puddles with Ellie, got our wine .. err … water… (same difference!), and came back to the hotel lobby to just hang out. I went upstairs to get our slippers since our shoes were soaking wet. They totally fit Phil perfectly!


And we then we went to bed.

Adventures in China: Day 29

Day 29: Bessie and Yosef That’s what we named our horses. When we were riding them. In Mongolia. !!! Let me back up …   Phil woke up still feeling crappy, but was a trooper and did not want to miss out on this day trip to the Grasslands of Mongolia. Benny had helped him get some Chinese medicine at the pharmacy.

It was terrible.



Anyway, we had a tour bus for the day to take us there and back. It was about an hour ride there.


We knew we were getting close when we started to see, well, a lot of grass. And yurts.


As we were getting off the bus we were greeted with a traditional custom.

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And here we are on the grasslands of Mongolia. It was stunning. And very cold and windy!


Some people decided to go for a ride on an ATV.


And a bunch of others, including us, decided to see the grasslands by horse. Best. Decision. Ever. First we had to buy a scarf for Phil because it was so windy.


Then I hopped on my cow-horse.

I named her Bessie. I liked Bessie. She was feisty and liked to do her own thing. We became great friends.

Phil hopped on his horse.

Phil named him Yosef. Yosef was best buds with Abby’s horse, Emma.

Awwwww. We got to ride for at least two hours. It was so cool. And beautiful. There were no other tour groups around us, so it felt like we were the only ones out there. The scenery was amazing!


About halfway through the ride we stopped at a yurt for milk tea.

(He thought I was trying to take a picture of him lolz)

So Mongolian milk tea is well, milk (powder) and some type of tea, but it’s also salty/buttery. You add in various things like millet, cookies, crackers, milk tablets or even small pastries. Then you drink the tea and eat the goodies at the end, which have soaked up the tea. Yummmmm.


We finished our ride back where we started, and then went inside the restaurant yurt for some food.

They also had insanely loud karaoke going on while we ate, so that was a bit much. However, one guy decided to dedicate a song to our group. He was singing with that technique called “overtone singing” or “throat singing”. Neat!

[youtube width=”400″ height=”300″][/youtube]


After that it was time to head back. We still had a show to do that night!

Adventures in China: Day 28

Day 28: The Tale of Two Cultures


We ate breakfast, and Phil went to the theater. I joined a group going to this area of town that was supposedly Arabic. We weren’t sure what that meant or what we would find. I just now googled it and all I could find was that it was the “Arabic Fashion Center”. It was definitely a shopping area. The architecture was so neat. It was Arabic (well, it was more of the stereotype architecture) meets Mongolian.

See what I mean? A mosque-type structure next to a Pagoda. But it was beautiful, nonetheless. Especially with the blue skies!


We found a place to make a wish. Or more like three.


We also found some street-side pastries that were unique to this area. Yummmmm. So cheap, too. 2 yuan. That’s like 36 cents. So awesome.

(Aren’t those ladies beautiful?)

(Isn’t this old man adorable?)


We continued simply walking down the street. There were just so many lovely sights!


We were told some parts might be a little “Las Vegas” ish. You decide.



Regardless, I loved the architecture of so many buildings. It had a very quaint, old world feeling about it.


Then we found this cool bridge.


And along the way there we also found puppies!

I wanted to just put this little guy in my pocket and take him home with me. Good thing he wasn’t a kitten, otherwise I really would have!


I went back to the hotel in order to walk down to this shopping place everyone was talking about. It actually was very cool inside, had some interesting things, would bargain with you, and was pretty cheap.

The entrance:


The inside:


It was fun. Good practice for the Silk Market! I spent about an hour there, and then walked back. It was about a half hour walk (so much walking on this trip!) with pretty sights along the way.


Call was at 4:45, so I got to see Phil and tell him about my day.


Here are shots of the theater. This one was quite large.


The outside:


The inside:


We called it an early night because Phil was sick, and we had a fun day trip for tomorrow to the Grasslands! So excited about this one.

Adventures in China: Day 27

Day 27: A Travel Day From Hell

I left off the previous post with us assumedly going to bed. Well, taking a nap was more accurate. We had to be back on the bus by 2am. Phil was sick with the crud that was going around. We probably got a good hour and a half in O.o We had to drive 3 hours back to Qingdoa because there was no airport in Yantie. It was like this with Chongqing to Yichun to Chonqing. Sucks. Our flight was at 8 or something, so that why it was so early.

We start by a freezing bus ride. The driver had the pop ups in the ceiling open and it had to of been no warmer than 60 degrees on that bus, and remember it was dark and humid outside. We. Were. So. Cold.

Finally, we realized what the problem was and had the windows shut. Much better. We were at the airport by 5am or so, fully checked in and waiting to board by 6:30. It takes a long time to check in 45 people, fyi. We all just pass out wherever we can find.

And then board our couple-hour flight!

We all look so bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

We were flying to the capital of Inner Mongolia – H?héhàotè, or Hohhot. We were quite excited about going to (Inner) Mongolia. It’s a part of Mongolia that’s China. That’s all I can make sense of it. The scenery as we were landing was quite different!

The airport had some funny Chinglish signs. Warning: the first one you will either be offended by, puzzled by or highly amused by. Don’t shoot the photographer (haha, I just made a pun!)

(you gotta look close for this next one)


We check into our hotel, and it’s a super nice one again. Yay!

Pretty nice lobby, huh?

We go up to our room with the primary objective of passing out. We basically have not slept in a couple of days. Exhaustion is setting in. Thankfully, we were greeted by a heavenly bed.

Yes, that is the toilet you can see through that glass window that is actually the shower. There was a curtain you could pull down if you wanted.

Here’s our view:

We took a glorious nap, and then headed down to dinner. It was buffet style, but also with a sushi chef, a hot pot chef, and a Mongolian milk tea bar. Also, desserts, ice cream, sodas, and so much more.

After dinner we were up for a little exploring, so we set out walking.


Ok, this next pic is of a little girl in a remote control car being driven by her dad. It was so hilarious.


Then we took a cab to the address someone had given us of a street market that comes out at night. It was an adventure getting there, as always. The cab drivers seem to just have a relative idea of where anything is, and just drop you off somewhere close. But we found it, and lots of fun things. (“We” = Lena too!)

A fun music store:


Street-side pool tables:


Delicious street food:


Topped off with beer I could walk around with:


A red lantern walkway, provided by the University:


Funny tags on clothes:


After we had seen enough, we were ready to go back to the hotel and hit the hay. But when we got back, Benny, June and Ellie were heading out for a massage. I was exhausted, but the knots in my neck and shoulders were screaming at me from the past few days of travel. So I went.

I ended up getting a scraping technique called “Gua Sha”. Gua sha (Chinese: ??; pinyingua sha), literally “to scrape away fever” in Chinese (more loosely, “to scrape away disease by allowing the disease to escape as sandy-looking objects through the skin”), is a form of folk medicine (via wikipedia). It leaves some serious marks, and looks horrible. Like I got whipped. BUT my back felt GREAT the next day, and it didn’t really hurt to get it done. Everyone has a different pain tolerance level, so that’s a subjective statement. It was a fun experience, and even more fun to see the horrified looks on peoples’ faces when I showed them my marks. You ready? I’ll show you, but you’ve gotta believe me that first of all, I gave permission for this. They didn’t just do it without asking. Two, it looks terrible, yes, but seriously all the tension and knots in my back and shoulders was gone by next day. Third, yes it was a bit tender the next day. Four, the marks were completely gone within 3 days. You ready?



You sure? Don’t look if you’re not.




See? Not so bad. Hey, it’s all part of the Adventures in China! If you know anything about me, it’s that I’m an adventurous person. What you are seeing is simply blood vessels right under the skin. That’s all.

After that it was off to bed! And I slept great.

Adventures in China: Day 25

Day 25: A Little Jaunt to Yantie

Yantie was our next destination (yen tie). We got on the bus at 9am for a 3 hour drive. It was very sad to leave this beautiful place :( We arrive at our odd hotel around noon.


We ate, and then I wandered around by myself for a few hours. I stumbled across this little Chinese antique shop in this back alley.


I looked around, but didn’t buy anything. There was sooooo much cool stuff in there. They were really nice and let me just look for a long time without getting annoyed. I went back to the hotel for a power nap. When I woke back up, I was still thinking about some old coins and a painting I had seen. So I went back, bargained and walked out with some neat old coins (for jewelry making) and scroll painting.

It was a show that same day (last time we travel/show in the same day! Yay!). It was quite gloomy outside


Took my usual round of pics inside:


Show, dinner, sleep. The end.

Adventures in China: Day 24

Day 24: More Beach, Please!

We slept in. Like really slept in. Until 10:30. It was glorious. As we were getting ready, we heard drums playing outside. I couldn’t see what was going on from my window, except that it was in front of the hotel. So I grab the camera and hurry down. Right as I grabbed the keycard out of the slot (oh, in order to get power in your room you have to put your room key in a certain slot), a ton of noise like gunshots happens. It took me a minute to figure out it was coming from outside and not a reaction to me pulling out the keycard. Lolz. I run to the window and there’s this HUGE heart on the ground made out of firecrackers. It had been set off right as I pulled my card out. Har har. So now I’m really curious. I go down, and found …


It was a wedding party arriving at the hotel! Holy cow. I was not expecting that! It was BEAUTIFUL! And crazy. And extravagant. A blowup rainbow, a personal drumline, and cannons that shot rose petals. That’s right, rose petals. Watch this video.

We had to get a cheezy pic under the rainbow that said “su happy”. No, that is not a typo on my part.


After we were ready, it was lunchtime, so we ate, then made plans with Ellie to go to the beach. We stopped for a latte at the coffee/wine shop right next to the hotel. This wasn’t the one across the street, but right next door to the hotel/theater. Well, actually a part of it, but not owned by it. Anyway.


It was also a wine shop with these amazing tasting rooms in the back.


With a latte in hand, we walk down the beach with no plans but to simply walk along the shore.


After a very relaxing time there, we decided that a glass of wine on the patio at Cheers sounded lovely.


Get excited, Serene. One of those little seashell turtles on the table is for you. The one with the pink hat, of course.

“Cheers!” at Cheers.


Phil went back to take a nap in the room, and I went back to the beach to take a nap there again. Didn’t really care about the staring this time. I woke up, went back, changed, walked over to Deja Vu. I ordered a coffee and a bagel, then sat outside and blogged via their free wifi. Then it was show, dinner, and then Phil and the tech crew left for the next city. They would drive tonight, get in at 1am or so, then get to sleep a good 7 or so hours before going to the theater. Otherwise they would have had to leave super early in the morning and go straight to the theater. Everyone is kind of wired after the show, so leaving right away was the better option for them.

I kissed him goodbye and then went … can you guess? Over to Cheers with some of the girls. They had this Australian Shiraz that just kept us coming back.

Adventures in China: Day 23

Day 23: Somewhere Beyond the Sea …

The hotel/theater setup was fantastic. Phil got to sleep in, eat breakfast and then simply walk over to the theater via a connecting hallway from the restaurant. I did some much needed laundry for a few hours after breakfast. I kind of have a system down now. Soak the clothes in the sink, then toss them into the shower to be rinsed off using the hand held attachment that is in every hotel here. Then comes my least favorite part – the wringing out. It’s so humid here that I have to use every ounce of strength to wring the clothes, then roll them in a towel and step on them. Then hang. Fun times. Especially when doing laundry for two. O.o

Lunchtime was nice because the crew at the theater got to eat with us at the hotel. Normally, they have to eat at the theater. This time, they simply walked back over. I ate, changed into my swimsuit, grabbed a towel and some art supplies, then headed to the beach.


I’m pretty used to the staring by now. But people kept stopping and looking over my shoulder as I drew, which then attracted more people, and I was feeling a little self conscious. But they moved on. Well, then I wanted to lay out (don’t worry, I had sunscreen on!). But I again felt very conspicuous because there were no other bathing suits on the beach. They don’t like to be tan here. It’s all about how white can you be. Everything has whitening cream in it. Even the sunscreen. It’s like our obsession in the US with white teeth and toothpaste. But whatever, I did it. I fell asleep to the sound of the ocean in the warm sand. Amazing.

I woke up, went back, showered, and went to the theater with everyone.


After the show was dinner, of course. We got to each so much earlier this time! Like 9:45 instead of 10:30 because we didn’t have to do a bus ride :) My eating schedule is going to be so messed up when I get back. Along with my sleep.

We promptly made plans to go right back across the street to Cheers/Deja Vu. We ran into a Canadian lady we had met the night before. She and her husband teach at an international school here, and they came to the show. We joined up at their table and around. We were quite the party.


Just wine, beautiful weather, and great conversations with great people. A perfect combo!

Adventures in China: Day 22

Day 22: Come On Ride the Train

(Reference to a good ol’ 90’s song ;))

Our train was at 10am, and not far from the hotel. So we were able to sleep in and eat breakfast. We didn’t sleep very well at this hotel though. That made for 3 nights in a row without getting rest, and we were pretty tired. We got a little Vitamin C at the train station to try and boost things a little.



All aboard!


It was another 6 hour train ride. This was an actual bullet train, though! I can’t remember how fast it went, but it was fast!


The scenery was different on this trip. We were traveling north, the most north we had been yet. It became clear, blue skies (yay!), less smog, and lots of agriculture.





We mostly read and slept. Again, it was a very comfy method of travel. I wish all of our travel was by train!


I guess I should mention our next city ;) Qingdao (ching dow). Here’s the train station:



Here’s us walking to our bus and some pics along the way. Again, the blue skies were much appreciated!



Our trip to the hotel was across a big city with lots of traffic, so about an hour. We were really confused for a minute when we arrived, because we were at the actual theater. But then we look closely and …




This theater had a hotel connected! And man, was it a nice hotel. Here’s a pic of the lobby/bar area. This pic didn’t focus right and I didn’t realize that until just now. Oops. Oh well. You can still gather what it looks like, though.




The hallways were trippy. It was like looking down a corridor of mirrors.



Our room was great. Very zen.



We were on the 18th floor. The view was beautiful. We could see the mountains!



Dinner was next on the menu (pun intended heehee). It was buffet style, and tasty. Plenty of options for us herbivores :) After dinner a group of us walked to …

… the beach. That’s right. THE BEACH!! Oh, did I not mention we were on the coast? Omg, so happy! Only a 5 minute walk, too. Could life get any better?! We had a great time. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating. We stayed until past sunset (although you couldn’t see it because of the clouds).




On our walk back we made a beeline to the places across from the hotel. Our choices were …

A German Bar/restaurant



A wine bar and next to another restaurant



There was also a convenient store, a pizza place, and a coffee shop, named “My Vintage Romance”. Awesome.

We decided to try the German place first. We got a beer, ironically Tsingdao. Sidenote. Tsingdao is pronounced the same way as the city, and not by coincidence. This is where the Tsingdao brewery is! Anyway, we also got a pretzel, some french fries and some sausage (Tristan, not us). It was delish. Then we moved over to Cheers and had some wine. Then we ordered a quesadilla from Deja Vu, the Western restaurant next door. Real cheese. Mmmmmmmmmm. Enough said.

We only had to walk across the street to get back to our hotel. Fabulous.