This is a great country with SO much history. I am thankful that my visa is good for 10 years because I will definitely go back. The first thing that struck me about China were the people. The are very kind and extremely generous. Anytime I had a question or needed help, someone tried to help, and if they couldn’t they would get someone else. However, I will say that the driving and traffic laws are pretty crazy. I was shocked that I didn’t see any accidents. But, they have mastered the roundabout. It’s not always that easy or smooth for pedestrians though. I did play a couple games of Frogger while trying to cross the streets. The food was great, especially in Xi’an!!!! BEIJING– What a great city!! I got to walk on the Great Wall; I guess I should say hike. Wow…I never realized how steep it would be. Needless to say, my calves were a little sore for the next two days. I visited one of the Ming Tombs and was amazed by the beauty and serenity there. The “tomb” is actually a hill behind the building. This is where the bodies are buried. There is a beautiful courtyard with a special doorway to greet visitors. When you leave the area, women are supposed to step through the doorway leading with their left foot and men use their right. It is symbolic of a gateway between life and death. At night I visited the Walking Street Market where I saw a variety of insects (dead and alive) and reptiles that were available to snack on!! Another day in Beijing allowed me to see Tienanmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, the Lama Temple and The Summer Palace. All were incredible, but The Summer Palace was my favorite!! I could have easily stayed there a whole day!! Unfortunately, The Forbidden City was closed the day I wanted to visit. Just one of the reasons to go back! Xi’an–I took an overnight train and shared a room with 4 bunks with a couple from Holland (the woman was originally from Thailand) and a young woman who lived in Xi’an. It was a great experience, but I should have worn ear plugs. Not sure why the train conductor had to honk so many times. Haha! Xi’an is the location of the Terracotta Warrior army commissioned by the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, in the 3rd century BC. They were created to protect the emperor when he passed onto the next life. To date, there are 3 pits open to the public. However, most of the uncovered warriors can only be seen in pit 1. They have discovered more, but are waiting to uncover them until they find technology that can help preserve their brilliant colors. This amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site was discovered in 1974 by four young farmers digging for a well in their fields. There is only one farmer still alive, and I was able to meet him at the restaurant where we had lunch. He is there every day to sign his book and take pictures (for money) with tourists. You can go to the following website to read more……https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/shaanxi/xian/terra_cotta_army/ Although that was the biggest highlight of my visit, I did get to walk around the Muslim Quarter and sample some of the wonderful street food and also walk on the City Wall for about 2 hours. It took me that long to find out how to get off the wall…lol Hong Kong–I LOVE this city!!! I was only there for one day so I didn’t even scratch the surface. But…in that day, I took a glass cable car to see the Giant Buddha, a monastery, and walk the path of wisdom. I think it made me smarter…lol At night I took a big bus tour around Hong Kong and saw the incredibly bustling city come to life. My night finished off with a lazer light show over Victoria Harbor and a delicious dinner. I can’t wait to go back!!
After traveling by myself for a week, it was nice to meet my friend Eric in Vietnam. Hanoi–He booked a room at a beautiful boutique hotel in the Old Quarter and we spent the first couple of days exploring this very busy, fast paced area. The traffic was CRAZY and we were forced to play serious Frogger in order to cross the streets. One of the highlights was our nighttime food tour with our guide Donut. We walked through streets teeming with people all sitting on small plastic chairs eating and drinking. Yes, we too sat on the small plastic chairs and it got harder and harder to get out of them as the night went on. 🙂 We also visited the Hoa Lo Prison, aka “The Hanoi Hilton”, where Senator John McCain was held for about 5 years. It was definitely a sobering visit, especially when we saw the death row cells that were connected to a room that housed a guillotine. We also spent some time walking around Hoan Kiem (Lake of the Restored Sword) Lake. It was absolutely beautiful and serene. Well…except for when Eric dropped one of his lenses into the lake. Ugh! 🙁 On Tuesday we were scheduled to go on a 3 day/2 night cruise on Halong Bay, but Mother Nature said NO! Because of the approach of a typhoon, our cruise was cancelled. So, we booked a flight and a room and went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Walking around this city was a definite challenge as the motorcycles used the road and the sidewalks. However, this quick and spontaneous trip allowed us to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels in the jungle of Saigon and enjoy a boat ride up the Saigon River for a delicious lunch. The tunnels were again very sobering as we listened to our guide talk about how the VC used the tunnels, jungle, and numerous traps to ambush American soldiers. In one part of the jungle there was a shooting range where people could buy bullets and shoot at targets with AK 47s, machine guns, etc. Because of this, we could hear gunfire in the background the entire time we were walking around and it was surreal. I can’t begin to imagine how the young men must have felt being there. Although I have always been very appreciative of what service men and women have done to protect my rights and freedom, visiting this place gave me a new perspective and admiration. THANK YOU VETERANS!!! That night we went on a jeep tour of the downtown area and even enjoyed a cocktail at a rooftop bar! After our quick trip, it was back to Hanoi for two days where I took advantage of a day trip to Halong Bay and was in awe of its beauty! I am hoping to make it back there for a cruise.
For the third week of my journey, I went to Bali!! After a REALLY long day of flying, I arrived at about 10 p.m. Little did I know that I had a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead of me. Ugh! It wouldn’t have been too bad, but about halfway there, we started in with some serious curves…kinda like what I have…haha! I finally got to my room in Lipah Beach, just 10 minutes past the village of Amed on the east side of Bali, at about 1 a.m. Even as tired as I was, my eyes lit up as I walked into my room that faced the ocean and had doors leading out onto a small deck. I immediately opened the doors and sat outside for a bit to listen to the waves. Heaven!! This was the start of a fairly laid back week. I spent most days sitting on my deck looking at the ocean, lounging by the pool, hanging out with my new friend from New Zealand, Geri, or getting a massage! I did manage take a trip to see one of the island’s volcanoes, Mt. Batur. Once again, LOTS of dangerous curves, so I really had to concentrate on the road. But, the trip was well worth it as we drove through many beautiful little villages where I got a glimpse of the sweet and simple life. Although I had planned to stay at the Bayu Cottages for the entire week, I decided to leave early to spend a couple days in Ubud (the Bali location from Eat, Pray, Love). My friend Geri was going back to Ubud as well (she has a villa there) so we decided we would go together and on the way we would go river rafting. Well…after 2 hours of serious curves, hills, and intermittent acceleration and brakes, we were both sick by the time we got there. Rafting–cancelled! We finally arrived in Ubud at about 1:30 in the afternoon and decided that we needed to lay down for awhile. When I felt better, I got up to explore and find food. Ubud is a beautiful and lively town that focues on the arts, yoga, and meditation. I loved walking around and seeing all the lovely shops and stuff to buy. It’s a good thing I wasn’t there longer. Haha. On my last day, I spent some time with Geri at her villa and even took a yoga class. Of course we finished the day off with a great massage! The Balinese people are lovely and it’s definitely a place that I would love to visit again. As a matter of fact, my friend Geri invited me to stay with her in April of next year! 😀 Giving this some SERIOUS consideration!!!
I arrived back in Kalasin, Thailand on October 31st and was really happy to see my little town and my fellow teachers. The last week and a half has been great, and I was SO happy to see my students!! But, it has been difficult trying to get back in the swing of things. And…they changed our schedules, so that will also take some getting used to as well. But as the Thais say, “Mai pen rai”…no worries! That is one of the things that I REALLY love about Thailand. There is absolutely NO STRESS! It’s been so refreshing. 🙂
Looking forward to more adventures in the future!
Love to all!