7.14.2014

guilin, china.

Guilin, China. These last few days have been crazy! Our backpacking plan was to go to a volcanic island called Weizhou off of the coast of Beihai, China. We left Yangshuo and took the five hour train to Beihai. When we got there tickets were sold out to ride the ferry to the island and from there everything went wrong. We both had bad feelings about going to Weizhou island, so we decided to turn right around and get back to Guilin. Long story short... two long distance bus rides, four bus break downs, and 20 hours later we made it back to Guilin:
^^Yes, this happened. I've wanted to dress up in traditional Chinese clothing since we got here so I splurged $1.25 to dress up haha.^^

We went to Elephant Trunk Hill and rested for a day since the last few have been totally exhausting. I'm not sure what would have happened if we had gone to Weizhou Island, but it's better safe than sorry. Guilin was fun anyways!

Our adventure back to America starts today. We head back to Shanghai for a night then fly back to the U.S. China has been so so good to us and I can't believe we're finished. It's been an amazing three weeks traveling through china!

7.10.2014

yangshuo day two.

Day thirteen: Yangshuo, China. We covered so much ground today so I have a ton of pictures. We rode over 80 km through villages and mountains and I saw some of the best views of my life:
^^The view of the 20 yuan note.^^
 ^^Our motorcycle for the day^^
^^We had to park the bike and hike 550 steps to get to this viewpoint. So tiring but worth the pain. Since we were at the peak of the mountain we had a perfect 360 degree view of Yangshuo.^^
 ^^Best view in the world. We had to purchase silly hats because it's so hot. I opted with the traditional bamboo farmer hat while Tate bought a bamboo cowboy hat ;)^^
I didn't think we could top yesterdays views, but we did. Hours of riding on a motorcycle on bumpy small dirt roads through hills in mountains took a toll on us, but we ended the ride by swimming in another secluded dam on the river. Guys, I can't get over this place. I've never seen anything like it. I think both of our families would be totally bummed if we didn't come back to America after six months abroad... but I'm considering staying here forever.

We have one day left in Yangshuo and I think we'll spend all day along the river soaking in the mountain vibes.

7.09.2014

yangshuo, china.

Day twelve: Yanghsuo, China. We almost didn't go to Yangshuo because it looked like the city was stormy and flooding, but we took our chances. Pinch me... this place is a dream and the weather couldn't be better:
^^We rented bikes and road across the Li River^^
^^Our guide took us to another spot where there was no one else swimming. It felt like we were the only people in the world... except for our guide taking pictures of us in his undies, haha.^^
^^I had to stop and cuddle these monkeys. It's sad that they are on chains, but I could tell the owner loves his monkeys so I didn't feel too bad. They were licking the sweat off my face and ate my floral crown that I had bought from a farmer two minutes earlier.^^
^^Yangshuo mountains^^
We rode bikes through several villages and farms literally all day and it was picture perfect. Tate and I feel like this is all a dream; words can't describe how pretty this place is (or how stupid hot and humid it is). Our guide here is showing us all of the 'secret spots' where tourists normally don't go to because they are only accessible via bikes. We also went to a cave with mud baths and hot springs inside near Moon Hill (where I met those monkeys). 

This small town is quite the change from Beijing, and I love it!

the great wall of china.

Day ten/eleven: Beijing, China. We made it to Beijing! I almost forgot how great this city is. We went to the Great Wall (Mutianyu entrance) and it was just as fun as last time; except today was much hotter than Februarys weather:
^^We woke up a little earlier and made it to the wall before too many people were there.^^
^^Kisses on the Great Wall.^^
^^The Temple of Heaven^^
At one point a butterfly landed on my hand and stayed there for a few minutes while we were hiking. A local mentioned that when a butterfly lands on you it's good luck; she said I will have an "extraordinary life" because it stayed on me for so long... sweet!

Last time we road the toboggan down the Great Wall and we had to do it again. We had so much fun that we almost climbed the Great Wall again just to ride the slide down. 

The next morning we went to Tianamen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven (see our visits back in February here and here). We're so sad Tate's parents are heading back to America, but the backpacking adventure continues! Beijing, I love you.

Next destination: Yangshuo, China.

7.05.2014

lhasa, tibet day two.

Day nine: Lhasa, Tibet. 
^^Potala Palace; built by the 5th Dalai Lama.^^
^^The top of the Potala Palace (after climbing 13 flights of stairs).^^
^^Pillar of prayer flags.^^
^^Jokhang Temple^^
^^My dream courtyard ;)^^
^^Rooftop of the Jokhang Temple.^^
I can't get enough of Tibet! I could have lived here for six months and would have been totally happy. For the first time in China my photos have bright blue pollution-free skies. The 350+ steps to the top of the Potala Palace was insane because of the high altitude, but I'm so glad I climbed it. Looking over Lhasa and seeing the surrounding mountains is a view I'll never forget! There are hundreds of room in both the palace and temple that we visited, but we're not allowed to take pictures since the rooms are sacred to Buddhists.

Lhasa is known for their Tibetan rugs and turquoise and I scored some earrings and a gorgeous sheep wool rug. Our backpacking trip through China has been so much fun, but I can already tell that Tibet will be my favorite. Do I have to leave already?!

Next destination: Beijing, China.

7.04.2014

lhasa, tibet.

Day eight: Lhasa, Tibet. We made it to Tibet! The people and architecture are way different from mainland China, and it's a nice change for these next few days. The altitude is 11,420 feet above sea level (one of the highest cities in the world) and we are all feeling the altitude sickness. Today we visited a few monasteries:
^^Entering the Norbulingka palace; the traditional summer residence of the Dalai Lamas.^^
^^This was the most current Dalai Lamas (the 14th Dalai Lama) residence, until he moved to India in 1959.^^
^^Sera Monastery^^
^^Monks in a courtyard using their prayer beads and debating over their lessons they learned.^^
^^Tibetan woman praying with her prayer wheel.^^
Our guide has been teaching us a lot about Buddhism and the religion/culture is really interesting. I didn't know that the current Dalai Lama is actually a living Buddha and I'm learning about the previous 13 Dalai Lamas as well. Tibet is so colorful with prayer flags hung everywhere and bright colored doors. 

Lhasa literally means "place of the Gods" and is a small town set in between several mountains; it's quite a different lifestyle/setting than Shanghai and I love it. I never thought we'd spend the fourth of July in Tibet, but it feels so good!

7.02.2014

tandem bikes.

Day six: Xi'an, China.
^^Old city wall^^
^^Xi'an Great Mosque^^
I'll never stop taking pictures of pagodas here. This morning we woke up and rented tandem bikes to ride around the old city wall of Xi'an. Since Tate has been itching to ride a bike from the moment we moved to China, he took control over the bike and I barely pedaled on the back. We rode around the entire city wall which is about 14km. After went to the largest mosque in China, the Xi'an Great Mosque, which was absolutely stunning. Xi'an, you've been good to us! 

Next destination: Lhasa, Tibet.