Friday, May 31, 2013

Weekending in Beijing: Part Two

I actually love McCafe coffee (classy, I know)
This is the second part to our weekend in Beijing. If you haven't already, check out our first day here: Weekending in Beijing: Part One.

The next day, we woke up nice and early to conquer the Great Wall. After another delicious breakfast at McDonald's (ugh), we took the subway to a bus station where we thought we could find a city bus to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.

After much asking and even more refusals of private bus tours, we finally found the tiny outpost where the bus was located. Our timing was impeccable; almost as soon as we ensured we were in the right place, our bus arrived.

We decided to go to the Mutainyu part because we heard that it wasn't as touristy and crowded as the Badaling or Juyongguan sections. If you have ever experienced the crushing mass of a Chinese crowd, you would understand why we decided on this. 

Furthermore, Mutainyu is surrounded by a protected parkland among the most beautiful orchards and pines we have seen in China. It took us about 2 1/2 hours to get there (with poor Ben standing for most of the time), but the trip was more than worth it.

Michelle decided to go off-roading. Can you spot her?

We had the option to take the cable car up or walk. Being cheap and semi-fit, we opted for the very pleasant hike up about a thousand or so stairs. Just a word of warning: China loves its stairs! Every mountain, hill, and building will have 2 to 20,000 of these seemingly innocuous things for your legs to enjoy (see blog post: Department of Transportation).

After we finally got to the top, we were treated to some amazingly great views. Pictures don't even come close to capturing the grandiose beauty we experienced there. The weather was perfect-- sunny and warm with a nice breeze. The wall wasn't crowded at all-- especially we considering we came on a Saturday on the most beautiful day in May.


We spent the rest of the afternoon taking pictures, traveling up and down the guessed it...stairs along the wall, and just trying to take it all in. My whole life I've dreamed about visiting the Great Wall, and for once, something not only lived up to my expectations but managed to surpass them! To be there in the beautiful nature with all the amazing history with Ben...simply spectacular.

So happy!
Super slanted stairs!


This part of the wall was constructed about 300 years ago in the Ming Dynasty. As you may remember from the historical film, Mulan, the wall was built as a defense from the marauding (no relation to us) northern nomads. It was been continually reconstructed since the 1500s till the 1980s.
Don't fall!

Once we got the end of the reconstructed part, we trespassed onto the old, un-rebuilt section, which was also pretty cool with its dirt path, crumbling stones, and trees. We were able to see more villages and even a dust storm that was heading our way!

Kissing on the wall brings good luck...just kidding, it was just because I love him

With our bus leaving around 2 pm, we knew we needed to start heading back at around 1:45. However, instead of walking down all those stairs, we took the much more enjoyable route: tobogganing down! That's right, for about $10, we were able to careen down the mountain on little Chinese toboggans. It was a blast!

Faster, Michelle, Faster!
Ben as happy as he was in Disneyland

Because Michelle was SO slow (not really, the lines were long, and the little Chinese boy in front of her was the slow-poke), we got back at 1:55. We still had not eaten lunch and the thought of a 2 1/2 hour bus ride with no food made us dizzy. Seeing a Subway near all the vendors at the bottom, we raced into it and jiejiemangmang (Chinese pinyin for hurriedly) ordered our sandwiches. Two minutes later we rushed out and caught our bus with impeccable timing again.

We crashed on the bus for about an hour and then hopped off to take our favorite mode of transportation, the subway, to the famous Silk Market. We were a bit disappointed by this place. It has become a massive, expensive tourist trap. Thankfully our [limited] knowledge helped us barter down quite a bit, but it quickly became exhausting. I would stay away unless you love bargaining or don't mind getting completely taken advantage of constantly.

Our day was still not over as we headed over to Peter's Tex Mex restaurant to consume some much needed Mexican food. Below were the best (and only) quesadillas that I've had all year. 

Such cheesy goodness

After another stop for dessert at TGI (by then we were experiencing culture and caloric shock) we headed out to our train for a long overnight ride back home. 

We got safe and sound on Sunday and happy to be home. 

Beijing is so great in many ways, but I wouldn't trade any of it for our home here. We feel very blessed to be in our little university in the middle of no-where. 

Hope you all feel the same about wherever you are in this world. 


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Our First 12 Months of Honeymooning!

Well, it has been over a year now since we got married. Life has been full of adventures and full of surprises. We had a few good months at home after we got married followed by a bold move to China only a few months after marriage. Some say it causes for a difficult year and others say it is the best thing to do right after getting married. We have experienced the latter opinion. Having moved to China and away from our normal support groups and friends, we have learned to lean on each other more and to lean to Father more when things got tough. There is much more to this, but before I get carried away, here is the main reason for this post!

A brief review of our year of being married! We have done quite a bit! I hope you all enjoy this post!

May 26th, 2012
Tying the knot!

Moving into our temporary home for the summer! 

Watching friends run 100 miles during Western States Endurance Run (with Marissa Licon)

Climbing Mount Whitney together!

The view from 13,600 plus feet!

Visiting my sister in Pasadena! Love you Leya!

Going to Disneyland :-)

 In Mickey's fridge (I think?).
Cheese Dip Ice Cream anyone?

Rachel calling the local police for help! Unfortunately, it wasn't a real phone. ;-)

Maybe I was having too much fun? haha Can you tell which movie this is from?

Vegas. The Bellagio for Rachel's birthday!

My classy wife! <3

Enjoying a warm night in Vegas

Our last stop at China Beach in San Francisco, preparation for life in China. 

Layover in LAX and last meal in America for 2012. Thanks for treating Leya! 

China here we come!! 

One of our first views of campus, SIAS International University, from Renmin Lu (People's Road).

Eating dumplings in China! I think we ate a whole meal for less than $2 for the both of us.

First bike ride in Xinzheng, China.

What us foreigners call "Two-head Park" in downtown Xinzheng.

Climbing up to the 5th floor to teach Oral English.

Going to Xi'an and visiting the famous Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses site. (Click on link to learn more about these newly discovered (in the 70's) life-size soldiers that were made to protect the deceased emperor in 210 B.C.). 

Visiting Kaifeng! 
(Read more about this from a previous post by clicking here).

Visiting Luoyang!
One of the coolest and unbelievable places I've been to in China: Longmen Grottoes.
Over 10,000 statues of Buddha and his disciples carved into the mountain. Truly an incredibly historical place that one should visit if in China.

Experiencing our first snow in China (right outside of Peter Hall)

Also, experiencing some of the worst pollution days of winter (AQI: 500+).

Escaping to Thailand!

Nikki Beach Bungalows, Koh Samui, Thailand

My lovely wife waiting for her dinner.

Out for a joy ride in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Thai shrines and Buddhas are totally different from their Chinese counterpart. 

Hong Kong! One of my favorite cities in China. A beautiful and overcast day on Victoria Peak.

Overlooking Hong Kong.

Being a little silly at a park in Hong Kong.

Getting back into the flow of things. One of the nine Finance classes I teach.

Isaac is not our student. But we met him in the beginning of the year and have been friends since!

Climbing Songshan (aka. Mt. Song), one of the five sacred mountains in China.

Made it to the top!

Now to take stairs all the way down.

The entrance to the famous Shaolin Temple.

The Pagoda Forest

One of the coolest experiences we've had in China. 
"Shaolin Zen Music Ritual"
An incredible outdoor show filled with Kung Fu with the mountains as a backdrop.

Visiting the National Museum of Chinese Writing in Anyang, a city far north in Henan.

An example of ancient Chinese characters. The far left is the ancient characters (they totally resemble the meaning) and center character is the traditional way of writing. Now, Chinese use an even simplified version.

Visiting Linlu Mountain
If you look closely, you'll see all the stairs people must take to climb the mountain. Mountains in China are all equipped with stairs...that is how one climbs mountains here.

Climbing Shizushan (aka. Mount Juci). The gentleman to the far right is a total random fellow. We encounter this is China quite often. People will ask to take photos with us regularly...but this guy? he just photo bombed this one and threw his hand on my back.
On our decent down Shizushan.
(Rachel, Isaac, and Obama...yes, I said that correctly. His English name is Obama! :)

Beijing! Finally!
This is a view of Forbidden City from temple on top of a hill. Quite the epic view.

The Great Wall (Mutianyu section).

Last but no where near least, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! 
After over two and a half years together, we finally gave into wearing what is quite popular in China, couple t-shirts. We even have couple mugs. 

Thank you for reading our blog! We can't wait to be back home!

If everything goes according to plan, we will land on the 19 of June! Looking forward to it BIG TIME!

Miss you all!