backpacker

Southern Vietnam

Hey hey! It's been a little while since I've written because our adventures are so wonder-FULL it's really hard to find time to sit down and flush out my thoughts on paper. Luckily, it's pouring rain outside in Hoi An so I get to settle inside for once and write. 

I suppose I'll write about Cambodia later because there's a lot to say and a lot of things that happened at Angkor Wat and writing about that now would be ineffective and inefficient. So I'll start our venture with the border crossing from Cambodia through Snoul into Vietnam. 

We were told that our bus from Cambodia would take us to the border at Snoul and a motorbike would take us over the border into Vietnam where a bus that went from Ho Chi Minh was waiting for travelers every 15 minutes.  This turned out not to be true. We crossed the border with another backpacker that we had met that morning named Mac. Mac was a great guy and told us all about traveling through southeast Asia as he's from Singapore and gets to visit these countries quite often. We walked over the border into Vietnam with Mac and saw that the streets were quite deserted and there were absolutely no buses and hardly any other signs of life at all. Luckily after walking a little ways in the blistering sun, there up ahead was a tiny restaurant that we all sat down and chatted over some pho and much needed aloe juice. As we were sitting, swapping adventure stories and waiting patiently, (but also not so patiently because we didn't know how the fuck we were going to figure out how to get to the bus station or anything and kinda having mini heart attacks) John suddenly saw a giant tour bus that had just crossed the border from Cambodia into Vietnam; he ran at it full speed and they stopped to listen to what this crazy American had to say. As it turned out they were a Chinese bus tour and their sleeper bus wasnt full so they were able to take us with them AND they just so happened to be heading to Ho Chi Minh.

We gratefully accepted a ride and jumped on the bus, found our respective seats and looked at each other, laughing at our luck; the universe proving again it's magic and Synchronous nature. After a long bus ride staring out the window seeing the subtle and also obvious differences between Vietnam to Cambodia, the bus dropped us off in the middle of Ho Chi Minh and me, Mac and John hopped off and went into the mall to eat some knock off KFC chicken - which was delicious. 

We were about 5 km away from our hostel but we decided to walk as we wanted to see the secret alleys and the innards of Ho Chi Minh in all of its sneaky glory. We were using Ho Chi Minh as a transitional city and weren't staying too long, so exploration was absolutely necessary. As we zipped down alleyways nearly escaping being hit by motorbikes, motorcycles, bicyclists and other fast walkers like ourselves we stumbled upon a giant pagoda that had shrines to Buddha, Kuan Yin and also Vishnu and Shiva. We payed our respects to the beautiful statues and continued our wandering. 

Christmas decorations in every alley  

Christmas decorations in every alley  

Walking a little bit further we accidentally stumbled upon Christmas in Ho Chi Minh (as it was Christmas Eve) and all the streets had strewn lights all across the alleyways, little girls were dressed up an angel costumes, Santa was riding a motorbike, and there was even a fog machine turned snow machine that lightly fluttered down and decorated the alley with little snow bubbles. We stumbled upon a beautiful Catholic Church that was decorated and lit up in many colors complete with the baby Jesus, the star of Bethlehem, and various Christmas trees strewn about with beautiful ornaments and shiny ribbons. Everyone there was dressed to a T and ready for midnight mass. Christmas songs rang out in English as well as Vietnamese; we were in such a pure awestruck state as we had no idea this was what was waiting for us in the alleyways a Vietnam. 

Tiny snow angels  

Tiny snow angels  

We walked further making way for our hostel, it must have been at least 100° with 100% humidity as we were absolutely covered in sweat. The juxtaposition of it all, beautifully dressed Vietnamese people to disgustingly sweaty foreigners was all very funny. We ended up parting ways with Mac and decided to get an Uber the rest of the way.

Ourr Uber took us to the address that our hostel claimed it was at (54/6 - whatever that meant) and we wandered around the building square for about 30 minutes until this very charming Vietnamese lady looked at us, sweaty, exhausted and carrying huge backpacks, and using her hands as a map she showed us we needed to be on the other side of the building. Once on the other side of the building we realized that there was a very tiny inlet that looked like a garage but once you walked in it opened to a whole city square and our Harry Potter-Esque address meant 54 was the square we were in and 6 was the actual building number.

As exhausted as we were we decided to shower and head out on Christmas Eve and see what what there was to do. We stumbled upon a night market, but as it turns out the night markets in Cambodia, the night markets in Thailand, and the night markets in Vietnam are all pretty similar; they're all tourist traps with expensive drinks and loud foreigners.

We stayed at Saigon Central hostel that was very centrally located and had a super helpful staff. There, we learned about the 'hop on hop off' bus that cost $59 to go from Ho Chi Minh all the way to North Vietnam (Hanoi), stopping in whatever major city you want, adventuring around for however long you want and then contacting them to hop back on the bus when you're ready to head to a new city. 

The next day we woke up and tried to enjoy our last day in Ho Chi Minh - by looking for a phone store for a SIM card. We found a great donut shop and I found a tattoo shop (!) and chatted with an artist for a little while about getting a tattoo; unfortunately we were only going to be there for a day and that was not enough time to sit down sketch out approve and also get tattooed (I haven't been tattooed here yet in southeast Asia and that is wearing on my mind. And body. As I love being tattooed especially when it's for such a beautiful reason as to symbolize an epic place I've been So lucky to experience. And it's driving me mildly crazy!) 

Nothing says Christmas like a batman donut  

Nothing says Christmas like a batman donut  

Side note about Ho Chi Minh: it's not a good place to rent or drive a motorized vehicle. Traffic is beyond insane and they drive anywhere they can: the road, the sidewalk, the canal, wherever. 

Exhausted (hating) the city we hopped on a bus to Da Lat, excited to leave the madness of the city for the beauty and stillness of the countryside. Our bus ride was absolutely amazing taking up up the beautiful green mountains higher and higher and higher into the mountains into the city of Da Lat nestled between mountains in this beautiful Green and foggy valley. Da Lat is easily one of my favorite places I've been so far. It was colonized by the French and so it has some seriously eclectic flares between Vietnamese culture, French architecture and almost a Dutch and Swiss tinge. 

Our Backpackers Paradise Crew 💕  Lenore, Lynn, Nessa, Mary, Jack, Tess, Mar, me & John

Our Backpackers Paradise Crew 💕  Lenore, Lynn, Nessa, Mary, Jack, Tess, Mar, me & John

We stayed in Backpackers Paradise hostel which was probably one of our favorite hostels. They are cheap and in a great location and had free breakfast AND dinner (which free dinner is uncommon). We became super close knit to all of our hostel mates, and one fateful night we all ventured out and went to the highly unique highly raved about 100 Roofs café which is an absolute MUST if you go to Da Lat!!!!!! I won't spoil too much of it for you (as I love surprises) but basically you walk into the bar, you decide if you want to go up or down, and the rest is a maze lit up dimly with multicolored lights and the walls are all decorated in different images, sculptures, animals, people etc, complete with little cubbyholes, random staircases and secret rooms. That being said, is a very poor description of the bar and you need to see it for yourself. It was the best bar I've ever been to.  

A sneaky area of 100 Roofs Cafe

A sneaky area of 100 Roofs Cafe

Adventuring through Da Lat on a motorbike was the most freeing feeling, riding through rice pattys (paddies?) and different coffee orchards, only to find beautiful pristine waterfalls about three tiers high. Our favorite waterfall was Pongour Waterfall which was a bit of a drive out of Da Lat. It was absolutely ginormous and if you didn't get in trouble you were able to climb to the top! Due to our ultra sneaky nature we made it to the top but got in trouble on the way down 😂😂 Elephant Waterfall was also amazing (Sammie duhhhh) but it was about half the size of Pongour and there were way too many tourists. Tiger waterfall pictured below was challenging to get to because the road was on a 45 degree incline and the whole road WAS a giant pothole. It was very beautiful and had a legend that we tried to make out - Basically tigers used to live there in the caves before man took over and started hunting them. (Stupid man.)

Tiger waterfall in Da Lat

Tiger waterfall in Da Lat

In between waterfalls, coffee was necessary to life and as it happens Da Lat, Vietnam is one of the places that you can get weasel coffee(!) which is the coffee that comes from weasels eating coffee beans, something magical that happens with their stomach acid making the coffee incredibly good and pooping the beans out and humans consuming them! (The pooped out coffee beans that is - not the weasel) It is said to be the most expensive (and delicious) coffee in the world. Not pictured are the adorable weasels because they were in cages and John and I had a bad feeling about them on a coffee-bean-only diet.

Weasel (poop) coffee 😂 

Weasel (poop) coffee 😂 

Lucky, the wolf husky, reunited with his papa & going on a celebratory drive  

Lucky, the wolf husky, reunited with his papa & going on a celebratory drive  

Back at the home front - Backpackers Paradise we were able to witness Lucky, the beautiful husky dog, be reunited with his family after being DOGNAPPED for a week! It was so heartwarming to see such a huge fluffy dog so ecstatic to be home and his dad immediately put him on a motorbike (with a pink helmet of course) and took him for a celebratory drive! (Only in Vietnam!)

Crazy House in Da Lat

Crazy House in Da Lat

We adventured to Crazy House in Da Lat which was apparently built by an autistic daughter of a general who was sent away to live in the mountains; we were told this by a Dutch restaurant owner named Thomas (who is located right across from the Crazy House.) We did our own research but sometimes google doesn't translate things as well as it thinks it does because we also heard the same person who built 100 Roofs Cafe did Crazy House as well, so there was some conflicting information. 

New Years Giant Jengaaaaaa!  

New Years Giant Jengaaaaaa!  

We were sad to leave Da Lat, it's definitely my favorite city in Vietnam so far, but we had to continue our journey North and headed to Nha Trang as yet another transitional (coastal) city on our way to Hoi An, where we wanted to celebrate New Year's. Some of our hostel mates from backpackers paradise in Da Lat met up with us and we celebrated New Year's in Hoi An at a reggae bar called One Love, where I bought a bucket of booze and me and John played jumbo Jenga! 

The top of Marble Mountain  

The top of Marble Mountain  

We bought a motorbike in Hoi An and drove to Marble Mountain, climbed the mountain (with a bunch of tourists as it was the only sunny day we've had in awhile), went through some caves and witnessed a giant Buddha in a beautiful old cave with Chinese characters scratched into the walls of the cave.

Big cave! Big Buddha! Little Jess!  

Big cave! Big Buddha! Little Jess!  

The beautiful coast of Da Nang, Vietnam  

The beautiful coast of Da Nang, Vietnam  

We drove out to the mountains (Monkey Mountain) where there is a giant Kuan Yin statue you can see all the way from the city of Da Nang, there we drove along the coast - that looks very much like Highway 1 in California!

The plan today is to do the Hai Van Pass made famous by the show Top Gear!!  woooo! The saga continues!! 

10 fun things to do in Bangkok

These are my super awesome travel tips for fun things to do in Bangkok. These, like my thoughts, are in no particular order. Enjoy!

IMG_3960.JPG

 

1.       Take the public transit system; bus, Tuk Tuk's & the Skytrain!

 

It’s exhilarating, mildly dangerous but overall efficient and fun. The US could take some pointers from foreign public transit systems. Once you get used to it, it’s a very easy system to navigate but at first glance it can seem a little daunting.

 

The buses are numbered (obviously) and the bus stops are labelled with the bus numbers that you pick up. Bus stops are located all over the city so you’re never far from one and there’s always at least one person on the bus who knows English well enough to translate for you. Just make sure you're holding on when they round a corner, at times it does seem like they're trying to kill you!

#wedidntdie

#wedidntdie

 

Tuk-tuks are the main transportation system in Thailand, and before we got here we read from a ton of different travel sites warning us to be on the lookout. However, John and I took 2 tuk-tuks and both of them were really cool and helped us around the city. They were also honest and transparent with us, letting us know they would get free gas if they took us to a suit shop. (The suits shops are actually kind of cool and custom make suits special for you. They show you the different suits, you pick the style, the fabric, the number of buttons, the cut on the collar, etc.)

 

2.       Temples; duhh!

 

There are so many to choose from and it would take a couple days to properly explore all of the ones in and around the city. My favorite temple in Bangkok was at Wat Pho, Phra Mondop, the unique green architecture stuck out right away and spoke to me. There were faces in the design that reminded me of Green Man (Celtic mythology) and the symbolic structures along the roof top were hands reaching up into the sky (instead of dragons or another type of animal). It had a very different look than the other temples and had a mystery all on its own.

Metal claws at Phra Mondop

Metal claws at Phra Mondop

 

Wat Arun is a beautiful wide spread temple that we approached by sea (riverboat); they are currently restoring it so it's surrounded by bamboo scaffolding, which adds a new dimension to its already spectacular build. Wat Arun is where I had the opportunity to be blessed by a Buddhist monk, so it holds a very special place in my heart.

 

3.       Khoa San Road; known as the famous backpacking district.

 

It’s loud, overwhelming, busy with drunk foreigners, but it wouldn’t be Bangkok without it. You can buy anything on Khoa San Road from eating a wide array of bugs, to getting tattooed, to purchasing all sorts of handmade crafts (ninja pants galore!!). It’s like Las Vegas on crack, fun to visit and say you were there & laugh with other travelers who have also been there.

 

4.       Take a Longboat ride, not a long boat ride! ha!

 

The boats are also decorated with beautiful bright fresh flowers from the flower district. They’re all stringed together, different colors and hues, from yellows, pinks to blues. You feel like you’re on a little party barge jumping from wave to wave. You can see so much of the city from the boats that go up and down Chao Phraya River. Poor neighborhoods with houses more or less under water and then stunning views of the temples that you can’t get from being on land. We were able to see the feets of the Sitting Buddha from the sea (again, river).

Long boats and their pretty tassels

Long boats and their pretty tassels

 

The long boats are really exciting because the captains (if you want to call them that) are fun and they interact with you and the surroundings! Ours pulled up to people offering us beers and treats (also on boats!) and pointed out a gila monster! Natives call these creatures crocodiles (I’m not 100% positive if they are gila monsters but I know they’re definitely not crocodiles). They’re long and serpent-like with longer arms and legs than crocs have, and my favorite part, a blue tongue. Oh, and they climb, so they’re definitely not crocodiles.

 

5.      Eat something weird; dooo itttt.

 

Of course Thailand has the most delicious Thai food (especifically my favorite, curry pad thai!) that you’ve ever eaten, but the opportunity to eat something really weird is only steps away. John, his brother and I all ate bugs, crickets (I think) soaked in soy sauce. As Nate put it “it could have been way worse.” There are bigger bugs available to nom on like cockroaches, scorpions and tarantulas, but those are terrifying. Mostly the spiders. Because wtf? What if it’s fangs get caught in your tongue? Now what?

Nomming on bugs  

Nomming on bugs  

 

6.       Stay in a hostel; make new friends.

 

Hotels are super cheap in Thailand so it’s very easy to get a great room for a cheap price, but the experience of a hostel with other backpackers and travelers is the real prize. John and I stayed at Canale Hostel, which was amazing and I would highly recommend it. It’s centrally located right on the canal, not far from Khoa San Road, and all the other fun neighborhoods. It’s very Encinitas-esque, being mildly hipster-y, with wood finish and sparkly lights on the ceiling upstairs. The beds are built into the walls and there are curtains for privacy, also… it’s air conditioned! I met a German lady named Karen who has been to 104 countries thanks to her sales job and 3months vacation per year (damn you US!) She had great travel tips and helped me and John fine tune our Vietnam adventure. “Kay,” the guy that worked at our hostel is Thai but works to travel in such faraway places, like Chicago! He was extremely helpful in planning the more northern adventures we’re about to take part in. You meet so many interesting people that have been to such awesome places but it’s the cozy familiarity of the hostel that brings out the helpful traveler friend.

 

7.       Get your hurr did (hair for those who don't understand me sometimes) 

 

I watched a girl get her hair dreaded faster than I’ve seen anything hair-related being done. Thai people are fast, efficient and do such an amazing job. You can get dread, cornrows, braids with extenders or adding an extra fun splash of color. Now that you’ve been to Bangkok your life is a little bit different from those around you and this is a great temporary change to symbolize this rite of passage. For the people leery of getting something permanent like a tattoo or piercing, this is easy and removable.

 

8.       Thai massage; also duhh!

 

Thailand is where Thai massage, or it’s other name, “lazy man’s yoga,” originated. Thai masseuses rub you and gently pull you into yoga poses so you achieve all the goodness and stretchiness of yoga AND a massage without having to go through the trouble of moving your own muscles. Thai people are tiny but they’re so strong and fierce! I got an amazing Thai massage that worked out every muscle of my sore backpacking-carrying body.

 

9.       Get lost! Honestly!

'This looks pretty, let's go this way.' 

'This looks pretty, let's go this way.' 

 

Bangkok is amazingly fun and I found it pretty safe, extremely friendly and easy to get around. Everyone was super kind; and in the event that we were lost, we were easily guided from an English speaking Thai person AND there are maps all around the city. Getting lost pushes you outside your comfort zone (if you weren’t already out of it) and gives you the opportunity to learn a little about yourself. Do you stay calm under the pressure of not knowing where you’re going? Are you okay with giving up control? Can you handle wandering off into the distance of an unfamiliar place? What crazy experiences could be waiting for you to be out of your mind and in the natural flow!? John and I got lost leaving Wat Pho and ended up experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime-occasion of watching the King of Thailand’s body being moved! (seriously! He died in October!) We didn’t even know that was going on and happened to stumble upon it! Getting lost opens you up to new experiences and perspectives! Live a little!

 

10.  Go to Unicorn Café; okay this one is realllyyyy biased I will admit.

 

The other recommendations are pretty objective, super fun things that ground you into the weird culture of Bangkok, this one is more subjective because I have an extremeeeeee love of this fantastical horned creature and you should too!

Unicorn café is in the city area of Bangkok, down a little alley (like most cool places are in Bangkok). You can tell right as your rounding the corner because the sign is rainbow tie dye. You walk in and are immediately blasted off to the most magical spectacular land full of rainbows and clouds and unicorns. Unicorn wallpaper greets you while big pink and purple couches are buttoned together with large sparkly buttons. Unicorn stuffed animals are lined up all along the couches so you can have a tea party with a few of your horned friends and most everything on the menu is unicorn treats!! Rainbow Rolls and Glitter Shakes and even a Unicorn Tower (basically crepes, milkshakes and ice cream!)

Culinary cuteness overload at Unicorn Café 

Culinary cuteness overload at Unicorn Café 

I hope you were, at the very least, entertained by my 10 fun things to do in Bangkok. I hope you have an amazing journey! 🦄🦄🦄

Endless staircases at Wat Arun

Endless staircases at Wat Arun

Bangkok

Telephone wires hang like spaghetti noodles all across Bangkok, the aromas of food range from delicious to absolutely foul and if you have your mouth open at the wrong moment you can catch all sorts of tastes from the street vendors that line the roads. Tuk tuks and taxis drive slowly by yelling and grabbing your attention, ripping you out of your daydreams to ask if you want a ride. We seldom take tuk tuks because that's the only true sketchy thing we heard about Bangkok (well besides the red light district).

We've taken the sky train all around the city to see the different architecture of the different neighborhoods. Like china, high rises exist next door to dilapidated housing in which the jungle has began to reclaim. Trees and vines sprout of the roofs and windows of houses. 

Gila monster? Tiny Dinosaur? 

Gila monster? Tiny Dinosaur? 

Yesterday we took a longboat ride down the river and saw a number of amazing temples lining the river. We saw a Gila monster sunning himself along the cement holding wall. Cat fish came close to jumping out of the water, mouths open asking for food. People fish and gaze at the river as they do in all cultures; water holds the answers of all wandering minds. 

The long boat we were on was lined with fresh flowers from the flower district we passed on the way to wat pho yesterday.

Longboat ride  

Longboat ride  

We saw quite a few temples from the river and the amazing artistic architecture they flaunt. The finest details, always being restored with much respect and much care.

The restoration of Wat Arun

The restoration of Wat Arun

We saw the Sitting Biddha, Reclining Buddha Standing Buddha, Sleepy Buddha etc. Okay, so I'm joking about the last one but there were quite a few different buddhas we got to see. All huge. All beautiful. All unique.

Standing Buddha  

Standing Buddha  

Reclining Buddha Feets

Reclining Buddha Feets

Reclaiming Buddha was my favorite one because of his feets. All sorts of magical symbols done in abalone!

The Jess abides, and dresses appropriately. Photo by John Perez 

The Jess abides, and dresses appropriately. Photo by John Perez 

Due to my inappropriate style of dress (it was hot?!) I got to wear an amazing lime green bathrobe when I entered The Temple of the Reclining Buddha, but I was not alone as most foreign girls also got to sport this for cool style.

 

My favorite temple was at Wat Pho because it had hands on the ends of the roof reaching up into the sky and also Green Man-Esque faces. 

Favorite temple at Wat Pho

Favorite temple at Wat Pho

I got blessed by a Buddhist monk at WatArun  which was an incredible opportunity that I am so grateful to have.

Khoa san road is the very popular backpackers dostrict that was a little overwhelming. In china we were the only foreigners, in khoa san there are only foreigners. It's very much like Mexico or Peru in the sense that there are all these markets open and people shoving their products in your face, that coupled with the huge amount of drunk foreigners makes it a little too much, however, I did eat a bug so that was fun. (It mostly tasted like the soy sauce it was soaked in.)

Jess & Nate nomming on a bug. Photo by John perez  

Jess & Nate nomming on a bug. Photo by John perez  

 

At night something really magical happened. We were leaving Wat Pho trying to find a bus (the public transportation is a must!! it's so fun and scary and awesome and exciting!) ...And there were all Thai people dressed in black - and by all Thai people I mean every Thai person in Bangkok - we couldn't really figure out what was happening but about after 2 miles of walking along the road and not being able to find a bus a little Thai army dude told us to sit down at this crosswalk because the KING was being moved!!!!!!

For those who don't know, King Bhumibol Adulyadej  of Thailand died in October and the Thai people loved him very much. This was a really big deal because he reigned for 70 years. So last night we literally sat in the streets with all the Thai people watcheing his body being moved. After being extremely humbled that we were able to witness this incredibly unique experience we kept wandering in search for a bus, my feet were about to give up. 2 miles later, still walking, another little army dude called us over and told us the princess was coming. I asked 'should we sit?' Feeling good I knew the appropriate thing to do and he shook his head, pointed onward and said 'no, walk very quickly!' So we ran to the end of the road and sat and patiently waiting for her to pass. It was awesome. 

Today I got to check off a huuuuge bucket list item as I went and experienced the Unicorn Cafe in Bangkok, and it was every bit of magical you'd expect! Everything is unicorn-something. Glitter drinks, magic burgers, and delicious treats! We had some fantastical drinks and rainbow crepes that were super sugary so I might have diabetes, but it was so worth it!

My magical feast at the Unicorn Cafe

My magical feast at the Unicorn Cafe

Tonight is our last night in Bangkok and we board a bus tomorrow for Cambodia. Angkor Wat here we come! Thanks for listening to my rambling thoughts! 💕🦄

Scampering off to the next adventure! Photo by John Perez  

Scampering off to the next adventure! Photo by John Perez  

China adventures

Being on the other side of the world is very much like being on the other side of the world. China has been absolutely amazing and different in every way, yet is still familiar at times. I love to travel because it pulls emotions and tendencies from you that you wouldn’t normally have and highlights things about yourself that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.

Photo by Lee

Photo by Lee

We landed in china after a 14 hour flight; apparently I can't do math and was really surprised and thought we had emergency landed in Russia – I blame the lack of sleep. We meandered through the airport, through the lines at customs and began our search for the subway. It’s a very efficient method to buy subway tickets but if you don’t know Chinese it can get a little challenging. We hopped on the subway and it was very much what you would expect from a Chinese subway – just as many people as possible squeezed like tiny sardines into the subway car. It’s kind of fun to push and shove yourself in and out, nothing personal, just subway survival.

We made it to the train station and hung out there for a while waiting for our train and the last leg of our journey to take us to Liz and Lee. The only food options we had were mcdonalds and honestly we were pretty grateful for the food after the long flight and general deliriousness. The train station was my first real experience with a Chinese bathroom- which is a square hole in the ground that you just have to hover over and hope for the best. It took some getting used to but I do see the logic behind it – very much like our “squatty potty” unicorn facebook commercial. Also, I'm almost 100% sure two people on the train were eating cat food, so again, grateful for the mcdonalds. At this point my brain was trying to make sense of the Chinese language and translating the words without my approval so I heard lots of swearing and random conversations about Shamu and gingivitis.

Riding the train was the first time we were ‘outside’ and able to see the Chinese countryside which is such an amazing landscape! These mountains would just come out of nowhere and fade away just as quickly as they erupted out of the earth. It was almost as if the creator was holding a box of mountains and tripped over something and they all flew out of the box and fell randomly to the earth. The mountains also just gave away to the water, much like Big Sur, not really bothering with beaches.

Landscapeyness

Landscapeyness

From the train we could see rice patty fields next to high rises and dilapidated housing in which the Detroiter in me really wanted to explore. Staring out the window watching the world go by is one of my favorite past times, but so is sleep, and I was able to do a lot of that on our 4 our train ride to Lizzie and Lee. They picked us up at the train station and took us around the city where we got to experience the market and mall. At the mall they had all these kid rides that were so sparkly that John and I had to jump in and ride around in. they were these little Tron vehicles that rolled around and were full of shiny glowy lights. We went back to their apartment and met Zac Efron, their cat who looks like a tiny snow leopard, who gives the best hugs.

Adventuring around china with liz and lee is so much fun! Culinary adventures in the form of hot pot, feasting with Lee’s parents in a hotel room like a Chinese gangster, barbeque (Chinese version – very different then American version) and mango cake, with some weirder things sprinkled in between like pig penis and durian (a fruit that tastes good but smells like ass). Eating Chinese street food is a staple to visiting china, little street vendors line the roads and youre not quite sure if they’re selling food or stuff from their garage at times, but spicy noodles are delicious, and the spiciness totally killed any bacteria I may have eaten.

Photo by lee  

Photo by lee  

First Liz and Lee took me and John to an international friendship park where we rode a roller coaster (while Liz safely watched from below). Chinese people really like taking pictures of tall Americans and tattooed Americans so it seems me and John are floating around in a lot of random Chinese people’s pictures. Liz said that was pretty normal.

Photo by John perez

Photo by John perez

I've tried to make Liz teach me a couple Chinese swearwords, which I’ve already forgotten, and I'm also try to learn a couple words myself to help me get by, but basically the only word I know is shi shi, which is thank you.

Pooping adventures are a continuous thing as you always need to go to the bathroom (the food is pretty much all cooked in oil and fat) but you have to be very discerning on the bathroom you select. There were a few bathrooms me and Liz ventured into that I thought would be our last. But we prevailed!

Lee took John and I on an e-bike adventure through the city of Liuzhou to a park. Lee assured me he was an amazing driver, and we didn’t die, so I believe him. He dropped me and John off to a park where there was a mountain in middle.

Photo by John Perez  

Photo by John Perez  

We started wandering aimlessly towards the mountain, hoping it was climbable and then to our happy surprise we found a trail. On our way up we found a lesser travelled dirt path through the trees and followed that to the top. Once there the stairs turned into stones and we had to maneuver cleverly to avoid death. The rocks at the top were a little sketchy and mostly held in by bolts and nets that looked excessively old, but we managed to monkey up to the top overlooking the whole city with a 360 degree view. It was so cool to stand on the top just overlooking everything, as far as they eye could see and the smog would allow.

Photo by John Perez  

Photo by John Perez  

We went to the East Gate, which is the oldest wall in the province of Guangxi and then Confucius Temple, which was closed, but the architecture was beautiful and we were able to sneak around the back and climb some stairs for an epic view of the cityscape and bridges of Liuzhou. There was a cave that me and John started to sneak into but Liz and Lee assured us that’s where crackheads lived, so our cave adventure was short lived.

John and Liz overlooking Liuzhou  

John and Liz overlooking Liuzhou  

We took a river boat ride and got to see all of the amazing sparkly city lights of Liuzhou and the waterfalls that you could only see from the river, which were incredibly beautiful. They light up the mountains at night with green and yellow and orange lights so the whole city looks like a crazy jungle.

Photo by John Perez

Photo by John Perez

Basically China is fucking rad, an amazing mix of city, nightlife and epic backcountry all rolled into one. It’s fun to blog while I’m here and keeps my memory sharp by documenting and reliving all the epic things we’ve done. We’d love to stay longer and do more Chinese adventures but Thailand is calling & we’re answering the call!

Last night in China

Last night in China