Sublime Sichuan

For the May holiday in China, the government scheduled five consecutive vacation days. Jun felt that since it coincided with the end of my school term it would be a good time for us to take a long vacation. We both took some extra days and extended our holiday time so we would have nine days off. At first, we wanted to visit Tibet. But the government hadn’t lifted the restrictions on foreigners traveling to Tibet. Jun then decided we would do the next best thing and visit the western areas of Sichuan which are culturally Tibetan. 

Day 1

The start of our trip began after I had attended the annual graduate student conference my university runs. I’m an online graduate student living in China, but my university is based in the United States. As a result, the conference ran from midnight to shortly before 6:00 in the morning. I was exhausted and got about two hours of sleep before we had to leave for the airport.

Those two hours must have been enough because I was able to make it through the day. When we got to the airport, we met with Jun’s cousin who we invited to join us on the trip to Sichuan. Last year when the pandemic hit, she found herself in Sichuan but was unable to do anything as everything closed when she got there, and she had to leave early before cities stopped allowing people to travel to and from places within the country. This opportunity was a chance for her and us to explore western Sichuan!

We first arrived in Chengdu and spent the night there before heading out to the western parts of the province. When we got to Chengdu we first checked in at our hotel and then ventured to Chunxi Road. We went and explored Taikoo Li, which is a shopping district built within older Chinese buildings. In the heart of the district is an old Buddhist monastery, Daci Temple. The grounds of the temple were gorgeous. It was verdant with so many different types of plants that it was a joy to walk around and explore this temple.

Soon it was getting late, and we were hungry. Jun picked a nearby Sichuan restaurant for dinner, Tianfu Zhanggui, that was a wonderful place for a meal. I enjoyed the donut-like snack.

After dinner, we walked around the area near Anshun Corridor Bridge. It was nice to walk this area at night. The first time I visited Chengdu I stayed near here, and it was fun to see what things changes and what things remained the same.

Day 2

Our day started early, which I was not happy about as I wanted to sleep in more. But I got up and went down with everyone else for a quick breakfast. Then it was back to our room to get our stuff and go back down to check out and meet our driver for the next week.

Jun hired a car and driver to take us around the western areas of Sichuan. He ended up being a tour guide as well who informed us of important things we needed to know. He was a great guy and an excellent driver.

Once we got everything loaded in the car, we were soon on our way to our first destination: Luding. This stop was a quick break from driving. Luding is known for its bridge, which is significant in the history of modern China. A significant battle was fought there during the Long March that helped secure this key crossing. Because of the holiday, the line to cross the bridge was long. We decided we would visit the adjacent temple and take a view of the bridge from up there. Jun and his cousin found it interesting because they had read about Luding Bridge and the battle there when they were in school. This information was all new for me.

We then got back in the car and drove to our main destination of the day: Hailuogou Glacier Forest Park. Located next to Moxi Town, the park is known for its glaciers and spectacular forests. It’s the only glacier forest park in China. It was amazing!

When we got there, we took a bus up the main area of the park. From there we hiked up to see the No. 1 Glacier. Then we hiked down the mountain to visit different areas of the park. Everywhere we went there was something new to see. Each area had its unique feel towards it. Jun mentioned it reminded him of a fantasy world. And some sections definitely had the feel of a storybook setting.

By the time we left we were amazed at all that we had seen. We were also very hungry. When we got back to Moxi, our driver took us to the hotel where we quickly checked in and then we went in search of food. We ended up having beef hot pot and some vegetables. For the first time, I ate ferns, which wasn’t bad. Nothing I would seek to order in the future, but still not bad.

Jun and I then went for a walk around the town before going back to the hotel. When we arrived back at the hotel, we were both soon out for the night.

Day 3

Early the next day we checked out of our hotel, got in the car, and went to a restaurant to get breakfast on the go. We were off to our next destinations: Tagong Grassland and Moshi Park. The drive took us through the mountains, and it was quite eerie up there as it was foggy and snowing. At one scenic area, Zheduoshan Snow Visiting Platform, there were so many people there that we decided to skip it and head on to the grasslands. The weather was so bad that it wasn’t worth it. Soon, though, the weather did clear up and we were treated to some magnificent views of the surrounding mountains.

We then drove through Xinduqiao where we would spend the night. We stopped there for lunch before going to Tagong Grassland.

When we got there, we walked around a bit and saw the expense of the area. While it was late spring, the grasses are more prominent in the summer. Our view was quite limited, and we stayed there only a short while.

Our next stop, though, was wonderful. Moshi Park is mainly known for its stone forest. The rock formations in the park developed due to the geologic movements and weathering known for this part of China. They were quite amazing to walk around. In some places when you walked through the formations it felt as if you were in an alien landscape. We all enjoyed our visit.

Soon, though, it was time to go check-in at our hotel for the night and find dinner. The hotel Jun chose was quite nice with really friendly staff. The restaurant he initially chose was, however, troublesome. When we got there, they didn’t have any seats and when we tried to find out how long we would have to wait they never responded. We decided it wasn’t worth it to wait and went and had dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. That ended up being a great idea as dinner was wonderful. They had a mapo tofu that was delicious with a unique flavoring I hadn’t had before. It was a nice way to end the day.

Soon, we went back to our rooms and called it a day.

Day 4

After breakfast and checking out, we were soon on our way to Litang.

When we got to Litang we first had lunch there before going to walk around the Old Town area. One thing we noticed about the Old Town was how well preserved the buildings were. The other thing that struck me was how much the architecture reminded me of the American Southwest with adobe-like structures. The first place we went when we were there was a temple sacred in the life of the seventh Dalai Lama. This region is culturally Tibetan and part of the Gelukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhists. The walk around the Old Town was beautiful with the different buildings and sights to see.

Soon, though, we were off to the main sight of Litang: Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling Monastery. One of the most sacred temples in Buddhism, the third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, founded the monastery in 1580 on the site of an older monastery. The current monastery is a reconstructed building due to events in the 20th century. The interiors of the buildings are amazing and intricate. The sheer size of the rooms was cavernous.

Once we had walked around the temple, we then went up a hill to overlook the temple and the town. At the top of the hill were prayer flags. The views were amazing, and it was nice walking around the prayer flags and experience the calming effects of being in an out-of-the-way place.

Soon, though, we found ourselves back in the car and off to Xianggelila (Shangri-la). While driving we stopped within Haizi Mountain Nature Reserve to see Rabbit Mountain and a glacial lake. Both places were spectacular, but the elevation was making it hard to take in enough oxygen. We were now well above 4,500 meters above sea level and it was affecting us. My head hurt if I exerted myself too much. I was glad when we were able to travel down into the valley where Xianggelila is located.

The night ended with us in Xianggelila. We first bought some provisions and oxygen for our next day when we would visit Yading Nature Reserve. Then we went to the hotel where we checked in and had a simple meal at the hotel restaurant before calling it a night.

Day 5

The entire day had us visiting Yading Nature Reserve. The reserve is on the Tibetan Plateau and is a sacred location for Buddhists. The fifth Dalai Lama sanctified the mountain peaks; as a result, it is now a pilgrimage site with monasteries and stupas located in the surrounding mountains and valleys.

We were lucky that we were there after the official holiday period ended. Jun showed me pictures from two days before our visit and it was full of people. When we were there, we had to only wait a few minutes to catch the bus from the entrance to Chonggu Temple. From there we then took a battery tram to Luorong where we started the hike upwards. The hike took us up to an elevation of 4,700 meters above sea level.

We took it slow and first went to Milk Lake and then Five Color Lake. The journey was amazing. We were stunned by the views at every turn. Throughout the day we would get pelted with snow that lasted a few minutes and then would stop as the sun came out. By the time we reached back down in the valley in Luorong, the sun was back and there were a lot of animals grazing and wandering around.

We were tired by late afternoon and decided to head back to the hotel and have dinner. We ended up eating at a fish hotpot restaurant. While the food was good it wasn’t necessarily my favorite meal. Afterward, we went back to the hotel to relax and rest our weary bodies.    

Day 6

After the exhausting day we had, today was more relaxing as we were starting the end of our trip and the journey back to Chengdu.

While driving we stopped at a new forest in Daocheng and walked around the area. Human-planted, the forest had a planned look to it. Still, though, it was nice to walk around the trees. From there we next went to Zunsheng Talin, a pagoda that marks the entrance to Daocheng. It’s quite impressive in size. When we were there, pilgrims were walking around the pagoda spinning the prayer wheels.

From there we went to Litang to have lunch at this cozy restaurant. They, too, had a nice mapo tofu. Unlike the hotel in Xinduqiao, this version was spicy! The meal was great. The chef at one point came out of the kitchen, looked at me, and shouted foreigner in a happy tone. Quite random.

Then it was off to Xinduqiao. When we got there, we decided to see the sunset from one of the mountains in the area. The first one we wanted to visit, however, was closed. We next went to a mountain closer to town. We first climbed up there and the views were amazing. You could all the way to see Hailuogou Glacier Forest Park. While Jun and his cousin went up the mountain a bit, I spotted a temple. I told them I was going to visit it and would catch up to them. The little temple was surrounded by prayer flags. I had to walk over and under them to get to the temple. When I got there was a rustic quality to the temple. I was the only one there and it was quite serene to have the place to myself. I then went back to where Jun and his cousin were to enjoy the sunset before we left.

We stayed at the same hotel as our first visit and decided to have dinner there as well. Again, the food was amazing. After dinner, we decided to walk to the central part of town. When we got there, we noticed there were many places preparing barbecue. The food smelled great, but we were so full from dinner that we passed on getting anything.

As we walked back to the hotel, we enjoyed being able to look up and see the stars. There was a section of the road without any lights, and you could see different constellations. It was a great way to end the night.

Day 7

Our day started with us driving through the mountains on our way back to Chengdu. While in the mountains we stopped at Zheduoshan Snow Visiting Platform. Unlike the last time we passed through, there were noticeably a lot fewer people here and the weather was amazing. The sun was out, and the sky was a cerulean blue. I was amazed by the views from the top near the prayer flags. We were lucky we decided to wait and visit when we did.

Then we drove to Bifeng Valley Scenic Area. Within this area, there is a panda base we wanted to visit. We were fortunate to arrive at the park during the pandas’ lunchtime. All the pandas we encountered were energetic and full of life. One little panda was so happy that he was striking poses and moving around with pep. While smaller than the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, the Bifeng Panda Base had a more natural element to it with it being in the mountains. Both are great in their unique ways.

After visiting the pandas we then walked through the gorge. Another fantastical place, we encountered waterfalls and greenery that could have been the embodiment of a Tolkienesque world. The walk also helped us acclimate to the warmer weather after having spent the last few days up on the Tibetan Plateau.

After our visit to Bifeng, we were on our way back to Chengdu for the night. By the time we were at the hotel, I was exhausted. Jun and his cousin went to have dinner with one of her friends. I, however, decided to stay in for the night and relax.

Day 8

This way the day we returned to Shenzhen. First, though, we went a visited Qingyang Palace, a Taoist temple, and Culture Park in the morning. The grounds of the temple were extensive and verdant with different plants. It was nice and calming to walk around the temple.

From there we visited Culture Park which surrounds the temple. There we stopped at a teahouse to relax and enjoy the rest of the morning. The tea was great and the views around the teahouse quite serene.

From there we went to Chunxi Road to have lunch at Chen’s Mapo Tofu. The food there was wonderful. After lunch, we took a taxi first to the hotel to get our things and checkout and then to the airport. Everything went smoothly and we soon found ourselves back in Shenzhen. Jun and I said goodbye to his cousin and went home.

Our trip was great. While it wasn’t Tibet as we originally planned, we did get to experience Tibetan culture. The sights, food, and people we encountered were amazing. Our trip ended up as a wonderful escape from the routine. 

Retreat to Ningbo

In late February, I was informed I would have to travel to Shanghai and Ningbo for work. The work trip would end on a Friday in Ningbo. When Jun learned of this, he got excited. His mom had been staying in the Ningbo area for the last year. With the pandemic occurring, he hadn’t been able to see her during that time. Now, here was an opportunity for him to visit her. We decided we would take this opportunity and spend a long weekend in Ningbo; we each took the following Monday off so we could have a three-day weekend.

Day 1

Technically for me, this was the fourth day of my trip away from Shenzhen. But at the end of the workday on Friday I shifted from work to fun. After I finished everything with work, I took the metro to Dongmenkou and walked to the Westin hotel. After check-in, I went up to the room and caught up with some school work before venturing out to get something quick to eat. After dinner, I continued to work on school work and waited for Jun to arrive. He planned to fly into Ningbo late that night and then take a taxi to the hotel. When he arrived, I met him in the lobby as he completed the guest registration process. By the time we got into the room, it was late, and Jun wanted to shower and go to bed.

Day 2

Our first full day in Ningbo as tourists started with us going down to have breakfast. Then we waited until Jun’s mom and her friends arrived so we could go and venture around the city.

When they arrived, Jun and his mom caught up for a bit. Then we went to first visit Yonggengku Ruins Park and the Drum Tower. The surrounding area is a pedestrian shopping area. After walking around a bit we continued to our main destination of Yuehu Park.

The park was gorgeous in the early spring weather. The trees were blossoming, and the air was nice and cool. Everything had that new green aura that left you feeling refreshed. Inside the park are a variety of smaller gardens that offer something slightly different to explore and enjoy.

We took our time meandering through the park until we started to get hungry. Jun found a local restaurant nearby and we decided to have lunch there. It seemed we weren’t the only ones who had that thought. There was a long wait for a table. We decided we would wait and not too long later we were seated at our table and had a tasty lunch.

Jun’s mom and her friends wanted to rest after lunch, so we left them near the restaurant and walked around the park a bit more. After exploring the park, we soon went back and caught up with Jun’s mom and her friends and continued to walk around the park.

Our next destination was Tianyige, which was just off the park. Tianyige is the oldest existing library in China. It is a combination of library and gardens, which Fan Qin founded in 1561 during the Ming dynasty. Today, it is a historic site open to visitors. Jun and I went around the park on our own; Jun’s mom and her friends were a bit tired from all the walking.

It was quite beautiful inside Tianyige. There was a serene atmosphere pervading the gardens and different halls. There was even an exhibition on mahjong that was fascinating. That had some ornate sets from different eras and parts of the world.

Soon, Jun and I left the library and gardens to find his mom. We found that everyone was ready to continue our exploration of the city. During the walk, Jun’s mom informed him that she wanted to spend the night and spend one more day with him. Jun and I decided to go back to the hotel to rest while Jun’s mom and friends booked a room at a different hotel.

We later met for dinner at a restaurant nearby our hotel. Again, we found it was quite popular and we had to wait a bit. It ended up being a smart choice since the food was amazing there. It was so good that Jun’s mom insisted we go back the next night and have dinner there again.

After dinner, Jun, his mom, and I went for a walk along the river in Ningbo’s Old Bund. At night it’s a bar street, but the buildings are quite beautiful, and it was fun to walk around the area. I mostly just enjoyed the walk as Jun and his mom talked.

Later we walked Jun’s mom back to her hotel. Then we went back to ours and called it a day.

Day 3

After breakfast, Jun and I walked to his mom’s hotel to meet up with her. First, we went with her to get some breakfast and then took a Didi to visit Dongqian Lake. We started our trip by walking along Xiaoputuo, a causeway along the center of the lake. It was a nice walk. We got to see peach blossoms, and visited some temples, and just enjoyed the spring weather.

We continued our walk along the eastern shore of the lake and ended up at a café where we had some tea and rested our feet.

From there we walked around the Mashan Wetland and visited Hanling Village. It wasn’t the right time to visit the wetlands as everything was still dormant for winter. In some spots, though, you could see life coming back to vibrancy.

The village, however, was interesting. The main street was full of people that it was a bit uncomfortable to try to maneuver around the area. The side streets, though, had fewer people and were more enjoyable to traverse. At the end of our visit to the village, Jun and I decided to treat ourselves to ice cream as we waited for the Didi to come and take us back to downtown Ningbo.

By the time we got back to our hotel, it was dinner time. We went back to the same restaurant, met up with Jun’s mom’s friend, again had to wait for a table, and enjoyed having a wonderful meal. After dinner, Jun’s mom had to leave, and she said her goodbyes to us.

Day 4

Our last day in Ningbo before having to go back to work in Shenzhen. After breakfast, Jun and I checked out and left our luggage at the hotel. Then we walked to Tianfeng Park to see the tower there. On the walk, we got to see some of the European influence in the city’s architecture. When we arrived at Tianfeng Park, we were impressed with the tower and how tall it was. The steps going up were quite steep but did offer nice views of the surrounding area. From there, Jun and I decided to get lunch and then visit Nantang Old Street.

I visited Nantang a few years back while I was there for work. It was one of the few tourist sites in Ningbo I had visited before this trip. The street is mainly a food street. Jun ended up buying some Ningbo rice cakes to take back with us.

By then it was getting close to mid-afternoon and we had to head back to the hotel to get our things and go to the airport.

Everything went smoothly on our trip back to Shenzhen. Overall, Jun and I enjoyed our trip to Ningbo. Jun was particularly happy he got to see his mom. We both agreed it was a nice break from work and the routine.

Christmas in Shenyang

December ended up being a low-key month for work. With school on winter break, Jun and I decided to spend Christmas up in the northeastern part of the country. We invited Jun’s cousin to come with us as well. Christmas is about family after all!

Our trip started with a sprint to the airport after work. When we got there, we went through all the airport formalities and had dinner. We were soon on our way to Shenyang, the capital of Liaoning province.

The flight was uneventful. We arrived early on Christmas Eve morning. We made our way to take a taxi to our hotel apartment. When we arrived at the Somerset Heping, we found ourselves helped with a sleepy trainee front desk attendant. We ended up confused by some of the policies that contradicted our reservation about the complimentary breakfast. Jun felt frustrated. I reminded him later that she was young and learning.

Once in our room, Jun called Agoda to sort out the matter. Evidently, there was a communication issue between Agoda and the hotel. The customer service representative assisted us and offered us to reimburse the breakfast if we paid it first. Once that was sorted and we had taken our baths, I was out for the night.

Day 1

We slept in and missed breakfast entirely. So the breakfast issue the first day became a moot point. But we were hungry. We decided to eat an early lunch and then explore Shenyang.

We took the metro to Zhongjie, the Middle Street pedestrian shopping arcade in Shenyang. Jun recommended we eat at a local restaurant, Lao Bian Dumplings. As the name suggests they are known for their dumplings. We ordered three different versions of dumplings. Also, we ordered sweet and sour pork, a delicacy here, and some vegetables. The food was delicious and inexpensive. We left happy and energized to go and discover more of the city.

We next ventured towards Mukden Palace, the Imperial Palace of Shenyang. The Qing Dynasty was founded in Shenyang, or Mukden in the Manchu language, in 1636. Emperor Nurhachi, a Jurchen chieftain, established the Qing Dynasty after defeating the leaders of the Ming Dynasty and came to rule China. He built the palace in 1625. It remains one of two imperial palace complexes that still exists in China. The other palace is the Forbidden City in Beijing, where the imperial capital was moved in 1644 after the Qing conquered the Ming capital and claimed the city as the capital of the Qing Dynasty.

When we arrived at the temple, we first had to figure out how to find the entrance. We ended up first visiting Zhongxin Temple before the attendant there informed us how to get to the main entrance.

After walking south to the main entrance, we bought our tickets and started to venture around the palace. The first thing that struck me was how much more intimate this palace is compared to the imperial palace in Beijing. Much smaller in scale, I found that at every turn each building and decoration was more unique and intriguing than at the one in Beijing. The sheer size of the Forbidden City in Beijing can be overwhelming. The Shenyang imperial palace allowed for a more detailed exploration of the complex.

Impressed with the palace, we next ventured to Marshal Zhang’s Mansion. Zhang Zuolin, a warlord who controlled Northeast China in the 1920s, built this structure south of the imperial palace after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. The complex is a mix of Chinese and Euro-American architectural styles. Walking around the area was interesting to see what life was like during this period and to see how elite people lived. The mix of architectural styles made the place feel like a little neighborhood. 

Our ticket to the mansion also included admission to the Shenyang Financial Museum. I expected the museum to be a small place, but it ended up being a detailed look at Chinese financial history. When we entered the museum, we saw a bunch of wax people posed to look like they were banking back in the early 1900s. From there the museum provided more information about finances and money in China and the world. I enjoyed the part about the paper money and coins from around the world.

When we had completed our tour of the museum, we walked towards the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral. As we were walking, we passed a market street and saw a fruit vendor selling strawberries. We ended up buying some. They were sweet and juicy. We continued our walk and found the cathedral. A beautiful ecclesiastical structure, we admired it from afar since the grounds were closed to visitors.

The sun had set by then and we decided to go have dinner. We decided to go to Xita, the Koreatown neighborhood in Shenyang. Liaoning province borders the Korean peninsula. There, thus, is a large Korean population in Shenyang. We chose a Korean barbecue restaurant—Zaomalu Charcoal Fire Barbecue—for dinner. The food was amazing and wonderful. We left feeling full and content.

From there we walked around the neighborhood and saw the West Pagoda. Then we walked home to call it a day.

Our first day in Shenyang was a wonderful time exploring the historic side of the city. When we got back to the hotel, I edited the pictures from the day and we just relaxed before going to bed early.

Day 2

 After a wonderful night of slumber, we all woke up ready to start the day. First, we had breakfast and then put on many layers of clothes to trek out into the city.

The first place we visited was Zhaoling Tomb in Beiling Park. The complex was built for the second Qing emperor, Hong Taiji, and empress, Xiaoduanwen. Construction started in 1643 and was completed in 1651. Beiling Park itself was at one time used for imperial purposes, but in 1928 it was opened to the public.

The park itself is quite large and nice to venture through. We saw a large number of Chinese elders dancing in the park. And we also saw that the lakes and ponds in the park were frozen over. People were playing on the ice; we saw ice skaters and ice hockey players.

When we got to the tomb, I was surprised at how peaceful it was. Being the winter season there weren’t a lot of people there; it maintained a serene quality. We enjoyed going around and experiencing the place.

After we had visited the tomb complex, we decided to have some fun on the frozen lakes and ponds in the park. That was fun to venture onto the ice and play with the other people.

When we were done, we took a Didi car to Stupa Beach Park to visit the North Pagoda. In the 1640s, four pagodas associated with Tibetan Buddhist temples were built outside the city walls orientated along the cardinal directions. The North Pagoda and associated Falun Temple are the best preserved. We spent some time looking around the pagoda, temple, and surrounding park. From there, we decided to have lunch at a restaurant called Guandong Courtyard, a typical restaurant in the region. We first had to choose what we wanted to eat by looking at display models of the food. Lunch was great. The portions were huge and tasty! It was a good choice on Jun’s part.

After lunch, we went and visited Fuling Tomb in Dongling Park. This tomb complex was built for the first Qing Emperor Nurhachi and Empress Xiaocigao. During the entire Qing Dynasty, the site served as the main ritual site for the imperial family.

Unlike Beiling Park, which is located in the city, Dongling Park is located on the outskirts, so it had a more rustic ambiance. When we arrived at the park it was already mid-afternoon, and the sun was starting to set. It set an ethereal mood for our visit to the park. As we walked in, we were surrounded by pine trees. Many of them were planted when the complex was built. From there we had to climb up 108 steps to the main tomb area.

The sights from up there were gorgeous. The trees and the setting sun, the lack of people, and the general feel of the area made for a tranquil experience. As we walked around the many halls and structures, I was struck by how majestic it all was. We were lucky that we came during this time as it added to the ambiance of the place.

From the park, we crossed the street to explore around East Lake. We had fun playing around the frozen lake. As it started to get colder with the setting sun, we decided to go back to the hotel.

Once there we enjoyed being in the warmth of our hotel apartment. We decided to order some Chinese barbecue and stay in for the night. Jun and I went to get some Christmas drinks at a nearby Costa before the food arrived. As we walked back the delivery person called. So we were able to pick up the food and go back to our apartment. It ended up being a nice way to end the day.

Day 3

After a hearty breakfast, we took a Didi to the Qipanshan Scenic Area. The area is located northeast of the city center. Officials named the area Qipanshan after a megalith that resembles a chessboard on the top of Qipan mountain.

The car alighted us at the north gate to the area. From there we walked towards Xiu Lake and explored that area for a while. The entire lake had frozen over. As we walked along the lake, we met with park workers who were breaking the ice so it wouldn’t harm the floating bridge that runs along the shore. It was a beautiful day and it felt as if we were exploring a frozen wonderland.

As we continued our walk, we tried to visit Wangyun temple but discovered that it was closed because of COVID-19. Not daunted, we continued walking and went towards the area where they hold the Shenyang International Ice and Snow Festival. When we got there, we discovered that the skiing areas were open, but the snow and ice sculptures were in the process of being created. I was a bit disappointed. I find snow and ice sculptures fascinating. We at least got to see one snow sculpture of an ox for the upcoming Chinese New Year. Not deterred, we played for a bit in the snow.

Since we still had time on our hands, Jun suggested we go visit the Guandong Movie & Television Town. The filming location contains 177 buildings constructed to look as if they existed in the late Qing Dynasty, roughly the 1890s to 1910s. When we arrived there was hardly anyone there. Jun and his cousin enjoyed going around the different areas because many of the places reminded them of their grandparents’ home. I enjoyed it to see the different scenes available. There were buildings in traditional architectural styles, city street scenes, and even neighborhoods that looked like a battle had occurred there. All of us felt surprised that we had liked visiting Guandong as much as we did.

When done we decided to take a car back to Shenyang and have dinner in Xita again. This time we ate at a Korean restaurant called Wan Shou Shen Ji Tang. The food there was again amazing. Their egg omelet dish was my favorite.

Afterward, we walked back to the hotel. We started to pack a little and just enjoy a relaxing night.

Day 4

Our last day in Shenyang, and we were ready to go home. Waking up a bit late, Jun and I decided to skip breakfast. Jun’s cousin went ahead and had breakfast as we finished packing our things. Then we checked out and left our bags at the hotel.

We went back to Zhongjie to visit Chang’an Temple, which was first been built in the Tang Dynasty. It’s a nice Buddhist temple. The upkeep of the place was impressive.

From there we went and had lunch at Badawan, a typical Shenyang restaurant. Again they had food models for us to pick what we wanted to eat. The models were of huge portions, which ended up being an accurate representation. One of the steamed buns we had was about the size of Jun’s head! The food was delicious and a nice way to end our trip.

After lunch, we took the metro back to the hotel and then a Didi to the airport. We soon found our way to the boarding gate. We quickly took off the extra winter layers of clothing in the restroom. Then we found some ice cream to enjoy. Finally, we were in the air headed back to Shenzhen.

All of us enjoyed the trip to Shenyang. But we were also happy to be back home in the warmer weather.

Escape to Sanya

With my birthday in the middle of October, Jun and I decided to forgo traveling during China’s October Holiday week and instead do something for my birthday. We decided to take the weekend and a few days off work in mid-October to visit Sanya in Hainan.

Our adventure started Friday evening after work as we both made our way to the airport. After going through security and having dinner at the airport, we soon found ourselves on the plane and on our way to Sanya.

When we got there we took a taxi to the hotel—the St. Regis Yalong Bay. Our taxi driver wasn’t the best of drivers, though, and had a difficult time getting to the hotel. Apparently, a typhoon that passed through the area had closed down one of the roads, or so the driver said. A few days later we learned the road had been closed for weeks due to planned reconstruction. Who knows? What was important was that we got to the hotel eventually.

After check-in, we soon found ourselves in our room. It was a lovely place with flowers everywhere welcoming us. By then it was late, Jun and I were tired and ready for bed. After cleaning up, we ended up sleeping soundly through the night.

Day 1

We didn’t plan to do much in Sanya beyond just relaxing. That’s probably a good thing since the first few days were rainy. The first morning there it was raining lightly. We decided to see how things went in the morning after breakfast before we made any plans.

As we were finishing breakfast the rain stopped. We decided to walk around the resort. As we passed the beach and were enjoying the views, it started to sprinkle. We decided it was light enough that we would continue our walk. Yet, the rain persisted and eventually became too heavy to enjoy walking. We went back to the room to dry off and think of what we could do next.

By late morning we decided we would go to the duty-free shopping zone and explore that area. As our Didi driver took us to the Haitang Bay area of Sanya the rain again stopped. When we arrived at the Sanya International Tax Exemption City, we walked around the shopping center and browsed at some stores. Nothing of interest caught our eyes and the crowds were a bit overwhelming.

We decided to have a late lunch at a local seafood restaurant. The place was wonderful and the food delicious. We enjoyed ourselves and were ready to do something fun.

We noticed on the drive to the restaurant that the Atlantis Hotel was nearby. I heard from colleagues that the Lost Chambers Aquarium was worth a visit and we decided that it would be a good place to spend the afternoon. The Atlantis was completely different from our hotel. Whereas our hotel was more relaxed and quiet, the Atlantis was a hub of activity.

The aquarium was quite nice and had a variety of species in nicely designed habitats. It was amazing to see so many fish in one place. Also, it seemed a wise way to spend it since it rained while we were there.

By then it was late, we decided to go back to our hotel. When we got back we realized we weren’t that hungry and just ordered a light meal from a restaurant in the area for delivery. We watched a bit of TV and relaxed as it rained outside. Soon we were ready for bed. 

Day 2

As we woke up we could hear the rain outside. Today would be another rainy day. As a result, we decided to just stay at the hotel and relax. Since we had already decided on a day at the hotel, we went to breakfast late. Because of that we skipped lunch and just enjoyed the amenities at the resort. I had some schoolwork I needed to do, so I concentrated on that for a bit. The rest of the day was just relaxing.

Mid-afternoon, we decided to go have afternoon tea. We enjoyed immensely the time relaxing and enjoying the different treats. Afterward, the rain stopped and we walked around the resort in the light rain.

Since afternoon tea had been more food than we anticipated, we decided again to order in for the night. We watched a bit of TV and ended the day relaxing in our room.

Day 3