Some Down Time in Hong Kong

It was time for me to adventure out in my own since Leslie had to go to work. I decided to take the day and head to Kowloon and conquer the Ladies Market. I had a friend that requested a few items and I took my negotiation skills and pictures to the market to find some purses and belts!

The market was not nearly as overwhelming as Beijing or Shanghai but walking through the streets, a constant comment of “copy bag or copy sunglasses” was whispered under hushed breath breath. I was looking at some sunglasses just because I thought they were cute and the guy asked to see my Jimmy Choos I was wearing and told me he had a copy. I pointed and said “these are real” and walked away.

Having had my adventure and also just wandering the streets, I relaxed a little bit back at the house before heading to dinner at Oola Petite. This is another local spot for Leslie and we opted to order some fajitas. With all the various cuisines I was consuming, why not throw some Mexican in there?

The next day Leslie had to work again and I was just plain old tired. I took the day to Netflix and chill. When Leslie got off work, we went to dinner for bottomless sushi! It would seem my last few days were focused on food which is absolutely okay with me!

Bali. Bali. Bali!

Asia was not part of my plan when I set out on my backpacking journey, but when you receive an invite from some friends from university that live in Beijing and Hong Kong, you have to go. One friend was already in Bali and my other friend and I flew in on the same day. It just so happened that our flights landed around the same time and we reunited at the airport!


I have been staying in hostels for the past 6 months with the occasional hotel night here and there. Bali just spoiled me completely with a 3 bedroom/3 bath villa for $90 USD (total) per night. The pool was fantastic and the outdoor living room had a pretty good size tv. The villa came with a maintenance person and housekeeper! I don’t know many places where you can have such luxury for so little.

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I was in Sanur which is a lovely section of Bali on the coast. Jalan Danau Tamblingan is one of the main streets with plenty of bars and restaurants to choose from and just a quick walk to the beach. I spent the time relaxing and chatting with friends and eating delicious food. It was a perfect few weeks!

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I found my last minute airfare using Skyscanner. I would recommend that anyone traveling with a somewhat flexible schedule or even just looking to head somewhere without a specific destination in mind, check out this awesome website.

Temples and shops and palaces, oh my.

Day 5 brought us to our last few sites in Beijing before our flight to Shanghai. We stopped by the Temple of Heaven, the Pearl Shop and the Summer Palace.

At the Temple of Heaven during the winter solstice, the Ming and Qing emperors would perform rites and make sacrifices to Heaven praying for good harvest for their entire empire. The most striking edifice is the “Hall of Prayer of Good Harvests,” which according to the emperor’s Fengshui masters, is the exact point where heaven and Earth met. Built in 1420 this masterpiece of Ming architecture, features triple eaves, dramatically carved marble balustrades, and a gorgeous glazed azure roof that symbolizes the color of heaven.


After our visit to the Temple of Heaven we made a stop at the pearl shop for a tour and education all about pearls. China has some of the highest quality pearls in the world due to the ideal climate in Southern China. China was the first country to develop cultured pearls in as early as 1082. If you want to know how to tell if a pearl is real or fake, you can rub one against your tooth and see if it has a gritty texture. However, many retailers may not approve of you biting on their pearls so rub them together and there should be some friction between them. Never get duped again!

Our last stop in Beijing was the Summer Palace which was the summer retreat and playground for the imperial family and royal court during the late Qing dynasty. This is most famous for Empress Dowager Cixi‘s rebuilding of the palace after it was destroyed by the British and French troops in 1860.


Finally, it was time to jump on our flight and head to Shanghai!


You are not a hero until you climb the Great Wall

Chairman Mao said, “You are not a hero until you climb the Great Wall.” There are various interpretations of this quote but the general idea is there.

Day 3 in Beijing had a lot in store for us. We started with a trip to the Sacred Way of Ming Tombs followed by a visit to the Jade Store and a hike of the Great Wall that ended with a photo opportunity of the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube.

The Ming Tombs were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003. They were listed along with other tombs under the “Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties” designation. It was a beautiful day to stroll through the various statues.

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On our way to the Great Wall we stopped at the Jade Store to learn about various types of jade as well as how to tell if jade is real or fake. If you hold jade up to the light, you should be able to see imperfections in the stone. If there are no imperfections you probably have a plastic or glass manufactured piece. While on our tour of the jade store, we learned that jade is an ever growing commodity and a great investment as the price is not depreciating. However, I would do a little research before selling my stocks and investing in jade!

The Great Wall begun construction in the 5th century BC to keep out foreign invaders. Construction continued for centuries, eventually linking up the walls of the former independent kingdoms. The Great Wall meanders through China’s northern mountain ranges from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert which is over 3,500 miles! There are various sections of the Great Wall that you are able to climb and we were taken to the Badaling section. When you get to this section you can choose the easy side or the harder side. We were told the harder side had less people and of course we opted for that. There are no words to describe the feeling that came over me when I reached the end of the Great Wall and took a moment to sit and reflect on all the history under foot.

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I didn’t think there could be anything else to see that would follow up a day at the Great Wall, but I am obsessed with the Olympics. We had a moment to stop and visit the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics and see the Beijing National Stadium as well as the Beijing National Aquatics Center. I went to USC and thus I have had the opportunity to constantly visit the 1984 Olympic Coliseum, but the Bird’s Nest puts that one to shame!

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Finally, we were back at our hotel where in room one-hour reflexology massages were offered for an incredibly cheap price. Kalindra and I both indulged and felt immediately relaxed after all the walking we had incurred.

Since our first duck dinner was not the “traditional” peking duck, we thought we would try one more time to see what it was all about. As far as duck goes, I can say it was quite delicious but I am not the biggest fan.

This was one of the best days I have had in any country I have been to!

Chinese lesson of the day – Thank you – Xie xie

Beijing’s Imperial Treasures

Day 2 in Beijing was the first official day of our tour. Included in our great deal from ChinaSpree was breakfast at the hotel every morning. There were options of Western as well as Chinese meals and coffee and tea and juice. Needless to say, breakfast really became the most important part of this trip with the very long hours of tours.

Day 2 was a tour of Beijing’s imperial treasures; Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I would suggest reading more about each of these in detail on Wikipedia.

Tiananmen Square is a large city square in the center of Beijing named after the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City. Tiananmen Square is the third largest city square in the world covering 109 acres and capable of holding a million people. Many people come to visit Chairman Mao’s Mausoleum or take a picture under the famed portrait of Chairman Mao. Mao is the founding father of the People’s Republic of China established in 1949. The beginning of the People’s Republic of China also marked the end of the Qing Dynasty with Emperor Puyi as the last emperor (more on him later and also check out the 1987 drama The Last Emporer directed by Bernardo Bertolucci).


There was a wicked cold breeze throughout the day and Kalindra and I had to get very creative with our scarves. Needless to say, people were staring at us and a few asked to take our picture.

The Forbidden City is a 9,999 room compound where the 24 emperors of the Ming And Qing Dynasties ruled for nearly 500 years. Although the 9,999 rooms is more of an oral tradition as the celestial emperor is said to have 10,000 rooms and thus the emperor could have one room less. The actual number of rooms is 8,886. In 1987, UNESCO considered the Forbidden City a World Heritage site as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

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Yellow is the color of the emperor and thus all the roofs will be yellow in the Forbidden City. You will not find this color roof anywhere else except at the Beijing Temple of Confucius. Emperor Puyi was a young emperor that liked to ride his bike throughout the palace. The thresholds often got in his way and he would ask them to be removed which was against tradition. One of the buildings where he liked to ride his bike “accidentally” burned down one day, and many say this allowed the evil spirits into the palace and this is the reason Puyi was the last emperor of China.

After an incredibly interesting day, we had the evening off and once again, Ian came to the rescue with his girlfriend Leslie, and took us out for hotpot at Haidilao. If you have never tried hotpot then I suggest you find one in your area as it is absolutely amazing!


Baijiu is a Chinese liquor distilled from sorghum. You have to taste it to understand it but Ian insisted that we try it.


Chinese lesson of the day – When looking for a man they must have the 4C’s: Car, Career, Credit Card and Condo

A quick trip to China? Why not?

I found myself taking a quick trip to China because of an amazing deal I found on Travelzoo for ChinaSpree. My good friend Kalindra decided to be my partner in crime for this epic adventure and we really had no idea what we were getting into.

ChinaSpree is a great organization that plans everything for you from getting your visa, to arranging your arrival and departure, to securing your entrance fees and arranging everything at your hotel. We basically just had to pay our money and show up to the airport!

Our flight left at 12:40am on November 8th for a 12.5 hour flight from Los Angeles to Beijing. This means we were up all day Thursday to catch our flight early Friday morning that then landed in Beijing around 5:00am Saturday morning.

The trip started with Kalindra forgetting her carry on at security and then a gentleman anonymously buying us a burger at the airport. The flight was relatively uneventful until Kalindra threw my neck pillow across the plane and we had a small giggle fit. If this was a sign of anything to come then we knew we were in for a crazy 7 days! Stay tuned over the next few days for the adventures that occurred in Beijing and Shanghai!