As many of you know, Tommy and I had a month-long holiday for the Chinese New Year. Actually, I had a two-month holiday because my school is like, super hardcore about prepping students for exams – woohoo! Anyways, we spent our time off travelling through East and Southeast Asia, trying to see as many highlights of this amazing continent as we could before returning for the second semester. In four weeks, we visited 10 cities in 6 different countries! We feel so blessed to have had such an incredible trip. Now that we’re back in Sinan, I’ll be working on posts for each of the cities and hopefully sharing at least one per week. In the meantime, here is a quick run-down of our trip highlights!
Xi’an, China (3 days)
Our trip started on a high in central China. We snacked our way through the Muslim Quarter, walked along the old city wall, went on a tour to the terra cotta warriors, and did the “world’s most dangerous hike” (a questionable claim, but still exhilarating!). Apart from an unfortunate hair dye job and a mistake that led to us literally running down Mount Hua at night, our trip was off to the perfect start!
Harbin, China (3 days)
We traveled further north to Harbin, a Chinese town with strong Russian influences. We visited a small Russian cathedral and a Siberian tiger park where Chinese tourists paid to have live chickens fed to the tigers. We also got to see the feet of one of less than 100 ligers alive on earth – it was resting inside, and we couldn’t see the rest of its body through the open door. The main highlight of Harbin, though, was world’s largest ice and snow festival. The ice buildings and snow sculptures defy words, so I’ll be sure to share lots of photos in the upcoming post!
Read about our time in Harbin here.
Seoul, South Korea (2 days)
In Seoul, we realized how accustomed we’ve become to China and how unsettling it is to be in a new country with different currency and language! We visited Gyeongbokgung Palace, ate a TON of food, and took a day trip to the North Korean border. The line of microphones on the table in the picture above marks the border in one of their joint buildings, and we were able to technically visit North Korea by crossing that point. It was a really interesting, informative part of our trip!
Tokyo, Japan (5 days)
The biggest thing that stood out for us in Japan was how different the culture is from China. Everything is super clean, and the people are incredibly orderly and polite! We felt like we were constantly committing faux pas. Our most memorable experiences in Tokyo were the electronics district, world’s busiest street crossing, owl café, and Kawaii Monster Café.
Taipei, Taiwan (1 day)
Although China likes to claim Taiwan is part of their Republic, Taiwan has a different opinion and therefore the country is a little confused culture-wise. We noticed a lot of Chinese influences, but there were definitely other identities at play. Our favorite part was a short hike with great views of the city at the lush, tropical Elephant Mountain.
Hanoi, Vietnam (3 days)
In Hanoi, we drank gallons of coffee, ate tons of banh mi (sandwiches), bought cheap North Face knock-offs, and marveled at the French architecture. We got a really interesting look into the history and culture of Vietnam through a visit to the Women’s Museum and student-guided walking tours of Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the Temple of Literature, the Old Quarter, and the “Hanoi Hilton” prison. Poor Tommy didn’t know that the mausoleum contained Uncle Ho’s actual 40+ year old corpse on display, so he was in for quite a surprise that day!
Hue and Hoi An, Vietnam (3 days)
We had three days in central Vietnam, which we split between the old imperial city of Hue (1 day) and the coastal town of Hoi An known for its traditional lanterns (2 days). We visited the Forbidden Purple City in Hue and checked out the markets and a beach in Hoi An. They both had a much more relaxed atmosphere than Hanoi and were incredibly cheap – beer was $0.13/glass!
Ko Lanta and Phuket, Thailand (8 days)
Most of our time in Thailand was spent relaxing on various beaches. We spent 5 days on the chill island of Ko Lanta, motorcycling down the coast one day and taking a boat trip to 4 smaller islands for snorkeling another day. It was incredibly beautiful and pretty quiet in most places, which was perfect. From here we moved on to the livelier Phuket, where we tried a fish foot spa and went on a pub crawl. One of our friend’s described Phuket as “ratchet Florida,” which was pretty accurate, but a fun way to end the trip!
That covers our trip highlights, but we have so many more photos and stories that we can’t wait to share! School starts back up on the 26th, so in the meantime we are hanging out at our (currently internetless) apartment and getting back into the swing of small-town China living. Lots of love to everyone back home!