After our short, activity-packed trips to Xi’an, Harbin, and Seoul, we were ready to slow things down a little. Luckily, we had 5 days to explore Tokyo! During our week in Japan, we were again amazed by how different the culture was from China despite their relative proximity. Almost everything about their lifestyle seemed the opposite of China’s. The streets and buildings were immaculately clean, and the people were always polite and orderly. No one was spitting on the street or trying to jostle their way into an already-full subway car. Instead of throwing their litter on the streets, the Japanese carefully tuck them into their purses or briefcases to be disposed of at home. And the toilets!!! No more filthy squat toilets for us! Instead, Japanese toilets gentle ambient noise when you sit down and are equipped with adjustable bidets and dryers. Such luxury. The only downside to Japanese culture was that we constantly felt like we were committing some unknown faux-paus, but who cares when everything is so clean! We took on Tokyo at a little slower pace than the rest of our trip, but still got to see a lot of this insane metropolis. Keep scrolling to hear about our highlights!
“You’re going to Harbin? It’s very, very cold there!!!” We heard variations of this (and advice on what to wear) over and over again leading up to our trip. Tommy and I just brushed it off. “Oh, we’re from Minnesota. It’s very cold there, too.” Little did we know… Harbin seriously is next level cold. Our faces constantly hurt. We layered up like chubby Chinese babies for even the shortest journeys outside. Our fingers and toes were always a little numb. And yet, it was completely worth it – because we got to explore the magic that is the world’s largest ice and snow festival! In addition to this, Harbin has a unique Russian culture due to its proximity to the border which was really interesting to experience.
Xi’an is an ancient city in central China famous for its terra cotta warriors, Muslim Quarter, and historic wall that still surrounds the original citadel. We saw all this and more (read here), but what really stands out in my memory from this part of our trip occurred not in Xi’an itself but in a small town a short train ride away. There we completed “the world’s most dangerous hike” (a dubious, but catchy title) at Huashan (Mount Hua) and found ourselves stranded on top of the mountain with a night train to catch!
This post is mostly photos because I’m saving the rambling storytelling for Xi’an Part 2, our adventures on Mount Hua (to be posted Saturday!). In short, though, Xi’an is a really unique city that has preserved its ancient history in the core of the city. Modernity rises up around its (literal) 14th century walls, but inside well-preserved buildings from eras past remain intact without the distraction of skyscrapers. Its unique history can also be seen in its Muslim culture, which is the long-standing result of 7th century Persian and Afghani merchants marrying Chinese women. And of course, Xi’an is home to the famous terra cotta warriors! We had an amazing time exploring this vibrant city and learning more about its distinct culture and history. Explore with us through our photos!
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!