Terra-cotta Soldiers in Xi’an

Good Morning,

We FINALLY went to see the terra-cotta soldiers in Xi’an! This has been on our bucket list since we moved to China, and we finally made it happen last week.Untitled designIMG_8716IMG_8717Like most of our trips these days, we booked it on a whim. We rode the bullet train from Nanjing to Xi’an on Tuesday morning at 9am, and arrived in Xi’an at 2:30pm. We had the option to fly for the same price (faster too), but we wanted to see the scenery along the way. Also, I was over the whole airport and airplane thing at the moment. I feel like we’re constantly on planes, and I just wanted to take a relaxing ride.DSC_5665DSC_5659Once we arrived in Xi’an, we took the subway to our hotel. We stayed at a brand new Holiday Inn Express and had no complaints. It was located downtown within the city wall and only cost $60 for one night!IMG_8720 After dropping our bags off in our room, we immediately walked to the city wall. The wall was huge, so we rented a tandem bike to get around the whole thing. This was so much easier than trying to walk only a portion of it. It also created a ton of fun memories! Taylor and I laughed the whole way around that wall. 🙂 DSC_5666IMG_8724DSC_5668DSC_5664IMG_8782Untitled design-2IMG_8768IMG_8835IMG_8799IMG_8828-2img_8845.jpgAfter completing the full loop of the wall, we walked to the Muslim market. There’s a pretty big Muslim community in Xi’an, so you have to see the market if you’re visiting the area. We stopped for snacks along the way. 2IMG_8865.jpg3For dinner that night, we ate at an Italian restaurant called Isola del Nord, which was a short walk from our hotel. It was very difficult to find, but worth it! The food was a great way to end our day. IMG_8875

The next day, we were up bright and early to see the terra-cotta soldiers! The soldiers are actually located an hour outside the city and there are a couple ways to get there. You can take the public bus or a Didi (chinese uber). We opted for the bus, which was the cheapest ($2 per person).Untitled design-3This was one of the most fascinating things we’ve seen and learned about in China. The exhibit has 3 major pits that display the terra-cotta figures. What’s even crazier, is that they weren’t discovered until the 70’s!! Pit 1, the largest, was discovered in March 1974. Pit 2 was found the following month, and pit 3 wasn’t found until that June! They were discovered by some farmers who were trying to dig a well for water. While they were digging, they found a few pottery pieces, which lead to the finding of the terra-cotta army. I don’t know about you, but I would love to know what was going through those farmer’s minds on that day. Obviously, they lost their land. :/ DSC_56782DSC_5679The soldiers were created by Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, who was preparing an army for his after-life. He never recorded anything about his hidden army, because he wanted it to be left undisturbed. (This seemed like a whole lot of preparations for an after-life to me.) What’s fascinating, was that each soldier was hand-crafted differently. There are no two alike. DSC_5691DSC_5675IMG_8918To this day, they’re still uncovering pieces and putting soldiers back together. Uncovering something of this magnitude takes a lot of caution and time. While there are large working areas set up, it’s rare to actually see someone working in the pits. I assume they work at night when the site is closed. I can’t imagine how creepy that would be! Legend says that if you listen closely, you can hear the soldiers talking to one another. 😉 DSC_5740DSC_5742IMG_8921DSC_5736DSC_5718DSC_57131IMG_8915Once we were done walking through all the exhibits, we took the bus to the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda back in Xi’an. DSC_5754.jpgThis is a Buddhist pagoda that was built in the year 652 during the Tang Dynasty. Instead of entering the pagoda, we just walked through the park surrounding it. It was a beautiful day! DSC_5751.jpgBefore heading to our train, we grabbed coffee at a Starbucks Reserve and walked around the Muslim market one more time. IMG_8931Untitled designIMG_8939.jpgInstead of paying for a hotel another night and then taking the bullet train back to Nanjing, we booked tickets on an overnight slow train. Taylor has been begging me to do this since we arrived in China, and I finally caved. I will say, I was pleasantly surprised with our soft-sleeper experience. Here’s a little general knowledge about overnight trains in China:

There are 3 classes: Hard, Soft, and Deluxe.

Hard: 6 bunks per room, no door, squatty potty bathroom, and the cheapest.

Soft: 4 bunks per room, a locked door, seating area outside, western toilet, extra sinks, pillow, slippers, bedding. (this is the one we selected) – see photo below.

Deluxe: 2 beds per room, a locked door, seating, western toilet, private, pillow, slippers, bedding, and most expensive.

IMG_8946IMG_8947We started off in separate rooms because we purchased tickets so late, but ended up in a room together after I got sick and someone kindly offered to switch with us. Although it’s nothing glamorous, we were more than comfortable for the whole journey. The total trip took us 12 hours. We left the station at 7pm and arrived in Nanjing at 7am. Taking this train made Taylor super happy. 🙂 IMG_8950We arrived back in Nanjing well rested with a full day ahead of us! I see more sleeper-trains in our future. 🙂

Would you stay on an overnight train?

xoxo

Chinese New Year 2019

Happy Year of the Pig! If you were born in the year 1983, 1995, or 2007 this is your year!!

Taylor and I are back in our second home and starting our new year by regrouping and relaxing. After a very busy few months traveling all over the states for the holidays, we’ve been taking a true “vacation” for ourselves.

Before jumping into our adventures within Beijing, I’m going to take it back a few weeks. I think this will make things easier to understand. Upon landing in China, we quickly realized that the whole country was shutting down for the New Year. To fight the 13 hour jet lag, we took a small trip to Shanghai with a couple friends who live in Nanjing too. We’ve been to Shanghai numerous times, because it’s only an hour (or 2 depending on the stops) train ride from Nanjing.  IMG_7046invite you to an anniversary party to celebrate their ten years of marriage!We spent a good portion of our time eating good food, walking around the People’s Square, and visiting the largest Starbucks in the world! I was in coffee HEAVEN! I didn’t know this was even located in Shanghai until a few months ago. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery was 2 stories high and was it’s very own coffee factory. They offer way more food and drink options at this location. I tried the butterscotch latte and it was the best latte I’ve ever had. I’m not sure if this was seasonal or available everywhere? It was new to me. 🙂5Processed with VSCO with g6 presetOf course it was packed with people, but you could spend hours here watching the coffee being made, looking at all the special merchandise, and even enjoy a pairing bar! This is something everyone needs to see when visiting Shanghai. I can’t wait to go back.IMG_7050IMG_7052Our friends are huge Disney lovers, so they hold season passes to the Disney Shanghai park. They showed us the beautiful Disney resort and took us to the Downtown Disney area. Taylor and I are excited to experience Disney Shanghai later in the year. We all grabbed dinner at the Cheesecake Factory before retiring back to our hotel for the night. Tay and I returned to Nanjing the next day.

Now remember when I said the whole country of China was shutting down for the Chinese New Year?? Well this created a small setback for us. Taylor wasn’t expected to return to work for several more weeks, and our city was becoming emptier and emptier. Instead of sitting in our apartment for days and days, we booked last-minute train tickets to Beijing! Bullet trains can take anywhere between 3-4 hours to reach Beijing from Nanjing, depending on how many stops it makes. IMG_7200The two of us love Beijing, and thought this was the perfect time to experience an authentic Chinese New Year! Whenever we travel to Beijing, we stay within the Sanlitun district because it’s the most western and a fantastic place to meet people our age who are also expats. There’s always something going on!3 We kicked off our second day by watching the Super Bowl at 7am at The Local. I’ve never seen so many Americans in one location within China before. It was so odd watching the Super Bowl this early and without all the dips and snacks, but it turned out to be really fun!2On Chinese New Year, we met up with friends who live in Beijing to visit some of the festivals. There were shows, food, and extravagant displays lining the parks and streets! By the way, it was freezing!!DSC_56044IMG_7233DSC_5644The whole day was spent exploring and immersing ourselves into a Chinese New Year celebration. DSC_5692DSC_56496DSC_5670I was really hoping to see a Chinese dragon show, but we couldn’t find one. Apparently it’s a southern China thing. However, they still had a bunch of performances that were super fun to watch. DSC_56537DSC_5657DSC_5698DSC_5703I loved seeing all the vibrant colors and different traditions China upholds every single year. They really know how to ring in a new year! 9DSC_56878After the celebration, we called it a day. We spent the next few days eating more great food and walking around Beijing together. It’s always nice to get away for a few days and experience something new!

Weekend in Beijing | Part 1

Taylor and I just got back from a weekend trip to Beijing!

As China residents, we’ve been dreaming about visiting this city together for a few months now. It’s so close, yet so far! Taylor had visited Beijing maybe 4 or 5 times before on his own, but I only visited for a few hours before my flight to Hawaii back in July. We waited until October to visit for a few reasons:

  1. It’s way less crowded. Tourists who travel to China can usually be found in Beijing and Shanghai during the summer months.
  2. The weather was much cooler, making it more enjoyable to walk around.
  3. We wanted to see the Great Wall of China while the leaves were transitioning.

With that being said, you should consider visiting Beijing during the Fall too! I’m so glad we waited. I think this is the best time to visit China in general.

We took a high speed train from Nanjing to Beijing Sunday night after Taylor got off work. We left at 7pm and arrived around 11pm. For some reason, the train station in Beijing wasn’t allowing anyone to exit through the taxi station so we were all pushed to the street. Our estimated DiDi (Chinese Uber) wait time was over 2 hours!! They also weren’t allowing Taxis to come to the street where everyone was standing in the cold?? #china In order to get to our hotel, we had to jump in a taxi with a complete stranger and pay him half the ride just to get out of the area. After driving for 15 minutes, we got out and tried ordering a DiDi again. Thankfully, we only waited 10 minutes this time.

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The next morning, we headed to the MLB China headquarters! We’d heard only good things about it, so we wanted to check it out ourselves. This was like a baseball lovers dream space!

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We had lunch with Tay’s boss before heading to the Beijing Zoo!

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It only cost 19RMB ($3) each to enter the zoo and see the panda exhibit! If you don’t want to see the panda’s, it’s even cheaper!

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After a few hours of walking around, we went to Tiananmen Square. It’s located in the center of Beijing and was built back in 1415 during the Ming dynasty. We had our photo taken in front of the entrance for 15RMB ($2.50) as a keepsake! 🙂 By the time we got to the square they were shutting things down, so we got to walk from the front gate to the back gate for free!

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One of the biggest reasons we enjoy coming to Beijing, is for the food! If you’re an American looking for comfort in China, then you HAVE TO check out Sanlitun. It’s a big western area and we love exploring here. We had dinner at The Local, which is Tay’s favorite! I ordered a hot spiced apple cider and the chicken parmesan sandwich. Both were amazing!!

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After devouring our dinner, we went next door to The Bookworm for drinks! This was the cutest place ever and I wish there was something like it around us in Nanjing. As a bookworm and all things cozy myself, this was like heaven to me! It’s a library/bar/cafe! We each ordered a whiskey sour and skimmed books about China. I could literally spend all day here.

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We topped off the night with some ice cream from Cow’s! I was in the mood for something extra sweet, so I ordered the birthday cake flavor and Taylor ordered the peanut butter cup!

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We crashed early once we got back to our hotel because we had to be up early the next day. We were traveling to the Great Wall of China in the morning! Stay tuned for part 2 of our Beijing trip! xoxo

 

 

Rome, Italy

Rome was the last city we visited during our Switzerland and Italy adventure! You can click the links below to catch up!

Zurich, Lugano, Lake Como, Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre/Pisa

When I think of Italy, I immediately think of Rome. For this reason, I knew I wanted to visit the city during our adventure. Taylor was a little hesitant, because in his mind we could visit Rome when we did all of southern Italy one day. Neither of us know when we’ll be back in Italy, so we added Rome for my sake. I think it was the perfect last stop for us!

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There is so much history here, and you could spend days roaming the streets and reading about the Roman Empire.

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Obviously, we had to visit the Coliseum! You can’t miss it! If we visit Rome again, I’d like to do an audio tour of the Coliseum, because I think we would’ve learned so much more. There are plenty of signs about the history, but they can be difficult to keep up with.

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Since Rome is such a popular city in Italy, be prepared for all the tourists. There are soooo many people. If you don’t show up early to buy tickets into your favorite attractions, expect to wait at least an hour. We arrived at the Coliseum when it opened and we still waited at least 30 minutes in line. You do have some options to skip the lines with guided tours and booking online, but we weren’t planning out days to use these options. There are tons of people outside of the main attractions badgering you to skip the line… don’t fall in their trap. If you are going to skip the line its because you planned ahead!

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The cool thing about Rome, is that a lot of the debris from the past is still protected and visible to see. It’s crazy to think about how solid and massive some of these buildings were for that time period!

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We walked over 30,000 steps during our one full day in Rome! Now, you absolutely do not have to do that many because there are great public transportation options, plus tours that will save you the steps. We wanted to see places off the beaten path, so we walked everywhere. We refueled with some amazing roman pasta!!

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After eating an incredible lunch on the backstreets of Rome, we walked to the Pope’s home! 🙂

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We decided to explore the Vatican Museum, because Taylor really wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and see Michelangelo’s famous ceiling painting. Michelangelo hand painted this massive ceiling in the Vatican between 1508 and 1512. Photography was strictly forbidden in this room so I could’t get any photos, but I took some pictures all over the rest of the museum. It was gorgeous!

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The one downside to Rome was all the vendors. They were AGGRESSIVE. I’ve never been so annoyed in my life. They will try and scam you at all costs. At one point, I had to tell someone to leave me the heck alone because I was so over it. They kept harassing (yes harassing) me about my shorts, telling me I wouldn’t be aloud into the museum and I needed to buy a scarf to cover myself. Taylor and I have been to a lot of places that require special attire, but we knew this wasn’t one of them. As long as you dress modestly you’re fine. So many woman were scammed into buying these scarfs thinking they wouldn’t be aloud inside. Nobody even blinked twice at my shorts. I hate people like this that ruin a beautiful place by being pushy.

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Once we were done walking around the Sistine Chapel, we went to see the Trevi Fountain! I don’t think there’s ever a good time to go, as we went twice and it was packed both times. You have to force your way into a seat along the fountain.

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**Me being hit by someone else’s coin.

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Our time in Rome was so special, and we couldn’t believe it was the last stop on our European adventure! We are so thankful for careers that allow us to still do what we love most together. If you’ve been reading all the posts about our time in Switzerland and Italy, thank you so much!! I love writing and sharing my photos, so I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

Florence, Italy

Taylor and I are officially back in China, so that can only mean one thing. Our Italian blog posts are nearing the end! If you missed the first few posts, you can read them all here:

Zurich, Lugano, Lake Como, Venice 

The fifth city we visited was Florence! After we packed our bags up in Venice, we took another train and rode to our next destination. We really enjoyed taking the trains everywhere in Europe. It’s so much easier and cheaper than flying. Florence is located in central Italy, within Tuscany.

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I’d say that Florence is known for architecture and food. It’s here where we ate the best Italian food of our lives.

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The man behind all the travel plans. 🙂 I’d be lost without him…literally. He puts so much effort into planning our adventures together.

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If I’m being honest, Florence wasn’t my favorite city that we visited during our European adventure. We were still coming off a high of visiting Lake Como and Venice, and Florence was just okay in my book. I’m not dying to go back, and I really don’t know if I’d make an effort to return. I’m glad we came, but I wouldn’t spend more than two nights here. Like I said before, the food was INCREDIBLE, but that was the highlight of visiting Florence.

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When visiting Florence, you NEED NEED NEED to eat at ZaZa’s. This place was so incredible that we ate there TWICE. This is unheard of for us. The even crazier thing about this place, is that it’s ranked in the 200’s on Trip Advisor for some reason?? I guess there’s just so many places to eat in Florence that the competition is hard. The lasagna was the best I’ve ever eaten and so was the homemade gnocchi. Seriously. You have to eat here.

We also stumbled across a unique wine shop one night called DiVino. You purchase the bottle size you’d like (or glass) and they’d fill it up with whatever local wine they had available. The first time we went, we purchased a standard 750ml bottle and filled it with cabernet. Our total was 4.50 euro and the wine was delicious! We returned the next day and it was only 3 euro since we already had the bottle! Such a genius idea!

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I felt so uninspired to take photos here. I’m not sure if it was because taking photos of architecture isn’t my thing, or that museums are difficult to photograph, or if everything looked the same. Maybe I’m crazy? If you’ve travelled all over Italy, let me know your thoughts on Florence, because I’m really curious. I don’t want to hate on Florence because we really did have a good time. If art history, architecture, and good food are you’re thing then you’d probably love this city!

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If you do find yourself in Florence, you need to walk through the gardens overlooking the city! The view gives you an incredible lookout for miles!

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The second thing you need to do is go and see the David statue, which was created in 1873! One thing to note is that there’s the real, authentic David, and then there’s a mock David. Please make sure you go see the real one, and not the fake! You can find the beautiful marble statue in the Accademia Gallery. The replica is in the Piazza della Signoria.

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With an abundance of museums in Florence, your time there can get expensive! When we were deciding which museums to purchase tickets for, we both agreed that that Museo Galileo would be the most interesting. Taylor is all about science and navigation, so this was absolutely perfect! 🙂 Tickets were 10 euro each, and it took us about an hour to see everything. We had the best time looking at all the early maps and scientific inventions!

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That’s it for our time in Florence! Next stop, the beach!

Venice, Italy

Good Morning!

Today’s post is all about exploring the streets of Venice, Italy! If you missed the first 3 cities, click the links to catch up!

Part 1: Zurich

Part 2: Lugano

Part 3: Lake Como

After spending two nights on Lake Como, we boarded another train and headed to Venice. The train ride took two hours and once we arrived, we started searching for our Airbnb.

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Venice is EXACTLY like the pictures you see. There are no cars, only boats as a means of transportation. Venice is where you see all the famous gondola photos. There are cobblestone streets and a lot of bridges, so keep that in mind if you’re carrying luggage. This was a really rough & long walk for us, since we had to drag our suitcases up and down stairs, cobblestone streets, and weaving through a ton of tourists. It was worth it though, because our Airbnb was in the heart of Venice. (I’ll be writing specifically about all of our Airbnb’s in a separate post.)

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We chose not to do a gondola ride during our time in Venice. Although it’s the famous thing to do here, neither of us were just dying to do it. Incase you’re wondering, it’s 80euro ($92) to ride before 7pm and 100euro ($115) after! That is per boat, not per person. I’m assuming you’ll have to tip the man too, so bare that in mind. If it’s a dream of yours to ride the gondola, then I think it will be worth every penny for you. It looked like a lot of fun!

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Venice is like a maze. There are so many different streets and alleys that you never really know where you are! It’s super easy to get lost. However, each alley has something unique and charming about it!…. or a dead end

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The weather was beautiful the whole time we were visiting. However, with the sunlight reflecting off the water and an abundance of tourists around, it was HOT. I think this was the hottest city we visited during our trip. Even at the end of August, Venice was packed!

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We had a great time walking through the alleys and taking in the beauty of Venice! It actually feels unreal being there. If you visit, I’d highly suggest getting out of the tourist area and visiting the residential area. It was way less crowded and perfect if you’re looking to take photos without hundreds of people standing in the background.

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Although we didn’t take a long romantic gondola ride, we did ride a gondola across the river. This was so much easier than climbing all the bridges! It was also only 2euro per person. If you know Tay’s love for saving money you could have guessed we took the 2 euro ride.

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Before we left the city we grabbed some pasta to go for the train ride, It was wonderful and super cheap!

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Venice was seriously beautiful. If you’re planning a trip to Italy and not sure which cities to visit, add Venice to your list.

**I do have a few remarks about Venice that I need to put out there. First, there’s not much to do. There’s a few historical landmarks and of course the famous gondola ride, but other than that it’s a city for wandering. My second remark is for all the woman out there. This entire city is one big maze and a bunch of paths and alleys. With that being said, this is a place where it would be easy to find yourself in a sticky situation if you’re not paying attention or alone. I never felt uncomfortable or in danger while here, but I was also with a man and he knew what he was doing. I never see anything about this when it comes to Venice, but I think it’s worth mentioning! Think smart, pay attention, and always follow your gut!

My next post will be all about Florence! Stay tuned! 🙂