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!

A Week in Hawaii!

Hello everyone! Or should I say Aloha!?

I think I have some explaining to do. Technically, I’m still supposed to be in China right now. However, you know nothing ever goes as planned, so here I am! Let me catch you up on what’s been happening. 🙂 Grab a snack while I try and explain!

We landed in Tianjin very late at night after leaving Hong Kong. Things started going south as soon as we started driving to the hotel. We had to drive over an hour to the hotel that was literally in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It was dark and everything was covered by fog, making the building (can I even call it a hotel?) we pulled up to super eerie. Nobody was at the desk when we walked in, but there were people sleeping on some couches in the lobby. Once these people woke up and realized we were there, they handed us a key to a hotel room. My stomach dropped as soon as we entered. All I wanted to do was lay down and go to sleep, but the room was horrifying. I’m not going to go into detail, but just trust me on this. We tried to find a different hotel the next morning, but there was nothing else around. Taylor and I were both feeling anxious and uncomfortable. This says A LOT, because Taylor isn’t hard to please. When we went to the baseball field where Taylor and I would be spending most of our time, I realized there was no wifi and very little cell service. I know this sounds so high maintenance, but I depend on internet for work.

By the end of the day, Taylor had decided that he was going to stay the full four weeks and finish the job. I really admire this about him. He could’ve went back to Nanjing where he was more comfortable, but instead he stayed so he could work harder and make a difference. Staying wasn’t an option for me. I could’ve probably stuck it out a week, but definitely not a whole month! Taylor knew I couldn’t stay either, so he researched flights and booked a one way flight to Hawaii for me.

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Things could be worse right? 🙂

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I had no plans for my time in Hawaii, except to relax and take a break. We’ve been GO GO GO in China for the past two months, so it was refreshing to return to something comfortable. There’s no better place to chill than in Hawaii! My wonderful cousin lives in Hawaii, and I was able to visit her 8 years ago too. I’m so thankful she took me in for a week!

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As I mentioned above, I really wanted to spend my time relaxing and that’s exactly what I did. Besides working (I love working remotely!), I went to the beach, did some hiking, and ate an abundance of açaí bowls and drank plenty of Kona coffee!

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I didn’t get the chance to hike Diamond Head the last time I was here, so I was eager to do it this time. The views make this easy hike super worth it!

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I also got to hike Moana Falls! It was super wet and muddy, so keep that in mind if you decide to do this yourself.

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My week in Hawaii was a bunch of eat, sleep, beach and repeat. I couldn’t have asked for a more relaxing time!

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Thank’s for following along! I’ll keep you updated on Taylor soon!

A Night In Vegas

Once we were done hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park, we started our journey back to Las Vegas, Nevada. We had a super early flight the next morning, and had to return our rental car back to Hertz before 5pm.

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The drive took about 2.5 hours and was just as beautiful as the first day. Since we were out west, we had to stop for lunch at In N’ Out Burger. When we passed it on our first day, we knew that we wanted to stop on our way back. Taylor had been looking forward to it all week!

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For our last night in Vegas, we stayed at another Airbnb, just because it was easy and simple. We know it isn’t expensive to stay in the hotels on the strip, but since we were only there for one night, we didn’t feel the need for a hotel room. Before we checked in, we explored the old strip for a few hours!

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We had no luck at gambling, so we stopped at Starbucks before heading to the airbnb. It was only a short 15 minute drive from the strip.

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When we arrived at the house (click HERE to see it), it was very clean and the host was very welcoming. They showed us our room, gave us water, and stayed out of our way. Since we had to return our rental car, we quickly showered and changed, then set out for Hertz.

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Once we dropped off the car, we ubered to the strip!

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We walked for miles, weaving in and out of the different hotels. Everything really is bigger and better in Vegas! Since we had a very early flight the following morning, we didn’t want to stay out extremely late.

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We ended the night by watching the famous Fountains of Bellagio in front of the Bellagio hotel.

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Headed back to the east coast!!

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Not only did we have an incredible time in Utah and Vegas together, but it has been so much fun writing about the adventures and experiences we had. This will be a trip we’ll never forget! Thank you for following along! 🙂

The Narrows of Zion

Our last night camping went well, and we were woken up around 8am to the blazing sun. At this point in the trip, we were pros at taking down the tent and packing everything into the rental car. Once everything was packed up, we stopped at the bath house on the way out to change and get ready for our final hike.

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We couldn’t come to Zion without seeing the Narrows!

There are 3 ways to hike the Narrows.

  1. A day hike from the bottom and back: you will start by hiking the Riverside Walk and make your way to the river. In less than a mile, you will be hiking in some of the narrowest parts of the canyon. There is no end destination, so you will have to hike up and return the way you came. You don’t need any permits for this option.
  2. Day hike from top to bottom: This get’s even more difficult. Round trip, this is an all day, 16 mile hike that absolutely requires a permit.
  3. Overnight hike from top to bottom: A strenuous hike requires 2 days, along with a permit to complete. You can only stay a maximum of one night, and need to be cautious of flash flooding. Also, it’s important to pack accordingly.

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Thankfully, there is an easy route that can accommodate people who have less time, young children, or aren’t ready for such a strenuous hike. If you want to experience the beauty of the Narrows without all the fuss, you can complete the Riverside Walk. This is a paved trail that follows the Virgin River up to the start of the Narrows. To access the Riverside Walk, you’ll need to hop on the Zion shuttle bus and take it to the last stop.

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Zion National Park uses a fantastic system to help cut down on the traffic in the park. During their busy season, they close down the scenic drive that leads to a majority of their trail-heads. They restrict all parking to the main parking lots, or the small town outside of the park. Then, a shuttle system runs up and down the scenic drive taking people to their desired trails. This helps tremendously, and they run a multitude of buses at once so you’ll never wait more than 10 minutes.

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After hopping off the shuttle, we began the Riverside Walk. As a suggestion, we recommend wearing warmer clothing for this hike. Not only is the water freezing, but the breeze is cool and it’s hard for the sun to reach you when you’re walking alongside the river.

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As you’re walking, you’ll notice that the water is a gorgeous emerald blue. If you have time, you can take a break and enjoy it!

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Only a select few will actually hike the entire 9.4 mile trail. At least 60% of this hike is spent in the water. The further along you go, you can find yourself walking, wading, or even swimming! Once you make it to the end of the Riverside walk, you have the choice to enter the water, or turn around. What most people do, is they complete the riverside walk, which is very simple. When they get to the part where they need to start walking through water (which is the start of the Narrows), they either turn around or they just walk through the water for a little bit. We would highly recommend walking through the water, just so you can get the real effect and take in the amazing views.

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When you first enter the water, there will be a ton of people. We recommend going a little further than most of these people, just because you’ll have the opportunity to take everything in without all the screaming kids and other tourists.

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Be mindful of the weather, because flash flooding within the Narrows can be deadly!

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We spent about two hours wandering and taking pictures of everything. The views were absolutely breathtaking, and Taylor and I decided that we are going to do the full 9.4 miles the next time we we’re visiting.

Hiking the Narrows was a great way to top off our time in Zion. Next stop, Las Vegas!

 

Bryce Canyon & Zion Canyon

Our second night camping was another success! The Wonderland RV Park was so great, that we hated to pack up and leave the following morning. Once we loaded up the car, we drove towards Bryce Canyon National Park.

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We were very excited to visit this next park because it’s one of the top National Parks in Utah’s Mighty 5, along with Zion. Bryce Canyon’s entrance fee is $30 per vehicle. At this point, we had paid off our annual pass!

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We took a photo apart, but the people taking our photo insisted we stand together since we were an engaged couple…

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Like every other park we visited, we stopped at the visitor center to find a map. (Taylor and his maps) While we were inside, Taylor wanted to crawl under the fake rock display and stick his head up through the bubble. While he was under there, the other children let him know that he was too big…ha!

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We parked our car and started hiking the Navajo Loop! This is a moderate hike that requires 1-2 hours to hike 1.3 miles. Trust me, you will want to take your time because it is a beautiful hike! You will see some geological sights known as Wall Street, Two Bridges, and Thor’s Hammer on this short but steep trail.

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Thor’s Hammer

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This was one of our favorite trails! We had SO MUCH FUN together as we walked up and down the switchbacks, and took in all the red and orange colors that hovered over us. We had never seen anything like this before.

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As suggested by the trail name, you hike a complete circle. You start at the top of the canyon and hike down, then you hike back up to the top. It starts and ends at the same place, so you can choose to go either way, but they recommend going clockwise.

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Once we hiked to the canyon floor, we sat under a tree to have lunch! We ate our sandwiches and enjoyed the afternoon, UNTIL A SNAKE CRAWLED OUT IN FRONT OF US.

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Bryce Canyon was so much fun! At this point in our trip, it was Thursday and we would be flying home early Saturday morning. Since our flights were in and out of Vegas, we wanted to spend some time in Vegas before heading out! We also wanted to spend more time in Zion National Park because our time was limited on our first day. For this reason, we didn’t camp in Bryce. Instead, we drove an hour back to Zion.

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The campground within the park was full, so we had to travel outside a few miles to stay at the High-Road Campground.

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This was our least favorite campground out of the three we stayed at. It was basically just dirt and a few trees, with an outhouse. It cost us $30 for one night.

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On the other end of the campground, there was a full bathhouse. It was really unclean, and only 1 toilette (out of 5 or 6) was working. Also, the women’s shower was out of order and you had to go around the back, in the dark, to the backside of the men’s bathroom where a curtain was hung to shower. No thank you. If you plan on camping in Zion, make sure you book one of the other campgrounds months in advance, as they fill up quickly.

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After setting up our tent, we found a great Italian place in town! Zion Pizza & Noodle was such a great place to eat after hiking all week.

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They have huge pasta dishes and even better pizza! We ordered cheesy garlic bread with marinara, and a BBQ chicken pizza!

Both were fantastic! When we come back to Zion in the future, we will be eating here again. Maybe next time we’ll order a pasta dish.

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Once we were finished eating, we wanted to go on a short walk, so we headed for the Lower Emerald Pool trail. This is 1.2 miles, and they recommend leaving an hour to complete it. The trail is paved with minor drop-offs and connects to the Upper Emerald Pool trail.

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It was a nice short and sweet walk after dinner, but it was slightly disappointing. The name of the trail leads you to believe that it’s going to be this beautiful waterfall with emerald water, but the picture above is what it really looks like. Maybe the upper trail is prettier?

This really pretty river below is located across the street from the Zion Lodge. During the day, you will find a ton of people walking through it.

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As the sun sets, several deer come and munch on the grass in front of the lodge. They are completely unphased by all the people. The lodge fills up quickly too, so we’d like to try and stay there next time. It was so beautiful and is a great place to come and relax.

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Finding a seat on the bench and watching the deer and the sunset was the best way to end the day.

 

Canyonlands & Capitol Reef

Our first night camping in the desert went well! While planning this trip, we really had no idea what to expect weather wise. We knew it would be scorching hot during the day (which it was), but we weren’t sure if it would be warm or cool during the night. On our first night camping in Arches, Taylor said he froze. On the other hand, I couldn’t have been more content. We will tell you this, the temperature can heat up or cool down within minutes. We never needed to set any alarms because the heat always woke us up as soon as the sun rose.

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While Taylor took apart our tent, I walked to the bath house to change and get ready for the day. The bath houses at the Moab RV Resort and Campground were clean and nice! They had a lot of stalls and showers, so you never had to wait. The one thing we forgot to pack on this trip, was a towel. We are those people who ALWAYS forget towels. Whether that be a beach towel or a shower towel, we WILL forget it. Over the years, we have purchased so many overpriced towels because we’re the ones who never remember to pack them. Instead of renting one from the desk for $3, we just used our old t-shirts to dry off…disgusting yes, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do!

Before we left,  I grabbed some complimentary coffee. The coffee was surprisingly delicious! Sometimes, you just can’t expect much when it’s free. We also needed to fill up on gas, and get some new ice for our cooler. There was a McDonald’s down the road that had bags of ice for only .99 cents!

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As soon as we were done, we started our drive towards Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. These are the two least visited parks within the Mighty 5 in Utah. When we arrived to Canyonlands, we immediately went to the visitor’s center to find a map and fill up on water. (Without an annual pass, it will cost you $25 per vehicle to enter the park.) Right across the street, there is a breathtaking view of the canyons, that you MUST stop and see.

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Canyonlands National Park consists of 337,598 acres of truly breathtaking canyons! The entire park is divided into four districts, Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon.  The view in the pictures above is on Island in the Sky.

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The Green River

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After snapping some pictures, we decided to hike the Mesa Arch trail, which is only 0.5 miles round trip. They recommend 30 minutes to enjoy everything, and it’s a short hike that leads to a cliff-edge arch.

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We were in awe of the views that constantly surrounded us. We decided to drive around the park and stop at some overlooks for more pictures. This was such an interesting park because it had those coppery red-toned rocks with arches, and then it also had very white, sandy buttes in another area.

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Once we were finished exploring Canyonlands, we headed towards Capitol Reef National Park.

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It only costs $15 per vehicle to enter this park because it’s not as popular as the others and there isn’t as much to do. There are a few trails, but it’s mostly a very long scenic drive.

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The famous Capitol Dome in the picture above looks so similar to the US Capitol building, that it inspired the name of the Capitol Reef National Park.

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Carvings and paintings that date back to 300 to 1300 CE, can be found on the rock walls. This shows that people used to call this place home a very long time ago. We got to see some of them, but forgot to take a picture…oops!

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Nobody knows why there is a giant crater in the rocks, from the picture above. They think either something hit it years ago, or there used to be a body of water that has dried up.

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As it was getting later in the afternoon, we headed out of the park to go find a place to camp and eat dinner. After comparing campgrounds within the area, we chose Wonderland RV Park, in Torrey UT.

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Of all the places we camped during our trip, this was our absolute favorite. The staff was incredibly sweet and everything was extremely clean and well kept.

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The grass was so lush and green and they even had divider walls between each tent site. Their bath houses were the cleanest we’ve ever seen and they had entire shower rooms, which made you feel like you were in your own home. The best part? We only paid $26.50 to stay here. This was the cheapest AND nicest place! We cannot say enough good things about this campground!

After setting up camp, we ate at Slackers’s Burger Joint. The service was great and they had so many different options to choose from. We even got some ice cream for our scenic drive around Capitol Reef as the sun went down.

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We had a great day enjoying both Canyonlands and Capitol Reef together.