Adventures in China

As some of you may know when I'm not traveling (I do have a full time job) I let my twin sister, Madison and her adventures take over my blog! This time she's running through China with two girlfriends she met this summer, while backpacking Europe. I'm so excited to share her stories with you and I hope you enjoy them as much as I have! 

- Courtney

So I've officially been in China for almost an entire month and it is absolutely, out of this world, WILD. That is my word to describe the few provinces and cities I have visited. The word wild itself is mysterious. The context can be so subjective and often leaves a lot to the imagination. And that is, exactly China. 

I'll try to paint a little picture of what mainland China is like and why I have come to love a lot of it  and why I find it challenging at times. 

Since landing in Beijing I've traveled around China on day trains, overnight trains, and busses for a total of 73 hours and counting.... so just over 3 days. That is a crazy amount of time to be in commute. I actually cant even wrap my head around it. This country is MASSIVE. But the cities are quaint, special, romantic, historically and politically loaded but also peaceful and serene. 

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The pollution is real. From November 10th to November 23rd we were in Beijing, Xi'An, Chengdu and Kunming where the smog advisories are in effect. Basically this means you actually can't see 10 feet in front of you. It is grey like a horror film 24 hours a day. It is alarming and sad. I had always known that the smog in China would be different from the smog I've experienced in other places but it gets to a point, similar to scuba diving in the coral-less ocean, that you begin to wonder if everyone could see, would we make more of an effort to change our daily routines and become more responsible for the environment? I'm not sure. 

One other semi negative and mainly challenging part of China is that pretty much no one speaks English. Not even basic basic sentence structures or words. Locals are proud if they say hi. And actually today on the train was the first time a local as said excuse me... I was shocked. So Google Translate has been our go to for communicating with locals, new friends etc. The people are extremely friendly and if we don't pull out our phones to translate they normally do first. However, this communication makes me feel essentially like a robot. We stay mute and let our phones express our personalities in a way we can't... it really is bizarre. 

But moving on from the negativity of the smog and language barrier I'll tell you some of my highlights! 

• There is a slide on the Great Wall of China, that I slid down.... like what?!? Also did you know it would take 9 months to walk the whole wall? LOL before I came I thought it would be achievable in the few days we were in Beijing. 

• Hot pot is available everywhere (if you don't know what hot pot is you should definitely try it! Basically its delicious soup, with tons of flavours that you share with a big group and gradually add veggies/ tofu or meat, if you're a meat eater)

• Speaking  of meat eaters.... every single person in China, is. The amount of meat/ fish consumed here is pretty nauseating to think about (Ive been a vegetarian for 10 years) but if you love meat, you'll love China. 

• Dali, in Yunnan province is China's paradise. We arrived on Friday and just spent the weekend and it felt like a vacation from China, it is known as the hippie town of the province and it sure beat my expectations. There are some of the best cafes in Dali. My traveling partners have informed me the coffee is the best yet here. 

• There are mainly only squatting toilets in China. Usually this wouldn't be a highlight but for me it is. In all of my time in South East Asia I never got used to the squatting toilets but I soon realized when I arrived here it would be necessary. I am now a professional squatter. The secret is to hold onto the back of the wall for grip, come equipped with toilet paper and clean hands with alcohol gel. 

• If you want great shopping and partying head to Chengdu. (Chunxi Road is the best pedestrian only shopping area I think Ive been to in Asia.)  (SPACE Bar is where I spent my 23rd birthday and it was absolute insanity.) 

• The Stone Forest in Kunming is breathtaking and looks like it should be part of movie set. We originally thought it would be just a view point but you can wander and get lost in the massive natural stones for hours and its beautiful. 

• The dogs in China are definitely a highlight. Almost every hostel has either a cat or dog and it has made the experience so cuddly and fun. They also seem to all have adorable names too. Moon was the name of a golden retriever at our hostel in Xi'An and Angela was the name of the sassiest cat I've ever interacted with in Chengdu. 

Ok I think thats all for now. Cant wait to share more!!

- Madison