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A runner with an appetite for adventure!

Hong Kong: The Peak Tram and Stanley May 24, 2014

Filed under: China,Hong Kong,Travel — Kelocity @ 4:37 am
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We woke up to the sound of rain outside. A quick glance out the window revealed a very grey, cloudy day. The rain literally chased us around China during this trip, but we were quickly cheered up after seeing how amazing the breakfast buffet was! I can’t believe I forgot my camera on this day, because it was huge…Vegas-sized! A+ to the Harbour Plaza Metropolis Hotel. I think it’s mostly a business hotel that caters to Westerners.

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We boarded our coach bus and headed first thing to the Peak Tram. Because we were part of a tour, we skipped the line and quickly boarded one of the world’s oldest funicular railcars up to the top!
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We were excited because the views at the top were rumored to be spectacular. It leads up to one of the highest peaks in Hong Kong that used to be home to rich Westerners living in Hong Kong. IMG_2267

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After a quick, fun ride to the top, we were excited to take in the views!IMG_2272

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Oh, look! Another “Mail a postcard to the future” store in the visitor’s center!IMG_2276

Ok, back to those incredible views we were about to see…… Uh oh…. Nothing but fog and clouds! WHAT?!IMG_2277

See this view here… this is what we saw. Grey all around us. I’m not even kidding. We couldn’t see 10 feet in front of us!

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For comparison’s sake, this is what the view was supposed to look like (borrowed from our friend, Ed, who went back a few days later for a better look!) What a difference, right?!
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Haha I love this picture of what we’re supposed to be able to see… IMG_2281

I laughed and said, “Let’s get a picture of us in front of the skyline!” And here it is: IMG_2282

We braved the rain to walk around for a few minutes before finally ending up in a Starbucks nearby.IMG_2284

This place will come back to haunt us a few days later when we try to visit again… only to be caught in the rain AGAIN! Oh well. It just wasn’t meant to be this time. Guess I’ll just have to come back some day 😉
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From there, we got back on our bus and drove to our next destination. The drive was really pretty (yes, rain and all). Here’s a drive-by shot of the Hong Kong Cricket Club. We also passed one of Hong Kong’s only golf course. It opened in 1889 and rumor has it that it cost hundreds of dollars to play there.IMG_2286

We stopped to take a Sampan boat ride through a bay that housed really expensive yachts alongside really old fishing boats. Old Hong Kong meets the new. So neat to view something like this from the water. IMG_2287

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I think this is the world’s largest floating restaurant.. (Another “Worlds Largest” superlative!)IMG_2294

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You can picture what it used to look like when Hong Kong’s fishing industry was at its height. IMG_2316

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We went from boat back to the bus to head to Stanley Market. A quiet neighborhood situated along a beautiful bay. This was our lunch spot today.IMG_2328

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Hong Kong belonged to Great Britian up until 1997. The Chinese have British accents and they drive on the left-side of the road there. The whole city looks very European, which is probably why I loved it so much.

Here’s a little history lesson about Stanley, courtesy of our friend, Wikipedia.

After the annexation of Hong Kong in 1842, the British made Stanley the temporary administrative centre, before moving it to the newly founded Victoria City (present dayCentral) on the north shore of Hong Kong Island.

Stanley Fort was where British and Canadian troops mounted a last stand during theBattle of Hong Kong. The survivors surrendered to Japanese forces in December 1941. The fort, which was the former British Army barracks in Stanley, is now occupied by the People’s Liberation Army following the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to thePeople’s Republic of China in 1997.

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We had a few lunch options here, most of them had Western food. It was between a few British Pubs and this Italian place. (Which we later found out was a huge chain in Hong Kong, who knew!)IMG_2343

I had the most amazing gnocchi and Irving had a bowl of tomato soup. Perfect for a rainy day.IMG_2344

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On the drive back to our hotel, we passed this mountain. If you look closely, you can see a giant gondola, 1 mile long, that goes up and over the hill. On the other side is Ocean Park, a huge amusement park. Some friends went the next day and loved it. Have to add it to my “next time in hong kong” list. IMG_2355

Here’s a closeup of the park in the distance!IMG_2356

See the gondolas here?

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I’ll save the rest of this day for another post. These days were very full and exciting, indeed!

 

Arriving into Hong Kong May 23, 2014

Filed under: China,Hong Kong,Travel — Kelocity @ 3:25 pm
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We arrived into Hong Kong quite late. We checked into our hotel quickly and turned back around to have a late dinner and experience the night life a bit. Even though we were exhausted, we were also very hungry, so we joined a small group from the tour and set out in search of food. Luckily we didn’t have to look far, our tour guide had the perfect place in mind for some delicious Hong Kong noodles. Enter: King’s Noodles & Dumplings.

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This place was perfect. What was supposed to be a quick, nothing-special meal, turned into an amazing people-watching experience that lasted about two hours. They definitely weren’t ready for a group of 20 hungry English-Speaking Contiki folks. They had a system of numbering everyone’s seat, giving everyone a piece of paper and a pencil, and a menu with everything numbered. All each person had to do was make a list of what we wanted. But then they got confused on who was which number and who ordered what and did they want that tea hot or cold. It was pretty awesome to watch. The dishes were coming out of the kitchen faster than they could carry them and they were all yelling at each other to move faster which made them get even more confused. And then the drinks came out well after the meals did and people forgot what they had even ordered. Oh man, we were all so tired (it was 11pm at this point) it was just so funny. The food was amazing though. My first authentic Hong Kong noodles. LOVED them!!!
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After that, we hailed some taxis over to the Ritz Carlton (fancy, right?) to visit the World’s Highest Bar: Ozone! (I’m a sucker for superlatives. I’ll visit anything that is “world’s biggest”, “world’s tallest”, “world’s whatever” places. Of course I had to see this place!
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We didn’t stay that long… and we actually didn’t even grab a drink! Talk about a missed opportunity! But we were happy to look around, take in the atmosphere and check it off the ole’ bucket list. It was an awesome bar.
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Of course, the views were incredible as well. You could see the skyline in the distance.

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Soon after, we took another taxi back to our hotel. We were so impressed with the taxis in Hong Kong. They are all regulated so you know what the price will be before you even get in. 
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Get ready for an exciting (and rainy) day tomorrow in Hong Kong! Rain and all, I’d have to say this city is on my top 10 list. Perhaps my top 5. Our time here wasn’t long enough, but we made the best of it and really enjoyed it!

 

 

Yangshuo: The Beauty Up Close May 14, 2014

Filed under: China,Travel,Yangshuo — Kelocity @ 4:48 am
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I’m aware that I have posted an insane amount of China pictures recently. And not enough Adele pictures, according to my family. But I’m just trying to get them all up so they live on the interwebs. Feel free to skip the captions and just look at the pretty pictures. Especially the ones in this post. These pictures really do make my heart skip a beat. I feel so lucky to have visited such a beautiful place.

Our last day in Yangshuo started with more breakfast. And more watermelon. (And always served with tea!)

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Our expedition of the day was a bike ride through the country roads to Moon Hill. Along the way, we stopped to take pictures. Everything is just so beautiful in a way I’d never seen before anywhere else. These little rock mountains were adorable. IMG_2104

Ha! Adorable. A word I use to describe my daughter… and moss covered rocks. But they are though, look how cute!IMG_2106

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Oh, and in case you were wondering, it was raining on our bike ride. Just a drizzle, but still. Come on, rain! Stop it!IMG_2111

 

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These bikes weren’t your average cruisers where you can pedal for a few minutes and then coast for a little bit… no. If you weren’t pedaling, you weren’t moving. And that meant pedaling a lot! My legs were tired!IMG_2122

But all the effort was worth it when we got to Moon Hill! (It looks like a crescent moon!) On a good day, you can actually hike to it, but we settled for taking pictures in front of it instead.
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Our brave group of bicyclists! IMG_2127

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On the way back, we got a close up view of some rice patties. IMG_2137

Those farmers work so hard! This man was literally moving rocks out of the way to clear the land or build a wall or something.IMG_2139

I mapped the route later and it came out to be 10.8 miles of biking total! But these legs weren’t done yet. Oh no, siree. It was time to hike up a mountain when we got back! To the top of the town Pagoda! I had watermelon for breakfast, I was ready to go!
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It was a lot of steps, but didn’t take too long, and the views from the top were totally worth it! IMG_2143

How cool to see a little town nestled in the adorable rocks!IMG_2147

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Lots. Of. Stairs. I wonder if there’s a Chinese proverb somewhere that says something like “No great view can be seen without stairs”. If not, I just made one up. Because its true!IMG_2155

(Oh, hi Hotel down below! That’s where we stayed!)IMG_2159

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We reached the top!IMG_2163

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Once we made it back down to the bottom, we met back up with our group to head back to the Guilin airport. This was our local guide during our time here in Yangshuo. IMG_2194

On the bus ride to the airport, our driver kindly stopped at this bridge to let us out to take pictures. We missed it on the way in and wanted a chance to photograph the boats!IMG_2198

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Most of our group!
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And then our time in the countryside was over and it was time to head to HONG KONG!!!
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But before we get there, I’ll let you listen to this song that our tour guide, Alex introduced us to. Warning, it WILL get stuck in your head:

 

 

Yangshuo: The Cooking School May 13, 2014

Filed under: China,Cooking,Food,Travel,Yangshuo — Kelocity @ 2:57 pm
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I don’t like to cook. I like to eat. This is a fact. I hate everything about cooking… which is why I was excited to go to Cooking School! Maybe I’d learn a thing or two and make it seem more fun! And you know what, it was awesome. I loved the class and now I’m excited to be home so I can try out some of these recipes again!

The class was taught by a very talented chef who spoke in perfect English. She was very nice and even catered to my vegetarian preference.
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The first part of our class was visiting a local market and seeing the ingredients we’d be cooking with. Lots of great looking produce and then everything else you’d expect to find including all kinds of fish and fresh meat. We had to the option to visit the meat side of the market, but Irving and I decided against it…. for those who are interested, yes, there were dogs and cats in there. But we chose not to see them.IMG_2015

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After the market, we had a short walk back to the school to begin our class! (I loved this Billboard because as much as it looked like propaganda, we actually found it to be true! “The Police Community Relationship is Harmonious”. =)IMG_2021

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And then it was time to start cooking! Each of us got our own cooking station, complete with all the ingredients we would need to create a delicious meal!IMG_2023

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And we all got huge, awesome knives to dice those veggies with! I need to get one of those, you wouldn’t believe how easy it was to crush garlic with that thing!IMG_2030

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Look at these dumplings I made! We learned how to fold them two different ways. I was so proud of myself! They looked almost professional!IMG_2051

Irving’s were looking quite dapper as well!IMG_2052

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Everyone else made Kung Pao Chicken, but since I chose the vegetarian option I made pan fried noodles. HECK YES! IMG_2057

The best part was being able to eat them all when we were done! Everything smelled so good!

The final products! Here was Irving’s Dish:IMG_2059

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And my dish! You had to roll us out of there at the the end of the meal, we were stuffed! That was a TON of food! All that on my plate PLUS seven dumplings!IMG_2062

 

The view out of the window during the class was beautiful Yangshuo… and a McDonalds. We thought it was funny in comparison. But I’ll take that delicious authentic Chinese food over fast food any day. Healthy food for the win!IMG_2031
If anyone is interested, I have all the recipes if you would like a copy. Send me an email (kelocity at gmail dot com).

Anyone want to come over for dinner soon? I’m dying to make this all again!

 

 

Yangshuo: The Chinese Countryside

Filed under: China,Travel,Yangshou — Kelocity @ 6:38 am
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We slept well in Yangshuo and woke up to the sound of rain outside. Sigh. That seems to be the theme of the trip. We were a little bummed, but fueled up for a fun day regardless. More watermelon. Yes!
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We loved that even in this small Chinese town (basically a village) they had a HUGE jumbotron in the center. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it almost took up a whole block!IMG_1943

Rain.. we won’t let you get us down! We’re forging on! Broken umbrella and all! (Fun side story… we had to put a deposit down to borrow an umbrella from the hotel.. and once we got outside, we realized it was actually broken. The whole day we were paranoid they would think we broke it and we came up with all kinds of scheming ways to return it quickly, get our deposit back, and basically run away before they noticed. Whew, it worked!) haha
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We walked to the edge of the town, to the Li River to see how pretty it was in person. Even in the fog and drizzle, it was really special.
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Around 10am, we paid a visit to Dr. Lilyli. She’s famous in the town for having the best massages and acupuncture around. I think everyone on the tour got a massage or some kind of treatment while we were there. Irving and I both got 60 minute foot massages for a mere $17 US Dollars. IMG_1930

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Our view during the massage! (haha) But all laughs aside, after traveling for more than a week, our legs were tired and the massage felt real good! And the $17 price tag felt even better!IMG_1955
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Feeling refreshed after our hour of relaxation, we explored the town a little bit more. I found this store called “Retro Mail” and they had a concept I’ve never seen before… you can mail a postcard to the future!

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You all know how much I LOVE the post office, I couldn’t resist. After visiting the store twice, and asking a few different people how it worked, we finally figured out how it worked… you buy a postcard and a stamp, and write a letter to yourself — or in our case, to Adele.

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Then you look at the giant wall behind you. It’s actually a calendar… twelve rows, one for each month, and 31 slots across, one for each day. You put the letter in any box you want, and on that day next year, they will mail it for you.It’s kind of a social experiment because you’re banking on no one moving your envelope around. I placed mine in a box a couple of days earlier so it will be mailed almost exactly a year from now. I’ll let you know if it ever arrives!IMG_1974
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Ponds of glass. So picturesque! I actually think the weather made it feel more dramatic. The colors popped more against the grey sky.IMG_1981

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For lunch, we decided to check out another Western restaurant. We almost got some German food, but in the end, settled on Italian. 
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We split three plates: Pasta, Garlic Bread and a Pizza. IMG_1991

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Then we walked off all those carbs and went back to the river. Irving climbed down to the shoreline to snap a few pictures from down below. 
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Then we joined back up with our group for an amazing afternoon… a class a Chinese Cooking School! (That will get it’s own post, next!)IMG_2009

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After a few hours of cooking (and eating) we jumped on the bus to catch the Impression show in a nearby town. This was one of the optional excursions on the trip and it was– interesting. They handed out ponchos since it was still raining a bit and the show was outside. IMG_2066

The performance was choreographed by the same guy who designed the Beijing Olympic Opening ceremonies. The entire show takes place in a bay surrounded by the towering mountains around it.(Here’s an idea of what it looked like, even though my camera didn’t pick it up):

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There were hundreds of performers who used light, fire, rafts, boats and silk to tell folk stories. Apparently it’s in a dialect that even the locals don’t understand, so really, it’s about the imagery.

I was skeptical going in, especially because Trip Advisor had hilarious reviews such as this:

It felt like a 5th grade concert you promised your friend you would attend.

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This was my favorite part, when all of the performers, lit up with LED lights on their clothes, walked out on platforms across the water. There were so many of them, it was neat to watch live. IMG_2100

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I wasn’t sure I’d really recommend this show, however looking back, I’m really glad we decided to go.

 

Let’s Go to Yangshuo! May 12, 2014

Filed under: China,Travel,Yangshuo — Kelocity @ 9:14 pm
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On our last morning in Shanghai, we again had another amazing breakfast at our hotel (the Rendezvous Merry).

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Today’s delicious plate featured noodles, snap pease, a roll with jam and copious amounts of watermelon. (Keep in mind, this breakfast buffet was huge and I had lots and lots of options. But these noodles and peas were just SO good I had to have them for breakfast!)
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Irving capped his breakfast off with little ‘wedding cake’ bites. With chopsticks. Why not?
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Our Shanghai local guide, Lisa, came with our group to the airport to see us off to our next destination. Bye Lisa!
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We had another short, uneventful flight on Eastern China Airlines (complete with a full meal served to those who wanted it — not us). But people said it was good. IMG_1878

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Our next destination was Yangshuo, located in the Chinese countryside.This was as far “west” as we went in China, and yet on the map, it’s still totally on the East. It’s a huge country, obviously.
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When you think of iconic China… this is it. The rivers, the rice patties, the mountains. Stunning.IMG_1892

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The rice patties were so beautiful. One after another. Our plane actually landed in Guilin and then we had a two hour bus ride to Yangshuo. We loved the drive so we could take in the gorgeous landscapes there (on yet another rainy day, by the way!)IMG_1902

I love the layers of mountains in the background. Row after row.IMG_1913

We were told to NOT rent a raft on the river. It looks innocent and fun, but apparently people die on them every year. But they were fun to photograph. IMG_1915

Our hotel for this leg of the trip was the New Century Hotel in downtown Yangshuo. The town is small enough that you can walk across it in about 15 minutes, so there aren’t a lot of options for lodging. But it was actually quite comfortable and clean.

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The hotel lobby and breakfast area were bright and airy. Love the parasols hanging from the ceiling!IMG_1920


After we settled in, our tour guide took us on a walking tour of the town to get a lay of the land. Everywhere you looked there was something pretty to see. IMG_1925

It used to be a sleepy, quiet, nothing town, but in the 1980s and 90s it became flooded with backpackers and now there’s even a street called “West Street” where lots of Europeans have opened up shops and restaurants. Lots of German restaurants serving Hofbrau beer!IMG_1928
After seeing what our options were for dinner (and learning which restaurants not to eat at — thank god for a tour guide who knows these things!) we sat down with a group for some Indian Food. The owner is friends with our guide!
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Some of our tour friends! So many great people on this tour!IMG_1935
Everyone had really amazing Indian food, but I just snacked on some naan… I was holding out for Pizza! IMG_1934
Once they were done eating, Irving came and sat with me at a Pizza joint next door called The Alley. IMG_1936

Why does pizza taste so good when you’re on the road? Hit the spot!IMG_1938

Tomorrow we have another full day to enjoy Yangshuo… and spoiler alert…more rain!

 

Samplings of Shanghai May 10, 2014

Filed under: China,Shanghai,Travel — Kelocity @ 11:59 am
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The breakfast we had in Shanghai…. oh, it was good. SO GOOD. A mix of East and West. Nothing like starting your day with sautéed snap peas, cabbage and noodles! With a side of donuts, watermelon and potatoes. Seriously, why doesn’t the western world start their day with veggies?! I need to start doing that more, I felt great all day!
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We started our day at the Tian Hou Silk factory. Another one of those ‘forced shopping excursions’ that I really wish they’d take out of these itineraries. (My only complaint, Contiki!)IMG_1596

They gave us a demonstration about how they make silk (from silk worms all the way to the final product). IMG_1597
Now, let’s go see some of Shanghai! (PS. we were so impressed that they use real bamboo as scaffolding on all their construction sites around China! Impessive!)

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Papa Johns!IMG_1603

Linda, our local guide, led us to the old section of Shanghai where we explored Yu Garden. (Follow that giraffe!)IMG_1607

The gardens were stunning (even in the rain!) So picturesque! IMG_1609

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We paid a small fee to go further inside the gardens, and it was SO worth it! We wandered around, got lost, kept walking and enjoyed all the hidden gems inside. It really felt relaxing and zen!IMG_1621

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Isn’t it crazy this oasis exists in the middle of the world’s biggest city?IMG_1625

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Seriously one beautiful thing after another!IMG_1643

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I love this picture. Orange on the top, Orange on the bottom! This was a tour group from Denmark, they matched the fish!IMG_1696

I kept feeling like I was on Amazing Race. If there was a clue hidden in there, we’d never be able to find it! It’s a maze!IMG_1698

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After getting frustrated briefly because we couldn’t find our way out (haha! I’d never survive one episode on Amazing Race!) we finally did and took shelter in a Starbucks to wait out the rain until we could get back on the bus. I greatly enjoyed my overpriced american coffee.

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This was our only full day in Shanghai, and we had some free time in the afternoon, so we came up with a plan to hit as much as we could. First stop was the Oriental Pearl (the TV Tower) where we visited the Shanghai Museum. It seemed more geared towards kids, but we walked through quickly and learned a few things about the history of the city.
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The life-like animated people reminded us of the museum we visited in Iceland… ironically enough, also located in a building called “The Pearl”!IMG_1724

haha, they even had a display highlighting a Soy Sauce and Pickle Shop. IMG_1726

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Haha, Irving’s on TV! So I guess the museum is actually geared towards kids— and HUSBANDS. He loved it!
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When we were done, we grabbed a quick bite to eat (chocolate croissants from a french bakery nearby), and jumped on the subway for our next adventure… riding the Maglev!
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The Maglev is the fastest train in the world! It takes passengers from downtown Shanghai to the airport in just EIGHT minutes! It tops out at 431km/hour (or 267 miles/hour). We bought a ticket to ride it to the airport and back!

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Here we go! IMG_1772

It was fun to watch the numbers tick up the faster we went! (I have a video coming soon of it in motion!)

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This is what the world looks like when you ride! (ok, maybe not quite so dramatic. It actually didn’t feel as fast as it actually was. It was a smooth ride!)IMG_1780

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We were beaten down by all the rain, and hungry and tired by this point… We made another unfortunate decision to grab some Micky D’s fries to tide us over.

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I think this is my favorite picture of the whole trip. I am THAT tourist. Always with a tour book and a map in my hand. Irving thinks he’s funny taking a picture of me looking like a tourist… but he’s the one with the backpack and huge camera around his neck taking said picture. We make a great team. IMG_1813

We made our way back to our hotel on our own (I had our hotel names written out in Chinese before we left on the trip, so I could easily ask for directions everywhere we went!) We changed quickly and then headed out for the evening! We had tickets to see the Shanghai Acrobats that night, and we grabbed dinner at restaurants around there first. 
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A nice salad for me (to balance out those fries!)
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And a burger for the husband. IMG_1819

And then it was time for the show! We loved it! It was a less polished version of a Cirque du Solei show, but that actually made it more exciting to watch. The performers missed their marks a couple of times, but that made you realize how real it was. It made us respect the art a little bit more because you see how hard it is! A fun night for sure!

The show started 12 minutes AHEAD of time, so half the audience wasn’t even seated yet when it began! I’ve never seen that happen before. haha There were all kinds of strange social norms we noticed in China. That’s what makes traveling so fun, observing cultures in different environments. It was a fun night.
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As soon as the show was over, we knew we wanted to try to catch the Shanghai Light Show on the water. It was cutting it close, but we decided to risk taking public transportation down there thinking it might be faster than taking our tour bus + cab there. It was a fun experiment, but we got there at the same time as everyone else, so it was a draw. We later found out the show had ended a half hour earlier, we wouldn’t have made it anyways. Bummer!!! IMG_1821

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And it was still raining and foggy, it just wasn’t meant to be this time. We took in some of the sights anyways before heading off to bed. IMG_1837

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I’ll be back again someday, Shanghai. Leave those lights on for me!

 

 
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