The Longjing Tea Village in Hangzhou

The Longjing Tea Village in Hangzhou is a sort of holy land for tea drinkers. Longjing tea is smooth, mellow, and can be ridiculously expensive. If you’d asked me two years ago whether I thought I would become a tea drinker or even care about the subtle differences in types of tea, I would’ve spit black coffee right in your face. Now, after living for a year and a half in the land of tea, I can say I’ve been converted. I’m a tea drinker. And my heartburn’s much better now.

Hangzhou, and the Longjing Tea Village, is only an hour or so away from Shanghai by fast train. It was an energizing, non-jitter inducing day trip.

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Oriental Land: on the far edge of Shanghai

Archway in Oriental Land, Shanghai

Oriental Land is a large park located, ironically, on the far western edge of Shanghai. It’s about a two-hour subway ride from the center of the city, dangling on the shores of Dianshan Lake. The metro station has its own Wikipedia page. Oriental Land is full of obstacle courses and is a prime destination for corporate team building delegations from Shanghai. It also has some jets and a replica of an aircraft carrier.

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Lantau Island: The other side of Hong Kong

Lantau Island is not the Hong Kong you expect. When someone says “Hong Kong” you probably think of glistening skyscrapers stretching towards the heavens, and densely packed urban life. Or, maybe you think of protests. Or maybe even Bruce Lee. I don’t know what goes on in that head of yours.

Lantau Island is Hong Kong, but it’s not that Hong Kong. The airport’s there, and so is Hong Kong Disney Land. But I didn’t go to Disney Land, and I’m not really into hanging out in airports. Instead, we took a taxi to a charming little village by the sea.

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Inside a Chinese Wet Market

Chinese wet market in Shanghai

Chinese wet markets are large open markets where vendors sell fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat, unpackaged and unprocessed. Ever since the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was identified as an early source of the COVID-19 coronavirus, they’ve been vilified in the Western media. Numerous U.S. politicians and officials are calling for wet markets to be shut down. They’re portrayed as grimy, vile, places full of viruses and disease; seedy dens packed with suffering doe-eyed animals waiting to be slaughtered.

So, of course, I wanted to go see for myself.

Spoiler alert: it was great.

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How the hell do you get to Pak Chong, Thailand?

lonely motorcycle outside Pak Chong, Thailand

Pak Chong, Thailand is only about two and a half hours away from Bangkok. It’s the gateway to Khao Yai National Park, which may be one of the top national parks I’ve ever been to anywhere. The park’s one of the best places to see animals like gibbons, hornbills and wild elephants. So yeah, of course we wanted to go there during our month in Thailand.

We were up in Chiang Rai at the time, doing our research in a lovely little guesthouse. “It’s easy to get to Pak Chong” said all the blogs. Just go to the Mo Chit Bus Station in Bangkok, catch a bus and you’re there. Boom, no problem. Easy peasy, as the kids say.

It turns out there was nothing easy or peasy about it.

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Hold on to Your Butts: It’s Gucun Park, Shanghai

dinosaur totem pole

Gucun Park in Shanghai is also known as “dinosaur park.” Walk through dense forests of leafy green plants. There’s a rustling in the leaves. Something is lurking in the forests just beyond the shadows. Water ripples in your cup as heavy footsteps come closer. Then the leaves part. It’s a giant, animatronic tyrannosaurus! Also, a pterodactyl is playing the guitar. And King Kong is there too. And Iron Man.

Welcome to Gucun Park.

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Shipyards and Strawberries on Chang Xing Island

Our Chang Xing Island adventure started with a message from the boss. “We’re going to Chang Xing Island next week. We booked a hotel room for you.” That was it.

Was it a business trip? Was it a vacation? How long were we going to be gone? What were we going to be doing? What the hell was a “­Chang Xing Island” anyway?

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Guyi – Shanghai’s Secret Garden

Guyi Garden is a lovely classical garden just an hour north of downtown Shanghai. It’s not as famous as some of the other nearby gardens, but that makes it feel all the more special. Avoid the crowds and relax in Guyi’s classical splendor.

One of the best things about China is its classical gardens. Stone paths meander around groves of bamboo. Strangely shaped rocks reach up to the sky like miniature mountains. Colorful fish swim ponds. Trees and flowers blossom in various colors. The entire garden fits together like a painting you can walk around in.

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An “Authentic” Hill Tribe Trek in Chiang Rai, Thailand

“Authentic.” What does that word even mean? Part of the reason we travel is to have an “authentic” experience. We want to see what the “real” locals look like. What is “authentic” daily life for the people in the countries we’re visiting?

All too often, this quest for the “authentic” is framed through centuries of backward (and often racist) stereotypes. We Westerners travel to exotic lands, expected to be greeted and delighted by foreign tribal savages, living as if they were a live-action issue of National Geographic.

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Linhai and the Pretty Good Wall of China

City Wall, Linhai, Zhejiang, China

Linhai is a small city that seems to be off the radar of most Westerners. It’s a mere three hours on the fast train outside of Shanghai, between Ningbo and Taizhou. The summer rainy season left the surrounding mountains full of bright vibrant emerald green that stood out against the grey sky. So much green, that parts of the hike around Linhai’s wall felt like some sort of fairy tale wonderland.

Linhai's wall goes down the mountainside with the city, river and mountains in the background.
It’s the Pretty Good Wall of China.

The wall in Linhai

The wall is probably your best reason for visiting Linhai. It’s not exactly The Great Wall of China, but it is a great wall in China. A pretty good wall, anyway. It was built around the same time as the actual Great Wall and supposedly shared an engineer. If you’re the dishonest type, you could probably just post pictures of Linhai’s wall on Instagram and your family and friends back home likely wouldn’t know the difference.

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