Okay, so even though it wasn’t quite as magical as seeing elephants in the wild, seeing elephants at the Samui Elephant Haven was still pretty magical. We were able to get up close and personal with these weird, giant animals. We got to feed the elephants. Elephants have thick, rubbery skin, covered with stiff bristly hair. I know because I got to pet them, too.Continue reading “You Can Pet the Elephants at the Samui Elephant Haven”
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.Continue reading “The Longjing Tea Village in Hangzhou”
Most temples in Thailand are beautiful but pretty standard. Sharply pitched roofs with carved decorations, often covered in gold leaf. Inside, you take off your shoes and sit under the high arched ceiling looking at a carving of the Buddha. They’re cool, but honestly, they all started to look the same to me after the first two weeks. But then, I went north to see the three colorful temples of Chiang Rai.Continue reading “The Weird, Colored Temples of Chiang Rai”
Khao Yai National Park is full of animals. Despite being only three hours or so from Bangkok (or almost a full day if you go the way we did), the park is still a relatively pristine wilderness. It’s home to an astounding variety of wildlife; monkeys, lizards, snakes, hornbills, gibbons, and one of the last remaining populations of wild Asian elephants.
Do I like cool wild animals and jungles? Yes. Yes, I do very much. Sure, I could go to the zoo, (or an elephant sanctuary, which I did) but the zoo’s got nothing on seeing an animal in its natural habitat.Continue reading “Chasing Elephants in Khao Yai National Park”
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.Continue reading “How the hell do you get to Pak Chong, Thailand?”
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.
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?
“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.
The thing about Beijing that struck me the most was how gritty it all was. Gritty to the point that you could taste it when you walked outside. There’s a constant layer of dust that settles in to your mouth with each breath.
I don’t say this to disparage Beijing in any way. It’s a fine city, with lots of interesting sights and interesting things.
Standing on top of the hill in Jinghshan park, behind the mighty Palace Museum, we could see the Forbidden City stretched out before us in all its ancient magnificence. The sparkling new skyscrapers of modern Beijing were all but lost in a grey haze. The buildings where we were, at least, were lower than expected. The city seemed to stretch out for miles, perhaps into infinity, before disappearing into the haze.Continue reading “Beijing: Surprisingly Gritty and Interesting”
We met a tour guide in Hoi An, Vietnam who was born and raised in the nearby city of Hue. We told him we were staying there for two nights. He frowned at us.
“Most people spend four hours in Hue,” he said. “Even a full day is too long.”
This seemed to be the sentiment of most of the fellow travelers we met in our hostel. The consensus was that Hue was fine, but really just a pit stop on the road to the bigger and better attractions of Da Nang and Hoi An. It might be the most underrated place I’ve ever been to.