Monday, October 27, 2014


I love postcards. Ever since I was a child I would buy postcards and mail them to my friends back home any time I would travel. Most of those trips were family vacations to the gulf coast of Florida. As an adult I still love postcards and I try to pick some up everywhere I go. I'll collect them myself and send them to my family back home.

I've included a goal on my 101 in 1001 days challenge that encourages me to send out 101 postcards. Now that I'm in China, I'm excited to send home beautiful images of places I've visited to my family and friends. Plus, who doesn't love getting cheerful mail?   

If you'd like me to send you a postcard, send me an email at with the subject line 'postcards' and include your mailing address in the message field. I will send a postcard to every person that requests one. Please be patient though. I will get them out as soon as possible, but they are coming from China and I'm not sure how long it will take to arrive yet.

Do you enjoy mailing postcards from your travels or collecting them for yourself? 

Friday, October 24, 2014

Photo Friday: Honfleur

Honfleur, France
May 2007

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Arrival in Shanghai

Over the National Day holiday in China, I had sixteen days off from work. As I was informed this was much longer than the school I work at has ever had. Most people in China have about one week vacation to celebrate the holiday. So I knew that I needed to take full advantage of the time off and explore as much of China as possible. Since I was traveling alone and I don't speak Chinese I decided to stick to the east coast and visit urban areas that I would be able to easily navigate.

The first city I stopped in was Shanghai. Although Beijing is the capital city of China, Shanghai is probably the most westernized city. Having lived in China for six weeks at the time, I was beginning to really miss all sorts of things from back home. I was so glad to indulge in shopping and dining at familiar chains from America. My original plan was to visit as many of the historic sites as possible, but that was waylaid by my desire to shop. Although I did try to visit at least one site each day of my stay. 

I live in a city just outside Beijing and the fast train to Shanghai took about 5.5 hours. A one way ticket was around $90 US. I arrived in Shanghai in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day walking around the People's Park and some of the nearby streets checking out the architecture.  

Shanghai Grand Theatre

Shanghai Museum

At first, I started to wish that I had taken a job closer to Shanghai so I had access to the same food and clothing stores that I was accustomed too. After a day or two I realized that I made the right choice living in a city that has very few western tourists. Shanghai is a fabulous city to visit and I might make a trip back there later this year. However, in LangFang, I am experiencing a much more authentic side to China that most people never see. 

Most of my family or friends that traveled to China visited Shanghai and Beijing, but very few were interested in exploring the surrounding cities or other areas in China. In a way I understand. If you don't speak the language, traveling away from the urban areas can be a challenge as most people in China are not fluent in English. Plus, China is such a large country that it can take a lot of time to cover the vast space and most people have a limited amount of time to visit. Beijing has so many wonderful historic places to visit, but I encourage anyone traveling to China to get out and see more that this wonderful country has to offer. 

From my experience and knowledge thus far, most people that live in China never get to Beijing or Shanghai or they maybe seldom visit in their lifetime. What we see in those cities is not the reality that most people live. Visiting Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Qingdao I had a glimpse of that reality. Just like anywhere else, each city that I explored was a bit different than the next. The experience makes me eager to get out and see more of China.     

Have you visited China? Where did you go and what did you think?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Photo Friday: Fruit Stand in Qingdao

Fruit Stand, Qingdao, China
October 2014 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Back from Solo Travel

I'm back from my two week solo trip along the east coast of China. I took advantage of the sixteen day holiday from teaching to celebrate National Day and I traveled to Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, and Beijing. I will be back soon with posts about my travels and experiences once I sort through over 2,000 photographs.  

I hope you all had a wonderful week!

Here's a sneak peek:
Sunset over Xuanwu Lake, Nanjing

Friday, October 10, 2014

Photo Friday: Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
September 2012

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Beijing Zoo

During my three day weekend jaunt to Beijing I visited a lot of famous sights that most people put on their to do list. By the afternoon of my second day there, I had visited the Forbidden City, Tian'an Men Square, Jingshan Park, strolled through the side streets and visited the market place in the French Quarter. I was tired and hot, but I wasn't ready to call it a day and return to my hotel. So instead I went to the zoo. The Beijing Zoo has it's own subway stop and was conveniently located only two stops away from my hotel. 

I've been wanting to see pandas in China for as long as I can remember. I visited the zoo in Washington DC back in 2010 to see the pandas, but was disappointed when I arrived and they were sleeping next to the wall nearly out of sight. So I thought, maybe this would be the day I'd actually get to see the cute bears and in China too! Sadly, it was not. 

I walked in through the front gate and straight to the panda exhibit. They charge an extra 5 yuan to view the pandas. I know it's not much, but it was kind of a waste for what I saw. This is the only view of the pandas I had that day:

Other than my brief attempt to visit the panda exhibit, I didn't even visit any of the other animals. I read in my guide book that the aquarium is worth a visit, but I didn't make it over there. Instead I spent two hours wandering through the park, sitting on benches and taking in the beautiful parks. When I looked at my photos later, I realized I had taken all photos of the water areas and statues in the zoo and not many animals. I really enjoyed the zoo. I found it really relaxing and peaceful even with all of the people milling about. The zoo is very spread out and I don't think I visited even half of it. I'll definitely be back to explore more areas and maybe even check out the animals! 


What do you like best about visiting the zoo?

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Tian'an Men Square, Beijing

On a recent trip to Beijing I made my way to the Forbidden City and near the entrance is Tian'an Men Square. I was very surprised at the size of it. I had seen photos and of course heard about the famous student protests there in the late 80s, but I was still amazed at the size of the square. 

Unfortunately the tomb was closed at the time I visited so i was unable to enter it, but I did walk from one end to the other viewing the various buildings and statues. There were long lines of Chinese tourists going through the security screening area to visit the site. I learned that it is an important national site for locals to visit, and of course it's free to enter.

If you'd like to make a day of it, it is best to start at Tian'an Men Square and head north to visit the Forbidden City. The only entrance to the Forbidden City is near Tian'an Men Square and the only way to exit is to the north. The Forbidden City is quite large and you could easily spend 3 hours wandering around the different buildings and spending time in the garden. Once you exit the Forbidden City on the north end, cross the street to enter Jing Shan Park. The entrance fee is very cheap, I paid 2 yuan. 

In Jing Shan Park you can climb to the top to visit the viewing area for fabulous views of the Forbidden City on a clear day. Once you are finished wandering around the park, head north to Bei Hai where you can wander around the shops, visit a bar or restaurant for music, drinks and food.

For more shopping, just south of Tian'an Men Square, there is a market place for food and souvenirs sold in buildings with European style architecture.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

Photo Friday: Grand Epoch City

Grand Epoch City
September 2014

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Jing Shan Park, Beijing

I discovered Jing Shan Park as I was exiting the Forbidden City after my tour. The entrance fee is really inexpensive at 2 yuan per person. I entered the park and climbed up to the top and was rewarded with excellent views of the Forbidden City. The day I was there it was really smoggy, but on a clear day you will probably have even more amazing views of the entire park. Once you exit the park, head north to Bei Hai to walk along the lake front, shop, take a boat ride or enjoy dinner. At night you can find many places to listen to music and have a drink.

A little bit of history of the park: The last emperor of the Ming dynasty escaped to Jing Shan Park when rebels forced their way into the city. He hung himself by a tree in Jing Shan Park. The original tree is gone, but a replacement tree is in the same spot with a marker.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Market Shopping in China

On my second day in China one of the local teachers took me to the open markets with his family. The market is within walking distance from my apartment and have a variety of goods for sale. Of course this market is where you find the knock offs that are much cheaper, but also less quality goods than their counterpart. 

During my first two weeks in China I was struck by how different it was from back home. I had heard so much about China before I left, but I think experiencing it first hand and as a new citizen rather than a temporary visitor is so much different. I remember feeling kind of horrified and also aware of how dirty it was. I didn't think there was any way that I would return, let alone purchase anything from the markets. Once I got used to living here though, it just seems like a normal place to by cheap goods.

They sure love their hot dogs

You can find so many things for sale at the open markets. The one in my town is geared mostly towards shoes, clothing, handbags and home accessories. You can also find markets in the larger cities that sell more of the tourist goods. Where I live there are very few tourists, so the vendors typically sell to the locals that live in the city. 


Knock-off Designer Shoes


There are a lot of baby clothes for sale here. And the clothes look a bit different than back in the states. Babies here must potty train much earlier than in America. All but the very young infants wear clothes that are completely open in the bottom area and they don't wear diapers. Instead, the mother periodically holds the baby out over the street, or allows the toddler to squat in the street, to do their business. I have witnessed this many times already in various places. I have seen mothers squatting with their children on the side of a highway, on a park bench or right there in the middle of the market. The baby will either pee or poop or both. The mother will use a plastic bag to clean up the poop, but the urine, that just stays right where it lands. Since, I've learned to avoid walking in the wet spots whenever possible.   

Outside the market place, most people ride their scooter or bicycle, so the parking lot looks a lot different than the local malls that I'm used to.

Also, there are several food vendors that set up shop outside the market. The first few weeks I was hesitant to eat anything from an outdoor vendor, especially considering the adjustment period my stomach was going through adapting to the new organisms in my new environment. But I have since tried many different street foods and I haven't had anything yet that I didn't like. Nor has anything made me ill.

Shopping at the open markets is a truly unique experience. I've seen returned to the markets and I've actually purchased a few things for my apartment. A few blankets to cover the hideous couch and chairs, plus a cheap rolling suitcase. You can't beat the prices! I paid $4 US for the blankets and $15 US for the suitcase. It was a much better bargain than I found elsewhere!

Have you experienced the open markets? What did you think?