The Self Isolated Canuck

We’re in beautiful Hainan, and although still on holiday, I haven’t written for a while.  There’s actually a pretty good reason for that: China is experiencing an outbreak.  To make matters worse, there was a single sick person in Zhangjiajie while we were there, and the whole country has been put on alert. I figured that might be something worth writing about for my friends back home. 

On our balcony

COVID in China

Of course, COVID is something that the world has been dealing with for nearly two years now.  It began in a Chinese city called Wuhan, and quickly spread across the world.  China failed to contain the virus in early days but became a lot more smart about it very quickly.  Mass lock downs took place in every city across China, and international travel was halted for months.  We were lucky enough to get back into the country before the major lock downs happened, but many people weren’t.  I know so many people who were separated from their spouses for over a year.  Some are still separated. 

I can’t imagine how much harder this time would have been without Dave.  We’re so lucky that we’ve been able to stay together through all this!!

Eventually things got better.  Mass testing and strict regulations brought down the country’s COVID numbers to nearly none.  In the past year, there have been little breakouts here and there, but they’ve been stopped very quickly but locking down affected districts and through mass testing.  Spring Festival saw several small breakouts and the whole country was asked not to travel.  Companies offered incentives for their workers to forgo their trips home, and once more, the virus was put back under control and life continued pretty normally. 

There has been a massive effort to get everyone vaccinated in China.  Dave and I both got our shots and felt confident about traveling within China for the summer. There is still a 4 week quarantine period for anyone coming back into China though, so international travel was off the table yet again.  With only 6 weeks off for summer holiday, I couldn’t face 4 weeks of quarantine here and 2 weeks in Canada.  Still, I was grateful to at least move around China as we have.

The Delta Variant

Months back, a new version of the virus emerged during a massive breakout in India.  That variant has China on high alert because although their vaccine is ok to deal with the original strain, and several others, it isn’t as helpful against this new, more contagious strain.  When several airport workers tested positive in Nanjing in June, once more, the country was on high alert.  Citizens of Nanjing had to go for daily COVID tests and the whole city was put on lockdown.  Unfortunately, cases can go undetected and several sick people left Nanjing, unaware that they were sick. 

They’ve tracked things very closely

The patient who tested positive in Zhangjiajie was in the city at the same time that we visited the park. We were lucky enough to never cross paths with him.  We were never in the city of ZJJ itself, and he was at the park the day that we left the area.  Still, it caused a bit of problems because our 2 week travel history shows Zhangjiajie. 

The text at the bottom of the white part shows all the places I’ve been in the last 2 weeks.  The ones with stars are medium or high risk zones.  Luckily, my code has stayed green, but those stars mean that I need to show negative nucleic acid tests before any city will let me in.

Shortly after we were in Haikou, someone tested positive there too.  Once more, we were never in any of the same places as this patient, but our codes were flagged.  We decided to hunker down a little longer at our hotel on the outskirts of Lingshui.  I’m very happy we had booked here and not in Sanya or Haikou, which are much more popular tourist destinations.  We booked this way specifically to keep away from crowds.  Even though China has remained relatively safe for the past 18 months, we like to be careful. 

This is about as busy as the beach near our hotel gets. 

Being Responsible

We have done our best to be as responsible as possible with all this information.  We got tested right away, and have been avoiding crowds.  We’ve spent most of the last 2 weeks either in our room, or walking in areas that aren’t too populated by people.  We did make a trip into Wanning and Wencheng when our tests came back negative, but the following day we got a call from the district Health Authority asking where we had been in Wanning, because there was a suspected case there.  Once more, we were lucky enough to not have crossed paths with the person (he had been at the testing center, and we had been at the outlet mall) but it was enough of a scare to get us not to travel anywhere else on the island ever since.

Even though this outlet mall is pretty dead, and we wore masks the whole time, I wish we hadn’t risked it. 

The last couple of weeks have been kinda scary.  We got SO many messages from friends back in Suzhou, scared for us because we’d been in Zhangjiajie.  Suzhou itself has gone a little overboard and is forcing anyone who was in ZJJ to do a hotel quarantine, regardless of multiple negative tests. Even though we were never in any of the same places as the ZJJ patient, if we went back to Suzhou now, we would be put in 2 separate hotel rooms and stuck there until we’d been away from Zhangjiajie for 2 full weeks. Even if we had multiple negative tests. 

Articles like this pop up in my feed every single day, and they often have information about all the places that a COVID positive person may have been.  They list any trains (and the seat numbers) that these people took, and any areas where the person went
  This is why I can say, with confidence, that we never crossed paths with these people. 

This is part of why I find it so strange that people think that wearing a mask in public is such an infringement of rights.  China has taken much further measures tracking and posting positive patients’ whereabouts and enforcing mass quarantines and testing. We honestly don’t even mind going along with most of it, because we’ve seen first hand the effect these measures have had on reducing the number of cases here in China.

By comparison, America has had over 36 million cases, and Canada has had about 1.5 million.  Given that China has a HUGE population, I’d say 93,000 cases is pretty good!!!

Suzhou itself is a bit of an extreme case.  Events are forbidden there right now, and bars have been closed.  Many buisnesses are only allowed 1/2 capacity.  Schools are even shut down for all of August, which will affect me at the end of the month.  There’s mass testing happening right now in Suzhou, and I have several friends in quarantine hotels at the moment.  Suzhou hasn’t had a single case of community transmission, so it feels like an over reaction, but at the same time, these measures might be why there hasn’t been a single community spread there since May 2020.

Community transmission is much better controlled if mass testing takes place.

By contrast, we didn’t have to quarantine in Lingshui.  We chose to, until our tests came back negative, but it wasn’t forced.  When someone tested positive in Haikou, Hainan’s capital, things did tighten up.  Masks were enforced and temperature checks came up again, but other than that, it’s been business as usual.  So far, everyone who was near the Haikou patient has tested negative, and Hainan province is still only showing up with 1 case in all the news reports.  This is a relief and probably due to all the calls made by the Health Authority to anyone who came into contact with the positive patient.  It was nipped in the bud, and stopped before it could spread. 

This looks scary at a glance, but you can see that most of these places only have a few cases.  It’s so closely monitored and updates like this come out every single day. 

So that’s been our last couple of weeks in Lingshui. We’ve mostly be working and catching up on some reading.  Of course, we’ve made full use of our balcony tub as well.  When we have gone out, it’s been to places with few people, and always outdoors.  Our trip to the outlet mall in Wanning was a lesson and we didn’t need to learn it twice. 

I’ll be back soon with some backlogged posts about our time in Hainan last Christmas.  I never got around to finishing those posts thanks to some nasty food poisoning, followed by a very busy January full of exams. 

An edited photo of a water lily on one of our Christmas hikes. More on that soon!!

Are you living in China right now?  What have your experiences been this summer?  If you’re not in China, what is your perspective on the way the virus has been handled here?  I’d love to hear your comments! 

Zhangjiajie: The Avatar Mountains

China has such a variety of geological landscapes.  From the deserts of Gansu, to the karst mountains of Guangxi, there is an abundance of beauty here.  Mount Everest, Yellow Mountain, and Mount Emei are some of China’s most famous peaks, and the Yangtze and Yellow rivers are equally famous vast bodies of water.  China has a lot to offer tourists, although many skip these natural beauties, visit the Wall, The Warriors and The Bund, then peace out.  They don’t know what they’re missing. 

Admittedly, when I first moved to Xiamen in 2005, I didn’t realize how much China had to offer either, but through the years, I’ve come to appreciate the variety of landscapes the Middle Kingdom offers.  These past 2 years have been especially eye opening to me, because I haven’t been able to go home.  My summers are usually spent with family and friends in Canada, but with that being impossible for 2 summers in a row, Dave and I have opted to travel China, rather than to sit and sulk in Suzhou. 

There is one place though, that Dave and I have always wanted to visit, but always put off, mostly because of the crowds.  Zhangjiajie is located in Hunan Province, and although many foreigners haven’t heard of it, local Chinese tourists have.  It’s the busiest place we’ve been all summer, and it’s very easy to see why. 

Now, I had never heard of these mountains until a coworker of mine visited in 2015 (when we were living in Guiyang).  But although I had never heard of them, I HAD seen them, and just not realized it.  They’re featured in the movie Avatar. 

Spoiler: they don’t actually float in real life, but it can look like they do when fog sets in. 

There are a few things you should know, if you’re thinking of traveling to Zhangjiajie.  First of all, flights can be a bit tricky.  Unless you’re flying from a major city, you’ll have to have a layover in Changsha or Xian.  You can take the train as well, but once more, it’s a bit of a long trek unless you’re already living in Changsha.  That being said, it IS worth the trip.

Our train back to Changsha was mostly standing room only.  It’s a 3 hour ride so you’ll want to make sure to book early and get a seat. 

Another thing to consider is that it’s almost always crowded, especially during holidays (most people in China all get their holidays at the same time).  We went during summer, which was probably the least crowded of all the regular holiday seasons, but it was still crowded.  We got to the park before 8:30am, thinking we would be ahead of most of the crowds, but it was already packed by then. 

Lots of tour guides in that line, each with a stack of passports to get through. 

We also found Zhangjiajie to be a bit xenophobic at the moment.  The woman who looked at our documents at the train station didn’t want to let us through despite the fact that we are vaccinated, have a clean travel history and haven’t left China in a year and a half.  We also had COVID tests done 3 weeks prior, but she wanted much more recent ones.  She did let us in, in the end, but for anyone reading this and planning a trip to Zhangjiajie this summer, you might want to get a test done a few days before. 

This app tracks all the places I’ve been in the previous 2 weeks.  If I have been in any medium or high risk areas, it turns yellow or red.  It’s all tracked by my phone’s GPS.  I have 4 different versions of these apps and they ALL show green. We showed her the 2 most commonly known ones and she still wasn’t happy.  Most places are happy with the green code and vaccination record.  Not Zhangjiajie though!!

However, no matter how many little inconveniences we faced, I would still recommend Zhangjiajie to anyone who has a little patience and perseverance.  It’s really an out of this world kind of place to visit, and here’s why:

The Park is HUGE!

To counter my complaint about the crowds, I must also mention the size of Zhangjiajie.  If you take any of the hiking trails, you’ll be able to avoid most the crowds.  We spent a good portion of our day on the Golden Whip Trail.  A lot of it is flat so even if you aren’t super fit, you’ll be ok. 

The trail is about 7km long and follows a beautiful little river the whole way. You can get some really nice views of the mountains from below. The water is cold too, so if you start to overheat, you can dip your feet in to cool down. Golden Whip Trail was actually my favorite part of Zhangjiajie, and we did it twice. We went up and also down the river, rather than racing the crowds.

This isn’t the only way to get around, of course. There are buses that take you from scenic spot to scenic spot once you’re up in the mountains. They were making me really car sick though, so we avoided them when we could. There are also cable cars and elevators to get you up to the peak and most scenic spots, but there are often 2 hour lines to get into them. We took the stairs instead.

There were a lot of them, but we took it slow and stopped often for water, and it was fine.

The Scenery

We only really had time for 1 scenic spot, so we chose the Avatar Mountains. Also called Yuanjiajie mountains, these peaks were stunning. My favorite view of them was our first… Right when we made it to the peak, but before we met up with the swarms of tourists that had taken the cable cars up.

Not only was it stunning, it was also peaceful.

Once we were back in the crowds, the most scenic spots were all around, but it was hard for me to enjoy them with all the selfies and shouting and vendors trying to sell things. It was still beautiful, of course, but I would definitely have enjoyed it more if there had been fewer people in that small location.

For the next couple of hours, we moseyed along the park, hopping on and off buses to see the sights. Nothing we saw compared to the Avatar Mountains, but if we had scheduled another day at Zhangjiajie, we would have explored some of the more famous areas of the park.

It’s disappointing how commercialized this place has become. They have KFC, McDonald’s and so many shops and stalls… It just seems weird to me, given how beautiful of a place we were at.

We timed things well, and took the cable cars down one section of the mountain. At around 3pm, most of the tourists are seeing the major sights, so that’s when we booked our tickets down. The views were SPECTACULAR!

Once we were back down to the main level of the park, we decided to take the Golden Whip Trail back, rather than take a bus or a taxi (there were some there, which surprised me, but they were charging WAY too much).

As the sun started to go down, the trail was even prettier.

The Wildlife

Another thing worth noting is the wildlife at Zhangjiajie. There are countless macaques that will steal your food, and chase you if you get too close.

We’d only been at the park for about 10 minutes when we watched a mother with a baby hanging onto her back lunge at a tourist, stealing their snack and running off with it. It was pretty funny to be a spectator, but given how aggressive these monkeys can be, I’m glad I wasn’t the one holding the food!!

Other notable wildlife were the birds and insects in the park. There were cicada-type insects buzzing up a storm, and in the silence, I find the sound to be calming. It reminds me that I’m in nature, and that makes me happy!

This little creature can make a LOT of noise!!

Zhangjiajie is really an incredible place. There are plenty of great lodgings to be found in the areas just outside the park. We stayed at the Forest Glass Inn and loved it. There were about 700 stairs to climb to get there, but the view was spectacular and the hotel was lovely.

I’m very happy we went, and I would encourage anyone to go!

With views like this, who wouldn’t want to go here!?

Our next stop on our trip is a 10 day stay in Hainan! We loved it so much at Christmas that we decided to come back. I’ll also be able to finish some of my posts that I never had a chance to finish then! (Food poisoning affected our last few days there).

I’ll finally get to finish my post with all my best photos!

I’ll be back soon!!

Gorgeous Guangxi – Yangshuo

The very first place Dave and I traveled together once we moved to China was Guilin. We visited a beautiful cave, took a Cruise down the Li River and climbed up to the top of the Longji Rice terraces. It was an epic 4 days and I often think back to them fondly. There was one place in the area though, that we didn’t get to see properly: Yangshuo.

We loved the area on our last trip, but we were disappointed that we only got to spend a few hours in Yangshuo. This summer, with so much time to travel, we decided to fix that and spend a few nights there! Here’s how we spent our time….

Seeing The Countryside

A lot of our time was spent cruising around on our ebikes, checking out the sights and stopping whenever we saw something interesting. I think that is my favourite way to see a new place, but it’s not something we can easily do in China, where international drivers’ licenses aren’t recognized. Luckily, in Yangshuo, you can rent ebikes anyway.

The man we rented them from charged them for us every night too! For only 60rmb per day, it was a great way to get around!

There are several old bridges and ancient towns where you can stop in. Fuli Ancient Town was one of our stops. They are famous there for making hand painted fans. In the heat of the day, it seemed like most of the shops were closed, but a few were open for business and it looked like they offer painting classes as well.

Another benefit of driving around on your own is that you can stop and enjoy the scenery whenever you want, and you can stop and eat at little roadside restaurants. We enjoyed some bamboo rice, beerfish (both local specialties) and a sunset on our last night.

With plenty of small roads to explore, you can easily spend a day driving around, stopping for a swim or a plate of watermelon if you get too hot or hungry. The roads aren’t too crazy. Just be sure to be vigilant, and to not drive too aggressively, and you should be fine. Of course, Yangshuo City is a little crazier of a place to be driving.

Yangshuo City

We didn’t spend a lot of time in Yangshuo itself. Something tells me that a few years ago, it would have been a quaint place to visit, but nowadays, it feels a bit like a party town. You can find KFC, McDonald’s, Starbucks and all the usual western chains in the city, and there are plenty of places to stop for food too.

During the day, you get a lot of people shopping for souvenirs, at the end of their Li River Cruises. Down by the water, you can see the men who fish with birds, and even take a dip in the river (it moves pretty quickly though, so you’ll want to be careful).

Night life in Yangshuo involves loud music, dancers, club antics and people trying to pull you into their bars or stores. I’m sure it’s a lot of fun for people in their early 20s, but we weren’t feeling much like parting, so we didn’t spend a lot of time in Yangshuo.

Ruyifeng Cable Car

Our trip to Ruyifeng Cable Car was actually the highlight of my time in Yangshuo this time around. Not only was the cable car ride itself spectacular, but there is tons to see once you’re up there too. We did the full circuit, seeing the suspension bridge and both glass bridges and it took us over 2 hours to explore it all.

It was quite hot up there, so the climb was a bit rough, but we took it slow, stopped for lots of water (and ice cream!) and got to see so many incredible views of the surrounding area. It was well worth the 200rmb each that we paid.

The suspension bridge was sturdier than many I’ve been on in China. There were red ribbons tied along a lot of it, making it really stand out against all the green. I think I like this better than the locks that are often put on bridges like this.

This picture turned out a lot cooler than I thought it was going to!

There are 2 glass bridges as well. I don’t typically bother with them because I usually find them overpriced, plus I’m dubious of their safety, but these ones were included in the price, and seemed to be well maintained. You need to rent 5rmb booties to cover your shoes, so the glass isn’t scratched up. It was actually pretty cool to see! My legs hardly shook at all!!

I was really impressed with this part of our trip. The whole area was well maintained and staff were there cleaning up any litter left behind by inconsiderate guests. Things weren’t priced too high, and overall, it was just a really nice experience.

If you get your tickets right at the site, they are 260rmb each, but our hotel was able to save us some money and we only paid 200 (around 40 dollars Canadian). We spent about 3 hours there in total and got to see the countryside from a stunning vantage point. I’d recommend it to anyone, honestly, even if you don’t do the big walk around.

Other Things to Do

There were a few things that we had wanted to do but couldn’t, like rafting down the Yulong River, or seeing the Yangshuo evening show. Both would have been nice, but funds and time were an issue, so we had to skip them this time around.

We did year from many people that the night show is spectacular, but we really enjoyed hiking and taking in the natural beauty of Guanxi, so I can’t say we made a bad choice.

With so much beauty to be seen, I wanted to spend as much time outside as possible!

Our next stop on this journey was to the world famous park: Zhangjiajie!!! Thanks to the areas otherworldly landscapes, the movie Avatar was filmed there. We had a great time and I’ll be back to write about it soon!!

Guiyang: Day trips

Guizhou might be poorer than other Chinese provinces, but what it lacks in financial wealth, it makes up for with rugged beauty. The province boasts plenty of natural wonders, such as caves and China’s tallest waterfall, and it is also culturally relevant as well, with its many minority villages.  If you head out to this part of China, and visit only Guiyang City, you’ll be missing out on a lot!  Let’s take a look. 

Day Trips

Our day trip gang

There are plenty of short trips you can take and still be back in time for hot pot in Guiyang City.  On this last trip, we had plans to visit China’s tallest waterfall, Huangguoshu, but there was a mix up with our driver and he thought we wanted to go to a waterfall that was much closer to the city.  We stayed flexible and decided to make 2 stops closer by instead.  Here’s what we did.


I had never heard of Tianhetan when we lived in Guiyang, and it is all in very good shape, so I think it might be a new attraction, built quite recently. Our plan was to go to Huangguoshu, but our driver wasn’t actually prepared to go that far for the 500rmb we had negotiated. Instead, we agreed to pay him 80rmb and he dropped us off at the park and went on his merry way. I’m still not entirely sure if he just genuinely misunderstood us, or if he was trying to make an easy buck on (what he thought were) some dumb foreigners, but either way, I didn’t want to be in a car with him all day, so I was happy with the solution.

We hiked around for a little bit and enjoyed the scenery. There was a coffee shop that made pretty awful sour coffee and poor Kim ended up with an insect in hers, but at least coffee was available! Guizhou has come a long way!

We didn’t really have a specific plan of what we wanted to see in Tianhetan, because we’d only learned about it that morning, but we moseyed around and eventually came upon signs for a cave. Caves are one of Guizhou’s specialties. On we went!

The boatride into the cave was a bit cheesy but honestly quite enjoyable. The cave itself was very well lit up, and there were plenty of beautiful areas. It went on for much longer than I expected it to! Of course, there are people snapping your photo along the way and you can buy them a little further down the cave for an inflated price. It’s a nice momento if you happen to look good in the picture (I almost never do).

We were actually trying to find the waterfall, but weren’t too tenacious about it. We kept enjoying the paths and eventually found our way out of the park and onto the next leg of our journey.

Qingyan Ancient Town

I’ve actually been to Qingyan Ancient Town 3 times now, and each time it was pleasant in its own way. Like many ancient towns, there are shops galore where you can buy silver jewelry and plenty of Guizhou specialty snacks.

There are plenty of restaurants where you can sit down and have some lunch as well. Make sure to try the Yang Yu Ba (potato patties). They are stellar! Pigs feet are also always on the menu in this ancient town.

We didn’t stay for long on this trip, because we’d spent so much time in Tianhetan, and we ended up in a Guizhou-style thunderstorm, so we headed back before I’d really wanted to. If you’re looking for a chill way to spend some time, Qingyan Ancient Town is a great way to achieve that goal. You can easily pair this trip with a visit to Tianhetan as well, because both are easily accessible by Didi.

Weekend Trips

There are honestly so many different places where you can take weekend Trips in Guizhou. For this post, I’m only writing about the places that I have personally been. The two trips that Dave and I took while living in Guiyang are still some of my favorite memories of living out that way. Zhenyuan Ancient Town and Xijiang Minority Village are definitely worth the trip!

Xinjiang Minority Village

The view from a rice Paddy

Xijiang and Kaili were actually one of our last stops when we lived in Guiyang. Looking back, I really wish we had done more traveling out there, but we were pretty overwhelmed at the time and I worked quite a bit. I am glad that we at least made time for Xijiang though.

Dave in Xijiang, 2016

Minority villages are everywhere in China, but the closest we’ve come to feeling like one was authentic was in Guizhou. You’ll see traditional architecture in these towns and people will often be in traditional costumes as well. There are always trinkets and souvenirs to buy and local food to taste. When we lived in Guizhou, I took this a bit for granted. I found Xijiang to feel a lot more authentic than Tongli, in Suzhou.

People still live in these towns, and although it isn’t 100% authentically traditional, they are still farming with hand ploughs and there are beautiful rice paddies all around. It’s peaceful.

To get to Xijiang, you can take a bus or a slow train to Kaili. We actually went after classes one Sunday night, and got to Kaili at around 11pm. Getting a taxi was rough (it would be easier now with Didi), and when we got to our hotel, they didn’t want to take us, because we are foreigners.

**Pro China Tip** I strongly suggest booking with if you are staying in more remote places. We’ve had a few bad experiences in the past where we’ve arrived at the hotel, only to find out that they can’t take foreigners. If this happens when you booked with, you aren’t going to get much support. If you go with, however, they’ll find you a new room. They offer much better support in that regard.

Zhenyuan Ancient Town

Of all our weekend trips during our time in Guizhou, my favorite was definitely Zhenyuan. We went there in an attempt to escape the noise and pollution of the city. We needed to unwind and Zhenyuan was perfect for that.

This clean and peaceful river was soothing to my culture shocked soul.

I wrote a couple of posts about our time in Zhenyuan, and they are actually 2 of my most viewed posts of all time. Not many people visit that little gem of a town, so they don’t realize that they’re missing out. Zhenyuan was the first little Guizhou adventure Dave and I took in that first year living in China, so it will always have a special place in my heart.

If you want to read more about our trip to Zhenyuan, you can click here or here! There are lots of pictures and tips of what you can do and see there!

6 years later and I’m still proud of this picture!!

Other Options

Of course, these are just the places we ended up going, but there are plenty of other places you can visit within a day as well. Huangguoshu Waterfall along with the beautiful scenery nearby is an excellent option. Dragon Palace is nearby too, where you can see over 90 karst caves. Guizhou is full of natural beauty that you can see on a day trip outside of Guiyang.

If you have a bit more time, there are some incredible options to see other ancient towns, hike Mount Fanjing, or even visit Zunyi, home of China’s most famous brand of alcohol: Moutai.

With Guizhou’s milder climate and natural beauty, I really don’t think you can go wrong visiting this beautiful province. I may be a little biased because I called this place home for a year, but I think that as long as you have a sense of adventure Guiyang is a must see if you live in China!!

There is a higher ratio of squatter toilets in Guizhou, and your bed may not be as soft as you’re used to, but those are minor inconveniences in return for all this province has to offer!

The next stop on this epic 2021 Summer trip is the city of Yangshuo, in Guanxi Province!! We were there once before, but this trip was just as epic (and full of totally new experiences!!)

Spoiler: It was Beautiful!!!

Hot but beautiful!! Stay tuned!

Guiyang City

To some, Guiyang might seem like a pretty mundane place.  It doesn’t have Pandas, like Chengdu, or Gardens, like Suzhou.   It doesn’t have the glitz of Shanghai or the history of Beijing.  But that certainly doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth visiting, and here’s why…

Abundant Beauty


Now, I know that there are certainly some run-down areas of Guiyang, but it’s undeniably pretty too!  Downtown, by the river, is always a lovely place to take a walk. 

Day or night

The limestone mountains in the area also make the city beautiful. I’ve been going through a lot of my old blog posts recently, and found a great video in one of my last posts before we left Guiyang. You can watch it here.

The view from our old apartment

There are a few things you can do in Guiyang too, like visiting the minority museum or popping by a Temple near the river.

Dave circa 2015, “holding up” the minority museum
We only stumbled upon this temple in our 2021 trip. We lived in Guiyang for a year without every seeing it!

The thing I find most beautiful about Guiyang isn’t its pagodas or temples though. What I love most is the abundance of trees in Guiyang. It’s the greenest city I’ve seen in China. I really hope this doesn’t change as it continues to develop.


My favorite breakfast noodles!

For me, Guiyang is all about food! Hot pot, disc barbecue, street food, spices, fresh herbs…. Guizhou has it all! There are more varieties of hot pot than anywhere else I know of in China. Hot and Sour fish hot pot, fermented soybean Hotpot, creamy kidney bean hot pot…I cannot get enough of it!

And hot pot isn’t where it ends! One of the things that I love about Guiyang’s food scene is that there are still so many Mom and Pop type places all over the city. We never had to go to a single franchise restaurant the whole time we were there. In fact, we hardly see them! Great little craft beer places and independent coffee shops have opened in recent years too!

And of course, there’s street food! Glorious, delicious street food! It can’t all be trusted to be clean, admittedly, but generally, if there is a line up, it’s safe!!

Rotisserie wings and drums!!!! The stuff of legends!!!

Monkey Park (Qinglingshan)

On this last trip to Guiyang, we didn’t make it to Qinglingshan, but we’ve been there many times in the past, so I thought I should include it in this post. Qinglingshan is home to hundreds of cheeky macaques who will steal your food, drink your water and try to take off with your bag.

It is a lovely place to spend a day visiting though, and you won’t regret making the trip, even if your water does get stolen.

On our last trip, actually, the bigger problem was the people, not the monkeys. For some reason, people seemed to think it was ok to throw garbage at the macaques. I told off two different people who were doing this and encouraging their kids to join in too.

Don’t be cheeky to them and they might not be cheeky with you!

The park is huge, so you can easily spend a day there. Honestly, I have been there half a dozen times and still haven’t seen it all! There are plenty of trails to follow, and all over the park you’ll find people dancing, playing traditional instrument’s, spinning tops, or maybe even fighting off a monkey. There’s never a dull moment!

If you’re looking for beauty, great food, and a laid back place to spend a few days, Guiyang is a great spot for you! The weather is comfortable and the cuisine is to die for… Make your way to Guiyang soon!

It’s a great place to see, either solo, or with a group of friends!

I’ll be back soon with some ideas for day trips in Guizhou province and even some suggestions for weekend getaways! Check back soon!!

Guiyang: Then & Now

My relationship with Guiyang City has always been complicated. I spent my year there trying to be positive, when I was working at a school that treated me quite poorly. Culture Shock was hard on me, and I found myself extremely homesick. Making that big of a move can be difficult for even the strongest relationships. I had a lot going on when I lived in Guiyang in 2014 and 2015.

Dave and I enjoying some Douchi, a fermented soybean Hotpot.

Since then, of course, I’ve changed. I’ve adapted pretty well to life in China, I’ve become more self sufficient here and learned quite a bit more of the language. I’ve also “found myself”. In Guiyang, I was trying to figure out who I was outside of my 8 years in sales. Who was I, if I wasn’t living in small town Canada? Now I know who I am. I’m a musician. I’m an animal rescue. I’m a blogger. I’ve accomplished things that I never imagined, like creating a Merchandise Line to raise money for animal rescue. I also weigh 10kg less than I did when I lived in Guiyang. I’m more comfortable in my own skin, and more confident in what I’m capable of.

All this is to say that going back to Guiyang these last 2 summers has been eye opening.  So many of the grudges I’d held in my 5 years away are gone.  I don’t feel small and shy, the way I did 6 years ago.  I have since surrounded myself with people and peers who treat me like I am enough.  I am adequate.  I went from being on the brink of walking out of my job in Guiyang, to being put in charge of an entire English Program in the school where I’m teaching now.

Guiyang has developed so much in the past 6 years. There is a metro here now, and the city is much better connected with the high speed rail. Traffic has improved as a result of the metro, and with Didis being available now, transportation above ground has become easier too.

Hunter Mall got a lot nicer. It also got a pet Alpaca…

Of course, some things still haven’t changed. Many of our favorite restaurants are still there. The city still has a great street food scene, and all our favorite treats. On the other hand, Guiyang got its very first McDonald’s while we lived there, and now there are many all around the city. Starbucks has popped up everywhere as well.

The scenery around Guiyang is still as beautiful as ever as well. I haven’t seen a city in China as green as Guiyang.

Qinglingshan Park is gorgeous and it’s right in the middle of the city!

Surprisingly, some of the closest friends we made in Guiyang have still been around over the last few years we’ve visited. Catching up with them was fantastic. Some of my students also got in touch with me to meet up. Seeing these people 5-6 years later reminded me that although we didn’t have many friends in Guiyang, we did have a couple of really great ones.

Going through all of these old photos got me thinking of all the incredible kids I got to teach, of course, and although my place of employment back then wasn’t ideal, the job itself is what kept me going. There are kids there that I will never forget.

Of course, visiting Guiyang is very different from living there again, but these last two trips have been so great, I can’t help but consider the idea of us ending back there for a year or two. Suzhou is beautiful and comfortable, but the food and excitement of Guiyang can’t be beat. I also can’t help but wonder whether things would have been very different for us if we had been there after we’d already been in China for a few years first.

And if I’d worked somewhere where we are actually taken seriously as teachers. Sure, it was fun, but it wasn’t really a school.

I suppose this post is more of a reflection on how places and people change over time. When we left Guiyang in July of 2015, I could never have imagined I would end up loving the city so much just a few years later! Traveling really does shift perspectives, and I think there’s a lot of that happening here.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Especially in the case of food!!!

I have 2 posts planned for Guiyang. One to give people an idea of what can be done in the city, and the other with ideas of things you can do as a day or weekend trip if you come to Guizhou Province.

Stay Tuned!!!

Chongqing: Dazu Rock Carvings

With only two days in the Chongqing area, I wanted to make sure that one of them was spent outside of the city, seeing some of the natural or cultural sites that Chongqing has to offer.  Of course, my first choice was the Dazu Rock Carving location.

Tickets were 140rmb each, and they got us into Beishan, Baodingshan and a Temple as well.  The Dazu Rock Carvings are actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to their cultural and artistic importance, so the price is fair.  These carvings are also well preserved and have been well restored, so if you’re on the fence about spending the money, I honestly think it’s worth it.

The area is obviously under restoration, which is common at UNESCO sites. This is a good thing, because it means that the money is being put to good use.


Our first stop was Beishan. This area of rock carvings is still partially being restored, and it wasn’t in as good of shape as Baodingshan, but it was very impressive nonetheless.

One of the reasons I’m happy to pay a little more at UNESCO sites, is that I know the money will be put to good use. Restoration and protection of these sites is so important, after all. There is a lot of history here. The carvings at Beishan were created from the 9th to 13th centuries. They’ve been around for a long time!

There are 2 main areas to see at Beishan, all carved into a cliff around 300 meters long.


Baodingshan was definitely our groups’ favorite stop. There were more carvings and they were in better shape. With over 500 meters of cliff carvings there was more to see as well.

The park there is huge, so unless you have a lot of time, getting a ticket for the shuttle is well worth the money. You may end up with some people who are not happy about having to share their seat with you, but it’s only for a few minutes, so I’m sure they’ll get over it.

The guy on the right, wearing the navy blue shirt, was NOT keen on sitting beside CJ. His wife eventually made him move over because the shuttle wouldn’t leave until everyone was on.

The art was beautiful and the colors were amazing. We were there on a rainy day but I feel like that just added to the beauty somehow. Plus, with the heat in Chongqing being so intense, the rain made it easier to be outside for longer.

There were a couple of especially beautiful areas of Baodingshan that need special note. The first was the temple with the gold Buddha.

The reclining Buddha and it’s surrounding carvings were also gorgeous.

These carvings were done during the Song dynasty, when Chongqing was considered one of the wealthiest areas in the middle kingdom. Like in Dunhuang’s Mogao Grottos, the carvings are more than just art; they were a way for people to be surrounded by Buddha and to worship in a place where they could experience their faith. It’s really breath taking to see such incredible carvings, and to imagine the work that went into making them. A true testament to the faith of the people who created this masterpiece!

On our way out of Baodingshan, there was a temple to go through as well. We’ve seen many like it, so we didn’t spend much time lingering.

Comparing Buddhism

It was really interesting seeing these Buddhist carvings and temples right after leaving the Tibetan plateau.  We were reminded just how different the two are, especially in terms of esthetics.

Another difference was that we couldn’t take any photos in the Tibetan Monestaries, but in Dazu, it wasn’t an issue.  We even saw younger crowds taking posed selfies in front of the big golden Buddha.  In Tibet, it felt like more active of a religious site.  Even at Mogao Grottos, we couldn’t take photos, but it was still more touristy than the temples in Tibet, where monks are still living and people still come to worship. 

Adventurous Travel

Now, I have to admit that both the journey to and from the carvings were a bit of an ordeal.  Things are often less simple than they should be, and this was certainly the case during our Chongqing adventure.

Getting There

There are a few ways to get to the carvings.  The train will get you part of the way there, but ultimately, you need to hire a Driver to take you part of the way, which ends up taking up a bunch of time.  You can also hire a private car or Didi, but the price is pretty high because it’s pretty far out there.  That left us with one last option: the bus.  The bus we took dropped us off right at Beishan, which was the first of 2 places we wanted to visit (there are actually 5 sites, but these 2 are the ones people often see) .

I like the bus because of the views.  On the train, you’re moving too quickly to get as good of views, plus the train goes through a lot of tunnels.

This all should have been fairly simple, but one thing worth noting is that after you buy your ticket (you MUST have passports along… photos don’t suffice), then you need to register at the police station located right in the train station.  This is the first time I’ve ever encountered this, and because we didn’t know about it, we only found out that it was a requirement as we were trying to board the bus.  It was a stressful 20 minutes while we tried to get that taken care of.  We did make it back to the bus in time at least!

We had to register with our passport numbers, last entry stamp, green codes…. We expect this when we check into hotels, but not bus stations

It turns out that the buses stop running quite early, so we ended up hiring a driver.  Of course… That was an ordeal too…

The first guy assured us that 5 of us would fit into 1 vehicle.  We hoped for a van, but we soon raised it was a tiny car that would be tight even for 4 of us, never mind 5!

Ok…. It wasn’t THIS small of a car, but it still wasn’t big enough for 5 people.

Once we were on our way, we quickly realized that the driver wanted to try and get another person in the car, in order to pull in a few extra RMB as well. He stopped trying when we all simultaneously told him to, but it’s kind of annoying he wanted to in the first place, because we had already decided on a price and had made it clear that we didn’t want to be crammed into a car. Luckily, he gave up his quest to pack his car as heavy as it could go!

Accurate depiction of what our driver had in mind

If you’re thinking of going to Dazu, my suggestion is to go earlier than we did. We had a late start because we hadn’t decided how we would go yet and traffic was a bit rough. If you go early and make sure to get back to the bus station by around 4:30, you’ll miss most of the shenanigans we faced. Remember to bring your passport though, and be prepared to register with the police before you’ll be allowed onto a bus!

At least it was worth the hassle in the end! I’m so glad we went!!

Our next stop was Guiyang City; the first city Dave and I called home! I’ll be writing about our time there soon, so stay tuned!

Chongqing City

Chongqing may not seem like a big place.  It’s certainly smaller than Sichuan and not as well known as Shanghai, but it is technically the world’s most populated city! With 32,000,000 people in the municipality of Chongqing, you shouldn’t visit if you can’t handle crowds!

Chongqing is in red. So far this trip, we’ve also been to Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan.

There are plenty of things to do in Chongqing, but we only had 1 day to spend in the city, so we had to pick and choose wisely.  Here’s what we did:

Visit a Museum

Chongqing has a 3000 year old history and has always been an important location in China.  The fact that it sits at the connection point between two important rivers means that it has always been important for trade between eastern and western China.  During the second world war, Chongqing even served as China’s capital city!  There is a lot of history here, so naturally, it’s a good place for a museum.

A lot of the museum is based around the history of the Three Gorges area and the building of the dam.

There was plenty of information about Three Gorges and how important the dam is. They focused a lot on the people who built the dam and who gave up their homes for it to be built. Of course, this was a very 1 sided version of Chinese history, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Most of the displays had write ups in both English and Chinese.

In addition to information about the Three Gorges, there were some areas set up for the geology, anthropology and political importance of Chongqing.  We got to see some pottery from the area (thousands of years old) and fossils as well. 

Because we had just been in the Lanzhou museum, I wasn’t at excited for our history stop in Chongqing.  There was one thing that the museum offered that the previous one had not: a display about Chinese currencies throughout the dynasties.

The museum was definitely worth stopping by, for several reasons. They had some excellent displays, of course, and it was a great way to get out of the heat. Did I mention that Chongqing is known at one of China’s 4 Furnaces? It was about 40°c this week, and we appreciated the air conditioned museum! We also appreciated that there was no entry fee, because it is a provincial Museum!

Visit Ciqikou Ancient Town

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend in the ancient town, but we did have a chance to pop in.  Like most ancient villages in China, it’s basically a shopping street with old style architecture. 

There were lots of spicy treats for sale, and plenty of hot pots boiling.  You can buy little packages of chili’s and oil to make Chongqing Hotpot at home.  Those packs are sold everywhere! 

The town itself is over 1000 years old, and has been very well restored and maintained.  Traditional architecture is everywhere, and there is a Buddhist temple near the town, but we never made it there.

Take a Cruise

The boat we were on looked similar

One of the top rated things to do in Chongqing is a river tour of the city’s architecture.  Chongqing is an important location because it sits at the intersection of two huge rivers: the Yangtze and Jialing. The rivers are an important part of experiencing the city. 

The Yangtze River has a lot of sediment in it, whereas the Jialing River has far less.  This is an aerial shot of what it looks like when the rivers meet. 

There are two types of boats you can get tickets for, and countless places you can buy them.  There are vendors all over the city, in little tourist spots, and tickets are around 158rmb and 198rmb, depending on how nice of a boat you want.  We actually bargained a bit with them and only paid 168rmb each for the fancy boat.

The “cruise” is just under an hour long, and sadly, only went a very short distance, turning around a few times.  We saw surprisingly little in our time, so for me, even 168rmb was pretty steep.  The views are still very pretty, and I don’t know if I would recommend that people skip it all together, but I also might have done the cheaper boat next time and bargained it down to 128 instead. 

Chongqing, like many Chinese cities, is really beautiful at night.  The way the country lights everything up has always impressed me. 

Enjoy Some Night Life & Spicy Food!

Chongqing is known for its spicy food!  Everyone out west knows about Sichuan food, but Chongqing takes it up a notch!  Personally, the hot pot is too much for my prairie girl stomach, but we still tried several other spicy dishes while we were in Chongqing!

We ended up in a night market all 3 nights of our Chongqing stay.  It was lively and had so many great food options that we just kept coming back over and over.  We were all suckers for the pork belly and potatoes!!!

Jiaochangkou night market is sprawling.  Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you realize it continues down another street.  It was a welcomed change for us, because Suzhou, though beautiful, has very little night life, and pretty much all street food is banned. 

So that’s how we spent our day in Chongqing! On day 2 of our Chongqing trip, we ventured out of the city for something historic and cultural. Stay tuned for more on that soon!!

Langmusi: Gansu

Our final day in Amdo was spent on the Gansu side of Langmusi. You might think that because this is all part of the same town, we might have had a similar experience, and it’s true, there were definitely some similarities. There were also some new aspects of Tibetan Buddhist Culture that we hadn’t yet learned.

We’ve been all over Amdo in the last 10 days. We’ve seen lakes, temples, Monestaries, and grasslands. It’s been a spectacular trip, both culturally and scenically.

Just like on the Sichuan side of the town, we began by going through the temple. The temple in Gansu’s side is much better maintained, which is surprising given that Gansu is easily the poorer of the two provinces.

After the temple, we moved on towards our next destination. We had seen a sign for a Sky Burial sight, so we headed up the mountain in that direction.

Beautiful sights along the way, of course!

Now, until I started researching Amdo and Cultural Tibet, I didn’t actually know what a Sky Burial was. I’m assuming many of my readers don’t know either, so let’s begin with an explanation.

They typically happen on mountain tops.

Sky burials have been done for hundreds of years. They are a method of disposing of the dead in areas where there is hard earth and few resources for cremation. This practice is one of the ways that Tibetan Buddhism differs from other varieties.

Temples are another way that Buddhism sects from one another.

So how does a sky burial work? Well, this is what I’ve learned from our time in Langmusi. There is generally a ceremony where family and friends come up to the ceremonial site. Generally, a yak will carry the body of the deceased up to the location. The yak is then supposed to be set free, although this is a great cost for the yak’s owner so it may not always be done.

Yaks are an important part of life in the Tibetan Plateau!

Once the body arrives, it is prepared ceremonially and vultures, eagles, crows and other birds take care of the rest. I won’t go into detail regarding exact methods of this type of ceremony, but if you want to learn more, you can go to this site.

Sky Burial sites will often be easy to spot because of the many prayer flags used

We arrived near the top of the mountain, thinking that this site was in use a while ago or that it was just set up as a display so tourists could see what it looked like. We were wrong. It is still in use, and probably had a Sky Burial within the last week, judging by some of the remains.

There were huge bird feathers about. When I took this photo, I didn’t really realize why.

There was surprisingly little left. The crows, vultures and other animals had done their job well. What surprised me most was that the place didn’t creep me out or bother me the way the killing fields had. The people who were brought here had wanted this type of burial. In Tibetan culture, it’s considered the most generous way to deal with death.

You can see grey slabs of stone to the left of this building. We think those are the names of people who have been ‘buried’ here. We counted at least 8 jaw bones at the site, so at least 8 had to have been done quite recently.
Another few of the Tibetan ‘tomb stones’

We walked around the site for a while. I won’t post pictures here, because it seems wrong to, but the people at the site weren’t bothered that we looked around and took a few shots. In Tibetan Culture, the body is just a vessel. The soul is sacred…the flesh is not.

Quite a pretty spot for the soul to leave the body.

We had quite a lot to think about on our way back to town. I personally think it’s a lot nicer to deal with death in this way than it is to pump a corpse full of chemicals and then to lower it into the ground in an expesive box. In some areas, sky burials provide very endangered vultures a valuable food source. The Chinese government even encourages sky burials in areas where the endangered birds live.

We saw plenty of marmots on the hillside too. Not sure if they take part in the sky burials though.

Our day didn’t end there. We had a beautiful walk back into town. We passed tiny villages on the way, and also saw what we thought was roadkill. We passed several dead yaks along the road, and eventually even came upon a yak that had very recently died. Its owner was eviscerating it and take the edible meat, leaving the rest for wildlife. A common theme in this area of the world. Once more, Amdo surprised me.

Our time on the Gansu side of Langmusi might seem a little grim, but I really loved it. We saw a totally different side of the culture. Not a tourist kitsch side, but something real. Something profound. You can tell a lot about a culture by the way they treat death. So much of what we know about the ancient world comes from burial sites. The ceremonial way humans deal with death is not found elsewhere in nature. Other animals do have their own mourning rituals, but humans are unique in how elaborate we tend to be.

These sites are huge and covered in prayer flags.

This part of our trip showed me an entirely new way humans handle the death of a loved one. When you’ve been traveling a while, you start to feel like you’ve ‘seen it all’, but this was certainly new for me.

I saw this sign in front of a hostel, on our way back into town. It felt oddly perfect.

The following day, I said to say goodbye to Langmusi. I suppose all things come to an end. It was a lovely stay and I would recommend it to anyone who has a sense of adventure and is ok sleeping on a hard bed for a few nights!!

We had a very short stay in Chengdu (enough time for a spicy dinner!) and then we were off to Chongqing!!

Stay tuned for more about our trip to one of China’s biggest cities: Chongqing!!!

Langmusi: Sichuan

Our first full day in Langmusi was spent on the Sichuan side of the border.  The temperature was cool, and we were all keen to do some hiking.

On both the Gansu and Sichuan sides of the town, there are Buddhist temples to visit, so that was our first stop.  Unlike most of the other temples we’ve seen, the roofs on some of the buildings on the Sichuan side were silver, rather than the typical gold.

The Sichuan side temple was a bit older than the Gansu Temple that we saw the next day, but it was still beatiful all the same.  We took a quick look around and then headed on our way up the trail.  The trail itself is hard to miss.  It begins if you keep going past the temple.

The whole entrance is very pretty.  There is a pond there, and you don’t need to walk very long before you see the statue of the Tiger and a prayer flag structure. 

One of my favourite things about this hike was that it was an actual hike.  So often, in China, hiking is really just climbing a lot of man-made stairs.  Here though, you had to make your way up some slippery rocks, and struggle with weeds and mud at times too.  I don’t think any of us really minded.  It was just so nice to be out in nature!

Because this is an actual hike, you should be sure to bring lots of water, and also sunscreen.  Although the air is cool up in the mountains (in Langmusi, you are 3400 meters above sea level), the sun can still burn you quite easily, and you’ll want lots of water for the hike.  We only encountered 1 person selling water in the entire 5 hours we spent hiking!

One of the horses and Locals taking a much deserved break!

The higher up we went, the more breaks we all needed.  At one point, a few of the guys went ahead, and Elizabeth, Andy and I decided to make ourselves comfortable and just enjoy the view. 

When the guys returned with news that they had located the source of the creek we’d been following, Elizabeth and I decided to go and check it out as well. The water was coming out of the mountain, and was so beautifully cool and clear.  Dave and the guys had run into some Monks up there, and they encouraged them to try drinking the water because it’s good for the soul.  Dave was eager to try.  I took a sip and hoped for the best!

Dave made monk friends who were very excited to know that he is familiar with Buddhism. Really friendly guys!!

Ovearall, I would say that the Sichuan side is best if you like to be far away from people, and surrounded by beauty.  After we left the area dubbed ‘The Yurt’, where we had stocked up on water, we didn’t see anyone other than those 3 monks again until we were back at the yurt again. It was beautifully quiet and remote, and I know that personally, it’s exactly what I needed after days of travelling, preceeded by a very busy end of term. 

Next up, I will be posting my last article about our time in the Amdo Region of The Tibetan Plateau.  The Gansu side of Langmusi was also very beautiful, but there was an added cultural element that made our day very interesting!  Stay tuned to learn about Sky Burials and to see my photos of the last Tibetan Buddist Temple we saw on our trip!