During the holiday season, I had the privilege of visiting the Chi’s: Chi Country and Chi City, aka China and Chicago. As you can guess, the experiences on the trips were unforgettable and indescribable, but I’ll try my best.
China: eating intestines, visiting every tourist site and remembering the value of family
It had been 12 years since I have gone to China; the last time I visited, I was 9-years-old in 1997. There were a lot of family members I hadn’t seen, met or even talked to since then. Connecting and re-connecting with family was the best thing about the trip. We ate SO MUCH GOOD FOOD together, laughed a lot, talked (they were so amazed at how well my brother and I spoke Chinese – haha), traveled together and simply just…lived. It was bliss. I love my family.
All of my family lives in Guangzhou and Hong Kong (a Special Administrative Region of China), but my dad wanted my brother and I to see all the famous tourist attractions of China, so we also took short trips to Shanghai, Beijing and Suzhou.
Oriental Pearl Tower – It’s pink!
Jin Mao Tower – This is a tall office building that has an observation deck on the 88th floor that gives a great view of Shanghai.
Yu Yuan Market – This is a popular tourist shopping center.
Tienanmen Square – This is where lots of government buildings are located. The entrance to Forbidden City is across the street.
Forbidden City – This place is huge and so historical and beautiful.
The Great Wall of China – It was really cold when we went up there early in the morning, but it’s an amazing sight.
Bird’s Nest Stadium – The newest addition to Beijing’s pride and joy. I liked what they’ve done with the place.
Tiger Hill/Huqui Tower aka Yuyan Pagoda – The pagoda is nicknamed the “Leaning Tower of China.”
The Party – We had a huge party for my older brother, sister-in-law and nephew. It was a little overwhelming because we had just hopped off the plane late the night before and there were more than a hundred people there to celebrate.
Saint Honore Cake Shop – This is the best dessert place I have ever been to! They have them all over China, and we went frequently!
Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island – This statue is the world’s largest seated, outdoor, bronze Buddha statue. We rode up in the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, which had a glass bottom!
Can you believe we did all of that in just 12 short days?! It was an epic adventure that made me fall in love with my culture, my family and, of course, traveling, all over again. And yes, I did eat a small piece of pig intestine. It was squishy and didn’t really have a taste. Or maybe I was trying not to notice!
Want to learn and see more about China? Check out the China Guide on the National Geographic Web site.
Chicago: mastering public transportation, experiencing THE deep-dish pizza and being in awe of the architecture
My friend Ashley and I took a short trip to Chicago to kick-off 2010. We didn’t really think about the weather when we were choosing between Chicago and San Diego, but even though the phrase “why didn’t we pick San Diego?” came up multiple times during our trip, especially when we were trekking through snow, I think we made the right choice and enjoyed a fun vacation in the Windy City.
Navy Pier – This popular tourist attraction is quiet in the winter months, but I love ferris wheels!
Public Transportation – The cheapest way to get around the city is by bus and train, and we got pretty good at it. It’s an easy way to see the city, too.
Skydeck and Ledge at the Willis Tower – Although viewing was only at about 10 percent when we were there, The Ledge was a scary thrill.
Millennium Park – Of course, we saw Cloud Gate, better known as “The Bean.”
Art Institute of Chicago– There were so many interesting art pieces here. You definitely need more than one or two days to see it all.
Icarus show at the Lookingglass Theatre in Water Tower Water Works – We got to see a pretty cool show called Icarus, which was an interesting interpretation of the Greek myth. The theatre is in this pretty building.
Cupcakes at Sugar Bliss Cake Boutique – Sadly, we only went to one cupcake shop in Chicago, and I thought the cupcakes were ok but not fantastic.
THE Deep-dish Pizza – We ate at the original Pizzeria Uno, which is where a TEXAN invented the deep-dish pizza. It was DELICIOUS! We also tried the Chicago-style cheesecake for dessert. I didn’t notice a big difference to New York-style cheesecake.
Chicago Cultural Center – Preston Bradley Hall is one of the most beautiful rooms I have ever seen. The dome ceiling looked amazing. We listened to Photographer Barbara Crane talk about her exhibit at the Center.
Chicago Hot Dog – I admit, I wimped out.
Walking the streets and the snow day – I was constantly amazed at how beautiful and unique the buildings were. It snowed all day on our last day, which was hard to walk in, but I think we secretly loved it.
This was my first un-sponsored, self-planned trip I took, and I loved exploring the city and spending time with Ashley. Since I’m a history nerd, I loved learning about the city and everything that makes it famous!
Want more about Chicago? See all my Chicago posts here.
What fun adventures, huh?! Before I finish, here are a few pieces of advice about traveling that I was reminded of on my trips:
1. Plan flight arrival/departure and hotel check-in/out times accordingly. Some hotels aren’t as nice as ours in Chicago, which let us check in early to take a super nap and store our suitcases after we checked out so that we didn’t have to lug them around while doing more sightseeing before our flight.
2. Public transportation is the way to go! I utilized the bus, train and subway systems on both trips and liked it. It’s a budget-friendly option. Our $14 three-day pass in Chicago let us take unlimited trips on the bus and train.
3. Sometimes it’s good to have a general plan, but other times, it’s fun to wing it. Sometimes things don’t really go according to your plan, but always be flexible because you never know what exciting experiences may come. (This kind of sounds like general life advice, too!) We originally tried to get tickets to a musical, but since they were sold-out, we found out about a show that I wasn’t too sure about. After the show, I was amazed at how good it was and so happy we went.
“Once the travel bug bites there is no known antidote, and I know that I shall be happily infected until the end of my life.” – Michael Palin