卧虎山 Crouching Tiger Mountain 

Today I hiked up The Great Wall of China to the top of Wohushan (卧虎山) or Crouching Tiger mountain.

It was not an easy climb, but the views made it incredibly worth it.  This section of the wall has not been reconstructed since the Ming Dynasty — so much of it was in ruins. 

The hike was steep and partially on top of the wall, but mostly along the side of the wall as the wall was crumbling. We were able to stop at a couple towers and actually go inside them.

The total hike took 5 hours — and when I came back I was totally exhausted. I did some yoga to stretch out, took a shower, had lunch and then just relaxed the rest of the afternoon.

Shortly before dinner, it was time for one last sunset hike. I hiked to the top of a smaller mountain along the wall to catch one last glimpse of the sun setting over the mountains.


After my quick sunset hike I headed to the dinner at the hostel. The small crowd of three from the previous night turned into a nicely full hostel.  We had a delicious family style dinner and talked about travels.

Tonight is another early night for me as I’m hoping to get one more hike in before I head to the airport and back to Shenzhen tomorrow!

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 An Adventure in 北京 (Beijing)

Beijing has so far been one of the most amazing cities I have ever been to.  Even with my hectic travels, it was soooooo worth it.

After my Spartan Race on Saturday, I opted for heading to bed rather early and tackling the Forbidden City Sunday morning.

I awoke today to one of the most beautiful days I’ve experienced in China so far.  It was 27°C without a cloud in the sky.  While absolutely beautiful, it gave me my first sunburn of the summer.

I got to the Forbidden City (Palace Museum) at 8:30 when the ticket sales started and wandered around until 11:30. I really didn’t realize how huge this place was. I got lost walking along the different paths, and I’m sure I only saw maybe half of the whole place. 

It really was one of the coolest places I’ve ever been too — even with the massive crowds. Surprisingly enough, there were a few spots you could find that were fairly empty.

The buildings were just breathtaking and it really is amazing to think about what a rich history this place has.  I opted for a guided tour — but I quickly realized how little I knew of Chinese history.  It made the tour audio hard to follow — so I’m hoping to catch up on my Chinese history soon!

After my tour at the forbidden temple, I headed for a quick lunch before my journey to the wall. I had decided that I’d stay at a hostel nestled in a small village for a bit of a getaway from the city.  It was the right idea.

The 120km journey outside of Beijing brought me across mountains and through quaint small towns. I was amazed by it’s beauty, and the hostel did not let me down.

It’s sitting right against some of the old and overgrown parts of the wall, and I can literally see the wall from my dorm bed. I opted this evening for a short hike up the wall to the top of a mountain to see the sunset, and I couldn’t get enough of the amazing views.

This part of the wall has been totally overgrown, but it made for an amazing quick hike.

Tomorrow I have an early morning planned to hike the crouching tiger section of the wall.  I’ve been told it has some of the best views and will require me to literally crawl up on my hands and knees.

I will be going with the only other two people staying in my hostel tonight – and I look forward to the new adventure!

Spartan Race Beijing

A month ago I knew I wanted to take a trip.  I wasn’t set on where I wanted to go until I noticed there was a Spartan Race in Beijing.  I was a big fan of obstacle course races back in the US — so I was excited to get the opportunity to run one here in China!

After a hectic 25 hours of traveling – I made it to Beijing. Sleeping in my hostel wasn’t a dream, but at six am I decided to get some exploring in before heading to the race. 

I rucked around the touristy areas (and of course took some selfies!) I saw Tiananmen square and just enjoyed them sights this beautiful city had to offer.

Then it became time to make the journey to the race! I had to take the metro to the end of the line and hop on a bus to the venue.

This was by far the most beautiful place I’ve ever raced.  The scenery was stunning, the sun was shining, and it was a beautiful 75 degrees all day.

This venue also had more mud in the festival area than there was in all of the Spartans I’ve run in the past.  I was excited — I love the muddy courses.

So I got checked in and managed to jump in an earlier start time. The mud was no joke.  You know that mud people always seem to lose their shoes in or may get really stuck in? 80% of the course was that kind of mud. It made running very difficult, but that was completely OK for me. 

I didn’t want to run any of it. I didn’t want to miss a second of the course, the scenery was absolutely stunning. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures on the course — but the mountainous landscape was beautiful.

Spartan did a great job with their obstacles — and I felt very unprepared. I failed a total of four obstacles: the spear throw, monkey bars, rope climb, and one of their walls that requires incredible grip strength.  That’s 120 burpees. I also realized I really suck at burpees.

However this race really made me love SpartanRace again.  I wasn’t too happy with my last Spartan experiences — but just being out there on the course changed things. Besides the awesome obstacles, the atmosphere was great. Strangers never hesitate to help others or encourage others. Everyone was just there to have fun. It was an incredibly fun event.

Upon finishing the event I heard someone tell “Good Job Lauren!” From the sidelines — so I’m not sure if someone who knew me was there, but it left me incredibly confused.

When I finished my first lap I was dirty as heck, so I decided to really make the most of the day and run it again.

13km later and I was exhausted. I waited half an hour to wash the caked on mud off and the. Headed on my way back to my hostel. It was a wonderful break from the crazy atmosphere of the city.

Beijing Trip

I’s not about the destination — it’s about the journey.

I’ve always disagreed strongly with this idea. I love to visit new places, but I have the actual traveling part. But this post isn’t about the destination because I haven’t even made it that far yet. This is about my journey to Beijing — the most ridiculous trip I’ve been on so far.

To start, I want to make the comment that I paid extra to get tickets for a flight that left at 5:30pm instead of 9pm.  Shenzhen to Beijing is a three hour flight, and I wanted to get there early enough so that I could take the metro to my hostel instead of taking a taxi.

So I learn the day of my flight that there’s apparently a crazy storm that will hit Beijing that evening. I had my doubts we’d leave on time, but I was hopeful.  After meeting with a friend for coffee and hopping on the express metro to the airport I arrived at 4pm. I flew through the check in line and security — but the gates were overcrowded and the status signed flashed an ugly yellow over all of the delayed flights. Uh-oh.

So I got some coffee expecting a delay, but my flight kept saying on schedule, until it was time to board and nobody was boarding. Eventually it said delayed until 6:30. Ok, not so bad.

At 6:30 they made an announcement that they were moving us to a hotel until we had a departure time.  As a quick note this is ALL happening in Chinese and I have no idea what’s going on. Eventually an airport attendant came over with translated instructions for me so I could find my way to the bus to the hotel.

After getting checked in, I realized I had a pretty nice room. So I hung out there, watched a movie, complained to some friends — and just waited.

It wasn’t too long before the busses pulled back up.  We were back at the airport by 9:30, and we’re told we’d leave at around 10pm.

Eventually we made it on the jet and took off at 11:50. Six hours late. Oh well — at least we were going finally!!

We got in the air and we’re eventually served dinner. Now I’m not sure if it was because I was starving — but the food was absolutely delicious.

Two hours into our three hour flight they made an announcement — we were landing. The landing was far from smooth – but hey we finally landed! Just.. in the wrong city. We landed in Zhengzhou which is the capital of Henan province.  That’s when announcements no longer had any English translations. I had no idea what was going on.  

We sat on the plane for half an hour after landing, then were moved into the terminal.  After half an hour in an empty terminal we were moved to another hotel.

This hotel was far less nice and I had to share a room. Thankfully I managed to be in a room with the most helpful Chinese woman who spoke English well. We were in our rooms at 4am and just passed out.  

At 7 am thinking phone rang — were we finally going to make it to Beijing?!

Nope, just breakfast.

We spent the next few hours just relaxing and trying to get more information on our flight.  Eventually we get news that they will try to take us to the airport at 1230 and maybe we can leave shortly after.

This was at 9:30am were exhausted and tired of waiting around, so we opted to take a different route and go catch a train instead. I’m so thankful that this woman was so friendly and helpful, because I’d probably still be waiting in that hotel room.

I’m currently half way through a three hour train ride to Beijing going 300kmph, and the weather outside is just awful — it’s highly unlikely that plane will take off anytime soon.

I should arrive at my hostel at about 3pm — 23 hours after arriving at the airport.

It’s been one heck of a journey, but I’m excited to finally be arriving in Beijing!

*Update – I finally arrived at my hostel at 430 PM, 25 hours after I left for the airport. 

Why I Stopped Drinking Alcohol

I made the decision to stop drinking alcohol several weeks ago.   I didn’t really tell any of my friends or family, because I didn’t really want to be judged for such a silly and simple thing.  I also didn’t want people to think I was judging them for drinking. However now I’ve hit a bit of a wall and am having a hard time sticking with this no alcohol thing.  The goal was to not drink alcohol this summer – and I want to stick with my goal, so I figured if I finally shared what I was doing with others I’d be able to hold myself accountable.

Why I stopped drinking

I fell into a bit of the party scene here in China.  It’s very easy to, as that’s what it seems most other foreigners do.  To be honest, I don’t know a whole lot of westerners here who do much besides go to bars in their free time.

I found myself when I first got here going out a lot.  Every couple of nights I’d be out drinking with friends, and often times I’d stay out ridiculously late and not get home until the sun came up.  I was partying more here than I ever did in college.

As a fairly active person, I started realizing quickly that this was a huge problem.  I never went to they gym because I was too tired or hungover — and then by the time I felt better, I decided to go out with friends instead.   I never went for just one or two drinks, and not because I wanted to get drunk regularly, I just tend to drink any liquids quickly.

Somewhere along the way I decided I was going to run my second marathon this October — and I knew my habits needed to change.  I couldn’t skip runs/workouts in the morning because I was too tired or hungover — and I didn’t want my work performance to suffer because I wasn’t worn out by the time I got to work because of not enough sleep.

So I decided to stop drinking.  I don’t go to bars anymore to avoid the pressure, and I try to be home and in bed again at a reasonable time.

 

So Far, So Good

Besides the one beer I had with dinner the other night — I’ve been extremely good.  I haven’t had drinks in six weeks.  The beer I had the other night helped me realize I actually really want to stick with this, and want to cut alcohol out completely.  I really didn’t feel good afterwards.

The downside of not drinking — I’ve lost a lot of my social life.  It’s hard to make friends in a country where your language skills are seriously lacking — and I really haven’t met too many westerners outside of the bar scene.  This has been the biggest and only drawback of my decision to stop drinking. I don’t really know where to make friends outside of the bar — but I’m working on it!

 

瑜伽 (Yoga)

This morning I went to a Yoga class in a small studio located in the apartment building directly behind where I live.  I had been communicating with the instructor via WeChat for the past few days, and she gave me a free lesson to come check out her classes.

The instructor, Stella, spoke almost no English.  She told me that before class she had looked up the words for inhale, exhale, and down dog.  It was definitely a little awkward when I first met her — my Chinese is no better than her English.  Communication was incredibly difficult.

Turns out it was just me showing up for the class this morning — so the class turned into a private lesson.  I quickly realized how much of my flexibility I had lost when I struggled with many of the more simple poses.  Stella was very patient with me, and thankfully did a lot of hands-on adjustments.

Even though it was a much more mentally challenging yoga practice today, I’m so happy I went.  I forgot how much of a mood-booster yoga is for me and it’s amazing how refreshed I feel after a good yoga class.

 

Street Noodles: A Lesson in Trust

As a foreigner abroad, you either love or hate street food.  It’s usually a cheap way to grab dinner on your way home, but it can be a gamble.

Besides the language, Chinese food has been the hardest thing to adjust to here for me. The food is delicious, but it’s incredibly oily, and very carb heavy. The lack of protein here is hard to adjust to because carbs are never quite as satisfying and I often find myself experiencing a ravenous hunger if I only eat Chinese food all day. The oils and other questionable ingredients often leave my stomach very unhappy with me.

I am a frequent street food eater here. The noodles, meat on a stick, and other weird foods are absolutely delicious. However, street food is always a risky choice. Sometimes it’s delicious and that’s it.  Other times I find my stomach in knots and I’m miserable for the next few hours.

Many foreigners avoid street food simply because they don’t want to be sick.  I believe it’s a risk worth taking. The street noodles I’m about to eat came from a man in front of a construction site who spoke pretty good English and only cost me the equivalent of $1.50.  Hopefully these noodles sit well!

What are your thoughts about street food? Do you eat delicious food knowing it could make you sick?