Tulou Country


For our last stop on our trip to China, Katie, my mom, and I visited the Hakka tulou region of Fujian province. Tulou (土楼, literally “earthen building”) are the “castles” of the region, fortified to prevent invasion. They were built as either circles or rectangles, and they contain large central courtyards, with housing for up to 800 people.

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Gulang Yu

At the turn of the twentieth century, Gulang Yu (鼓浪嶼 “Drum Wave Islet”) was one of two foreign concessions in China (the other being Shanghai). Because of this, the island is full of European-style mansions and churches. It also has a piano museum and a calligraphic wood carving museum (my personal favorite attraction). Cars and bicycles are banned on the island, so the tourists get to walk around and take it all in.

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A Trip to Kinmen Island

A few weeks ago, my mom made the long flight to Hong Kong to visit Katie and me. After spending a couple days around our home, the three of us went on a trip. Our first stop was Kinmen Island, which sits close to the Chinese mainland and is controlled by Taiwan. It was a fascinating place, rich with history. The vibe was very laid back and the people were quite friendly.

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Hiking on the Gubeikou Great Wall

Having lived in Beijing for the last three years, Katie and I have visited the Great Wall many times. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall isn't one continuous wall. There are many sections; some have eroded to almost nothing, others remain relatively intact, and still others that have been completely restored to their former glory. My favorite sections (as you probably guessed) are un-restored, yet still hike-able.

Gubeikou (古北口) fits the bill perfectly. It's one of the easier sections to hike, it typically draws few tourists, and the surrounding landscape is spectacular. It's only a few short hours from Beijing, so if the Great Wall is on your travel radar, Gubeikou is a great section to consider visiting.

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Biking around Beautiful Erhai Lake

At the end of our disastrous bike trip through Yunnan (read more about it here), Katie and I had one last day to spend around Dali's old town. We decided to rent a bike and pedal around nearby Erhai (洱海) Lake. Shaped like an ear (“Erhai” means “ear-shaped sea”) and at 1,972 meters (6,470 feet) above sea level, the lake is the second-largest highland lake in all of China.

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2016, What the Year! Part VI: China and Korea

Katie and I headed out with several friends to Panjin, to check out the “Red Beach.” Suaeda Salsa is an algae that thrives in highly alkaline soil, such as that found in parts of northeastern China. The algae is green for most of the year, but for around a month in the fall, it turns a Martian red. Around the same time, the tourists arrive in droves, including us. To explore the area, we rented 3-person bikes, which were a lot of fun but not very fast. (Wouldn't you think they'd be three times faster than a normal bike?) We spent the afternoon avoiding the throngs of Chinese tourists who were rolling up in buses, and checking out the beautiful landscapes.

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2016, What the Year! Part IV: Dubai

My plane took off from Chennai, and I was on my way home for the summer. But I had one last pit stop to make – a three-day layover in Dubai. I was excited – this was my first trip to the Middle East. But when I booked my flight, I didn't think about the consequences of being in a Muslim country during Ramadan.

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2016, What the Year! Part III: India

The Dalai Lama spoke for an hour; his message was mostly about creating peace on Earth. He seemed to be winding down his time on this planet – he made it clear that he was from the twentieth century and now it was time for the twenty-first century folks to take over. He was humble, too. At one point he said that if he thought of himself as the Dalai Lama, he felt lonely. But if he thought of himself as a human, then he had seven billion others to share this life experience with. He spoke in English for this whole hour. During his speech, monks walked through the crowd, passing out bread rolls and pouring cups of yak milk tea. It was savory, not sweet, but still delicious, and a nice gesture.

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