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

2016: Picture of Red Beach, Liaoning, China.

Sunset at Red Beach.

This is part VI of my “2016, What the Year!” series. I'm recapping some of my memories from the year that was...2016.

Missed the other parts? Jump to [Part I] [Part II] [Part III] [Part IV] [Part V] [Part VI]

September 2016

Red Beach

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.

2016: Picture of group at Red Beach, China.

Group shot.

2016: Picture of the red algae.

A river runs out to the ocean.

2016: Picture of red algae.

At times, the red appeared to go on forever.

More Red Beach photos

Dalian to Yantai

At the end of our “Red Beach” weekend, I said goodbye to everyone else in our group and took a train to Dalian. From there, I rode a ferry across the Bohai Sea. The ferry got me to Yantai even faster than the high-speed rail would have. This is because I would have had to skirt the edge of the Bohai Sea to go overland. Check out a map of this part of China (specifically Dalian and Yantai) to get a better idea of why this is.

2016: Picture of ferry that goes from Dalian to Yantai, China.

My ferry.

2016: Picture from a ferry with Dalian, China in the background.

Leaving Dalian.

2016: Picture of seagull.

You've got a lot of gull.

2016: Picture of Yantai.

Safely arrived in Yantai.

More photos from the ferry from Dalian to Yantai


From Yantai, I took a bus down to the former German colony of Qingdao. This was quite the interesting city; the old section still resembles Germany:

2016: Picture of Q.

The governor's mansion is in the old German part of Qingdao.

2016: Picture of worker on a dome in Qingdao, China.

A worker paints a dome.

2016: Picture of church.

A famous church.

More photos from Qingdao

Ferry to Incheon

From Qingdao, I boarded another ferry, this time all the way to Incheon, Korea. The trip took about 22 hours; it was interesting to get a feel for just how close China is to Korea. And we got to experience going through the Incheon locks, which was fantastic, even though it took a few hours. It felt like I was at the Panama Canal all over again.

2016: Picture of At Incheon.

Incheon Locks.

2016: Picture of ocean near Qingdao..

Leaving Qingdao.

2016: Picture of Incheon Locks.

Locks are closing.

More photos from the ferry

October 2016

South Korea

For the fall Golden Week, the second-biggest holiday in China, Katie flew out to Seoul to meet up with me. We stayed at our friend Monica's place and spent a few days exploring the city. From there we took a train down to Busan and visited our friend Ellen. It was fascinating to travel to South Korea after having already seen North Korea. The two countries seem totally different, but because of their shared pre-war history, there were a lot of similarities as well. I might write a longer piece about this comparison later, but for now you'll have to settle for a few photos:

2016: Picture of Katie in Seoul.

Katie is all smiles on the river in Seoul.

2016: Picture of Seoul.

Buildings in Seoul.

2016: Picture of Ray.

A stingray at the Busan aquarium.

2016: Picture of octopus in the water in Busan, Korea.

This one's for eatin'.

2016: Picture of fish market in Busan, Korea.


2016: Picture of Dan on the beach in Korea.

On the beach.

More photos from Korea

I also recorded a podcast with Monica while in Seoul. She told many great stories about her young adulthood, living in Kiribati. Click her to listen.

November 2016

Yun Shui Cave

One weekend our friend Jeph took Katie and me in his Camaro to the Yun Shui cave, near Beijing. The cave was colorful, and the hiking was fun. But the best part of the day was the “road trip” feel that's hard to experience when you don't own a car. There are a lot of cool places to explore near Beijing, but most of them are hard to reach without your own transportation, so I really appreciated the opportunity for this road trip.

2016: Picture of Katie and Jeph.

Katie and Jeph.

2016: Picture of well lit cave.

A big ole cave.

2016: Picture of cable car in China.

Of course there's a cable car.

More photos from the Yun Shui Cave


Mutianyu to Jiankou Hike

We went with a big group on a hike to the Great Wall, starting at the restored section of Mutianyu and ending at the “Wild Wall” at Jiankou. Though I had been to both of these places already, I had never done the full hike between them. It was awesome to finally be able to connect the dots. For Katie and me both, living close to the Great Wall will be one of the things we miss most about Beijing.

2016: Picture of Mutianyu Great Wall.

The Mutianyu section of the wall.

2016: Picture of the Great Wall of China.

Roommates on the wall.

2016: Picture of Jiankou Great Wall of China.

The unrestored section.

2016: Picture of descending the wall.

Coming down.

More photos from our hike

December 2016


Katie and I met with Shalon and Kroy, our friends from home in the remote Qinghai province. Unfortunately, I had a really bad chest infection that kept me from being able to walk or talk or do much of anything other than cough. On one of my slightly healthier days, we took a trip to a Buddhist temple called Ta Er Si. For me, the most interesting part of this temple was the traditional Tibetan sculpture made entirely of butter. We almost overlooked it, but the smell gave it away.

2016: Picture of temple.

One of the many temples at Ta Er Si.

2016: Picture of stupas.


2016: Picture of friends and monks at the Ta'er Si monastery in Qinghai province, China.

Katie and Shalon, with some monks.

More photos from the Monastery


The four of us took an overnight train to Xi'An. This was my third trip to China's former capital. Kroy and Shalon went to see the famous Terracotta Warriors, and at night, we all got together to walk through the city's second-biggest attraction: the Muslim Quarter.

2016: Picture of lamb in Xi'An, China.

A man examines his lamb.

2016: Picture of chuan'er in Xi'An, China.

Delicious skewers.

2016: Picture of candy samples in .

Tasting some candy.

Just before Katie and I flew out of Xi'An, I recorded a podcast with Shalon and Kroy. We discussed their trip so far, and what was still to come.

More photos from Xi'An


We escaped the pollution of Xi'An to fly down to Lijiang, in Yunnan Province. Yunnan is in southwestern China, where the weather is warm and the air is clean. We did a short trip to Lugu Lake, on the border with Sichuan, then celebrated Christmas with a hike along Tiger Leaping Gorge. This was one of China's highlights, and for good reason: the scenery was spectacular. From there, we headed up to higher elevations at Shangri-La. This place was beautiful, but quite cold. At least I was finally feeling healthy. I don't know if the clean air was what did it, but it sure didn't hurt.

2016: Picture of Lugu Hu in Yunnan, China.

A boat rests on Lugu Hu's shore.

2016: Picture of Katie balancing on a boat.

A delicate balancing act.

2016: Picture of Tiger Leaping Gorge in Yunnan, China.

Tiger Leaping Gorge – Katie is in front of the village where we'll spend the night.

2016: Picture of Dan and Katie at Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Sunset on our first day in the gorge.

2016: Picture of snow falling on Shangri-La, China.

It was snowing when we arrived in Shangri-La.

2016: Picture of Ganden Sumtseling.

Ganden Sumtseling is a famous Buddhist Monastery near Shangri-La.

2016: Picture of market in Shangri-La, China.

The market in Shangri-La is as lively as any in Asia.

2016: Picture of black-necked heron.

On a day trip to Napa Lake, we spotted a few of these rare black-necked herons.

2016: Picture of Napa Lake in Yunnan Province, China.

Napa Lake.

While I was in Shangri-La, I recorded a podcast with Jun, owner of the Tavern 47 hostel. Jun told me how he had gone from making a 6-figure salary in Seoul to owning a hostel in a little village in China.

After Shangri-La, we had one last stop to make for the year, to the village of Shaxi. This place drew me in right away.

2016: Picture of group dinner in Shaxi, China.

We had a group dinner every night at the Horse Pen 46 Hostel in Shaxi.

I recorded several podcasts from Shaxi, including with Carol and Fei Fei, two of the Horse Pen 46 Hostel's owners. Click their pictures below to listen.

More Yunnan photos

We celebrated the new year at the Hungry Buddha restaurant in Shaxi. As usual, the town was quiet, though a few people managed to stay up until midnight. Goodbye 2016, hello 2017!

Katie flew back to Beijing on January 1, but I remained in Shaxi. This town was so beautiful, its atmosphere so relaxed, its hostel so welcoming, that I decided to stay there for a month, until Katie's next break, for Chinese New Year. We made grandiose plans to buy folding bikes and cycle around Yunnan Province. Stay tuned for updates on this trip.

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