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Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Country Recap: China, Part 1

China’s a big place. Even though we covered a lot of ground, we only saw a small fraction of southern China. But it was quite an experience. The rugged scenery of Yunnan and Guangxi is simply stunning. The food was great as well.

It did feel like just a short time in the country, but we will be coming back to China in the near future. After South Korea and Japan, we’ll see the north of the country from Shanghai to Beijing. That makes this recap the first of two for China. We’re also excluding Macau and Hong Kong from this recap, but don’t worry, those will be coming in separate posts.

Top three experiences?


  1. Hiking in the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Just breathtaking.
  2. Seeing the town of Yangshuo and its beautiful surroundings.
  3. Meeting fun backpackers in Dali.


  1. Tiger Leaping Gorge. It was such an amazing hike.
  2. Yangshuo and surroundings. The town has a good feel despite the number of tourists, and the scenery is out of this world.
  3. Dali. I wish we would have stayed here longer.

Bottom three experiences?


  1. Zhuhai. I’m glad we were only there for the night before we crossed into Macau. I had read some good things about it, like it’s China’s cleanest and greenest city. The little bit I saw didn’t seem clean or green.
  2. Lijiang. The buildings were cool, but the whole place just felt like Disneyland to me.
  3. Dealing with the language barrier, especially when trying to find something or order food. We had to do a lot of comparing Chinese characters as well. “Do you think this box with two lines is the same as on that sign?”


  1. Lijiang. Besides being impossible to find anything, it was overrun with tourists, and the fact that most of the buildings aren’t authentic took away from the feel of the place.
  2. Language barrier. Unlike Southeast Asia, there’s really not much English spoken here. However, armed with our massive two phrase vocabulary (hello and thank you) and some Internet resources (Wikitravel, Seat 61, oMaps) we got by.
  3. Crummy weather in Guilin, Yangshuo, and Zhuhai.

Best meal?

Nikki: Many great meals, but the best were the family-style dinners at Mama Naxi’s Guesthouse in Lijiang. Plate after plate of stir-fried meats and veggies. It’s worth going to Lijiang just for those dinners, really.

Brad: Mama Naxi’s dinners! Especially the spicy beef, chicken, and broccoli dishes.

Worst meal?

Nikki: The mysterious claypot dish I ate in Zhuhai. I thought it was meat and potatoes, but it ended up having a strange, jello-like consistency. I’m hoping it was just bad tofu, but it was probably cow stomach or boiled pig fat or something. Really, I don’t ever want to know what it actually was.

Brad: The first dinner when we arrived in Kunming. We ate at some respectable-looking 24 hour shop, but the soup had an extremely strong taste I can’t describe, and not in a good way.

Favorite person we met?

Nikki: Julie in Dali. She was so fun, I didn’t even mind when her bike tire explosion stopped us in our tracks.

Brad: Julie in Dali. We had a great day biking!

Worst disaster?

Nikki: Not getting to the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. We could have gone, but with the rain and poor visibility, we decided it wouldn’t be worth our time and money. Too bad, because they’re supposed to be incredible.

Brad: Not getting to see the Dragon’s Backbone rice terraces because of the crummy weather.

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: The Jade Emu in Dali. It didn’t have the very best facilities, but it had a great atmosphere and was a good place to meet people.

Brad: The Jade Emu in Dali had a great atmosphere and lots of really nice extras, which made this an awesome place to stay. The Nicest Facilities award would go to the Secret Garden in Kunming though.

Worst place we stayed?

Nikki: The No Kidd Inn in Yangshuo. It probably would have been fine if other people had been around. As it was, it was always damp, dark, and empty.

Brad: I wasn’t a fan of Ming Palace International Guesthouse in Guilin, mostly because of the staff. They were pretty disorganized.

Best thing we didn’t blog about?

Nikki: Our bike ride in Yangshou. Sure, we ended up lost in the middle of some farmer’s field, but it was still a beautiful ride.

Brad: Our tandem bike tour through the countryside in Yangshuo. We hiked up Moon Hill, ate a great lunch at the Giggling Tree, and saw the Yulong River and amazing countryside. The roads were really bad and we got lost, but that didn’t stop us from having a great day.

Weirdest thing?

Nikki: It’s funny, China is such a strange place, yet I can’t think of just one thing that stands out. The bottom three feet of most trees are painted white. I guess that’s a little strange. And the bathroom stalls with no doors are also weird.

Brad: Especially in Dali, we ourselves were a Chinese tourist attraction. We were just sitting at a restaurant eating outside, and the Chinese tour groups passing by took photos of us eating and drinking. “And to the left, you’ll see two Westerners in their traditional costume, conversing and attempting to use chopsticks. You can take photos, and don’t worry, these two appear friendly so it’s safe to get close.”

Statistics for China

  • Days in the country: 22
  • Places we stayed: 9
  • Rainy days: 5
  • Blog posts: 3
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 3
  • Photos taken: 1,092
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 240, 22% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 4
  • Hours on bus and train: 71
  • Overnight trains: 2
  • Distance travelled on train: 2,666 kilometers, or 1,657 miles

Statistics for the Trip

  • Countries visited: 9
  • Days on the road: 229
  • Places we stayed: 105
  • Rainy days: 37
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 15
  • Photos taken: 8,650
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 2,006, 23% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 12
  • Hours on bus, train, or ferry: 324
  • Overnight buses, trains, ferries, and planes: 9

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