China and Hong Kong
Nov 22 - Dec 1

This year, we finally went to China and Hong Kong. I've been itching to go (my last trip was in high school) for YEARS and I really wanted Jason to get a taste of Asia. I chose Yangshuo because it's a region of China I've always wanted to see. Anytime you see gorgeous countryside photos of China with rice paddies, a river and gorgeous karst peaks, they were probably taken in Yangshuo or its surrounding regions. Hong Kong, I chose for Jason. He loves big cities and Hong Kong is the best of the best.

Because I speak very little Cantonese (Hong Kong's dialect) and even less Mandarin (I can ask for directions in Mandarin, but I can't necessarily understand them) this was one of our more adventurous trips, but man, did both the cities far exceed our expectations.

This was our route; it took us over 30 hours to get to Yangshuo from LAX. We saved about $400 flying to Guilin out of Shenzhen, as opposed to Hong Kong.
We flew Korean Air and they always offered "Bibimbap" as their second meal option. I LOVE this stuff! It's basically some meat, veggies and mushrooms in one bowl, and steamed rice in another. You pour the rice into the meat bowl, then add sesame oil and hot sauce paste. It's really yummy.

"Bibimbap" even came with directions for us foreigners!

Jas got the fried noodles


Jason's first steps on Asian soil (in Seoul during our layover)

Waiting outside Hong Kong airport to take a bus to Shenzhen
Jas in Shenzhen's airport enjoying a beer during our six hour layover

Finally, we've reached Yangshuo!

Just another day for most...
We stayed at Magnolia Hotel, one of the finer hotels in Yangshuo, but literally the starkest, coldest hotel we've ever been too. But the staff was friendly and helpful, and the room was spacious and clean.
Our first day, I knew we had to get to a town called Yangdi because there was a five-hour hiking trail through what's known to be the most beautiful part of the region. I knew we had to take the bus, so after some help, we found the bus stop and the correct bus to take. It was more of a van loaded with as many people as could fit. I'm sitting on a plastic stool in the aisle. There are no bus stops along the way, EVERY point can be a bus stop, villagers just flag the 'bus' to stop and then they hop on with furniture, chickens, whatever. A fun adventure.

We didn't know how we'd recognize our stop, since nothing was labeled and everything that was, was in Chinese (I can't read), but luckily a guy in the back of the bus heard where we were going and spoke enough English to let us know when we'd arrived. We had many lucky breaks like this along the way, we found the people in China to be friendly and wonderful.

Here's the trail I found on the Internet. I printed it out and it was sooo useful, not so much as a map, but as a means of showing people where we were trying to go when we needed help

Right off the bus, we got some help. They told us which direction to head, and helped us with our first river crossing (three total)
Some animals we met along the way...
The gorgeous scenery,and some grazing water buffalos
Nothing along the first 2/3s of the "trail" is marked and there's no official trail. Sometimes we could walk along the river, and when we couldn't, we'd head to higher ground, staying as close to the river as possible. The mountain labels on the map didn't help, there are hundreds of mountains and we couldn't tell one from the other

The most common way for tourists to see this region is via crowded tourist boats; this is exactly what we wanted to avoid, thus the walking map from the internet

We thought we'd see other people making the same hike, but nope, no fellow hikers