A New Year’s Holiday in Huangshan

Because of how the Christmas and New Year’s holidays fell on Saturdays this year, I had to take two consecutive Mondays off. I decided to take the week in between off as well for a longer holiday. The first part of the week had Jun and I visit Beijing for Christmas. The second part of the week had us visit Huangshan in Anhui province for the New Year.

Jun particularly wanted to visit Huangshan (Yellow Mountain); our last trip there was underwhelming. During that trip, the weather was so overcast that we essentially walked within a cloud as we hiked around the mountain. Huangshan was one of Jun’s top destinations in China and vowed that he would return one day.

Well, he saw this holiday break as that opportunity. He quickly planned the trip and soon we found ourselves on our way to Huangshan city.

We arrived on the last flight of the day. From the airport, we took a taxi to the Crowne Plaza where we quickly checked in and went to our room for the night.

Day 1

The next morning we checked out of the hotel so we could go to the Huangshan Scenic Area. We decided to stay at one of the hotels on the top of the mountain to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The drive there went quickly.

We bought our tickets to the park and the cable car. Then we were off up towards the top. The weather that day was amazing with clear, blue skies. We were excited to actually get to see the mountain this time. Additionally, with New Year’s Eve not an actual holiday, hardly anyone visited the park that day.

The hotel we chose to stay at—the Huangshan Paiyun—was some distance away and we had to hike there. Walking along the mountain paths afforded us some gorgeous views of the area. We stopped now and then just to take in the vistas that were before us. We were thrilled!

Finally, we arrived at the hotel and checked in. They were nice and gave us a bag of fresh fruit. We got to our room and unloaded our things.

Afterward, Jun and I continued our hike up around Danxia Peak, which we had to ourselves and park staff. From there we went around the Beihai area and enjoyed the views from there. This part of the park had more people.

Around that time the sun was beginning to set. Our hotel had a special outing for the last sunset of 2021. We decided to join it and went back to the hotel. From the hotel, it was a quick walk to the Paiyun Pavilion where we saw the sunset.

As soon as the sun went down and it started to turn dark, though, Jun and I went back to the hotel to get dinner. We were hungry!

After dinner we went back to our room to relax, but then Jun received a message from the hotel that he won a competition the hotel staff had during the sunset excursion. A bit later we went down to collect his prize. Jun received a cute tiger plush toy and some tea from the surrounding area. They took a picture of us. We then went back to the room to rest until midnight.

When midnight came, we celebrated and welcomed in 2022!

Day 2

The next day after breakfast we checked out and left our packs at the hotel. The morning was a bit overcast. As we went up towards the Feilai Stone and the Tianhai area, the weather started to improve. The clouds began to clear up as the morning receded into the afternoon. As we got closer to Tianhai we noticed a significant increase in the number of people. By the time we got there, we were surrounded by tour groups who had come from the Yuping area.

Jun and I thought about visiting that area, but we decided it was too crowded and required us to hike down and back up the mountain. We elected to head back to the hotel and get our stuff and take our leave.

The hike back was quite nice. As we were going to the Yungusuo cable car station, the sky had cleared. We had some nice views of the mountain and surrounding area. We agreed it was the perfect way to end our trip there.

On the trip down we had a cable car to ourselves and enjoyed the scenery. When we got down, we took the bus back to the entrance where we took a taxi back to Huangshan.

Jun and I decided to stay two more nights at the Crowne Plaza for the rest of the trip. When we got back to the city we checked in and rested a bit before we went out to dinner at Dexin. The food at this local restaurant was great and the staff was kind to us. After having an issue with the first table they sat us at, they helped us get settled at a new table and we soon ordered a delicious meal. We ate so much that we decided to take a walk along Old Street.

We did some window shopping and Jun bought some local snacks to take back for his cousin and coworkers. We then took a taxi back to the hotel and called it a night by watching the second season of The Witcher. Soon after we went to bed.

Day 3

On the last full day of our trip, we decided to visit Huizhou Ancient City. Taking a taxi to the city took about an hour. When we got there, we bought the tickets to visit some of the historic sites inside the city.

Huizhou is now a district within Huangshan city, but it has a history that goes back over a thousand years. The Huizhou culture has had significant influence within China, such as with influencing Beijing Opera. The architectural style of the region is well known. And Hui cuisine is one of the eight main Chinese cuisines.

Our visit to Huizhou started with us walking towards the Huizhou State Office. The seat of government of the city during most of its history, the complex is now a historic site museum. The city has persevered and restored the structure immaculately; it was intriguing to walk around the place. In one of the rooms, they had wood carvings of the surrounding area that was neat to view. In the back of the complex were the gardens which were nice to walk around. From there you could walk along the city wall.

From the city wall, Jun and I walked around the city and visited some alleys and other sites. We walked around Huiyuan and saw the Xugo Archway. While there we stopped at the Renhe building and ate the light meal the hotel prepared for us. We then visited the narrow streets of Xinnan and Doushan, which allowed us to view different ancient houses in the Huizhou style. We also visited Cao’s Two Residences which was supposed to be closed for renovations but was open when we found it. Finally, we found our way out of the city’s west gate so we could go back to central Huangshan city.

When we got back to Huangshan, we decided to visit Liyang in Alley, a restored historic area with a number of shops and restaurants. We walked around for a bit and bought some drinks as we enjoyed the late afternoon sun. Many of the historic buildings have been converted beyond their original intent. There was an old house that was now a bookstore, as well as a church that was now a restaurant.

Soon, though, Jun and I got hungry and decided to walk to the restaurant Jun wanted to try for dinner. We walked across Zhenhai Bridge back to Old Street and walked to the restaurant: Huangshan Loama. We arrived just as they opened, which was a good thing since they got busy quickly. The food there was delicious, although we ate a bit too much.

When we were finished, Jun and I decided to walk along the river back to the hotel. The walk was nice, and it was a great way to end the day.

Day 4

The day started early as we had to catch our 7:20 flight back to Shenzhen. Huangshan has a small airport, so everything went smoothly. The airport, however, was freezing that early in the morning. There was one heater going on that I kept visiting to warm up before our flight. I was happy to get on the plane and the heat within it.

And then we were back in Shenzhen and ready to go back to work for the first week of 2022. Jun and I enjoyed our trip to Huangshan. It was wonderful to actually see Huangshan Scenic Area and visit new places within the region. It was a great way to end 2021 and welcome in 2022.

Christmas in Beijing

For Christmas this year, Jun and I took advantage of his need to be in Beijing for work that week and we extended it for a long weekend. The last time I visited Beijing was in 2007. It was the first place I had explored in China and everything at that time was so new. I was curious to visit some different places and to experience Beijing with more experience of having lived in China for quite some time now. I flew up on Christmas Eve to meet up with Jun so we could celebrate the holiday there.

The trip to Beijing was uneventful. Jun met me at the airport, and we took a Didi to the Hilton Beijing Wangfujing. Everything went smoothly with my check-in, and I soon was getting ready to bed. One nice thing about the hotel was that it gave each guest a small Christmas stocking with Christmas cookies in them. That was a nice way to start the trip.

Day 1

Christmas! The first thing Jun and I did after we woke up was to open our Christmas presents. Then we got ready for the day and went down to have breakfast.

After eating breakfast, Jun and I took the metro to the Temple of Heaven Park. I don’t remember much about my first visit here. I came here on my first day and I only remember being very tired and disorientated from the long flight. For this trip, I wanted to explore the Temple of Heaven a bit more. And getting to do it with Jun made it even better.

The temple complex was built in the early fifteenth century for imperial use. Ming and Qing emperors visited the site annually to pray for good harvests. Today, the vast park is popular with locals and visitors.

When we went it was a cold day which meant there weren’t a lot of people there. One nice thing about traveling during the off-peak season was the opportunity to explore places more leisurely. Walking around the different buildings was a nice experience. The main temple was quite impressive. We enjoyed walking around the different complexes of the site as well. One thing we did notice was the number of gates around the complex. They seemed to be everywhere you walked.

We soon left from the southern gate and walked towards Yongdingmen Park. Before getting to the park, though, we happened across a restaurant—Duyichu Shaomai—that had been in operation for over 300 years. When I noticed it, I asked Jun what he knew of the place. After searching online, he discovered the history of the restaurant. I suggested we go try it and we soon found ourselves having a late lunch there. The food was amazing. I particularly liked the hot and sour soup. It was nice and warm after having been outside in the cold. Finding this restaurant was a wonderful surprise.

After lunch, we continued our journey to Yongdingmen Park. Yongdingmen used to be the front gate of the outer city of Beijing. With the wall no longer there, the gate is a reminder of the time when Beijing was protected by city walls. Getting into the park was a bit ridiculous as the park administration has closed off access to the park to a limited number of entrances. Finding an open entrance took some time. Eventually, we did find one. We walk a bit around the park before heading north toward Tiananmen Square.

To get to Tiananmen Square we took the metro to Zhushikou and walked up Qianmen Street. The street is one of the oldest shopping areas in Beijing and it has been restored to a more historic look reminiscent of the period from the late nineteenth to early twentieth centuries. It was a pleasant walk up the street.

We then made our way into Tiananmen Square after going through a thorough security check. Being late in the afternoon and a large open space, the wind was quite strong there. Jun and I got a bit cold and decided to continue our walk.

From Tiananmen Square, we went through Zhongshan Park. The park is situated southwest of the Forbidden City. During imperial times the area was used as an altar, such as with the Altar of Land and Grain. Today it is a public park for people to enjoy.

By the time we had walked around the park, it was getting dark, and we decided it was time to go inside. Jun and I had wanted to do some shopping in Beijing for things we couldn’t find in Shenzhen. After getting a Didi we were on our way to Sanlitun. There we were able to buy what we wanted and had dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant: Saigon Mama.

Afterward, we went back to the hotel. When we got back to the room, we found that the hotel had provided a Christmas cake! It was cute to look at and delicious to eat. Eating the cake was a wonderful way to end the day.

Day 2

On our second day, we woke up early so we could get to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. The drive took a little over an hour to get there. When we arrived, we were the only two to go through the front entrance. When we got on the bus to take us to the Great Wall, we met only one other visitor.

To get up to the Great Wall, we had to go up a trail. When we got to the top the view was nice. And the wall itself was devoid of other visitors. We walked along the wall and explored the different towers for a few hours. This visit was Jun’s first time at the Great Wall. It was my second time. We both enjoyed it a great deal. And then as we were walking, we were greeted by cats who lived in different sections of the wall. They were fat cats, too! Sadly, for the cats, Jun and I didn’t have any food for them.

As morning turned into early afternoon, Jun and I decided to venture to our next destination: Yuanmingyuan Park. When we got there, we decided to have lunch at Hua’s Restaurant. The food was good there. They had an amazing shrimp dish. And they also had a nice flower tea that warmed us up.

When we were done, we then went into the park. This area used to be the Old Summer Palace. It was destroyed in the nineteenth century, and all that remains are ruins. The park is massive. The ruins were quite interesting to visit. In the main area, there was even a maze that Jun and I traversed to get to the central pavilion. After we had walked around the remains of the palace, we walked by one of the lakes to watch the sunset. It was quite spectacular!

From there we decided to go get dinner. First, though, we had to get a COVID test at one of the mobile testing clinics scattered throughout Beijing. That went quickly and soon we were off to Nanmen, a Beijing hotpot restaurant. The food there was nice. We each got our pot, and we had a variety of lamb, noodles, and vegetables for dinner.

After we had finished, we walked back to the hotel to call it a day.

Day 3

Our last day in Beijing had us have a late start. We decided to just venture around the area near the hotel. We first walked up towards Jingshan Park. To get there we passed through some historic streets with some nice buildings along the way. Jinshan Park is directly north of the Forbidden City. On a nice day, you can get a wonderful view of the palace. When we got there, though, we had to contend with some haze and the poor morning light. It was still nice to walk around the park though. And the northern view of the Drum Tower was nice.

From there we walked up toward the Drum and Bell Towers. We wandered around Shichahai and saw the Huode Zhenjun Temple, which is a Taoist temple. Then we went around the Drum and Bell Towers. Finally, we went down South Luogu Lane and explored the shops there. We even bought some candied fruit as a snack.

By the time we got to the entrance of the lane, we had to head back to the hotel to check out. When we got there, we got our things and left them at the hotel for a bit to go have lunch at Xiaodiao Pear Soup. As its name implies, the place is known for its pear soup. The food there was tasty. We were fortunate to have a lot of great food in Beijing.

When we were done, we went back to the hotel to get our things so we could get to the airport. Things at the airport went smoothly and we were soon back in Shenzhen, where we again had to take another COVID test. After that was done, Jun and I took a taxi home and left our things for the next day so we could shower and go to bed.

The trip to Beijing was great and it was fun to see the city again. Spending Christmas in Beijing was a great idea. Jun and I certainly enjoyed our time there together.

Escape to Guangzhou

Jun and I decided we needed an escape from Shenzhen for at least one weekend. After thinking about it, we thought it would be nice to visit Guangzhou. I hadn’t been there for over two years, and Jun only had gone there in that time for work.

We booked a hotel for the night and then bought our train tickets. We were ready to go!

Day 1

We woke up and got ready for the train ride to Guangzhou. We left Luohu and soon were on our way. As an early morning weekend train, there weren’t a lot of people on board. It was relaxing and I caught up on some of my reading.

When we arrived in Guangzhou, we bought some snacks for the urban hike we had planned for the afternoon. We then took a taxi to Baiyun Mountain. From there we had lunch at a noodle restaurant—Shahe—and got ready for our hike.

The first thing we had to determine was where the entrance was. After asking a security guard, he informed us that the actual entrance was at Luhu Lake inside Jufang Park. The walk to the entrance was nice. The day was beautiful for a hike in the southern Chinese winter.

When we got there, we explored the park a bit before going on the hike. The trail winds around some of the main tourist areas of old Guangzhou. It was an opportunity for us to see different parts of the city. We passed around Luhu Lake and then went into Sculpture Park.

There were some nice sculptures in the park. It had been a few years since I had last been there and it was nice to visit the park once more. From there we walked towards Yuexiu Park. Jun and I had been here several times and decided to just walk through it to the end. We finally reached our destination at the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall. Overall, the hike was nice. We got to see some different parts of Guangzhou we hadn’t seen before this visit.

Afterward, Jun and I went to visit the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. It was built in 587 AD as a Buddhist temple. It is considered one of the most important temples in the city. While small by the standards of many other temples, it is immaculately maintained. On the day we were visiting, there were flowers all over the place. It was a nice place to relax after our hike.

After we had rested, Jun and I decided to get a late afternoon snack of sweet dumplings at Sesame Hushijia. They were so good! They were a wonderful reminder of how Guangzhou is a foodie city.

When we finished, we went to check-in at the W Hotel and rest before dinner. The room was nice and spacious. While we relaxed, I took the time to edit some of the photos from that day.

In the early evening, we walked down to have dinner at Bingsheng. The food there was amazing, and it was nicely set up in small rooms without large crowds. After dinner, we went around Zhujiang New Town and did some shopping. By the time we were done, it was late. We decided to head back to the hotel to call it a night.

Day 2

The next day we woke up early to get to Liwan Lake to have dim sum with two of Jun’s friends. They had selected Panxi, one of the older restaurants in the city. I had visited here once before and had been impressed. The restaurant is built to resemble a Chinese courtyard manor. There were water features and different buildings in Lingnan style. The food there was amazing, and I think I was even more impressed this time than on my first visit.

From there we walked a bit around the lake and meandered our way towards Yongqingfang. In the last few years, the Guangzhou government has built up this area into a cultural heritage zone. It recently won a preservation award. The place has a lot of alleyways with stores, food kiosks, museums, and restaurants for visitors to enjoy.

As we walked, we stumbled upon a museum exhibit to celebrate the renewal of the area. The exhibit was small, but it was wonderfully curated. The exhibit—Something Begets Something More: New Tales of Saikwan—was a celebration of renewal. It was a nice mix of traditional and modern art.

From the museum, we then walked to LeLe Cha to get some drinks before Jun and I had to head to the train station. It was nice just to sit and enjoy our drinks.

Then we were on the metro heading towards the train station. Everything went smoothly. Jun and I soon found ourselves back in Shenzhen and ready to start another week at work.

We both enjoyed our time in Guangzhou and were delighted at seeing some old friends and eating amazing food. We definitely had needed the escape!