Zhangjiajie: 48 Hours and The Avatar Mountains

When I say 48 hours I really mean it! It was a blitz creek trip to one of the most amazing and beautiful places I have ever been. I had just completed my first week of my new job and was exhausted, but had planned this trip before I signed my new contract. I decided to go with a group as I wanted to take a break from planning and let someone else do it! There are pros and cons to group travel, but overall I am happy I decided to this time as the park is massive and I was able to make the most of my time with a guide. Not to mention the group I went with was a laugh and a half and we had a good time!

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Kaila in Kunming: A Visit to My Orphanage

(Touching the Dragon Gate for Prosperity)

I took a few days off from work and headed back to the province I was born in, Kunming! It was a busy few days where I didn’t get much rest and was busy from sun up to down. I was able to do a lot, met up with some connections and friends and went back to my orphanage. The night before and the whole drive going to my orphanage I was quite nervous which really surprised me.

China is such a diverse and beautiful place and I was excited to go back and explore. Yunnan has stunning nature, views and I already want to go back to spend more time hiking away from the borders of the cities.

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24 Hours in Beijing and A Book

So I went to Beijing for 24 hours to meet Cass and have some fun before she went back to the States! I miss her already. We had the best time. Between Shanghai and Beijing, she went back to her hometown and had a profound and beautiful experience. It was great to meet her post her trip, talk about it and just have fun running around Beijing. I loved going to the wall with all the verdant and luscious greenery compared to the cold temperatures I experienced in February. Ps. I used “verdant” because it was one of classes vocabulary words. We can all expand our vocabulary!

We got to Beijing around 2, dropped our stuff at our hotel and hiked up to the park. It’s such a nice view up at the park to look down at!

A beautiful way to spend an afternoon in Beijing.

We dropped by Wangfujing Snack Street. Unfortunately half of the vendors were closed because they are doing remodeling.

My favorite snack! Duck pancakes. The street usually is crowded with scorpions, fried bugs and so much more food. Thank goodness the duck wraps weren’t on hold for the remodeling.

After this we went for manicures then attempted to go see the Olympic Birds Nest Stadium lit up at night. However, there was a huge event going on and we couldn’t get in vicinity of the Olympic Park area. Next time!

This is how you do the Great Wall with no one else crowding you. We had our hotel arrange us a driver, got up at 5:30am and drove 1.5 hours to the Mutianyu section for the opening at 7:30. This is the less crowded section and by the time we made it down at 10, there were all ready swarms of groups heading up.

I highly recommend taking the gondola up. That way you can walk downhill (mostly) on the walk to the area where you can either take the chairlift or toboggan down. Obviously I recommend the toboggan because it’s so fun! We headed back to Beijing and went straight to the Forbidden City which was 2 minutes walk away from our hotel!

We both were here together with our families in 2004 and are back together in 2019. Cass said that the two times she has been back to China has been with me! So special.

Last time I was in Beijing I didn’t have tickets to go inside the palace. They limit the daily amount of people to 80,000 and you can buy them in advance online 10 days before. We had tickets for the prior day but didn’t make it in time and fortunately were able to snag some tickets on the spot.

Best 20rmb I’ve spent! I got these two headbands for us and we became quite the attraction.

We also met some Spanish guys, traded hats around and spent the rest of the day exploring the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and Beijing before I dashed off to catch my train and head back to Shanghai.

AND I also finally read the book “Shanghai Girls” by Lisa See and loved it. I couldn’t put it down and finished it on the train. SO GOOD. It gave me such perspective on Shanghai and it is a beautiful story of family, love, tragedy and immigration. Mostly it is a story about people and trying to do what’s right in the moment.

I’ve started another one of her books, “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane.”

Showing Off Shanghai

The Olson twins have taken Shanghai these last few days! Okay so we aren’t actually twins, but I just had my friend from the states come visit and was determined to show her Shanghai’s best. We have known each other since we were wee little things, grew up in the same neighborhood in Denver and went back to China with our families in 2004! It was so much fun to have her in town and she is off for the next few days traveling before we meet in Beijing next week for more Olson twin fun. The best part about having visitors is that you get to see where you live through fresh eyes. There is no rest for the wicked and everyday she pretty much fell asleep within minutes of the head hitting the pillow. I like to keep my friends busy and on the go go go!

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Sheryl in Shanghai Part II

Shanghai is the ultimate metropolitan city and no visit is complete without checking out the Starbucks Reserve which is an incredible space of design and delicious treats! It’s filled with both food and beverages you can’t get in regular stores and you can watch them roast the beans right their. It’s a symphony of excellent customer service and beautiful execution. Of course I had to take my mom! It’s also located on West Nanjing street which is a happening and trendy place to check out.

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Sheryl in Shanghai Part I

Well, this is one of the first few extended moments I’ve had to sit down and do some writing on what I’ve been up to since my mom arrived last week! It’s really been a whirlwind and I give her major props for keeping up the the crazy long days and excursions I’ve planned. I met my mom at the airport, shuttled her back to my apartment and told her to pack for the next day! What a trooper. I wonder where I get my go go go attitude and lifestyle…..for those of you that don’t know me that’s a joke. I got it from my mom, the original energizer bunny.

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The Calm Before the Mom

(Excerpts from an essay I wrote in 2010. While I’ve changed a lot, it shows I’m still fundamentally the same person).

“Life is the greatest gift and the only one who can change and live it is you. This has always been a philosophy of mine and I truly believe it. Life is a journey that throws many adventures, challenges and lessons and other emotions and events at you. It is how you react, adapt and move forward that determines the person you are. The smallest moments in my life have often made the largest impacts on my philosophy and who I am…I also believe and know that my actions each day define who I am, the person I am the next day and forever on. Life is going to get rocky and tough, but if you sail through it win a fearless attitude and supportive people, the water will eventually calm and become clear.

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Beijing Part III

So much happened on our second day that I didn’t include so this is filling in the blanks and summing up the trip! We were at a mall doing as the Chinese do, which is shopping when we heard the sounds of the dragon dance! I have grown up listening to this tune and it somewhat is a traumatic sound given that I was scared of them when I was little. This dance was the best one I’ve ever seen and so intricate!

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Beautiful Beijing Part II

This was by far my favorite part of the trip and an experience I will treasure for some time to come! It was so special! I’ve been to other parts of the Great Wall and this one was the most special. Not to mention that it was lightly snowing with ominous clouds that added to the beautiful morning. You take the cable car up the wall and can walk the section before either taking a chairlift down or as we opted, a toboggan! I really enjoyed this day so much and it’s part of what makes Beijing and China so special.

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