The GoGlobal Blog



Ni Hao! I am officially arrived in Ho Chi Minh City after spending six days in China.

China was amazing. Very crowded and very hot, but still amazing.

The first day (August 17), I arrived in Shanghai after my 15 hour flight, met up with Trenton (my friend from high school) and we caught an overnight train to Xi’an. We almost missed our train, and so my first experience of China was basically sprinting through the train station with my giant backpack. It was stressful, yet invigorating, and we made it onto the train with five minutes to spare. The sleeper train was its own experience. It was actually very nice, and I actually was able to sleep though I was in a cabin with three other non-english-speaking Chinese natives.

We arrived in Xi’an the following morning (August 18) and caught the metro to the center of Xi’an where our hostel was. From the moment we stepped off of the metro we were sweating. It was between 95 and 100 degrees fahrenheit the entire time that we were in China (except for up in the mountains). One of the most apparent culture shocks that I felt right away was just how crowded China is. It is very obvious that 18% (1.35 billion people) of the entire world population lives in that one country. I think it is because of this that the Chinese people have a total lack of spacial awareness also. When there are so many people in one place, the idea of personal space is almost at zero percent. This took some getting used to, but by the end of the trip, it was not as bothersome, and in a way, kind of endearing.

Our plan for our first night in Xi’an was to travel to Mount Huashan, and hike up overnight, so we did not plan on checking into our hostel right away. Though we were not sleeping there the first night, the hostel staff allowed us to leave our bags there, and also shower. This was greatly appreciated, if you are ever in Xi’an, I highly recommend the Han Tang Inn Hostel. After dropping our bags off, we picked up some dumplings (delicious) and took a bus to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. This has been a lifelong dream for me, and I was not disappointed. Although sweltering hot, the rooms of the warriors were huge. We learned that each warrior was actually designed to look like one of the emperor’s slaves, and after a specific warrior was finished, that slave would be killed. The slaves carved their initials into their personal warriors though, so that they could be remembered forever. Also, here’s a tip: view the three excavation rooms in opposite order. Rooms 2 and 3 are not finished being excavated yet, and look more like a few piles of dirt. If you see those before room 1, you are very likely to be underwhelmed.terra cotta

After the warriors, we returned to Xi’an to prepare for our hike up Mount Huashan. We packed our bags at the hostel, and grabbed some delicious biang biang noodles from a nearby restaurant. Xi’an is known for these noodles. They are very large, almost like lasagna noodles. They’re also famous for it’s character because it uses 58 strokes.

Biáng-order_complete biang

After our noodles, we took a train and then a taxi to the Huashan scenic area. Another culture shock: taxi drivers, actually almost all drivers in China drive like madmen. This taxi ride in particular was one of the scarier ones I have ever taken. Something I noticed as the days in China went on though, was that since everybody drives like a crazy person, you almost feel safer, just because, although I witnessed “almost” accidents about 500 times a day, nobody actually ever hit anybody else. Anyways, I digress; we got to the entrance of the hike around 10:30pm, and began our upward climb. It was still extremely hot at this time, and I was sweating profusely before we even started hiking. I was blown away by the amount of people on the trail. Huashan is one of the top 3 famous mountains in China, but I was not prepared for how crowded the trail was. I guess, even in the mountains, one cannot escape the Chinese crowds. Another surprise was that for the entire time we were on the mountain, we were the only non-Chinese tourists that we saw. China is a big place, and throughout the entire trip, most of the tourists were actually Chinese.

The trail up Mt. Huashan was entirely paved, and yet it was still the most physically demanding hike that I have ever done, though one of the most rewarding hikes I have ever done. Everything that I had read online said that the climb would take between 3-5 hours. Being a pretty avid hiker, I assumed it would probably take Trenton and I 3 hours. I now realize that the 3-5 hour time estimate was the estimate only for the hike to the North Peak. Trenton and I ended up hiking 6 hours to the East peak where the Chess Pavilion is, so as to get the best view for sunrise. So basically we walked up thousands of stairs, some of them more like ladders, for six hours straight. My body was killing me by the time we got to the top at around 4:15am, where we waited for a little over an hour for sunrise.

It ended up being too cloudy for a good sunrise, but the view of the Chess Pavilion was dreamy. chess pavilion

It ended up being a huge blessing that we spent the night on the mountain, because we were able to beat the lines for the famous plank walk. This part of the hike was basically the reason that I wanted to go to China, and it was everything that I had hoped. I will let the pictures do the talking for this one. plank walk 1 plank walk 2

We decided to catch the cable car back down the mountain because our knees were hurting just thinking about having to walk down all of those stairs again. By this time, the clouds had cleared though, and the view was incredible.


Upon our return to Xi’an, we showered and rested for a bit, and then decided to head out into Xi’an to do some sight seeing. We explored the famous Bell Tower, and were able to get a beautiful 360 degree view of the city from the top. From there, we headed to the Muslim quarter of Xi’an, famous for it’s lively marketplace. It was very interesting gaining insight into Chinese-Muslim culture. I enjoyed coconut milk and a fully fried squid on a stick, delicious! That night was my first night sleeping in an actual bed since my arrival in China, and I slept like a baby. The next morning, we woke up, picked up dumplings from our favorite dumpling shop, and then headed to the airport to catch our plane to Huangshan.

xian1 xian2dumplings

As soon as we arrived in Huangshan, we realized that we were DEEP in China. The owner of our hostel picked us up at the airport, the hour long drive to the hostel was entirely mountains and farm land. The food in Huangshan was very traditional also. We ordered a chicken dish that was basically every part of the chicken, cut up, and cooked in a delicious sauce. When I say “every part” of the chicken, I mean EVERY part of the chicken, feet and head, and beak included.

The next morning, the owner of our hostel drove us to the bus that we needed to catch into Huangshan scenic area. The night previously, we had decided that it would be more beneficial to catch the cable car up to the top of the mountain, so as to save our energy for actually hiking at the top, and for the hike down in the evening. Although we had to wait for an hour in line to catch the cable car, this turned out to be a very good idea, seeing as it was over 60,000 steps to the top. At the top, we were very disappointed by the initial view, as everything was completely covered in clouds. Other than seeing a couple of monkeys, we were extremely dismayed, and I became very frustrated as I had high hopes to see the famed “sea of clouds”.


We spent a few hours, getting super excited every time the clouds seemed like they might clear, until finally around 3pm we had our first real view cloud clearing. It was incredible. At this point, we decided that even if we didn’t get to see sunset, the whole trip up the mountain would be worth it.


We still had high hopes for sunset though, and so we continued to hike to the point where we wanted to watch it. When we got to this point, it had become cloudy again though, and we again, felt very frustrated. The only excitement was the large number of Chinese people who asked me on multiple occasions to take a photo with them. This was a popular occurrence throughout the entire trip for me, being a tall caucasian, I was a bit of a celebrity. I still wonder where all of those photos ended up.

Anyways, we waited at the top of the mountain for about another hour, and finally, around 5pm, we had the most amazing cloud clearance that I ever could have imagined. Honestly, I have seen a lot of beautiful mountains in my lifetime, and these were nothing like I had ever seen before. We were blessed with the sea of clouds, more beautiful than any of the google images that I had spent hours looking at during the weeks leading up to this trip. I still cannot believe that it was real. On top of that, we also had an incredible sunset. It was pretty much the most amazing day.14053720_10210870978670894_7311145620010334008_o 14053871_10210870957470364_4893285044107221721_o

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After sunset, we hiked down the mountain in the dark. It took us about 3 hours to walk down 5 miles worth of steep steps, and we felt like we were on some Indiana Jones type of adventure, deep in the heart of China. Finally, we reached the bottom, and caught the last bus back to Tangkou, where we happily showered and sank into our beds.

The next day, our plan was to take the bus to Hangzhou. We caught the noon bus, and made it to Hangzhou around 3pm, but to our dismay found that due to the G20 conference coming in September, many of the streets were shut down in an effort to lower the amount of driving on the roads to clear up some of the air pollution. Because of this, it was nearly impossible to get to our hostel by the West Lake, and after a few tries we decided that it would be much more worth it to just go straight to Shanghai. We quickly booked a hostel and a couple of train tickets, and hopped on the next high speed train. This ended up working in our favor as it gave us a full day the next day to explore Shanghai. We were able to spend a couple of hours at the Bund, and walking around the market and eating dim sum where in the area of the city where the houses from the 1930’s are still standing. Pro tip: instead of booking an expensive river tour on the Bund, for 2 yuan, you can just take the ferry across the river, and see the same sights. Also, even though the Shanghai museum closes at 5, they stop allowing visitors to enter at 4, something we discovered six minutes too late.

Shanghai architecture is amazing. There is a mix of old and new that is extravagantly more apparent than the same mix that Chicago architecture is famous for, mainly I think because the newer architecture is almost space-like in its modernity.13996223_10210871133954776_8417467483739397451_o

Overall, China was incredible, and I hope to go back soon to explore more. I caught my flight to Vietnam on time, and have now been here for almost a week. A post will be coming soon! Thank you for reading this extra long one!


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