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Movie lover. Growing Capoeirista. Space enthusiast. Dedicated craftsman. And best of all, homegrown Los Angeles native. Wait, how in the hell did I end up in China!?
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You look up, you look down, you look out--anywhere you look stands these colossal stone pillars that look straight out of some expansive, apocalyptic-themed movie set, or some mountainous backdrop for a log ride at a Disney amusement park. Yep, you see it too, right?
So, China’s Shaolin Temple—bang or bust? Pass or get there asap? We’ve all seen documentaries of Chinese monks at Shaolin sprinting across temple roofs, busting out backflips and somersaults with ease, and spewing out beautiful, jaw-dropping Kung-fu-ography that encapsulates the true spirit of conventional martial arts.
You’re living in China, and sure, you’ve thought about going to Beijing. You want to explore Shanghai and overlook its marvelous skyscrapers. Or maybe you’d like to venture off to some picturesque countryside in Inner Mongolia and sleep in an authentic yurt.
It’s China, after all, and yes, the destinations are endless. Exhilarating adventures lie in just about every corner of the world’s 3rd largest country. But what’s next? What’s that fun, unique, off-beaten, eye-popping journey that’ll take you somewhere you’ve never known; somewhere, most expats and tourists have yet to experience, and that’s not listed on your average top 10 places to visit in China exposé.
Here’s a thought: How about boarding a roundtrip international cruise from one of China’s major cities to, let’s say, Singapore or South Korea?
I know, that caught your attention. It’s something fresh, exotic, rousing, and best of all, possible.
And well, I did. In fact, my friend and I celebrated Chinese New Year 2018 aboard a roundtrip SkySea cruise from Shanghai to Sasebo, Japan, and let me be the first to tell you: That’s the kind of awe-inspiring adventure I guarantee you’re looking for, and most likely, have never even considered.
How’d We Book the Cruise?
You won’t find too many expats in China that know this, so read carefully: Trip.com (formerly CTrip), China’s homegrown, leading online travel agency, offers domestic and international cruises on the Chinese version of their website, but not on the English. B-o-o-y-a-h.
They cover lots of ground, err, ocean, too, from popular nearby regions like Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Thailand, to far reaching ports in Hawaii, Africa, the Mediterranean, and Middle East.
The great thing is that Trip.com has excellent English speaking customer service available, and you can book your voyage through them. Go ahead and see for yourself. I’ll wait …
What’s the Cruise Like?
Our cruise departed from Shanghai’s Wusongkou International Cruise Terminal. We’d set sail across a striking East China Sea for 2 days, spend half a day in Sasebo, then enjoy another 2 days on the water heading back.
As for our transport? The SkySea ship was impressive, but a far cry from the biggest cruise lines I’ve seen, aka The Royal Caribbeans, Carnivals and Norwegians. I will admit, though, that it was also one of the cheapest options. Hey, you should already know what happens across the travel industry every year during CNY: Prices double. Smh.
Our SkySea ship was equipped with 2 pools, several spas, a basketball court, walking/jogging track, ping-pong room, theatre, restaurant, several lounges, cafeteria, casino, shops, and plenty of places to get loaded off booze.
I was probably 1 of 5 foreign passengers on the ship—nearly all the guests were Chinese. However, as this was an international cruise line, the majority of staff hailed from every corner of the globe. China, Philippines, Africa, Russia—it was just as exciting to meet and greet the workers as it was to explore the facilities onboard.
What Daily Activities Were Offered?
When you're miles out in the middle of the sea, you'll need to eat, keep busy, and stay entertained. With that, each day several things happened:
Enjoy the Scenery: It’s a cruise! Walk around, peer out over the East China Sea, hang out in a lounge, explore the ship, chill out on the balcony in your room.
Go For a Swim: This was February 2018, so it was freezing cold, but that didn’t stop any of us from jumping in the pools or cozying up in a hot tub. They’d show movies on a projector, too, and you could buy drinks at the bar.
Play Basketball/Ping-Pong/Miniature Golf/Jog: This one didn’t have excursions like zip-lining or snorkeling, but like I said, it was the cheapest option. Enough said!
Eat, Eat, EAT: People forget one of the best reasons for going on cruises in the first place: The food. Buffet style. A solid mix of authentic Chinese and international dishes, open 24/7, in the cafeteria. By the way, there was a fancy restaurant onboard, too.
Special Activities: Where’s the freaking entertainment!? Luckily, there was a grand lobby that played host to numerous scheduled activities throughout the day, from welcoming parties to dance classes, group exercise to CNY festivities. This was the place you wanted to visit every day. And yes, it was always a party!
Theatre Fun: Probably the best entertainment on the ship. Every evening an international group put on very entertaining performances—mostly song and dance related. Plus, the female dancers were smoking hot!
Welcome to Sasebo, Japan!
You ever heard of Sasebo, Japan? Don’t feel bad, neither did I. But, that’s what’s unique about these kinds of trips: It’s an exciting, unforgettable experience to a place you’ve never been.
We didn’t spend too long in the city, however; after all, visa entries and exits took way too long. We did manage to hop on pre-arranged shuttle buses and explore parks, shops, and tourism zones, aka this-was-a-Chinese-tour-so-that-means-spend-lots-of-time-shopping.
I’ve visited Japan numerous times, and every city I’ve step foot in has been nothing short of remarkable. They’re orderly, safe, peaceful, cultural, and always had me thinking I’d wish I’d have lived there!
Nihon, mata ne!
Highlights of the Adventure …
What’s cool about living in China is that ‘foreign privilege’ doesn’t just apply to the Mainland—it also applies when you’re aboard a cruise in the middle of the East China Sea. No, seriously.
To put it simply: One afternoon, my friend and I were ‘randomly’ stopped a communications officer on the ship and asked to join in on dinning at the captain’s table later in the evening. Was it luck? Nah—I’d argue it was just being a handsome foreigner in China at the right place and right time!
We, along with a few other guests, had the privilege of dinning with the captain, co-captain, and other prestigious crew of the SkySea cruise, and enjoyed stirring tales of their adventurous life traversing the seas. Talk about awesome!
But Wait, There’s More …
And though we couldn’t celebrate Chinese New Year with endless fireworks—as is the notorious thing to do across the Mainland—we did bring in CNY in style.
That evening kicked off with a huge, energetic dance party in the grand lobby, followed by a live showcase of the infamous CCTV New Year’s Gala screened in the theatre around midnight. I guess even in the middle of the ocean, there’s no escaping the CCTV New Year’s Gala during CNY. Not that that’s a bad thing!
What Are You Waiting For!?
So, this is it--this is the great escape you’re looking for if you’re living in China and hell-bent on checking off some highly adventurous, unique, and electrifying Instagram-worthy trip off your travel bucket list.
Forget those places everybody’s been, those same ol’ experiences everybody’s done. Make this kind of voyage you’re next amazing story to tell!
“Mammoth”. That was my first thought. The second? Is it really all that powerful? Well, turns out it was.
Eyes wide, focused. Mouth open. Gasp. Between the crowd finally emerges an opening. I can see it, and it’s as massive as they say.
America may be home to the world’s largest movie industry, but it sure ain’t home to the world’s biggest movie studio. That record belongs to China, and more specifically, to Hengdian World Movie Studios, located in Donyang, Zhejiang Province, only a few hours out of Shanghai.
Never in my life would I have thought that anywhere in China would be a perfect destination for a honeymoon. Never.
The best places to tour in China aren’t its sprawling futuristic megalopolis--no. Instead, some might tell you that China’s greatest travel destinations lie tucked away in remote parts of the country. So remote that you might look up and find yourself one of only a handful of foreign faces for hundreds of miles, and that’s even during the holidays.
Let’s see, my t-shirt? Smeared with mud. Legs? Near white from dried flakes of dirt. And my watch? I couldn’t tell you the time if my life depended on it. The face was completely obscured by clay. And well, all that was worth it. Welcome to China’s Hukou Waterfall! Wait, ever heard of it?
I’ve taken so many local bus tours across China that I’ve lost count. Honestly, as an expat, they’re just one of the best ways to travel and see all the beautiful sights China has to offer, from bustling cityscapes riddled with towering skyscrapers to the most incredible, jaw-dropping natural escapes you just might ever lay eyes on.
Well, well, well, if it ain’t Shanghai, China’s most populous city. It’s home to some 24 million people--registered, that is—spread out over 3,900 sq. meters (1,500 sq. miles) of beautiful, organized chaos.
You're in China, there's a holiday fast approaching, and you have zero clue as to where to spend your next vacation. Shanghai or Beijing? Nope, you've either been before or feel very keen on exploring some offbeat tourist hub you've probably never even heard of. Here's my list of 30+ top things to do and places to visit in China that aren't Shanghai or Beijing.
It's holiday time in China, you're in Shanghai, and looking for the best attractions and places to visit nearby. I know—you haven't got a clue about where to go, what to see, or what to do. Here's my list of 10+ top things to do and places to see near Shanghai:
I just might be the luckiest expat in China. After all, over the past 7 years I’ve had the most incredible experiences that I never could have imagined before stepping foot in the country. And truth be told, many of them—scratch that, the majority of them, have actually been ‘first’.
Ah, Chinese lantern festivals. Sure, you've seen snippets of them in movies, brochures, websites, and may have even visited one or two in your hometown, but have you actually caught one in China? Trust me, they're a million times more of a spectacle on the Mainland than anywhere in the world. Here's what you need to know and can expect at Chinese lantern festivals:
It’s been dubbed China’s ugliest building. Actually, it’s been credited as one of the ugliest buildings in the world. It’s China’s Emperor Building, or as it’s best known, the Beijing Tianzi Hotel. And truth be told, it ain’t that bad.
There's just something about China and statues that just goes hand in hand. They're everywhere--from small, 10-meter tall molds of prominent Chinese nationals in busy downtown areas to larger-than-life sculptures of religious deities perched on rural mountainsides and tourist beaches. They're eye-catching, they're symbolic, and as I've come to discover, worth every penny of the adventure you'll take just to see them. Here are the 10+ coolest statues in China you need to see ASAP:
Puzhehei—beautiful, just ... beautiful. Ever heard of it? It’s not exactly one of China’s top destinations to explore, but truth be told, it should be.
It’s the gambling capital of the world, and nope, it ain’t Las Vegas. It’s Macau—special administrative region of China, neighbor to Hong Kong, and it’s outpaced Vegas’ annual gambling revenue by as much as 7 times. And yep, I’ve been!
Oh boy, Hong Kong—have you been? It’s been one of my favorite travel destinations ever since I packed my bags, moved to China to work as an ESL teacher, and began my trek across East Asia. I first fell in love with Hong Kong during my initial 4-day visit back in 2012, and since then I’ve returned nearly several more times on solo trips and with family and friends. Here’s my list of 15+ reasons why I love Hong Kong and why you need to visit ASAP.
So, you're living in China and have got some friends, family, or a boyfriend/girlfriend coming to visit. You know all the hot tourist hot spots, restaurants, bars, and clubs to hit, but what about actually showing off something, you know, cultural? After all, 'this is China'—a country brimming with more than 5,000 years of history and traditions. Here's my list of 15+ best cultural experiences and activities in China to show off to your family and friends when they come visit.
I can't believe I've finally visited China's dopest mountain! And no, I'm not referring to Huangshan "Yellow Mountain" or even Zhangjiajie's "Avatar" Mountain—I've been to both of those too. I'm talking about China's Zhangye Danxia National Geopark, or most famously called, "Rainbow Mountains".
Ah, Chinese food--you just got a love it! It's tasty, it's colorful, it's healthy, it's jam-packed with a variety of aromas, and it heavily incorporates influences of China's longstanding history, culture, and traditions.
I came. I saw. I conquered. I toured Yunnan Province's Lijiang city during China's October National Holiday week and it turned out to be one of my best trips ever!
Hands down, the best list of popular attractions and top things to do in the Pudong District of Shanghai, by an expat whose actually lived there!