Monthly Archives: September 2012

A Gleeful Circus


Having graduated from a university with one of the highest numbers of living alumni in the world, it’s no wonder this Michigan Wolverine ran into some of her fellow University of Michiganders while in China. In fact, several times…

Michigan Alum on the Great Wall

With a random Michigan alum I met on the Great Wall of China

But the most memorable occurrence was in Shanghai, during what ended up being a not-so-lonely trip to see the Shanghai World Circus, ERA-Intersection of Time. After arriving (and getting lost) at the subway stop, I headed toward the ticket office and, to my surprise, spotted a young man in a Michigan t-shirt. I immediately went up to him to ask him if he was a student, and as we began to chat, I noticed several other young men wearing Michigan t-shirts… 60, to be exact. It was the Michigan’s Men Glee Club on tour in China!

This might not be a big deal to most people, but aside from the fact that I always enjoy running into Michigan people while abroad, I LOVE singing boys. No seriously. I used to go to all the Men’s Glee Club and a cappella concerts when I was in college like a starry-eyed school girl.

So, being ever shy and humble, I asked them to serenade me. The next thing I know, 60 Michigan boys are singing Happy Birthday to me (six weeks early, but who cares?) amongst the few hundred-person crowd waiting to get into the circus. It was pretty awesome.

Michigan Men's Glee Club in China

Hanging out with the Michigan Men’s Glee Club at the circus in Shanghai!

Oh, and the circus was pretty good too. While I wasn’t able to take my own photos or videos of the performance, I do remember amazing acrobats and an incredible finale involving six motorcyclists riding around inside a metal cage! Luckily, the circus people have a trailer offering a pretty good snapshot of the show itself. Enjoy.

Succulent Surprises!


Before arriving in China, the two things I was worried about most were the language barrier and food.

We’ve all heard the stories. Dogs, monkeys, frogs, bugs, the Chinese have developed a bit of a reputation for their adventurous eating habits. This, plus the extremely limited communication between the Chinese and non-Chinese speakers had me seriously worried that I’d find something very undesirable on my plate.

Even in the United States I’ve never been a huge fan of Chinese food and frankly, the Chinese food in Malaysia was by far my least favorite among the options.

But to my delightful surprise, the Chinese food from China was SOME OF THE BEST FOOD I’VE EVER EATEN. In fact, aside from Thailand, China was the only other Asian country where I continually sought out local food for the entire duration of my trip, instead of the usual “I need pizza and pasta” cravings I usually get after a few days. And, also to China’s credit, I only got food poisoning on two occasions, which is not bad considering my track record and the fact that I spent two months there.

I will say, however, that unless you really love bones, avoid the chicken. After initial experiences picking the stringy and unappetizing chicken pieces off the bones (the Chinese believe it tastes better that way), I soon gave up and decided to stick to beef or pork for the remainder of the trip.

Below is a list of the best and/or most interesting food experiences I had in China.

Char Siew and Roasted Goose

Char Siew and roasted goose in Hong Kong

One of my favorite Chinese dishes in Malaysia, char siew is essentially barbecued pork, a specialty in Cantonese food in places like Hong Kong. On the right side of the plate is roasted goose, another fan favorite for Hong Kong, though I think goose will never be my favorite…

Dim Sum

Dim Sum in Hong Kong

Another Cantonese specialty, dim sum is the original Sunday brunch where family and friends get together to share a series of small, often steamed, dishes. My lovely friend Althea and her mother took me out for dim sum while I was in Hong Kong, and we had a great time. Though her tricksy mother did try to sneak in some shrimp-filled dishes despite my strict no-seafood diet.

Althea’s Mom: “Did you like that dish?”

Me: (The one with the obvious fish taste to it I had politely ignored) “It was ok.”

Althea’s Mom: “Ha, there was shrimp in that! You like it, see?”

Me: “Uh huh…”

Chicken Head

Ivy shows off my surprise chicken head!

In China, they like all parts of their meat, and I mean, all parts. But for some reason, the discovery of the chicken head inside our steamed chicken at Grandma’s Kitchen in Hangzhou still surprised me, and I did a little jump in my seat before bursting out laughing at my own squeamishness. I think my host, Ivy, was a little freaked out, but she was still a good sport :).

Peking Duck

Peking duck in Beijing after a long day visiting the Great Wall!

THE dish of Beijing, my picky self was fairly confident that I would not be a fan of the Peking Duck. Gotta say, though, add in a tortilla and some plum sauce, and the stuff is pretty good and a wonderful ending to a long trek on the Great Wall :).

Szechuan Food

Local Sichuan food while having dinner with my host in Leshan.

Also spelled “Szechuan,” Sichuan food is known for its spicy, bold flavors. The region is famous for its food, which is often full of garlic, chillis, ginger and oil. I don’t really know the details of what I ate, I would just point to things and enjoy :).

Tibetan Butter Tea

Tibetan butter tea in Western China

You either love it or hate it, and I definitely loved it! Consumed throughout the day by Tibetans, butter tea is essentially yak butter melted into tea. It was thick and salty and had an overall warming effect, much appreciated when up in the mountains. I thought it tasted like liquid brie!


Best momos ever, though technically found in Nepal…

Though technically dumplings themselves, momos are a Tibetan style of dumpling which seemed to me to just be extra delicious. Dumplings all over China were amazing, though you can find momos in Nepal, northern India and other nearby regions as well. Pictured here are the best I found: homemade, road side steamed momos stuffed with chicken and vegetables discovered outside a temple in Nepal (ok, so technically not China, but you get the drift :)).

Tea Tasting at the China National Tea Museum

Tea tasting at the China National Tea Museum in Hangzhou

Though I am no tea connoisseur (yet ;)), I love tea! While green tea might be China’s most famous, I think my favorite Chinese tea is the ginseng oolong, a light tea that leaves a deliciously sweet after taste. This photo was taken while tea tasting at the China National Tea Museum in Hangzhou, situated amongst its famous green tea fields.

Live Chinese Food

Dinner awaits outside a restaurant in Yangshuo

It was not an uncommon occurrence to see cages, buckets or tanks outside restaurants filled with what would become tonight’s meal. While I prefer to live in the blissful ignorance of not thinking about the animal that had to die for my dinner, China sort of puts it all out there. I remember having a quite delicious rabbit stew with my host in Leshan (my first time eating rabbit!) and then feeling quite conflicted upon spotting the sweet, white bunnies locked up in cages out the front door. In the pet vs. food dilemma, I think I may have to keep the bunnies on the pet side…


Tsampa inside a Tibetan nomadic tent in Western China

A Tibetan staple, tsampa is a simple meal made of mostly barley flour and butter tea. It wasn’t particularly tasty, but definitely gives the body what it needs when trying to stay warm up in the mountains!

Chinese Noodles, Szechuan Noodles

Delicious street noodles in Chengdu!

Whether it be in a restaurant or on the street, you can never go wrong with Chinese noodles! These spicy Sichuan ones here cost about $1 in Chengdu and made for one happy girl!

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Rice and Dragons


As much as I loved Yangshuo, I was told repeatedly that I simply MUST visit the Longsheng Longji Rice Terraces nearby. My time was limited, but I somehow managed to allocate a day and a half to the trip, and it might have been one of the most picturesque places I’ve found in the whole world.

Situated just a few hours from Guilin and Yangshuo, the Longji Rice Terraces are simply a series of rice farms built into the mountains. What makes them special, however, is that the rice terraces are layered on top of one another to make room in the hills. In fact, the terraces are nicknamed the “Dragon Backbone” rice terraces, because the layers resemble the scales on a dragon’s back. The effect is incredible.

Layers of green, brown and blue cascade on top of one another, rippling down the mountain and surrounding the tiny villages below. While I was there in early spring, when the terraces were mostly green, apparently the effect is different and stunning in every season.

Not going to lie, the trip to get to the top of terraces is fairly intense, with seemingly endless steps carrying you up higher and higher up the mountain. However, if you are feeling especially lazy or regal, you can hire porters to actually carry you and all your stuff on a SEDAN (not the car!) and avoid the whole mess altogether. I will admit, I was pretty tempted (those backpacks aren’t light!), but I was not entirely comfortable with having people carrying my load up for me, plus I figured it wasn’t the best use of my funds :).

Ping An Sedan

Porters carry tourists up the mountain the old school way.

But once that trek to the top is made, the view is simply breathtaking and you can walk all along the ridge at a level pace and enjoy the view from different angles. I was alone with a limited amount of time, so I decided to stay around the Ping An village, which has a relatively short walk. Others, however, can take more time and actually hike from one village to the next, but I enjoyed my time alone just sitting and staring at the magnificent landscape.

Here is a taste of the rice terraces below, though honestly, my camera can simply not do it justice.

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