Sunday, June 30, 2013

Home Sweet Home

I don't know why, but I was almost surprised by how excited I was to go back to Nanjing. I was tired, and I wanted to go home.


It's nice to take the time to remember that China was home. We loved our life there.

Anyways, we got back LATE (or early, however you want to look at it) and we were very excited to crash and go to sleep.

We had reserved a hotel room for the parents at the hotel right next door so we wouldn't have to all crowd in our little studio apartment and we had set up bed spaces for everyone else at our place before we left so we could just get in and go straight to bed. Spencer took Mom and Dad to check in while the girls and I went up to our apartment and just a few minutes later Spencer walked into the apartment...with the parents...and all of their luggage. Turns out the hotel NO LONGER TAKES FOREIGNERS. My jaw literally dropped as Spencer tells me this. So here's what happened: the Chinese government requires everyone to register wherever you go within the country. So, for instance, if you live in Nanjing and go to Beijing for a week then you are supposed to register with the police in Beijing so they know that you're there. To facilitate this process, the government has it set up so that hotels can register for you (which is why you have to present your passport at every hotel in China). Apparently the law had just recently changed as to how hotels do that, and the hotel next door "was not equipped" to handle the new system.

So it's 2:30 am, we're all EXHAUSTED, and we have to completely rearrange our entire apartment to make sleeping space for everyone.

Let's just say I was less than pleased.

And in retrospect, I realize that we never took a picture of our crazy sleeping arrangements. Shame on me.

So with our late night, we decided to throw all our preconceived plans out the window for our first day in Nanjing. We had a mountain of laundry to do, we were all tired, and we just needed to recover from a week of going nonstop. So we stayed home instead. We did laundry, played games, and Spencer and I gave out presents.

Fireworks, baby!

I miss this view...

That night for dinner we went to Spicy Joint, one of our favorite restaurants in Nanjing, with the remaining Flagship couples (most of them had gone back to the States by then). We ended up waiting for FOREVER to get a table because there were so many of us, but it was a very fun night and we really enjoyed introducing Spencer's family to our friends and to some of our favorite Chinese foods.

Low-key, but very productive. And that was day one in Nanjing.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Big Banyan

One of the local landmarks in Yangshuo is the Banyan Tree. I'll be honest, this wasn't the most exciting stop (it's just a tree, after all) but we always have a good time no matter where we are.

Yes, that is one tree.

The Big Banyan Tree is a an ancient, huge tree that is said to have both magical and medicinal properties. It is said to have been planted somewhere between 581-618 AD and it branches out so wide that they had to plant other smaller trees underneath to support the huge arms.

After staring at the enormous tree with dropped jaws for a few minutes we explored the surrounding park and enjoyed resting there for a while.

The bathroom had toilets (rare in this area) but the facilities
were anything but clean.

This lady followed us around for almost
15 minutes trying to get us to buy something,
even though her prices were ridiculous.

Then there was this cute old lady selling flower wreaths that she had made for two whole yuan. That's a whoppin' 33 cents.

Of course I bought one, do you know me? Have to help out the local economy, right? We also supported the economy by playing with monkeys and trying sugar cane.

On our way back to the hotel we ended up stopping at the city park (partially due to Brigette and Krystal's spill) and a few people hiked up to the top of one of the nearby karsts whilst others recuperated.

Whilst. That's a fun word.

And that was it for Yangshuo. We scooted back to the hotel and then were off to the airport. Some day, if dreams really do come true, Spencer and I will go back and spend another week or so there. If you ever go to China, GO TO YANGSHUO. You will thank me later.

Over the Moon

The first official stop of The Bowen Motorcycle Gang was Moon Hill. Since the parentals had just barely taken their spill they decided to sit the hike out, so we children ventured out on our own.

Moon Hill is a steep but fairly short hike. It was HOT and majorly humid that day so we worked up a pretty good sweat getting to the top.

I really wanted to go all the way to the top of the peak, but because of time constraints and the idea of broken parents waiting for us at the bottom we decided to head back down just shy of that.

It was a great hike with an amazing view and it definitely helped us get some exercise. And then we were on to the Banyan Tree...

The Bowen Motorcycle Gang

No, we didn't actually ride motorcycles. I promised my dad when I was 12 that would never get on a motorcycle. We rode motor scooters instead. There's a difference, I promise.

So the one thing that you absolutely MUST do if you go to Yangshuo is rent either a bike or a scooter and just ride. Yangshuo is a small, quaint town surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. It sits where the Li and Yulong rivers intersect and there is NOTHING like riding out and just soaking up the wonder.

I didn't take any pictures of the scenery (crazy, right?) so I
borrowed this pic from a friend to show what the area
looks like

Because we were a little short on time (and, well, because we wanted to) we rented scooters instead of bikes. We ended up getting four bikes, so Spencer and I, Mom and Dad, and Brigette and Krystal shared while Bryonna was on her own. And despite some side adventures, this was my single favorite day of the entire trip.

It started out a little rocky, but we finally eventually all got the hang of it.

Shortly after Spencer and I tumbled over. Oops.

Doesn't Krystal look so excited?

Oh my freedom. I had never understood the allure of riding a motorcycle before, but I am now a believer.

Chinese lady who tried to get us to pay her to guide us.

Realizing that she didn't take us where we wanted to go...

Checking the map. The streets didn't have signs we we were
trying to go off landmarks.

Caught in a mini traffic jam

We rode and we rode and we rode. And I LOVED it.

This guy is a beast. He passed us THREE times when we stopped for
pictures or to check the map.

Now we didn't go without accident. Momma and Papa Bowen took a big spill when they were cut off by a truck, so they were pretty banged up and tender for rest of the trip.

And Brigette and Krystal took a spill of their own. Out in the country there was very little traffic (most of the time) but on our way back into the city we ended up in the busiest section of the city and had to drive through a roundabout with cars coming from five different directions. They were cut off and ended upon the ground. Luckily Krystal was mostly unscathed, but Brigette ended up with some pretty awesome cuts.

Pretty much we all ended up on the ground except for Bryonna. So kudos to her! But again, despite our bumps and spills we all loved the wind in our hair and just cruising down the open roads.

And Dad, despite my love for the wind flowing through my hair, I still promise to stay away from motorcycles.