It’s safe to say I’ve always had a fascination with China. From the time I spent poring over maps as a kid to thumbing the pages of a National Geographic article of ethnic minorities of China, it’s always held my attention. So why have I traveled through Europe, the Middle East, to South America, lived in Central Asia, and taught English in five countries all while somehow avoiding China (with the exception of a four-day layover in Beijing in 2006)?
That is a very good question. One I wish I had a good explanation for.
But the time has come. I’m minutes from boarding a flight to Hong Kong from Washington, DC, via JFK. A friend of a friend has kindly offered her apartment in Hong Kong while returning home to visit family during the winter holidays. There I’ll be meeting Juno Kim, of RunawayJuno.com fame and spending about two weeks in “Asia’s World City” before heading off to China proper.
The plan is to spend about three months total in the south of China, first making our way south to tropical Hainan Island, then to the famous dreamy limestone landscape of Guilin, through Guangxi, west to the mountains and cultural diversity of Yunnan Province. I read that whatever time you think you want to spend in Yunnan, double it. I believe that, and I’ve heeded the advice.
After Yunnan, we hope to go north into Sichuan, where the pandas live, before hooking up with Yangzi River. We’ll make our way east through the ancient villages of Hunan, Hubei, and Anhui.
Sometime in the spring we hope to jaunt over to Taiwan for three to four weeks to check out what many have been calling one of Asia’s most underrated destinations. I also plan to visit a friend I met while teaching English in Madrid. He’ll give us a good perspective of what the life of a foreign English teacher is like, and insight into Taiwanese food and culture, all while catching up with an old friend.
Another reason now is the time to get to China is because there is always the fear that the US will pressure the Chinese into revaluing the yuan, thus creating a more expensive China for US travelers.
By the start of May we hope to be in Vietnam. Disappointingly, I had to postpone my travels in Vietnam during my last trip to Southeast Asia, simply because I spent too much time in Thailand and Laos, and didn’t have any room to squeeze the Vietnam segment into the allotted timeframe.
This is the first time in recent memory that I am not packing light. It’s not that I don’t want to, but because I have to. I have minimal clothing packed and a lightweight sleeping bag. What’s really loading me down is my blogging gear: a 14” laptop, external hard drive, camcorder, digital SLR camera, point and shoot camera, and five guidebooks.
All in all, everything I’m carrying fits into one medium-sized backpack, and one carry-on backpack that’s smaller. It still might be less than some travelers, but for me it’s a lot. I like to pack light for many reasons, but mobility is probably my biggest incentive to set off with the least amount of baggage.
Carrying all this blogging gear will slightly alter the style of the trip. We plan to make home bases as we travel, staying longer in fewer places. This will give us the opportunity to make side day trips to do more exploring.
With all this equipment and working together closely with fellow blogger (and better photographer), Juno, I hope to really improve the video content as well as my photography.
Hope you’ll join us over the next 5 ½ months for an in-depth look at the modern-day travels through Hong Kong, southern China, Taiwan, and Vietnam.