Our Trip to China
Ah, vacation photos. For me, they are my souvenir when I go on a trip. I rarely buy trinkets or bring things home. I love to sample the culture, food, and activities while I'm there, and I happily snap away with my camera- capturing the memories of my experiences. Think of this blog post as the old-school slide show your neighbors would show you when they got back from their trip...sort of boring (and long), but a fun way to share my experience with you.
When I booked the trip, I didn't pay attention to the layover length, and mistakenly booked us for an 8-hour layover in Seattle. It's silly, really, considering Seattle is only a 3-hour DRIVE away. Despite the lengthy layover, we opted to stay in the airport, as we wanted to avoid additional TSA lines. We spent quite a bit of time napping and walking all over the airport, and it was actually surprising how quickly time passed. SEA-TAC is one of my favorite airports, so really our time there was quite pleasant.
After booking our trip, we opted to upgrade our seats to comfort +. I'm really glad we did. I don't usually sleep on airplanes, but I did manage a 2.5 hour nap and a little dozing between in-flight movies. Zoe also managed around 3 hours of sleep. Our flight was 13 hours from Seattle (our longest yet!), but it passed fairly quickly. We landed in Shanghai around 6pm, and took an hour cab ride to our hotel. By the time we made it, we were completely exhausted, so it worked out well that it was nighttime and we could go right to bed.
Waking up in Shanghai the next day felt surreal. Our hotel had the BEST breakfast I have ever seen complete with hot pot, omelette station, and...fried rice (for breakfast? Yeah, and it's delish). We went on a private tour of Shanghai after breakfast. We saw "The Bend" (where one can find some stunning waterfront views), the Old City, the Shanghai Tower up close, and the people's square. Our guide was super knowledgable, and took us through some amazing food markets, a jade store, and authentic chopstick store along the way.
After our tour, the van dropped us off at the pier for our cruise on the Quantum of the Seas with Royal Caribbean. Checking-in at the pier was a breeze. We were hurried through the lines, and boarded the ship within 30 minutes of arriving at the pier. This was by far the biggest cruise ship I've ever been on, but it came with crowds... There were people EVERYWHERE, and lines for EVERYTHING. We grabbed a quick lunch at the buffet on-board, did a little exploring on the ship, and retired to our room. I was happy we sprung for the balcony, because it was a welcome relief from the chaos of the main ship. (#Introvertproblems)
The second day and fifth day are spent at-sea on this itinerary. On the way out, the seas were calm. We had an opportunity to try out ifly (indoor skydiving) right on the deck of the ship. Zoe has been begging to try it since she found out Andrew and I did it without her in Portland a few months back. I'm pretty sure she giggled the entire time. She also went swimming at the indoor pool, played on the bumper cars multiple times, and checked out the kids camp. Andrew, his mom, and I mostly just relaxed. We took naps, went to shows, and checked out the on-board entertainment. Almost everything was in Chinese, but that didn't stop us. Karaoke is JUST as fun to watch in Chinese as English.
On the third day of our sailing we pulled into Okinawa, Japan. The island is beautiful, and HUGE. Royal Caribbean takes you by shuttle bus to the center of town, and from there, we grabbed a cab to Shuri Castle. We originally were unsure whether we would even make a stop at the castle, but I am SO glad we did. It was one of the highlights of the trip. We paid the small entrance fee and walked the grounds for hours. While at the castle, we stopped by the tea room for a traditional Japanese tea ceremony in one of the original princess rooms of the castle. After tea and a bit more exploring, we hit the gift shop and headed back to the center of town for a late lunch. Honestly, we probably could have explored longer, but we ran out of energy. Plus, it was HOT, and we were sweaty...and hungry... Lunch in the city center was over-priced, and the rice whisky was stronger than gasoline, but I'm glad we tried it. We returned to the ship after a little shopping, and pretty much fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow.
On the fourth day of our sailing, we continued our tour of Okinawa, Japan. Like the day before, we did not book any excursions. We hopped in a cab headed for a Pineapple park on the north end of the island. Traffic on the island was horrendous, and after being in the taxi for over an hour, we decided to detour to Cape Manza, which is an elephant-trunk-shaped cliff around the center coast of the island. The scenery was breathtaking and well worth the stop. From there, we walked to Nabi beach. The sand was a beautiful peach color, the water was crystal turquoise, and there was plenty of shells and sea glass to be found. There were a few moments of panic that our cab driver wouldn't be coming back to take us back to the city center (cabs are few and far between around there), but she came through and we were so grateful. We had some mango ice cream and visited the Pokemon store before returning to the ship.
As I said, the fifth day of our trip was spent at sea. The seas were incredibly rough, and I was thankful for the dramamine patches I packed. We spent a queasy morning at the character breakfast with Shrek and Puss in Boots, watching out portholes as waves slapped the windows and the tilt back and forth swayed the drapes. We slept and hung in our cabin most of the day.
The next day, we were back in port in Shanghai. The lines to get off the ship were incredible. After spending over an hour with people pressed up against me in places I only let my husband touch, we managed to get off the ship and to the cab line. It took an hour and a half to get to the airport, where we caught a plane for Beijing. We were exhausted by the time we made it to Beijing, but our hotel was in this amazing area walking distance to Wangfujing street (sort of like the Beijing TimesSquare) and night snack market with some interesting local flavors. Andrew and I walked up and down the street sampling different foods, and took back fried scorpion for Zoe and Andrew's mom to try (they did). Our hotel room was MASSIVE- it had a full kitchen, dining, living room, two full bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, and the master had a pool-sized tub. After the long day of traveling, I totally took a swim in that bathtub!
The following day in Beijing was probably the best of the entire trip. We were up early for a full-day tour. The van that picked us up only had one other couple, so it was something like a private tour. We started the day by walking Tiananmen square and entering the Forbidden City. We spent several hours walking around and learning about the Palace. Zoe loved it because it reminded her of Mulan (sigh.), which is actually the basis of the Imperial City seen in the movie. We were stopped many times for photos with the locals, which had happened throughout the trip, but for some reason it was much more prevalent there. After the Forbidden City, we stopped by a Jade factory, and watched them carve jade by hand. We then traveled two hours to the base of the Great Wall of China and had a traditional Chinese lunch. From there, we walked the giant hill to the base of the gondola, which took us to the top of the hill... only to walk more stairs and hills to the actual wall. As our tour guide said, "It is great, and it is a wall." It was an amazing experience to stand in a place from my school textbooks- one of the seven wonders of the world! After the Great Wall, we started the two and a half hour drive back to the city. On the way, we stopped at a Chinese spa. They mostly just wanted to sell us all sorts of remedies for all kinds of ailments we didn't even know we had, but we did get a foot massage and had some cupping done (you know, those giant circle bruises on the back of Michael Phelps during the olympics).
The following days were mostly full of travel and without much excitement. We woke up the day after our Beijing tour to travel by plane back to Shanghai. We walked some of the markets, grabbing some soup dumplings and peking duck and shopping for trinkets. We had originally planned another tour of Shanghai that day, but after all the travel (and traffic) we had already experienced, we just wanted to relax and rest. We went back to the airport the following morning to come back home. Zoe woke up with some insane allergies (we assume from the pollution), so we spent our time in the Tokyo airport tracking down a Japanese version of children's Benadryl. Our flight home felt shorter, but maybe because we had the stop in Tokyo along the way.
Coming back home was rough. We arrived around 10am Portland time, and couldn't resist a short 2 hour nap (we had to set an alarm, as we would have gladly slept the entire day). It took us a little over a week to adjust to the time difference coming home (it is a 15 hour difference between Shanghai and Portland). We woke often in the middle of the night, and were up for hours. Jet lag is no joke! Overall, it was a great trip, and I'm super thankful to have experienced it. Feel free to send me a message, email, or comment below if you would like any additional China travel tips! Here are some more of our trip photos: