Anatomy Ultrasound (21 weeks)

This week Baby Roder has been moving and grooving in the belly. There’s definitely not a day now that I don’t feel him moving around trying to get comfortable. Before it was hard to tell if I was feeling him or if it was my body gassy or something. Now, it’s definitely him and bizarre as it may sound sometimes can lift my shirt and see my belly physically moving. Wild!

As my body has been changing I have been sharing with Jeff and a couple instances he too was able to feel Baby Roder for himself. Yesterday though, he admitted it got really real for him… it was his first time since COVID being able to come to my doctor’s appointment. And in great timing, it was a fun appointment to be allowed to come to as it was a meeting with the ultrasound technician for the anatomy ultrasound!

For those who may not know (was new to me until I got pregnant) this is an important week as they measure the progression of the growth for the baby and make sure he is growing in proportion as he should. They focus on the heart to make sure all chambers are there and beating, that blood inflow/outflow is strong and steady, that the baby has 10 toes and fingers, that bone growth has started, that nose & lips appear normal (sometimes they can tell if there will be any deformities during this ultrasound), and can share if the baby is a boy/girl for those who don’t do the blood work in advance.

Up to this point all news has been filtered through to me to family/friends, but Jeff was alongside me for this one. He held my hand and could see how they find the baby , see the measurements, and he could ask any/all questions. Jeff was super into it , paying close attention to what the technician was sharing and keeping an eye on me to make sure I was okay. Funny story: he didn’t know for the first 20 minutes (in total took 1 1/2 hours) that I could see on a screen what the technician and Jeff could see on the computer monitor, so Jeff was giving me play-by-play .. until I shared I could see on the screen on the wall LOL. Good news: all appeared normal! Of course, they can’t confirm 100% everything definitely, but from what we saw, he is growing in there… and definitely active! He was kicking me, turning and rolling over in the 1 1/2 hours we were in there.

The most enjoyable part for me was seeing Jeff’s face, seeing him get involved with questions, and definitely hearing his excitement after on how cool that experience was and how this pregnancy now feels more real to him. I guess as a woman I thought that this may not be as fun for him, since it’s not his body changing, but it really blesses me that Jeff continues to show me his depth of love and compassion even if he himself isn’t physically going through the pregnancy.

Here are a few photos from the ultrasound!

Week 21, Confirmed Boy, 1 Lb 2 Oz

Baby Roder sucking his thumb
Baby’s Foot

Finding Your Marriage Community

“I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock”

In creating a solid foundation Jeff and I have been revisiting “community.” If you wonder where your starting point should be on your journey, this is a good place to start! It may begin with the following questions…

  • Is community important to you?
  • What kind of community are you looking for?
  • Where can you find community?

Is Community Important to You?

One of the many things I’ve learned and admire about Jeff is his strong sense of community.  Early on in our conversations it was pretty evident that Jeff was not only surrounded by a close family, but was surrounded with long term friendships, family friends, church friends, college groups, etc.

Of course, community has been something that I have always admired.. but by comparison has not run as deep as Jeff’s relationships. I think it is important to look at our partner to see and acknowledge their strengths and try to aim toward those too… I haven’t been a believer that in a relationship the other person makes you whole… instead I believe two whole people learn to become one. With this mindset I also believe that self improvement is a requirement and should always exist. Although I will say this has become much enjoyable now that I have a partner who heightens the expectations for myself by leading by example. 

What kind of community are you looking for?

In discussions together talking about what we envisioned a successful wedding was and afterward, marriage, would look like we discovered that we both felt our connection with the church and with people our age(s) in the same phase of life has been lacking.

Shortly after discovering this we went to our church, 242 Community Church in Ann Arbor, and was put into contact with a Pre-Marriage Small Group Leader, Albo. We let him know that we were really looking for the following three things: (1) for Jeff and I to become better connected through guided dialog through the church, (2) our interest in becoming connected to the church in a community of people, and (3) the people we are to be connected with to be in similar phases of life with the goal that the relationships built are long-lasting.

Our prayers, were answered! As you may have guessed, the pre-marriage group is now completed with us now married, but truly blessed that we have been in contact with some within the group still and have valued what each couple taught us and continues to teach!

Where can you find community?

You will be shocked, or at least, I was when I was honest in a simple Facebook post that Jeff and I were looking to be more connected and to have a support system during this time of transition… if you’re social maybe that is something that is a place to start. From feedback I’ve gotten, here are other places to find community:

  • Be on the look out for people you know who are married and whose relationships you admire
  • Outreach to social media outlets that you may already be using; I’ve found it white humbling that when I am vulnerable and posting what is on my mind that people do listen and have genuine interest want to help
  • Explore local clubs or organizations that you both would enjoy together (there are apps like MeetUp where you can search “hiking” or “gardening” or whatever and you can see when they meet)
  • Try social events or gatherings where you know there are other people that you may be able to join and learn more about (ie: Trivia, Darts, Pool clubs, gym)

If you’re willing to share, feel free to share your story with your story in the comment section, or any ideas for what more we can look into!

Glass Half Full! (20 Weeks Pregnant)

Fam, we can’t even believe it… we are already half way through pregnancy with our first baby!

Flashback, we got married October 2020. Beginning of January I had a surgery scheduled that both Jeff and I decided we wanted to get done prior to removing my IUD (birth control) and trying for a baby. End of January my doctor cleared me from my surgery and the IUD was taken out. And if we are doing the math right, with expecting baby Roder November 28th 2021, we got pregnant within a month of trying! I say this in excitement because my OBGYN prepared us given our ages (30 & 36, currently) and because I have been on birth control for so long that we shouldn’t expect to get pregnant for at least six months. This would allow my body to re-regulate. From there be patient and track fertility for at least a year before worrying. So when we figured out in March we were pregnant the emotional shock was certainly there, but of course very much blessed.

Because of COVID up to this point with my, maybe, 10 appointments/ultrasounds Jeff has not been able to attend. But coming July 21st will be our anatomy ultrasound appointment & they are (finally) allowing Jeff to come! Now, for some this appointment would be finding out the gender, but we chose to take early blood work during Week 13 and found out then. The reason we decided to do the blood work, is because it would also test our baby for any potential medical conditions and we wanted to have time to prepare to be the best parents. Good news, everything has come in normal thus far and everything has been going as smoothly as we think it could be.

First Trimester: Figured out we were pregnant in week 3. We had a few scares earlier on. From week 4-8 was having some spotting, cramps, and no noticeable symptoms of pregnancy (morning sickness, tender breasts, cravings, etc). Because of this I was visiting with the ultrasound tech for nearly every week for those weeks as they considered me higher risk for a chance of miscarriage; also in fear that it was possible that my hormone levels weren’t adequately balanced since I was just taken off of birth control to continue to carry baby Roder. But through His love and plan officially and thankfully got out of high risk category in Week 13.

Second Trimester: We are in progress in this one folks. Today we are at 20 weeks, half way there! Things have certainly changed. Mentally more calm that we have made it to the second trimester, and the thankfulness and support thus far has been more than I thought I could feel. Also, more tired than normal. Physically, my body is changing daily. To this point I’ve gained about 10 pounds and see a baby bump for sure. Oh, and the cravings… they are now here! Cravings thus far: anything peanut butter, turkey burgers, hot chips, and ginger beer.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

If you’re a millennial on Instagram this rope bridge is a must see. I mean… it is your typical touristy photo that you see your favorite bloggers visit when in Ireland. And, that you’ll be disappointed to know is near impossible to get a photo of just you walking, unless you are there right at open (9:30a), but it is a must see… I’ll tell you why!

Photo 2

Yes, the view is near perfect. Crystal blue waters, beautiful sand, cliffs in the distance, but from here you are only 15-miles away from Scotland with their mountains in view! Additionally, there are spots once you cross over the bridge that provides good yoga, meditating, sightseeing, and relaxing places to get away from the noise and to hear the ocean. Which I had found it hard to find while visiting Ireland. But my opinion comes at a time when tourism is high, July.

Photo 1

Side note: If you are contemplating this visit or Cliffs of Moher, I recommend this stop! There are cliffs in the distance, far fewer people, and a nice bridge to cross! And for some history, supposedly this bridge was made by salmon fisherman over 350 years ago… if you want to trust Wiki.

 

 

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

How to Get from the Dublin Airport to Downtown Dublin

I generally plan transportation in advance to/from where I am going when landing to a new place. This time, however, I refrained because booking in advance was extremely extensive $60/each way, and I knew if I procrastinated when I got there I could find a cheaper option. And yes, even looked to see how long it would be for me to walk to the hostel if needed (1 1/2 hours).

When arriving to the public transportation section the typical methods, taxi, shuttles, and busses were available.

  • Taxi estimated cost 50-70 euros
  • Shuttle bus 25 euros
  • Bus 6 euros each way

Do you want to guess which one I chose? You guessed it!

Okay, so the bus… walked to the bus pick-up area. I arrived at 4am, so you can imagine the resources available to answer my questions were limited so I had to figure out. The map of which buses go to which cities and locations was of no help unless you know the district you’re staying. That said, I aimlessly wandered for a good 15 minutes, probably looking like an idiot to those who I thought had it figured it out (more to come). I finally found a website listed on one of the bus signs that noted “avoid the lines book your ticket in advance.” That website: http://www.aircoach.ie. Here you can book online.

Second obstacle, where are you headed? Again, it listed all these districts, but this time it had several “Downtown District” options. I could have researched where my hotel was relative to these district locations but at this point I was just in a hurry to get Downtown and away from the airport, so I selected the “Downtown District O’Connell Street.”

I headed back to the bus stop area, again passing by the people who I found out were waiting for the ticket office to open, which was not until 8am. Again, this was 4am…. uhhhh! I did let them know of the website, but they insisted that the ticket office would have to open soon… I hope they made it alright. Us stupid millennials and our technology (I’m just saying, we are resourceful!).

Okay next hurtle, buses started to come, but none of them said exactly where they were going. So like a true tourist I entered every bus asking the driver by showing my receipt if I was on the right bus. After 2 wrong ones, I found the right one.

Also, luckily, the ticket I bought to O’Connell Street ended up being the right one.  Thank goodness too because they don’t take credit cards on the bus. However, I will say all the people in Ireland are extremely hospitable and willing to help, so knowing that now that I have returned, if I hadn’t picked the right stop I am sure they would have taken me as far as I needed.

I used the same website to book my trip back to the airport, which is a hell of a lot easier since it blatantly lists DUB Airport as the destination. I will say if boarding from the O’Connell area there are about 5 stops to the airport, so plan at least a 45 minute trip (30 mins to get there and 15 mins worth of stops).

Resources:

Air Coach Bus Link

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

Abbey Court Hostel, Downtown Dublin

On this trip my most common question was how and why do I stay at a hostel. The answer is really quite simple… it is the cheapest way to stay somewhere, generally is safer since surrounded by many people, and because it is a great way to meet new people from all over the world.

Trust me I have had my fair share of bad hostels, but I have found recently that trusting in the ratings by people who stay at hostels has been to my benefit, even if for a little more per night, for the stay.

My Rating:

I would rate this hostel a 10/10! Nothing negative to say!

I highly recommend to anyone staying in Dublin to stay at the Abbey Court Hostel!

Location:

The hostel is located near the city center, and in walking distance to nearly everything, including all the tourism agencies, so that you can make best use of your free time!

29 Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin, D01 AX90, Ireland

Cost:

Each night at the hostel was 94 euros (~$110) for 6 nights, approx. $18USD/night.

Cleanliness:

The hostel was very clean! They have signs throughout the hostel noting that they clean between 10pm-5am. All the bathroom, toilets, and showers, were extremely sanitary. Although they didn’t have cleaning signs up for day cleaning it was evident someone was keeping up with general maintenance throughout the day.

Number of Bathrooms & Showers:

Each floor had 3 general bathrooms, and at least 6 showers. The only time I found it difficult to get in was around breakfast time at 7:30am.

Breakfast:

The cost per night also included breakfast each morning served at 7:30am. My recommendation is arrive about 15 mins early so that you can get dibs on the fresh and best food available. Choices included: cereal, fresh meats, cheeses, pancakes, oatmeal, and fruits.

Accommodations:

  • All women bunk options:  I stayed in 10-bunk room. It was actually quite nice as all the girls were extremely respectful of space, and turning off the lights early at night, and quiet when leaving each morning.
  • Luggage Drop- Off: if you are in between places, or you arrived earlier than the check-in time you can leave your luggage at the front desk for 8 euros.
  • Free Walking Tours: This hostel, among some others, had free walking tours daily generally with two time options, 11am and 2:30p
  • Lots of Common Areas: This hostel had a smoking section that was nicely decorated that had some outdoor access located near the basement of the building, a study area with access to the Internet for free, and a large kitchen area where people often played games, met for dinner etc.

 

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

What You Should Know Guide When You Visit Dublin

1. Irish Currency

There are two currencies in Ireland. If visiting the Republic of Ireland (Dublin, Galway, Cork, etc.) the currency is the Euro. If visiting Northern Ireland (Belfast) the currency is the English Pound.  If visiting each side they do not take the other currency so come prepared.

2. Credit Cards

In most main cities in Ireland credit cards are accepted. The most common credit cards include Visa and MasterCard. They do not accept AMEX in most places.

3. Weather

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but according to the residents in Ireland it rains 330 days of the year, with it being unheard of that there is no rain for more than two days at a time. So, plan accordingly!

4. Food

There is no material change between US food and Irish food. The average meal is 8 euros for breakfast, 10 euros for lunch, and 14 euros for dinner. If you’re looking for authentic Irish food I recommend their Fish & Chips, and Corn Beef and Cabbage!

5. Drinks

Being the home of Guinness and Jameson those drinks are often the cheapest. Drink are on average are 8 euros, more if venturing off to the Temple Bar area and cheaper if willing to go to the local pubs.

6. Chargers

You must buy a wall adapter to charge your devices! You can buy these before you leave in Target’s travel section for $10 that includes many different adapters for each continent. If you wait until you get there you can purchase for 8 euros at your local hostel, or if you go to the travel agencies they sell them in their dispensers for 4 euros!

7. Tours

If looking to book a tour I recommend you plan ahead! Many of the tours I went on were fully booked, and did not have same day availability. You’ll find if you book through the same agencies they will give you a 5 euro credit if you book more than one tour through them; something to keep in mind when planning ahead. Popular tour groups were: Paddywagon Tours, Finn Tours, and Dualway Coaches.

*The tour busses leave on time, and are very serious about arriving 15 minutes before our scheduled time. I can tell you firsthand they left people behind.

**Most hostels set up free walking tours. I paid for mine in advance and attended both. They were nearly the same. I’d recommend taking the free one.

8. Temple Bar Trap

Temple Bar area is popular among 30-somethings and most tourists visiting… it’s where the parties are at night. This area is known for increasing the cost of drinks as you drink and the night goes on, so be mindful of that!

I will have a separate blog for my top 5 bars in Dublin of those looking for good spirits at night.

9. Closing Times

To make most of your time while visiting you should know that most museums close at 5pm, restaurants stop serving food around 10pm, the bars during the week stop serving alcohol at 11p. Coffee shops opened around 7am, and places with food generally an hour later. No wonder why they were all skinny!

10. Popular Places to See for the Day

If you’re time is limited don’t leave without visiting the following places:

Trinity College with tour to see Book of Kells

Guinness Storehouse

Walk around Temple Bar

Dublin Castle

O’Connells Street

 

 

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child in NYC

Back in the Day….

I’m going to take you back quickly to 5th grade, for me. I was sitting in class and this one girl, Lauren, made mention that she was reading a new book series. You guessed it. It was Harry Potter… I heard the story plot she was raving about and kept thinking, magic… that’s stupid. The following year, 6th grade, the teachers were forcing kids to “want” to read. So, we were tasked with reading a number of books throughout the year. By this point everyone was reading Harry Potter and I was wondering what all the hoop-la was about. So, giving in to peer pressure I read the damn thing. And to my surprise… although I tried to fight it in front of them…I loved the first book. I forced myself to read, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” in its entirety before watching the trailer (yes I waited so long to read it was becoming a movie).

To this day… there hasn’t been a book, series, that I had felt so connected to the characters, so out in a different world, so committed to see through to the end. Each page flowed to the next with anticipation, heartbreak, and excitement.

After completion of the book series I was kind of bummed. I mean it all made sense, school had to end for Harry…

Growing Up…

Fast forward to college… I figured out that Platform 9 3/4 was an actual platform located in King’s Cross Station in London. This was one of my first international trips, this one with my mom. And you better believe visiting the platform was on the list. Walking throughout the station remembering parts from the movie, surreal.

Later…I heard that Universal Studios was going to open a Harry Potter section of the park. I kid you not, I had to be one of the firsts to go. Having gone with my friend, Gaby, I was in awe. From first view of the castle it was heart filled excitement. Butter Beers for those who wished, but the best part was entering the castle… the pictures on the wall talked (just like in the books and movies), the staircases moved, the attention to detail was not missed. I remember repeatedly just saying “but this all looks too real.” I again went back in when Universal when Gringotts Wizarding Bank opened. Again, in awe.

Just Recently…

Needless to say, when I heard that play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was releasing in London I was geeked with excitement. I immediately started my search for flights, hotels, tickets, etc. What I didn’t budget for was the immediate sold out play when I went to go in for the purchase! Months later I was checking my work e-mails, and found out that Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was coming to NYC! I signed up for the mailing list, and waited for the release of tickets. Having learned my lesson about the sold out tickets for the one in London… I set an alarm and upon the release time frantically clicked, refreshed, and attempted to book my ticket.

Cost…

Single-ticket in the worst seats $1,100 (for both Part I & Part II). I couldn’t digest that. I told myself I would let the hype dwindle down and keep periodically checking. Following weeks I checked with prices going down no more than $699. And then… talking about needing to see the signs… I received an email from an airline company reminding me that I had 40,000 miles that would expire if I didn’t use by the end of May. I looked up various places to go and visit, needless to say for me to not have to pay anything my choices were between Orlando, Chicago, Baltimore, or New York. New York was the pick. After I booked the flight I again went to look at ticket prices and saw on StubHub there was a single-ticket left for a Saturday afternoon/evening show, and the price…. $299. SOLD!

The Play…

I had never been to Broadway, and all the raving of the theatre scene IS what everyone cracks it up to be. From walking up to the front doors with the Lyric Theatre decked out in Harry Potter posters, signs, etc., the magical feeling was in tact. Walking into the big ballrooms with many small clothing stores, and a food area, you could feel everyones’ excitement. I mean, whoever is willing to pay $299+ per person to see MUST love Harry Potter, yeah?

I found out my seat was literally the furthest back row, but it did not stop the experience. The play picked up where the books left off. Harry has kids who are entering Hogwarts, and his son has to figure out how he is going to fill his dad’s shoes. I’m purposely leaving out the plot as being a visitor of the play we have been told to #KeepTheSecret of the story.

But Wait….

I do want to take the opportunity, though, to share that although the main characters since the book have changed, and the quirkiness of what is the play is a bit different with a lot of the typical theatre-like skits, it was magical. Most impressive were the special effects of the play. There were times when characters were going back in time and the whole stage vibrated, and you could hear the audience go “ooooh.” There were also times when people would go through walls, phone booths, and fireplaces and it seemed so real I forgot I was watching a play with real people and it wasn’t an edited movie. A very well-done production, which I am sure literally is setting benchmark for future play performances.

Was it worth the time & money? 

Absolutely! I live by the saying that “we only live once, so we better live purposely.” Of course time and money don’t always come to balance, but when it makes sense, GO… do the things you dream of doing, see the plays you wish you wanted to see, take a trip by yourself even if you’re scared of feeling alone, just go out and LIVE. Live, laugh, love, and learn.

IMG_1473Processed With DarkroomIMG_1484IMG_1466

10 Places to See While in Beijing… COUNTDOWN

10. Chinese Doctor 

If you’ve never been to see a traditional Chinese doctor, it is an experience whether you choose to believe their practices or not.

I remember walking in a school of medicine downtown Beijing with my mom (as part of a tour) and sitting waiting to this doctor to do a free consultation. I was hesitant at first since the room they put us was not of a traditional US patient room it was more like a movie theatre (sketch or no?). I mean… comfortable chairs and a big screen tv in the front. We watched a movie for 5-10 minutes going over traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the ways they tell symptoms: through examining your tongue, and feeling your pulse through your wrist.

After the movie the doctor came in with his students started his consult with the person closest to the door… first feeling her pulse, then looking at her tongue. The translator asked a couple questions “are you in pain now” and “what is your stress level 1-10.” After 30 seconds the doctor diagnosed her with two herbal solutions to her back pain, and left shoulder problem. Total cost for those herbs ($500+ USD). I looked in shock. In 30 seconds this lady bought what was recommended. He moved next to my mom, said she was healthy then moved to me. I had made up my mind before even being consulting my answers to his comments were going to be no, because I wasn’t going to try anything from a man who couldn’t even speak my language to tell me what was in what he would recommend. He commented “you work in an office,” “you are happy…that’s good,” then asked,”do you have menstrual problems in your lower stomach?” I laughed and said no. He gave me a look like he could tell I was lying. Afterward I had asked Danielle (the lady who was with us on the tour and spent so much money on the supplements) why she trusted him. She mentioned that she has had terrible shoulder pain and when she is stressed it causes her arm to not go higher than her chest. She added that she was amazed that someone who didn’t know her could have known that so she wanted to try it. After her story I reflected back on what the Chinese doctor told me…. he was right, I do work in an office, I am happy (most of the time), and he was spot on about having troubles with my menstrual cycle. Now, looking back I will always wonder how he knew.

So, not say you have to go– but if looking for an experience and in China you should see what the Chinese doctor would say to you. Share with me if you do!

9. Silk, Jade, and Pearl Stores 

Do you know that silk comes from a worm? And that when layered across each other it is not humanly possible to break real silk? And, did you know to tell whether or not you are buying silk you just twist it, and if it wrinkles it’s fake? This is the stuff you’ll learn by going to a silk shop. I made the mistake in coming here as the last part of the trip, by then I hit my budget for what I could spend and did not have the $50 for the pillows that were softer than a babies bottom!

As for pearls… I GUESS if you try scratching a pearl with a knife and you wipe away the residue and it looks like it was never scratched then it’s real. I don’ know they are super cheap anyway, so if this style of jewelry is your thing get you some!

AND did you know that jade is the stone of China, since it brings luck, happiness, and longevity. Lord knows I needed it. And, it’s true if you go to the actual Jade factory they have the cheapest. I was a skeptic on how prices would jump up/down based on where I was and ended up missing the chance in buying a real jade from the factory, and instead bought a knock off that ended up costing the same (the Jade factory was too far to go back).

These thee places are traditional Beijing visits if looking to wander and be more immersed in culture.

IMG_9859

8. Beijing Zoo- Panda Exhibit 

I had seen koala bears in Australia, so I had to go see the pandas in China right?!

I am so conflicted in how I feel about zoos. The millennial in me hates the idea that we catch animals and put them for showcase and encourage the capture by paying an admission ticket. Then the other half of me rationalizes in saving animals in the wild that are going near extinct, nursing them to health and then mating them to increase their population, for future release. I’m on a tangent….

If you’re about the zoos, go see the biggest pandas you can imagine! You should see these!

7. Ming Tombs

I made the mistake in not researching this place to understand the historical importance, because I thought my tour guide would help bring me to speed. But when you can’t understand the tour guide you quickly learn the importance of knowing where you’re at before you go!

Let me fill you in… in China there is a rich history of many emperors and other government powers that have made lasting impressions to current cultures and traditions.. A lot of these have been dated back to the Ming Dynasty which spanned for nearly 300 years starting in the 1300s. The relics, clothes, replicas of goods (clothing, silvers, jewelry, sketches) found, buried, and treasured from this time cane found at the Ming Tombs.

The tour starts above ground where you can see the original brick and cement walls from the Ming Dynasty. As you walk toward the back you can start to enter different sacred buildings, prayer temples, and toward the end can go underground to see replicas of the tombs. If you’re at all a history guru, you should check out a tour here to feel a part of a history very different than our own.

6. Tea House

I have always enjoyed a good cup of tea! Little did I know that China is one of the main distributors of tea; I had thought it would have been India.

If you’re in China it is tradition in their culture to serve your tea to welcome you to their home, store, or hotel. Most commonly you’ll be served Jasmine. But, at the tea houses throughout Beijing you can enjoy Rose, Citrus, Jasmine, Black and Green Teas. They show you how to property pour tea, how to blend tea with cut-up fruit, and how to greet guests by using tea. This is an experience that had me wanting to return home for a tea party! This is a perfect stop if you’re looking to add some balance and zen in your trip to Beijing!

IMG_9787

5. Shopping Center 

If Time Square tickles your fancy, the Beijing shopping center will not disappoint! This city center was full of people, street food/venders, shops, and also the entrance way to the city center plaza where you can get a bunch of authentic Chinese delicacies including  living scorpions on a stick.

This was one of my most memorable stops of the entire trip to China, and one I would highly recommend! Food recommendations: caramelized strawberries, fresh mangos and pork buns!

4. Temple of the Heavens

This beautiful temple is located on Beijing’s south side, where many ceremonies occur. The temple was made to represent the balance between heaven and earth. If you visit I’d recommend going early, otherwise you’re bound to have someone if your perfect shot!

image 4

3. Summer Palace

If you’re looking for the best IG photo-worthy photos, here is your place. And, you must go near sunset. This beautiful park is situated along the water and has many tiny treasures to find as you walk through, over and under the many trails and paths! It is here, too, that many of the locals fly their kites, make prayer/wish ribbons, and go to enjoy the tides that come and break near the bridges.

IMG_9978 3

2. Forbidden City/ Tiananmen Square

Have you seen Mulan? The large square at the end of the film you see where Mulan saves the emperor from the Huns… that’s near Tiananmen Square and part of the Forbidden City. If you’re going to China this is a MUST. What I didn’t know was the limited access one has to enter the Forbidden City, especially during Chinese New Year. Luckily for us (mom&I) we planned months in advance for this tour which allows us within the walls of the 100+ acres totaling 999 buildings (why not 1000? They count earth as the last room).

Spending the time/money to make it here won’t disappoint, just ask the 15 million annual visitors!

Processed With Darkroom

1. Great Wall of China

What is a trip to China without seeing the iconic Great Wall of China. Yes, it is as beautiful and as grand as you see in photos. Yes, it’s worth the journey to go! Yes, it spans over the eye can see, and yes, this made this trip to China 100% worth it. So much so I will have a separate blog dedicated just for it!

LRG_DSC02813 2

15 Things to Know if Visiting China

The stresses of planning for any trip can be a lot. Considerations to hotel, flight, food, and transportation are all things to consider prior to leaving. Especially, in China where the required visa forces you to have your trip booked in advance. Often times we forgot of the little nuances and cultural changes once we get to our destination. Below are 15 things to know if visiting China if you’re planning a trip.

15. No One Speaks English 

I used to think there were two universal languages, a smile and English. That was until I visited China. English is rarely spoken by most people, in fact asking for help is almost pointless unless you have the translation in the Chinese language, thank you Google Translate. I thought this language barrier would make it hard place to visit, but pointing and asking for a “photo menu,” in most places gets you where you are trying to go, or eat. To help, I recommend you bring a map that has the places you are looking to go before adventuring out because all road names are in Chinese & if trying to limit the use of your phone the good old fashion map works great. I found, most hotels have English & Chinese version of their maps, which was a huge help. 

14. Cell Service and WiFi 

Before leaving for this trip I was happy to find out that I would have, with Sprint, free 2GB of cell speed and texting in China. Call costs were minimal costing $0.20/minute. Researching AT&T for my mom, we found that cell service with the company was about $10/day. Needless to say, the costs are quite minimal if needing to connect. 

If you are looking for free, Wifi was available at most common areas, but when hopping on was extremely slow. 

*Tip: Bring a charging stick, or port. It was rare to find any charging stations when visiting places. As a result, when you did find them they were always packed. 

13. Don’t Rely on Your Credit Card, Bring Proper Chinese Currency

It is rare that I bring cash with me at all. But, after reading some blogs before I left on this trip I discovered that American credit cards are rarely accepted in most places. In fact, the only places that accept them we had found were in the shopping areas the tour groups would take you; and trust me you’re paying a premium for it; the cost of the products in these areas are a lot more than you can pay in the markets. 

If looking to transfer monies at the airport, the cost typically to do so is a $10 service fee and the exchange rate difference. To get more, this requires you planning ahead and knowing how much you want to take with you in advance and getting the currency exchange with your local bank. Estimated time to get the monies back is 7-days, for it to be guaranteed in time. By me waiting until I got to the airport I ended up losing $70USD in fees and exchange rate, where my mom only had $10USD with Chase. 

The Chinese money can take you a lot further than anywhere I’ve visited. Normally, I would say bring $50USD/day for food, transportation, and misc. costs. But, food on average is 50RMB/meal ($7USD). I’d say 650RMB ($102USD)/week would be comfortable (food & transportation). 

*Helpful Tip: The common currency in China is WeChat & UnionPay (credit card). Both of these require a Chinese bank account be established with pre-paid funds in order to make purchases. 

12. Get Comfortable in Bartering, or Accept Losing Money 

I’ve never been too comfortable in trying to find what something is worth. Maybe because I have been so used to the American culture where everything is fixed, where the value has been pre-determined and where supply/demand seems to have worked. In China, you’ll find it an easy place to barter especially when choosing to walk away and the price you were getting comfortable in paying is slashed in half, and has you again question the value. 

My suggestion is before buying anything walk around and understand the varying prices, this also helps with buyers remorse. 

From my experience food should never be more than 40RMB (and that’s for a full meal including drink), and gift goods should be no more than 50RMB. In one instance my mom and I were haggling for cheap earrings, she started at 100RMB, by the time we were walking away for the 4th time she was down to 20RMB, and we finally negotiated at 15RMB (Yu Garden). Same place, different store we were interested in potentially getting a necklace that would have the English name with Chinese translation next to it and she started at 150RMB, and when walking away negotiated herself down to 20RMB. That’s right. You’ll know which places allow you to barter, because whenever you walk away they will lower their price and the places with fixed pricing usually have it listed in the door way (almost none of them). 

And, if looking for real jade. Ask for the Jade of pearl. The ones with lighter green are worth more, and on average are around 80RMB (for 1 inch by 1 inch), and can go up to 3300RMB. In the Yu Garden you’ll find the best in what you’re looking for, and because there are so many vendors they are willing to take a lot less so they have your business rather than their neighbor. I ended up getting a Jade of pearl Buddha for 15RMB. 

11. Don’t Bother Renting a Car if Beijing or Shanghai is Your Destination

Typically, I like the option to leave, and feel liberated by having a car. However, due to many affordable and abundant public transportation options, and the high traffic & aggressive drivers I’d say using public transit would be more relaxing. 

By far, the most cost effective way to travel is by bus. It is 2RMB ($0.03USD) for each bus transfer. This allows getting around to be extremely cheap! The most difficult part of taking the bus is figuring out which bus to take and what stop to get off at. This is where going to the nearest hotel and pointing using your map becomes quite handy. 

If you elected to use your cell service, you can always use Google maps to find where you’re going and just hop off when you know you’re nearing. 

*Mindful Tip: If using the bus you must have exact change. If needed, your hotel can provide you small change. 

**We found that costs for taxi cabs started at 20RMB, and based on the distance went up from there. To best estimate we found it is approx. 5RMB/5 mins.

10. Booking at Hotel Near the City Center Pays its Benefits

By now, most of you know that I love AirB&B and prefer a more authentic cultural stay, than to stay at hotels. This trip I chose to book a hotel because (1) the tours I booked would pick-up/drop off from your hotel, very convenient, and (2) I wanted to visit many of the tourist attractions which most in China are near the city center and within walking distance of the “first ring” of hotels. 

The best way to find your hotel for your stay can be using booking sites like Hotels.com, and sorting by distance and cost to the city centers. 

If visiting Beijing I would highly recommend the Novotel Beijing Peace Hotel it was $100/night + breakfast. Because we were staying more than 4 nights they upgraded us to a suite with no additional cost. And, the breakfast…FABULOUS. All you can eat food, they had a pastry section, cereal, fruit, egg, lunch/dinner food area, tea, and coffee areas. The hotel was about a 20 minute walk from the Time Square of Beijing, which was full of high-end stores, as well as from the outside market(s) with authentic Chinese foods and stores. 

If visiting Shanghai I would recommend the SSaw Boutique Hotel. Right when you walk in it smells like an Abercrombie store, that was a great start. The hotel was the cheapest hotel within a 15 min walking distance to Yu Garden (a must see if looking for the Chinese style buildings, food markets, and handmade gifts). The cost was $89/night. Upon entrance they welcomed us with tea, recommendations based on the weather (raining) and time (since it was a holiday). Additionally, they went as far as booking our massage for us, and provided us a map and directions to the nearest bus stop in order to get there. Unlike any other hotel I’ve stayed, they had an online app that helped lay out unbiased opinions of where to go and what to see including estimated costs, open/close times, and feedback from their guests who have tried the places. This was a treat as this leg of our trip was not as planned as Beijing.  

*FYI: The beds are not mattress-like, what you expect in the US and other places. They are more of a box-spring. At home I have a plush and soft bed, so this was quite different. After the first night, I realized this relieved a lot of back pain. 

*Mindful Tip: Be prepared to have them put a hold on your credit card for incidentals, similar to what they do in the states. They run your card and pull the amount, and when you check out, they run it again to provide a refund. The first hotel we stayed held 1200RMB ($189USD), and the other held 400RMB ($63USD).

9. To Be Early is to Be on Time, and to Be on Time is to Be Late- BYE!

We found that in the Chinese culture, being early is to be on time. Most of our tours had hotel pick-up at 6:30a, and almost always showed up 15 minutes earlier. Keep this is mind because it goes for the use of bus, trains, and scheduled appointments. And, if you show up exactly when you’re supposed to then you’re too late and they leave without you. My mom and I watched many trains and tour guides leave without their necessary people. Maybe we Americans should start doing this to get people to value each others’ time just a little bit more. 

8. Second Hand Smoking, Expect It

I am convinced that the Chinese don’t wear the masks due to the smog/air pollution, but rather because of all the people smoking. I have never been in a place where avoiding walking next to a smoker was nearly impossible. Beijing was full of smokers. I ended up buying perfume to spray my clothes at the end of each night. 

7. Get Pushy, or Get Behind 

I used to think the asian women at the grocery stores in the states (weird saying because I’m asian, but I consider myself Americanized) were rude because they pushed you without saying excuse me. Well now, I believe it to be culture. People here push their way through to get from point A to B. I don’t know if it’s because there are so many people, or if because the value of time is so important in their country and they don’t want to wait on someone who isn’t ready. 

When my mom and I went to the zoo, we thought we were waiting in line for the cotton candy to find out a women with her money ready pushed her way to the front and got service. 

Because of this, I recommend planning out meeting points throughout the trip in case you get lost in the shuffle. Especially since when the “walk” line turns green it’s a free for all on how you make it across the street, and if you aren’t forceful enough you will be bullied behind everyone. 

Also, just know that people in China stand closer together, and personal space may not be what you’d be used to. Again, I think this goes along with saving the time.

6. Where’s the Toilet & Toilet Paper?

You better start learning how to squat before you leave. In most places there are no toilets as we are used to seeing them. They are holes in the ground. You use them facing the door, and when you’re done usually they auto flush if they have a sensor, or it will auto flush when you open the door. Also, bring/buy toilet paper before you need to go. Most places don’t have the luxury of carrying the paper for you. 

When on a tour your guide will generally lead you to the nicer “10 star rated” toilets. But, most of the time you’re on your own. 

5. No Tissues, No Problem, They Spit  

I read a lot before I came to China that a lot of people spit. Come to find out when visiting it is because they don’t use tissues instead you’ll see them plug one side of their nose and blow. Sounds unsanitary for us, but you’ll notice it quite a lot. For peace of mind, you’ll find in midnight hours the streets are thoroughly washed. But, keep this in mind if you ever drop something if it’s worth picking it up. 

4. Book a Tour Guide 

In most English speaking places it is easy to create a self guided tour. But, in China finding anyone who speaks Chinese is difficult, so best understanding significant places, is truly best by planning ahead through various travel agencies and travel sites. If you need recommendations just ask me! 

In Beijing, we had two tours planned, (1) Great Wall of China, Ming Tombs, Jade Palace, and a Tea House and (2) Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Chinese Doctor & Foot Massage, a Silk Shop, Summer Palace, Temple of Heaven, and a Pearl Store. These tours gave us an overall understanding of culture, understanding of customs, and historical significance of places seen. 

These tours in Beijing are quite cheap compared to tours I’ve booked in other countries. For an 8 hour tour, including lunch and transportation we paid $40-$70 per person. 

In Shanghai, we elected not to take any guided tours. Instead, we elected to do a hop on/off bus, that had English speaking recordings that are sensored when passing certain buildings. My mom and I have historically found these quite fun to give a good lay of the land when we are unfamiliar of where to go. 

3. Authentic Chinese Food is Different than American Chinese Food

Many people before visiting China told me not to expect the food to what we are used to having in the US. In my opinion the food was comparable, just not filled with salts and heavy sauces. The sauces were quite light. 

On one of our tours we found that based on the region of China you visit, the food varies. In the north (Beijing) the foods are more salty and fried, in middle/east region (Shanghai) the foods are more spicy, and in the south region the foods are more filled with rice and organic veggies. All of which were palatable and tasty. But, not what we are used to tasting in a US Chinese restaurant.  

2. If You Plan on Visiting More than One Chinese City, Use a Train!

Prior to visiting we knew that we were going to visit three different places throughout China. Similar to the US there are methods of airplane from one part of the country to the next, but can be quite expensive. We found that taking the train was the most cost effective and time saving option. 

We took a train from Beijing to Shanghai, then from Shanghai to Guangzhou. From Beijing to Shanghai the train was about 4 hours and cost approximately $200USD, and from Shanghai to Guangzhou took about 8 hours and was about $300USD. 

1. Arrive to the Airport Early, I Recommend at Least 3 Hours

To have more peace of mind I recommend that before you go to your flight make sure you call your airline and retrieve the ticket numbers, and your airline carrier name. Most people at the airport only speak Chinese so figuring out that these are the two things you need before you arrive will save you an hour; or at least that’s how long it took my mom and I. 

My mom and I had booked our flight to/from using Delta, however, when arriving to the Guangzhou airport we found out that “Delta” did not exist. Instead the carrier name was China Eastern. Once we found this out we thought our hurtles were past us. Come to find out that the American flight confirmation is not enough, the ticket number is also needed; which isn’t known until seat assignments have been arranged. Calling your flight carrier to retrieve this information is easy, so long as you have cell service. 

*Helpful Tip: You can not check-in if you are within 45-minutes of your flight, you are too late. And, you can’t board if you’re within 15-minutes to your gate.