Sri Lanka never really crossed my mind as a destination, but my husband happened to get a bug in his brain and started doing a ton of research, discovered that it was a direct flight from Beijing, found decent-priced airfare, and ended up planning a trip there during our spring break. I went not really knowing what to expect—just willing go along for the ride and see what we would find.
It ended up being a spectacular break. We loved it so much we could see ourselves going back.
[For runners who are interested in a description of the course, a review of the event organization, or logistics about registering for the marathon, feel free to skip my musings about pre-race jitters and race agony and scroll down to below the slideshow.]
I consider myself a reasonable person. Yes, I have my
prideful whimsical moments when I overestimate my abilities by just a tad, but I think I’m usually I’m a pretty conservative judge at how much I can manage at any given time, and I’m not afraid to say no when I’ve reached my limit.
View of Hong Kong from Ocean Park Tower
Hong Kong is a popular destination among many of my Beijing friends, and for good reason. It’s an inexpensive flight, and once you’re there, it’s an easy city to travel within. The public transportation system is extensive and easy to use. There aren’t any language barriers because so many people speak English. Hong Kong is a beautiful city. It’s clean. And there is a lot to do.
There is so much information out there already about what to do in Hong Kong and how to get around, I feel a bit silly writing about it myself, and yet, we had such a good time visiting during the Chinese New Year holiday, I can’t help but chime in and add my two cents.
When we returned to China in August this year, my family decided to be committed to exploring China rather than remaining in our expat bubble here in Beijing. I really did have good intentions of recording and sharing our adventures, but intentions are one thing . . . and (clearly) our actions might not match them in the long run. But now, here I am, remembering my commitment to record our adventures. The most significant one we took this year I absolutely loved, but it was ages ago, and I have yet to talk about it.
During the China National Holiday in October (yes . . . it’s taken me that long!), my children were released from school for a week and we decided to try something totally new and go on our first road trip in China to the city of Hohhot in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. We really enjoyed our time there. It was nice to see parts of China outside of Beijing where we live, and it was a trip that I would definitely recommend to other expat families here.
We’ve been in China now for one year. The ease we had in returning to China after our summer break in the States shows just how much we learned during that first year. The second year in a new country is so much easier than the first.
Though our transition last year went as smoothly and easily as it possibly could have, I look back on my family’s first year in China, and can’t help but notice that we didn’t explore China all that much. For most of the year, we were consumed with finding a house, getting settled, figuring out how to get around, and helping the kids find their groove and thrive in it. For the most part, we worked hard to find our comfort zone and then we decided to stay there.
About eleven years ago, while I was living in Korea, a running friend and I tried to register for the Great Wall Marathon. When we realized how cost-prohibitive it was for nonresidents of China to run one of the most difficult marathons in the world, our plans never materialized.
I stored the idea away. And for the next several years, every time I’d amp up my running or fitness routine, the Great Wall Marathon would move to the forefront of my consciousness. I’d play with the idea for a while and then tuck it away again, thinking maybe the Great Wall could still be a someday.
Once the weather turns nice, my family loves to be active outside where the kids can get their wiggles outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Here in Beijing, that can get tricky. Not only does the weather need to be nice, but the Air Quality Index (AQI) needs to be favorable. When the stars align and both of those things happen on the same day, you better believe we’ll take advantage of it.
When we moved to Beijing, we decided to live in the suburbs (Shunyi District). This meant we were far from the parks and activities that downtown Beijing could offer us, but we were close to the international schools and where most expat children live. When we first arrived, we wondered how many amenities we would find in the suburbs so far from the city center, but soon after we arrived, we were fortunate to discover a stunning park area a short drive away.
A couple weeks ago, when my children were released from school for spring break, we were eager to get away and experience something new. Many of the expat families we know who travel around Asia have recommended Hua Hin, Thailand. I had visited Thailand only once in the eleven years I’ve lived in Asia, and I happened to catch a virus that, for the whole week, made my head feel like it was going to explode. With so many recommendations for the particular resort that we stayed at and the great deal we found on air tickets, we couldn’t resist the temptation to go and give it another try. I was ready to make some new memories of Thailand—ones that included the country itself rather than feeling miserable and unable to get out of bed.
Finally, the cold winter weather is getting warmer. This past Sunday was beautiful. The Air Quality Index (AQI) was low (below 50) and even with the chili breeze, my family was itching to get out and explore.
I mentioned in a previous post that living in the suburbs makes it difficult for us to get into the city, especially since every Saturday and Sunday we have commitments like Kung Fu lessons for my son, Skype calls to family back at home, and church on Sundays. We live far enough out that a commute into downtown takes up a lot of time, but we just couldn’t help ourselves on Sunday. We came home from church, grabbed a snack and left right away. During our explorations, we found a treasure that will surely become a favorite place for my family—a park I know we’ll go back to many other Sunday afternoons.
Happy Chinese New Year, everyone! Living in China certainly has its challenges, but it also has its perks, among them being that my children get Chinese holidays off from school, allowing us extra time to travel and explore. This week my children were off from school as China welcomed in the year of the monkey.