It was not an easy task to convince Hubby that doing a half-day trip to a Buddhist Temple would be an exciting use of our time. He’s normally a great sport about everything—I come up with crazy lists of family adventures I want to try, and he plays along and agrees to fight the congested Beijing traffic and play the navigator as we figure out how to make our way to the different places on my list. Tanzhe Temple was like that. This particular temple, the oldest in Beijing, was on my list because I love spring . . . and all the blossoms . . . especially magnolias. And Tanzhe Temple is a great place to see them.
Hubby, however, isn’t quite as into the blossoms like I am, and we’ve lived in Asia for thirteen years now and, well, we’ve seen a lot of Buddhist temples. The drive to Tanzhe would be about an hour-and-a-half (but unpredictable because of Beijing traffic). In his eyes, it was a long drive for . . . another Buddhist Temple.
So how did I get him excited to go?
During the first week of April, my children were off from school for spring break. I had recently made my Beijing Bucket List for spring and was eager to start checking things off that list, especially because I wanted to see those places while the spring flowers were in bloom.
Beijing air quality has been dramatically improving in the last three years, and this year, the air has been phenomenal . . . that is, it was until spring break rolled around. It was pretty frustrating to have my kids with the week off of school, the temperatures perfect, the flowers in bloom, but have air so bad that I didn’t want to leave the house, let alone take my kids hiking.
As luck would have it, though, the cold air started blowing from the north and cleared out the smog. Yes, it was really cold, but I’d take cold clean air over polluted warm air any day. My family took advantage of the clean air and day off school to go to the Great Wall. Finally. After almost three years of living here and listening to my son ask questions and spout facts about this famous landmark, he finally got to walk on it himself.
Despite the snow and hale this week, spring has definitely sprung here in Beijing. I love Beijing in the springtime. Flowers (magnolias, cherry blossoms, forsythia, and so many more), cleaner air, warmer temperatures . . . there is so much to love about springtime in Beijing.
I’m not a fan of cold weather, so my family usually enjoys indoor activities during the winter, and by the time springtime rolls around, we’re busting to go out and do some hiking or bike riding.
When I read this article from ThatsBeijing which gives suggestions for where to enjoy the spring blossoms, I started making my Beijing Bucket List for spring—things I want to do with my family in the next few months. It’s hard to say how much longer we’ll be privileged enough to live in Beijing, and I want to do better with enjoying the city and all it has to offer while we’re here.
What’s on my bucket list? Here. Take a look . . .
During our stay in Phu Quoc, we tried a couple of tours around the island. Our hotel (Famiana) used a company called John’s Tours which offered a menu of land and boat/snorkeling tours. Another company called Red River offered similar tours.
My kids weren’t big enough (nor could they swim well enough) to go snorkeling, but even if they had been old enough, I had read (and heard) too many poor reviews of the snorkeling around Phu Quoc island. Based on what I had read, Phu Quoc is not the best place to go snorkeling.
But we still decided to give a couple other tours a try. We went on a Night Squid Fishing Tour and a South and East Island Land Tour.
In my last post I talked about Vinpearl Safari and Conservation Park and what a great time my family had there during our trip to Phu Quoc Island. Vinpearl Land (an amusement park and water park) is located right next to the Safari Park. You can find their official website here.
We had such an unexpectedly good time at Safari Land that we had high hopes for the amusement park as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t think this park was worth all the hype it had received.
The day my family spent at Vinpearl Safari and Conservation Park was probably my favorite day in Phu Quoc, and we almost decided to skip this attraction completely. I’m so glad we decided to go.
I started the day disappointed that our original plans were canceled. We didn’t intend to go to the Safari Park because, despite the good reviews, we watched some unimpressive YouTube videos that made it look like a rather mediocre zoo. Yes, it is a zoo (and my family has been to a number of zoos), but it’s not mediocre by any means.
In recent years, Vietnam has made a humungous effort to make Phu Quoc Island into the next Phuket. They have built a new airport and have been consistently adding direct flights to the island from all over the world. They have also relaxed visa requirements. While a visa is still required to go to mainland Vietnam, many tourists who go to Phu Quoc, plan to stay on the island, and will leave in less than thirty days don’t need a visa. And it’s worked. Take a short drive around the island and you’ll see all kinds of development projects. Open your ears and you’ll hear a huge variety of languages. While there, we met families from Sweden, Germany, Italy, and Russia.
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.