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My first experience with acupuncture and cupping

I've always been curious about acupuncture. So many people tell me how awesome it is and how well it works. I've been having problems over the past year with what is probably a torn meniscus in my left knee and tendonitis in my right shoulder. I figured I should go ahead do it while I happen to be where it was invented -China. (ok, well technically I am in Hong Kong..)

Shoulder with acupuncture needles
Relaxing full of needles. It doesn't even hurt!

Is Cambodia really safe for tourists?

Cambodia is much more dangerous than I realized. Here in our nice guest house with wifi, I was curious about how often tourists are robbed or attacked. I heard that Phnom Penh is way more dangerous than where I am in Siem Reap, but I didn't realize how widespread the crime and violence truly is. From where I sit, Cambodia is a friendly and relatively safe place, with pickpockets and scam artists trying to get a couple bucks being the most common kinds of crime. I found a blog- Traveling Mark- by a blogger who has spent 5 months in Cambodia. At first I dismissed him as racist- he calls all Cambodians lazy and says they will all scam you when an opportunity arises. But then I kept reading. Unfortunately it seems that my view is extremely sheltered and superficial.

Yangshuo cooking school

The Yangshuo cooking school was an awesome experience. The school has beautiful views- we ate our dinner in an open air dining area overlooking large rice fields, gardens and big beautiful mountains. The teachers there speak very good English and taught us both Chinese cooking techniques and local Yangshuo specialties. 

The cooking set-up is two long tables of students facing each other. Each student has a single burner gas stove and all the tools he or she needs. The teacher is at the head of the two rows. We gathered by her as she demonstrated each dish before we made it. When it was our turn, she talked us through it as we cooked.
We made a total of five dishes. Pictured here are stir fried bok choy, eggplant Yangshuo style, stir fried pork with carrots, green beans with bell pepper, and steamed chicken with goji berries, Chinese dates with rice wine. We also made minced pork dumplings but they were the appetizer and I ate them before I thought to take a photo. 

The cooking class at the Yangshuo Cooking School taught me the secret to really good eggplant and how easy it is to make really diverse food with just a wok and a few ingredients. I'm excited to share the flavors of Yangshuo with my friends and family when I get home. 

Climbing in Yangshuo

The sleeper train pulled into a city I can't remember the name of and I was actually well rested. From there, we walked through the warm mist to the bus station where we could get on a bus heading to Yangshuo.

When the Karst mountains first appeared on the bus ride, I thought we were there, but Yangshuo is not at the beginning of the range. The Karst mountains seem to just go on forever. The landscape is absolutely captivating. The mountains look like fingers reaching out of a pool.  I had a similar feeling to the ones I had Yosemite and in the North Carolina mountains- hugged and protected by the steep surrounding mountains. Unlike North Carolina, the land between them is flat and slow moving rivers wind between the towers. This flat, lush land is perfect for agriculture.

Once in Yangshuo, we headed to the staff flat and climbed up to the roof. Even on a hazy day, the view was stunning.

We had the rest of the day to ourselves, so we decided to spend a couple of hours climbing. Tony, Fernando and I piled into a taxi to head to the closest crag- The Wine Bottle. The approach was easy but extremely muddy and I almost fell countless times. Wine Bottle is a nice crag, and we had the place to ourselves. The only problem was, there is the "Butterfly Cave" across the valley. The Butterfly Cave is a big tourist trap and there are loads and loads of buses dropping off and picking up tourists so we found it annoyingly loud. Sometimes it was hard to communicate with the climber because of all the honking. 

This is the view from the top of the climb:

Looking down at Tony and Fernando:

After climbing we had a HUGE meal at a really awesome Chinese restaurant and then enjoyed the scene from the roof again. They illuminate the mountains at night, and although it is completely unnatural and probably ruins stargazing, it really is awesome. Because of those lights, everyone can enjoy the beauty of those mountains even at night. 

Overnight Train to Yangshuo, China

Last week, I was lucky enough to be sent to China for a Dragonfly program. I got to visit Yangshuo, a place that has been on my list for quite a while. Yangshuo is in a valley surrounded by the stunning Karst mountains. Yangshuo is world famous for its beauty and also world class rock climbing. More on that later :)

To get there, we left Hong Kong via the MTR and crossed the border into China where we hopped on an overnight "hard sleeper" train. This was my first overnight train experience! I thought the train was very nice and clean and relatively quiet. There are six people sleeping per little doorless "room" so it is quite tight. The middle and top bunks are too low to properly sit up in. Often people snore, babies cry, people fart and smoking is allowed in the spaces between cars so much of the experience depends on who is around you. Lucky for us, we didn't experience too much of that and I had a good night's sleep.

Here is a photo of Tony's bed. Don't let the GoPro fool you, it is not as spacious as it looks. 

My bunk

In the above photos, the train is very empty. When we got on, there weren't many people at all. That all changed when we pulled into Guangzhou and our peaceful train filled to the brim with people. A family from the UK pilled into the compartment next to mine and we started chatting and sharing snacks. They even took a selfie with me. There is also a Chinese lady in the photo who I think realized what was going on and decided to smile too. 

We did experience some banging and bumping when the train started moving and came to a stop and a few other random times. I think it probably had something to do with the hydraulics between the cars but I'm not sure. The first time it happened, I was unnerved but I got used to it. On the way back we rode with the school kids. One of the teachers was a bit freaked out by it. She has been on many overnight trains in Europe and they are very smooth with no jolting. I guess the trains in China are safe. No one seemed upset or nervous and it happened both on the way there and on the way back, so I guess the bumping is normal. 

An eventful day

Today I caught an early ferry out of Mui Wo because I needed to be in Hoi Ha to prepare for the Dragonfly outdoor ed school program tomorrow. As soon as I got there it was time to head out to visit the camp where we'll be staying. The Hoi Ha resident monkey was out and about wreaking havock on trash cans and eyeing us for food. He often hangs out near the end of the road where the bus stops. If you have groceries in plastic shopping bags he'll attack you and steal your food! He is fat from eating human food from the garbage.

We hopped on the light bus and headed down the mountain. At our stop, we headed into the jungle. The BGCA camp is located in the hills surrounding Sai Kung and overlooks Bamboo Bay, but getting there involves a 30 minute walk along a narrow, winding concrete path through the jungle. 
Bamboo Bay:

Along the was I spotted this rather large snail and tested out the macro on my iphone. 
We passed an old village with a little museum inside surrounded by maybe old, maybe recent ruins. 
The camp is very well kept with tons of cool stuff like a high and low ropes course, two climbing walls, playgrounds and more. So far this is my favorite camp. 
The little bungalows we'll be staying in:
A pretty impressive climbing tower compared to the other camps:
After our site visit we headed back to the staff house in Hoi Ha for a meeting and more planning. When you're an outdoor instructor, planning frequently involves going outside and exploring. Mukund and I hadn't been to the mangroves or up the stream in Hoi Ha where we will be taking the kids, so we headed out with Eilidh (pronounced aylee- it's Gaelic) to 'research.' First we hit the mangroves and found some ominous changes had taken place. Currently Hoi Ha is a very small village in a remote area surrounded by the Sai Kung Nature Park. The nature park includes areas of forests as well as waterfront areas including mangroves. There is a big struggle happening currently because a big building company wants to construct dozens of homes right in the area of, and the hillside above the mangroves. As far as we knew, the deal wasn't done and no construction had begun. What we found today was different. Tons and tons of sand has been brought in and dumped- drastically reducing the water flow into and out of the mangroves. 
I was here two weeks ago and would not have been dry standing where Mukund is standing in that photo. The water around the mangroves was very stagnant and now filled with algae and there were a dozen or so dead fish. It seems obvious to me that the process of filling in the mangroves has already begun. 
Algae on mangrove roots and in the water:
After the mangroves it was time for the stream walk- where we walk up the stream that flows down into the mangroves. We had fun jumping from rock to rock and ducking under the hanging vines. We followed a trail from near the top of the stream that winds through the woods and back down to the waterfront.

 The trail passes a big beautiful banyan tree. A banyan tree this big is probably thousands of years old.

That's all for today :)

Getting back to blogging

It has been over a year since I posted last- such a long time! Honestly just the thought of trying to write about all the things I've done in the past year seems so overwhelming; so I've decided to just start fresh where I am right now. Here is a quick list of what has happened in the time between my past post and now:
-I went to Nepal with Tony and we did the Annapurna Trekking Circuit.
-I got a job at a girl scout camp working with horses in California- drove cross country by myself and worked in the mountains along Highway 1 south of San Francissco
-I visited Tony in southern Thailand where I relaxed on beautiful beaches and went deep water soloing
-Two of my best friends flew to meet me in San Francisco and we had the most epic cross country all girls roadtrip ever. To see photos go to instagram and search #fancyroadtrip
-Got home and worked for Backstreet Leather

The plan for this year:
I am currently in Hong Kong working for Dragonfly Adventures. I'll be here until May when I'll leave to go to Thailand to work for Rustic Pathways. My time off between jobs will include exploring Hong Kong, China and maybe other countries in this region.

Phew, now that that's over with, here are some photos from Hong Kong.

A view of the island Lantau where the town of Mui Wo is located, which is where I live

The Mui Wo beach