SUMMER RE-CAP

I've been putting off blogging for awhile and fully embracing the 'part-time' aspect of my instagram title. To kick off summer David and I went to Marbella for a family holiday. I still don't think I got my fill of fried fish and cold claras. Already looking forward to a trip back over Christmas holidays. 

In other summer news, it seems I wore white as much as possible (also stayed indoors as much as possible with Shanghai's recording-breaking high temps). My girlfriend May and I joined a pilates studio and have been loving it - even recruiting a few more friends to join us in the madness. It also helps that there are some great cocktail spots nearby for a small refresher after class!

FIRST HALF MARATHON!

Running buddy Claire and I kind of accidentally registered for this half marathon in Yinchuan. Turned out to be a great trip to a place that previously wasn't on our radar. There were some cool sites just outside of the city - like the Western Xia Mausoleums - where we ran into many other runners touring before the race. Yinchuan has a high muslim population with culture and cuisine that is very different to east coast China. 

And now for a montage of me in orange - yuck. It was a bit of a struggle getting our race packs as two of the five foreigners registered for the race but finally we got our bibs and trackers. We stayed in the Kempinski Hotel which was just across the street from the starting point which was super convenient. This was the first race that I tried muscle tape and I LOVE IT. My legs did not get tired until well beyond the halfway point.  

I'm very proud of myself for completing the half and am looking forward to the next race - hopefully in a location with better air quality AND proper training beforehand. My pace was a lot slower than I would have liked, but work got in the way and I hadn't really been training the two months leading up to the big day. Possibly Shanghai Marathon this November?

EXPLORING THE SILK ROAD

Yikes, it's been over a month since my last post. Lately both work and downtime have been busy. Last week we spent hosting a close university friend of mine, touring the best bits of Shanghai.  So, David and I headed to the northwest corner of China to exchange tromping city streets for hiking mountains and sleeper trains across Gansu province. 

There are two landform parks in Zhangye. The rainbow mountains get all the attention, but while you're visiting a stop at neighboring Binggou Park (冰沟公园). The landforms are steep red rock formations that tower into the sky. Travel to both parks is easily navigated via public transport. 

We opted to visit the Danxia Landforms (丹霞地貌公园) in the afternoon, hoping for better sunlight to reflect the colors of the rocks. Before the trip I had google image searched the rainbow mountains and was prepared for disappointment. I admit I was worried that most photos of the landforms were photoshopped. However, once we arrived in the late afternoon the prominent stripes of color were amazing. Our photos probably don't do the scenery justice, after all the optimal viewing is during a summer sunrise or sunset. 

After Zhangye we took a late night train to Dunhuang (敦煌). The two main sites to see are the Singing Sand Mountains (鸣沙山) and Mogao Grottoes (莫高窟). Dunhuang as a town is quaint by China standards, though in September 2016 underwent a massive renovation to host a cultural expo. The streets are newly paved, clean, and easy to navigate with no lack of signposting - Chinese and English! Similar to Zhangye, public transport is the best option for getting around though taxis can be hailed or negotiated to hire for the day. 

The sand dunes are only 3 kilometers from the city which offer a magnificent view. Once at the park you can hire a camel to explore the dunes. For an extra twenty yuan, the camel lead will serve as a personal photographer throughout the route - she comes armed with her own catalog of poses. 

The Mogao Caves are also known as the Thousand-Buddha Caves and is one of the best known Chinese Buddhist grotto systems in China, along with Longmen Caves (which we visited in 2012) and Yulin Caves (on the list to see). No photos are allowed within the caves so I don't have much to share. The wall paintings alone are worth the trip. Here is an article on the reverse pipa, a national symbol of China, which visitors can see in one of the cave's murals. 

While in Dunhuang I advise travelers to make a stop by the town night market. There are many local specialities to try which differ from other regional Chinese cuisines along with dried fruits and nuts. Near the night market there are a string of cafes, offering milk tea and wifi with soft sofas for sinking into after walking all day.