china part 2: the journey begins


To start things off, I'm going to begin with saying that this is not going to be a formal travel guide. I'm not going to tell you what sites to see, what restaurants to eat at, or useful phrases for getting by. Rather, I'll take you to the places I went, and best capture the scenes that played out before me. It will be a recount of my voyage from Philadelphia, PA, through Shenzhen, and to Hubei province in the heart of China. I'll let you in on the alleyways my brain wandered down while discovering the two small towns of Mengxi and Nanping, along with the city of Gong'an. It all starts on the second story of a Philadelphia row home...

People would ask me if I was excited to go to China. Of course I was, but I had to admit, I had no idea what to expect. Nobody told us much of what would happen or occur once we arrived. I knew my brother was getting married. I knew it would happen in my sister-in-law's middle-of-nowhere hometown. But beyond that I had nothing to grasp. I was headed for China, that in itself signifies an adventure, and that's all I really needed to get excited.

To prepare my bags, I had a mental checklist of musts to bring along. As a seasoned traveler, I recommend the following for anyone getting ready to set out  on a big trip:

1. A small note book & writing utensil
I always used to bring along my big sketchbook. As nice as it is to have, the added weight just isn't worth it. Keep a small notebook for your thoughts, things you want to remember, and leave it at that.

2. Your favorite jewelry
By bringing along jewelry, it means you can pack less clothes! Change your look day to day by switching up the necklace. It saves room in the suite case, and helps to make you feel like yourself while traveling.

3. Two new books
If you're like me, traveling is the best time for reading. Bring along one book on something you've been wanting to learn more about, and another that is just a good story. Especially if you're in a group, you'll find a lot of moments where you're waiting on other people, so they'll be good to have. They're also great for the plane/airport. I usually bring one in my carry-on, and keep the other in my suite case.

4. Digital camera + lenses
You're going to get the best photos of your life while traveling. Simple as that. If you've been thinking about getting a new lens, get it a couple weeks before your trip, and bring it along for the ride. These are moments and scenes you'll want to remember forever.

5. An adapter
Honestly, I'm the girl that sticks her phone in her suite case and doesn't take it out the whole trip, but it's still good to have an adapter on hand. In case you need an alarm clock one morning, you can plug your phone in. If you're big into music, you'll definitely want your phone charged. I can also guarantee that someone will need to borrow it at some point and they'll be very happy you brought it along.

So I was all packed. Hopped on a nighttime plane off to San Francisco where I would meet up with my brother, Ilario. From there the two of us flew to Hong Kong together. We arrived at 6am, the airport was empty, and we flew right through. Once on the other side, we found the groom to be, our big brother Ben. It had been about two years since I'd seen him in person. He's grown so small living in China over the years. Almost like living there, he's turned into a little Asian man himself. 

From there we took a shuttle to the Chinese border. This is always my favorite part. The landscape around Hong Kong is like an epic scene from the future. Tree-covered mountains jut out of the water. Massive elegant bridges create a highway from one to the next. They look as if the aliens built them they're so beautiful. As you look around giant skyscrapers, like something out of The Matrix, pop up in clusters. Everything is graceful. Nature and humanity's power combined.

We arrive at my brother's complex in Shenzhen. It's a new building and you're able to book unrented apartments like a hotel. Ilario and I get a little home all to ourselves. I have a tiny comfortable room. It's simple, it's white, and it has a private balcony. I look out over a sea of skyscrapers. This is nothing you ever see in the US. They don't end. The go on for days. And to just think, 15 years ago this wasn't even a city.

Our day in Shenzhen included some hair washing, massages, manicures, and tasty food. All set for the wedding portion of our adventure, we went to bed exhausted. In the morning we woke at 5:30am to head to the airport. Our plane got delayed because of bad weather. It was the beginning a holiday weekend in China, and so all the other flights and trains that we could take in case of a cancellation, were booked. It was a little scary, and we didn't know if we would make it to the wedding. I knew that the universe couldn't be so cruel though. It might tease us, but there was it wasn't going to get us there. So we ate, played some cards, and a few hours later were able to take off. Wuhan, here we come.

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