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Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

Guest Post – Guide to Fenghuang On A Budget

How much does a trip to Fenghuang cost? How to travel to Phoenix Ancient Town in the most economical way? Those may be the popular questions if you are planning for the journey to Fenghuang Town. In the following article, I will share with you some experiences to help you make this dream come true only with a limited budget. In my opinion, this trip is the most suitable for those who are between the ages of 18 to 26.

General information about Fenghuang

Fenghuang, or Phoenix, is the name of an ancient town in China (more than 1300 years old). It is located in Fenghuang district which is a county of Hunan Province under the administration of Xiangxi Autonomous Prefecture. It is nearly 300km from Phoenix Ancient Town to Zhangjiajie city which is also a famous tourist destination in China. To come to Fenghuang Ancient Town, you have to go through Zhangjiajie first, therefore you can combine traveling to Zhangjiajie with the trip to Fenghuang.

The landscape of this wonderland is seemly taken from the historical dramas. There is a diversity of population structure because it is the residence of ethnic minorities, most of which are Miao, Han, and Tzu Gia groups. Fenghuang is also the economic, social and political center of the region. Next to the Da Giang River, the ancient town still retains many ancient citadels, streets, houses, manors, temples, and pagodas. Its age has made Phoenix Ancient Town become one of the living museums of ethnic cultures: 1300 years.

At night, the town seems to be more sparkling, more beautiful than the day. The lights from ancient bungalows down to the surface of the river create a fanciful and ancient scene for the town.

In general, the weather in here is quite comfortable and the best time to visit Phoenix Ancient Town is the spring. Based on my experience, you should avoid coming here in any Chinese national holiday, especially in the Independence Day of China, because on these occasions, Fenghuang will be more crowded.

To ensure the plan of working and studying, you can visit here in summer or any long holiday of the year because Fenghuang is beautiful all year round, not necessarily to go in the spring. In addition, you should go in a group to reduce travel expenses.

How to come to Fenghuang Ancient Town the most economical way

There are 3 ways going to Fenghuang as follow:

By plane

You will move from your location to Guangzhou and then from

Guangzhou to Zhangjiajie. After that, you catch the bus from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town (it is obliged because no other choice is available).

The airfares for these routes are quite expensive so you can refer 2 other ways to save the cost: by train and by bus.

By train

In Pingxiang, you do immigration procedures. When filling in the declaration form, in the part of Intended Address in China, you write “Nanning” to complete. After that, you buy the train ticket from Nanning to Jishou train station in Zhangjiajie. It takes nearly 15 hours. The train departs at 17:50 in Nanning and arrives at Zhangjiajie at 8:20 of the next day. You can book the train ticket in advance on travelchinaguide.com.

Finally, you move more than 50km more by bus to come to Phoenix Ancient Town.

By bus

At Youyi Guan international border gate, you have to pay about 0.5$ for the electric car and it will take you to the place of entry procedures.

As same as going by plane, they will give you a declaration of entry. The declaration is available at the table near the counter. You just take the pen and open the passport to copy information only. After that, you can walk or go by electric car (0,9$) to the bus station.

The bus from the border gate to Nanning train station departs at 12:30 and arrives at 16:00.

You can choose between the 2 following types depended on your budget and the number of people in your group:

  • 12-seat car: 17$/person or 68$ (renting the whole car).
  • Bus from Zhangjiajie (Jishou train station) -5 buses per day: It takes 3.5 hours and the ticket price is about 12$/person.

From the bus station of Phoenix Ancient Town to the center, you can move by taxi at the price of 3$.

Suggested summary schedule in 5 days

The 5-day trip is reasonable for you to visit Zhangjiajie and Fenghuang Ancient Town, including 2 days of moving, as follow:

  • Day 1: Nanning – Zhangjiajie
  • Day 2: Visit Tianmen Shan (200m from Zhangjiajie). In here, there is a famous glass road.
  • Day 3: Take the train from Zhangjiajie to Phoenix Ancient Town.
  • Day 4: Discover Fenghuang where there are a lot of beautiful landscapes to visit.
  • Day 5: Phoenix Ancient Town – Jishou – Nanning.  

 

Notes when traveling to Fenghuang

  • For the Chinese visa, you should apply 15 days before your trip.
  • Money: you should prepare about 2500-3000 yuan during the journey ($350-$450). In Fenghuang Town, ATM (automated teller machine) is not popular and the credit card is not accepted when you buy food or drink.
  • If going by train, you should prepare some snacks and water.
  • English is useless in here, so you should study some common Chinese sentences or buy a SIM card in the gas station or the airport to use Google translation tool. A SIM card costs about $7.5. Another way which may be helpful for you is setting up Pleco application (an online Chinese dictionary) on your phone.
  • Bring your coat or a thin blanket because at any time of the year, the weather in Fenghuang is bitter cold.
  • Spend at least 2-3 days to explore this ancient town. In the evening, along 2 river banks, there are many bars, coffee shops, and restaurants at the affordable prices.
  • Download Astrill to access Facebook and Viber because China blocks the international network.
  • Do not be ashamed when bargaining and you will definitely get a discount.
  • The food here is very delicious and cheap but also quite spicy. If you cannot eat the spicy dishes, tell the cook before he or she prepares the food for you.
  • The landscape here is incredibly wonderful, so you will take a lot of photos as well as shoot many videos. Therefore, remember to bring a rechargeable battery to not miss any beautiful moments.
  • In Phoenix Ancient Town, there are many hotels available. You can book in advance or find yourself a good place to stay after arriving. The room price is about 15$/day/twin room (not included meals).

I hope that the above information will be helpful for you. Have a nice trip!

My name is Jim, writer at Asia Marvels. I love traveling around Asia and share my stories & travel guidelines to my readers. I want people from all over the world to see the beauty of the landscape, people and culture of Asia.

 

Guest Post – 6 Best Natural Wonders to Explore in China

Guest Post – 6 Best Natural Wonders to Explore in China

Due its rich culture and plethora of natural wonders, China is among the most incredible travel destinations. It boasts a wide variety of landscape and places to visit, from sandstone pinnacles, to turquoise lakes, to white sand beaches. There’s truly something here to quenches everyone’s travel craving. Consider visiting these 6 arguably best natural wonders that China has to offer.

Jiuzhaigou

Imagine yourself sitting on the shore, gazing up in every direction at snow-capped mountains. You’re swept up by multicolored trees and bottomed by turquoise-infused waters. Take one look at this place for yourself and you’ll see why it tops the list of the best natural wonders in China. Situated in the northern-most area of the Sichuan province, Jiuzhaigou is a wonder of its own. When translated, Jiuzhaigou means “Valley of Nine Fortified Villages.” It’s no wonder that tourists and locals alike escape here from bigger cities to experience this unspoiled land. Unfortunately, the national park is closed due to the extensive damage of the earthquake in August 2017. But don’t fret, as it’s rumored to be opening back up sometime within the next year.

Li River, Guangxi

Whether you fancy a rustic bamboo raft or a luxury cruise ship, the Li River is an absolute must see for any wanderer traveling to China. Towering above the blue river, limestone mountains can be seen for miles and miles as they fade from a green jungle tint to a faded blue haze. Keep your camera handy as there are many unique natural land curvatures that you certainly don’t want to miss.

Reed Flute Cave

Calling all musicians and artists: this cave is more than just a natural wonder. Also known as “the Palace of Natural Arts,” the Reed Flute cave is a 787-foot-long, water-eroded cave that grows an abundant supply of reed used to make flutes. Once functioning as a bomb shelter, this cave was rediscovered by fleeing Japanese troops in the 1940s. Once inside, you can see the faint yet distinct petrified remains of jellyfish and snails interspersed around the cave’s floor. Although a natural work of art, artificial mood lighting has been placed throughout the cave to provide an even more immersive experience. Once finished with your tour, make sure to bring some spare cash to purchase a reed flute of your own!

Yellow Mountains

Dating back to 747 AD, the Yellow Mountains weren’t named for their color, but specifically because of the Yellow Emperor, Huang Di. With quite the variety of features, the Yellow Mountains are one of the most famous and popular mountainous regions of China. Its most well-known features are its hard-wood yet character-ridden pine trees, interestingly shaped rocks, “seas of cloud,” and hot springs. Located just 300 miles southwest of Shanghai, it’s just far enough away from the hustle of the city, yet close enough for an easy commute. With numerous attractions, hotels, and restaurants, plan to spend a little extra time to fully experience the rich culture and beauty of the Yellow Mountains. 

Stone Forest

Lying in the depths of China’s Yunnan Province sits the iconic Shilin. Carved by earthquakes and the elements, one could easily get lost among its giant pillars of limestone. With natural separations of caves, waterfalls, ponds, an underground river, and an even an island lake, make sure this place is on your itinerary. One famous legend tells of a beautiful maiden named Ashima who was kidnapped by the boy of an evil landlord. Against her will, she was put but in bondage and forced to marry him. Later, her true love, Ahei, came to her rescue with bows and arrows. He was too late as she drowned in a flood on the way home and transformed into what’s commonly known today as the Ashima rock. To the local Sani people, she’s seen as their protector. If possible, visit on June 24th where the Sanis hold a torch festival at Shilin to honor their many traditions. 

Longsheng Rice Terraces, Guangxi

Just when you thought China could not get any more diverse in its natural beauty, rice paddies (or rice terraces) can’t be left out. Although manmade, this perfectly chiseled landscape is unmatched in its beauty and craftsmanship. Over 700 years old, rice is still farmed on these lands by the local Yao and Zhuang villagers. Resembling almost perfectly carved steps, the ancient topography makes use of scarce resources such as flat land and limited water supply. If you happen to visit right after the rain, the terraces that the grandeur of this natural wonder up a notch. It’s no wonder this place is among the top stops for professional photographers and artists alike. And make sure to greet the extremely friendly and hospitable locals with “Nín hǎo” (hello) along the way!

Boasting the world’s greatest number and variety of world-class natural wonders, it’s nearly impossible to not fall in love with China. Whether you’re up for an adventure in the desert, mountains, beaches, forests, or even just interested in seeing incredibly unique sites, China’s natural wonders are bound to have something special for you.

Micah Trostle is an 18-year-old photographer, videographer, and travel writer for trekbible. Although he was born in the USA, his home is Papua New Guinea, where he enjoys adventure sports, camping, and loving on people! He is passionate about Papua New Guinea and hopes to move back in the near future to impact business development and help to expand communities.

Christmas With Chinese Characteristics

Christmas With Chinese Characteristics

Christmas Tree with HongbaoMulan Mushu Christmas OrnamentLast year at this time, we were only focused on bringing our little girl home, and we’ve never been big Christmas people, so we had just a pitiful little tree and bought some gifts for our little girl at the last minute. So this year I decided to put a lot more effort into the holiday to start making traditions for our growing family.

I’m calling our theme “Christmas with Chinese Characteristics.” For our tree, the main color is red and I included my Mulan and Mushu inspired ornaments that I got at Disney World when we were there this summer.

I have also hidden hongbao in the tree with different amounts of money in them. On Christmas day everyone will pick a hongbao and get either a little bit of money or a lot of bit of money.

I also used hongbao as tags on the gifts. I taped the flap to the boxes so you just flip them up to see who gets the box. I’m not the most crafty person, but I really like the hongbao gift tags. Of course, I buy my hongbao here in China, but You can find lots of hongbao on Amazon.

Hongbao Christmas Gift Tags

The pièce de résistance of the tree, though, is our Monkey King tree topper. He is actually a puppet that I got at Silver Dollar City many years ago. He is the protector of the tree, warding away destructive cats and kids.

Monkey King Christmas Tree Topper

After Christmas, I plan to keep the tree up and convert it into a Chinese New Year tree. I am going to replace a lot of the ornaments with little lanterns and hopefully find some small oranges I can attach to the tree. I’ll have to add a lot more hongbao as well.

So what do you think? Do you try to incorporate Chinese elements into your holiday celebrations? Let me what you do in the comments!

Who Writes History – Conversations With Jung Chang

Who Writes History – Conversations With Jung Chang

jung chang hk lit festAs exciting as it was to meet Amy Tan, I was actually more excited to meet Jung Chang at the Hong Kong Literary Festival. I am obsessed with her book Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China. I have been fascinated by Empress Cixi for years, and it was while I was researching for Threads of Silk, that her book was released. Empress Dowager Cixi became my research bible when it came to Cixi. I read many other books about her, including several contemporary accounts, but Jung Chang’s approach, bringing so many sources together in one place, was a godsend. I have read the book several times front to back and then have gone back and read and research certain chapters and passages more times than I can count. I was so happy that she was kind enough to sign my well-loved copy of Empress Dowager Cixi, but she also accepted a copy of Threads of Silk, which really made my heart soar.

I have written and spoken many times about how wonderful her book is, but I am often met with skepticism. Cixi has a reputation, in the East and the West, of being a controlling, manipulative, traditionalist who held China back and is blamed for many of China’s problems during the 19th century. Yet in Empress Dowager Cixi, Jung Chang paints a much more complicated picture of Cixi, one that gives her far more credit for China’s sudden leap into the modern age during her reign.

empress dowager cixi jung chang

She credited Cixi with everything modern that China has today, from the electricity to the railroad, to the iron used to build the buildings. She also talked about Cixi was, in many ways, a feminist. She set up China’s first schools for girls and outlawed footbinding (even though the practice stayed in vogue until the communist era). She was not perfect, but Cixi would be the first person to admit to that. Her role in the Boxer Rebellion is something that she cannot escape, but she never tried to. She apologized, formally, for her role in the rebellion, and did her best to learn from her mistakes. Her reign post-Boxer Rebellion were some of China’s most prosperous and peaceful years. In fact, the foreign powers welcomed her back to the Forbidden City after the Boxer Rebellion. Even though the Boxer Rebellion was specifically a rebellion against foreign influence, the Western powers wanted Cixi back on the throne.

Many have called Jung Chang’s book about Cixi “revisionist,” as if that is a bad thing, so I asked her, “What do you say to critics who call into doubt the version of Cixi that you present in the book?”

“What wrong with revisionism?” she asked. Indeed, if the history we have been fed is wrong, why should it just be accepted because it is old? Why shouldn’t it be revised? She went on to say that, “People who doubt what I have written here should keep an open mind.”

It was truly a joy to meet Jung Chang and get to hear what she personally thought about the empress and her book. She also hinted that her next book will be about China’s first elections, which were also arranged by Empress Cixi before her death, so I can’t wait to read that.

Have you read any of Jung Chang’s books? Let me know what you think of them in the comments.

 

Where The Past Begins – A Conversation With Amy Tan

Where The Past Begins – A Conversation With Amy Tan

I was so excited for the chance to meet Amy Tan last week at the Hong Kong Literary Festival! It really was a dream come true. She has such an elegant presence. As soon as she walks into a room, you know she is someone worth listening to. The moderator at the gala dinner said, “I think we can all divide our lives into ‘before’ and ‘after’ we read The Joy Luck Club,” and I think she was right. The Joy Luck Club was a turning point in literature, not just a great book. It showed publishers that stories about women and Asians were not only good stories, but profitable because readers were voracious for her book. Many books about Chinese-Americans and Chinese people around the world probably would not exist if The Joy Luck Club had not paved the path for them.

Amy was at the festival to talk about her new book Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir. She talked quite a bit about how her book came to be, how it originally started as a series of emails between her and her editor, and the rigorous writing schedule she committed herself to in order the finish the book. She talked quite a bit about the craft of writing and how it compares and contrasts to drawing, something else she enjoys and is quite good at, but is not the true creative outlet that works for her.

She gave a really good writing tip that I have been using all week. She said that she plays movie soundtracks in the background while she writes. She said classical music also works well (anything without words since you need to writing your own words), but soundtracks are especially useful because they are designed to set the mood. She said that when she goes to her writing space and turns on the music, she is right back to where she left off and it is much easier to get started and keep going. I’ve been doing that myself this week because I had a really grueling writing schedule to catch up on since I took a week off for the festival, and it really works!

I haven’t finished reading Where the Past Begins yet, so I can’t write a complete review for it, but I do have to say that so far I enjoyed her The Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life better. Where the Past Begins is more like a series of essays while The Opposite of Fate follows a more traditional memoir style.

For me personally, the highlight of meeting Amy Tan was when she kindly accepted a copy of Threads of Silk that I gave her and agreed to take a picture with it! I in no way think that Threads of Silk is in the same league as anything Amy Tan has written, but she also revealed that she never throws anything away, so I like the idea that it will at least be sitting in her library forever.

Have you ever met a writer you admire? Tell me about it in the comments!

Behind the Story – Empress Cixi

Behind the Story – Empress Cixi

If you have read any of my books, it’s pretty easy to see that China’s last empress, the Dowager Empress Cixi, is a recurring character. Who was Empress Cixi and why do I write about her?

Empress Cixi was born in 1835 to a poor and unimportant Manchu family, but she didn’t remain in obscurity for long. When she was only 16, she was among several young ladies selected as a consort for the Xianfeng Emperor, but only a 6th rank consort. It took her three years to climb to 5th rank, but the following year, in 1855, she gave birth to the emperor’s only son, the future Tongzhi Emperor, and was elevated to 2nd rank, second only to the empress, Cian.

When the Xianfeng Emperor died in 1861, he appointed 8 ministers to serve as joint regents until his son came of age (who was only six years old at the time). Most scholars agree that this was a poor decision (though making poor or even disastrous decisions was what he did best), but no one could have predicted what happened next.

Cixi, with the support of the emperor’s closest brother, Prince Gong, staged a coup. Together they outsmarted the ministers, had them executed or banished, and Cixi and Empress Cian were made co-Regents with Prince Gong as Prince-Regent.

Empress Cian had no interest in politics, but she was an excellent manager of the Inner Court of the Women, so Cixi effectively ruled China in the name of her son alone, with Prince Gong serving as an advisor and diplomat, until he came of age in 1873. Cixi again took over the regency when Tongzhi died in 1875. She stepped aside again in 1889 when her nephew and adopted son the Guangxu Emperor came of age, but after he attempted to have her killed in 1898, she once again stepped in to rule and placed him under house arrest until both of them died in 1908.

This is just a quick and dirty summary of her life, but suffice to say she was a brilliant and complicated woman. While she was villainized by many both during her life and after her death, Pearl S. Buck, who was alive and living in China during the last years of Cixi’s reign, said in her forward to her novel about Cixi, Imperial Woman, that those who hated Empress Cixi were “more articulate than those who loved her.” She also said that decades after Cixi died, she “came across villages in the in-lands of China where the people thought that she still lived and were frightened when they heard she was dead. ‘Who will care for us now?’ they cried.”

Jung Chang’s biography of Cixi, Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, is an excellent resource if you want to learn more about this fascinating woman. I read it several times in the years leading up to my release of Threads of Silk.

In my own writings, Empress Cixi pops up again and again. In Threads of Silk, I use her name because I tried to portray her as authentically as possible. In Murder in the Forbidden City and in the upcoming The Emperor’s Seal, I don’t name her because I wanted more leeway in how she was portrayed, but who is to say which version is the real Cixi? I don’t think any writer can really pin down a woman as complicated and contrary as Cixi.

While she has often portrayed as the quintessential cruel “dragon lady,” she was also a woman who loved photography, Pekingese dogs, opened the first schools for girls, and tried to abolish foot binding. She ended the method of torture and execution known as the “death by a thousand cuts” and allowed women to be opera singers. When she died she was on the cusp of establishing a Parliament in an attempt to give the people more say in their government and preserve the Qing Dynasty.

While many people tried to blame her for the collapse of the Chinese Empire, she was the only person who held it together for decades. While she lived, there was no organized concerted effort to overthrow her. Instead, out of respect, rebels and revolutionaries waited until she died before trying something new.

She was not a perfect ruler or a perfect person, but she was not the evil monster who single-handedly led China to disaster that many people like to pretend she was.

She was flawed and fabulous. 

Threads of Silk Now Available As An Audiobook!

Threads of Silk Now Available As An Audiobook!

I’m excited to announce that Threads of Silk is now available as an audiobook! The book was narrated by Leanne Yau. You can download the book from Amazon here.

To celebrate, I’m giving away 5 copies to some lucky fans! Just enter your email address below!

 

 

This promotion is only available for US Audible members. You don’t have to be a current Audible member, but you will have to open a US Audible account.

You can also open a free 30-day trial account and get a copy of my book for FREE by going to http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B074F3SDW1

This feels like a big step as an author to have my book available in audio. I am very thankful to Leanne for taking this project on. It’s a really long book, over 100,000 words! I hope you enjoy it!

About Threads of Silk

When I was a child, I thought my destiny was to live and die on the banks of the Xiangjiang River as my family had done for generations. I never imagined that my life would lead me to the Forbidden City and the court of China’s last Empress.

Born in the middle of nowhere, Yaqian, a little embroidery girl from Hunan Province, finds her way to the imperial court, a place of intrigue, desire, and treachery. From the bed of an Emperor, the heart of a Prince, and the right side of an Empress, Yaqian weaves her way through the most turbulent decades of China’s history and witnesses the fall of the Qing Dynasty.

Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway

Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway

Welcome to the Indie-pendence Blog Hop & Giveaway, hosted by Love Kissed Book Bargains!

For those of you new to my blog, I am Amanda Roberts. I am an American but I have been living in China since 2010. I write historical fiction and cookbooks. 

For the hop, I’m giving away a $20 Amazon Gift Card and 5 paperback copies of my new release, Murder in the Forbidden City

Winners will be chosen at random. Giveaway is open from 12pm EST on 7/14 until 11:59pm EST on 7/28.

The next stop on the hop is Leigh Anderson To enter to win her prize, please visit her blog here http://leighandersonromance.com/2017/07/indie-pendence-blog-hop-giveaway/.

Don’t forget to visit http://lovekissedbookbargains.com/2017/07/12/indie-pendence-blog-hop-giveaway/ to enter the Grand Prize Giveaway to win a FREE Kindle!

Click here to view this promotion.
3 Defectors – Memoirs from North Korea

3 Defectors – Memoirs from North Korea

Even though my main focus is China, I’m also very interested in what is going on in North Korea. I know that for most Americans, North Korea isn’t really on their radar, but here in China, the “hermit kingdom” can’t be ignored. Even though I mostly review books on this site that specifically deal with China, almost all North Korean defectors pass through China. In fact, North Korea wouldn’t exist today if it wasn’t for China’s support. So here are reviews for three defector memoirs I have read in the past couple of months.

  1. A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim.
    Kim’s story is of the type you expect to read. Her family suffered greatly during the great famine of the 1990s that left millions of North Koreans dead. After many of her family members died, Kim’s mother made the decision to flee to China with her two young daughters. It was a harrowing and terrifying journey that took them nine years to complete. The time they spent in the countryside when her mother is trafficked to marry a Chinese villager is especially poignant. Countless North Korean women are trafficked as “brides” into Northern China every year. Most of them will never escape or have the chance to tell their story.
    Of the three books in this post, this is the one I would recommend the most if you are interested in learning just a bit about North Korean defectors and the challenges they face in North Korea, China, and in South Korea.
  2. The Girl with Seven Names by Hyeonseo Lee.
    This is a different kind of defector story, one that didn’t happen because the author chose to leave or was forced to by starvation. Lee was born into an elite class of North Koreans, so even though she is the same age as Kim and lived through the great famine, she was never hungry. She was never homeless. She lived in Northern North Korea and barely even saw the death that surrounded her. She was extremely sheltered and protected.
    Her defection was an accident. When she was seventeen she simply wanted to slip across the Yalu River and enjoy a Ferris Bueller type day off in forbidden China. But she was never able to return.
    Her story is less harrowing than Kim’s, but it gives a different viewpoint, one of a person who didn’t suffer in North Korea and if given the choice between leaving and staying, she would have stayed in her home country.
  3. Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden (Story of Shin Dong-hyuk).
    If you have any interest in North Korea, this is the book you have probably heard of. When Shin’s story broke in the US in 2008, he became an instant celebrity, the poster child for North Korean horrors. His story was shocking, and still is despite controversy.
    I have mixed feelings about this book. I don’t really care about the supposed discrepancies between the 2012 version and the updated 2015 version, because even the least horrifying version of his story is shocking. My issues are with the way the story is told. Even though Shin spent his whole life in a maximum security camp and lived to tell the tale, this book is the shortest of the memoirs I’ve read (only 210 pages), and half of that is not Shin’s story. For every paragraph that talks about Shin’s life, Blane adds a paragraph of exposition about what was going in North Korea or other parts of the world at the time. I suppose he gives this information as context, but most of this context has scant little to do with Shin. While some context is important, it shouldn’t be equal to the story itself.
    I really don’t know why this memoir is the most popular when there are so many other better-written ones available.
    I wouldn’t go so far as to say “don’t read this book,” but if you only read one North Korean defector memoir, pick another one.

Of course there are many other defector memoirs out there to choose from. These are only the ones I have read lately. Next on my list is In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom by Yeonmi Park. You can see a speech she gave in 2014 about her experience below.

Have you read any North Korean defector memoirs? Which would you recommend?

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

There and Back Again – Going Full Circle

I mentioned in a previous post that big changes were coming (as if bringing our daughter home only six months ago wasn’t a big enough change!). So today I can finally announce that…

We are moving to Yangshuo!

 

Our China journey began nearly seven years ago in Yangshuo in Guangxi province. We came to China with Buckland Education Group, which was headquartered in the tiny town. We loved Yangshuo and thought it was one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even though we have traveled extensively since then, our opinion on that front hasn’t changed much.

In April, my husband’s job at a game company came to an end, and instead of looking for another grinding office job, he decided to take a job working from home. It is a lot less money, but he is spending a lot more time with our daughter. In fact, he is transitioning to being her primary caregiver so I can focus more on my work.

Last year, I rage quit my job at the Shenzhen Daily (which I just now realized I haven’t written about on here, so I’ll share that story soon). I also decided to work from home instead of looking for another office job. I’ve been a full-time freelance editor since then, but I’m transitioning to full-time writer.

So since we both now work from home, it didn’t make financial sense to stay in Shenzhen, a city where just our rent is more than we were paying back in the US, not to mention the high cost of living for everything else.

This week we went back to Yangshuo and found an apartment. We found something that was twice the size of our current place with three (huge) bedrooms and all new decor and appliances for about a third of the price. It was so cheap, in fact, that we were able to prepay the rent for the whole year. Talk about eliminating stress!

My husband is so in love with the new apartment he couldn’t wait to share it with the world, so he took a video. Feel free to check it out if you want to know what you can rent in a small town in China for only US$365 a month, or about $4,400 a year.

 

But check out that view!

Of course, being Yangshuo, that was not the most beautiful view we saw all weekend. Check out this shot from a house in the countryside we looked at that our friend Cherith took.

It feels as though our life in China has come full-circle, and we are back to the beginning, but a lot has changed as well. Not every part of our China journey has been easy, but it has all been amazing, and our baby girl makes every hardship worth it. One of the things we are most excited about is raising our daughter(s) in the country, with good people, fresh air, and an easy life.

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