In August-September this year Piaf and I along with two of our closest friends traveled through China for four weeks and then Boracay Island in the Philippines for a week. I'm a big fan of Kung fu movies and love the cinematography in films such as Hero and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, so I had high hopes of seeing something great and hopefully a Kung fu panda...
Our first stop was China's Capital, Beijing. There are plenty of street markets to shop at and great restaurants to experience, and it is home to the worlds most mouth watering roast duck.
While in Beijing you have to see The Great Wall. Our van broke down along the way about an hour out of Beijing so we pushed it through a small village to safety and scouted around for a kind local to give us a lift to The Wall. I was expecting a bunch of stones and lots of rabbits on one side, but I was absolutely amazed at how magnificent this ancient monument is. It was a Great Day!
There is plenty of history and sights to absorb that are located within the heart of Beijing such as Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven at The Summer Palace, and The Forbidden City just to name a few.
After five days in Beijing it was time to move on to Xi'an, home of the famous Terracotta Warriors. These ancient statues were sculptured more than 2000 years ago and have been hiding buried underground, until 1974 when a farmer discovered them in his paddock while digging a hole. Scored!
Each warrior stands approx 180cm tall and takes 12 months for four dedicated people to carefully piece back together.
About 2500 statues have been found and successfully restored. Thousands more are waiting to be discovered.
About 120km out of Xi'an is Mount Hua Shan, or better known to the locals as "The Love Mountain". This spiritual sanctuary, perched almost 2200m high, was believed for the growth of many powerful herbal medicines and holds great religious significance to the Daoists. You can hike all the way up or catch a gondola most of the way.
In the heart of Xi'an you will find Chengqiang or "City Wall", which is one of the worlds oldest and widest historical walls.
The City Wall forms a cocoon of defensive around the city center and spans approx 14km in length. You can walk around the City Wall or hire a bicycle, which takes about an hour to enjoy 'comfortably'.
Xi'an was the former Capital City of China and is a hive of activity and yummy food stalls. The Muslim markets were interesting and a great place to practice your bargaining skills, and the City Wall at night looked awesome.
Our next stop was Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province and home of the great Panda.
Head out of town about 120km and you get to Leshan, which is home to a 71m stone statue known as Leshan Giant Buddha.
After five days in Chengdu we moved on to Zhangjiajie. The National Forest Park is the highlight and it is riddled with giant quartz-sandstone pillars that climb hundreds of meters into the clouds. These pillars gave inspiration to movie producers of Avatar.
From town we ascended into the clouds to Tianmen Mountain via gondola, which is claimed to be the longest passenger cableway in the world. At the top of the Mountain are many spectacular walks that suspend you against steep cliff faces, and you'll also find a very peaceful temple of worship.
Our next stop was Yangshuo County, home of the giant limestone pillars.
The highlight of Yangshuo is experiencing a peaceful paddle down the Yulong River on a bamboo raft.
We received great service at our hotel, awesome food and a magic view from our room.
There's plenty to do in Yangshuo such as white water rafting, Tai Chi and if you're lucky enough you might spot a cormorant fisherman on the Li River. These guys rely on their birds to catch the fish rather than use nets or line. The partnership between fisherman and bird is sophisticatedly balanced in an old school world.
The final part of our journey through China ended in Shanghai, which is a buzzing metropolis of bargain hunting, amazing food, charming French alleyways and colorful city lights.
Our four weeks in China was a giant roller coaster particularly on our digestive systems, so what better way to relax before heading home but to visit the breath taking Boracay Island in the Philippines. Out Hotel was parked right on the beach and served amazing cheap cocktails. Nothing is expensive or difficult to achieve on Boracay. You can sail around the Island in half a day and snorkel along the way.
You can learn how to kite surf or do what I did and complete a PADI scuba diving course in 29 degree water.
Or you can just sit on the beach and enjoy some magic sunsets while sipping on piña coladas. There are no rules...
So how would we sum up our five weeks in Asia? Oh what a feeling!!!