I haven’t been blogging much lately.  I need to do that more.  I always say that, then I just switch my blog to a new design and never really write much.  Oops.  I need to buckle down and just do it.  But oh well, I’m blogging now!  I always seem to just never have something interesting to talk about, but maybe it’s not that, but that I just don’t feel like writing about it for the whole world to see.  I don’t know.  Anyway, let’s talk about China.  That’s interesting, right?

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter or pretty much anywhere (and if you DON’T follow me, then why the heck not?), then you know that Ricky (my boyfriend) and I took a trip to China last month.  Wow, I can’t believe it was that long ago.  We actually left at the end of August and got back in September.  We like to plan trips around Labor Day because the weather is usually good and you get an extra free day off of work that way.  Just to address WHY we decided to go to China… well, we were trying to figure out what to do for vacations this year.  We had thought about going back to Nicaragua along with to Maui in December.  That will be a fun trip too.  We loved Hawaii when we went in 2010 and had been wanting to go back.  Our anniversary (of dating) is between Christmas and New Year’s, and this will be 5 years for us, so we wanted to make it special.  Nicaragua was just something easy, since we have family with a house there.  But then I came across an article on how you could go to China without a visa now, and it had a link to a China travel agency that had trips where you didn’t need one.  I got to looking at those, and came across some good prices on longer trips to China, even.  Ricky had talked about wanting to visit there before, so we decided to ditch Nicaragua this year and go for it.  That’s how we ended up visiting Beijing and Shanghai.

If you are thinking about going to China, I highly recommend China Spree.  That’s the agency we used, and we couldn’t have been happier with their service.  We bought the basic trip, including airfare from San Francisco to Beijing, a hotel in each city, and a few excursions and meals along the way.  We also ended up adding the four available additional excursions, a flight from Phoenix to San Francisco, travel insurance, and the cost of having China Spree obtain our visas for us.  Even including all of that, our total price per person was still only a little over $2000.  To me, this is a pretty good bargain, especially considering our trip to Maui is costing us more than that.  (Hint: Don’t ever book a trip to Maui over the holidays!  The additional price you will pay is NOT worth it.)

This is already shaping up to be a long blog and I haven’t even started talking about the trip yet!  Maybe I will make it into a few parts and/or break up Beijing and Shanghai.  Thankfully, pretty much all of our flights were on time and uneventful.  I always worry about that when flying nowadays.  It seems that almost every time you fly, there is some kind of problem or delay.  The only thing I will say, is that if you do use China Spree, do NOT fly out of San Francisco to Beijing.  Fly out of LAX instead.  The route we took is the ONE route where Air China has not upgraded the plane yet.  It is an older plane, projection screens (NOT personal seatback screens), and no air vents above your seats.  The newer planes are much better, especially for a long flight like this one.

In case you want to follow along at home, here is the tour that we purchased from China Spree. That will tell you a little bit about our itinerary.  We arrived in Beijing on a Friday night, got our luggage, and were picked up and taken to the hotel.  The hotel we stayed at was great, and had free wifi!  (This is a luxury we didn’t get at the hotel in Shanghai.)  It was also across the street from a mall that we explored a few times (where I got my Pandora bead for China, a lucky cat).  The next day we visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  It was nice to see such iconic parts of Beijing, but Ricky and I both agreed we had seen more interesting “squares” on other trips (for me, Red Square in Moscow is pretty darn cool).  We did both really like the second part of the day, which included riding a rickshaw through the hutongs (narrow streets) in Beijing and having lunch at someone’s house.  That was probably the best meal of the trip!  We also got to try a Peking duck dinner that night.

Alright, this is getting pretty long and you’re probably getting bored, so I’ll stop there.  Still two more days in Beijing and some in Shanghai to talk about, so stay tuned for a follow up post soon!  Also, here are my pictures from Beijing if you’d like to see them.