Posts filed under Imaginary Vacations

Imaginary Vacation-Yunan Province, China

Let's start out December the right way, with a trip to China. Our Imaginary Vacation founder Jessen is back and this time she’ s graciously laid out an itinerary for those of you who are interested in going. Take it away Jess! In October 2009, I spent 8 days in Yunnan Province in southwestern China.  Yunnan was famous for being the equivalent of Russia's Siberia; you are on the political outs, then here is where you are exiled.  That's where the comparison ends, for although Yunnan is pretty rural, I can't imagine a more beautiful place to be stuck. The weather is awesomely mild in the lower elevations year-round. Besides that there is a really good black tea grown here named Pu'er. And did I mention this is the only place in China where coffee is grown? COFFEE. 'Nuff said.  I could definitely see myself living here.

Day 1-Arrive in Kunming AKA the Spring City, the capital of the province.  Feel the laid back vibes.  Wander though Green Lake Park and order up some soup-filled dumplings to snack on. If you've been in China for a while and miss things like tacos, go ahead and slobber over "Culture" street, where the cities relatively large population of ex-pats have set up shop. I say relative because you will still get plenty of stares for looking foreign on pretty much any other street.

Day 2-Day trip to The Stone Forest (Shílín) to see an impressive collection of really big rocks, worn by water into a variety of fantastical shapes.  Try to puzzle out which rock is "Mother holding child", "Elephant occupies crags", or "Two Birds Capture Food".  It's way bigger than you'd expect and you can hike around most of the day and still not see all the different rock formations.  Pathways take you around, over, under, and through an amazing variety of stone shapes. Near the center of the "forest" lies a still pool with no inlet or outlet (above ground) surrounded by sharp sword-like towers.  Even the noisiest of tourgroups hushed when they arrived at this special spot.

Day 3-From Kunming it's a 12 hour bus ride up into the mountains to the town of Lijiang.  The center of town is built in the traditional ethnic Naxi style, with 800-year-old buildings indistinguishable from those built in the last few years. Get pleasantly lost in the narrow cobblestone alleys winding up Lion Hill and as you pass decorated wooden lintels catch glimpses of family courtyards hidden within.  Most shutters are intricately carved with a crane motif. Grab some supplies from the long market street, especially yak jerky (in a billion different flavors), fresh fruit, and delicious local yoghurt drinks, while browsing leather goods etched with Naxi pictographs, or watching a silversmith at work. Too many tourists? Just 20 minutes north of Lijiang is the ancient village of Shuhe, while smaller, has similar features without the thronging crowds.  For dinner, local fish caught fresh from the river is a good choice.

Naxi Style in Lijiang

Family courtyards in Lijiang

Crane motifs are popular.

Day 4-If there are no tickets to Qiaotou, you can buy a bus ticket through to Zhongdian and then ask the bus driver to let you off on the side of the road near Qiaotou.  Walk into town and right through to the ticket gate for Tiger Leaping Gorge.  Abjure the low paved road for the more difficult but breathtaking high path. The high path is definitely not for the faint of heart, in some places it narrows with a thousand foot drop.  The first village is a good place to stop for lunch and you will need to fortify yourself for the steepest part of the path the "28 bends"  Locals may follow you with horses until gasping for breath you agree maybe it would be better to ride up.  From 28 Bends it's an equally steep descent to the second village.  Most people would press on to the third village which is the halfway point of the hike, but if it randomly decides to rain and make the trail a slip-n-slide of mud, then stopping at the Tea Horse Guesthouse is a good plan B.

Tiger Leaping Gorge

Jade Dragon Mountain

Day 5-Wake up early for gorgeous views of Jade Dragon Mountain across the gorge. Set out early and you will see the shepherds setting out with their flocks of mountain goats. Like waterfalls?  There are quite a few on this section of the trail including one you have to walk through.  Eventually the high trail descends to meet the road at Walnut Garden village, but clamber down a series of ladders and you can reach the riverside, look up to see the road passing high overhead.

Day 6-Head off to Zhongdian, recently renamed Shangri-la, for a taste of Tibetan culture, lifestyle and scenery.  Go even further: a gorgeous 3 hour drive winding past near vertical fields of barley and roadside stupas will take you to the serene town of Benzilan.

Zhong-dian aka Shangri-La

Day 7-Shangri-La lies in a broad valley surrounded by three sacred mountains.  The city is modern concrete, but just a few minutes away people do things much the same as they have for generations. Check out Songzanlin, the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the province, looking pretty good for being over 300 years old.  Head back to Kunming in the afternoon. It's a 15 hour ride.

Day 8-Kick back in Kuming and grab a bit of local American history at the Hump Hostel, which has mini-museum dedicated to those who flew over the Himalayas (!) during WWII to get much needed supplies in the back-door of occupied China.  Wander aimlessly and you might find some interesting things around town like a internet bar disguised as a rocky wall devoted to Counter-Strike or the personification of the Chinese Zodiac in four foot high statues just hanging out in front of a electronics repair shop. The oldest and newest part of the city jostle quite close together. Don't miss the Flower and Bird Market, although it's less birds and more jewelery and art these days, it's fun to browse through several floors and see everything from pressed butterflies to enormous hand-carved pieces of furniture.

I hope someday I can so back to Yunnan, it was by far the most beautiful and varied place I have ever been.  I didn't have a chance to visit the southern part full of tropical jungles or the west where there are some volcanoes and places with both rainforest and permanent snow.  Truly a wonder

Posted on November 30, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation-Salzburg

The Hills are Aliiiiiiiiiiiiive!  The Sound of Music is one of my favorite movies of all time and it was filmed in/around the beautiful city of Salzburg.  Today our trusty guide Debi is back to take us there.  Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Sound of Music Tour

Sounds of Music Tour 2

Cazebo Sound of Music

Sound of Music 3

Salzburg Lake District



Salzburg 8

Salzburg 7

Salzburg 10

Posted on September 1, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation-Turkey

It's Thursday and vacation time people!  Today our tour guide is my friend Shauntay!  I could really go on ad naseum about how great Shauntay is but there really isn't just enough space and time.  Suffice it to say she's smart, sweet and fun.  We work together and everyday is awesome because of her.  She's also a great traveler whose won not one but TWO rotary scholarships.  One to Costa Rica to learn Spanish and one to South Africa to get a Master's Degree.  I know I'm jealous too.  But don't get too green-eyed because today Shauntay is taking us with her to Turkey! 

Shauntay in Turkey


Turkish Kids


Naan Bread in Turkey


Turkish spices



Blue Mosque in Istanbul





Thanks Shauntay!  Turkey looks amazing.  Looks like your DSLR is being put to good use!

Posted on August 26, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation-Vienna

Hi everybody!  This week's Imaginary Vacation is actually a real one for me.  I went to Vienna during my Senior Year in High School and these pictures brought me back some wonderful and hidden memories.   I  can definitely second Debi's enthusiasm for this beautiful and musical city! Debi at Schonbrunn Palace

Spices at the Naschmarket

Fruit at Naschmarket Vienna

BAckstage Vienna Opera

Kunsthistorisches museum

St. Stephens CAthedral Vienna

Rooftop St. Stephens Cathedral Vienna

Posted on August 18, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation-Budapest

Hey, hey.  Debi's back again this week with another live report from Europe.  This week we're visiting Budapest!  Debi says that she wished she had more time in Budapest a city she describes as "ancient and enchanting". Okay Debs!  Let's go!

Michael Jackson Marzipan

Musical Fountain at Margit Island

Margit Island

Parliment Building Danube River

Citadella at night


House of Terror Budapest

Iron Curtain

Szechnyi Thermal baths at Budapest City Park

George Washington in Budapest

Posted on August 11, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation -Prague

Today's Imaginary Vacation is a little different from usual because it was contributed by my friend Debi who is still on her very REAL  European vacation!  Debi is a good friend of mine from FOREVER and she's a teacher.  And what should all who have large swaths of vacation do?  Take real vacations! Well done Debs.  Well done.

According to Debs Prague is one of the best preserved (read least bombed out and restored) cities in Europe.  She also says that it is exceedingly beautiful and that beer is cheaper than water there.

Sounds good to me!  Let's go!!!!!!!!

Debi in Prague


View from the Glokenspiel Prague

Ashley eats Gelato

St. Charles Bridge

St. Vitus Cathedral

Prague looks great Debs. I'll admit you had me at "beer is cheaper than water".  We can't wait to see more when you get back home!

Posted on August 4, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation - Bogota

Hi everybody.  This week's imaginary vacation host is... me!  I'm taking you along on a vacation that I have taken many times... to beautiful Bogotá, Colombia!  Bogotá is not just the birthplace of my beautiful baby boy it's also one of the most underrated cities in South America and much safer than in years past.  This is one of the only big cities you can visit where you won't constantly be just one more tourist in the herd! Bogota in the rain

La Candelaria


Bogota walking bridge

Museo del Oro Bogota

Plaza Bolivar

Posted on July 28, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation-The Missions of El Camino Real

This week I'm mixing things up a bit and taking you on an Imaginary vacation that I have planned for myself.  "Planned" being a loosely used euphemism for "dreamed up".   This imaginary vacation goes up and down my beautiful home state of California and visits each and every mission.  The California missions were established between 1768 and 1853 by the the Fransiscans. There are twenty-one missions stretching from San Diego to Sonoma.  Each one is said to be one day's horse ride from the previous although I'm not planning to test that theory.   I will be most likely be riding in our noble steed Ms. Honda Accord.   Tradition has it that the Friars also dropped mustard seeds along the path leaving a path of cheery yellow flowers in their wake. Better yet this tour will take you along most of California's coast which is unspeakably beautiful. Although I'm half-heartedly attemting to stop adding travel-based wishes to my Forty by Forty list this one made the cut.  In a nod to moderation this one is an in-state travel wish.   I love my home state and visiting historic churches.  It's a win-win. Now I just gotta work on getting my little dinosaur potty-trained so we can hit the road!

San Diego de Alcala

All images and more info about California Missions can be found here.

Posted on June 30, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation – Cairo

A few years ago a friend of mine was getting ready to study abroad in Egypt.  Like all people getting ready to make a big move she was a little nervous about her choice.  There was pressure to stay from various people.  Classic physics.  Inertia. Even if your passion is great, it's hard to get up and leave.  I remember telling her "You are single and childless.  You might not always have the freedom to do things like this.  You have to go and don't look back." Well she did go to Cairo and came back with a Master's degree and a fiancée in tow:  smart women know how to pack wisely!

So without further blah blah from me let me introduce today's imaginary vacation guide:  Kat!  I really admire Kat for her passion and drive.  She is friendly and fun and makes friends wherever she goes. I have always wanted to visit Cairo but her tour has me dreaming and scheming of how to get there sooner!

Here's what Kat had to say about the beautiful city of Cairo:

Let yourself be enveloped by a pinch of semi-functional chaos. 16 million people live in and around Cairo, and the hustle and bustle of city life cannot be avoided. A thick layer of smog hangs low over the city, but that is the last thing on your mind: walking the streets, weaving your way around strangers, you find yourself completely overwhelmed. People are waving things in your face “Perfume! Papyrus! Tours!” they cry.

A modern Islamic republic has grown up around the relics and glory of ancient Egypt. Within the span of a mile you can find a four thousand-year old temple, old buildings proudly baring the gaudy white plaster scars of colonialism, Hard Rock Café Cairo, and the Four Seasons Hotel. It’s an odd medley, but it’s pure Cairo.

Ahalan-wa-sahalan! Hello and welcome!

I agree with Kat that a sunset visit is a most excellent way to end a trip to dynamic Cairo.  I think I would go to visit the Souk alone!  Thanks for taking us to Cairo Kat!  If you would like to hear more from Kat check out her blog here.

Posted on June 23, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacation – Peru

Update:  Hi, I just realized I'm on the wordpress homepage today!  I feel so internet famous!  Welcome to my blog everybody and thanks for stopping by!  To see more "Imaginary Vacations" you can click the subcategory under visual learner in the sidebar.  Ooh, I am SO into this series!  Next up is my friend Rachel.  Rachel is both creative, fun and kind.  Everything you want in a friend.  She spent the last 3 years living in the Peruvian amazon as an agricultural missionary with Food for the Hungry. Yeah I know, v. cool!  She specializes in tropical agricultural and did lots of cool stuff like teach composting classes.  When she went she spoke zero spanish.  I'm so proud of her!  It's one thing to study abroad for a year like I did in a big city, it's quite another thing to spend 3+ years in a remote city with 80%+ humidity.  


Here's what Rachel has to say about Peru:  I put together a collection of photos from all over Peru since I could not just pick one place. Peru is comprised of 3 regions, the coast, the mountains and the jungle. And the people living in each of these areas think their area is the best. Most Peruvians do not have the opportunity to travel and only know of other parts of Peru by word of mouth. On multiple occasions I would tell people in Lima (on the coast) that I lived in Pucallpa (the jungle) and they almost all responded, "Oh it is very hot there and there are lots of insects." And I would ask, "Have you been there?" always anxious to meet people who knew the jungle, but they would say "No, no. I have a friend (or a cousin or an uncle's brother) who visited there." And yes the jungle was hot and there were lots of insects, but it was also quite beautiful and so very different than the coast. I feel so blessed to have had the time and resources to travel in Peru. There is so much more to see within this tiny country than Machu Picchu.  But don't get me wrong, Machu Picchu is pretty spectacular and the mystery behind it only makes it all the more enticing to see it for yourself. But treasures of beautiful people, fabulous food, wild animals outside your lodgings, motorcycle transport make it a destination well worth a longer visit. I miss Peru and forever it will hold a piece of me. ¡Viva Perú!  











Thanks for sharing Rach!  To see more pictures of Rachel's time in Peru  as well as her beautiful pictures from the trip we took together to Colombia you can check out her blog here.  

Note:  If you are a blog reader and would like to submit a vacation for consideration leave me a note in the comments and I'll contact you!

Posted on June 15, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacations – Costa de Sol, Spain

For our next vacation we're joining my friend Emily on a trip to Costa de Sol, Spain. Em and I don't just share our first name, we also share a love of blogs, travel, and bossing other people around. We are a friend match made in heaven. Now check out Costa de Sol! The Emilys command you!

Note: Scrap-booking elements and papers from

Posted on June 9, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacations - Paris, France

This trip is to a city that I'm dying to visit. Beautiful Paris, France! My friend Kat is currently studying abroad in Canterbury, England and that lucky duck is traveling all around Europe... as smart girls should! Out of all the places she's visited, and like many before her, she fell in love with Paris. After you see her pics I'm sure you'll be a little in love with Paris too.

Lest you think I acquired some new skills, let me assure you that Kat did the photo editing on this series.

Thanks for taking us with you on such a lovely trip Kat!  It's so awesome of you to have stepped up to the challenge to leave the familiar behind and study abroad.  It is a scary and wonderful experience but you've made it through a challenging year and I couldn't be prouder of you!

Posted on May 25, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.

Imaginary Vacations

In my life I've been very fortunate to get to travel a lot but right now is a season of my life that is dedicated to adventures of a different kind.  Lately for instance I've been discovering the joys of holding a little guy on my hip and singing Raffi songs while toothbrushing in the morning!  This is fun but travel is good too so I've decided to start taking some imaginary trips with my friends. C'mon let's go have an adventure! Our first trip is to visit my friend Jessen in Hunan Province, China.  Jess moved there last year and is a kick-ass teacher to some lucky-duck Middle School Students.  She's been nice enough to kick off this new series.  Descriptions are from Jess. My commentary is in italics.

Hunan looks amazing Jess.  I'm so proud of you for just going for it and moving to China!  Thanks for inviting us to see a little bit of your daily life!

Posted on May 19, 2010 and filed under Imaginary Vacations.