I think I found it…

I can’t believe I’ve never used STA Travel in college.

Then again, I never traveled abroad college so I never did think about STA Travel. Well I did travel to Japan with my sister back in 2007, but we never thought about STA Travel because we didn’t have any STA Travel nearby my parent’s house.

But aside that, I can’t believe I never walked in until today. I mean there’s even a discount cards for people under 26.

After work, I went over to STA Travel nearby my place because I was still debating whether or not to do a tour. I told the travel agent that I was going to visit some friends in Beijing and Hong Kong but…I want to do a little bit more.

Why consider a tour in China?

1. Even though I have a friends in Beijing and Hong Kong — 2 weeks is a long time to be in two cities. There’s so much to do–why not explore? I really want to go explore the smaller towns too but reading through the Lonely Planets and doing my own research, transportation to go into these little towns and leave is not that easy.

2. When I do go visit friends, they have jobs and I’m left to do whatever until they come back. Due to the language barrier (except Hong Kong) I don’t want to risk getting lost ANYWHERE–especially in the smaller cities where it’s less English speaking friendly. I’m not saying I won’t try practicing Chinese–I don’t think I’ll have proficient Mandarin to find my way around.

3. It’s not like backpacking Europe. Europe seems more user friendly. But also 4 years of French and reading French helps :-P.

4. My travel agent is going to China next year and she’s doing a tour. She usually does independent travels herself but the language barrier made her decide to do a tour.

The travel agent showed me a few itineraries after telling her my travel wishlist and the results turned out better than I thought. I can tour around by day and hang out with friends in the afternoon (after the tour) and I get four days in Beijing.

I even told my agent why I was at first, reluctant doing a tour group because the last time (and it was the first time) I went to Japan with Globus. It wasn’t something I would do again because  we pretty much had the day planned out from the moment we woke up to the moment we gathered around for dinner.

Before I did a tour group, my family and I use to do a lot of road trips and we even went to France without a tour guide. All we had in France was that hop-on-hop-off tickets to use Paris buses and Paris subways and took a train to Normandy…maybe what helped was me speaking and reading French. But anyways prior to any tour group I’ve done a lot of independent travel so doing so I found doing Globus a little bit too extravagant and uptight.

I think I found the dream itinerary and the awesome news is that all the hard stuff is pretty much done. Now I can just focus on saving :-).

Guess what...I won’t reveal the itinerary! Maybe later…much later.

Itinerary rough draft

So I’m going to China next year in the spring 2012 for two weeks and I made a rough itinerary for what to do in two weeks. Here’s the original itinerary from Lonely Planet Discover China:

And here’s my version:

It’s not final but here is my list and my wishes:

1. Shanghai – Actually I really don’t have a strong desire to go to Shanghai I just put it there so people won’t go “but you didn’t go to Shanghai?” Maybe just check out the Bund and the French concession and explore a bit before taking a sleeper train to Beijing. Like I said, I’m not too crazy about it.

2. Beijing – The city I’d probably spend the most time in. I’d like to do the following:

- Eat Peking duck

- Visit Peking University

- Go to the Great Wall

- Be a super model

- Go to Tiananmen Square – my Pekingnese friend (who is meeting up with me) told me she didn’t know what the big deal was with Tiananmen Square until she studied in the U.S.

3. Pingyao – It’s a small ancient town and it’s basically car-less town.

4. Xi’An – There are clay warriors and it’s the start of the Silk Road. Actually when creating the itinerary, I was thinking about doing a trip starting from Beijing and ending in Moscow.

5. Kunming – I want to try to squeeze in visiting the Yunnan Province because I’ve been hearing this place a lot. But I am not sure if I’m able to go either because the distance between Kunming and Guilin are pretty far.

6. Guilin – my coworker told me it’s a really pretty city. This is definitely going on my intinerary.

7. Hong Kong and Macau – My last stop. :-) I want dim sum and egg tarts and ride a boat.

Anyways this is my rough draft. I’ll still be editing later on. I’ll try to make a habit of posting something about traveling whether it’s about my trip or just traveling in general (especially on traveling solo) to help me whet my appetite to just go.

Also a great reminder that I have to keep saving. Speaking of saving, I’ll rant about how it’s possible to save without letting you say “my life sucks”.

It’s a trip of a life time…

Well…I have many life times and I hope I have more to go.

So anyways I’m hoping to go to Beijing, China around April 2012. My friend from UCLA lives there now. She use to live and work in San Diego after finishing up at UCLA but finding that she wasn’t very happy with being an electrical engineer, she went back home to China to figure out what she wants to do. She seems happier back home and she wants me to go visit–looks like an opportunity. I’ve never been anywhere in the continental Asian countries.

She told me to go April because it’s off season (after Chinese New Years) and that’s when tickets are cheap (cheaper than going to the PI by hundreds!).

Actually today I just checked around for plane tickets and the cheapest ones I’ve seen are between 918-988 dollars and that’s after taxes and airplane fees. Also I found a weird one that was about 600 dollars and then you add the airplane fees and taxes which was 300+ dollars which then the final price was 900 something dollars. But all the other sites had airline fees and taxes around 85 to 100 dollars and it still was 900 something dollars.

I’ll just wait until it get lower because it’s too soon and I don’t understand the difference between a 300 dollar airline fee and taxes versus a 100 dollar airline fee and taxes when it’s going to be around the same price range.

Also I’m trying to plan an itinerary. Ideally I’d like to visit multiple cities if I’m going to be there for two weeks. Two weeks is a long time to visit one city. Anyways I would really appreciate it if you can help me create an itinerary :-). (Lesson: ok so looking around for doing Asia in two weeks –it’s better to focus on one country and explore otherwise I’d be in between flights instead of enjoying my stay–but I still need your help! :-) )

As I romanticize with my coworkers about what I want in the trip, they go “go for it! It’s a trip of a lifetime.” I said “really?

What I really meant was “a trip of a life time…well…in that case I’ve got many lifetimes and more to go.” I don’t want this the be all end all because you’re getting married or you’re having a kid or other commitments. It’s not my first once-in-a-life time trip and I hope this one isn’t my last…

Here is a summary of places I’ve been. I’ll talk about them later and when I find the pictures.

1. When I was 13, I went to Washington D.C.–my first trip away from my parents.

2. Summer before high school my family and I drove to Yellowsone but we went to all these other states on the way and saw other sites. I hope I can find the picture in my parents house.

3. We drove to Canada and visited British Columbia and Alberta. We visited more states and sites on the way home.

4. 2004 – My family and I drove to Alaska and that was when I first started driving.

5.2005-  Paris, France and Northern France — you can see here, here, here, and here

6. 2007 – Japan — Tokyo, Kyoto, Matsumoto–just to name a few.

7. Last year was my first trip to the bay area. I have a lot of college friends living in the Bay so I think reuniting with your old buddies is a special moment.

I’ll eventually post pictures from my past trips–if I can find them :-).

Like I said, looks like I’ve been through plenty of lifetimes and I won’t let this one be my last.