The Beauty of China

The concept of visiting China has always been very alluring to me, ever since I was a young boy. My dad went to Beijing and surrounding areas for business several times when I was little and he brought back some small souveneirs. I was fascinated by his slide shows of the bustling inner city and also the Great Wall of China. Chinese culture and history is so rich and complex, going back 3000 years as the country has largely been under one unified rule for that whole time. China is more than 10 times older than the United States, which is a crazy thing to think about. Anyways, here are a few of the things I would like to do in China.

First and foremost, I want to visit the Great Wall. An amazing wonder of the world, it is 1,000 years old (for the most part) and thousands of miles in total wall length. It is always really cool for me to see feats such as this, which is why I was so interested in going to see the Pyramid at Giza (and which I actually got to do!).

A second historical spot I would like to visit is the vault of the Terra Cotta soldiers in Xian. Built by an emporer to protect his tomb, there are thousands of stone soldiers and horses, carved with incredible detail. This is one of those feats of humanity that you just have to admire.

For whatever reason I’ve always wanted to go to Macau. The Chinese are largely obsessed with gambling, which has led to the growth of Macau as a gambling mecca taht is several times the size of Las Vegas. On top of that, it looks so beautiful, majestic, and fun in all of the pictures and videos I have seen of the city.

Last, but of course not least, the food. I love Chinese food, at least the American version, so I really want to try the traditional style of noodles, rice, and spices. Oh and of course I would like to try duck prepared the traditional way, my dad has always talked about how much he enjoyed that in Beijing.

Life Down Under In Australia

Australia has always been a mysterious but fascinating place to think about visiting. It is a continent but it is also just a big island in my mind (well, not to have too much cognitive dissonance technically it is both). It is high on my list of places to visit and it is close enough to Southeast Asia that I could potentially tackle it in one trip. Regardless of when or how I eventually take a trip down under to Australia, here are some things I’m excited about.

First is the unique animal and food situation. I would love to go into the wild and see a kangaroo and koala bear live, or in some sort of wildlife preserve. It would also be cool to get to try kangaroo meat and see hwo it tastes versus what we Americans are used to with beef, pork, and chicken. A few animals I do not mind if I avoid completely are the black widow spider and the several tyoes of highly venemos snakes that can only be found there. When I think of Australian wildlife, I think of very dangerous but one of a kind creatures.

Second, it would be really cool to absorb and take in Australian culture. Their people, particularly the young people, are known to be very laid back and go with the flow. The climate of most of Australia is either trpoical or sub-tropical and warm most of the year, so a lot of beach and multiple outdoor activities are the go-to. I would also love to go surfing in Australia, particularly in the numerous sports made famous by the movie “Endless Summer”. I need to make this trip happen as soon as possible.

The Beauty of Costa Rica

A couple of Christmas’s ago, I went ona weeklong vacation with my family down to Costa Rica. “Pura Vida” – live free – is the national motto of Costa Rica, and what a life they are able to live down there. In the southern part of Central America, Costa Rica is probably the most democratic, modern, and safest countries in the region. As an American, I did not feel out of place or unsafe at all in the time I was there, and it might have been my favorite vacation I’ve ever taken. I could see myself living there someday. Here are a few of the aspects I enjoyed most.

First and foremost was the warm weather and location. In Costa Rica, no matter the time of year, the temperature hovers between 80 and 90 during the day and 65 to 75 at night (at least year the coasts). This is because the country sits at about 8 degrees latitude north, so very close to the equator. I have always said that this is my ideal weather, and I’m not lying when I say that I would never get tired of it. The country is also in the same time zone as Chicago, and only a 6-7 hour flight away. I could make the adjustment!

The access to the ocean and countless beaches is also a great part of Costa Rica. The country is an isthmus and has both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as borders. We visited the Pacific Coast, where surfing and bodyboarding were the main activities, My sister and I took surf lessons at one of the best surfing beaches in the country, which was such a cool experience. Even if you do not like to surf yourself, you can sit at local beachside bars and most nights watch the talented locals paddle out on their boards and have a little competition among themselves. We did this one night and it was one of the coolest things I’ve done.

Last, but not least, is the unique wildlife of Costa Rica. The national animal of Costa Rica is the sloth, and we saw plenty of these in the national park, but there is so much more going on. There, iguanas roam the streets of neighborhoods like squirrels. Macaws, the rainbow birds, are as abundant as pigeons. And capuchin monkeys run around like rats and try to steal your food whenever they can. The wildlife there is so unusual there compared with what I am used to in the US, and it was probably my favorite thing about Costa Rica.

As I sit here in 10 degree weather in Chicago and think about that trip, please take me back to Costa Rica immediately!