Year: 2020

A Curated Travel Guide to Ningxia, China

Ningxia (宁夏) may be covered by vast stretches of desert but it is also home to China’s most promising wine region. Along the foothills of Helan Mountain 贺兰山, neat rows of vineyards flourish on sandy terroir and plenty of sunshine. Most of Ningxia estates are growing red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Gernischt and Merlot. After all, a bottle of Ningxia red pairs deliciously with the region’s signature lamb cuisine. I took a trip to Ningxia this September with a couple of friends that love wine & wanted to explore somewhere off the beaten track. Having visited most corners of Shanghai’s concrete jungle, we were all getting the travel itch. Thankfully, our friend A took the initiative to plan a 5-day getaway to Ningxia which included wine tasting, desert glamping & trying out local cuisine. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was our time spent in Tengger Dessert, which is on the border of Ningxia and adjacent to Gobi Desert. Named after the beautiful Mongolian word for “sky,” Tengger Desert is a sight to …

A Long Weekend in Shengsi Island 嵊泗岛

Only 4 hours from Shanghai, Shengsi Island 嵊泗列岛 is perfect for a short getaway. Over a long weekend, my friends and I traveled to Shengsi in search of some quiet beaches and hiking. If you’re looking to explore a Chinese island that retains a lot of its local charms, Shengsi Island is just that. Still a little rugged and spotty with service, Shengsi is filled with friendly locals that are curious to learn about each traveler’s stories. Not to mention, excellent seafood and ‘sea-to-table’ dining. When we were planning for our trip, we had first considered the popular Hainan Island 海南岛. Nicknamed the ‘Hawaii of China’, Hainan Island is more convenient for international travellers that prefer a resort getaway. But we felt there are too many less-traveled-to gems in China and were very tempted by pictures of Shengsi’s quiet beaches. After all, when traveling in China half the fun is not knowing what to expect. Note that traveling to Shengsi from Shanghai requires taking a bus and then a boat. During peak season, ticket purchase …

Quarantine Diaries from Shanghai

2020 has been a whirlwind. I started the year with a month long trip to Australia, hiking incredible trails by the ocean and having plenty of Shiraz. I was savoring every moment of this once-in-a-lifetime trip when the news broke about coronavirus. Reading articles about the outbreak in China while very far away was both confusing and nerve-wracking. After all, Shanghai has been my home for the past 3 years. Like many, I had exciting travel plans lined up for 2020 (Bangkok, Tbilisi, Tokyo and more) until COVID-19 came along. As the virus paralyzed China during Chinese New Year and eventually the rest of the world, I wanted to take this time to reflect on the past 3 months. I’ve had many international friends ask after my well-being so I hope this post can show what life under quarantine (‘strict social distancing’ if you’d prefer) was like in Shanghai. Note: As I arrived in Shanghai early February, it was quite different from how international travel procedures are now. Things are much stricter in China as …

Unwinding in Hokkaido with an Onsen Hotel

When in Hokkaido, don’t miss a trip to visit Lake Shikotsu 支笏湖 and stay at this quiet yet luxurious onsen hotel. Tsuruga Mizu no Uta is an onsen spa and resort located in the Shikotsu-Toya National Park. With a warm fireplace and well-designed communal spaces, Tsuruga Hotel had me when I walked into the lobby and saw people roasting marshmallows in yukatas. It is rare to find such an effortless blend of modernity with Japanese onsen culture. Oh and the food! In the mornings, we enjoyed traditional Japanese breakfasts with our own clay pot of steamed rice. With the rice, we indulged in unlimited ikura and fresh sashimi. Dinner comes with a selection of sake, and each guest is served a plated main dish alongside the buffet. By the end of our weekend stay, we tried everything from wagyu beef to local Hokkaido produce. While Mizu no Uta is off-the-beaten path, it is well worth the trek for those that want a cozy retreat from the hustle and bustle of Sapporo city. I rarely share …

36 hours in Hokkaido

From fatty miso pork ramen to the best cream puffs you’ll ever taste, Hokkaido is truly Japan’s ‘kingdom of food.’ My friend L and I recently visited Sapporo with the aim of eating our way through town. Here is a curated food guide to the local gems we found & would recommend. This is a follow-up to my 36 hours in Kyoto: Food & Omiyage. Different city, different must-eats. Enjoy! Friday 9 a.m. Arrive at Sapporo Station Fly directly into Chitose Airport and take the airport express to Sapporo Station (~30 minutes). Sapporo Main Station is at the heart of the city’s central business district. Make sure to fully utilize the underpass that connects Sapporo Station with all of Sapporo’s major department stores (Stellar Place, AEON, etc.). It is a blessing especially in snowy weather and you will marvel at this well-designed & extremely convenient underpass. 11 a.m. Visit Kitakaro Honkan for brunch A 10-minute walk from Sapporo Station, Kitakaro is a beautiful confectionary shop housed in Sapporo’s oldest library. Renovated by Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Andao, …