Bali wasn’t on the agenda.

My original itinerary had me leaving Hong Kong for India and spending three weeks there exploring the desert province of Rajasthan, but somewhere between Zhangjiajie and Beijing it hit me. I’d been feeling borderline cranky, tired and periodically homesick for more than a week, all indications that I was experiencing the infamous travel fatigue syndrome. I’d read about it before leaving but had forgotten how often it can hit people who attempt long-term travel; on a whim I scrapped my plans for India and instead headed to Bali for some R&R.

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I never thought I’d be so happy to touch down in Hong Kong. After hearing great things about the city and its culture over the last several years, there were a couple things in particular I was excited about after my previous few weeks in China: English speakers everywhere! Prices actually posted! And most importantly, WESTERN. TOILETS.

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For my last China post I’ve compiled a short list of helpful tips to prepare any westerner (blonde or not) for a trip to this amazing country. To help illustrate these points I’ve included real life anecdotes from my three weeks of traveling.

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After my days in urban Shanghai and Suzhou, the next stop on my Chinese Adventure 2015! itinerary was visiting the Avatar Mountains in the rural Hunan province. Located outside the city of Zhangjiajie in what had become China’s first national forest park in 1982, seeing the famous mountains was the next item on my list of round-the-world trip pillars.

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Known historically as the meeting place of Chinese high society, artists and writers, the small city of Suzhou is famous for its art forms and beautiful gardens. Located a breezy 25 minute bullet train ride from downtown Shanghai, it’s a nice destination for a one or two day escape from big city life to see its charming canals, pagodas and humpbacked bridges.

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Arriving in Shanghai was like a breath of fresh air after my time in the Middle East. Thanks to a layover in über-trendy Doha, Qatar, the transition from dusty, conservative Jordan to clean, progressive Shanghai was pretty easy, despite experiencing jetlag for the first time in months.

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Jordan was an interesting few days; to be honest I didn’t have the best time there and was considering not writing about it, however I feel there might be value in sharing my experience so others can learn from it.

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Although the Great Pyramids of Giza are easily the most famous of Ancient Egypt’s surviving sites, the small city of Luxor offers Egyptian history nerds (like me!) an unparalleled treasure trove of temples, tombs and relics.

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The culture shock I’d been waiting for finally struck upon arriving into Cairo.

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After spending a few lazy days in Antalya and Bodrum, I headed to Istanbul to finish off the Turkish leg of my round-the-world adventure. All the guidebooks will warn you about experiencing extreme culture shock upon arriving in Istanbul; stepping into the streets of the huge city, you’re immediately greeted with people in every direction, chaotic traffic, and a hundred different smells and sounds.

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