The Dos And Don’ts of Beijing

Adam and I have been on the road for four and half months and we have definitely experienced our fair share of adventure, usually in the “let’s go for a hike” sense but other times in the “did we really just sleep on top of a mountain” sense. We live for adventure but I have to admit…we were nervous about visiting Beijing, China. After spending a month in the US and two weeks in Europe, we had started getting used to hearing English and eating familiar foods. China was going to be an experience for all of our senses and we are happy to report that China. Is. Wonderful. With over 20 million people, ancient sites and impressive modern architecture, Beijing is unlike any other city that we’ve visited.

There are some seriously crazy new buildings in Beijing!

There are some seriously crazy new buildings in Beijing!

Old and new living in the same city.

Beautiful views at Temple of Sun Park.

It can be overwhelming planning a trip here, with so much to learn before you go and see and do once you’re there. To assist in your planning, we’ve prepared a short list of dos and don’ts in Beijing:

DO use the subway to get around town. It’s safe, cheap, and very easy to navigate. All signs are in both Chinese and English, and all announcements are made in English as well. If you can, grab a subway map from your hotel to help you plan your trip and navigate as you go.

DON’T drink the tap water, it is not safe. Bottles of water can easily be found at any of the small convenience stores scattered throughout the city.

DO visit The Great Wall. The Mutianyu section of the wall is only a two hour drive from Beijing and offers a great view of the wall and the foothills. You can reach the wall by foot, by ski lift or by riding in a four person gondola. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the winding steel toboggan track back down from the wall. It’s so much fun! (check out the video!)

DON’T cross the street without looking in all directions, twice, even if you have the ‘walk’ signal. There are buses, cars, mopeds and bicycles on the road and they all seem to follow their own rules of the road. The biggest vehicle should always have the right-of-way which means if you’re walking on foot and not paying attention, you’re going to lose.

Watch out for these guys! They're everywhere and you don't need a drivers license to drive them.

Watch out for these guys! They’re everywhere and you don’t need a drivers license to drive them.

DO expect to be served rice, noodles and soy sauce for breakfast. Say goodbye to your bowl of fruit loops and blueberry pancakes.

DON’T forget to check the hours for The Forbidden City. Otherwise you might show up an hour after the gates close like we did (oops!)

Locked outside of The Forbidden City!

Locked outside of The Forbidden City!

DO eat dumplings and peking duck. Highly, highly recommend Mr. Shi’s for dumplings and Da Dong Roast Duck for their lean duck. Quick tip on the duck: one is enough for two people, and since it is served with a condiment tray, soup, fresh fruit and a dessert, you definitely won’t leave hungry.

DON’T be surprised if people stare at you or want to take a picture with you. We’re not sure if it’s Adam’s height, his massive beard, or his downright good looks that’s turning heads in China but he is definitely an attraction for the locals. We’ve seen everything from a 360 degree stop-and-stare, to a wide-eyed, mouth open double take. In fact, our visit at The Great Wall was interrupted a few times by people wanting to take pictures with us! I only wish I could see what they were posting about us on social media.

To see a video recap of our time in Beijing, including footage from The Great Wall, Mr. Shi’s and Tiananmen square, click the link below or visit the “Kimblesinbits” YouTube channel!

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When Buda Met Pest

Did you know that Budapest used to be two cities (Buda and Pest)? We didn’t until we arrived there! The Danube River that we came to love in Bratislava separates the two cities that were merged to become a single city on opposite banks of the river in 1873. We happened to be staying on the “Pest” side, which is unfortunately to the East because it would have been fun to stay in the Pest to the West (dad joke)!

Our home during the short six-day stint was the Sun Resort Apartments. This newly built, well-run and affordable complex is situated in the 8th District, which used to be one of the rougher districts in Budapest. In recent years, however, it finds itself in a period of growth and revitalization and is continuing to shed the bad rap from the past. The 8th District is now known for it’s jazz music, art galleries, and trendy cafes. It is also home of the Corvin Plaza (a well-kept collection of shops located right outside of our building) which was hosting an inaugural beer festival on the day that we arrived! Happening upon beer fests seems to be a specialty for the Kimbles. And we’re okay with that!

To sum up the highlights from Budapest, below is a short list of things to see and do in the city:

Budapest’s Top 5

1. Visit Margaret Island (Margitsziget): This island is located in the middle of the Danube, nestled between Buda and Pest. There is a 5k-long track outlining the coast of the island, which is perfect for running, walking or biking! If you come on the weekend you can enjoy a fountain water show set to music.

2. See the Beauty of St. Stephen’s Basilica: This is the largest church in Budapest, dedicated to Hungary’s first king. Karen and I attended mass here and it was the most beautiful basilica we have ever seen! Whether you want to participate in mass or just take pictures inside, it’s worth the visit. Fun fact: the basilica is one of the top 10 most photographed places in the world.

Beautiful Saint Stephen's Basilica!

Beautiful Saint Stephen’s Basilica!

3. Have Dinner and Drinks at a Ruin Pub: The popularity of ruin pubs (bar-restaurants located in previously abandoned buildings) is still on the rise in Budapest. We ate at Mazel Tov, a Mediterranean-style pub which looked more like a wedding reception venue than an abandoned building! The food and atmosphere were excellent and there was live music to boot.

4. Walk Through Fisherman’s Bastion (Halaszbastya): This place looks like the Hungarian Disneyland! Built between 1895 and 1902, this architectural treat features seven towers representing the seven Hungarian chieftains who led their tribes to settle in Hungary. If you’re looking for the best views in the city, this is where to go!

Fisherman's Bastion in all its Disney glory!

Fisherman’s Bastion in all its Disney glory!

5. Eat pizza at the Local Korner: Great pizza, better service. That should be the motto of Local Korner. It’s a delicious pizza place run by three young friends who know what it means to deliver good service. Like many restaurants in Budapest, they have a “drive-up” window where you can walk right up to the side of the building and order pizza by the slice directly from the window. We chose to go inside and order up a specialty pizza, which we then took home because there is a very limited dining area (one table). While we waited for the pizza, we were offered shots of vodka on the house and asked multiple times if we wanted coffee or anything else to drink. We enjoyed it so much that we ate here twice!

To see these sights come to life, check out our newest video below or subscribe to the “Kimblesinbits” YouTube channel!

Life on the Farm: Lago Rupanco Edition

It’s been two weeks since we last posted on the blog, mainly because we’ve had a lot going on and very little access to internet.  Karen and I left Cusco made our way all the way down the coast of Chile from Arica to Santiago (almost 1,300 miles). We rented a car in a beach town named Iquique and enjoyed driving through the vast beauty of the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean, one or both of which bordered us at all times.

After spending a couple of days in Santiago, we flew south to Puerto Montt to begin our next mission: working as farm hands!  We flew into the city and stayed one night before having the once-in-a-lifetime experience of picking up our Chicago friends at a Chilean airport.  My former Red Frog co-workers and incredible friends Clayton, Emma, and Katherine all made their way to southern Chile to work with us on a farm near Lago Rupanco for the week.  The farm was about a four-hour drive from Puerto Montt, tucked deep into the wilderness with immense beauty in every direction.

The farm's #1 fan.

The farm’s #1 fan.

Continuing the trend of crazy travel adventures for the Kimbles, the journey began with a little miscommunication at the airport car rental area.  Our crew had reserved a van so there would be room for the five of us, Sofi and her extra-large crate.  However, we didn’t arrive at the time listed on the reservation, so they gave away our rental to somebody else!  We didn’t have many options after that since the majority of the companies there were completely out of stock.  Fortunately, Karen speaks good Spanish and was able to converse with a local rental company to get us a slightly smaller utility vehicle.  With some clever positioning of Sofi’s crate and a complete removal of leg room for all of us, we were able to fit!  So, the five of us (plus Sofi) embarked in the direction of the farm.  To add to the excitement of our adventure, we didn’t actually know where the farm was located.  Due to our lack of internet and inability to regularly communicate with the owner of the property, Greg, we just headed towards the area and hoped for the best.

Following a couple of hours driving we were able to make a pit stop at a cafe in Osorno.  There we tried to call Greg for directions and were unable to succeed, but we got a few screen shots of maps to help us navigate further into the area.  An hour later after some more stops we were able to get wifi and grab the step-by-step directions to the farm.  We continued on as the sun was setting and headed off into the darkness.  Another couple of hours twisting and turning down a gravel road, getting out of the car to open fences, and getting deeper into the darkness, we happened upon the barn where we would sleep for the next two nights.

The Osorno dream team!

The Rupanco dream team!

We spent two nights camping out inside the barn and loving every second of it.  The lodge we’re currently staying in became available two days into our stay, so we moved in there after the short accommodation at the barn.  Sofi has spent nearly 100% of her time chasing sheep, swimming and running around with the other dogs.  When we arranged to work at this farm (through an online forum called “Workaway”) we had no idea how many awesome people we would meet.  There are many other volunteers from various countries all over the world, including Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom.  Our group definitely had a special connection when we met, as everyone seemed to click together.  We would work all morning beekeeping, building fences, caring for chickens and ducks, installing windows in the barn, picking berries and doing other tasks on the property; then, in the mid-afternoon, we would go on hikes, walk down to the beach or just play games together at the lodge.  Every moment was a tremendous blessing and we’re so thankful that we met the group of people that we did!

Katherine and I in our beekeeping suits!

Katherine and I in our beekeeping suits!

Fast forward to today.  Our friends have left (sadly) but Karen and I are still spending another week on the farm before we leave for Rio.  We’ve continued to meet amazing volunteers from places like India, Lithuania, Portugal, and Uruguay.  It’s funny that we can come to a remote farm in southern Chile and meet people from anywhere but Chile!  The people are tremendous and we are happy to do a little part to help move this farm forward.  They hope to become completely self-sustainable in the near future, living off the land in a way that teaches people how to treat the environment with total respect.  From solar energy and water reclamation to organic gardening and farm-raised animals, their mission will go a long way to exhibit how important it is to understand how our actions affect our surroundings.  It’s great to know that Chicago has placed a permanent stamp on the hard work being done here!

Here’s what we’ve been doing for the last three weeks in Chile. We’ve had some unbelievably unique experiences and met lifelong friends. We’re so thankful to God that we ended up here!