Glacier National Park Photo Essay

This journey will capture some of the must-see locations at Glacier National Park! First of all, it is absolutely massive and beautiful! There’s an unlimited amount of hiking trails and scenic drives that will bring a smile to anyone’s face :)

Quick Info (if you’re interested):

Glacier is beautiful in the summer but very busy and packed with people (generally May-early Sept). Fall is great, but facilities will start to close down. Winter is a good time to see everything covered in snow and you can enjoy cross-country skiing. Spring comes late and is short-lived, but it can be one of the quieter times of the year.

What you want to see will dictate how long you should stay. I’d say you can get a good overview of the park and drive through all the famous locations in 2 days (minimum). If you want to hike though, you could easily spend a week or more trekking the over 700 miles of trails. There are also plenty of tours, boating, fishing and biking opportunities.

Going to the Sun Road is an absolutely-must-see if you’re going to Glacier National Park. It is a windy, fun road that peaks at Logan’s Pass and connect east and west Glacier. Parts of the road are open all year, even in the winter, but plowing becomes a monumental challenge each year. Going To The Sun Road has it’s own “Current Road Status” section (see link below).

Glacier is crazy busy during the summer and most of the campgrounds are first-come first-served; all of which seem to fill up before noon. You can make reservations at “Fish Creek, “St. Mary,” and group reservations at “Apgar.”

Glacier National Park is open every day of the year and you can enter at any time. Many facilities close down during the winter, but there are lots of good cross-country skiing opportunities at that time. If you are driving to Glacier from any distance away, you will probably need to camp or book a hotel outside and then get up early the next day to get into the park and get a campsite (most sites are gone between 8-11am).

Staying inside may not be all it’s cracked up to be! There are tons of campgrounds and hotels close by and you should consider sleeping outside the park and then driving in during the days. Camping varies between $10-$23/night during the summer season.

For more information go to their official page at: www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm

And now … let’s jump into the Photo Essay!

View from "Going To The Sun Road"

Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

Going to the Sun Road - Viewpoint

Viewpoint on Going to the Sun Road

The Famous Photo-in-Front-of-a-Sign!

West Glacier, Glacier National Park

St. Mary - NE Entrance

St. Mary Entrance -Glacier National Park

Barney Takes in the Scenery

Barney goes to Glacier National Park

Logan's Pass

Logan's Pass - Glacier National Park

A Closer Look of the Waterfall

Glacier National Park

Hungry Horse Dam & Reservoir

Hungry Horse Dam

Barney at Hungry Horse

Barney goes to Hungry Horse Dam!

At a Campground Outside Glacier

Camping Outside Glacier National Park

China Itineraries (1,2,3 & 4 Weeks)

Welcome to Searching For Your Zen Itineraries!
(Recommendations to help you plan your perfect vacation)

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China

Primary Method of Travel: Trains are a great way to get around China. Travel China Guide is a great resource to find and book trains. Go for the “D Train” or “G Train” if you can … they’re faster and way more comfortable.
Local Currency: Yuan or RMB (Renminbi – The People’s Money) – Sometimes called “Kuai” [pronounced: kwhy]
Rough Conversion Rate:  6 RMB = $1 USD

China is a massive country and has tons of history, scenery and tourist attractions for any traveler. Many people though, will enter China on a 30 Day Tourist Visa and may find themselves wondering where to even start.

After living in China for 2 years I was lucky enough to see most of the cities I mention below. A couple quick disclaimers though: I never made it to Yunnan Province, Chengdu or Tibet – all of which are popular tourist destinations and I’ve added to the itineraries.

So, without too much rambling, here are my recommendations on how to make the most out of your next trip to China:

1 Week

China, travel, itinerary, 1 week
China, travel, itinerary, 1 week

China is a tough country to tackle on 1 week and I would highly recommend spending AT LEAST 2 weeks to see China. However, if 1 week is all you have, here are a couple “speedy” options:
*Due to Xi’an being so far out of the way and only having a week to see China, I recommend, “Option A.”

A: The Big 3*
IMG_2373Hong Kong – Hong Kong is an amazing city to ease you into China. It opens up Macau for you, flights are common to Hong Kong & you can cram a ton into 2 days.
Shanghai – Shanghai is the biggest city in the world and has an incredible skyline that will not fail to impress.
Beijing – A MUST SEE if you’re going to China. Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are all doable in 2 fast-paced days.

B: The Northern Route
IMG_3380Beijing – A MUST SEE if you’re going to China. Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are all doable in 2 fast-paced days.
Xi’an – Home of the Terra-cotta Warriors and un-missable in the eyes of some. Other than the warriors, Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot to see that will take you more than 2 days total.
Shanghai
 – Shanghai is the biggest city in the world and has an incredible skyline that will not fail to impress.

2 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 2 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 2 weeks

2 Weeks is starting to become a little more manageable. You will have more time to see beyond the basic tourist sites and you will also have a chance to see some of the cities outside the big cities.
*I recommend “Option A” again. I love Hong Kong, but if you really want to see the real China, Luoyang has too much to pass up.

A: The Cultural North*
IMG_1760Shanghai – Shanghai will serve as easy access into China. There’s tons of flights, transportation is great and buying train tickets will be easy from the biggest city in the world!
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing – And back to Beijing to finish your 2 weeks! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should still have time to pick a couple other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Lllama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: A Taste of the South

Sunset SmallerHong Kong
 – If you have to see Hong Kong I can’t blame you. It’s an awesome city and its the easiest city in China to get around in for foreigners. It would be a great way to start your 2 weeks, but you will have to cut out some other cities. 
Shanghai
  – Getting from Hong Kong to Shanghai is easy by train and you will ease yourself into China by starting with 2 major cities (big cities are easier to get around and more accustomed to tourists).
Hangzhou – Because this is my favorite city in China, I am recommending it instead of Luoyang (it will be hard to see both in just 2 weeks and I think you may have to pick between Luoyang and Hangzhou). In Hangzhou, You will get to see tea fields, beautiful scenery and the impressive “West Lake!” Don’t forget your camera!
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing – And back to Beijing to finish your 2 weeks! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should still have time to pick a couple other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Lllama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

3 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks

3 Weeks is starting to become way more comfortable. You will have more time to absorb Chinese culture without feeling like you are running to the next place all the time. Below, Itineraries A, B, and C become consecutively busier. I added Guangzhou to all the 3 week itineraries and added Nanjing, and Chengdu as potential add-on cities, depending on how fast you like to travel.
* I recommend “Option A” for the 3 week option. Nanjing (Meaning “South Capital” in Mandarin) and Chengdu (where you can see Pandas) are great add-on cities, but “Option A” gives you more time to relax and enjoy the cities you are in. Ultimately, it will be up to you!

A: Nice ‘n Easy Overview*
IMG_4641Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but if you only do one thing, make sure you do a river-boat tour!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing -Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: Panda Express (add Chengdu)

IMG_4724
Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu (I’ve never been there so I borrowed Amy’s advice) – Chengdu is home to the Pandas and from what I’ve been told, it’s actually an awesome city for backpackers and tourists. It’s a long ways out there though, so you might want to consider flying to Beijing for the next leg.
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

C: The Enthusiastic Traveler (add Chengdu & Nanjing)

2014-01-16 13.07.21Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Nanjing (“South Capital”) – It’s only a quick hop by train from Hangzhou and gives some insight into some of China’s more recent history (WW2 era). Home to Sun Yat Sen’s memorial and the Nanjing Massacre Museum there are plenty of things to see and do.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu (I’ve never been there so I borrowed Amy’s advice) – Chengdu is home of the Pandas and from what I’ve been told, is actually an awesome city for backpackers and tourists. It’s a long ways out there though, so you might want to consider flying to Beijing for the next leg.
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

4 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 4 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 4 weeks

Most people traveling to China will get a 30 Day Single Entry Tourist Visa! This is a great way to tackle China and if you are planning on spending the entire 4 weeks there, these itineraries might help you with planning. You should ultimately create your own adventure in China based on what you want to see and do … but these itineraries can serve as a starting point!

Keep in mind, if you are visiting Hong Kong on a single entry visa go there 1st or last! If you go to mainland China first and then enter Hong Kong, you won’t be able to return to mainland China a 2nd time. By going to Hong Kong 1st or last, you won’t use any of your “30 days” (allowed visa days) while you’re there.

* I recommend “Option B” (Only if you decide to see pandas in Chengdu).
** My personal recommendation though, is “Option A” (Skip Chengdu & give yourself more time to see other things. For extra ideas check out “4 Weeks+” below).

A: The Grand Tour**
Hong Kong2014-01-19 13.42.13 – A great place to start your China journey and absolutely unavoidable if you have 4 weeks.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Kunming – I’ve heard good things about Kunming and it will get you within reach of the famous southern mountains of China. (I haven’t been there personally so I have linked to Trip Advisor’s “Things to do in Kunming”).
Lijiang (Linked to “The Travel World” because I haven’t been there) – If you want to see those tall, beautifully, green mountains that southern China is famous for then plan a trip to Lijiang. While you’re there you can check out Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lonely Planet describes it as “The unmissable trek of southwest China.”
Shanghai – There’s no excuse to miss Shanghai with 4 weeks.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Nanjing – Nanjing is a city built around an elaborate canal system. It’s a pretty cool walled city, is one of China’s ancient capitals and home to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Luoyang – While you’re there, Check out these 3 things: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu – It’s suppose to be cool (I haven’t seen it) and it’s where everyone seems to go to see and hold Pandas. It’s a long way out of the way though, and holding pandas can get expensive. If you do decide to go, plan on flying from Chengdu to Beijing. It will be much quicker and probably similar in price to taking the train.
Beijing – And back to Beijing! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you will definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: A Bit of Everything*

Hong KongIMG_1562 -A great place to start your China journey and absolutely unavoidable if you have 4 weeks.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Kunming – I’ve heard good things about Kunming and it will get you within reach of the famous southern mountains of China. (I haven’t been there personally so I have linked to Trip Advisor’s “Things to do in Kunming”).
Lijiang (Linked to “The Travel World” because I haven’t been there) – If you want to see those tall, beautifully, green mountains that southern China is famous for then plan a trip to Lijiang. While you’re there you can check out Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lonely Planet describes it as “The unmissable trek of southwest China.”
Chengdu – If you’re going to see the Pandas and Chengdu then definitely swing up from Lijiang for this itinerary. It’s much closer and you can work your way back to Shanghai and up to Beijing more fluidly.
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Luoyang – While you’re there, Check out these 3 things: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Nanjing – Nanjing is a city built around an elaborate canal system. It’s a pretty cool walled city, is one of China’s ancient capitals and home to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Shanghai – There’s no excuse to miss Shanghai with 4 weeks.
Beijing -And back to Beijing! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you will definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

4 Weeks +
If you managed to line up more than 4 weeks in china OR you just want to mix and match with the itineraries above, here are a few popular destinations to check out while you’re in China:

Bungee, Jumping, highest, tallest, Macau, Tower, world, scary

Highest Bungee in the World

If you’re an adrenaline junky check out Macau while you’re around Hong Kong! Amongst the gambling and sights you can jump off the Macau Tower, the world’s highest bungee jump.

(Click the link read more)

Harbin, ice, festival, worlds, largest, freezing, cold

Harbin Ice Festival

The Harbin Ice Festival is the biggest ice festival in the world. It is way, way, way out of the way and SUPER COLD! But … it is pretty awesome to see. Check it out around Christmas time thru February-ish.

(Click the link read more)

2014-04-19 13.49.43

Luoyang Peony Festival

If you love Peonies then you will love this Peony Festival! It’s sometime in April depending on the year, but make sure you get there during the right week; otherwise it’s a little under-whelming.

(Click the link read more)

tallest, statue, world, spring temple, buddha, China

Spring Temple Buddha

The Spring Temple Buddha is the tallest statue in the world, but it is shockingly out in the middle of nowhere. If you want to check out this huge statue, you’re closest major city will be Luoyang. 

(For detailed instructions on getting to the statue click the link above)

Zhujiajiao, Water City, Sunset

Zhujiajiao – Water Town

This is an incredible little town that lives on the water! It is a perfect day trip from Shanghai and a perfect place to try food, get cool souvenirs and work on your bartering skills. Head out with enough time to get a table and eat along the waterfront … if your lucky you will catch one of their awesome sunsets.

(Click the link read more)

Tibet, map

Lhasa,
Tibet

If your dream is to see Tibet then I would recommend going during your China trip. You will need a Chinese visa in a addition to some other paperwork to get in. Tour groups may be your best bet.

(Link goes to chinahighlights.com)

Did you like this Itinerary? Well, more are coming soon!

More Itineraries

A Nomad’s Thoughts on Returning Home (part 1)

Part 1: 10 Thoughts on Returning Home After 2 Years Abroad
Part 2: Resolution and Advice After Being Home for 2 Weeks

Ah, it’s been forever since I’ve posted an article. In fact, this is the longest I have ever gone without posting anything.

I have a good excuse though :)  … In the past 3 weeks I flew from rural China to San Francisco (stayed 72 hours) and then flew back, gave my 550 Chinese kids their end-of-year oral/written exams, then packed everything from the past 2 years and flew back to Canada with Jess!

Whew, it’s been crazy, exciting, and ultimately just a lot of fun!

So, Jess and I have been living and working in China for the past 2 years. All in all we had a great experience, but it was definitely time for us to come home. 

As we re-enter N. America though (I wrote this on the plane ride back), I found my mind wandering to unexpected things. Curiosity, anxiety and even nervousness began to set in at the prospect of delving back into the realm of familiarity.

IMG_6296

Saying our final farewells the week before leaving Asia.

So, as Alaska stared back at me 35,000 feet below, I began to think of reverse culture shock and how it would effect me this time around. 

With that in mind, here are 10 thoughts that popped into my mind as I prepared to re-enter the familiarity of North America after 2 years abroad:

IMG_6268

1. People will speak the same language again… ah!

As crazy as it seems, there is an intimidating aspect to this. In China, we used hand motions and our pathetic level of Chinese to communicate with people. If something didn’t work out though, we could always just blame it on that nameless “communication barrier.” We don’t have an excuse for miscommunication any more!

2. What if everything is different back home? 

This thought has diminished over the years as I began to realize that things very rarely change back home. It’s always a bizarre feeling to take off, travel, experience the world, change as a person and then come back just to find everything the exact same.

I suspect very little will have changed this time too. However, I still find myself wondering what will have changed. Something had to change!

3. Am I going to have to be responsible again? 

Alright let’s face it, backpackers travelers and nomads are rarely working that hard :) Life abroad is exciting, challenging, and stressful at times, but it just doesn’t compare to the stress that comes with the fast-paced society, jobs, bills and over-all life in western culture.

I’m wondering if returning home will come with a burden of responsibility that I haven’t had to deal with for the past 2 years.

4. I can’t wait to eat normal food again!

No explanation necessary! I loved Chinese food, but I am sick of rice and noodles. It’s time to eat a steak and drink a real beer!

Starring out Plane Window
Teaching English in China TEFL

5. Wait … does this mean I have to get a job again?

It almost brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it… I just hope it isn’t true, but I fear I may actually have to work again… (to be determined)

6. What if no one can relate to my stories? 

What if I try to tell that crazy story about, “catching a bus in rural China, the driver got lost and we got stuck in a small town, locals were taking pictures of us and we ended up talking to an old Chinese lady for an hour about tea and flowers even though neither of us even spoke Chinese …. ” and then I look up and realize that no one can even begin to relate.

In some ways, if you can’t relay a story properly (which I suck at telling stories), it can have a small diminishing effect on the experience itself. I hope people’s inability to relate to our experiences doesn’t dampen our memory of them.

7. Will I start comparing everything to life abroad? 

We’ve been so excited to return home for so long now! I wonder if once we get back to Canada though, if we will start experiencing a “grass is always greener” dilemma.

– Maybe that food we’ve craved for so long isn’t going to be as great at 1-x as much money!
– Or maybe that cold American Beer I’ve dreamed about will be less than satisfactory because it cost $6 … and I have to start tipping again!
– Maybe the excitement of getting to drive myself places will be diminished by the cost of gasoline, insurance, tickets, etc.

Or … maybe, everything will just be awesome! We’ll see …

8. I wonder what things I missed while I was gone.

Countries and cultures go through shockingly profound changes in just a couple years. Politics and leaders change, new movements begin, music, youth and styles change … I’m curious how the countries we know have changed in our absence.

China, Chinese, food, meal, eating, round, table
Teaching, English, China, students, teacher

9. How long does it take for “home” to feel like home again?

I’m not sure how long this will take. I’ve lived in 23 or 24 houses in my life now and my personal guess is 30 days.

I’m also going to be living in Jess’s hometown so I’m curious how feeling “home” (as in N. America) will compare with feeling “home” (as in house/home).

10. Can I actually afford to live back at home again?

Life in China was cheap! Teaching English was the lowest paying job I ever had, but I liked it a lot and saved more than I’ve ever saved in a 2 year span. I think there will be an adjustment to not just buying everything we want without having to think about it.