The World’s Tallest + Longest Glass Bridge (Zhangjiajie)

About a year ago, I started seeing videos and articles on Facebook about how there was going to be a new tourist attraction built at Zhangjiajie, amidst the mountains that inspired the scenes of Pandora in Avatar. In August, the longest and tallest glass-bottomed bridge in the world opened to visitors. I definitely did not think this was something I’d ever do. I visited Zhangjiajie several years ago, and it was really beautiful but quite a strenuous hike. China has been building a lot of attractions for the sole purpose of attracting tourists, and I didn’t want to positively reinforce that cycle.
Yet there I was, putting little shoe covers on over my feet and looking at the to scale diorama of the bridge and the canyon below it.
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Here’s my experience with the record-setting glass bridge in Zhangjiajie.
Planning ahead would be best when it comes to visiting this Facebook-famous attraction.
  • You can reserve tickets online a day in advance, and this is, I believe, the best deal you can get on the tickets. We got ours from a tour agency on the way up, and they sell tickets at the door at the highest mark-up.
  • While the mountains are always a little misty, and the pollution is difficult to escape, the view on the bridge is more impressive on a clear and sunny day. We got clouds, so maybe that’s why I didn’t feel as much vertigo.
  • If you have a large bag (larger than a purse), you will be asked to check it – for a fee – at the concierge at the front.
  • You cannot bring your large camera in and will have to check that as well.  You can, of course, bring in your phone. I had my little camera in my pocket and had no issues with bringing it onto the bridge, but there were zero folks with larger cameras like DSLRs out on the bridge; I was the only person using not my phone camera to take photos.
  • Food is also prohibited on the bridge.There are a lot of little stands that sell food, so leave yours behind as they don’t want to attract too many critters onto the glass!
  • Don’t wear stilettos. You will not be allowed to wear them onto the bridge, as Force = Pressure / Area and the tiny area of your heel is very dangerous.
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The English portion of the rules on the bridge
Once you arrive in the visitor center, you will receive a pair of shoe covers to keep the glass flooring dirt-free. They are mandatory, so don’t worry about getting that #shoefie or #selfeet (??) photo on the glass – you will be wearing those stylish covers on your feet. Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes if you choose to hike (more on the canyon hike below).
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Mine were a wine red but I’ve seen a lot of different colors online! And yeah, that’s a pretty steep drop…
The glass bridge in Zhangjiajie spans the Grand Canyon, not to be confused with the famous canyon of the same name in Arizona. It measures ‎430 meters (1410 feet) long, ‎6 meters (20 feet) wide, and ‎300 meters (984 feet) high, making it the world’s longest and tallest glass-bottomed bridge in the world as of now.
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In the front is the pane of shattered glass, upon which several tons are resting to demonstrate the structural integrity of the bridge and each pane that makes it

Stepping out on the bridge, you get the briefest sense of vertigo. I think that because we came on a rather overcast day, it wasn’t as bad because you didn’t have as clear of a view of the bottom of the canyon. The glass starts on the cliff, so you aren’t immediately stepping over a 1000-foot drop. Rather, you start on the rocks of the cliff, right beneath your feet, walk on some treetops, and then before you know it, the glass is only separating you from the earth and water hundreds of meters away.

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There is a limit as to how many people are allowed on the bridge at any given time, and most of them congregate near the beginning of the bridge. Construction is not yet complete on the other side, so as of now, the front is the entrance and the exit; there is no through traffic on the bridge just yet.

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At some point, they are planning on setting up the bridge for ziplining and bungee jumping, which I think is insane but whatever gets people’s blood pumping! If you’re looking for a quieter kind of thrill, I think the views here are pretty dang good.

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With or without pollution, there is always a mystical mist drifting through the mountains in Zhangjiajie…

You’ll notice a lot of folks laying on the ground for their photos (like the selfie that was requested of me above) and trying to capture the drop below the glass. If you really want that to be clear, go on a clear day. The overcast day makes for moodier photos where you can only clearly see the drop below you in your shadow, as the reflection of the cloudy sky is very bright in the glass.

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Here’s a shot of our teen tour guide, and you can see that her shadow shows the cliffs behind her most clearly

This was a lot of fun to visit in person, and so soon after I saw viral videos about this attraction online! I do wish we had sunnier weather, but with how bad the pollution has been in China, sunny clear skies are becoming increasingly rare.

Is it worth a visit? Maybe, once. It is super hyped in those videos, but honestly, the scariest thing was the dude stomping and galloping on the panes, causing the entire bridge the wobble. (Can you keep a secret? I would have only been a little distressed if someone pushed him off the bridge…) Also the hike through the Grand Canyon was terrifying but I’ll talk about that in the next one!


Would you visit this bridge? I would definitely recommend visiting Zhangjiajie in general, as it’s a gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage site with breath-taking views and mountains.
Have you ever walked on glass-bottomed bridges before?
I don’t know of any other ones, and this one just became very famous!

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Ready for the Year of the Rooster?

Depending on where you are, tomorrow, January 28, marks the first day of the Lunar New Year! And according to the Chinese zodiac, this will be the year of the Rooster.

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I’m going home to my parents’ tonight for 年夜饭 nianyefan, New Year’s Eve dinner, sometimes known as the Reunion dinner. It’s one of the biggest parts of every Chinese New Year celebration, as it is when the whole family gathers and eats a lot of delicious foods. While talking with my boyfriend about how our families celebrate Chinese New Year, I thought about all the little traditions that make this time of year special. Sometimes, I feel very at odds with my cultural traditions if only because I am unfamiliar with them. When I go back to China, everyone grows up doing these things year after year to the point where it is no longer something that has to be explained. Things are just known among Chinese people. (Thanks in small part to how viral articles can get on WeChat!)

My family isn’t actually very traditional, as far as Chinese families go, so many traditions I have picked up along the way outside of my own home, whether from other people’s families or through reading about celebrations in other homes. So to brief you (and myself!) for the upcoming new year and the year of the rooster, here are just a few ways I am prepping for Chinese New Year:

  • 腊八 – While I was in China, we were able to celebrate Laba, which is the 8th day of the last month of the lunar year. You eat laba congee, which is full of lots of goodies, notably cured meats or larou, in Chinese. I believe it has something to do with saving fresh meat for the new year and using up any cured meats before the start of the year? But I actually have no idea.
  • Family time – My mom works full time in China and is guaranteed 2 holidays every year to take a week off to come home: National Day (the anniversary of the first day of the People’s Republic of China) and Chinese New Year. I make sure that I am home during this time and have extra hours put in at work so that I can spend more time at home with her, my dad, and my brother, as well as any extended family we may be able to see.
  • Cleaning – I first learned this on Mister Rogers, funnily enough, but while you are supposed to do a big clean-up before the new year to cleanse the home of last year’s bad luck and make room for new, good luck, you are not supposed to clean on the day of the new year. If you do, you risk cleaning out all the fresh good luck that just arrived! For this reason, you also can’t sweep outwards or throw anything away.
  • Haircuts – My dad clearly didn’t know this when he searched for an open salon in China 2 years ago for me to get a haircut, but you are not supposed to cut your hair on the new year. Many Chinese traditions (and jokes) revolve around wordplay, and the Chinese word for hair sounds like the word for prosperity. Therefore, you don’t want to cut off any of the fresh new year prosperity!
  • Red, red, everywhere – If you are unsure what to wear on Chinese New Year, wear red. A lot of it. Fresh duds are a good idea, too, so if you have a new red sweater, there is no better time to bust it out than on the Lunar New Year. Red is a lucky color and you’ll be seeing it everywhere, from the lanterns to the papercut patterns to the red envelopes. Speaking of which…
  • Red envelopes! – 红包 hongbao are one of the hallmarks of Chinese New Year for children because they get to collect money from their elders! As an adult with a job, I no longer expect to receive little red envelopes with super crisp $20 bills in them anymore. (The bills are always crisp because people get fresh bills from the bank for this purpose. You’ll see that this freshness is one of the themes of Chinese New Year traditions.) Although people will still give me 红包 despite my age and employment status, I think I may actually be responsible for giving out red envelopes now? Last year, we purchased a pack of envelopes to prepare for stuffing, so if you will be attending festivities with children, I’d prepare by picking up some red envelopes and popping over to the bank to get some crisp bills.
  • Foods to include – As with any holiday anywhere, there are a lot of traditional foods that go with Chinese New Year, including:
    • Dumplings: Popular in northern China because their shape resembles old Chinese money
    • 年糕 Rice cakes: Literally niangao is year cakes, but I like to think it’s another play on words because they are very sticky and the word for sticky in Chinese sounds like the word for year. These are almost always prepared in a savory dish. It has a second wordplay meaning in that the word for cake sounds like the word for increasing, so the phrase sounds like increasing [prosperity] by the year.
    • Fish: Another play on words, the Chinese adage 年年有余 means “may there be a surplus every year” and sounds like “may there be fish every year”. I learned last year that my boyfriend’s family will prepare fish but they tend to leave it so as to have as much of a surplus of the fish (surplus) as possible. (Oops sorry for eating it, it looked so yummy!) Fish is, to me, a mandatory Chinese New Year food. All other things you can have one or the other, but this one you gotta have.
  • Firecrackers + fireworks – Depending on where you are, these may not factor into your celebration, but a large Chinese community (think Chinatowns) will definitely see some firecrackers and there’s a good chance you’ll see fireworks somewhere, regardless of how legal they are where you live. These are super dangerous and have caused an incredible amount of damage in China, but you know, they scare off demons trying to sneak in with all the fresh good luck while you sealeup your house to keep them the heck outta there. Bring ear plugs if you suspect explosions to occur; tinnitus does not bring good luck with it.
  • Lantern festival – Very traditionally, in some places, you celebrate the Lunar New Year, aka the Spring Festival, over 15 days. FIFTEEN. Each day, with it’s own traditions! The 15th day of the new year is the Lantern Festival, 元宵节 yuanxiaojie. On this day, you eat little glutinous rice balls called 汤圆 tangyuan or 元宵 yuanxiao, named for the 15th day holiday that you eat them on! And yes, there be lanterns.

Also, the year of the Rooster is the 本命年 benmingnian for people born in other years of the Rooster. It is actually a tricky time if it’s your 本命年, which I learned during my own 本命年 2 years ago, because essentially a lot of luck becomes focused on you – good and bad. This is the reason why my mother became very obsessed with buying me a red belt, and I heard a lot of talk about red belts for our family Roosters when I went back home to China as well. HOWEVER you can’t buy it for yourself? My mom was very firm about this, she wouldn’t leave without getting me something red and wouldn’t let me find something later on. So if you are turning a multiple of 12 (12, 24, 36, 48 60, etc.) this year, be mindful! You may find a lot of luck coming your way, so try to make sure it’s all good luck by wearing a lot of red and maybe some jade jewelry.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be! There are a lot of traditions but the most important thing is family and friends. You are trying to start the year off on the right foot by welcoming prosperity and fortune into your life with open arms.

And we do this by eating a lot of delicious food!

新年快乐!恭喜发财!Happy New Year, everyone!

Do you celebrate the Lunar New Year?
What are your favorite New Year foods/traditions?

My 3 Must-Eat Meals in Changde

Following up on my must-eat meals in Beijing, where my mom’s family has been living for the past 30 years, it was only right that I tell you about the foods I needed to eat in my dad’s hometown of Changde 常德. Again, this does not encompass all of my favorite foods or Changde’s specialties, but here are the 3 foods I did not want to leave Changde without eating:

  1. Changde beef noodle soup
  2. 油粑粑 youbaba, a deep-fried doughnut
  3. Fish that I caught myself

1. Changde beef noodle soup

Changde is actually quite famous for their 牛肉米粉 niurou mifen, beef rice noodles. The noodles themselves are very distinct and difficult/impossible to recreate outside of Changde. (For similar reasons to why it’s difficult/impossible to recreate authentic NY-style pizza outside of New York – people attribute it to the water.) The noodles are the perfect consistency and absorb just enough flavor from the delicious soup without getting waterlogged. The soup is hearty and beefy without weighing you down and, in traditional Hunan style, it has a kick! (Hunan province, like Sichuan, is famous for spicy food. The big difference is the lack of the peppercorns that numb your mouth and/or cause extreme pain!)

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This is officially my brother’s favorite breakfast food of all time, despite the fact that he usually tends to prefer more Western cuisines. We ate these noodles almost every single morning for breakfast with a splash of vinegar and relished these big bowls of soup and noodles and beef every single day we were with our family in Changde.

If you visit Changde, you must get a bowl. It is the most famous food out of Changde and one of the famous foods out of Hunan province.

2. 油粑粑

There is no direct English translation for this, but you baba roughly comes out to oil cake. If you are familiar with 油条 youtiao, fried crullers, then 油粑粑 will be a familiar food. It is a deep-fried ring with scallion bits throughout the dough and definitely not a health food. I also don’t see these in Beijing, and, as I understand it, this class of fried pastry is fairly unique to Hunan. I like these savory ones that are crispy and fluffy for eating on their own or dipping into my beef noodle soup.

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They also make sweet 粑粑 varieties, and I would frequently hear street vendors with speakers advertising these while seeing kids running after them. It’s one of those foods that is really simple that just remind me of being in my dad’s hometown, eating breakfast with my family, who would tell me to not eat so much fried food…

3. Fish I caught myself

Since my grandmother’s passing, I always stay with my aunt and uncle when we visit Changde. My uncle is super passionate about fishing. He goes nearly every day, and whenever I show up at his place, there is fish that he caught on the table. The last time I visited China, he was drying scores of little fish for us to munch on as soon as we got in from the airport!

My grandfather also used to really love fishing, so every time we visit Changde, my uncle will take us to his spot to try our luck with the lines. I have come to enjoy how meditative fishing is, even though the weather wasn’t great the morning we went. It’s relaxing to sit and wait and slow down, which is really difficult for me and my racing thoughts to do.

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Unfortunately, I did not catch a fish this time around. I almost got one but it got away. 😢 My brother caught a fish and my uncle caught enough to make up for it, and we were still able to come home with freshly-caught fish for dinner. It always tastes a little better knowing that you had to sit and wait and be rewarded for your patience. (And, in my uncle’s case, his skill!)


The food in Changde is really good and very different from the food in Beijing. Hunan is considered a southern province while Beijing is in the north. While it sometimes takes a bit of adjusting after eating a lot of northern-style food, I always have a great time eating when I visit my dad’s side of the family and the foods above are a big part of that.

Again, I cannot stress how grateful I am to have such amazing family that feeds me so much delicious food, whether they make it themselves, bring it home for me, to take me out to eat it. And I feel so fortunate that this amazing cuisine is part of my heritage. Eating is a big way that Chinese people connect, and it is instrumental in helping me reconnect with family members I haven’t seen in years. Nothing bridges the awkward gap created by time quite like sharing a delicious meal.

Have you ever been to Hunan before? If so, what are some of your favorite foods from the region?
What regional foods do you love, for China or elsewhere?
Hunan and Changde are known for their own variety of stinky tofu, but I just cannot bring myself to eat it, I’m sorry! It smells too stinky! (And I know, I know, the smellier the tastier, but I just can’t eat it after smelling it.) Frogs’ legs is also a dish I always see when I come back to Changde, and I refused to eat them for about 15 yeares after I rescued a frog to keep as a pet! I’ve had to acclimate over several years to the spice levels in the food in Changde, but it’s so worth it.

My 3 Must-Eat Meals in Beijing

After seeing my family (almost all of whom live in China save one branch of our family tree), the best thing about visiting China is the food.

The food game in China is next level. It’s not just about the quality and authenticity, but there are ingredients and entire cuisines that you can’t find in the US. Good luck trying to have homemade frogs legs and haw juice over here.

In Beijing, I had 3 must-eat foods that I didn’t want to leave without:

  1. Peking duck
  2. Hot pot
  3. KFC’s 老北京鸡卷 (or “Dragon Twister”, apparently)

Lemme explain.

1. Peking duck

Peking duck is a meal I can’t avoid when in Beijing, aka Peking, and I wouldn’t dream of it anyway. I used to be obsessed with Peking duck, to the point where I ate too much too fast in one evening and stopped eating it for a long time. The crispy duck skin, the succulent meat, the sweet bean or hoisin sauce, the fresh cucumber and scallion, all wrapped up in a thin little pancake. It’s one of my favorite meals back home, and there are a lot of restaurants that do it well here in the US. (In fact, I had Peking duck for my 24th birthday dinner.)

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Christmas dinner, a few hours after I landed in Beijing

But Beijing takes it to that next level, because it is the birthplace of this famous dish. First of all, the history of the dish in this city is extensive. There are several restaurants that have been around for hundreds of years and are household names for Peking duck. Second of all, Beijing hasn’t let tradition keep them from mixing things up, and during my 2014 visit to China, I learned that the toppings game for Peking duck has been elevated. In addition to scallions (mandatory) and cucumber slivers (optional but so common that they’re mandatory for me personally), you can expect to find additional toppings like cantalope melon, rhubarb, mango, and pop rocks.

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Pop rocks! This was a thing I discovered a few years ago but the novelty hasn’t worn off for me just yet. The crispy duck skin is served separately from the meat, and you have the option of dipping the skin into pop rocks for a really fun textural party in your mouth. Some of the more traditional restaurants won’t have pop rocks but will have sugar for you to dip the duck skin. Some places have both, like above. (The green thing next to the cucumber is green pop rocks. Pop rocks!!)

Also, Beijing knows that if you have Peking duck, duck-shaped dinnerware makes 100% sense. I don’t know why US restaurants don’t really serve duck on little duck-shaped platters but it’s super logical and I am a little put out that I can’t have duck on a duck-shaped plate in America.

2. Hot pot

Hot pot is one of my all-time favorite meals anywhere. I love doing hot pot at home, because it’s so warming, you control how your food is cooked because you cook it yourself, you control the flavors with your dipping sauce, it’s a communal experience with everyone around a table. I always eat it the northern/Beijing way, and of course, Beijing is the perfect place to return for that.

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I’ve been meaning to write up a post about how I like to do hot pot, but Beijing has a ton of hot pot restaurants in many different styles. Above is lunch, less than 24 hours after I landed, and they had all of my favorite condiments for making my dipping sauce, these intestine skewers, and prawn chips which I think are brilliant and will try to include in my home meals from now on! (That crunch!) Hot pot warms you from the inside out, especially if you eat mutton, which is considered to be a “heating” food according to Chinese medicine. Make sure to order a LOT of veggies!

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Hot pot is one of those meals with a fairly famous story behind it. Kublai Khan was preparing for battle and, in his hunger, demanded meat, but the hunters were unable to find anything besides a herd of sheep. They brought back lambs and the chef started preparing when Kublai Khan stormed into the kitchen and demanded to know why he was still not eating. He saw that the meat was already sliced and threw it into boiling water, cooking the super-thin slices almost instantly. The meat was served to him with just a little bit of seasoning, he went on to win his battle, and he requested that his chefs prepare lamb for him this way in the future. Above, you can see the traditional way to do hot pot in a traditional steamboat, which isn’t my favorite because the thin slices of meat occasionally stick to the metal in the middle.

3. KFC (… in China)

KFC may be cause for a few raised eyebrows, so let me explain. A few years ago, my cousin took me to a KFC and ordered me the 老北京鸡卷 (laobeijing jijuan, or Old Beijing chicken wrap) and I absolutely loved it. It is Peking duck – pancake, sauce, scallions – but instead of roast duck you have fried chicken. I was eagerly looking forward to eating it during my last trip to China, and was told I’d get to have it.

But I didn’t. And that disappointment had been sitting in the pit of my stomach for over 2 years. I knew that when I finally got to eat it, it wouldn’t be as good as the hype that was building but I couldn’t help it. Fried chicken AND Peking duck?

I told my family during our first Peking duck meal that I wanted to get my KFC this time and I was gonna do it, dangnabit! And get it I did, thanks for my wonderful aunts who were all too happy to oblige my weird American-ness.

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We went to the first KFC that was opened in China, which was in fact the first Western fast food restaurant to open in China. To be honest, I don’t eat KFC in America, but I love KFC in China. I love that they were the first ones there, I love how they’ve adapted the menu to cater to local tastes with dishes like the Dragon Twister (I honestly had no idea it was supposedly called that). Once my dad came back with breakfast a few years back and said he got it from KFC. I thought that was excessive and weird and opened my eyes to see traditional Chinese breakfast foods that I know and love!

And I finally got my chicken wrap. And yes, it wasn’t that mind-blowing, partly because it seemed to have been sitting for a little bit and wasn’t very fresh. But I still think it’s a beautiful thing, to take all the fun of Peking duck and then throw fried chicken in there.

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I ate so much good food in Beijing, and had a lot of great dining experiences. But when I was in the air, I wanted to make sure I ate these 3 things before I flew back home.

I’m very grateful to my family for making this happen for me, and for spoiling me silly by feeding me so much wonderful, delicious food.

What are some of your can’t-leave-without-eating-this foods and meals?
Do you have any for China?
Previously, I had 拔丝地瓜 (basidigua, yams covered in caramel that pulls away from the plate when you try to eat it) on my must-eat list but I think it’s getting too messy for me to enjoy as much as I did when I was a lot younger. However, I still have yet to see anywhere in America offer it on their menu, while it’s still hugely popular in China and I did get to eat it when I went back this time!

Sick Day Stream of Consciousness

Hi all,

I am still more under-the-weather than I thought I’d be, so my blog post isn’t quite ready for you just yet.

Just wanted to check in and say hi and maybe say a few things.

  1. Have you seen La La Land and, if so, what did you think? I liked it, but it was not as amazing as I was led to think it would be going in. People overhyped it and I thought there was a lot of room for improvement. That being said, I will never be mad watching Ryan Gosling return to his dancing roots.
  2. I haven’t watched the newest episode of Sherlock yet, please no spoilers.
  3. While I was sick last week, I watched the entire Star Wars prequel trilogy for the first time. (I watched The Phantom Menace in theaters when it came out and fell asleep, I was pretty young…) Would you be interested in me including just every movie I see in a year-end recap or is the new releases of the year enough? Currently, the new releases recap excludes, for example, if I see a December release in January of the following year.
  4. Should I start watching the Korean drama that DramaFever has been promoting on Facebook so hard???
  5. My coworker offered to teach me to lift on Wednesday morning and now I’m so scared, that pride thing may be the death of me. (Also 7:30AM?)
  6. Still a bit jetlagged because I slept through so much of my sick days that I wasn’t able to adjust as efficiently as I usually do. Yesterday morning I woke up at 2:30AM and just never went back to sleep, instead opting for a day full of activities to celebrate my company’s 15th anniversary.

How are you doing? Is 2017 treating you well so far?