The last time I’d been to Beijing, I’d eaten broccoli for breakfast, gotten lost in a hutong, and dined at Hooters for lack of a better restaurant option on our last night. So when Carl, Alicia, Blair, Holly, and Rosie mentioned an October holiday involving a quick 1.5-day jaunt to China’s smoggy capital, I wasn’t exactly eager.
However, I’d never traveled with this crew before, and any time they showed up at some Manila shindig it was guaranteed fun, so I couldn’t say no. Plus, Judson was in Beijing, and it had been nearly a year since I’d last seen him, making us overdue for a meet-up.
What followed was 7 days of adventure, language mishaps, and side-splitting laughter, all against the stunning, raw backdrop of China and rural Mongolia, from the Gobi Desert to a lonely ger in the middle of Terelj National Park.
Before I get into the details, though, I think it helps to introduce my traveling companions. Unfailingly optimistic and willing to break into song in the face of frostbite, the 5 of them made an already monumental trip absolutely stellar. (I say this even after spending 26 hours in close quarters with them.)
PS – You won’t get the quotes unless you read the blog posts. How’s that for clickbait?
Role: Alpha Male, director of films
Skills: Bear-punching, smashing ice with his bare hands, saying, “This is my friend” in Mongolian, filming all the things, green screen
Quote: “Do you know how many tiny bones are between the wrist and shoulder? A lot. You’re all experienced parachuters, right?”
Role: Navigator & Trip Planner
Skills: Riding horses like a boss, portraying a really sad backpacker, scattergories, ordering 9 duck heads
Quote: “Paranoia will destroy you.”
Role: Rule Breaker
Skills: Riding horses across rivers, the claw hand, murdering journalists on trains, making banging English breakfast tea
Quote: “You know what happens if you go up and slap a samurai in the face? You get your hand cut off, your head cut off.”
Role: Meme-Creator, History Buff
Skills: Throwing rocks at ice, archery, starring in silent films as gritty inspectors
Quote: “You know what I do when I see a wolf? I throw my meat pack at it and take a selfie.”
Role: Yoga Guru, Trip Planner
Skills: Sweetly asking to play with archery tools, being a ghost, crow poses on the wall, Game of Thrones references, Me & Bobby McGee on karaoke
Quote: “You know Sea World? Well, this is open ocean.”