This Expat Life: Month 26 (Beijing)

After moving abroad in July 2014, I started compiling monthly roundup posts about life as an expat in Asia and all the nitty gritty that goes on behind the scenes here at Travel Lush. You can find all of my previous monthly roundup posts here.

After a pretty action-packed summer spent working and traveling in Bali, the month of September was pretty low key. While the majority of the month was spent back in Beijing, I did spend a quick week in Bangkok before heading back to my real life in China. While I was mostly working during my jaunt in Thailand, I did manage to explore a few new parts of the capital city and, of course, stuff my face with all sorts of vegetarian Thai food… I’d almost forgotten how good Thai food can be.

Tom yum goodness (and it’s vegetarian!).

Bangkok’s beautiful skyline.

On the way back to Beijing, I also had a quick layover in Sanya – aka the Hawaii of China. I was actually there for business, not pleasure. While I did manage to see a tiny glimpse of the beachside city I sadly didn’t get to actually travel. But being there was a good reminder of how many incredible travel destinations there are in China and that I really really would like to spend some serious time exploring this amazing country. Now if I could only find the time!


After Sanya, it was back home to Beijing. If you recall from last month I wasn’t all that excited to be back in Beijing. Don’t worry, I’m not hating on Beijing or anything. In fact, I’m really digging being back.

The reason why I was so dejected about returning was because my entire apartment building was still in the early stages of a massive renovation. The project we’d been assured would be finished by early September was far from being completed on September 9, the day I arrived back in Beijing. Arriving home that first night I was shocked as I made my way to my apartment on the sixth floor, walking through the corridors and past apartments that had been completely gutted – think ripped apart floors, no windows, no lights, wires hanging from the ceiling, dust and debris everywhere.

At the beginning of September it looked really bad. We were told there would be one month left, but at the time of writing not all that much progress has been made.

My apartment building would make the perfect setting for a horror film.

That being said the situation has been livable. But I’m getting mighty sick of the 7am wake up call to hammering and buzzsaws and the constant noise day in and day out. The crew doesn’t take days off (a norm in China), so there’s no break even during the weekends. That being said I’ve heard it’s really common for crews to work around the clock (meaning 24/7) so I’m grateful that they usually shut things down around 7pm. But still… I’m familiar with the crazy construction that goes on in Asia – after all, I’ve lived in this part of the world for years now – but it doesn’t mean I can’t be annoyed at it. And I am.

Construction woes aside, being back in Beijing has been good. I’ve slowly gotten back into the groove of commuting and working in an office, and I’m trying my best to get out and see new sites in the city.

I went on my first-ever food tour in September, which was all sorts of fun. I’m usually not one for tours but this one was actually really cool, and if you’re headed to Beijing I highly recommend it. (The company is called Lost Plate if you’re curious). I feel like it was a tour geared toward travelers in their 20s and 30s, so I didn’t really feel like I was on a tour. We rode around Beijing’s hutongs (narrow alleyways) in tuk tuks while drinking beer and stopped off at a handful of (very local) hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Seriously I would have never been able to find these places on my own.


What I loved about this tour is that they even accommodated my vegetarian diet. Being a vegetarian in Beijing can be really challenging. While it’s fully possible to eat out as a vegetarian in Beijing, the language barrier and overall obsession with meat in the city makes it a tough city to crack. But going on this food tour opened my eyes to the fact that there is much more veg food out there than I realized. And that learning a bit of Mandarin would go a really long way… I should get on that.

Flat breads are far more common in Beijing than rice. And these tasted an awful lot like tortillas! 

While I couldn’t eat everything on the tour, it was great fun to learn about the history, diversity and common ingredients used in local Beijing cuisine. For anyone who’s interested, I’ll be writing a full post about the tour soon.

This month was all about food. As a freelance writer I do a lot of writing every day for a few different publications, but I’m always excited to get articles published in actual magazines. So I was especially excited when I was asked to write a review about a new vegetarian restaurant for my favorite Beijing magazine, That’s Beijing (and yes, I’m a bit biased but it is a great magazine!). You can check it out here.

Veggie dim sum in Beijing!

Since I’ve been back in town, the weather has been a trip. In the past few weeks the weather has gone from being in the 80s to dipping into the low 50s. I wrote about this in a previous roundup, but it seems like the seasons literally change overnight here in Beijing. And it seemed like it went from being summer to winter overnight last week. I now spend my evenings at home bundled up in my winter socks, sweatshirt and beanie. A week ago I was wandering around Beijing in a tank top. How did this happen?

Upcoming Travel Plans:

I had initially planned on heading to Manila during the month of October for TBEX Asia. But my niece is getting married back in California this weekend. And family comes first, so I actually just arrived in California for a quick week back home in San Diego. It’s going to be far too quick of a trip. But, as always, I’ll be eating burritos and lots of cheese at every meal, cuddling with my kitty, and getting in tons and tons of family time.

TBEX closing party
TBEX was such a blast last year. Too bad I can’t go! (Photo courtesy of Adventures Around Asia.)

Rico's Taco Shop chile relleno
I guess I’ll have to settle for this instead. 

It’s only been seven months since I was last at home, but I’m really excited to get in some much needed family time. Plus, because I’m going back for a wedding it means that a good chunk of my family will all gather at the same place at the same time, something that rarely happens these days. So that makes this trip extra special for me!

I also booked tickets to do my next visa run in Seoul, South Korea! Like most visa runs, it’s going to be a quick one but I’m super excited because I have never actually been to South Korea before. This trip will mark country number 32 (I think… I don’t really keep track of these things). I’m not entirely sure what all I want to do, but Aaron and I are super tempted to take a tour to the DMZ, because we’re obsessed with North Korea. If any of you have suggestions on what to do in Seoul, please let me know in the comments section below!


I was a little slow with putting up Instagrams last month. Perhaps it’s because I’m now back in China, the land where I have to use a VPN to go on most of my social networking sites. But I did manage to put up a few. This was my most-liked post (taken in Bali):


But my favorite photo from September was this one, taken of boats scattered on the seaweed crops on the island of Nusa Lembonan. The low tide made it such a surreal setting I couldn’t help but take a bunch of photos of it. It was also my most commented on photo from last month, so I suppose maybe it was my most popular!

How did your September shape up?

About Justine

Justine Lopez is a California native who always seems to take the unconventional route in life. She also suffers from a serious case of wanderlust. In 2013, she set out on a yearlong round-the-world journey and never looked back. Since then she's lived the expat life in both Jakarta and Phnom Penh. She's now living and working as a freelance writer in Beijing. As she meanders her way through Asia she's always seeking out great vegetarian food, budget travel deals and amazing new travel destinations.

7 thoughts on “This Expat Life: Month 26 (Beijing)

    1. The dim sum was amazing! And I know, I live in the weirdest apartment building in the world 🙁 Being in San Diego has been great so far. It’s going by so fast!

  1. My September had its fun moments: I participated in the Philly Naked Bike Ride for the second year in a row and I won a 5km race in my hometown.

    On the way to the 5km race, I foolishly somehow found a way to break my phone so I had to get a replacement.

  2. If you’re that obsessed with North Korea, these days there are a handful tour agency in Beijing that arrange guided tour from Beijing to Pyongyang. Koryo Tour will be a good place to start. Especially since you are in Beijing, Beijing is the most convenient way to go to Pyongyang. Opportunity to enter North Korea won’t come this close 😉

    1. Yes, Beijing is the perfect place to visit North Korea from. Perhaps when I get the time and money I will take a tour! For now I think I’m going to have to settle for the DMZ 😉

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