This Expat Life (Beijing): Month 34 + I’m Going Back to Bali!

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 coming off of the most perfect trip to Italy last month, it was inevitable that the month of May just wasn’t going to hold a candle to April. I mean how can you top being pampered in a historic Italian villa, being fed three gourmet meals a day, and being surrounded by the best group of people ever? You just can’t.



Being back in Beijing during the month of May had quite a few bizarre moments. For better or worse, there really is never a dull moment when it comes to living in Beijing. May wasn’t bad, but it was kind of strange.

On the morning of May 4, I woke up, got ready for work, and checked my air quality app (a necessity in smoggy Beijing) before heading out the door. The AQI reading was a whopping 896. In sum, that means the air quality is off-the-charts horrendous.



To put it in perspective for all of you who aren’t familiar with Beijing’s air pollution problem, a normal, healthy level would be 1-50. Anything above that is considered unhealthy. I wear a pretty heavy duty mask whenever the air gets above a 200. So an 896 is awful, even for Beijing.

I’ve only seen the AQI jump past 500 a handful of times during my year and a half of living here, and I couldn’t for the life of me understand what was going on.


As I made my way to the office I realized that I was experiencing my very first sandstorm. Yes, aside from being plagued by bouts of super-heavy and hazardous smog, Beijing commonly experiences sandstorms during the spring.

Winds whip across the Gobi Desert during the spring months, carrying some vicious dust across parts of northern China, including Beijing. This sandstorm was particularly massive. Things got so bad that at one point one of my co-workers came into the office and pointed out that you could literally see the dust swirling inside the office! We had all been working so diligently on our computers we had all failed to even notice. Basically we had no choice but to put our masks on (indoors) at that very moment.

Another bizarre thing that has been going on in Beijing lately is the citywide “beautification” renovation. I wrote about this issue in last month’s roundup, but since then the local government has bricked up and demolished tons of historic and charming buildings around the city. Standing in the hutongs and watching as workers literally tear down these buildings while tenants watch their livelihoods literally disappear before their eyes is sobering.



For those of you who don’t know what the hutongs are they are basically old traditional villages, some date back to the 13th century. They are what China looked like back in the day, before the country started building itself up. Beijing is famous for its hutongs, because unlike other cities in China, which have torn down the majority of their hutongs in favor of modern buildings and skyscrapers, Beijing has managed to keep a tiny fraction of theirs.


Beijing’s hutongs are some of my favorite places to explore. They’re home to quirky businesses, hole-in-the-wall restaurants and hip bars. They also offer interesting glimpses into local Beijing life. Sadly, it looks like Beijing will soon be home to fewer and fewer hutongs and more and more ultra-modern buildings.




OK, on a more positive note I did make some exciting travel plans last month…

I’m going back to Bali! And I’ll be there all summer long!!

Just like last summer I will be working full-time. So this is less of a travel trip and more of a stint working remotely in beautiful Bali. I’m incredibly grateful to have a job where I work online and the coolest bosses that allow me to work remotely during Aaron’s insanely long summer and winter breaks.

rice terraces canggu bali (1 of 1)

Last summer in Bali, Aaron and I did a lot of traveling. We stayed all over Bali for large chunks at a time. We stayed in the surfer town of Uluwatu, the hipster hangout of Canggu, the stunning Nusa Penida, the amazing Nusa Lembongan, the idyllic Gili Islands and of course wild and crazy Kuta Beach.

Given the fact that I was working a 9-5, I’m not sure how we managed to pack so much into our two months in Bali. And while it was incredible to visit all of these places, I burned out fast. So we’re going to do things a little bit differently this time around.

The plan is to actually rent a villa for the entire two months. As of now we’ve booked one week at a cozy apartment in Canggu. But once we get on the ground we’ll be looking to rent a place in Canggu for 1-2 months. We spent three weeks in Canggu last summer and both took to it immediately. It’s relaxed, beautiful and has no shortage of amazing restaurants.

I am excited to get to know Canggu more intimately, travel on the mainland during weekends and hopefully take some time to take a real trip to either Lombok or Sumatra at the end of the summer. Indonesia has become my home away from home so I’m incredibly excited to be back!


You guessed it… my Italy photos were definitely the most well-liked last month. Though it’s not difficult to see why! Stay tuned for some pretty epic Bali photos next month!!

How did your May shape up? Do you have any exciting travel plans for the summer?

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.

5 thoughts on “This Expat Life (Beijing): Month 34 + I’m Going Back to Bali!

  1. I was lucky that I was never in Singapore whenever there was haze from the burning of fields in Indonesia. I don’t think it every when higher than 400-500 pm though. My labmates did have to break out the heavy duty masks though!

    Oh, that’s awesome that you’ll be back in Bali! It’ll be nice to stay in one place for the whole time! Looking forward to reading more updates!!
    chewy recently posted…5 practical tips to get by in New York from a born and bred New Yorker

    1. I’ve heard so many news stories about the haze in Singapore, though I’ve never experienced it. It’s crazy though that they suffer through it every year because of the burning in Indonesia. I had zero idea it got THAT BAD though! It’s not fun, and I’m glad you didn’t experience it! You really do start to feel it in your lungs. I’m definitely looking forward to breathing fresh air in Bali this summer. Once you live in highly polluted cities, you really never take fresh air for granted again.

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