I boiled the water twice!
“How lucky I am
to have something
that makes saying goodbye so hard"
-Winnie the Pooh
I had the amazing opportunity to experience Lijiang thanks to my role as Claire Lee in 'Sparks'. Traveling for leisure with a friend, significant other, or family member(s) is one thing, but this was my first time traveling with a whole cast and crew whom I have grown to be so close with over the years filming each episode of the Sparks series. This was our first travel work trip together and it will definitely always be one of my most memorable.
In all honesty, traveling in more rural and unique locations within China has always triggered a mixture of excitement and anxiety for me. Excitement because I absolutely love seeing the strong culture that remains untouched. Anxiety because I never know how well my stomach will adjust to the cuisine and water source. Huge tip for China: prepare to live off bottled water. Not only to drink...also to brush your teeth with!! My hotel roomie, Aanchal who plays Riya Rai in the series, and I were very careful to boil any water that came straight from the tap TWICE before consuming it but silly me did not even think about the fact that I was still brushing my teeth with water straight from the tap. Ultimately, I think this was the fault in my trip, leaving both of us extremely ill. Now don't get me wrong- not everyone reacts as poorly as I did to the water source in these different parts of Asia but if you know you have a fragile stomach, please do bear this warning in mind!
The directors and production crew actually told me their trick to preventing any stomach issues when they travel around Asia for work. Basically there's a theory that wherever you are in the world where the water source is questionable, you drink some local beer first. Your body will be able to adjust and handle the local food and water afterward. I didn't give it a try, but if you do, please let me know how it works for you!
Since I was in Lijiang mainly for shooting episode 6 of 'SPARKS', we only had a day to explore around and do tourist-y activities. We made the most of it though! First we went to the Old Town of Lijiang and then we went to check out the Black Dragon Pool. As a pure Chinese, it was really heartwarming to see the classic ancient Chinese architecture, where the buildings all looked like they came straight from an old Chinese film. They were beautiful, intricate, and had this way of making you feel so calm and serene.
Aside from the places we went to on our own, the locations we got to go with the whole crew to shoot were also very memorable tourist attractions such as the photo above. We had a clear view of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Places like this surely do remind you of how small you and your problems are. I will never forget all the kind faces and welcoming hearts when we went to the local villages and the local village school to shoot some main scenes. It was amazing to learn that the village school taught in ancient Asian hieroglyphics, using symbols instead of letters or Chinese characters. I never even thought this type of knowledge was still relied upon. The people there were so simple, and you could see the happiness shine from their faces through this simplicity.
But I must say, the weather was EXTREMELY cold. Every morning it hit as low as -11 degrees Celsius. Don’t let the sunshine in my photos fool you. When the sun was peaking mid-day, it was warmer but only if you stay directly under the sun. At those altitudes, the sun is quite harsh so don't be alarmed if you ever go and come back with a little tan. The food there was quite spicy and oily, which posed an issue for me, since I was suffering from full-on stomach problems. This type of cuisine is usually okay if you eat it with rice since the rice can help with the absorption and digestion. Except...I rarely eat rice. I actually don't really like rice. ("You're asian and you don't eat rice?!?!" --I know, crazy right?). As you can imagine, I didn't get to eat much on this trip. Not that the food would've stayed in my system anyway! Oh-- but for one of the meals on set, the production crew ordered KFC. Who can say no to KFC? Not me (nor Aanchal, who was still also suffering with me from stomach illness). So yes, we ate it. And no, it wasn't one of my smarter choices in life considering my condition.
As the trip came to an end, I knew I would never forget this place. When you watch the ending of Sparks episode 6, you will see us dancing and singing around a fire pit with the local villagers in the town we were filming at. This was definitely THE highlight of my trip. To see everyone laughing, loving, and sharing their happiness and culture through music and dance with us "foreigners" was so enriching to my life. Amidst all the laughing, singing, chatting noises, there was a silence that ran through my soul where I felt at total peace because overwhelming feeling of gratitude drowned out the rest.
Sadly, this episode also marked an end to a chapter of our original Sparks gang (if you watch the episode you will see why). So the tears we shed were very genuine, and very touching.
I find it so bittersweet to go through moments like this in life. Where you are bursting with so much happiness, and simultaneously having feelings of sadness because you know the moment is fleeting and you already miss it before it has even come to an end.
This was a trip I will never forget.