China's Winter Wonderland: Jilin, the province of snow

Just right before the holidays, in December, I took my very first trip to China. December?! Yes, China in December. I know, I know....In my head I always imagined my first China trip during the summer or fall, inevitably to somewhere well know like the Great Wall or Hong Kong. Instead I got something special, something that was truly unexpected....and I couldn't be happier about this first encounter. 

Off the beaten path and away from mainstream tourism (at least for now...who knows what happens as a result of this blog-post ;) lies Jilin province. Located in the North-Eastern part of China, Jilin transforms into an winter wonderland between December and February.

If I had a penny for every time I heard "I hate winter, I hate cold" I would be a millionaire. Quite understandably shoveling snow and walking through the slushy streets is nobody's favorite, but after visiting Jilin those no longer will be the first things you associate with winter.

Winter is magical and serene and there is a place in Jilin that proves this. It's Shennong Hot Springs. One of the most romantic places I ever had the chance of visiting

Shennong is about a 2hour drive from Changchun city and nestled in a peaceful remote area. The resort welcomes you with beautiful rooms, but it's most wonderful feature is a set of indoor & outdoor natural hot springs. There aren't a lot of resorts that I would visit in the wintertime rather than summer, but Shennong is definitely one. 

When temperatures dip as low as -17Celsius/-1Fahrenheit, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in the outdoor hot spring enjoying the 40Celsius/104Fahrenheir waters. The ambiance couldn't be any more perfect - lanterns lit up in the evening and white frost covering the trees from the swirling steam omitting from the hot springs. True magic!

After ample time of relaxing in the hot springs, we headed out to see one of Jilin's unique sights - the rime on Wusong Island. The rime is a beautiful frost that covers the trees and mountains as a result of ice crystals forming from moisture in the air. It paints the landscape white and creates a dreamy winter wonderland. Even if you are novice to photography gorgeous winter photos are guaranteed, that will btw make your friends at home super jealous wishing they traveled instead of sitting on their couch.

Our next stop was Dunhau City where we visited the beautiful Liu Ding Shan Temple and watched the sun set over the snowy landscape. Liu Ding Shan has one of the largest sitting buddha's in China and the temple itself is intricately detailed. And if you want to make a wish, just buy a red silk ribbon and tie it to the temple's railing.

We traveled further into Jilin province to visit Laolike Lake, a very popular winter destination with Chinese tourists. Laolike Lake is the place where one can experience the tranquility of nature blanketed in snow. Upon arrival you can grab breakfast or a hot refreshment in the cafeteria before heading out for a 4 mile roundtrip walk in the snow. Wearing the proper shoes and winter clothing is very important as you'll be walking/playing in sometimes knee deep snow.

The 2mile trek to the lake winds through a snow covered forest with some stops along the way like a post office log cabin or a yurt turned into gift shop. For those not feeling up to the exercise, they can opt for a horse pulled sled from about halfway through the path.

Along the way you will meet mostly Chinese or Korean tourists who are actually very sweet. If you have green or blue eyes like me, prepare yourself for some selfies. I was asked at least 10 times to take a selfie with people :D And that is how I got this lovely photo of a Chinese lady who's winter outfit was absolutely stunning. She was dressed in layers decorated with traditional Chinese patterns and believe it or not she was super excited to pose for me. 

At the end of your 2mile hike through the forest, you are rewarded with the beauty of the frozen Laolike Lake.

Before returning to Chanchun city, our last stop was Fushong Lushuihe Resort. This peaceful resort is in the  Fushong Lushuihe National Forest Park. It's a tranquil setting nestled between the woods allows you to relax and enjoy the outdoors. The resort offers 2-3 log bedroom cabins and fantastic Chinese cooking.There are also fun activities for both winter and summer, one of which I was super excited to try. It was winter rafting on the ice-cold river. The resort also has gorgeous parks you can stroll with Chinese pagodas and koi-ponds. 

In our last morning in Fusong, I woke up early and took a sunrise stroll to find this gorgeous pagoda floating on the lake in golden mist. It's one of my favorite moments from the trip. It felt like I was in a magical winter dream and it was the perfect ending to an unexpected and truly special visit to China.

Check out the short video from my new YouTube channel. Enjoy!

The perfect pair of candlesticks… thanks to LUV.IT

As winter’s been approaching, I’ve been daydreaming of a nice candle-lit Christmas dinner, delicious food and happy family around the table. However there seemed to be a small issue with my dreamy plan – no it wasn’t the cooking, but the lack of candlesticks around our home. No problem, I thought, let’s dive into the endless possibilities of online shopping, surely I can find a lot of great options.

Oh boy, how wrong I was. Everything I found was either too rustic or too kitschy…or simply costs an arm and a leg. So I gave up on my pursuit of candlesticks and my dreamy plan of Christmas dining by candlelight; until….

 

Until, in November I signed up for a new smartphone app called LUV.IT. LUV.IT combines two things we all love – shopping & social media – I mean is there anybody who doesn’t love both things?! I signed in and there it was, luv at first sight, the perfect pair of Candlestix designed by Avandi Studio. Simple, sleek and timeless.

A few days later a package arrived with the prettiest Candlestix and two sets of beeswax candles. For now I placed them on my vanity, but I have the feeling they will be traveling around the apartment a lot depending on the season. 

P.S.: You guys should definitely download LUV.IT (download link) and look for me in there, my username is @niki_csanyi, just like on IG. The cool thing about LuvIt is that it allows you to create a profile and like, i.e. luv products that will populate on your page so you can revisit them later and buy them. Similar to IG, you can follow and be followed by other users and like their luved products, and you can even link your IG feed to your profile. Also, if someone buys a product you luved, you earn some cash back on their purchase. Easy, peasy ;)

 

Springtime in Buenos Aires, what a wonderful first encounter with Argentina.

Buen Dia, Buenos Aires!

Argentina has been on the top of my travel bucket list for a long time so I was exited when a last minute trip came up a few weeks ago. I was lucky enough to be invited by Park Hyatt to a very special event, the celebration of the 10th year anniversary of their amazing property, Palacio Duhau Park Hyatt Buenos Aires

The timing of the invitation could not be more perfect as November is Springtime in Argentina. Which means the city is buzzing with energy and the streets are filled with blossoming jacaranda trees.

Buenos Aires Jacaranda

Driving from the airport to the hotel I could already tell Buenos Aires will become a soft spot in my heart, but I had no clue yet how much it will sweep me off my feet.

I love beautiful architecture and gorgeous European inspired facades are in abundance in this city. The closer we got to Recoleta - one of the most beautiful neighborhoods of the capital - the more excited I got, especially when we pulled up in front of the hotel. Palacio Duhau, as its name already suggests, was a family palace built by the Duhaus in the 1920 and was inspired by Chateau du Marais near Paris. The building has a rich history and a lot of hidden details, which made the experience of staying at Palacio Duhau truly special for me.  

I love photographing beautiful interiors and there is no shortage of inspiration at Palacio Duhau. My favorite room was probably the cigar room, which used to be Señor Duhau's study. Sitting in this dark and moody room with a glass of bourbon it feels like you are let in on some ancient secret of gentlemen. The walls are covered with intricate woodwork (that took several months to restore) and kudos to Park Hyatt for preserving such beautiful craftsman work. 

When I travel, I don't often spend a lot of time in my hotel but in this case I honestly didn't feel like leaving. The experience is truly special, not only because it's a beautiful building but there is something serene about it, especially the garden where I spend countless hours relaxing, listening to the bird chirping and eating some mount watering food. 

Which brings me to the second thing that made me fall in LOVE with Argetina, and it's the food. As part of the 10th year anniversary we were invited to a special Masters of Food & Wine event at the hotel's garden. It was an evening of celebration for the tastebuds - 12 of Palacio Duhau's previous and current chefs prepared divine dishes paired with exceptional wines from Argentina's best vineries. I learnt one thing for sure that Argentinians know how to live well and enjoy the finer things in life like good food and good company. They have a beautiful country that produces fantastic quality ingredients and they know how to cook well, which results in happy memories around the table.

Buenos Aires deserves a few days of exploring, there are a lot of beautiful neighborhoods to visit. Recoleta may be the most popular destination, especially because of the Recoleta Cemetery, which is indeed very special. But my personal favorite gems were the Botanic Gardens (which deserves its own blog post...coming soon) and the tiny streets in Palermo and the lovely alleys and flea market of Santelmo. 

There is so much more to Buenos Aires that I didn't have time to experience- like going to a milonga to see locals dancing tango or visit the colorful houses of Boca, but I know I will be back soon. I fell in love with the architecture, the food and the kindness of the people. Thank you Park Hyatt for this truly special experience at Palacio Duhau. What a wonderful fist encounter I had with Argentina!

P.S.: Huge thanks to the staff at Palacio Duhau, you made my stay!