RSS Feed

January Travels – Part 1

Posted on

Monday 18th January 2016, ~5:30pm

I have been travelling for a whole week now, and man, is it tiring.

I find myself on yet another train in China (this time, a nice high-speed one) bound for Guilin.

I left Shanghai last Sunday morning on a flight to Beijing, where I met Nafeesah who made her way up from Nanjing. We spent the afternoon wandering around the area we called home about three years ago, when we studied abroad at Beijing Normal University. Though there were some differences, it was a strange feeling walking around knowing where I was going in a place so far away from home and familiarity. I happily discovered one of the local jianbing makers was still there, and satisfied my craving for one of those eggy, crunchy, tasty snacks, but the day was miserably grey, gloomy and dull, giving me the feeling that the university was a ghost town. The whole afternoon was, overall, rather unpleasant, and confused me slightly as to what I had missed this place for!

Delicious Beijing jianbing!

Delicious Beijing jianbing!

Luckily, I met an old friend for dinner, which was lovely, brightening my evening and pretty much redeeming the day that had thus far been pretty miserable.

The next day was the Great Wall. I felt unsatisfied by my first visit three years ago to the most popular section of the Wall, Badaling, and wanted to visit a different section, bringing us to Mutianyu, a ~2hour journey from Beijing. In total contrast to the previous day, we got a bright sun and beautiful blue skies – a rarity for Beijing with its usually high pollution levels. The temperature remained below 0°C though.
Despite being semi-scammed on our way there, I was amused by our taxi-driver, whose response to the pollution problem was “Oh that’s nothing to worry about, the government is sorting that out right away!” – showing his innocent faith in the government.
Surprisingly, it was less cold once we were actually up on the Wall, but nevertheless, still cold, and very steep. Due to the time of year, there was little greenery, and even fewer visitors. This emptiness atop the Wall gave us some excellent picture opportunities, and luckily it was a wonderfully clear day, so visibility was high 🙂

My Wall

My Wall

IMG_20160111_123715 IMG_20160111_125114 IMG_20160111_132538

 

On Tuesday we visited Jingshan Park and Beihai Park, both very central, where we enjoyed scenic romantic walks through the parks, past pagodas, frozen lakes and over bridges. I also witnessed possibly my first real proper sunset in China.

View of the Forbidden City obscured somewhat by the trees...

View of the Forbidden City obscured somewhat by the trees…

Middle of Beijing

Middle of Beijing

 

Having fun in the cold

Having fun in the cold

IMG_20160112_152447

Frozen lakes: ice skating and sleighs

Frozen lakes: ice skating and sleighs

My first beautiful sunset in China

Catching some sun in below freezing temperatures :p

On Wednesday morning we left Beijing (and left China), on a flight to Macau. (Macau is not part of Mainland China).

Departing for Macau

Departing for Macau

To be continued…

Advertisements

China: A day in the life

Sunday 13th December, 10:25pm

A few random unrelated tid-bits to talk about:

MSG ( 味精)

It’s added to food in almost all Chinese places you will eat at. I was vaguely aware of this during my year abroad in Beijing, but had conveniently forgotten until recently. I asked one of the local halaal places I eat at often whether or not they put MSG in their food, and they said yes, so now I will be asking them not to everytime I order. I don’t know much about it or the health effects, but I’m aware that too much of it is harmful, just the same as too much of anything I suppose. However, since the lack of cooking facilities in my dormitory means that I’m never eating food I’ve cooked myself, I definitely do not want to be consuming too much of it.

 

Fake Markets

The name says it all: these markets sell fake designer everything, from watches, bags, purses and shoes, to suits, belts, sunglasses and clothing. Obviously it’s all illegal, but somehow they continue to exist, despite authorities’ knowledge – naturally. It’s a tourist trap, and if you don’t know how to haggle with the often rude and vicious sellers, you will undoubtedly get scammed big-time. On a recent visit, I was surprised when one of the sellers I was bargaining with actually openly admitted the illegality to me, using the line “it’s very dangerous” as a comeback to my attempts to lower the price. Even though everyone knows it, I didn’t expect him to be so candid with me, and I tried to prod him some more about it, but no luck. I understand it was also just a bargaining tactic, but I was still taken aback somewhat.

One of the most annoying things about these markets though is all the name-calling. You will be called ‘bag’, ‘jeans’, ‘shoes’, ‘watch’, ‘tea’, and many more during a visit. This is because none of the store-owners know how to pause when they try and entice you to go and take a look. “Hello watch!”, “Hello how are you bag?”, and “Hello lady tea” are just a few examples. I also don’t think they realise how rude their tone is; it’s very abrupt and not friendly in the slightest. Even if I was looking to buy whatever they’re selling, I am extremely put off from going in. There’s no shortage of choice though; every clothing store sells the same goods, the shoes in every shoe store are the same, the belts, ties and bags among different stores are all exactly the same too. So if you’re looking for jeans and you’re not satisfied with the service or price, just walk out and go next door.

 

Pollution

Everyone knows the pollution in Beijing is horrible. Yes, they recently announced a red alert, and yes, ‘each hour of exposure reduces life expectancy by 20minutes’, and yes, ‘Beijing air is the same as smoking 40 cigarettes per day’. But with all the focus on Beijing, it seems we forget that it’s no picnic here in Shanghai either. To put it in perspective, the upper limit for healthy levels of pollution in much of Europe are around 10-20 AQI. On a regular day in Shanghai, we’re experiencing anywhere between 60 to 100. And on a bad day, it could be over 300.

A very good day (for visibility, but the pollution is ever-present)

A very good day (for visibility, but the pollution is ever-present)

WeChat

I first started using WeChat in 2012, after arriving in Beijing for my year abroad. I was relatively new to the smartphone world in general, but even then, I quickly came to know that I preferred WhatsApp by faaaar. In comparison, WeChat seemed slower and the interface seemed chunky – nothing at all like the sleeker and smoother WhatsApp. The most popular social media messaging platform back then was QQ, as WeChat was still relatively new. When meeting new people, QQ numbers would be exchanged, as everyone had QQ, but not everyone was on WeChat yet.

Almost five years later, WeChat’s evolution is evidently clear – it has come an incredibly long way, and is no longer just a basic messaging app. Aside from the ‘Discover’ page, where friends can post pictures or updates on something similar to a microblog, WeChat now has so many other features, including ‘stickers’ (so much fun, not even joking), voice and video calling, and WeChat Wallet. WeChat Wallet allows you to receive money from contacts, with which you can make transfers, top up your mobile phone credit, pay utility bills and order taxis. You can also link your bank card to your WeChat, allowing you access to a greater pool of funds. It is almost imperative to have a WeChat account in order to integrate fully into daily life in China. Now, you’ll rarely – if ever, hear people asking for QQ numbers, but everyone has WeChat, and I’ve grown to love what it has matured into.

 

A Nanjing Getaway – Part 2

Posted on

Sunday 22nd November, 22:45

It’s been on my mind that I still never finished the Nanjing trip, specifically the museum and memorial of the Nanjing Massacre. It definitely impacted me, and if you’re ever in/around Nanjing, it is highly worth a visit.

In 1948 when the Japanese army invaded Nanjing, they destroyed and left chaos in the city. The severity of the war crimes were shocking to me, and actually left me sick to my stomach. Statistics state that 340,000 people were killed in a 6-week period, though the figure used ubiquitously throughout the museum is 300,000. Obviously I’m in no position to say that the data is 100% accurate, however the figure is staggering regardless, and the evidence and primary accounts were far more than enough to make anyone objective believe that it is historically true.

The following pictures were taken after entering the compound, as you walk through to get to the actual museum. The text is in the captions, for easier reading, and just describe what is being depicted in each case.

My dear mother in the eighties; Hurry up! Run away from the devils bloodbath!

My dear mother in the eighties,
Hurry up! Run away from the devils bloodbath!

 

Hey

Frigidity and horror have frozen this crying baby! Poor thing, not knowing mum has been killed. Blood, milk and tears, have frozen, never melting.

They set fire

They rob and rape; they set fire and bury people alive; they even kill my three-month-old grandson.

 

The inhumanity was shocking: innocent civilians, men, women, the elderly, and children were shot dead, executed, buried alive, hanged, decapitated… Girls and women were raped without a trace of humanity; many died from being over-raped! And many more were killed in a number of other ways. Those who somehow survived were left hollow and broken, psychologically and mentally, if not physically too.

As cruel and horrifying and awful and brutal as all the mass killings were, it was the section of the museum on the rapings that sickened me the most. I read the following figure, which I doubt I will ever forget: an average ordinary girl would be raped 20 times a night. A younger, prettier girl would be raped 40 times a night. In one night! I can’t think of any words appropriate in response. Savage and inhumane come to mind.

There were worse stories still which I cannot even bring myself to repeat here.

A historical summary, just inside the entrance to the museum

A historical summary, just inside the entrance to the museum

 

 

At the end of the museum, you come into a large room with a wall of bookshelves that climb up the height of two floors. It’s the archives of the names of the victims.

Fr

Taken from ground floor

 

Taken

Taken from the second floor walkway

 

Names, names and names

Names, names and names – of somebody’s grandparents, somebody’s parents, siblings, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbours, teachers…

 

As far as museums go, the setup, the interior, and even the exterior were all perfectly apt: grey and solemn in appearance and seemingly contributing to the gloomy, grey atmosphere. The inside was dark and there was even a skeleton pit, as the memorial had been built on the site of a previous graveyard (I believe).

The gloomy day contributed to the mood

The gloomy day contributed to the mood

There were many points I wanted to stop reading, but I felt it was important to afford these historical atrocities that much of my attention, as refraining from educating myself about it would be similar to trying to ignore it. So no matter how disgusted and horrified I was, I forced myself to keep going.

The sadness and horror though when I fully realised that all of this is still ongoing in today’s world… it was too horrifying to contemplate, yet necessary to acknowledge at the same time. Pray for the world.

A Nanjing Getaway – Part 1

Posted on

Sunday 8th November, ~5pm

I’m on a Chinese train on the way back to Shanghai, hopefully arriving in about 40 minutes. It’s been 3 hours so far on the train, where we played a game of Cluedo – which I won (it was Miss. Scarlett in the lounge with the revolver), and thereafter attempted to nap. Before the Cluedo game, a saleswoman was promoting some cucumber-slicing tool, by going around the carriage with a cucumber and peeling/slicing instrument, explaining how to use it and what benefits cucumber has on your skin. (Answer: it whitens it — skin-whitening is a huge thing in China). I guess she got excited when she came to our booth and found not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 foreigners; and so when I asked her what exactly it was she was selling, she responded by slicing me a thin ‘layer’ of cucumber, putting it on the back of my hand, and saying “it will make your skin white!”. (Yes! There is hope for me yet!)
She then proceeded to cut some for all of us, while I responded: “but I kinda like my current skin, I don’t wanna make it white…”, to which she chuckled, already halfway down the carriage, and won me turned heads and curious stares from about half of the carriage.

The de-browning process

The de-browning process

 

On Thursday, I arrived in Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, on a high-speed/bullet train from Shanghai, which took under 90minutes and reached speeds of about 300kmh.

Bullet trains - 300kmh

Bullet trains – 300kmh

I met up with Nafeesah, we didn’t do much sightseeing that day, until nighttime, when we went in search of a night market with a famous reputation online, only to find out after arriving at the location that it had closed down a few years ago. Oops.

Friday, however, was a beautiful, hot day; we visited the famous Purple Mountain Scenic Area (紫金山). The first stop was a shuttle to get to Sun Yat-Sen’s Mausoleum, where we climbed and climbed to reach a not-incredibly-interesting statue of Sun Yat-Sen, but a pretty view, albeit a rather foggy one. The pictures make it look foggier than the reality, though.

Starting point

Starting point

 

First glimpses

First glimpses

 

Halfway up

Halfway up

 

Snapchat-5025253930606183787

From the top, looking down

 

There were ladybirds EVERYWHERE; on our backs, arms, faces, heads, shoulders, bags, everywhere. Black with red spots, red with black spots, orange with black spots, all the colours.

Count the ladybirds

After going back down, we bought tickets for the cable car, met a Chinese guy whose English name was ‘Relax’, and who was also visiting the site, so we headed to the cable car area together. After walking through the trees for about 20 minutes, he declared that it was another couple of kilometres, and wasn’t really walkable, so we got in a taxi, made it to the cable car boarding spot and man – it was a scenic ride.
The leaves on the tress were in full Autumn colours: reds, oranges and greens that I thought I wouldn’t be seeing this year!

IMG_20151106_140834

IMG_20151106_140801

IMG_20151106_135301

We reached the observatory spot, but didn’t realise we were just meant to lift up the metal bar ourselves and let ourselves off, so we continued up to the top of the line, disembarked to admire the view and be attacked by ladybirds left, right and centre, and all of the other 16 directions. We tried to walk up the hill that claimed to lead to the peak, but ended up at a green gate, for military personnel only…. Seems dodgy.

On the cable car down, we jumped off ourselves this time at the only other stop, to visit the Zijinshan Astronomical Observatory (Purple Mountain Observatory). There we saw samples of rocks that had been found around China, as well as other countries, that had come from space. Apparently. I must admit, I wasn’t entirely convinced by most of them, but I guess I wouldn’t know what a piece of the moon looks like up close. I just didn’t expect it to look like a marble tile like this:

On display as a piece of the moon...

A piece of the moon on display…

It was made more ‘believable’ by the prices of some other rock pendants that were on sale for only 50RMB per gram…

Convincing

Astronomical pendants

 

We saw some interesting astronomical instruments, enjoyed the truly beautiful view from the rooftop and decided to ditch the cable car, and walk back down.

This is an armillary sphere. It was used for determining the positions of celestial bodies in ancient China. Don't ask  me how.

This is an armillary sphere. It was used for determining the positions of celestial bodies in ancient China. Don’t ask  me how.

 

And this is a 'gnomon', or so the sign said.

And this is a ‘gnomon’, or so the sign said. The shadows produced supposedly indicate when it’s the solstice.

 

View from the top of the Observatory

View from the top of the Observatory

 

Incredible autumnal colours

Incredible autumnal colours

 

By the time we got down, it was getting dark and we found a bus going back to the city, went to meet a friend at the railway station who was joining for the weekend, grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hostel after an exhausting day.

 

On Saturday morning the weather surprised us; the 12⁰C cold was far from the 25⁰ we’d experienced the previous day, but we continued with our plan to visit Xuanwu Lake, which I absolutely loved. It was so quiet and peaceful inside the park, a welcome break from the bustle and noise of city life.

Xuanwu Lake/Park

Xuanwu Lake/Park

 

IMG_20151107_102728

 

A little bonsai collection

A little bonsai collection

 

Inside the park we saw a man practising Taiqi to his own little music player, and the whole scene just made me feel so peaceful. It was the kind of thing you might imagine China to be like from inaccurate movies etc, which depict everyday life in China as being tea-drinking, Taiqi-practising, country life in beautiful green surroundings.

People's wishes, dreams and prayers hanging on red strips

People’s wishes, dreams and prayers hanging on red strips

Someone representing!

Someone representing!

If it had not been cold and wet, we would probably have gone on those huge hanging swing rides 😀

The lake/park area and the Purple Mountain are places I wouldn’t mind coming back to. After lunch, we went to the Presidential Palace, which was nice enough, but not exactly riveting in my opinion, as I feel like it’s very similar to all other such places I’ve seen before. We had planned to visit the Confucius Temple after the Palace, followed by the famous night market around it, but by the time we were done at the Palace, daylight hours were almost up, so instead we headed straight to dinner and then the night market.

You can never evade the Chinglish

You can never evade the Chinglish

 

Inside the Presidential Palace

Inside the Presidential Palace

 

IMG_20151107_161845

 

Not so secret anymore...

Not so secret anymore…

 

Night market things

Night market things

 

5:45pm – I think we’re almost there so Part 2 will follow soon!

A weekend in Hangzhou

Posted on

Monday 26th October, 9:30pm

Last week was pretty busy, and for fear I will forget details of the Hangzhou weekend trip, it’s about time I wrote about it.

We departed Fudan around 6pm, and arrived at the hotel in Halberangzhou soon after 9pm. I met up with Nafeesah who came from Nanjing to join our trip, and we ventured out in search of some dinner. We saw a night market along the way but decided to come back to check it out the following night because we were too hungry. (Story of my life)

IMG_20151016_222049.jpg

8 kuai fried rice and my free soup makes me a happy girl

After dinner, I enjoyed some of the small, simple pleasures of our hotel, including a hot shower where I didn’t have to see red numbers blaring at me from from a meter on the wall measuring my hot water usage.

On Saturday morning, we drove to the Arts and Crafts Museum, for a workshop on embroidery. We were each given a fan with a simple design already outlined, and instructed on how to begin the embroidering, one by one (and thus a very slow process, given there were ~30 of us and only 3 teachers). I made exceedingly little progress in the short time we were there, but I was not alone.

IMG_20151017_100042.jpg

Embroidered artwork

IMG_20151017_100119.jpg

The process

IMG_20151017_101317

What I started with…

IMG_20151017_105531

What I ended up with…

Just kidding, gullible readers. That was the sample they showed us.

 

We drove to a restaurant near Fei Lai Feng (Flying Peak), where they had an interesting idea of vegetarianism that involved chicken, beef, possibly pork….and when we told the waitress to take one of the many non-veg dishes that were brought to our table to one of the other tables in our party, she looked all confused and went over to ask our teacher/guide, who then looked at us in equal bewilderment, and asked: “Oh, not even beef?!” (牛肉也不可以吗?) NO!

Another interesting thing I noted was how our conversations about restrooms in China go. Someone from our group asked another if the restaurant toilets were Eastern or Western (i.e. squats or seats). She replied “Eastern”, but followed up quickly with “but they’re clean, actually!!”
“Oh yeah? Do they have soap?”
“Yes”, was the reply, “they even have loo roll”.
SCORE.
I kid you not, this was a serious conversation, because, I kid you not, the overwhelming majority of toilets in public locations in China do not provide loo roll, and never ever soap.
Moreover, although most of us are fine with using Eastern toilets, they’re usually just so filthy that you’d rather just wait. -_-

Fei Lai Feng is a peak with rock carvings inside the caves under it. We wandered around on our own, climbed to the peak, swung from all the Tarzan vines that the area was full of, and got told by a Chinese stallowner that Nafeesah and I were sisters. Dude probably needed new glasses.

IMG_20151017_140811

 

IMG_20151017_141025

Buddha carvings inside the cave

IMG_20151017_141856

More mini buddhas

We were also taken to a local teahouse, where we drank authentic Dragon Well Tea (龙井茶 – Longjing tea), and learnt about distinguishing tea grades based on the colour of the tea leaves.
I’m not a fan of Chinese teas, but we were told that each tea is different, and for this particular one, the second and third cup often taste better than the first. I made it to my second cup, but wasn’t impressed enough to go for a third, unfortunately.

Snapchat--8485475520693383384

Snapchat--4761253806169966398

I don’t usually drink my tea with leaves in it…

 

After another vegetarian dinner – a real one this time, we returned to the hotel, and then three of us went to check out the night markets that Hangzhou is famous for.

IMG_20151017_213313

Not 100% sure what these character blocks on the ground were, but they looked cool

IMG_20151017_222216

Night market things

IMG_20151017_214940

Met this cute old couple: the man had started studying English a few months ago and was keen to practice with us. It was adorable.

I was surprised to spot random Islamic sites around the city, implying that Hangzhou must have been a relatively important city back during the Islamic dynasty in China.

IMG_20151017_185417

The gated entrance to someone’s tombstones

IMG_20151017_185326

Behind the gates

 

On Sunday morning, we were out at 8:30am to go to the famous West Lake, where we took a boat cruise out onto the Lake. According to Chinese legend, this is how the story goes: There was a jade dragon and a golden phoenix in the heavens who were very much in love. The jade dragon gave a pearl to the golden phoenix as a gift one day, which someone else wanted. A fight ensued, and somewhere in the midst of all the kerfuffle of the struggle, the pearl dropped from the heaven, and landed on Earth as the West Lake. Hangzhou’s West Lake is incredibly famous in China, and features on the 1 yuan notes.
Since it was pretty early, the view was pretty foggy, and I felt like we couldn’t appreciate its full beauty.

IMG_20151018_085827

9am at the West Lake

Snapchat-6625734106190980673

 

From the West Lake, we drove about 90 minutes out to a water-town called Wuzhen, which is between Hangzhou and Shanghai. We had lunch (which was actually really nice) and were then allowed to roam around the pretty, albeit rather touristy town of Wuzhen.

Snapchat--5210923540178868225

Quaint and charming

Snapchat--2227331205027095825

The pagoda up close

 

IMG_20151018_125701

Saw this gem walking around Wuzhen. Unsure whether it’s meant to read ‘plastic’ or ‘spastic’… or I’m just ignorant to the point of not knowing what ‘psastic’ is

 

Failing to get a good group photo in Wuzhen

Failing to get a good group photo in Wuzhen

We made a quick stop at the Footbinding Museum in Wuzhen, an informative exhibition, and a reminder of just why I hated reading about footbinding. It’s interesting, but so so wrong.

Snapchat-6970676660722867297

Snapchat-7280677114799454529

The process would start when a girl was a few years old so that her feet were ‘malleable’ enough to be forced into shape

 

Snapchat-5462656806777320266

It was considered attractive, and it would be near impossible for a woman without bound feet to find a suitor

From there, we boarded the bus again and began our ~2.5 hour drive back to Shanghai, which brought an end to the public-funded trip 🙂

Suzhou Day Trip

Suzhou Day Trip

Sunday 18th October 2015, 16:45

I’m on a coach – we’ve just driven out of Wuzhen, a little water town about 1.5hours out of Hangzhou, where I spent the weekend. I have a lot to catch up on (blog-related), and a 2+hour drive back to Shanghai now, so let me briefly summarise the past two weeks.

Two weeks ago, on Sunday, a few of us ventured out to find starfish to eat. We failed on that front, but stumbled into an animal/pet/insect market instead.

wpid-snapchat-2827630301684188496.jpg

wpid-snapchat-8597750576988678352.jpg

The rabbits, turtles, kitten and fish were all nice enough, but rows and rows full of spiders, crickets, grasshoppers and some kinds of flies (all very much alive) were slightly off-putting.

wpid-img_20151004_122747.jpg

wpid-img_20151004_122817.jpg

One of the salesmen tricked a friend into believing they were for eating, could be eaten live, and that they were very tasty, as well as healthy for you.

wpid-img_20151004_122741.jpg

The friend in question said he wanted to try one, but only after the salesman showed him how to eat it correctly. In the end, the salesman just shook his head and spitted out: Americans really are stupid…

A few days later, on Wednesday, the last day off for the National Week Holiday, a friend and I made a day trip to Suzhou, a small city about 100miles west of Shanghai.
The bus journey there was eventful: soon after leaving the station, we made a quick stop at a small roadside cabin, where two guys stood by large brown parcels. They opened the storage compartment in the side of the coach while the driver got out, they loaded the parcels, and the driver was slipped some money, which was visible for barely a second before it was out of sight and in his pocket. Less than ten minutes later, when we were back on the highway, the driver’s phone rang. He received the call, listened for all of about five seconds, exclaimed loudly and stopped abruptly in the middle of the highway. After much hooting from angry drivers behind, he sensibly moved from the far left over to the far right. As he exited the coach once again, he apologized to us for having to stop for ‘personal matters’, and went outside to smoke and peer nervously at the road behind the coach, clearly waiting for something, or someone. I’m pretty sure someone boarded the coach from some invisible back door several minutes later, and we we continued on our way.

Once in Suzhou, we visited the Garden of the Master of the Nets (网师园), which was pretty enough, but was too busy, and the admission was arguably expensive for what it is. Suzhou is famous for its beautiful, classical gardens, but you kind of feel that once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all…

Garden of the Master of the Nets

Pretty and classical

Pretty and classical

wpid-img_20151007_102426.jpg

Ground art

Ground art

 

We then walked a very long way to Shantang Road, famous as it is still a cultural centre. Among some side roads, we saw fish, crabs, chickens, pigeons, and more, for sale.

Snapchat-750906941285639074Snapchat-1081001761205867577

Because, why not?

Because, why not?

We then ventured over to the northwest corner of the city, to Tiger Hill Scenic Spot, which – to my slight disappointment – involved no tigers.

Snapchat-1063950389013055400

wpid-snapchat-7041856675841527445.jpg

wpid-snapchat-2965282203094651135.jpg

Customary random stranger asking to pose for a picture with us

Customary random stranger asking to pose for a picture with us

The colourful station in Suzhou

The colourful station in Suzhou

After an early start, and a long day of just walking, we were both ready to knock out on the bus back to Shanghai, but to our surprise, we were the only two passengers on the whole bus, so we ended up chatting with the driver about a range of topics, from Chinese investment in Africa, driving rules (or lack of) in China, Tanzanian exports, China’s economic development, and how China compares to our countries. I tried to think of topics or questions I’ve been wanting to ask Chinese people, since this was a perfect opportunity to do so, but I was so tired that I couldn’t think. I was more than satisfied with the conversations in any case, as they helped make me aware of my improved Mandarin level.

We were back to class on Thursday, Friday…and Saturday, after which a group of us went out to enjoy a dinner of hotpot, which is something I haven’t had in about 3 years (since my last time in China).

Wandering around after dinner, I spotted this, which sounds pretty unappealing in my opinion, but is incredibly famous in China:

Who’d have thought you’d have to be careful about porky bread?

 

On Monday and Tuesday, I went to dragon-boating practice, which was fun, but made my body feel amazingly sore, so I’m definitely continuing that.

I will write more about this weekend’s trip to Hangzhou another time as it’s getting dark now and I’m extremely inclined to copy everyone else and fall asleep for the remainder of the drive back, especially since I still have work to do for class tomorrow after I get back tonight.

晚安中国。

Good night, China (as I’m not sure exactly where we are at the moment)

Obamao

Posted on
Obamao

Thursday 8th October 2015, 11:40am

We were back to classes today after a one week break for China’s national holiday.
For reasons unknown to me, they decided that we will have class on Saturday too; they can’t declare a public holiday and then punish us for it too!

In any case, given my present lack of passport, I couldn’t easily go on any overnight trips, but instead I feel like I walked the whole of Shanghai, starting with Xintiandi on Friday, where I visited a vegetarian’s heaven – a restaurant called Sproutworks – and enjoyed a really good wholesome lunch.

A much-needed break from Chinese food, I'm telling you

A much-needed break from Chinese food, I’m telling you

wpid-snapchat-4703660042858506658.jpg

Xintiandi is a more affluent area of Shanghai, and noticeably so; one really gets the feeling of being in an uber-modern city, unlike much of the rest of Shanghai. The surrounding shops, restaurants, cafes and malls could easily fool you into thinking you were not in Shanghai at all… at least from my experience of Shanghai being largely not like Xintiandi.

We ventured into one of the local malls, which for no obvious reason, seemed to be cow-themed, with cow print escalators, mini cows on fake grass in between the escalators, and even….live cows. The strangest thing.

Moo Park

Moo Park

There was some good artwork though:

Mwore mwall art

Mall wall art (Mwall art)

Mwore mwall art

Mwore mwall art

 

We then walked up to the Bund, and I think it was actually my first time, because I don’t think we did both sides of the river when I visited Shanghai back in 2012. The weather was good: a hot day and clear skies; and everyone was out enjoying it.

Shanghai skyline :)

Shanghai skyline 🙂

The weekend involved a LOT of walking. Saturday started with going to a friend’s place off-campus for a yummy home-cooked brunch, and the day descended into at least a 15km walk around the city. On the walk to Tianzifang, we stumbled across the ‘Socialist Youth League of China’ museum, a pitiful little 2-room exhibition down a narrow alleyway.

Tianzifang held many interesting things though: Ooo, pretty umbrellas, restaurants with odd names and dishes to match, questionable pharmaceutical products, drinks for supernaturals, and we lost ourselves in the maze of alleyways that is Tianzifang for a couple of hours.

Snapchat--8435607980993447476

wpid-snapchat-1990958487768545998.jpg

The most appealing restaurant name ever

The most appealing restaurant name ever

The vision...

The vision…

It's no joke

Would you eat soup out of a urinal?

wpid-snapchat-175259408862494580.jpg

Blood bags

Blood bags

wpid-1443855694006.jpg

When we emerged, we made our way to the fake market on West Nanjing Road, which turned out to be inside a surprisingly nice building, contrary to expectations, looking very real.

The floors, though probably only numbering 5 or 6, seemed never-ending, probably because each floor is a maze in itself and about 3 floors of shops all sell the same goods. I do like the Oba-Mao tee.

wpid-snapchat-7373271049449304854.jpg

As in Beijing’s fake markets, the protocol seemed to be ‘don’t touch anything you’re not going to buy’ (which makes little sense…) but at least they didn’t seem as aggressive as in Beijing. After spending probably a couple of hours browsing, and contemplating leaving, we both realised we did actually need to buy something: a raincoat. We had fun bargaining for ‘North Face’ raincoats (I came up with a new line: My dad will be angry if I tell him I spent this much on a raincoat!) and finally left to go in search of some dinner. That was another adventure in itself, but we ended up back near where we started in a standard Lanzhou Lamian place, for some standard Lanzhou Lamian 🙂