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January Travels – Part 1

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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

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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

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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…

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A Nanjing Getaway – Part 2

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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!

 

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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.

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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

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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

 

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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!

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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

 

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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

 

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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

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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)

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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.

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Embroidered artwork

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The process

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What I started with…

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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.

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Buddha carvings inside the cave

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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.

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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.

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

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Night market things

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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.

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The gated entrance to someone’s tombstones

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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.

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9am at the West Lake

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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.

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Quaint and charming

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The pagoda up close

 

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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.

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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)

Scholarship perks

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Scholarship perks

Saturday 19th September 2015, 22:00

Today was so good. And to make it even better, it was all free. (What can I say, I’m brown, #reinforcingstereotypes)
I was not expecting so much.

We boarded an air-conditioned coach at around 11:30 to head to Pudong (Shanghai’s “downtown” – aka skyscraper central), for our first stop: the Science and Technology Museum. We first enjoyed a movie about the Amazon Rainforest in the huge domed IMAX theatre, the ones with reclined seats, so you feel like you’re actually in the rainforest. After that, we roamed the museum, visiting the Robot Exhibition, the Animal World, the Spider Section and more, before reuniting to board the coach headed to Lujiazui (the financial district).

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

Shanghai Science and Technology Museum

 

The roof from the inside - luckily it was a nice day :)

The roof from the inside – luckily it was a nice day 🙂

 

Rubik’s Robot

 

Animal Kingdom

Animal Kingdom

 

This fish was just fun to look at

This fish was just fun to look at

 

Usually I'm average height in China though

Crushing my dreams of being average height in China…

 

The escalator kinda ruins it..

Camouflage game too good.

 

We were each given 30RMB for dinner (not really enough to cover a meal given the area, but welcome nonetheless), and got off the coach across the river from the Bund to find somewhere to eat, and enjoy the views.

We found a halaal Xinjiang restaurant that had a really interesting menu, looked authentic, and was decently priced, but would require waiting at least half an hour before we could be seated, so instead we had a vegetarian pizza with potatoes on it…

I have every intention of returning to the Xinjiang restaurant though.

 

The evening was by far the best part of the day. We ascended to the 97th floor of the second tallest building in Shanghai, the Global Financial Centre, also known to some of us as ‘the bottle opener’, as the picture clearly explains. We then climbed the 199 steps up to the 100th floor, because there were way too many people queuing for the lift.

Far left: bottle opener

Far left: bottle opener

 

From the bottom. The Global Financial Centre is the one on the left

From the bottom. The Global Financial Centre is the one on the left

 

They even numbered the steps for us

They even numbered the steps for us

 

The view from the top was pretty incredible, and we took many pictures, most of them terrible though, because the nighttime cityscape outside was too bright and the windows not conducive for flash usage. We were approximately 475metres up: Shanghai’s tallest building – the Shanghai tower, was right next door, the Oriental Pearl Tower was lit up beautifully, and it was a world away from the environment around where the university is.

I hope we have trips like this often 😀

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WORLD’S HIGHEST! Proof I was there 🙂

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Xinjiang: Urumqi, Day 2

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As I’m currently busy with upcoming exams, I have not been dedicating any time to my blog, and probably will not do so until my exams are over. I thought, therefore, that I might as well (finally) publish Day 2 of Xinjiang. (You can find Day 1 here). I actually wrote this the old fashioned way – by hand – while actually in Xinjiang, and since typing it up approximately last July, it has been sitting in my drafts. I just couldn’t bring myself to publish it after such a prolonged delay, but alas, the time has come. Ahem.

Even though I cringed slightly while rereading, I’ve left the post mostly as it was, for reasons of authenticity, so without further ado, here it is:

 

The Heavenly Lake –  天池 

I think pictures will do most of the talking for today, and even they don’t capture the beauty of this place. Getting to the Heavenly Lake required us to get on a bus from Urumqi’s main bus station to a place called Fukang, costing 15 kuai, and then a second bus costing 5 kuai to take us to the Heavenly Lake itself.

When you get to the site, there is one place selling food, and it was super expensive compared to the prices we were used to, but I suppose that was to be expected.

Lunch: 凉菜 - liang cai - "cold noodles", very spicy!!

Lunch: 凉菜 – liang cai – “cold noodles”, very spicy!!

 

The admission ticket costs 170 kuai, and involves the scenic bus ride to the top of the mountain, where the lake itself is.

The view on the coach drive upwards

The view on the coach drive upwards

The road we came up

The road we came up

One of our first views of the lake. Check out the fading mountains in the distance, merging with the clouds/skies and the snowy peak at the centre

One of our first views of the lake. Check out the fading mountains in the distance, merging with the clouds/skies and the snowy peak at the centre

We tried on some traditional Kazakh colourful dresses and took a few pictures with this absolutely stunning backdrop; there were also lots of people eager to take our photos… Beth said she wouldn’t be surprised if pictures of some foreign girls in Kazakh dresses appear on Weibo tonight. (Weibo is a Chinese social networking site)

 

Words can’t even describe the beauty we saw today, we were left speechless. So many times we opened our mouths to express wonder, only to find our breath catch, turning the corner to see yet another fairytale scene. Beth summed it up at one point: “I can only make sounds now”. There were literally no more words.

What colour is the lake??

What colour is the lake??

Part of one of the waterfalls

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A random fallen big tree. It was begging to be photographed.

A random fallen big tree. It was begging to be photographed.

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Dazzling sun through the trees 🙂

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Clear blue skies, lakes the colour of jade, green mountainous valleys, and a clear waterfall, by the side of which was a rainbow.

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“Flying dragon’s pool”

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This is totally a desktop background. Except I was actually standing in position to take this picture. Don’t be jealous.

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More evidence of the beautiful colour of the lake – deal with it. Because I like it. And it’s my blog.

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In case you weren’t sick of it already…

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Spot the rainbow…

 

The Chinese characters on the bridge read "Rainbow Bridge"

The Chinese characters on the bridge read “Rainbow Bridge”

Somebody clearly deep in thought... sshhh

Somebody clearly deep in thought…

Wooo!

Wooo!

We went to try and get ourselves a yurt to stay in for the night, an episode which ended up almost getting us in trouble….
The helpful Kazakh woman who drove us up the hill to where the yurts were, and with whom we had agreed a good price, showed us to a yurt which was much bigger than we had expected, and said that the two of us would have it to ourselves. It was huge! Inside it was furnished (if you can call it that for a yurt) with thick rugs, a low but large center table, some more Kazakh dresses hanging on the walls, a stereo (to play Kazakh music from?!), and a mini fridge. Or maybe we were mistaken about having seen a mini fridge, as we were only stood in the doorway of the yurt for all of 30 seconds before she asked to see our passports…. Oops. We hadn’t brought them with us. She wasn’t sure if she could accept our student cards as appropriate ID when we asked if they would do, so she took us down to the on-site police station to ask. That really wasn’t the best idea! The senior officer there told us that STATE LAW in China requires foreigners to always carry their passports on their person. It may sound obvious, but no one had mentioned this to us, let alone stressed its importance. He paused for a few seconds and then looked at us pointedly, saying: “You know, if I see foreigners without their passports, I’m supposed to arrest them…” I quickly understood that he was offering us a warning, much earlier than Beth did, who was still trying to confirm with him whether our not having our passports on us was the reason we weren’t allowed to stay the night in the yurt. I quickly managed an “oh oh ok, we’ll go home then!” before taking Beth’s arm and backing out of the office.

That was a close encounter.

On the way out, the Kazakh woman apologised to us, gave us her mobile number and told us to contact her for next time!

After finally making it back in to the city, and finding some dinner, we took a taxi back to the hotel. Beth comments: It’s nice to be able to afford a taxi.

It’s been a long but surreal day. I just asked Beth if she has anything to add about today, and she’s replied “How am I supposed to describe that? I had no words at the time, how would I have some now?” But after a minute’s pause, she says “We met some really nice people today: The bus driver, the Yurt lady, the policeman *laughs* and the Kazakh man who showed us how we should pose when we put the dresses on!”

I couldn’t agree more.