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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

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


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…


The Manchus who spoke Manchu

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I’ve literally just made a breakthrough. (A little personal one, mind, but a breakthrough I’m about to share nonetheless.)
It’s a total non-big deal, but something I actually saw for the first time in the Forbidden City while my parents were here.
I remember discussing it with them, and then snapping a picture so that I could ask some people later on, which I did, but nobody knew.

Here’s the picture:


Just the sign above one of the many gates or buildings within the Imperial Palace

The issue here was that when I saw this, I tilted my head to the left and tried to read the right-hand column in the same way I would read Arabic. As you might guess (and for those who don’t read Arabic, take my word for it) this didn’t work. I pointed it out to my parents, and once it was obvious that they had about as much idea as I did, I decided that seeing as I was the one studying in China, I should have an idea at least, and so, to keep my pride, I totally made up a plausible suggestion, and announced that it was probably Uyghur, the language of the Uyghur Muslims (would you have guessed that) who are largely concentrated in the Northwest of China. (Totally explains why their language was on equal par with the dominant Mandarin Chinese to this sort of extent, right?)

Ignoring my ignorance from that time, I have just discovered what it is, thanks to research (aka click a link to another link to another non-related topic, google unknown thing that appears on this page, follow multiple further links) for background research for research for my project (better late than never..!)

Right, well I’ll tell you now.

It’s Manchu. A language spoken by the Manchus. The Manchus were the people of the Qing Dynasty rule of China (approx. 1644-1911). Considering the Forbidden City did serve as the Imperial Palace during the Qing Dynasty, the fact Manchu features on the entrance gates would make sense.

Copy and paste: highlight downwards?! What.

It looks difficult.
This may be largely due to the fact that even now, after I know it’s NOT Arabic, I’m still trying to find the similarities.
I just read on Omniglot that it’s a language only spoken by about 100 people, and only 20 who can read/write.
It’s a dying language. 😦

I’m happy to have finally found out what it is, though. So next time someone asks me, I will be able to tell them.
And plus, thanks to Wikipedia, a partial minor victory for me:

The Manchu language uses the Manchu script, which was derived from the traditional Mongol script, which in turn is based on the vertically written pre-Islamic Uyghur script.


To positivity!

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Well, what a difference a day makes… A few days, even – because over the last few days, I’ve definitely reconciled myself with the fact that despite the approaching deadlines being such a bad way to end a year abroad on, and despite the fact that so many of us are just looking forward to going home, myself included, there is no escaping the fact that time is running out, and it’ll never come back. So seeing as going back home is determined for that date, why not really go for it and actually ENJOY what time is still left? Because I’m sure before I know it, I’ll be back in London, full of regrets for having let those last few weeks slip by, and well, in the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.

I started out saying that this blog would include my feelings and thoughts while in China; if it’s the case that my feelings and thoughts happen to be negative and that’s what I want to record, so be it. I’m not going to censor out the bad and only include the good, if that’s not the case. I want it to be a true representation of how I feel/felt during the course of my year abroad. There have been good and bad times in equal measure… definitely more good than bad actually, but the bad tends to stick out, doesn’t it? However, the current of melancholy that’s been running through some of the more recent posts ends now.

Besides, there is still so much more to tell, I still haven’t written about some major tourist spots, such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City (from way back in October, when my parents came!, and which I don’t remember details of clearly now… ), or the more recent trips from the Labour Day holiday, when I went to the Olympic Forest Park (beautiful) and Happy Valley Amusement Park (let’s not try summarise this in a single bracket just yet…)

Anyway, London exists in Beijing too…



There’s no phone inside, but let’s continue pretending you hadn’t noticed…

Photos taken at the ‘Water Cube’, Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre, constructed for the 2008 Olympics.

Optimism is an attitude that will serve me well for the next few weeks!
To positivity! Ganbei! (Cheers, in Chinese 🙂 )

Eid Mubarak! (Belated)

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Eid greetings from Beijing!

I know I’m pretty much a week late, but I was kept busy by a surprise Eid present…

Totally unexpectedly, my parents showed up in Beijing last Friday to surprise me; my weekend was suddenly full and routine went out the window (I mean this in a positive sense, not having to cook for a few days is never a bad thing!)

As my parents teased, “you should thank us for coming, at least it means you did all this tourist-y stuff!” – and indeed, they are right. On arrival in Beijing, getting straight into sightseeing was the least of my worries, settling in was top priority. But the weather back then was the perfect time to go; attempts at planning trips with friends now is often concluded by: Let’s put that off for when the weather gets warmer again…

Of course, at this rate, we’ll have more trips postponed, and more places to go than days available by the time the weather does get warmer.

But I can gladly say that I’ve now seen all the 9999.5 identical rooms of the Forbidden City, (okay, maybe not quite ALL of them, but seeing one is enough to know what the others are like!), been to the Great Wall, and had fun haggling with the somewhat rude sellers of the Silk Market, which is definitely worth a visit if just to hear their selling techniques!! Hilarious…