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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!

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.

Xinjiang: Urumqi, Day 1

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It’s been a while since I posted. Again. As mentioned in my last post, my laptop has been totally unusable from a few days after final exams finished, then I was off travelling, and then the last week in China was pretty hectic anyway. Yes, I’m now back in London, but I can still say that I was in Beijing last week! That’s something, right?! I arrived back last Friday evening, and… I already miss China. It feels very surreal (still), and I have this feeling like I’m still supposed to be going back. I can’t be staying here, like, permanently now,  can I…?

Don’t get me wrong, London is an amazing place to live and I love it (don’t talk to me about prices, don’t talk to me about prices, don’t talk to me about prices….) but my year abroad in China has been full of so many amazing (and some less so amazing) experiences and I am 100% glad I did it. No regrets whatsoever. More of that later, maybe. But for now, I’m gonna go back almost a month to the 11th of June – the start of my travels to China’s far West: Xinjiang.

During our travels, I wrote the old-fashioned way, on paper – so here goes typing it up and inserting pictures, of which there are many!

Arrival in Urumqi

After landing at the airport in Urumqi, one of the first things I noticed that I thought was pretty cool was seeing signs in Chinese, Uyghur AND English.

Good English, as usual…

We made it onto a shuttle bus into the city, on which the only seats remaining were one right at the back squashed between luggage and the men to which the luggage belonged, and one seat up at the front next to the driver. Coordinating where we should get off wasn’t made any easier this way, shouting across the minibus, earning us stares from the other passengers. Nevertheless, by the time we got off somewhere on the road our hotel was on, both Beth and I already loved the city. Unfortunately, local buses still confused us, after getting on two that didn’t get us to the right place, we took a taxi…which drove about 2 minutes back up the road, and dropped us off opposite our hotel.

After dropping our stuff, we decided to go to one of the city’s main parks which wasn’t too far from us, Hongshan Park (Red mountain park), named for a red pagoda at the top of a hill inside the park. As soon as we left the hotel and made to cross the road, Beth grabbed my arm and shouted “CAKES!” and started pulling me towards a little shop she’d noticed just a couple of doors away from our hotel. Of all the little bakeries and similar places I’ve seen in China (mostly Beijing) this one was by far the best…it could win on one factor alone: It was clean.

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The fact that the cakes/biscuits were tasty and looked delicious was just a bonus 🙂

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We bought a few each, sat down and ate, at which point I counted all the different baked goods on sale and panicked when I reached 30, realising that would mean eating 10 a day if I wanted to try them all before we left Urumqi. Yeah…they were that good.

This little bakery was where we learnt our first word of Uyghur: Thank you – which is pronounced ‘rahmet’.

As we were entering the park, we saw a guy selling yoghurt…and decided to buy some. We realised that if we wanted to keep eating this way, we might as well forget set mealtimes. Who needs mealtimes anyway, when you have so much to choose from all the time… and so little time to actually choose?

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A cooling yoghurt snack/drink

He filled cups with cold yoghurt out of his mobile fridge, added sugar and nuts on top, and only half-smiled when we said ‘rahmet’. But when we asked if he could tell us how to say ‘tasty’ in Uyghur, he smiled more and replied: I don’t know, I’m not Uyghur, I’m Hui.
Oops.

Hongshan Park is lovely: white picket fences, plenty of shady greenery, a bit of a fairground inside, including but not limited to a ferris wheel, from the top of which we had a (clear, unpolluted!!) view of most of the city. From the top of the hill where the pagoda stood, there was this sign on a railing, beyond which was a rocky drop down to the main road…

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Beyond the railing

The sign on the railing

The sign on the railing

I don’t think anyone who wanted to cherish their life would willingly try to cross that road…from up there.

On another part of the railing, there were countless padlocks crammed onto any free space, engraved (scratched, to be more accurate) with the names of friends or couples… Beth correctly pointed out the romance in what the padlocks symbolised in terms of relationships.

After the park, we tried to find the well known International Bazaar because the hotel reception desk had told us that the Wuyi Night Market (famous for its many different food stalls) had closed down, something we  had not come across in our research. We found another small bakery on the way to the bazaar, got caught in a torrential downpour and incredible winds that pretty much forced us back inside the shops, which were selling headscarves and abayas! That’s not what you think of when someone says China, right?

And what about this scene? (The picture doesn’t do it justice, take my word for it: it was beautiful!)

Beautiful scene

Beautiful twilight scene

The stormy weather meant that we found a little underground market, but didn’t find the actual International Bazaar. I went into a mosque to pray, the first time I’d done that in a long time. Trying to avoid the storm meant that it had become quite late by the time we got back to the hotel. Lots of places started closing what we thought was quite early, but maybe this was because of the weather, rather than the time?

By the end of Day 1, or even halfway through the day, Beth and I have both already decided that we are coming back to this city. That’s gotta say something about the place.

Beth’s input
“I want to live here forever. I want to get a padlock and go with my hypothetical boyfriend to lock the padlock onto the railings in Hongshan Park and then go back after I’m married to find it. And therefore I have to live in Urumqi when I’m older!”

Good logic there.

Attempting to describe Urumqi, I’d say it’s definitely much greener than expected, we both expected barren deserts or something, it’s definitely much greener than Beijjng, there are way less people, it’s hilly (Xinjiang is a mountainous region) and the air is fresher! There are less people smoking, less dogs (in fact, I can hardly remember seeing any today), no spitting spotted yet, and there are dessert places! Yum! Urumqi is a city with a totally different look to any of the other Chinese cities I’ve visited.

Nuts, raisins, chocolates – clean and tidy!

A painted electricity box, showing a woman holding Xinjiang’s famous ‘nang’ (naan)

It’s a lovely city with a friendly vibe, beautiful weather, a bustling lifestyle and plenty of small cake shops to satisfy those sweet cravings 🙂

Bakery no. 2!

Back in Beijing!

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But not for long!

We arrived back home last night after a 30hour train journey back from Hami (Xinjiang), and now there is a mountain of things to do and people to see/say goodbye to. I’m looking forward to going home and seeing family and friends again, but at the same time, there’s new friends made here over the year, most of whom we will never see again. It’s sad! 😦

There is an incredible amount to tell about our trip, but unfortunately, my own laptop has died, so there’ll be no posting about it probably until I get back home and am able to transfer pictures, because the posts would no way be complete without plenty of pictures!

One week to go! Hard to believe that the end has come! Luckily, there’s a lot to look forward to this Summer 😀