Dear readers. You might have been bored recently, as I was not writing... But I am back for a new adventure! 😀 Destination: China. I called this article "China 2.0" as this will be my second time there. I indeed went to China last summer, in August: I then spent five days in Shenzhen (Mainland China), a day in Macau and five days in Hong-Kong. You can read about that previous trip here (click on the link 😉)!
Why China (again)? Because two of my friends, Ying and Rémy, are getting married and invited me to the wedding in Jinzhou (Liaoning province)! 😀 Hmm, you probably do not know this place. No worries, I will tell you everything about it as soon as I get there. I will also go to Beijing and Shanghai - amongst others.
Long story short: follow my article ("s'abonner au blog") and stay posted to know everything about my trip!
A few things to know before traveling to China. Google (Gmail, YouTube...), Facebook, and Whatsapp are not allowed there. Two options: either you can survive without all these (using WeChat and BaiDu), either you cannot and thus you need to install a VPN on your devices before leaving! 😉 Another thing coming to my mind: you always need to have your passport with you when you want to buy or pick up a train ticket.
你們好 (nimen hao)! Good morning readers! After a first flight to Yekaterinburg (Russia), and a second flight to Beijing (by the way, Ural Airlines, never more!), I finally arrived in China! Yay! 😀 Beijing is the capital of China, with more than 20 million inhabitants. It is located in Northern China, as you can see on the map at the top.
For the record, the time in Beijing is currently (Summer time) UTC+8. That is to say, in Summer, when it is 10am in England or 11am in Europe, it is 5pm in China.
First step in Beijing = reaching my hostel? Noooo! You do not know me! I am more crazy than that! 😀 I decided (in spite of my fatigue and jet lag and dirtiness) to go to... the Great Wall of China! Hahaha! You have, of course, heard about it. But do you really know "what it is"? It is a series of fortifications made of stone, brick, wood, and other materials, built along the historical northern borders of China to protect the states and empires against the raids and invasions of the various nomadic groups of the Eurasian steppe. There are many excursion tours leaving Beijing to go to the Great Wall. But, once again... you do not know me! 😉 No excursion tour for me! I decided to take the public transport. Why? I do not like excursion tours (you need to follow a group, you cannot do what you want when you want, etc). And public transport is a lot cheaper. And more fun.
I took the 916 express to Huairou. In the bus, I started to chat with two other non-Chinese girls (I guessed they were going to the same destination than me). We got off together at Huairou, and the fake taxi drivers started to harass us (say "no" politely at the beginning, and then ignore them). Our plan was to take the bus H23.
But we met two other non-Chinese people, who got a very good deal to reach the Wall: 5 RMB per person (the guys wanted 20 or 30 RMB when we got out off the bus). Here we go! 😀 So it was: me, a girl from Slovenia (Nina), a girl from Saoudi (Afba), and a couple from Argentina (Augustina and Frederico). We chatted along the way, and started our visit together. Oulala, my post is getting long! And I still have a lot of things to say! :O
The five of us walked the first part of the hill (to the shuttle station). Then, Nina, Afba and I took the cable car, whereas the Argentinian couple kept walking to the top (loco loco!).
The three of us stayed together for some time, and enjoyed our visit! 😀 However, the sky was very polluted (or foggy, as you want), it was very hot, and pretty crowded (I do not want to imagine Badaling).
We then decided to take the shuttle bus back to the main entrance. The girls went for food as I went back to the entrance to pick up my backpack. I found another couple of Argentinians who were negotiating for a car to head back to Huairou, and at the end we were 12 of us in the minivan! A Spanish girl, a French girl, a few Chinese, and not so sure about the others! 😉 This time, we payed 10 RMB each. We took the 916 express back to Dongzhimen, and then separated. I took another two subway lines to reach my hostel - knackered. By the way, the subway in Beijing is very cheap; between 3 and 7 RMB, depending on your destination.
I slept from 7 pm to 8 am! 😀 Jet lag? Not at all. By the way, have you read my post on: How to beat jet lag before jet lag beats you? Might be useful for some of you... ^_^
Today, my main destination is the Forbidden city. Everyone has heard about it, but what do you know about this place? It is a palace complex which was built in the 14th century. It is made up of 980 buildings. And it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was raining very badly when I woke up, so I stayed at my hostel until 10. Then I decided to go out, buy an umbrella, and discover the city no matter what! 😉
To reach the Forbidden City, you will go through some security checks. It was crowded when I got there - but it is quite efficient and you do not need to wait for hours. Interestingly, I barely saw any non-Chinese tourist! But loads of Chinese! It felt like the whole China decided to go to the FC today... Haha, probably not though.
Sorry in advance but it was hard to take "good" pictures due to the crazy amount of Chinese folks! :O By the way, I told you it was massive? I have just checked, it covers 72 hectares!!! I spent 3 hours there, and did not see/visit everything as I could not more with the crowd... Impressive stuff.
Before you think that I am showing you pictures of the same square and buildings, you need to see a map of the Forbidden City... It is not what you think!!! I know, I got surprised as well - once inside. The entrance is at the bottom of the map, and the exit is at the top of the map.
So, more pictures! 😉 I took approximately 250, but, do not worry, I will not upload them all...
Within the Forbidden City are also a few different palaces or halls which can be visited. I went to the Hall of Clocks and Watches (10 RMB for adults, 5 for students). The building itself was very nice - particularly the ceiling.
And... back to the main area! I tried to take selfies but I am definitely not as experienced as the Chinese... 😉
I finished my visit of the Forbidden City by the beautiful (but crowded) Imperial Garden.
I was surprised (in a good way) when I discovered some nice views when getting out of the place! 😀
[...] My friend Amy (we met in Cardiff a few months ago, I introduced her to zumba, CouchSurfing, Persian cuisine...) came to meet me at my hostel! And she brought me the best gift eveeeer! A watermelon and a knife! Haha! 😀 We chatted for some time in the terrace of my hostel (Amy was so exciteeed when I told her the "big news" for Suzhou) and then we started to walk to a restaurant... and ended up on the yellow Beijing bikes! 😀
We went to a typical Chinese restaurant - they did not have any English menu AND they did not even have a menu, we used WeChat to order and to pay! Welcome to China! What Amy told us at FTS was true! :O The restaurant was from Guan Shi branch, they are famous in Beijing for their chicken skewers (indeed, they were very good!). We also had some beef, some bread, some vegetables, some rice... Yummy! 😀
To end the day (and to digest!) we went to Nanluoguxiang, a pedestrian street with many restaurants, cafés, shops... I enjoyed the atmosphere by night, even though we did not buy anything! 😉
I cycled back to my hostel. 3 km on my own, in the dark, in Beijing. Done! 😀 Good night!
Probably less famous than the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven is also impressive! It was my main destination for this morning. I thought it would be "smaller" than the two massive things I saw, but... nope! It has a total area of 270 acres! In the middle of the city! Once again, I spent almost 3 hours there and did not go everywhere as my feet hurt... 😉 So, what is the Temple of Heaven? It is the largest building for religious worship in China. It was built in 1420 and thus used by the Ming and Qing emperors to pray for harvest.
[...] Sorry my dear readers, I am a bit late in my writing, because I have been pretty busy other the last 2 or 3 days! 😉 So, after my visit of the Temple of Heaven, I was supposed to meet Amy. I took the subway to Wangfujing, as I wanted to see the "special" market there... Indeed, you can find there a lot of Chinese food, but also some insects, snakes, and other delicacies. I did not want to taste but just to have a look. However, I instead ended up in a huge mall with some expensive French and Italian stores (I am sure you know which ones I am talking about). Not exactly what I expected haha.
I thus started to walk towards the market, but this is when I understood that I was actually not going to meet Amy here! 😉 So I walked back to the subway, I had to change two times, and it was peak time. Can you imagine what is peak time in Beijing? No, you can't. And you probably don't want to. Anyways! I made it, even though I could not more! I met Amy and her friend (I do not know how to spell his name I am afraid), we took some bikes, and cycled towards Tsinghua University: the top university in China. This is where Amy is doing her PhD. Fancy, hey? 😀 They showed me around the huuuge campus (it is like a city within the city).
After our visit, we met another friend of Amy, and the four of us cycled to one of the most famous restaurants for Peking duck. But, when we got there, we discovered there was a 1-hour queue, thus we took a taxi and went somewhere else! 😉 We had a lot of delicious food, and finished with the Peking duck. I did not really like the meat on its own (as I am not a duck fan), but it was absolutely delicious with the little "wraps" and vegetables!!!
We had a great time together! 😀 Xièxie!
For my fourth and last day in Beijing, I went to the Summer Palace: my favourite place so far! The Summer Palace was an imperial garden in Qing dynasty. The UNESCO declared this place "a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design". I spent about 3 hours there and, once again, I could not see everything!
At the North Palace Gate can be found Suzhou street, imitating the ancient style of shops on the banks of rivers in Suzhou city. I got there around 10am and was lucky because it was still pretty quiet! 😀
From Suzhou street, I decided to take a boat to the other side of the park. It cost 40 RMB. I enjoyed a lot of beautiful landscapes during the tour; also, it avoids walking back through the same path! 😀
I forgot to mention - but I am sure you noticed already from my pictures - I got extremely lucky with the weather for these two days! Blue sky is indeed very scarce in Beijing! 😀 But it was still very hot. The other side of the river/lake was getting busier when I got there, but it shows such an incredible view.
After a bit of walking can be found the temple. I climbed all the steps to the top! 😀
After that, I walked back down - I rushed a bit as I had to meet Ying and Rémy! I thus took the subway back to my hostel to pick up my backpack, and then to the train station. This is where I met Pierre and Florence (Rémy's parents) and Laurent and Sixtine (Rémy's brother and his girlfriend). We took the train to Jinzhou and had a lot of fun on our journey! 😉 We made it to Jinzhou at 10.30pm, and went to KTV until 2am! :O
Jinzhou is an ancient city with over a thousand years of history. This is where my friend Ying is from. I discovered a city which is completely different than Beijing. I believe we are the only foreigners in the city! 😉 What shocked me the most is that, here, men smoke everywhere: in the hotels, in the restaurants, in the cars... It smells awful! Women do not seem to be smoking - very Asian. Also, people are very rude in this province; probably as it close to Inner Mongolia. I already noticed in Beijing that people push you to enter in the subway, jump queues, etc; but here it seems even worse! :O I was shocked, as Chinese people abroad are very polite.
We did not do much on our first day in Jinzhou as everyone was exhausted. We rested in the hotel, had a lot of food (again), and that's pretty much it! In the evening though, we went outside as there were many people on the main square. Sixtine and I started to dance with some Chinese women; it was funny - but sporty! Apparently, we ended up on WeChat... Many people took a video of us haha!
Today was the big day. The wedding of Rémy and Ying. Chinese people go absolutely crazy for weddings! We were 270 people. The room was completely decorated, and the entertainment was impressive. Again, a lot of food - I would like to mention the amount of food wasted each time... It is so upsetting to see that...
In the evening, we went to a Japanese restaurant (way too much food again). I really enjoyed all the food we had so far; this was my first "disappointment" (not a big fan of raw fish)! Then, we went for a walk around Ying's old campus in Jinzhou. We also went for a feet massage, the Chinese are a bit crazy, it was painful!!! Haha! We are now staying at Ying's family. No AC in the flat; it is really hot...
Not much to say, we went to diverse markets for some shopping! 😉 And had a good lunch at Ying's.
However, in the evening, we went to Guta park, located at the heart of Jinzhou. There can be found the Guangji Pagoda, a 72-metre tower. Unfortunately, I did not bring my camera. The view was worth it! 😀
Today, we took the train to reach Xingcheng, in Jinzhou suburbs. The old town of Xingcheng is the best preserved of four Ming Dynasty cities in China that kept their original and complete city walls, and is a treasure of traditional Ming architecture, containing historical remnants such as the Confucius Temple, the oldest temple in Northeast China and the largest ancient building in Liaoning. Not bad, hey? 😀 However, it was a surprise for us, as our plan was to go to the beach! But we eventually did both and really enjoyed. Ying's uncle was waiting for us at the train station, with his big fancy car. He took us to the ancient city and, there, dealt with some people he knew to get us free tickets to the touristic points of the city! Crazy man! We first climbed a few steps to get to the top of a pavilion in the centre of the city, with a view on the 4 streets.
Then, we walked to a kind of temple where a private guide (speaking Chinese only) was waiting for us. She started to show us around, but we were quite a wild group (one wanted to go to the bathroom, another one wanted to take a picture, another one wanted to have lunch...) - we told her to give up haha. We had a picnic in the shade, and then visited on our own: we discovered some rooms with some Chinese history. We were also lucky enough to attend a show about the war - even though everything was in Mandarin! 😉
We finished our visit of the ancient city by the Confucius temple, and its relaxing garden.
And, eventually, we went to the beach! 😉 There, Ying's uncle told a policeman to take care of us, thus we had a free boat tour, a free speed boat tour, and free chairs with a parasol. VIP style!!!
We ended our day by a good dinner at Ying's! 😀
Today is our last day in Jinzhou. Tomorrow morning, my friends will take the train to Beijing, whereas I will take a plane to Shanghai. We decided to take it easy, as we are all pretty tired - particularly with the heat. The 5 of us went to the hairdresser this morning, it was really cheap: 23 RMB for washing, cutting, and blow-drying for women (i.e., less than 3 euros)! :O We were a bit scared at the beginning, but the result was pretty good! 😉
For our last dinner, we went to a beautiful restaurant with most of the family.
When I bought my ticket to fly from Jinzhou to Shanghai, I thought it was very expensive. This morning, I understood why. But before that, let me tell you about the past few hours…
I was sleeping deeply, when I felt something walking on my head. It was Naonao, Ying’s dog. I checked the time, 5am. No point to go back to sleep, as we were supposed to leave at 6.30… Ying’s mum made us some fresh melon juice and watermelon juice for breakfast, yummy! 😀 Then, 3 cars came to pick us up, with members of the family and friends of the family. Ying, Rémy, and his family were taken to the railway station, whereas I was left with the son of a friend of Ying’s mum. The journey to the airport took us about an hour, but I was very lucky because my driver spoke a bit of English and was driving very carefully; what a change! Haha! I insisted to give him 50 RMB for the ride, but he completely refused…
I made it to a tiny airport, with only one coffee shop and a few seats. I checked my booking, and discovered « first class » on my ticket. What?! I would have never booked a first class seat… Then, I thought: I went through an agency, as the websites were all in Chinese. This explains why it cost me so much… lol! My first time travelling in first class… I got to jump the queue for check-in. After security, I decided to have a coffee, buy some water (by the way, taps do not offer drinking water in China, make sure to buy bottles!) and some bread. But then I discovered… The first class lounge!!! Comfy chairs, books, and… free food and water and coffee and everything! :O Too bad I did not check before! ;-) Well, at least I will enjoy my flight haha…
After these 5 days of "rest" (taxis instead of walking, restaurants instead of snacks, private room instead of dorms), I am back on the road! 😀 I made it to Shanghai - in my first class seat. It was a bit crazy: huge and comfy chairs, a lot of leg space, a big lunch (at 10.45am), and a private bus after landing. I felt rich! The landscapes when taking off from Jinzhou were very beautiful (I sadly had to use my phone).
Shangai International Airport is, of course, massive. To reach the city centre, I took the metro (line 2). Do not be in a hurry though, it takes one hour to go to the People's Square... But costs only 7 RMB. I quickly checked in at my hostel with a view to drop my backpack before exploring (it was already 3pm when I got there).
The best thing is that they have a cat in the hostel!!! 😀 She (3 colours) is so cute!
I decided to go to the Yuyuan garden, which was only 15 minutes walk from my hostel. However, I stopped several times on my way, to take pictures, to buy souvenirs, to visit around... I was at first very disappointed by the streets/landscapes (ugly tall buildings, traffic, nothing really interesting).
But I then discovered Bangfang Road, with a nice architecture and lots of cool shops.
This road led me to a whole district with similar buildings, and some funny findings...
I was very close to Yuyuan garden according to my map but could not find it! I was expecting a huge thing like what I saw in Beijing. Finally, I found the garden - which was actually tiny, but still beautiful (and crowded). I had to go through the arcades of souvenirs to get to the garden. The entrance to the garden is free. There is a temple (I guess) to visit next to it; I tried to before leaving but the doors just closed in front of me. Another time!
As I mentioned above, there are many shops in this area. You can buy a lot of things for a tiny price!
Back outside, I check the time, I check the map, and decide to walk to the river, the Bund! Not as sexy as the garden to my eyes, too much of a "city like", but it is Shanghai so... 😀 Also, I met some nice Chinese there.
I was a few kilometres away from my hostel by then. I thought about taking a cab to head back... and walked eventually! 😉 It is now 9.45pm, I am knackered, I had a shower, forgot to buy dinner. Only have a Pompote left. Will do. Should go to bed soon, as I need to wake up early tomorrow to catch my train to Hangzhou... Good night folks, stay posted for more exciting adventures and good tips about China! 😀
If I had to describe my day in a few words, I would probably say something like: Cycling 15 km and facing a typhoon? Done. Hmm, you might be curious and want more details now... Let me go back to the beginning. I woke up at 7am in Shanghai, quickly packed my stuff and rushed (walking, metro, metro) to the railway station. I managed to pick up my tickets, go through security, find my platform, find my train, and find my seat. Both Lake and Ying were worried for me, as everything is in Chinese only! But I am an expert traveller! 😉
I made it to Hangzhou, my new stop for the next couple of days. Hangzhou is located 200 km from Shanghai, towards the West. It grew to prominence as the southern terminus of the Grand Canal and has been one of the most renowned and prosperous cities in China for much of the last millennium. I decided to go to my hostel first, to check in, leave my backpack, and have a quick lunch (sweet and sour pork + rice for 20 RMB!).
The main attraction in Hangzhou is the West Lake. It was made a UNESCO Word Heritage Site in 2011. It is divided into five sections by three causeways. There are many temples and gardens by the lake. Due to the huuuge size of the lake, I decided to hire a bike; I paid only 15 RMB for 4 hours! 😀 The sky was dark grey though...
I found a map of the West Lake, it might be easier to explain my trip! 😀 I started somewhere between the letters D and E (bottom right of the map), probably close to Yongjin Park, and I cycled anti-clockwise.
My second stop (the first one being around E) was next to the Music Fountain (F).
Back on my bike, I stopped another time between F and A, as I thought the view was worth it! 😉 And I did not have this map with me, so I could not guess there were some "points of interest"...
Next stop? The Broken Bridge. I forgot to mention that the path around the lake is pedestrian, thus I cycled on the road and parked to walk closer to the water and enjoy the view! 😀
Back on the road... The clouds become more and more scary to my eyes. I start to think that I might need to hurry, just in case, but the landscape is too beautiful to be seen quickly! 😉 If you check the map, I am now somewhere between A and Yuefei Temple. It is very hot, I sweat a lot and drink a lot of water.
Getting close to Yuefei Temple, I notice a small island on my left. I decide to make a small detour to have a look. And, what a view! I do not go everywhere - even though I was very tempted - because I can feel the wind rising...
After that point, I do not follow the blue dots anymore, as it is a pedestrian way. I cycle along the road, on the left of the map. I met a few more lovely points of view there! And there were less tourists!😀
I wanted to stay there forever, but this is pretty much when it started to rain. At the beginning, slowly... So I stopped another time on the way... Somewhere around the Flower Harbour.
And then, it was too late. Typhoon arrived. I was in mini short, t-shirt, sandals, on a bicycle. Oops! 😉 All the Chinese tried to rush to the taxis - and to potential sheds. I kept on cycling... only for a minute or two. I made it to the Pagoda (C), because I really wanted to see it. I thought about walking closer and visiting it, but it was pouring like hell. I waited for about half an hour; no change in the sky. My feet were completely in water.
I finally decided to check the map and cycle back to my hostel - 3.5 kilometres... I was socked! 😉 But I made it! I really appreciated the warm shower. I am now waiting for my stuff to dry out... I do not think I will do much this evening (it is still raining); sadly I finished my novel and my VPN does not work. I might socialise! 😉
It was raining a lot when I woke up this morning. I stayed indoors a bit, checked the weather forecast, and it seemed hopeless: 100% rain until 5pm. I thought: okay, let's move, I do not want to stay here all day. I packed my hat (for the rain) and my umbrella (the one I bought in Beijing), and walk towards bus stop for line 7 - I was completely soaked when I got there! The terminus of line 7 is Lingyin temple; my destination. Lingyin temple is one of the biggest and richest Buddhist temples in China! This visit was probably the most expensive one so far, as they did not have student price (but it was still less than 10 euros in total haha). The first thing I discovered were the Fei Lai Feng caves, with more than 360 Buddha sculptures in the rocks.
I did not see them all as there was a (slippery) path going towards the "jungle" to find the others. But this is somehow when I got extremely lucky (thank you Buddha)... the rain stopped!!! 😀 I started my visit of the temple. I thought it would be a "small" temple (i.e., one building, you know?) but, once again, I got fooled. It was massive. The temple was built by an Indian monk in 326 AD, and renovated after that. I first discovered a room with some huge decorated statues, and then a square where people were praying. I also did.
At the centre of this square was a big room (what I thought was the temple) with a huge Buddha. Naïve me thought: that's it! That's Lingyin temple! Okay, it's cool. But I was far from knowing the truth... 😉
When I got out of this room, I discovered some steps... leading to another one. What I did not know yet, is that there would be many more steps, many more rooms, and many more Buddhas! 😉
And I kept going up...
And, eventually, I made it to the top! 😉 To the Huayan Hall and its three sages. Each statue measures 8m!
Now, I need to get down! Clouds are slowly letting place to the blue sky.
It was already 1pm, and I started to get hungry. Luckily, I found a vegetarian canteen at the bottom of the temple. I had a lot of vegetarian noodles with mushrooms and cabbage for 15 RMB only! 😀 Then, I discovered that there were two other temples within Lingyin park... :O Yongfu temple, and Taoguang temple. I chose to start with Yongfu, the loyal temple of Southern Song Dynasty. Again, I was very naïve... I thought it would be smaller and quicker than Lingyin, but not really! 😉 I almost spent 2 hours in Lingyin, and same time in Yongfu. And, as I mentioned already earlier, I did not see everything. Crazy Chinese!!!
I also discovered a lot of squares, rooms, steps, and Buddhas! All that in a beautiful green forest. I followed a sign "sampling tea" and thought I would get to try some free tea, but it was actually the most expensive tea I have even drunk in my life!!! Oops! 😉 I indeed paid 58 RMB. At least, the atmosphere was nice...
And I kept on climbing, starting to sweat a lot (South of China is very hot and very humid), my feet hurting...
On my way down, I noticed that I missed a little meditation garden. The sun had started to shine, making everything even more beautiful than it already was.
When I left Yongfu temple, I still had a temple on the list. But I was really not brave enough. I gave up, and walked towards the exit! I took a few more pictures as it was now sunny, and walked back to the bus. Knackered!
The journey allowed my feet to rest a bit (about 45 minutes), thus I found some energy before going back to my hostel. I wandered around Middle Zhongshan road.
I left the main road to get lost within smaller streets, where I found some interesting architecture and street art.
I am now back to hostel. I was supposed to head back to Shanghai this evening, but my train got cancelled due to the typhoon. I will thus spend a second night in Hangzhou! 😉 There are still many things I would like to visit here, such as: the old residence of Hu Xueyan, the silk museum (the biggest in the world, with free entrance), the tea museum (located in the middle of tea fields, also with free entrance)... But I will not have enough time. It's okay, I will come back! 😀 My friend Fangjian (Lake) will host me in Shanghai from tomorrow!
Hello readers! Or, shall I say, reader? Hmm. Anyways. I am a couple of days late in my writing - laziness maybe. Or boredom - of writing. So, what happened to me? I took the train from Hangzhou to Shanghai on Saturday morning, and this is where I met Laaake! Last time we saw each other was in Cardiff, 1 year and a half ago. We used to live together in Hull, and we traveled together to Paris. So good to see a friend! <3 We first went to a Hong-Kong restaurant, and then relaxed a bit in his flat, before hitting the city.
We first took the subway to People's park (near the famous People's square), and I got extremely choked by what I saw there! Well, actually, I did not understand at the beginning, but Lake explained me. Some people come to sit there with a paper describing their son or daughter (studies, age, height...), with a view to find some potential husband/wife for them. It is AWFUL, isn't it? Please, mum, never do that to me!!! 😉
Next to that weird stuff, we found a small park with some lotus. However, it was tiny compared to the massive gardens I discovered in Beijing; and it is really in the middle of the skyscrapers. Not my cup of tea...
We then walked to East Nanjing road, a busy road with lots of fancy brands.
And, we ended up at the Bund, which was SO crowded. Like, for real. I even took pictures and videos.
Check at how many people try to cross the road! :O There were even policemen to control the traffic. I felt claustrophobic there! Beijing and Shanghai are indeed very different. Lake wanted to go somewhere else but I gave up, thus we took the metro back to his quiet flat! What a relief! 😉 We even did a face mask.
Yesterday, Sunday in Shanghai. We decided to take our time in the morning. Lake ordered us breakfast from his smartphone... Haaaa, technology! 😉 And then, funnily enough, I cooked lunch! Lake indeed bought some European food, just for me! So cute! 😀 So we had: bolognese pasta, Vache qui Rit, and macarons! Miam!
After lunch, we took the subway to Longhua temple. Lake had never been there before (he is not really fan of temples, but he went for me! 😀). It is a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha. It is the largest, most authentic and complete ancient temple complex in Shanghai. I really enjoyed the visit, but, once again, it was very small compared to the temples I had the chance to visit so far! Shanghai is not the best city for sightseeing.
We went then to a district I forgot the name... which was very nice: small streets, little shops and cafés, and even a cat café! We went in to see the cats, but drinks were too expensive, so we left! 😉 When we got out of the district, I saw a big sign all written in Chinese, except one English word: "free". I told Lake: free! free! What is it? We need to got! And it was actually free soya-milk ice cream. I wanted an ice cream, so... perfect!
From there, we walked a long way to a street similar to Oxford Street in London, with brands which can be found in the Champs-Elysées... Not so much for our wallets! 😉 We had a quick look and then decided to go for a feet massage next to Lake's flat. It was needed! And, when we got out, a woman gave us a rabbit in the street to advertise her new shop! Only in China... 😉
You may not be aware yet, but I have been offered a Research Fellowship position at Xi'an Jiaotong Liverpool University in Suzhou! I will start as soon as I manage to finish my PhD! 😉 So, today, my destination was XJTLU, to meet my future colleagues and have a look at my future environment... What can I tell you about it? Well, the University is really recent, it opened 11 years ago. Staff are Chinese and international; all the courses are given in English. The University has a lot of money, as it is directly founded by Chinese government (and not by Suzhou, like the other universities in the city). It is located about 30 minutes bussing away from the centre, in SIP (Suzhou Industrial Park), with many big companies such as Samsung and new start-ups.
I had the chance to chat with a Greek researcher - who actually interviewed me a few months back - who told me many useful things about the uni, the work load, life in Suzhou, etc. It was very useful. Tonight, I am staying at XJTLU Scholar's Suite! 😀 I have never seen such a large bed in my life! And I even have two TVs! lol
"上有天堂,下有蘇杭" - Chinese proverb. Translation? "There is heaven above and there is Suzhou and Hangzhou below." Heaven on earth... Venice of the East... Suzhou is apparently loved. Suzhou, a 2500 year old city. A city with gardens, silk, canals, and old bridges. [...] I believe that you now expect a lot from me, from my pictures, and from my stories. But, before that, let me talk to you about my second morning in Suzhou. I had an interesting and productive meeting with Konstantinos, and we then went to a delicious Japanese restaurant with Anita, his Chinese wife, who is (so far) the only woman in the Computer Science Department! She was so happy to learn that I will join her - and we already planned to have some meals and yoga sessions together! 😉
After that, the couple went back to work, and my plan was to explore the beautiful Suzhou. But you will be disappointed... It was really, REALLY HOT, and I gave up! Can you believe that? Instead, I spent the afternoon in the biggest mall I have ever seen in my life: Suzhou Center Mall. 300000 square metres in gross floor area excluding car park. To give you an idea, they do not only have shops and restaurants, but also an olympic ice rink, a skiing station, and a baseball field. I have also been told that one can do horse-riding within the mall. I somehow have trouble to believe that but... Well... China!!! OMG.
The reason why I "gave up" my sightseeing was because I know that I will come back to Suzhou in a few months, and will have then plenty of time to visit the city! 😀 Hopefully in a better weather (40 degrees!)...
I headed back to Shanghai yesterday evening (only 30 minutes with high-speed train from Suzhou city centre). I spent a chill evening with Lake, who is at work today. I plan to have a quite relaxing day, as I feel a bit tired! 😉 This morning was: breakfast, shower, reading my book, surfing on the Internet... I eventually took the subway to Qibao, only a couple of stations away, to discover Qibao ancient town: a tiny water town. It was nice to walk around the streets, follow the river, but there are also some activities to do there: including shopping, eating, and visiting 8 indoor sites: Cotton Textile Museum (somehow the only one I visited, don't ask 😉), Shadowgraph Museum, Qibao Temple, and apparently another five (oops). The entrance to each site is 5 RMB.
This evening, we will eat some bolognese spaghetti, Vache qui Rit and macarons, and then probably go for another massage! 😉 I cannot believe that I am already going back to Beijing and that it is almost the end of my trip. On the one hand, it feels like I arrived yesterday. And the other hand, it feels like I have been here forever.
Lake and I took the G2 (high-speed train) from Shanghai to Beijing. Initially, our plan was to go to Beihai park in the afternoon, but we were both exhausted when we reached the capital, and thus decided to rest a bit… In the evening, we met Ying, Rémy, Sixtine and Laurent for dinner in a cheap Chinese restaurant. Lake met Ying and Rémy in Paris, two years ago. We then went for a walk and to a big square with a giant screen on a ceiling. That’s pretty much it for the day! Oh, and my VPN is down again, so I cannot check/answer my emails. Nor access Facebook. Nor check directions on Google maps. Not check wether my flight is at 9pm on Saturday or 2am on Sunday. Grrr. PS : bonne fête Lolo ! Nous sommes le 10 quand j'écris ce post. Je n'ai pas oublié ! 😉
Today was a busy day. Lake met me at 9am for breakfast in my hostel. I really wanted to steal the plate!!!
Then, we took the subway to Yuan Ming Yuan (Gardens of Perfection), or: the Ancient Summer Palace. If you read my previous posts carefully, you may have noticed that I already went to the Summer Palace. Well, the Old Summer Palace is located near it; it was destroyed in 1860 by the Anglo-French forces (sorry guys) during the Second Opium War. Once again, it is a massive garden in Beijing: 350 hectares, with pavilions, kiosks, rivers, flowers... 😀
What was interesting for me to discover in this Palace was an exhibition on the Chinese zodiac, which each of its 12 animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, Pig. And, I learnt something: contrary to Western beliefs, one is not only assigned to an animal (I thought I was "only" a Monkey), but to several animals, assigned by month, by day, and by hours. Also, there are four trines. For instance, the Rat, Dragon and Monkey belong to the first trine. Lake bought a little Goat, and he told me: you need to buy the Monkey, it's cheap and cute!!! So I did... Alala... 😉
Okay, enough with the zodiac. Back to our visit...
We then discovered the ruins of the Old Summer Palace. It made me think (a tiny little bit) about Persepolis. I think a lot of information was missing: pictures of how it looked like by then, explanations, etc...
When we finished our visit, we decided to go have a look at Peking University, a top Chinese uni, which is located in the same area. However, it was apparently an open day and/or an exam day, and there was a big queue tu get in! We gave up, and took the subway to the Silk Market (Xiushui), a market on 6 floors, where you can buy clothes, bags, watches... from all the "big" brands. But, you know, fake. See what I mean? Counterfeit goods. A lot of bargaining/haggling is needed there... and some patience "what you looking? what you want? purse? watch? scarf? lady, what you want? best price". Yes, they speak English here. Of course.
When we got tired of that, we went to Donghuamen night market; or, shall I say, Wangfujing street food. If you remember well, I talked about it during my previous stay in Beijing: this is where I wanted to go with Amy. Well, it is a pedestrian street full of people, with some good street food, and some... more "interesting" one...
Last night for me in Beijing! 😥 Well, not really, as I will spend the last one at the airport. Time flies.
Today is my last day in Beijing, and in China - at least for this time. After my checking out this morning, Lake and I took the bus to Beihai park, a former imperial garden located next to the Forbidden City. It was first built in the 11th century. It has an area of 70 hectares, right in the centre of the capital!
I guess that's it for now!
Beijing International Airport, 9pm. My flight is delayed and will not take off before... 3.30am. Too bad.
It is (already) the end of my trip! I would like to write a special post to send some BIG THANKS to my friends. I will first start by Ying and Rémy, as they are the reason why I went to China this summer! 😉 Thank you also to your family, Ying, for everything they did for us. I will see you again very soon (in 4 days) in Lyon! Next, thanks to Nick, a Bulgarian guy whom I met in Shenzhen last year, who gave me many personalised tips about Beijing. I believe it took you some time to prepare everything for me, I am grateful! 😀 Still for Beijing, thank you so much Amy (Suyin) for taking some time to meet me, show me around, feed me... 😉 It was great seeing you again. Don't forget, I owe you one in Suzhou! Haha! Then, I want to thank my student and friend, Jessica (Ji) who talked to me about her beautiful city Hangzhou - and saved me when my VPN was down. Hopefully you won't be in Cardiff next time and you can show me around! 😀 Eventually, big thanks to my favourite ex-housemate Lake (Fangjian) for booking all my train tickets, for hosting me in Shanghai, and for showing me around the city.
I promised you more tips, here they come! Read my posts for some more city-specialised tips. So, first, do not expect people to speak English. Chinese are even worse than French!!! Taxi drivers do not speak English, restaurants or shops staff neither, people working in railway stations not at all... not even in international airports. Yes, I know, it's crazy. My tip? Learn Mandarin. Or travel with a native speaker. Or make sure to have a translator on your phone! 😉 What else... Most toilets do not have toilet paper in China. Thus, make sure to always carry tissues with you... Or you might have bad surprises. Next: do not ever go to China during July or August. I know, it's my second time in China, and I went twice in summer. But it was not exactly by choice. Listen to me. LISTEN TO ME! Why? Well, first, it is fu**ing hot, and humid. If you like steam rooms, it's perfect for you. Secondly, all the Chinese are on holidays during that time, thus everything/everywhere is cr-ow-de-d. CROWDED. I am trying to think about other tips... Oh, of course, make sure to download an app with maps before reaching China! Google maps is forbidden here. I have been using Maps.Me, which I enjoyed as it can be used off line. Oh, and another tip: never ever ever ever fly with Ural Airlines. Never. NEVER.
As far as my first conclusions/impressions are concerned... Well, I already gave some information within my different posts I believe, but I will try to write down more in this section. Overall, I found Chinese people very rude/impolite and dirty. Pushing people is absolutely normal, so is rushing in subway/bus without waiting for people to get off. Most of them throw their waste in the streets, and/or spit everywhere. I was also chocked by how Chinese are 200% addicted to their smartphone. No smartphone? They cannot survive for 2 minutes!!!
Also, Chinese people really love France - and more especially, Paris. I saw hundreds of women with some French words on their t-shirts. The funny thing is that, most of the time, it did not even make sense! But they cannot guess, so they do not care... Examples? "C''est la vie, je m''en fous." or "Cést amour."! The most beautiful example I found was on my coffee in Jinzhouwan airport; see below - and enjoy this biotifoul Franch.
Okay, these are not the conclusions you expected from me... So, let's be serious for a minute. I was extremely surprised by Beijing. I thought it would be "just another capital", but I fell in love with the city and its atmosphere. I still have loads of things to visit/discover; I could probably spend another week there! I was also surprised (in a good way) by hostels in China. The ones I stayed in were cheap, clean, well equipped, had AC, sometimes restaurants/cafés, always fresh drinks... What else can I tell you? It is absolutely safe to travel alone in China. I did not have any problem - at all. It is probably even easier (for women) than Spain or Italy! So, don't worry, and travel! 😀 Okay, I have a PhD thesis to write up now... Maybe I should abandon my blog for a few weeks! 😉
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