Shanghai

So we’ve arrived in Shanghai and this will be our last full day in China! The weather has been great here the past two days, however today is cloudy and apparently there will be a typhoon hitting us. It seems ok at the moment though, and the lack of sun is a relief for me, it was very very hot the past two days!

With regards to Shanghai, it’s a pretty city and all, but I don’t think I could live here. The metro is crowded and unorganised, everything is very expensive, there doesn’t seem to be many parks about, and finally theres a lack of tree coverage from the sun. Myself and my fiancé aren’t too fussed on Shanghai to be honest. It’s nice to say we’ve visited but I’m not blown away by it.

We’ve heard from other people who have visited that they weren’t really taken with the city either. We also have a friend who moved from Sichuan to Shanghai to work and when we met them here they said they don’t really like it and want to move back to Sichuan.

The Bund is very pretty at night but the crowds are terrifying! And this is every single night! I can imagine the crowds during a festival! It’s crazy here during the night, as everyone heads to the Bund to see the views of the high rise buildings at night. Plus it’s much cooler than during the day so that’s when everyone is out!

We are heading to Tokyo tonight (another crazy city), so I don’t think we will sleep at all as we will be flying at 12:30am. That will be fun!

I’ve been very tired the past few days here though; the sun, our huge backpacks that we have to carry is taking it’s toll on me. Hopefully my body will get used to the travelling and I’ll be ok soon. It’s the worst when you’re travelling and all you want to do is sleep!

Aisling

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Things I Will Miss From China

With my time coming to an end soon, I’ve made a list of everything that I will miss about China.

Of course the first one is food. If you love spicy food, definitely come to Sichuan. They even eat spicy things for breakfast here! There are loads of different dishes to try, and every province has their own speciality food, so if you’re a foodie, you will love China. My only problem with Sichuan food is it’s rather oily. That is its only downfall!

Independent Lifestyle: If there are people, there are buses and restaurants. That is one thing that’s guaranteed. I’m going to miss being able to go anywhere I want in the city, and not needing a car. I like that I can walk at night time (on my own) and not be afraid. I really will miss the independence that I have here. In Ireland everyone needs a car to go anywhere. If I don’t have a certain thing in China, I can simple walk down the road to a shop and buy it. No car needed!

If I’m hungry, simply walk to the nearest hole in the wall restaurant and order something. It’s great! Most of the time if we are hungry, we simply order online and wait for it to arrive outside our University campus. The driver will ring us when he is there, and we just go and collect it.  We have become so lazy!

Transport: Again, people = buses. The transport system in Chengdu is incredible. With buses going EVERYWHERE, and new metro lines popping up every year, it’s a great place to live if you don’t own a car. To be honest you really don’t need a car in Chengdu. We have transport cards that we can use for busses and metros, and transport is so cheap too.

For buses, at every stop in the city there is a display showing the bus numbers and how many stops there are until they arrive. I’m REALLY going to miss the transport here.

My apartment: I have lived in 5 apartments since coming to Chengdu, but I really really like the one that we are living in now. It’s huge, the shower is fantastic (we don’t need to wait for the water to heat up,  hot water lasts for like 30 minutes, and the pressure is great) our sofa is big and comfortable (3 people could sleep on it), we have carpet (which is rare in China) and it’s literally 15 steps away from the University shop.

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Yes I know it’s messy…

But of course there are some problems with it: theres not really a kitchen, there is a basketball court right outside and it literally drives me mad when they come out to play. BANG BANG BANG is all we hear. Also as you can see theres absolutely nowhere to put our things. No shelves whatsoever. So it would be a bit tidier if we had places to put things. We have two small balconies but we don’t use them as then everyone would look at us lounging.

To get this apartment we had to move way out of the city. But because it’s in the University, we don’t have to pay rent which is good!

Easy money: For this Uni job I’ve literally taught whatever I want, and I get paid quite good money. For teaching English, you will usually get well paid, because they really really need teachers. However now, many private companies are increasing the work hour. When I started a full time job was 20 hours in the private company where I used to work. Now it’s about 35 hours. But you can save a bit of money here, unless you go travelling and spend it all (which we have done…)

It’s also extremely cheap here! Although I do notice that it’s slowly getting more expensive, but generally it’s very cheap for food. For other things such as deodrant and foreign brands, they can be very expensive though. But travelling and eating here is cheap!

I also love that it’s so safe. I’ve never once had a bad experience either when I was cycling or walking on my own here. It’s very safe. Many parents let their older children get the bus to/ from school. For younger children it’s a little more dangerous, as there are MANY cases of child abduction, especially babies. It’s sad but true.

In my hometown I wouldn’t walk around at night time, too many drunk people/ bad people about unfortunately.  So I’ll miss how safe it is here.

But yes, I really will miss living here though. I’ve realised why I’ve been here so long. There are definitely problems with the country for sure, and sometimes all I want to do is complain about China and the people and what not, but it has been good to me too.

With regards to my future however, I just couldn’t see myself living permanently. The government is too restrictive, the education system is too harsh and stressful, and sometimes the attitudes of it’s people are just too different to my own. I don’t believe in their values, such as money is the most important thing in life, blah blah blah. ha plus I’m always going to be fat here.

But yeah, it’s time to move on, and leave all these great things I mentioned above behind. Sniff Sniff…..

Aisling.

Trying Dim Sum

With living in Sichuan province, we have undeniably been spoilt by food; hot pot, maocai, spicy dry pot, chuan chuan… we will certainly miss these when we leave!

We knew that in Guangzhou they rarely eat spicy food, preferring sweet things instead. They eat a lot of Dim Sum; bite sized pieces of food served in bamboo baskets or on plates. Not having tried Dim Sum before, we were eager to try when we were in Guangzhou!

With a Dim Sum restaurant 20 seconds walk away from where we were staying, we ventured in and were given a table. No English was found on the menu! So we had a bit of trouble ordering anything! We asked the waitress what she recommended. Two dishes. Ok, so we ordered those.

And they were very nice! One was a small steamed dumpling with meat, and the other was a dessert with a coconut custard filling. We thought it was weird that they came out together, so we ate those and we realised we were still hungry. We weren’t really sure how ordering dim sum worked; did we order lots of things at once, or wait and and see if are hungry and order more. In Sichuan usually if there are two people eating, you order 2 dishes, if there are 3 people, then order 3 dishes. So with Dim Sum, we weren’t sure how we handled this!

We realised that 3 dumplings and 3 dessert pieces were definitely not going to fill us up! So we ordered another basket of dumplings. So all in all we only ate about 4/5 small dumplings each and a piece of coconut dessert. We were happy to try them but we definitely needed something else!

After our experience, we learned that we can order as many as we want! If you ordered 4 types of Dim Sum, and you are still hungry, you can easily order more. The next time we visited there we ordered many more types of Dim Sum! We also got a Chinese friend to help us translate the menu so we were spoilt for choice then!

We enjoyed all except one! The one with the green veg at the side wasn’t our cup of tea sadly. There was meat and egg inside and it was just too gooey for our liking! The one that I was mixed about was the white one that looks like a dessert. I bit into it and the bread part was sweet, but then in the inside there was savoury meat! So to me it was a weird combination! My fiancé like that one, but I wasn’t too sure! The meat was nice but I couldn’t handle both sweet and savoury together.

So it was a nice experience trying food that are from the region and that are the real thing. Now I’d like to see if there are any Dim Sum restaurants in Chengdu to have a try!

Aisling

University Time Once More

With summer flying by, I’m once again back at Uni. One of the reasons why it seems that it went so fast is because here I don’t finish until the end of June… whereas at home, colleges finish the end of May. So we got an extra month of holidays in Ireland. Here however, Chinese people get more holidays during Chinese New Year, and two months off during summer.

Having come back from travelling, studying Chinese had taken a break. Since Monday I’ve been back to Uni, so my studying is back underway again.

This semester we have decided to skip a level and move up to Level 5. Every level I’ve been in wasn’t exactly a struggle. I’d go in, learn and come back out. I knew I wasn’t really pushing myself.

That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to try 5. Plus doing all 10 levels would take 5 years….. so no thank you.

I’ve only had 2 days of class, but I know already It will be more difficult than before. Before, I understood everything that the teacher said and the Chinese she wrote on the board, and the grammar wasn’t too difficult either.

This time round, I don’t understand everything the teacher says… there are plenty of Chinese characters I don’t know…. oh and the grammar is tougher. Even the book content has jumped up a notch… with more difficult sentences and Chinese characters. I really need to preview everything before class now.

Only 6 of us moved to level 5 from our level 3 class, with some moving to 4. I’ve been with them since Level 2, so it’s a bit weird not being in the same class as them now.

And with every semester it seems as if my standard of Chinese is getting lower and lower. Level 2 my Chinese was better than most, 3… it was average… this time round… I feel it’s lower than a lot of peoples. But I suppose that just makes me realise that I need to continue learning.

I feel like my Chinese hasn’t improved at all, especially my speaking…. but then I remembered the first day we came to the school… we ended up going to the Level 5 classroom by accident. We asked the lady next to us what book she was using, as hers was different to ours.. and she showed us. Seeing all these Chinese characters made us quickly jump out of our chairs and head to our correct Level 1 classroom. At that time I knew zero characters… absolutely none.

Now, the teachers fills the whole board with characters which we have to read. Most of them I can read no problem… but it showed me that this time 1 year and a half ago, there was no way I could read them. . . so I suppose I did learn a lot since the time I started.

I’m just hoping in a few weeks time I’m not crying about how difficult this semester is!

再见

爱玲

 

 

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 2

Onto my next 2 days in Western Sichuan. On Wednesday we got up at 8am for breakfast and on we went. We had organised the day before to go horse-riding, but found it was too expensive. We decided to leave it until the next day. So after breakfast our driver located a group of Tibetan people who brought tourists up a mountain to take some pictures. Of course we had to pay for going up the mountain and the horses, but it was worth it.

The weather was great that morning and we were able to take some close up photos of their beautiful tibetan writing on a rock on the mountain.

The ride on the horse up was a little daunting; it was quite steep and I was afraid in case the horse would struggle. But thankfully they were fine and we reached the top no problem.

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Horses trying to run away from their owner

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Found an old house at the stop of the mountain

After our morning outing,  we headed back to Kangding. It took around 3 hours, and before we knew it we were back in the small city. Along the way we met 3 accidents! The first car accident was between a small van and a car, I’m guessing the van hit the car while going round a bend in the road.

The next accident we saw was a lorry had turned on its side, again it was navigating a corner.

Finally we saw a white car in a ditch at the side of the road. Drivers here drive far too fast, so I’m not surprised most of these were because of going too fast. But I don’t think anyone was injured in the accidents.

Our driver was driving pretty fast too but thankfully we made it safely back!

So we arrived in Kangding and our driver brought us to some hot springs. I was a bit hesitant; I hate people looking at me, especially when I have a bikini on… but when we arrived we realised he had booked us a private hot spring area just for the 4 of us!

The last time we went to a hot springs it was more like a pool with different temperatures. this was rather different! First of all the whole place smelled like eggs. So we realised this must be the real deal.

Before this, we finished what we had left of our picnic the day before, drank some Chinese tea… then when we were rested we decided to head in. Our driver told us that the hottest hot spring might be too hot for us so he recommend we should go to a cooler one.

We were really surprised at how hot it was! My god! I could only stay in it for 10 minutes at a time then I had to get out. Everyone did. The place is quite old but it was great to actually be in a proper hot springs and not a man made one. Was really authentic.

Plus it was deep, reaching my neck! Although we realised there were big rocks at the bottom of the pool, so we had to be very careful or else we would crack our toes off them.

We were booked for 2 hours there, but after 1 hour we were done. It was just too hot for us.

After this we headed to a small temple in a mountain side and took a few photos.

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In the evening, we accompanied our driver to our favourite Tibetan restaurant and then had 1 beer with him in the hostel until it was time for bed.

Thursday: Our final day consisted of us travelling back to Chengdu. Our journey coming to Kanding took hours because of traffic…. so we were worrying this time it would be the same again.

After breakfast, which consisted of the worst tasting pancakes in the whole world, we left the hostel at 9am.

Thinking we would be back to Chengdu at around 5/6pm, we were pleasantly surprised to arrive home at 3pm! We had no traffic along the way so it was much quicker this time. We said thank you to our driver for driving us everywhere and we headed to our apartment.

In a way we were sad we couldn’t talk our driver more; our Chinese isn’t very good and he knew zero English… but we tried anyway and did our best.  I’m sure he was very tired after driving such a long way!

Our visitors were leaving the day after so we just relaxed and went to another tea house, drank tea and chatted. It was a great trip and I’m very glad we did it.

Although It feels like I need another holiday after that holiday!

再见

爱玲

 

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 1

Exploring Western Sichuan: Part 1

Finally arriving back in Chengdu, it was time to relax! For me, it was only 1 week of travelling, but I definitely needed a break. I don’t know how people can travel 2/3 months straight!

Our visitors finally experienced are lives in Chengdu and why we like living here. During their stay , we did the usual stuff: visit JinLi/Wide and Narrow alley, saw the pandas, drank plenty of tea in the tea houses, saw many temples, walked in parks, ate Sichuan food like the famous Hot Pot… and  I think they really enjoyed themselves.

The weather was also fantastic, it didn’t rain one day during their time in Chengdu. Being in China 4 weeks, our visitors only experienced a 1 hour outburst of rain in Guilin. That was it! Very very lucky!

After a week in Chengdu, we organised through CoolTrip to visit Western Sichuan; where all the Tibetan people live. I’ve been to Western Sichuan, but not this far!

We left on Monday morning at 7:30, and we reached a small city called Kangding. Unfortunately we experienced loads of traffic jams… one in which we moved at a snails pace for 1 hour. We found ourselves in about 3/4 bouts of bad traffic…. in which our Chinese driver wasn’t too happy about!

But we finally made it at about 5pm.

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At night, the surrounding mountains are lit up. Really beautiful and it was such a surprise to see!

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Our hostel recommended us to head to a Tibetan restaurant in the city to try our their food.  Although it took 1 hour to come out, it was really delicious! On our last night, we went again with our driver. This time we ordered Tibetan butter tea. Oh my god it was horrible. It was really really bitter and salty… which was such a shock. I thought it would be very sweet. Our French visitor actually thought it wasn’t bad.. but I had 2 sips and that was it.

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The famous Butter Tea

Although it was nice to actually try it… I won’t be rushing for it again.

After spending a night in Kangding, we were on the move again. We visited the Tagong Grasslands and saw a beautiful Temple. After this we walked up a small mountain and took some photos. The only thing that sort of annoyed us about the trip was that you needed to pay for everything. We were about to head up the small mountain when we found out we had to pay. It wasn’t even a mountain, more of a hill. I suppose for them it’s difficult to earn a lot of money, so their only income is from tourists.

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Yaks

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Where we had to pay 10yuan to walk up to the top of this hill.

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After this, he brought us to another, apparently very very old temple. Upon having a nosey, we found out this cost 20yuan/ 2.70euro each to enter… so he quickly took a few of the outside and headed back out.

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We continued driving a bit, until we stopped for lunch! The tour provided us with bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and meat so we could make our own sandwiches. It was a nice experience!

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After our lunch was finished, we travelled to our hotel that we would stay in for one night. On our way we encountered some really pretty scenery with Tibetan houses dotted around. Was really pretty. Unfortunately because we were moving we weren’t able to take many photos.

I especially love the Tibetan houses; they are so pretty and have so much character. And some of them are huge! I’m not sure why, I’m thinking maybe one whole family and their extended family will live in one house altogether. Maybe I’m totally wrong, but there has to be a reason why some of them are very big.

I could happily spend my time just taking pictures of all the houses here.

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Having spent 2 days on our trip, we have another 2 days left, so I will cover those in Exploring Western Sichuan Part 2

再见!

爱玲

Visitors in 中国

At the moment, my boyfriends sister and her French boyfriend are in Chengdu visiting us. Flying into Beijing, they saw the most famous of places, before heading to Xi’an and then to Guilin. This was were they met me!

We spent a week in Guilin, where we visited the Rice Fields and then to Yangshuo, a beautiful place which everyone should try and visit one day.

We then took a 25 hour train from Guilin to Chengdu (although we very nearly missed it; that will be another blog post) and we arrived to a lovely sunny day! Chengdu really did pull out all the stops for our visitors.

But I am so glad we are back home in our own apartment. I’ve only been travelling a week but I’m exhausted. It’s nice to get back to familiarity and not having to worry about how to get somewhere or where to eat.

In a few days we head out to Western Sichuan to an area called Kangding, where we will do some hiking and visit the pretty grasslands.

I will post pictures of my trip in my next blog!

再见!

爱玲