My first trip in China: Hangzhou

So guys, I finally made it! I have edited my Hangzhou videos into one and uploaded it on Youtube!

It was a long process! It took me over 24 hours to upload it on Youtube!!!! Never thought this would be such a challenge! The editing part was easier than I though, it was more the uploading part that was a pain.

Anyway, I did it, and here it is!

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Last Parties in China: What I learned from 10 months living abroad

As I promised to upload the last post about reflecting on my time in China in 2015/2016, here is the last post in chronological order of my time there. This doesn’t mean that it’s my last post ever on China.

Less than one week before my flight back to Germany, we had 3 parties. 

On the 25th, we went to KTV all together. I don’t really have pictures from that evening, since we had too much fun singing and dancing. The only ones I have are quite blurry :’D It was a blast though, and definitely one of my most favourite night-outs in China :)

On the 26th, the next day, it was my friend Ana’s birthday. First she hosted a BBQ party at her apartment. Everyone came, even our boss :’D The food was great, she got some awesome gifts, and we drank a lot of alcohol before heading to the club.

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But first, before entering the club, we had to have some fireworks in front of the club, because that’s what you do in China on your birthday :’D
When we entered the club, we were suprised to find out that our boss got us VIP seats. I don’t know why, because he left only 1 hour later :’D I think that was his gift for Ana probably :’D The guys also ordered Hennessy, but I didn’t like it at all :’D

Everyone was so drunk, except the ones who survived the night at the Xiao Long Bao place to get some midnight snacks before heading home. Ana was not with us though. She already returned home quite early without telling anyone :’D We were all worried and started looking for her EVERYWHERE, until one of our friends confirmed that she had gone home :’D

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At the Xiao Long Bao place with the survivors of the night :D

The next party, my goodbye party was also my last full day in China. I spent the whole day going shopping (I did so much shopping, that I had to take the taxi back home although it was only 5 minutes walking distance), cooking and preparing everything.

In the evening, my friends slowly started to arrive. They also brought some snacks and drinks and we all had an amazing party. I hope I could be a good host for them the first time ever (I wish not the last time).

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Our friend Harry brought a box of Durian for me to try :’D That’s the second time in one week that I have tried something crazy in China. Of course they had to be last minute on my last week there. Just 3 days ago, I tried Stinky Tofu in Shanghai which you can read here. Now it was my turn to try real Durian fruit. It smelled horribly, but the taste wasn’t as bad as I thought. It has a slightly onion taste to it. I wouldn’t crave it though.

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Apart from the Durian, I got some more gifts. Nicole, the girl on the picture next to me, made me some apple muffins that looked like roses, and she got me a collection of lollipops with photos printed on them. The photos were of my friends I met in Yuyao. It was such a beautiful gift to keep me reminded of my time.

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Josie also got me a gift. A keychain of a Buddha’s foot and a card from one of our students. Also a letter from her and Harry which I was supposed to read on the plane :D

Plus, I got the best of the best gifts ever. Two photo albums filled with pictures of my 10 months here. Everyone took part in making it, especially Ana, Veronica and Josie.

When I read through the first pages, I was about to cry. I had to hold in the tears. I didn’t cry at the end, though, because the pictures were so funny that I had to laugh all the time flipping through them :D

The party became loud and boozy, but soon everyone had to go back home since all of them had work the other day (a thursday). It was a wonderful last evening with all my friends that I met there. It was a weird feeling to be sitting on the plane the next day, on the way back home again. I did feel sad, but also happy to see my family again.

Veronica cried a little bit that evening when she gave me her gift which was a wooden comb she used to use. It was before the others arrived so no one saw it.

The next morning, after I had lunch with Josie, Ana and Veronica before my bus to the airport arrived, Ana also cried when we said goodbye. I felt really sad and also guilty for not crying, but I think I was just too stressed about my flights I woud have to take (Ningbo to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Frankfurt). Also, something inside me told me that I would be seeing them all again very soon, which was true :’D
[January 2017, for my friend Veronica’s unexpected wedding]

Anyway, I had such a blast in China during those 10 months I lived there.
I made friends for a lifetime.
I visited places that I have never thought to be visiting before.
I solo travelled for the first time ever.
I tried foods that I would have never tried if I lived all my life in Germany.
I became more confident talking to strangers.
I became more tolerant towards different cultures.
I found out that I wanted to become a full time traveller.
I realized that there were so many other places I wanted to see in the world, just because I met a lot of amazing people from there.
I learned to trust strangers.
And I can call an additional place my third home now.

Thanks to everyone who accompanied me through the blog posts about my time in China. I appreciate that a lot.

‘Till the next adventure in China (which should be next year if everything works out properly).

Zaijian!
Merveille.

 

From Xi’An to Shanghai to Hong Kong

I woke up super early on my last day in Xi’An which was a Friday, and I had to be super fit, because it should be a day where I would be in 5 different cities on ONE DAY!!! How is that possible, you might ask. Read on to find out.

It takes around half an hour to 45 minutes to the airport, and during the ride, my taxi driver kept on talking to me. He was the same age as me as I found out, but he could only speak chinese. I understood most of it, until he tried asking me if I had a son. That was weird :’D At first I wasn’t sure if I understood him correctly, but it turned out that I did. Next thing, he wanted to talk about money and how much money german people were earning. It was an interesting cab ride, but I was glad when I reached the airport. I really liked the Xi’An airport. It’s not that big, but everything is easy to find and it has all the important shops you need before a flight.

I arrived in Shanghai at around noon, and then had quite some time until my train ride back to Yuyao, where my boss picked me up. 

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This was the cutest kid on the train from Shanghai to Yuyao. He kept on distracting me with his toys and his cuteness :’D His sister joined him later on as well. 

Here is why he picked me up. Shortly before my trip, I was told that I still had to go to Hong Kong for one last time because my visa had to be renewed for only a few days. So I had to look for a hostel last minute and buy a bus ticket to Ningbo Airport. If they had told me earlier, I could have just made them book a flight from Xi’An to Hong Kong, or at least, from Shanghai to Hong Kong. But I had already bought my train ticket ages ago.

Well, it was still manageable. I put all the important stuff in my backpack and left my suitcase with my boss. In the late afternoon, I made it to the bus and in the early evening, I was already at Ningbo airport for the 4th time now. So the next post will be another Hong-Kong-in-less-than-24-hours post.

I spent another night at that amazing hostel from last time which was also very central. This time, I met a Korean girl from London who was a fashion buyer but wanted to start a career as a fashion designer in Asia, so she started to check out the market in Hong Kong. She admitted that it was a tough job but it was her dream.

This is one of the most amazing things about Hong Kong. You can meet all different types of people from all around the world here. I have already met a Canadian who was a malay, indian, and chinese mix, I met two german girls, I met a Thai girl who I am still in contact with today, and this time I met this Korean girl from London.

After talking to her, I went to bed and fell asleep with the thoughts for the next day’s plans in my mind.

For the next post, you can look forward to more Hong Kong related stuff, but it’s also gonna be the last post about that gorgeous city.

So for me, I was in 5 cities on that day: Xi’An, Shanghai, Yuyao, Ningbo, and Hong Kong. That was a record for me.
What about you guys? What was the highest amount of citites you have travelled through/visited on one day?

Let me know and stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me.

Merveille

Xi’An Day 2: The Terracotta Warriors – Do’s and Don’ts

As you may have read in my previous blog post about my arrival in Xi’An here, you might expect a visit to the Terracotta Warriors for sure, which I was looking forward to see for quite a long time already.

I knew about the Terracotta Warriors way before I even planned to go to China. And now, it was finally time.

I woke up early and took my breakfast at the hostel. Then the group arrived to pick me up. Here, I want to say that I wouldn’t recommend to book a tour to the Terracotta Warriors, neither from your hostel/hotel, nor online. Here is why:

  1. Money:
    It’s gonna be more expensive than going there on your own. The amount of money they take from you might not seem much, but it would be even less if you went there on your own.
  2. Time:
    You’re not only gonna save money, but also time. Although I was picked up really early, we didn’t only go to the Terracotta Warriors and back. We first went to a factory where they produced and sold replicas, statues and figurines of the Warriors which was actually not so bad to see. But after that we stopped at 2 more archaeological excavations which was soooo boring, omg!!! I can’t believe that this was actually included in the price. I would have saved so much money -.- AND time of course. Even after visiting the Warriors, our trip was not finished yet. We still went to another tourist sight, which we would have to pay EXTRA if we wanted to get in. And because some idiots in our groups have already pre-booked a ticket (they were germans, of course), we had to wait for them finish and exit.
  3. Making you own decisions:
    I could have decided when to wake up, when to take the metro, and when to leave the warriors. If I went on my own, I even would have had time to explore the Muslim Square a little bit more again -.- I actually regret taking that group trip more than probably anything that I did during my time in China.

Of course, tours can often be very handy, informative and a great way to meet new people. I did meet an interesting woman from England. She was hilarious and as crazy as me, so I always hung out with her. Our guide was also great. Her english was almost perfect and she gave us a lot of information about emperor Qin and the Qin dynasty. 

So, if you don’t wanna make the same mistakes as I did, make sure to inform yourself about the stops on the tour you are taking, and only take it if you really wanna see the additional sights.

After this little lecture, let me show you some snippets of that day:

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The little figurines being painted here
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The end product

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That guy made me try my calligraphy skills. I got to keep that work of art I created without having to pay anything :)

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One of the many excavation sites. As you can see, nothing interesting here…
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Spring was starting, so the first flowers were almost in full bloom already :)

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Finally at the Terracotta Warriors

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Headless warriors. There were several stations here. One of the stations was the hospital, where broken or incomplete warriors were mended. 
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We were able to pose with replicas in exchange for 20 RMB
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The UNESCO World Heritage Sight is for the grave of Emperor Qin which is supposed to be in the hills and mountains in the background. He wanted to be buried close to the Warriors, so they could protect him in the afterlife.
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That place we had to wait for that elderly german couple to finish their sightseeing. This statue depicted the importance of belly dancing in Xi’An. 

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At the end of our trip, our guide offered us to book a seat at a traditional dance show that included a dumpling Dim Sum. I love dance performances, and I love chinese food, so I was quite intrigued by that. I seemed to be the only one interested, so I asked about it. The price was a bit expensive, but it really sounded good so I did it. It was really worth it guys! If you are looking for some evening activities to do in Xi’An other than exploring the food market, I can highly recommend you to visit this show. Apart from the show, the food was DELICIOUS! The dumplings were beautifully prepared and I kinda felt sad eating them.

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Unfortunately, the duck-shaped is very out-of-focus in this one. I don’t know what my camera did here :’D
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Deliciousness <3
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The two amazing bamboo baskets in one picture. 

You don’t have to book that show through a tour. I guess you can also do it online or through your hostel. You also don’t have to include the food, but I recommend. It is a great atmosphere as well, since it takes place in an old chinese opera house with tables at the front part and normal seats at the back part.

For me, going to the show after the trip was a bit stressful. I barely had 1 hour to get changed until I was picked up next. That was insane. But I made it!

The show was great as well. The music was not as weird as the typical chinese opera music. The performances were utterly beautiful, as well as the dresses they were wearing. It was awesome!

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At the end of the evening, I was full but super tired. I was so happy that my driver was actually waiting for me outside and brought me back to the hostel. I immediately prepared my bags and got bed-ready.

This amazing trip ended with a busy last day in Xi’An. I would like to revisit this city just because of the food alone. It was fantastic. Definitely one of the best cuisines I got to try in China. I would even say that, together with Zhejiang food, Xi’An food is my favourite. 

What about you guys? Have you ever been to Xi’An? Do you have a favourite chinese cuisine? And have you ever had bad experiences with organized tour groups? Let me know below!

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

From Beijing to Xi’an: First evening in Xi’An

As you might have followed my previous blogposts about my trip to Beijing and my 3 days there, you know that the city was a very exhausting one. There is no denying it, that it is beautiful, has a lot of culture and history and I saw so many different things I couldn’t have seen anywhere else, I can be sure that I would never want to live in this city, even if the smog disappeared one day. This also doesn’t mean that I dislike big cities, quite the contrary actually, I really love big cities. I am in love with Shanghai for example, and I could seriously imagine living there, but Beijing was something different. It’s nice for a trip, but that’s all.

If you have missed the posts, you can read about them here:

Arrival | Day One: Great Wall |Day Two: Forbidden City

When I woke up on my fourth day in Beijing, I took my bags, checked out and headed to the train station to catch my early train to Xi’An. The train station was smaller than expected and super busy. There were almost more foreigners than chinese people. I also saw like three travel groups full with german people.

Taking trains in China is so convenient and the prices are pretty good. Way cheaper than the trains here in Germany. That’s one of the things that I miss the most about China.

Anyway, I arrived in Xi’An in the late afternoon. By the time my taxi driver took me to my hostel it was almost early evening. While I was on the train and on the taxi, I was texting my friend Qiqi, who lives in Xi’An. I met her on my travels to Suzhou in September as I posted on this blogpost, and I promised her to visit her in Xi’An before I left China.

She told me that her friend would pick me up and show me around town until she made it out of work.

By the time I got my things inside my dorm room which was huge by the way and very clean and almost empty (only 2 other people with me there), Qiqi’s friend texted me that he arrived and waited in the lobby for me. We planned to go visit the Drum Tower and Bell Tower and then go to the Muslim Street Food Square. I was starving, so this was a great idea.

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This guy was legit fire spitting in front of the Bell Tower
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Drum Tower

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It was really nice of him to show me around. His english was also quite good, so he could do a little bit of translation between Qiqi and me. Qiqi’s english was around the same level as my chinese. We somehow managed to communicate, even if it was just through smiles, gestures and hugs. But it was nice to somehow be able to communicate with her through her friend.

The Muslim Square actually blew my mind. It was my favourite part about Xi’An, and I would love to return just for the food sold there. They have everything from Kebap, Nut Candies, Muslim noodles, soups, pita-like breads, Fruits, Juices, Milk drinks, Fried stuff, just EVERYTHING! I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to look at and what to eat.

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This is how the nut candy is made. The white stuff is a sugar mixture they use for any kind of candy. It was very relaxing to watch this. 

We sat down at a traditional restaurant that sold soups and meat. My friend told me that this place was a very old family restaurant, and all the locals knew about it. I ordered a normal noodle soup, my friend ordered the spicy version and he also ordered a dish made of intestines. He didn’t know that I don’t like intestines, but I tried to see how it tasted. I definitely didn’t like it :D But he appreciated that I tried.

The food was delicious. We continued to roam around the streets a little bit more. I found a stand with the pita-style bread and bought one. It looked yummy, but it tasted a little bit dry.

Then I saw something fried. It was dough filled with vegetables and it looked sooooo yummy! We ordered some, shared it, but could only eat a little bit since it was really oily.

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The Street Food market has a lot to offer. I was so full after only 3 dishes, that I could neither eat nor drink anything. I regret not having tried the pomegranate juice and the milk drinks that are really famous here.

I still wanted to buy some boxes of the nut candy though. I love them and I wanted to bring them to Germany so I bought two boxes, one with sesame and one natural.

After that, we finally went to meet Qiqi. She came with our friend’s car which was a Jeep. We then drove to the Wild Goose Pagoda, another famous sight in Xi’An.

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The Wild Goose Pagoda does have its charm when it’s dark

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Bascially, on that first evening, I saw all the famous sights you can see inside of the city of Xi’An.

We took a lot of pictures there, walked around the square, and even found a park which had funny sculptures to pose with.

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One of the few nice pictures of me that day. I looked just so tired and exhausted, that I didn’t want to upload the pictures showing me in the park. 

It’s one of the best things you can do during your travels: Hanging out with locals who can show you around.

Unfortunately, it was getting quite late already, and I was feeling really sleepy. I had an early start and I had to wake up early the next morning as well, to go see the Terracotta Warriors.

Have you guys ever been to Xi’An? And let me know about your favourite street food you ever had.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille

Beijing Part 3: Beautiful people, 600-years old cat, and Kung-Fu Boys

After the very tiring second day, I woke up with only slightly hurting legs. I expected them to be more painful, but it was bearable.

I woke up early and headed to the Temple of Heaven. It was really close to my hostel. Not even 10 minutes walking distance.

I paid the entrance fee and was at first overwhelmed by the natural beauty of the place and the activities that the locals, especially the seniors were practicing early in the morning, including Badminton, Taichi, Water caligraphy and more.

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I enjoyed watching them which I found way more interesting than the Temple of Heaven itself.

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Inside the Temple of Heaven

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So definitely make sure to visit this sight as early in the morning as possible. I think I was there at around 8 or 9 am. 

After you are finished taking photos of the Temple of Heaven, you can also have a look at the Temple of Good Harvest. There are also many people exercising.

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Some women were playing an interesting game wich looked like a hybrid between badminton and dancing. And the ball had a chiffon tail, so when it went flying up in the air, it actually looked like a beautiful singing bird.

I have all of that on film, so if I ever get to find a cool video editing program, I will just edit them all together into one video and post it here. If you guys have any suggestions for a good video editing software that is not too hard to learn and not too expensive, then please let me know.

Anyway, after leaving the Temple of Heaven, I took a taxi to the Forbidden City. I could have taken the metro, but the station was kind of far away, and I honestly didn’t feel like taking the metro again. The metro in Beijing is very cheap, but also quite inconvenient since you always have to change lines. 

Arriving at the Forbidden City, I was first confused because it said Palace Museum. I thought the Palace Museum was something different, but then quickly found out that it actually was the Forbidden City. I also bought a beautiful map that looked like drawn by hand. And I also got a electronic guide with a gps function that always told me where I was and gave the most important information about that certain place.

It was nice walking around the grounds and snapping photos of the intricate and unique architecture.

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It’s said that his cat is as old as the Forbidden City itself (~600 years)
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Inside the buildings of the Palace Museum
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Mostly, the concubines lived in here.
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A Pixiu with its baby, garding the gates

I would still advise you not to fall into the traps of the souvenir shops inside the Forbidden City. They are pros, and they will seriously make you buy stuff that you don’t really need. They will actually follow you, run after you to make you buy that thing they are trying to sell you. In the end, I was so pissed, that I just bought it. The best thing is to not even step foot inside those shops.

When I wanted to leave the Palace Museum, I was kind of confused. I couldn’t find the exit right away, so I ended up strolling in the park right before the exit and took some photos of the surrounding.

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These trees were all around the garden right before the exit
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Ceiling decorations of a Pagoda

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Unfortunately, this place was closed :/

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Some high school students then wanted to ask me some questions and take photos with me. They also offered me some delicious chocolate as a thank-you.

In the end, I finally managed to get out of the Museum and headed up to Jingshan Park to get a view of the Forbidden City from above.

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The walk up was a bit tiring, but it didn’t take too long and soon I found myself at the hill. After having climbed up the Great Wall, this ascension was a piece of cake :’D

The views from up there were unfortunately not as perfect as the views I got at the Great Wall the day before. Everything was smoggy and foggy and the pictures just didn’t turn out as well as I expected.

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Still, you can easily grasp the gigantic size of the Forbidden City. It literally is bigger than a german suburban town. I am sure that it is bigger than the suburban town I come from.

After the Palace Museum, I actually planned to visit the Summer Palace, but I realized that I probably wouldn’t have enough time. I still took a taxi and told the driver that I wished to go to the Summer Palace. He then started talking in chinese and told me that it probably wouldn’t be worth it, since it was quite late, and the Palace closed in like 2 hours or so. He also said with this traffic, it would probably take us around 1 hour to even get there. He then offered to drop me off at the nearest metro station. I was really impressed by myself that I understood everything he told me :’D It seemed like he was impressed, too, because he was laughing and talking to me as though I was a local. I then decided to go to Sanlitun, the main area for shopping and restaurants.

When I arrived there, I was kind of disappointed. It was quite a let down and not at all comparable to Nanjing Road in Shanghai. The whole area felt too westernized and kind of out of place.

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I chose to roam around the sidestreets to find a restaurant to eat at. Most places would serve food at 5pm (it was around 4.30). I didn’t want to wait, because at 6.30 pm I had to be at the hostel to be picked up for the Kung-Fu show. I was lucky with a Japanese restaurant which was quite small but very, very cute.

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I ordered rice and sushi (as I can remember), quickly finished my meal, went to Starbucks, got a drink and then stopped a taxi.

That was probably one of the longest taxi drives in my life. It took me 1 hour and around 80 (!!!) rmb to get to my hostel. If I knew how long this would take me, I would have taken the metro. I was almost late for the pick-up. I still had to get changed and leave all my bags in my room, but I made it in the end.

Upon arrival at the Kung-Fu show, I went inside and looked for my seats. The last few hours didn’t go well with the let-down that was Sanlitun and the long taxi ride, but I met Lisa again! The girl I met on the Wall. I also met another friend of hers, Lynette, a french girl who stayed at the same hostel as Lisa. They also just met at the Kung-Fu show. How random! That was the best finish to that rollercoaster trip that was Beijing.

The Kung-Fu show was amazing! Waaaaay better than the opera. I can only recommend you guys to visit it. Here are some pics:

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Before the performance, we could watch the performers practice

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At the end of the show, everyone was allowed to take a photo with the crew.

After the show, we walked all the way back, trying to find a metro station. By the time we found a metro station, I realized that we were right in front of the Temple of Heaven which meant that I could walk to my hostel from there. It was quite late in the evening, but I wasn’t scared at all. I said goodbye to my newly-found friends, bought fruits and snacks for the train ride the next day and then headed to my hostel to pack and go to sleep.

Although my trip to Beijing included a lot of fails (Getting lost, wrong hostel, longest taxi ride ever,…), I can say that I truly enjoyed Beijing. It is not my favourite city though, and if it wasn’t for the Great Wall, I probably wouldn’t have visited.

This was my last day in Beijing, and the next morning would start with a train ride to a different city.

Stay tuned to find out where I was headed to next.

Have you guys ever been to Beijing? What were your experiences? Tell me in the comments.

Beijing Part 2: The Great Wall and the Great Duck

I was really excited for this day since I have arrived in Beijing.

I woke up early in the morning, had breakfast and waited until it was time to be picked up by the driver.

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I remember that the pancakes were bitter as hell. At first I thought it was the chocolate sauce, but I realized it was the pancakes. I guess they forgot to put sugar inside or something. I have no clue.

Anyway, there was another family of four waiting with me. They were speaking spanish and their 2 sons were around the same age as me. I started talking to them in the bus and found out that one of them was actually working in China and his brother and parents came to visit him. Now they were travelling around China together. As fas as I can remember, they were from Madrid. They were really friendly.

Our driver let us out at one point so we could change into a bigger bus. There were different young people from different hostels all being picked up into this one big bus. Most of the people seemed to be from the US, but there were some Europeans as well.

With this bus, we drove around 1 hour again until we arrived at the Mutianyu Section. This is one of the oldest sections of the Great Wall, that’s also why it was so far out of the city. There are different sections you can choose at your hostel. There is a renewed, more touristy section, close to the city which seems to be always very filled up with people though.

When we arrived, we got our tickets and took the cable car up the Wall. Walking would take too long and we wouldn’t be as high up with such a great view over the great Great Wall. We had to pay extra for the cable car, but it was okay. Some people walked up, but I am glad I didn’t walk. I would have been pretty exhausted, and I think I couldn’t have made it back again, since our meeting time would be after 3 hours (which, in my opinion, is quite enough for a massive wall like that, because I just possibly, couldn’t walk any further after those 3 hours).

After being up after the cable car, we were rewarded with an amazing view.

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Almost alone on one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

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If you think these pictures are breath-taking, then you should try climbing up that wall, and you will now what it means when your breath is literally taken away :’D

It was a very, very exhausting ascension. At first, I walked together with the two guys from Spain, but the steps were getting steeper and more irregular, which means that the height and width of the steps is irregular, so it is  more exhausting to climb them up.

At some point, I had to tell those guys to just go ahead and not wait for me, since I had to pause every 5 minutes or so.

A little recommendation for the future: if you plan on climbing up the Great Wall, be prepared. Run marathons if you want to, but make sure your condition is good, because that Wall is a huge chunk, even if you only walk a small section of it. I wasn’t fit at all, and I actually thought I was gonna faint and tumble down the steps.

But while I was trying to climb up the stairs and pausing every 5 steps, I met a girl from America, Lisa, and she was struggling as well. We started talking and motivated each other to climb up the stairs. Before the last watchtower, there were almost vertical steps leading up, and I actually thought twice before climbing them up. I felt like a goat (which I actually am regarding my chinese zodiac sign :’D)

Anyway, we did it together, and up there, a man was selling drinks and snacks. Since I felt quite dizzy, I really wanted that snickers. It was around 4 times more expensive than a regular snickers you could get at a shop, but I really, really wanted it. And I don’t regret it until this day, because it was the best snickers I ever had. After that day, I started to have a special appreciation for snickers :D

At that last watchtower, there was a sign that using the following path is on own responsibility, since that part has not been restored properly, and it said that parts of the rocks could break which was actually true. Lisa and me decided to continue walking after a short break. The next part of the Mutianyu section was pretty isolated and really old. It was still a wall, but some parts were so broken, that it was quite dangerous walking on them.

We came across a woman who sold snacks and drinks as well, but what caught my eye were the red wish ribbons she was selling for 20 rmb (around 3€). I really really wanted to do something like that in China, so I bought one. You could choose a character (Love, Family, Fortune, Luck, or Career), and could write down namesor a wish on the ribbon. I chose Family and wrote down the names of my parents and siblings. Then, we could tie it around on of the trees around there.

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Lisa did it as well, and then the woman took a picture of us. She was actually really friendly and such a cute woman. We got into talking to her, how she walked ALL (!) the steps up there every morning to sell her stuff to the true travellers, the heros as she called us and others who made it up to her. I was madly impressed by her and I am sure that this woman is probably gonna life at least until her 80s. I decided to buy a souvenir for my cousin there, since she really wanted a magnet from China and that woman was selling some beautiful ones. She was also selling beer and she kept them in the wall between the stones :’D pretty clever!

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Soon, we had to say goodbye to her and head back to the cable car to meet up with the group for lunch. Lisa and me collected the last bits of our strength and walked down. Of course it was easier, but we could feel how heavy our legs were getting and we still had the almost-vertical steps at the last official watchtower.

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This was after we walked down the steepest and longest part of the stairs. After I stood still, I realized how my legs were shaking. It was insane. I have never been so exhausted before.

When we finally met for lunch and had all the food in front of us, I was delighted. It was probably the best-tasting lunch I ever had. It was just the most simple chinese food you can think of, but everything was infinitely delicious.

Unfortunately, our trip was already over, and we soon found ourselves back at the bus. This time, I sat next to Lisa and we talked all the ride through about why we came to Beijing, what else we wanted to see here, and what our next travel plans in China were. She only came to travel, but she wanted to see as many places as possible before returning back to the US. We both wanted to see the Kung-Fu show, so we thought we might see each other again. That would be funny, actually.

When I got back to my hostel, I decided to sleep for a little bit again until it was time for the Beijing opera show. The driver took me to the place again. I was there pretty early, so I lost myself in the souvenir shop and bought SO. MANY. THINGS! I want you guys to be cautious with your money in Beijing, because those sales people are pros. They will manipulate you in such a gentle and smooth way into letting you think that you absolutely need that picture or tea set or whatever it is you are going to buy.

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Yes, I bought a beijing opera mask, not this one on the picture though, but a similar one, and it hangs on my wall now. I actually don’t regret it. To be honest, the stuff they were selling at the opera shop was pretty useful and of very nice quality. I did buy a lot though. A mask, a bunch of bookmarks, 2 pouch bag sets, and one tea cup set that I actually bought as a gift for my father’s aunt.

The Beijing opera itself was actually a bit disappointing. I actually liked the Sichuan opera way better.

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After the opera, I still wanted to have some good dinner, so I took a taxi to the famous duck restaurant, DaDong Roast Duck Restaurant. It looked extremely fancy and I kinda felt weird there, all alone, but I just ignored it and tried to have a fab time, which I did.

First of all, they cut the duck into its pieces right in front of you. Plus, you get a lot of free stuff, like that red bean soup or strawberries for dessert.

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This was chiezi, an eggplannt dish. 
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I forgot what this was, but I didn’t like it. 
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This was the red bean soup I got for free. It was yumm!
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And these the fancy strawberries on ice. 

The restaurant was a bit expensive of course. I spent around 200 rmb for all of that (around 25€), which I think is quite okay for the location, the food and the extraordinary service. If I didn’t buy the extra chiezi and that other yellow dish, I would have even paid less.

This dinner was the perfect end to that adventurous day.

Have you guys ever been to the Great Wall? Would you like to go?

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

Beijing Part 1: Getting lost and overwhelmed

As promised, I am writing about my final trip I did around China in March, before I headed back home last year April. I still had Beijing and Xi’An on my list to tick off, so I decided to do the typical trip to those two cities. I heard many tourists and travellers take that route between the two cities via train, and I decided to do that as well.

That was not all, though. Last minute, before I left for Beijing, my boss told me that I had to go to Hong Kong one last time, because I had to extend my visa once more, for only a few days. That did piss me off, because I have already booked all the planes and trains already, and I could have taken the plane from Shanghai airport. This way, after arriving in Shanghai from Xi’An, I’d have to take the train to Yuyao, my boss would pick me up, take my suitcase, and take me to the hotel for me to catch the bus to Ningbo airport. Such a hustle can only happen in China :’D

During that one week, I took 4 trains, 4 planes, and 2 busses in total :’D If it wasn’t enough, we even planned one last Shanghai trip after I came back from Hong Kong :’D That was insane! Never travelled to so many cities in such little time :’D Almost felt like funforlouis :’DD

Anyway, my flight to Beijing was early in the morning from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. I took one of the earliest trains to Shanghai, and upon arriving at the check-in, I was happy to see a great seat which turned out to be an emergency exit seat. The views from the plane were great. The sun was blasting and the sky was clear blue. A pity I didn’t use my camera to take a photo.

I flew with China Eastern Airlines, and I really liked it. Everything was on time, the stewardesses were friendly and the flight was smooth.

I think everything was just too good.

After landing, I took the metro to find my hostel. I had the directions and I also had the address in chinese. I was doing fine, but then, I completely lost my way. It was ridiculous. I was already on the way for almost 3 HOURS!!! Walking around in circles, asking for the way, trying to stop taxis to take me there. Nothin worked.

Because I was so stressed, I didn’t take so many pictures. I was despairing. Finally, a taxi stopped and took me to my hostel. But he was driving in the opposite direction that I came from. I was starting to get really confused. Then, he just let me out in front of a construction and told me I had to walkd behind it to get to the entrance of the hostel since cars couldn’t drive there. It was ridiculous. Ive had enough. I walked and walked through bumpy streets with my huge suitcase and finally, FINALLY found the entrance. It was very hidden, the taxi driver was right.

I entered, relieved and they were looking for my room on the computer. And the bad luck didn’t stop. They said there was no room unter my name. I was panicking. I showed them the e-mail and the girl understood. I was at the wrong hostel. It had basically the same name.

Happy Dragon is a hostel name that is used for three different hostels in three totally different locations in Beijing. They called the hostel and asked if there was a room booked and they confirmed. The receptionst was so kind to organize a driver for me to take me there. And again, they took me back to where I came from.

As it had turned out, I had the directions to the right hostel, but wrote down the wrong chinese address. So guys, please, if you decide to book a room at Happy Dragon, double check which one it is you are staying at and make sure you have both the right directions and the right address.

I paid for the drive at the reception and was told that I got a room upgrade. I actually booked a dorm, but I got a private room. And I didnt have to pay anything extra. I was so happy, and even happier when I saw how clean and beautiful it was. The bed was soft as well. I was so tired and exhausted that I could just lie down and sleep. Even my hunger couldn’t keep me from sleeping for around 2 hours.

When I woke up, I was still tired, but I had to get something to eat and I wanted to explore the city a little bit. It was slowly getting dark, so I got out of bed, got dressed and left. First, I also signed up for the Great Wall trip the next day.

I walked to the metro, and since it was already around 7pm, the streets were full with people. The metro as well. I thought Shanghai metro was full, but the one in Beijing was even worse. I couldn’t believe when I saw how many people were still getting in.

I somehow got off at my station which was the entrance to the Forbidden City.

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Of course, I wasn’t planning to get inside, since it was already closed, but I just wanted to explore the area. I guess I would have done a better choice if I went to get some street food somewhere.

After walking around the area, I quickly got bored and felt my hunger. I took the metro again, this time to find a restaurant somewhere. I didn’t have to walk too far from the metro station. It was a modern american-korean-mexican fusion restaurant in a Hutong. The area was very quiet and old but it looked very authentic.

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Nachos and a salad, Although I was pretty hungry, I didn’t want to eat anything too heavy at that hour.

When I was soon finished with dinner, the only thing I wanted to do was go sleeping in my warm, comfy bed. I took a taxi and enjoyed the late night views I got from Beijing. A beautiful, big city with a huge history, but very overwhelming for me. I saw the beauty of Beijing, but it was still very confusing to me.

What about you guys? What were your first expressions of Beijing?

Dubai Part 2: Desert, Dunes and Dancers

Finally, the second day has started on our trip. After our great first day in Dubai, we were now looking forward for our spectacular second day for a reason.

After our amazing, huge breakfast (which I forgot to take photos of), we needed to go to the Dubai Mall to buy the tickets for the Burj Khalifa the next day. At around 10.30 am we took a taxi to the mall. At first we tried to find a place to exchange money, and right after that we tried to find the Burj Khalifa ticket counter. Both tasks were a challenge. The mall is huge and we had to ask at the information point several times until we finally found it.

The line was quite short when we arrived, so we didn’t have to wait for too long. We wanted to go up the Burj Khalifa at peak time which is starting from 5pm, so that we could see it during daylight, dusk, and evening. That’s the busiest time, and according to that are the prices. We had to pay 350 AED (around 100€) instead of the usual afternoon price of 200 AED (around 50 €).

We got our tickets, which look so beautiful and each ticket has an interesting fact about the Burj Khalifa. So they are not only a great souvenir from the trip, but also quite useful and informative.

After finally getting our tickets, we went to look at the aquarium which is said to be the biggest in the world. You can spend minutes and even hours just watching the fish, ray and sharks swim around. I especially love the rays. They look so cute <3

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Close to the aquarium, we suddenly came across the Cheesecake Factory. We really wanted to try it, since there is none in Europe, let alone in Germany. We only wanted to have cake, so we decided to share 2 cakes for 3 people. That was more than enough. Even only one cake would have been enough. We also had coffee and cappucinos, so in the end we were extremely full.

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We got an Orea Cheesecake and a Lime Cheesecake which was surprisingly sweeter than the former one.

We were too full, but we still wanted to go for a little bit of shopping. My sister immediately had to go to Sephora. There, we spent quite some time. I bought a chapstick and a liptint both from TonyMoly. The rest was way too expensive for me. Next to Sephora we found a Ted Baker Store, and I really really wanted to have a look since I have become quite obsessed with their floral, flowy dresses, beautiful bags and cute plastic shoes <3 Inside, I felt like I have entered the wardrobe of Alice. It was wonderful! Definitely one of my favourite stores. I found a little make up purse which I can also use as a night-out purse to put in some cash and lipstick. It looked so cute and it was only 185 AED (around 45€).

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I got this in turqoise colour. I love the classical Ted Baker bow <3

We didn’t go to any more shops, because my sister was starting to feel dizzy, so we slowly decided to return to the hotel to get changed and rest a little bit before the real fun would begin.

At 3.30 pm our driver and guide for the desert safari should pick us up at the hotel lobby.

Our guide was on time. He picked us up and started chatting to us in a fun way. He was really really funny and entertaining. His name was Zayid (I hope I spelled it right), and he was from Pakistan. He said he was doing this job since he was 20 years old (he was 37 I think). We also picked up another group of 3 people who turned out to be from Spain. Their english wasn’t quite good but they seemed very nice.

We drove quite long to the desert, almost 1 hour. We saw many other white Toyota landrovers on the way there, and when the dune bashing finally began, we had a lot of those cars in front of us, so we could see how they were driving, and at the same time we were in our car, jumping up and down.

I have to warn you guys, though. If you get carsick very easily, this kind of activity is the wrong one for you. My sister for example gets carsick almost all the time, and she couldn’t handle it. After like 10 minutes of dune bashing we had to stop. She felt sick and started crying and had to get out of the car. We were falling behind but it was okay. I felt sad for my sister. I didn’t expect her to feel that sick. So guys, if you can’t handle exciting rides or get motionsick very easily, then I’d suggest you do a simple camel ride or a calm Jeep Ride to your desert destination. That’s actually what I wanna try next time I’m in the desert. As much as I loved the dune bashing, I still want to try different things.

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We took a break and had the chance to take some photos. Unfortunately, the sun was hidden behind the clouds, and it was just in general a very windy day in the desert. Still, we managed to capture some amazing pics.

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From left to right: My sister, my brother and me, fighting with the wind.

We also got to meet a man with a falcon who let us hold it for 10 AED. Looking in hindsight, I don’t know how animal-friendly that was, but as far as I could judge from the looks of the animal, it looked quite healthy and clean. It wasn’t in a bad condition and didn’t have that abused kind of look on its face. Still, I’m not sure, and I would be so thankful if any of you guys knew more about that. Feel free to tell me in the comments if you know.

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After our successful photo session, we continued our dune bashing. My sister had to clench her teeth together for a few minutes more and then we finally arrived at the base.

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The sitting are around the stage

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We paid the 185 AED per person and then enjoyed some tea and watched the camels. I actually wanted to have a ride before we had arrived, but seeing the animals changed my mind. They looked really sad and tired from all the kneeling and standing up for 5 minutes to walkd and kneeling again. People were screaming and laughing and taking selfies. I even caught a camel spitting at one tourist who got too close to him for a selfie. I changed my mind about riding them and we went inside for a little bit of henna.

A lot of girls were standing in line. The service was for free, but if you wanted to, you could leave a tip for the lady who, in my opinion was pretty talented and could actually be an artist in another country.

I left a tip of 10 AED because I loved the way she did my henna. It looked beautiful. She did it freely without a template.

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After the henna was finished, we headed towards our seats and waited for the show and dinner that was also included in the price.

Soon, a dancer appeared on stage. A man with a wide, colourful skirt, but that was a rather annoying performance because of the weird music that included baby crying which was super weird.

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When it was finally finished and our food was being served, I was more than happy.

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A very yummy samos. crspy dough and filled with juicy meat
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The buffet had everything, from hummus, arabic naan bread, barbecued meat, rice with curry, salads, potatoes, and even BUTTER CHICKEN! I died when I saw that! It was so yummy! I have to say that arabic food is very similar to Indian food.
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This was the dessert. Desser in the desert :’D Sorry for the bad quality of the picture. I don’t quite know what the desserts consisted of. The left one was a kind of sweet porridge. The right one was really yummy. Something like a pumpkin cake I think.

We also had some fruit, apples and oranges. And while we were havin dessert, the belly dancer finally arrived on stage. After dinner I thought they wouldn’t bring out the belly dancer, but they did and it made our night. She was incredibly beautiful and talented. I loved how she danced and could have watched her for hours. So beautiful! In my opinion the most seductive dance style.

 

Unfortunately, our evening was at the end after the dance performance. Everyone slowly started heading towards the exit to their guides. Our driver was already waiting for us at the tea stand so we quickly walked to our car and started our drive back home.

We had an amazing day and an even more amazing evening. The desert definitely is my second favourite ecosystem now, right after the ocean.

I can warmly recommend you to do such a tour. I would even suggest you to research a little bit better and try to book an even better programm. There are different ones and some even include the audience into the belly dancing which I would have loved to see and do :’D next time I will try to research more for sure.

For our third day, I can tell you that it’s probably gonna be a long post. Our day was filled activities. And of course, stay tuned to read about our trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa.

What about you guys? Have you ever been to the desert? What is your favourite ecosystem?

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille

 

 

 

 

Dubai Part 1: Arrival, Pools and Burgers

Our trip started with an afternoon flight from Stuttgart to Istanbul at 1.05 pm. We flew with Turkish Airlines but  had 4 hours time to kill in Istanbul before our connecting flight to Dubai. In the meantime, my sister and me had some cake and drinks at Starbucks.

Our flight from Istanbul was at around 10pm local time, so we’d have a red-eye flight this time. But luckily, we had screens to watch movies now, and there were less people on this plane. It was quiet most of the time. I watched Doctor Strange and Insurgent on the flight, and they were both such amazing movies <3

We finally arrived in Dubai on Monday morning at 5 am. We got our luggage, exchanged some money and got a taxi to our hotel. Here, you need to be carefull not to be scammed if you’re planning to visit Dubai! There will be drivers of some nice cars (like Lexus or BMW) who will try to get you in the car and offer a certain amount of money. Don’t get in that car unless you wanna pay 3 times more than the usual price. Just ignore them and head towards the usual yellow taxi cars. My sister almost fell for it and I had to pull her away from that black Lexus.

The ride to our hotel was so pleasant. Our driver was listening to some western radio station and they started playing Starboy by the Weeknd, so that was the perfect arrival for me :’D

Finally, after around 30 minutes, driving through the city and having the first glimpse on the Burj Khalifa, we arrived at our hotel. It looked pretty nice, the Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate. We checked in and luckily, our room was ready, so we didn’t have to wait for hours to finally get proper sleep.

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The lobby area at our hotel
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The pool on the rooftop of our hotel. Never swam here though :/

We slept for around 3-4 hours, until 10 am. After that we just wanted to go to the beach and eat something, because we were starving.

There was a free shuttle bus to the Oceana beach club which was located on the Palm. There was also a Steakhouse by the pool, so the first thing we did was having a burger-brunch.

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The burgers were really yummy, but also quite expensive: 85 AED for this plate 

After that it was all about tanning, swimming and drinks.

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Got myself a Strawberry Daiquiri for 55 AED which is actually okay for cocktails at a beach club. I seriously expected alcoholic drinks to be more expensive. 

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That’s me !
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The infinity pool was pretty decent :)

While we were taking photos by the pool, one of the security guys told us off that we can’t take photos with a camera. A phone is okay though. Very strange. So we stopped and I put my camera back in my bag. My sister and me also tried to swim in the sea, but we saw a sign which said to be careful of jellyfish. We were a bit scared, so we only dipped in our feet and took some photos.

At around 3pm, we slowly started to walk back to the pick up location to drive back to the hotel. We took a shower and dressed up to go to the JBR and the Marina Walk. We took a taxi there and he left us right in front of JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence) although we actually said Marina Walk. But in the end, that was okay, because we found Shake Shack and immediately went inside for dinner.

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I never had Shake Shack before, neither did my brother, but my sister had it in London, and I gotta say, the fries are the best ones I have ever had. Crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside <3 Well done!

We strolled along the JBR promenade a little bit, looked at some stands selling souvenirs and handmade gifts, and even found a LaDuree where we got some single macarons.

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Now, we really wanted to look for the Marina Walk, so we looked for it. After asking some people and occasionally checking Google Maps, we finally found it, and were amazed by the breath-taking views:

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After walking along the Marina and snapping millions of photos from every angle, we were pretty exhausted and took the next taxi to the hotel.

Our first day in Dubai was already filled with many activities and we saw quite some things on our first day.

On our second day, there is gonna be a surprise: the activity I have been waiting for sooooo long. Can you guess what it is? Stay tuned if you wanna find out :)

What about you guys? How do you like long flights with layovers?
Have you ever been to Dubai? What were your first impressions?

Thanks for reading and travelling with me.

Merveille