5 Myths about China that are not true

1. Everyone eats dog meat

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A dog enjoying the calmness of that dirty river :’D

It’s true that there is a dog meat festival in a village in Guilin. These people are definitely the cruelest, dumbest, most ignorant and evil people in this world. Seriously, how can you possibly tortue and then eat a dog??!?!!?!??
Yes, this festival is a reality in China, but it’s the exception. I have never seen anyone eat dog meat where I lived in China. I also don’t know anyone of my friends who tried it or seen dog meat being offered anywhere.
Of course I am not trying to deny that this behavious exists in China, but it is also not true that everyone in China eats dog. It’s rather more common to see dogs being kept as pets now, and they seem to be more popular than cats. There are also more people protesting against the dog meat festival every year. So I hope that after a few years, the government will actually do something to ban it for good.

2. You will return with lung cancer

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That day the smog in Shanghai was stronger than on other days.

Another misconception that many people get after watching the news too much. Again, I am not trying to deny the fact that the air is polluted, but it is by far not as bad as you see in media. Of course, when you happen to live in Beijing, it is more serious, but if you happen to live in any other city, you won’t see the smog as often as you feared. I was living in small town close to Shanghai, and the only times it was really smoggy were the 2 or 3 days after Christmas.
December is a very bad time to visit China, because the pollution is gonna be the strongest. Since winter is really hard in the north, heating will go up during the cold months. The eastern and southern parts of China don’t have central heating since there is basically only one month of proper cold weather. Still, the smog from Beijing wanders east to Shanghai and the cities around it. I did wake up to a smoggy morning and I just cried in my bed. I didn’t know what to do other than wear a face mask.
Still, this only lasted a few days. The other days were maybe only a little bit more polluted than the weather here in Germany. No city nowadays is 100% clean. I guess you’d have to live up on a mountain or by the beach to have clear and clean air.

3. Street food is not safe

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Some fatty but yummy street food in Xi’An

Totally wrong! Street food is in most cases even safer and cleaner than restaurant food. You can actually see all the ingredients and how they cook it, so they can’t trick you. Also, most locals get streetfood on an almost daily basis, so don’t worry. It seriously is restaurant food that you should be worried about. Behind closed doors, those cooks use MSG and used oil and what else we can only guess about.
Street food is the safest option in Asia in my opinion.

4. Everyone is rude

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Some frown, some laugh.

I hear a lot of tourists and travellers complain about how rude chinese people are. I can see how that happens though. I also had my share of chinese rudeness, but it was mostly some mean taxi drivers refusing to take us because we were not chinese, or couldn’t speak the language, or didn’t have the adress in chinese characters. Other than those evil taxi drivers, I mostly met the nicest people on earth. When I was lost, there were people who would get out of their ways to help me. Once, a girl even took us all the way to our hostel although it was raining outside. Not only young people, but also older people are so nice when they see you are lost. They are actually the ones who will understand your broken mandarin the best :’D
Also, when you plan to go to China, you should get ready to learn at least some basic sentences in mandarin. People will appreciate it and they will be more eager to help you out. Actually, this is something you should do for every country you visit. In the end, you are the visitor.

5. It’s a communist country

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Mao is watching you

Of course, the party that rules the country of China is a communist party. Still, chinese people must be the most capitalist nation I have seen. They are addicted to shopping and real estates as well as tourism. China is a rising star, and without a capitalist concept, it would have never become the most powerful developping country.
I would describe China as a perfect mixture between communism and capitalism. I am sure, that the political situation in China will eventually get better and better after the following years to come. I kind of feel like China might be the next super nation since the US is doomed with Donald Trump :’D
Anyway, what I wanna say is that the political situation in China is actually not as bad as others imagine it to be.

So these were the most crucial myths people know about China before actually visiting. If you visit a country with specific misconpetions already floating around in your head beforehand, then it is quite certain that these things will actually happen.

So please, wherever you go, let go of your prejudice and enjoy the place in its purity!

Merveille.

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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.

 

8 Signs that I’m turning chinese

During my time in China, I always heard my friends telling me that I was “so chinese“, because of the things I said or did. It’s funny though, because some of those things I have already been doing before I even came to China. They were the outcomes of how my parents educated me, my background of the turkish culture, and my physical circumstances.

But there are also some thoughts and actions that I adapted into my life after my time in China.

Here are 8 signs that I’m turning chinese:

  1. Whipping eggs with chopsticks

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    Source: twitter.com

     

    I definitely adapted to this behaviour after having lived in China. Before, I only saw my vietnamese friend doing this, but I never gave it a thought. When living in China, I always had eggs for breakfast, basically every day. We also didn’t have a whip, so I used the chopsticks just as my friends were doing it. And I have to say, it is way more effective.

  2. Not drinking ice cold drinks

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    Source: dish.allrecipes.com

    I already tried to avoid ice cold drinks even before I came to China, because I am a person who can get easily sick from ice cold drinks. Every time I complained about ice cold drinks in China, my western friends would look at me with big eyes and say: “Merve, you are so chinese.” :’D When I was in China, I realized how much they are afraid of cold things such as drinks and ice cream. Drinking hot water in summer is a very common thing there, and I actually like it and think that chinese people really know how to take care of their health. 

  3. Missing Squat Toilets

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    Source: dailymail.co.uk

    Now, you might think I am crazy to be misssing squat toilets, the nightmare of many laowais travelling and living in China and other Asian countries. But let me say one thing guys: Some of them might look and smell disgusting, but they are soooo much better for your health. It is so unhealthy to press your “number 2” out of your body by sitting upright, than for it just to come out naturally through squatting. It sounds funny to talk about these kind of things, but it’s important to be aware of your poo and the way it is pressed out :’D
    Please tell me in the comments about what you think about this. I’d be interested. #pootalk

  4. Being afraid of loosing face

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    Source: china-mike.com

    First of all, you have to know what it means in chinese culture. It is not just being embarrassed, but also trying to avoid the embarrasment of other people (colleagues, friends, family). So it is not only important to save your own face, but also the face of the other person. So if you have done a mistake at work, your boss would never dare telling you the mistakes in your face. That would be an embarrassment for you, as well as an uncomfortable situation for himself. Because of this losing face philosophy, there is a lot of misunderstanding in the working environment. Still, I like this concept, and I have always behaved like this actually. I always felt uncomfortable criticizing other people. I came to understand that I might be unable to fully criticize someone in a negative way. Also at work, when I see a colleague having a hard time with another colleague, I would always have the urge to help them or make them feel comfortable again. I am also someone who could never say directly what I don’t like about the other person (except when I am hungry :’D), not because I am afraid of that person fighting with me back or insulting me, no, but simply just because I would be ashamed of myself to embarass another person just like that, in this case, to make them loose face.
    This also is something that I haven’t just learned in China. This has a lot to do with my upbringing. It actually might not be a typical way of turkish upbringing, since many turkish people can be very direct and aggressive, but just the combined characterstics of my parents contributed to this behaviour of mine. Maybe my parents are secretly chinese (with my mom’s looks, it would even be possible :’D)
    Tell me what you think about this theory of losing face, and how you behave in cases like these.

  5. Taking photos of everything

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    This has also been one of my most favourite past times even before living in China. I actually felt like fitting in when I saw all the other chinese people around me taking pictures of their food and stuff :’D I truly felt like I belonged.

  6. Speaking loudly

    Again, I have always been a very loud person when it came to speaking and laughing, and just making noises in general. So when I started living in China, I didn’t stand out anymore :’D Everyone else was just as loud as me. 

  7. Thank you, please

    I might appear as rude when I don’t always say ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ to everyone. My friends noticed that all the time at the dining table for example and pointed it out. I told them that I didn’t realize I kept on forgetting it. When I explained that in turkish culture, you don’t really use these phrases when talking to your close family and friends, our chinese friend agreed and told us that it’s similar in chinese cuture as well. They sound too formal to use with your friends and family. Still, I am always reminding myself at least to say thank you more often to my colleagues.

  8. Slurping hot drinks

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    Source: teabeyond.blogspot.com

    Chinese people make a lot of noises when eating and drinking. I know a lot of people who get annoyed by that. I am luckily not bothered so much, since I have to commit to doing one of these noises as well, which is slurping hot drinks or soup. For me, this had nothing to do with a cultural background. It’s just that my mouth is very sensitive to any temperature, so when I am drinking something hot, I have to slurp it to prevent my tongue from getting burned. I guess chinese people do it for the same reason. Or maybe for the reason that japanese people slurp their ramen: because they say it tastes better :D

That’s it! I’m on the right way to become chinese. I think if I should return to live in China again one day, I will probably even adapt more manners.

What about you guys, is there anything mentioned above that can be applied to your behaviour as well? Let me know below!

Stay tuned and thanks for reading!

Merveille

Last two weekends in Shanghai

After this one-week trip, the end of my stay in China was slowly approaching. Right after my trip to Hong Kong, I still had one night to sleep in my room back at home, but the next afternoon which was a Sunday, we had already our next train going to Shanghai. Our group this time should be a very different one. Ana and me have gone on weekend trips to Shanghai or Hangzhou already, but Josie and Ale never joined us, so that was a first time for the four of us. Although I wished that the others could have joined us as well, it was still a nice way spending my second last weekend away with my friends.

On my very last weekend in China, I was also invited to Shanghai by some new friends I met.

In this post, I will just point out what you can do on two Sunday/Mondays in Shanghai:

  1. Have dinner at the top rated restaurant on Tripadvisor:

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    Since Ana and me discovered this turkish restaurant Efes after our spring festival holiday, we were certain to tell the others about it and make them try it as well. Especially with our foodie friends Josie and Ale, it was a must.

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    As I can recall, I had a plate of chicken kebab. 
  2. Have you last fancy drink at Bar Rouge:

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    After our dinner, we went straight to the Bund to have some drinks at Bar Rouge. That was the second time at that bar for me now, and the drinks are still one of the best I have had so far.

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  3. Go to the foreign language bookstore:

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    I do have A Strangeness in my mind by now. My father gave it to me in german.

    On Monday, when we had our train back to Yuyao in the late afternoon, we still had some time left to do some shopping. Ana had to go to the embassy, Ale wanted to meet up with a friend and Josie and me went shopping. We split up as well. She had to go to Sephora and Nike and I wanted to get a new book from the foreign language bookstore that was just down the street from our hostel.
    But none of this could happen without having proper breakfast first.

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  4. Stroll through Yuyuan Garden:

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    I have been to Shanghai so many times, but only on my last weekend in China did I have the possibility to see the Yuyuan Garden and stroll through its streets there. It’s the perfect place to try street food and buy souvenirs. But the architecture looks awesome as well. It is a great spot for photo opportunities. 

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  5. Try Stinky Tofu:

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    During my stay in China, I swore to myself that I would never ever try Stinky Tofu, no matter what. But then my friends craved it when strolling through Yuyuan Garden, so I said “yolo” why not? My final thoughts are: Try it, because it basically tastes like nothing. You might like it. I will not eat it again, because I didn’t like the texture and the aftertaste is just exactly like the smell. Not nice.

  6. Visit a Jazz Bar:

    On my very last evening in Shanghai, we visited the Jazz Bar that is right in front of the Captain Hostel which is called House of Blues & Jazz.  That was my third time there, and it is weird that none of the times, none of us had actually thought about taking a photo there. A shame. It is a great bar and the people who go there really go for the music, to dance and just to enjoy the moment. It is not at all pretentious.
    Because I don’t have any photos of the Jazz Bar, here is a photo of a stranger having a monkey pet we saw on the street when walking to the bar.

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When thinking back of that time, I was having mixed feelings. Both happy and sad about returning to Germany, to start a new life as I imagined, and sad about leaving my new friends and beautiful China behind. I do have a new life now, but it is not as I imagined. I am still struggling to fit in, and I miss Asia, especially China so much that it actually hurts. 

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I still have one last post left which will be dedicated to the last parties in Yuyao.

Stay tuned for some funny posts.

Thanks for reading and travelling with me!

Merveille.

 

 

How to spend less than 24 hours in Hong Kong Part 4

If you might have missed my previous posts to the Hong Kong series I have written, you can check them here:

Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

The first two times I had less than 24 hours in this cosmopolitan city. The last time I had slightly over 24 hours. This time I had less than 24 hours again.

I stayed at Hop Inn Mody Hostel again which is located in Tsim Sha Tsui. It’s very central, spacious and affordable. I would recommend this hostel, and I would definitely stay here again.

As the posts before, I will list all the things you could do in one day in Hong Kong.

So here we go:

1. Breakfast in a cafe near your hostel:

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Most chinese cities, especially Hong Kong, have plenty of different cafes at every corner that serve delicious pastry, sandwiches, and coffee, all fitting the taste buds of any westerner. Coming from Germany, the country known for its variety of bread, I approve of the cafes in Hong Kong.

 2. Visit the museums:

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Walking to the museum as you can see it in the background

Hong Kong has some interesting and unique museums to offer, especially close to Tsim Sha Tsui in the harbour area. I visited two museums which are in the same building. The Hong Kong Museum of History, and the Science Museum.

Here are some small reviews of the two museums I visited.

  • Science Museum:

I had the feeling that this museum was directed more towards kids. There was a lot of information about the human body, for example, that should be known to adults. Still, I liked how interactive the museum was. There were different activites involved with obtaining the information. It’s definitely worth a visit, even for adults.

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This was pretty impressive. lightning bolts would apear when you touched the glass. I guess it was some magnetic lightning ball.
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There was a hall of mirrors that had special effects, like this one making us small and wide :’D Not flattering at all.
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This one’s already way better. The kid’s face is too hilarious :’D
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This was a triangle-shaped mirror tube. This is what it looked like from the other side. I asked the girl if I could snap a photo of her. Yes, this time I asked to take a photo of a stranger, not the other way around :’D
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And this is how it looked like when I tried to take a selfie in that triangle-tube. It didn’t have the same effect of course. SCIENCE!

So if you have seen everything you wanted to see in Hong Kong, go ahead and have a look inside the science museum. It doesn’t take too much time to walk through it, especially as an adult.

There was also a nail bed where visitors were allowed to lie down on it, and a professional advised what to do. I did it as well, and it didn’t hurt at all. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of that. But it was an interesting experience.

  • Hong Kong Museum of History:

This is in the same building, but you need a different ticket for this. I heard of my friend Josie that it was a highly interesting museum about the dramatic history of today’s Hong Kong. With that I mean the outcome of Hong Kong as a city it is now. It has so many influences from different cultures that make the city so unique like no other in the world. The museum explains how Hong Kong has developped to the city it is today. It shows the ecological development, the unique appearance of ecosystems and animals in this city, and then, finally shows the influence of its chinese origin, the british opium war and the effects of the japanese occupation. All of these incidents are reflected in the city’s unique culture, and have shaped Hong Kong into today’s modern, cosmopolitan city.  Hong Kong might be the most unique city I have visited. You can neither compare it to other chinese cities, nor western countries. 

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This is something like a small wish shrine

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Traditional masks for street performances
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These fishing boats still exist today.
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Its really impressive that traditional restaurants in Hong Kong and China still have the same architecture today.
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The Japanese occupation
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How cute the shops looked like <3

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There were so much more beautiful photo opportunities. These are the most beautiful snaps I took though.

I am usually not a big fan of museums, but this one was pretty cool. It reminded me of the Story of Berlin museum a little bit.

3. Visit Mammy Pancake – Again:

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I had to get some of these delicious treats again, before leaving China for good. This time I got sweet potato (the purple one) and Sesame. The sesame one was a bit disappointing. I thought they’d fill it with black sesame paste, but it was just sprinkled with light sesame. Sweet potato was the bomb though. Nothing compared to green tea chocolate though :)

4. Stroll along the promenade:

When I walked towards the promenade at Tsim Sha Tsui, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was heavy fog hanging above the skyline making it look like some sick special effect of a science fiction movie. It looked so beautiful, with the boats sailing in the harbour, and the sun slowly setting into the white curtains of the sky. 

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The weather was really nice. It wasn’t too hot, so you could comfortably walk around in short clothes. Unfortunately, I just had a sweatshirt, so I was sweating like crazy.

Still, I had to say goodbye to beautiful Hong Kong for good. Of course, it has always been a bit stressful to just visit this amazing city more of less for 24 hours, but the more often I visited, the more I appreciated it. I had a last view on Hong Kong, and then headed to the airport already.

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My flight was in the evening, and I would be back in Yuyao in the evening, early enough to take a shower and find some good night’s rest. The next day, I had one more trip left which was to Shanghai with the laowais (Ana, Josie and Alessandro).

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have ever been to Hong Kong, feel free to recommend me some more places to visit for next time :)

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?