From Nanjing

nanjing trees

南京

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幾個月前我和幾個歐洲同學離開繁華的上海城市,坐了一個小時半的火車去南京過一個週末。南京那時候正是秋高氣爽的季節,所以我們這些外國人穿著大外套,看起來好像愛斯基摩人。

我們在紫金山待了一整天,我們选擇到南京紫金山遊玩是因為它的綠化好,也因為它的風景好,更因為它的空氣好。這座小山蓋上了一片厚厚的落葉,而且我們也在深綠樹林的擁抱裡,感覺像進了安靜睡夢山的夢幻境界一様。

因為南京那個礼拜六的气溫跟我的國家很接近,乜因為這些正在落葉的樹讓我想起童年跟家人在家乡附近森林一起散步的回億。

我眼前跟風飄的葉子好像池子裡又小又亮的顽皮金魚,看著它們輕輕地在小山的路上躺著,滿地的落葉鋪成金黃色的路。我站在冷風的樹下聽著那些顽皮金魚在一起唧唧喳喳,我身邊的微風好像了解我就像录野仙踨的桃樂絲一樣,渴望能走這條金黃色的路回家。

我突然听到有人在叫我的名字,而且是我的名字,但這不是我熟悉的父母的声音,這是我熟悉的同学的聲音,叫我 “快一点″!突然間我在想的白日夢都消失了,我的臉上露出了笑容,我這条路上還剩下许多等著我去嘗試的奇遇。

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nanjing

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Year Abroad: Hangzhou

杭州
Hangzhou

Shanghai Honqiao – Hangzhou East: 159¥

Sights:
West Lake,
Bai & Su Causeways,
JingCi Temple,
National Silk Museum
Dragon Well Tea Village.

After term ended in January I headed to Hangzhou for a long-weekend. It’s a short two and a half hour high-speed train journey from Shanghai, and if you choose your weekends wisely, a great break from the bustle of the big city.

Lakes, greenery and pedestrian and cycle paths that should be the envy of China, Hangzhou made a crisp New Year’s trip that’s definitely one of my China favourites.

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West Lake Hangzhou

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 MOUTH-WATERING TREATS.

I’m a simple creature, proximity to food is high on my list of priorities.

And Hangzhou’s slightly sweet and flavoursome style of dishes are a solid favourite out of my trips so far. If you’re down south, definitely try out these three dishes mains at the very least, Hangzhou did them perfectly: 红烧肉 Slow Stewed Pork, 家常白菜 Home Style Cabbage, 红烧茄子 Stewed Aubergine.

For speciality snacks, head down to QingHeFang St. on the west side of the lake where stalls selling traditional savoury snacks and sweet cakes line the narrow streets.

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West Side of the Lake

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Red Bean Tea Cakes in Hangzhou

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TRANQUIL SCENERY

If you stay away from the traumatising horror of major national holidays in China, even at the weekends, Hangzhou’s lakes and causeways are some of the loveliest.

Besides the gentle (read: wonderfully flat) walk around the lake, it’s also surrounded by a scattering of temples, pagodas and museums well within a walking radius. We managed to cover them pretty extensively over three days, and I wish I had had more time at the Silk Museum. I was taken rather grudgingly, given my sceptical opinion of how interesting a museum of a single fabric could be, but I (equally grudgingly) had to confess I was wrong.
Good choice, Peter.

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Leifeng Pagoda

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View from Leifeng Pagoda

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Peter at JingCi Temple

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GREAT PUBLIC TRANSPORT

At risk of being called a criminally uncool, I have to say, having travelled a fair bit along the main tourist routes of China by now, it is with no small amount of gravity that I praise the tourist buses in Hangzhou. All hail efficiency.

With managable timetables and English announcements at every stop, it’s an easy town to move about in. (And the fact that I still managed to lead us half an hour in the wrong direction by the bus is testament only to my poor understanding of North vs. South.)

We headed down to the lakeside to rent a cheap tandem and cycle the lake. Things were certainly a lot safer when I wasn’t steering, but that aside, it was a perfect way to enjoy the sunshine.
Su Causeway North to Hubin Rd. takes around 25mins.

Another plus of good transport is that we weren’t afraid to take some late evening strolls around the lake and watch the lights glow from street lamps and tiny wooden stalls.

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Su Causeway Stall Hangzhou

All in all, a great weekend.

再见杭州!

Charlotte xx

See you again, Hangzhou.

Year Abroad: Trip to Zhujiajiao

朱家角
Zhu Jia Jiao

Pu An Road Station 普安路 –  Zhu Jia Jiao 朱家角: 12¥
35mins-1hr (traffic dependant)

Sights: Ke Zhi Garden,
Qing Dynasty Post Office,
Shen Ming Bridge,
Town God Temple.

 Restaurants Zhejiajiao

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This week, with my mum here in Shanghai, we took a half-day trip across the city to the water town Zhu Jia Jiao.

I’ve managed to get by for nine months referring to the town in a nonchalant jumble of Z sounds and a vague hand-wave (with any old tone thrown in for good measure), and this trip involved a full day of avoiding it like the plague, twisting my mouth into unintelligible Chinese when it was only explicitly necessary.
Unsurprisingly, that was fairly often.

It’s a speedy bus journey out of the city on the huge concrete flyovers that head south-west towards Shanghai province’s inland lakes and rivers, and the bouncy journey on China-style suspension is tempered only by the no standing system (I take a seated China-style snooze).

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Sheng Ming Bridge Zhejiajiao

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ZhuJiaJiao is a different feel to Suzhou, with its Old Town constrained within a 15min radius of sharp, twisting alleys, packed with noisy sellers and nosier tourists, but in the blazing sun it certainly has its own charm – particularly in its two storey canal-side tea houses and restaurants.

A maze of traditional wooden shutters, whitewashed walls, and dubiously constructed bamboo scaffolding that marked large-scale maintenance of it’s traditional architecture, the Old Town is a strange mix of the locals everyday life, adapted to the hundreds of camera-wielding tourists that march through every day between 9AM-5PM.
After hours, I imagine, is entirely more pleasant.

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Traditional Wooden Second Floor Zhejiajiao

Tea Houses, Zhejiajiao

Alley Teashops Zhejiajiao

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With a slow-paced wander around the Old Town, Mum and I get a noodle and wonton soup lunch upstairs in a quiet restaurant. I’d suggest checking out what the upstairs of your chosen lunch establishment is like before committing, lest you end up like us, with our windows bizarrely facing over the street and dry, latticed scaffolding instead of the picturesque tourist canal.

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Tiled Roof Zhejiajiao Resturant

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By the end of the day, I did reluctantly learn to pronounce ZhuJiaJiao.
You know, that pretty water town place, she says, gesticulating vaguely.

Charlotte xx

Year Abroad: Nanjing Weekend

GIRLS TRIP!

Shanghai – Nanjing: 134.50¥
Two days, One night.

In November, I made a long weekend trip an hour and a half from the Big City to Nanjing along with some girls here at Fudan University.

GIRLS ON TOUR

nanjing

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The great thing about travelling with friends is that, even if things go a bit awry, any unfortunate catastrophe makes a pretty good anecdote when you’re putting your feet up at the end of the day. Come rain, dubiously timetabled buses, or our dodgy foreigner’s Chinese, we managed to power through a with a whirlwind tour of Nanjing.

As a testament to the trip’s success, all six of us girls are still friends.
Not bad, eh?

TOUR TOUR TOUR

Being November, it was drizzly, splashy and rainy for our second trip to the Jiang Su province, having been in Suzhou not long before. We made the best of our two day trip in Nanjing and split our time into a day on the Purple Gold Mountain tourist trail and a day for the City.

紫金山 // Purple Gold Mountain

Sights:
Xiaoling Tomb of the Ming Dynasty
Sun-Yet Sen Sun-Yet Sen Mausoleum
Forest Trails

It’s a long hike from the bottom of the mountain to base of the Sun-Yet Sen Mausoleum where a dizzying set of stairs lead the way to the memorial building, but the road is packed. Nothing like getting overtaken by Chinese grannies on a crisp Autumn stair-master challenge.

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南京

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Although I may be some six thousand miles from home, something about the cool, clammy air in the mountains, the heavy foliage and falling leaves, walking with my backpack, and speaking English gives me the strongest feeling of home – of drizzling Northern Irish weather and Sunday walks with the family.

Purple Gold Mountain, though, has the most gorgeous yellow trees that line the paths and spray them with delicate, fan-shaped leaves, and now and then, we stumble across some Chinese architecture amongst the trees.

Probably better than your average day Sunday walk.
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南京市
Nanjing City


Sights: Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum

For our day in Nanjing City, the weather takes a turn for the worse and we head to the foreboding structure of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum for the morning. It’s a dense exhibit, and here and there between it’s visceral images and personal accounts, tiny old men and women cry silently as they walk. It’s a harrowing visit, and by the end of it all, we’re a fairly tired bunch.

Can hardly visit Nanjing without seeing this museum.

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SLEEPS & EATS


Bars: Brewsell’s, Ellens
Sleeps: 心子旅花圆客线
江苏省南京市秦淮区应天大街388号
025 5188 5858

At night, we take a jaunt around the intersection of Guangzhou Rd. and Shanghai Rd. for some post-touristing drinks, popping into Ellens, the local grimy Helen’s knock-off which is jammed full of local students, and quickly leaving to Brewsell’s pub round the corner for an Expat atmosphered beer (or Amaretto and Coke for me – the first I’ve seen in China).

This fabulously dressed Germanic-looking gentleman sits at the bar, which probably makes my evening.

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In amongst our sight-seeing, there are a fair few exciting meals from the strange noodle breakfasts, the traditional lazy Susan lunches and, ashamedly, a desperation-fuelled Starbucks. Of course, my rucksack was constantly crammed with the odd snack to keep me occupied.
(It’s better for everyone if I’m kept well nourished, trust me.)

As for sleeps, we nabbed a clean, six-person dorm, albeit slightly out of the way, in a hostel that featured smack bang in the middle of 1865创意园, a Creative Technology and Design Park.

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Nanjing, you were great.

Charlotte xx

Year Abroad: Suzhou Sunshine!

OFF TO SUZHOU!
苏州

Shanghai Honqiao – Suzhou: 79¥

It’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to take a break and update on my travels here in China, but with the pesky Midterm Exams over I can finally take a look at the rainbow array of photos from my October trip to Suzhou!

With my 79RMB return ticket from Shanghai Hongqiao Station to Suzhou clutched in hand, our group of five make our way though the mid-National Week holiday masses to the train station.  Suzhou has been cheerfully sold to me as the ‘Venice of Shanghai’, and to add to my natural scepticism of such Chinese claims, there’s a scuffle of conjecture that it’s actually Shanghai’s other water town, ZhuJiaJiao. A quick (and exasperated) description edit later, we’re back on track: to one of Shanghai’s two Venices…

Snacks and drinks packed in my trusty rucksack and sunglasses at the ready.

Train to Suzhou, Shanghai Railway Station

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WATER TOWN

The Old area of Suzhou around 石路夜市场 ShiLu Nightmarket and its surrounding canals is a beautiful area of dainty Chinese bridges and street markets that sweep up out of the water in streets that weave alongside cloudy-watered, narrow canals. With it’s white and dark wood traditional buildings, cobbled streets and streams of red paper lanterns – the town Old Town sections are beautiful in the sun.

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Suzhou Canal Boats, China

Suzhou Streets

Suzhou Canal City

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TRADITION & THE TOWN

As we make our way from the East of Suzhou town through the backstreets to the West, we criss-cross through silent, thin streeted residential areas (stopping for the odd 1.50RMB Green Bean ice lolly sold through a front door) and bustling open squared Pagodas where embarrassed tourists pose in traditional Chinese clothing and awkward couples shuffle in suits for wedding photos.

We watch a man in his late 50s twist blobs of hot coloured sugar into beautifully delicate, edible animal shapes with some lickity spit and dubiously clean hands around the Temple of Mystery (which in itself is not that mysterious, and probably not worth the walk if the Temple is all you want to see…).

Comfortable shoes an absolute must.

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SUZHOU LUNCH

Lunch, one of my three favourite times of day, greets us in the form of the famous hundred-year old Zhū hóng miànguǎn 朱鸿面馆 as we battle with the locals stopping off between work shifts, wrinkled and fresh-faced alike who fold over their steaming noodle broth bowls and inhale their juicy lunch. I try the recommended salty pork and noodle soup 香辣排骨面, 14RMB and exact sighs of exasperation as I take pictures of the chilli sauce bowl.
That’s some mean chilli.

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COLOUR-MAD MARKETS

In a refreshing, zesty break form Shanghai’s concrete forest, Suzhou markets are packed bursting with colourful flowers, tea-shops and stalls around the Suzhou Watertown Hostel area (苏州浮生四季青年旅舍). Besides a treat for the snap-happy photographer (myself), it’s also a sensory delight for anyone who loves nibbling at sweet street-food snacks (also me) as their speciality steamed desserts, candied fruit and sugar stewed lotus root are light, yummy treats that should keep most children (and easily satisfied twenty-one year olds) happy.

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For a bit of formal history, and light culture we stop off at:

HUMBLE ADMINISTRATOR’S GARDEN
Adult 70RMB/Student 35RMB

Unfortunately, being peak holiday season, what we actually see is thousands of other tourists and energetic, flag-flailing guides, filing wildly and haphazardly in droves along the well-trimmed verges of the Humble Administrator (who certainly had a very big garden indeed). We become a garden highlight as we naively stop for a rest at this pagaoda, and are subjected to the flashes of Chinese tourists from all over the country.

We do however, pose for this little girl who solemnly asks in perfect English if we would mind her mum taking a photo of her with us.
Cute!

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As the sunlight sets over the Humble Administrator’s Bonsai’s we make for the end of our day-trip to Suzhou in a slightly mad dash back to the station after dinner. Taxi after taxi refuses to stop for the boys, who wave desperately at them. As the token Asian, I manage to hail one eventually (supporting our theory that some Taxi drivers are very suspicious of foreigners – actively avoiding picking them up) and we make it in time for our 40min train back home.

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Bonsai in the late afternoon, Suzhou

Good Bye, Suzhou!

It’s been a great day out, but I’ve got class in the morning.

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Charlotte xx

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Year Abroad: Tianjin Travels

TO TIANJIN!

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Off the HSR at Tianjin Railway Station

Off the High Speed Rail and into the bustle at Tianjin Railway Station.
Beijing – Tianjin: 54.50¥
Shanghai  – Beijing: 550¥

It’s autumn in China, and I recently made a trip out of the bustle of Shanghai up to Tianjin, where over the course of four days I managed to amass a large amount of photos of the journey, the city, and very few of myself and my friend Peter.
(Sorry, Pete.)

In comparison with Big Ol’ Shanghai, Tianjin is pretty chilled and quiet city, and I’ve spent a lovely four days wandering some of it’s least tourist-trekked streets, thanks to my trusty guide, as well as some of it’s Lonely Planet-style tourist attractions. Despite the fact that Tianjin covers an area some six times larger than Shanghai, it’s population is only half that of the shiny southern city – and it shows. The streets are chilled, the metros are only quietly bustling, and the people are friendly (what a shock to the system).

Take note Shanghai.

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REAL CHINA

We start off the trip with an excellent 6¥ bowl of noodles at what Pete has dubbed ‘Man and Wife Pull Noodles’, a tiny, tiny, tiny restaurant that sits in a rickety road alley just by Tianjin Experimental High School. If you haven’t tried eating where the locals eat, you’re missing out on a real and genuine experience of China. This street is lined with lots of similarly miniature restaurants, all of which have been dubbed with fabulous English names by the local, non-Chinese speaking foreigners, and are flocked with tracksuited schoolkids at lunch (beware).

I keep accidentally calling the restaurant ‘Man on Wife Pull Noodles’, much to everyone’s delight.
Well, it is a bit of a mouthful.

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By Necessity, Alley Restaurant, Tianjin

These pretty bottles are filled with Chinese vinegar, and are perfectly lined up on our table (one of only three, in a space smaller than my tiny dormitory bedroom at Fudan University). The decor has definitely happened by necessity, and not because they’ve popped down to the local Ikea.

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Cat in Basket, Waiting

Oh, and here’s a Cat in Basket outside the shop.
Why are you so grumpy, kitty!

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I’M A TOURIST!

Next, I get the grand tour! Try the Tianjin Radio Tower, 1 Weijin South Rd, Hexi, Tianjin in summer for a great view of the surrounding city. On a smog-free day take the cheeky elevator up with a 50¥ Adult ticket (20¥ Consession/Student), and check out the span of the sprawling city. Afterwards, the nearby Lake Park 水上公园  is perfect for a relaxed stroll and watermelon on a stick! The attractions themselves are all a little worn out and dusty, with lots of attendants that seem to be there mostly for show – but worth visiting for the strangeness of it all. Other tourist spots worth a visit are the shiny, new Museum District, the Italian Quarter, the Old Town and the Tianjin Eye.

Radio Tower in winter  is an absolutely amazing sight.
Tianjin is b-e-a-utiful in winter, if not horrifically cold.

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 Tianijn Radio Tower

Tianijn Radio Tower.

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If you get a chance, go for a stroll around the local areas (or a bike ride if you can find one and are savvy enough not to get killed on raod that have a fairly relaxed attitude to general traffic laws). Out by Wujiaoyao the two story houses and residential streets are slow paced, and filled with wandering elderly people in faded floral packs; the wide, dry streets are sparsely tree-lined and seemingly under constant renovation, with building dust churning now and then under our shoes. Card playing old men in dark jackets shout in tense, tight circles around makeshift tables.

We were very alternative, and took a stroll in the dark.

A NIGHTTIME STROLL IN TIANJIN

One lovely evening after a long day at the nearby Italian Quarter and Old Town, we take a stroll down along the HaiHe 海河 Riverside to soak up some more of Tianjin’s relaxed atmosphere, take some photos, and a look at night-time life.

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Tianjin Father and Daughter, Nighttime Radisson Building

A man and his daughter sitting in the glow of the Radisson Building.

Tianjin, Nightshift Nap

This man is taking the night shift on Tianjin Old Street very seriously.

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Over the Bridge, Tianjin

Over the Bridge.

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Three Men Fishing, Tianjin China

Three men fishing under an over pass; the man on the very left is wearing what’s left of his daytime, smart suit, while the older gentleman in the middle has the look of an old-timer to the trade.

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Tianjin Little Eats Street 天津小吃街

Little Eats Street, Tianjin is busy and bustling.

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Last Man Working, Nightshift Tianjin

Last man working the nightshift.

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The Clock, Tianjin

Tianjin Clock in some pretty cool looking light pollution.

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HEADING BACK


 “Home, James!” My family say this when we’re going home after a day out, but I don’t know why, or who this mysterious ‘James’ is. Peter made a face and sounded fairly insulted that I was calling him James… Does anyone else say this? Support would be greatly appreciated.

Anyway, after a long day out, we nip on the last metro of the evening on line three and head home!
Tianjin’s metro is wonderfully efficient, and much less overcrowded that Shanghai’s rush hour. English everywhere and friendly staff makes it a super easy tourist city.

Wujiaoyao Metro

I love how symmetrical everything is in the station, and as a treat, they’ve opened the backs of all the metro coin machines –  pretty neat.

From the White Lights, Lamps in the Dark, Tianjin

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AWAY I GO

View from the Window, China High Speed Train

At on my window seat back down to Shanghai as the High Speed Train hits 400km/h!

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It’s a long journey home when you’re leaving an old friend and heading back to a city that you can barely call home yet. It’s a seven hours door to door, and I do nothing more than doze, read and listen to music.

It’s been great to take a step back from Shanghai and chill out for four days from the stress of university level Chinese and watch Pete make all our transactions, translate, tour guide and generally be an excellent host. On the creative side of things, one of the great joys of touristing with a friend is you don’t have to feel nearly so ashamed of spending five minutes trying to get the shot that you want. So cheers to the large album dedicated to one of China’s five national central cities.

Hope I can come back soon,PhotoVogue Shelled Light, Charlotte Black

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.Charlotte xx

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PhotoVogue Shelled Light, Charlotte Black

Oh, hey there Vogue, this is the Tianjin Railway station.

😝

China: LeShan Buddha

The Leshan Buddha.

Incredibly hot day. Sweated my socks off, much to the disgust of the locals. Ended up putting a towel over my head as we queued in the blistering afternoon sun to go down the pilgrims steps to the foot of the big man himself.

By that time, no one was particulaily savouring the sacred stairs experience. We just wanted the sticky, people-herded-down-small-stairs experience to end.

The biggest Buddha in the world though? Pretty fabulous!

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China: 798 Art District, Beijing

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“That is a nice black sculpture.”

Finally, I’m back in Beijing for my last free day in China before I hop on a flight back home for the remainder of summer. I decide to spend it getting my fill of modern art at the 798 Art District, Beijing. Unfortunately, my love for adventuring on Chinese buses (marvelling at their cheapness) means that I spend an hour getting there, while my backpacking partner takes ten in a taxi… However, I adore walking around the art district complex, it’s a very cool, relaxed space, dotted here and there with gargantuan outdoor exhibits and the odd, painted-up alley, and it certainly makes up for the time-consuming task of travelling there. Although you have to dodge the kitsch and tourist-orientated gift-shops, there are some great exhibitions on offer in the free galleries here – even the various print shops have a wealth of classical Asian reproductions on offer. It’s not as wacky as a media art gallery in Chengdu were we watched a woman vomit water, cook sushi with it and feed it to her friends – all on video, of course, so it’s art, not a nasty trick –  but if there’s one gallery not to miss in 789, it’s Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art. With free entry for students, and for everyone on lucky Thursdays, it’s a gallery where you can easily spend an entire afternoon. Open Tues – Sun, 10AM-7PM (last entry 630PM).

Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art
4 Jiuxianqiao Rd.
Chaoyang District
Beijing, China
+86 10 5780 0200

Check out my guest post Artist Profiles (2 in 1) for ‘Razz My Berries Online Magazine for a few more words on the artists featured at Ullens, Sanrath Banerjee and Wang Mai!

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I’m relieved I didn’t miss this last check off my China trip; as I head back on home with my (quite dirty) rucksack, it’s gained weight from its original 5kg to 10 and it’s filled with mementos, presents, clothes, and odd bits and bobs from around my travels.

I’m finally headed home.

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