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.

.

West Lake Hangzhou

.

 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.

.

West Side of the Lake

.

Red Bean Tea Cakes in Hangzhou

.

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.

.

Leifeng Pagoda

.

View from Leifeng Pagoda

.

Peter at JingCi Temple

.

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.

.

Su Causeway Stall Hangzhou

All in all, a great weekend.

再见杭州!

Charlotte xx

See you again, Hangzhou.

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

.

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.

.

南京

IMG_1992

.

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.
.

IMG_2003

.

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.

.

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.

.

IMG_2016

.

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.

.

.

Nanjing, you were great.

Charlotte xx

Taiwan: Miaoli Hills and Fat Pomelos

.

On our way back up to Taipei, and our overnight stop-off in Miaoli county, we take a small detour to walk in the cool hills above the town where there are fat pomelo fruit loaded on the branches in the roadside forests, the screeching of cicadas in the branches overhead, and the sharp bite of zebra-spotted mosquitoes in the air.

.

Pomelo Fruit in Miaoli Hills.

Trees on the Walk

.

Parched Earth on the Walk

.

Pomelo Fruit au Natural

.

Taking a trail that meanders across a ledge on cultivated mountainside, we wander upwards across the farmland, meeting nobody on the rugged path, slightly overgrown by plants sucking up any moisture in the ground and flourishing in the summer heat. I’m in shorts, which is a bad call for traipsing though the long-bladed grass, and, true to my suspicions I am completely covered in mosquito bites as we emerge from the greeny overgrowth onto the hot tarmac road at the end of the trail – much to the bafflement of two brightly vested roadworkers quietly fixing a roadside lamp. We traipse downhill again to meet our silver van parked in the shade of overhanging bamboo, teeth gritted against the swell of mozzie bites, attempting to enjoy the lush scenery.

.

It’s a nice walk, but it’s the chubby fruit hanging on the roadside that makes it for me. Certainly no plain ol’ apples or oranges round here!

Loving this tropical holiday!

.

.

Follow on Bloglovin

China: The Monastery, Mt. Emei

.

.

An incredibly serene monastery on Mount Emei.

The only sound is the crickets and occasionally the deep voice of a bell carried across in tiny gusts of wind. Hot and quiet; I barely see anyone other than the grey-shrouded monks at the entrance.

.

.

As I walk around the worn stone steps, I bump into a father and son wandering the monastery; their conversation is close and quiet, assuming I cannot understand, or unfazed by my presence – the son clearly adores his dad.

I come across them again later crowded around a poisonous spider; in a brilliant moment, the two boys, strangers, are amicably clambering over each other to get a shot.

I miss home, but feel very peaceful in the monastery.

.

.

.

Original post on

9873370

Follow on Bloglovin

Taiwan: Tropical Flowers

.

.

It’s Spring! And these sure beat daisies. The sub-tropical climate in Taiwan, straddling the Tropic of Cancer, is altered slightly across the island by the the island’s backbone ridge of high mountains; the vegetation therefore, produces a really spectacular range of flowers every spring and summer – just in time for me to return!

.

.

Maybe you can’t really see this strange tree, but in early June it’s nearly finished its stunning bloom of huge fat, sturdy flowers; the burning orange petals have a strangely firm cotton-like feel. Just flowers, no leaves. My mum tells me that earlier in the year the whole tree is bursting with flowers. Can you imagine? Asia does tree flowers rather spectacularly. Even in the middle of the city.

.

.

Original post on

9873370

Follow on Bloglovin