Author: marina

China Travels: Yangshuo

China Travels: Yangshuo

Originally, I wanted to travel for the first 2 weeks in May. Between my project ending at the end of April, a 5 day holiday in China for May 1st and the big 3-0, it seemed like a great time for a big trip. Plan A was to go to Hawaii, Plan B was Australia and Singapore … Here comes Corona and therefore we were in need of Plan C: The COVID-19 contingency plan.

Luckily, domestic travel is still possible, so we decided to stay in Shanghai for most of the holiday, and then went on a week-long trip to the south of China. Our first of three stops was Yangshuo which is located in Guangxi province. Yangshuo might not ring a bell, but usually Guilin does. Guilin and the surrounding area is famous for its beautiful nature with the Li River and its surrounding karst formations. It’s even on the back of the 20RMB note, that’s how beautiful it is. (Yes, we went to the 20RMB spot like the good tourists we are, picture proof below).

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

Our vacation started right as we arrived at the hotel. Built directly next to the river and surrounded by mountains, having breakfast was already the first sightseeing activity of the day.

Big Banyan Tree

To make things easier, we hired a guide to take us around. The first thing she showed us was a 1.500 year old Banyan Tree. It was really cool to see with roots growing everywhere. From further away it looks like several trees, it is truly a Big tree.

Gold Water Cave

Walking up to Gold Water cave was already worth the trip there. The surroundings are amazing (we realized they are pretty much everywhere in Yangshuo) and I really liked the wall art of the local people.

On the inside, Gold Water Cave is basically an explosion of colors. Add a DJ and it would be a unicorn rainbow disco cave ๐Ÿ™‚ The formations are beautiful and the cave itself is quite big.

Moon Hill

Moon hill is a pretty formation of karst mountains which we passed on our way to the next stop. Itโ€™s called moon hill because the opening in the rock is like a moon which changes based on where you stand. You can hike up but we were promised a better view point the next day, so we just snapped some pictures.

Local market and Xingping Old Town

Up next: a local market with all sorts of interesting foods and stuff. Toys, rice, rat poison, dried tofu, live chickens and ducklings, a hot lunch, plants, produce or a haircut? The market got it covered.

Afterwards, we had lunch in Xingping Old town. Iโ€™m not sure how authentic it still is but the streets are definitely pretty. The local food and special eggplant our guide recommended were quite tasty.

20 RMB Spot

No trip to Yangshuo is complete without seeing the beautiful scenery depicted on the back of the 20 RMB note. Obviously you have to take a picture while holding a 20 RMB note. Because of the wonders of WeChat and Alipay we never have any cash but our guide had us covered ๐Ÿ™‚

Bamboozle Boat Trip

We didnโ€™t just see the 20 RMB spot from land, we also saw it from the river. A trip on a bamboozle boat down the Li River was the next order of business. Bamboozle boats are made out of plastic pipes shaped like bamboo and have a (very loud) motor. The boat ride isnโ€™t exactly peaceful but the views are amazing.

Impression Sanjie Liu

In the evening we met up with friends from Shanghai who were also in town. Together we went the an impression show which consisted out of lights, music, singers, boatmen and of course the river and the karst mountains. I didnโ€™t understand what was sung, but the show was great nonetheless.

View points

Our second day started with the promised view points. On our way to Xiangong Hill, where you are supposed to have a great view over a bend in the river, we made some photo stops. I donโ€™t know if they have any names but the views were amazing. The landscape around Yangshuo is just incredible to see.

Da Mian Mountain

When we arrived at Xiangong Hill, they told us we couldnโ€™t enter the area because no foreigners are allowed. Thankfully, our guide came up with a Plan B, which meant a much longer hike but in return we were also promised an even prettier view. The climb to the top consisted of lots and lots of stairs and in my case lots of breaks to catch my breath. The view from the top was definitely worth all the efforts. You could see a horseshoe bend in the river and many many mountains. It was truly spectacular.

Jiuxian Ancient Village

After a very sweaty hike, we drove to Jiuxian Village for some lunch and pretty scenery. We had the local specialty, beer fish, which was so tasty we had it again for dinner. After lunch, we took a walk around the pretty village. As with many of the spots we visits, we were almost the only people there, which made it even better.

Bamboo rafting on Yulong River

Besides the amazing views from Da Mian, my favorite activity might have been the bamboo rafting on Yulong River. Rafting might give the wrong impression, as it was a very quiet and serene boat ride for the mot part. Other than the plastic boats with a motor, these little rafts are made out of bamboo and are moved by the boatman with a long bamboo stick and lots of arm muscle. We did go down some little rapids, which was refreshing in the heat (36 degrees!). The scenery was again beautiful and we had even more clear weather that afternoon.

Tea tasting at the tea farm

On our last day, we drove back up into the mountains to visit a tea farm and taste some teas. We learned about white, green and black tea (or red tea as itโ€™s called in Chinese), and tried at least 5 different kinds. It was really relaxed and we may have ended up buying 2 bags full of tea to take home.

And that was Yangshuo, truly a beautiful spot in China!

Iโ€™m very glad we went there and were lucky to have such clear weather. To wrap it up, here are some pretty sunset pictures from our trip:

April

April

I’m a bit behind with my blogging, so I thought I’d do just a post about the whole month of April. Due to the current situation we didn’t leave the country or even the city, so it was a month full of Shanghai adventures.

Qingming Festival Weekend

The month started with a long weekend due to Qingming festival. Our friends Ling and Hutch had us over for dinner at their place. Ling first did a Chinese tea ceremony with us and then we ate lots and lots of food they had made. Friends who can make great food are the best friends ๐Ÿ™‚

The next day, we had an early birthday brunch for Thorben at the W hotel. As always, the food and views were awesome. We had fun taking pictures on the terrace. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing the skyline.

On the final day of the 3 day weekend, we had a little Grรผnkohl party at our house. Originally, we had planned it for 12 people the day Thorben got back from Germany. Due to the rules at the time, we couldn’t have anyone over and it all went into the freezer. Half of it has been completely demolished now and hopefully round 2 will happen soon ๐Ÿ™‚

Thorben’s Birthday

We extended the long weekend by another day to celebrate Thorben’s birthday a bit more. We had some cake at home and then dinner with friends at our favorite Chinese place, Lotus Eatery.

Easter

Easter Sunday was exciting for Thorben and many of our friends because that’s when archery finally started again. To properly celebrate the occasion, Thorben brought Brezeln to archery – it was a big success. Overall, Thorben was on a Brezel mission and made some 4 times in April … Someone is trying to steal my title of baking queen of the household ๐Ÿ™‚

I had a great, sunny Easter brunch with friends, ate some ice cream, went pack to Jing’An Sculpture Park and then stopped by to watch some archery. It’s fun to watch but I’m definitely sticking with not playing and staying bruise free on the side lines. Also, we had a family Easter WeChat Video conference ๐Ÿ™‚

3 More Birthdays

Besides Thorben’s birthday, we went to 3 more celebrations. 2 belated ones, now that everyone is back in town and places are open again, and 1 on the actual birthday.

For Boramy’s belated birthday we had brunch, which turned into drinks, which turned into ordering pizza at her place and binge watching Hulu ๐Ÿ™‚ Sadly, I neglected to take pictures of any people. I guess I was too busy eating and having fun!

For Lars’ birthday, we had dinner at a Sichuan restaurant and then there was cake, which means, my all time favorite birthday tradition. Not just eating the cake (which is pretty great, too), but cutting the head of the man, who is drawn onto the cake while everyone screams. Gotta love Denmark.

And finally, for Kate’s very belated birthday, we went for drinks and dinner at Heritage. It was my third time there this year – the food is so good! Also, there was cake (but no killed cake men) and a photographer, so there are actually more pictures of people than of food.

More Lunches and Dinners

Besides supporting the local economy and going out to eat, we also cooked and baked. I tried out some new recipes as my weekly meal prep continues. I stopped going to the canteen because it was operating on a very limited scale for a while due to Covid-19. And now I don’t want to go back, so cooking it is.

Boramy had us over for amazing lasagna, veggies, dips and salad, plus she made her version of Disney’s Dole whip. It was super good and I managed to sneak another piece of lasagna for lunch (Yes, that’s Thorben in the background finishing up a call while we had Prosecco).

Freddy made us a Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern lunch plus his grandma’s lemon pie. Yum. His compound is a crazy urban jungle, I think it’s the largest in Shanghai. Also, it’s right by the river and you have a great view of the “1000 trees”, a cool building on Suzhou creek, which is still under construction.

Tiger King

The final weekend of the month was really only a Saturday for me, because Sunday was a make up working day, due to the upcoming May holiday.

We made the most of the one free day … by first having lunch with Freddy (see above) and going to another birthday, that’s number 5 for April. To celebrate his birthday a couple of days early, Hutch had a Tiger King viewing party. Which meant we watched 4 episodes of Tiger King while dressed up in questionable outfits, and then went out for dinner.

So that was April. Looking back, quite a lot of things happened. I guess Shanghai just never gets boring. ๐Ÿ™‚

Not pictured: A couple of girls’ nights, more dinners, WeChat video workouts with my sisters, trying to plan a trip for May, game nights, a Zoom call to Rich in Paris, still wearing a mask everyday … and we also went to work (with masks on).

It’s Spring!

It’s Spring!

The weekend before last was the first day of spring, both in the calendar but also in Shanghai. While we had some nice, warmer days before, that Saturday it was 25 degrees and sunny. I spent half of the day outside walking around, had some ice cream and enjoyed the sunshine. Thorben gave me a quick intro into his smaller camera so I practiced my photography skills on the pretty pretty spring flowers and blossoms.

Around the neighborhood

I took a walk around the neighborhood first, went to a small park close by and then spent way too much time admiring the tulips panted next to the entrance of our metro station.

I met up with Thorben afterwards and we walked over to Jing’An Sculpture park with some photo stops and one ice cream stop on the way. Somehow holding a fancy camera made me appreciate so many little details I just had to photograph ๐Ÿ™‚

Jing’An Sculpture Park

Jing’An Sculpture Park is not far from us but this was the first time I’ve been there. As the name says, the park houses many different sculptures and right now also huge tulip fields. The trees are also starting to bloom, which was lovely.

My photography and especially editing skills still need work but it was really fun. I ended my little spring excursion at Jing’An Park – 16.000 steps later.

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Nuk! Ich hoffe, die virtuellen Blumen haben dir gefallen ๐Ÿ™‚

Staycation

Staycation

After most of our friends returned to Shanghai and finished their home quarantine, we decided to do a Staycation together. We hadn’t seen each other much this year, no one is allowed to really go anywhere plus many places are running specials, so it was the perfect opportunity. Two weeks ago our destination was the W Hotel located on the North Bund. This is the whole crew during Happy Hour and again after breakfast:

We booked a special package with happy hour, massages and breakfast the next day and it was amazing. The hotel was not full , so we had the spa to ourselves and we all got upgraded into incredible rooms with an even more incredible view! Being on the Bund, we set an alarm for 5:30 to watch the sunrise … me mostly from the comfort of our bed. I only got up a couple times to take a picture ๐Ÿ™‚

Those are all phone pictures, and here is one that Thorben took with the pro equipment. Looking at the Skyline never gets old and seeing it in the morning light was really cool.

It was a great weekend and it was really nice to get “away”, even if only a 15 min taxi ride away. If things stay the way they are and we cannot travel, I think we will be due for another Staycation soon ๐Ÿ™‚

COVID-19 in Shanghai

COVID-19 in Shanghai

Shanghai right now

The Corona virus situation in China and Shanghai has been improving a lot in the past weeks and we’re maybe 60-70% back to normal. I thought I’d try to sum up how things developed and what the current status is.

As of right now, schools are still closed but we are back at the office and many places are open. The city is running again, though with a lot of precautions. Everywhere you go, there are temperature checks: you cannot enter malls, restaurants, parks or our building without having your temperature taken first. To go to our office, we have to fill out a form everyday which asks about travel and symptoms. Many places also want to see a QR code which shows if you have been in a high risk area in the past 14 days. If the code is green, you’re good to go. Most places have hand sanitizers and everyone wears masks … like me at the park yesterday, or pretty much everywhere I go that is not our apartment.

So overall, life has returned to fairly normal here. The metro is busy again, there are some traffic jams and you can meet friends and go places. Last week, we went to a birthday party, I went to the first GGI event of the year and we met friends for dinner.

The only big impact on us at the moment is, that we can’t really leave Shanghai. I was supposed to spend the weekend in Singapore with my sister, nephew and parents, but many countries, Singapore included, won’t let anyone who has been in China (and now also other high risk countries) enter. Our company has the policy that if you leave Shanghai, you have to quarantine at home for 14 days before coming back to the office. All business trips are cancelled, which means we are staying put for the time being. Not having a vacation planned or even knowing when our next trip will be is definitely something new.

Starting at the beginning

People in Shanghai first started the talking about the virus the week before Chinese New Year. I left for India on January 23 and the days leading up to it, I heard about it more and more at the office and the number of people wearing masks on the metro increased daily. We were not really worried about it then. Life in Shanghai wasn’t affected and the night before I left, I went out with friends. We were still making jokes, drinking Coronas and and had a blast at the bowling alley.

The next day at the airport, EVERYONE was wearing a mask, and in India, passengers from China had to go through a temperature screening. While I was on the trip, things got really serious and we got more and more bad news. It was announced that schools would stay closed, we heard masks were difficult to get, and whole cities went into lock down. People even messaged me saying I should stay in India longer or go somewhere else, but to not return to China. I wanted to go back and was convinced it would be okay and I would go back to work on Monday. I did buy a pack of masks at a pharmacy in Delhi and returned to a very quiet city on February 1.

When I got home, it was announced that the CNY holiday was officially extended for another week, so our company, and pretty much everything else had to stayed closed until February 10. The week after, everyone was advised to work from home. That meant that I was mostly at home for 2 weeks and left the house only 4 or 5 times. The few times I did leave the compound, I walked through a ghost town. Everyone in Shanghai really isolated themselves as much as possible. The only people I saw outside were delivery drivers and people buying food.