Tag: china

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 🙂 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. It’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. I’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 🙂

Bamboozle Boat Trip

We didn’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 isn’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 didn’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 don’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 couldn’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 it’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!

I’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:

China Travels: Chengdu

China Travels: Chengdu

As you could probably tell from Thorben’s post, the next stop after Xi’an was Chengdu. Chengdu is the capital of Sichuan Province. It’s famous for 2 things: Spicy food and PANDAS!

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

I was very very excited about finally getting to see Pandas, so on our first morning we headed straight to the Panda base, or formally called the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Since pandas usually give birth in August we were lucky to see little fluffy adorable panda cubs!

We spent around 4 hours at the base. Mostly we watched the pandas eat and sleep (or eat while lying down) which is basically all they do all day. A sign in the park titled “Why do giant pandas always eat and sleep?” explained that the nutritional value of bamboo is very low so “They are not lazy, they are energy efficient!”

Lazy or not, they are so cute and clumsy and just all over awesome! I took way too many pictures and videos. If the guys wouldn’t have gotten bored I think my sister and I would still be there watching them 🙂

In addition to the giant pandas, the base housed quite a few red pandas. They are not as “energy efficient”, so they are not as easy to spot because they move a lot more, climb in the trees and are hidden in their enclosures. We got really lucky and had 2 awesome encounters. The first was early in the morning when it was just us and a couple little pandas came really close and Thorben was able to take great pictures. When we came back later in the day the keepers showed up to feed them, so many more came out to get some goodies.

They are so so so adorable and again, we had to be dragged away 🙂

People’s Park

After all the excitement of the morning, we headed to a tea house in People’s Park and spent a few hours relaxing and drinking tea. The guide book said getting your ears cleaned in People’s Park was the thing to do so Thorben went for the full Chengdu experience 🙂

Wenshu Monastery

Between the tea drinking and our next activity (spoiler: another food tour) we had a bit of time so we explored the Wenshu Monastery. It was very pretty with many different buildings and a little park, so definitely worth a visit.

Sichuan Food Tour

The last thing we did in Chengdu was to go on another food tour. Our guide Alina from Chengdu Food Tours showed us lots of different local foods, most of it pretty spicy. We started with bread buns stuffed with meat and rice noodles from a little street booth. Our next stop was a restaurant close to the monastery where they served sweet and spicy noodles, more rice noodles and rice cakes. At a local market Thorben went for the full Chengdu experience again and tried a rabbit head, including eyes, tongue and brain … yum. I passed, in case anyone was wondering 😉

After the rabbit head we tried some pickled vegetables and had a mixed vegetable salad, something a bit more western friendly. The market also gave us the chance to try some different baijiu – we took our favorite with us in a 0.5l plastic bottle 😀 We finished the night at a local “fly” restaurant (fly because it’s so busy it’s buzzing) with some more spicy food.

Chinaversary

Chinaversary

One year ago today I landed in China and started this crazy Shanghai adventure. Happy 1 Year, Shanghai, and thanks for all the memories!

I know it’s a cliche to say this but time really does fly 🙂 On the other hand, looking back on everything that has happened it’s hard to believe it’s only been one year. To celebrate this day, here is a little review of the past 12 months in China:

After one year I can definitely say that moving here was a great decision. Now if only our families and non-Shanghai friends lived closer, life would be even better 🙂

Random facts: Having kids in China

Random facts: Having kids in China

And another post for the “random facts” category: This one is about having kids in China. No, I’m not pregnant, but one of my co-workers is, and some other co-workers already have a child, so I get to hear a lot if interesting things I thought I’d share:

Getting pregnant

The one child policy doesn’t exist anymore. First, the rule was that you could have two kids if you were both an only-child, now everyone can have two kids. In Shanghai a lot of people still only want to have one, because housing and schools are very expensive.

If you are trying to get pregnant, the man should not drink any coke. I’m not sure why, maybe because it’s unhealthy, but it seems to be common knowledge.

Another thing that is common knowledge and every Chinese girl knows about, is that you are not supposed to drink or eat anything cold, while you are on your period. I’ve heard different things like it could make it take longer or more painful, so you just don’t do it. I thought this one was pretty funny, because I’ve never heard of it and also, isn’t ice cream always a good idea? 🙂

From what I’ve heard there seems to be a lot of pressure on people to have a child as soon as they are married. If you have a baby after 24 it is already considered a “late childbirth”. Good thing I’m not Chinese: 27, unmarried and no kids, what a failure ;).

During pregnancy

In China, you are not allowed to find out the sex of your baby. If you are an expat living in Shanghai it is possible to ask but it is illegal for the doctor to tell you if you are Chinese.

When you are pregnant, you are not supposed to eat spicy food. One of my coworkers told the story that her son had a rash when he was little and her mom said that it was her fault for eating too spicy during pregnancy.

What you should do is hang up a picture of a really cute baby in a place where you look often. It is supposed to make you feel happy and the happy vibes will be good for your baby. This is the picture my colleague got as a gift. In size A3.

In general, to me it seems like people make a much bigger fuss around pregnancy here than at home. People seem very concerned and worried about your well-being all the time. For example, my coworker told me that when she got to a restaurant, she was immediately given a blanket to shield her from the air conditioning and a pillow, so she would be more comfortable. When she was pumping up a gymnastics ball (the big ones to sit on) in the office 2 people ran to her help and later on she got asked a few times if it was safe for her to sit on it.

After birth

Once you have the baby, you are supposed to rest and cannot do anything for 30 days. You are not allowed to cook, clean, take care of the baby, or even shower. Basically you have to stay in bed and recover for a full month. Usually, either your parents or in-laws will take care of you and your baby. If they are not around, you hire a full-time Ayi to do that.

Last week, a colleague from another department gave me a box of cookies with the words: “My son is 30 days old.” I was confused, so another colleague explained: 30 days after giving birth, you have a big celebration marking the 30-day-birthday of the baby. You announce the birth to everyone you know – coworkers, friends, family, neighbors … – by giving them a present, usually food. For this occasion you can buy the already wrapped gifts as it is a very mature industry.

On the right it says: “Celebration” and “Our family has a new son.” On the left: “Here comes the baby crying with a sweet smell. Luck will come to the family with good virtue. Celebrating for our new child. Please accept this humble present.” Thanks Pearl for translating!

Maternity leave starts 2 weeks before birth and then you have 16 weeks off after the birth. If you are having twins or have to have a c-section, you get an extra 2 weeks. Right now, it’s not possible to work part-time (at least in our company, I’m not sure about others), so after 4 months women come back to work full-time. The retirement age in China is 55 for women (60 for men), so often your mom or mother-in-law will take care of your baby during the day.

When your friends ask you for some German music…

When your friends ask you for some German music…

A few times here, we have been asked for typical German music and German song recommendations. While it’s rather difficult to say what typical is (a lot of stereotypes come to mind), Marina and I had loads of fun compiling this list of … well, let’s say very recognizable German music – at least for other Germans 🙂

We tried our best to include lots of different genres from the 70s until today. It’s always interesting to find out which songs our Chinese friends enjoyed:

Helene Fischer has always been a hit (it’s called ‘Schlagermusik’ for a reason!), but it looks like Rammstein will not be very popular on this side of the world.

Travel plans

Travel plans

One of the reasons I was excited to move to Shanghai is its location. There are so many places I want to visit that are now so close or at least much closer than from home. However, the list is very very long. In China I want to go to Beijing and the Great Wall, visit the Pandas in Chengdu, look at the Terracotta Army in Xi’An, see the mountains in Zhangjiajie that inspired the movie Avatar, take the train to Suzhou, Hangzhou and Nanjing …

And then just a short flight away there are Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos … The travel time to Australia and New Zealand is only half from here and even Hawaii is only 9 hours away. There are 222 cities that can be reached through a direct flight from Shanghai (at least that’s what google tells me) so how do I choose?

Even with 30 days of vacation a year plus some Chinese holidays, 3 years suddenly feels like very little time to do even a small part of it. Especially if I factor in going home every year and also continuing to visit my American family.

Thorben has been on a business trip for the past 10 days so I’ve started planning and booking. He said that I can be in charge of the rest of this year’s vacations, let’s see if he ends up regretting that when he realizes there will be very little hiking involved in our trips 🙂

So here is the plan for the next 3 months (the part I already booked, maybe we can also squeeze in a little weekend trip here and there):

  • 4 days in Seoul, South Korea in August
  • 5 days in Beijing in September to see the city and do a tiny bit of hiking on the Great Wall
  • 3 days in Hongkong and 4 days in Taipei over Golden Week (a week long Chinese holiday)