Tales From Lands Afar

The Adventures of Frankfurt~

Category: Beijing

Sunday Night Musings

Dear my lovely readers,

Alas, another academic year had come and gone and, as every seems to be the case when every journey ends, I cannot help but feel nostalgic for this time last year when I was packing up my suitcase in a flurry, trying to predict some of the amazing adventures that have happened. All the memories, experiences, knowledge and friends that I have gained over this past year have honestly and truly made me feel like the luckiest person on the planet!

So, today, I have decided to do my last post for the academic year on some of the interesting cultural (and foody) things that I learnt whilst I was away!

Chinese culture and history are such big topics that I am struggling to find the words to express just how different it is from Europe. And even within China, things are entirely different from each other! During my time in China, I managed to visit Beijing and Guangzhou and my are they different! It’s not only that they speak different dialects – in Beijing, people use mandarin for everything, whereas in Guangzhou, although they can speak mandarin, most people tend to use cantonese when communicating to friends/family/for general day-to-day activities, no it is more than that.

Snowy Beijing – The Great Wall of China

Warm and sunny Guangzhou!

 

From weather (Beijing is roughly just a more extreme version of the UK – fairly dry heat in summer and snowy in Winter, whereas Guangzhou is part of the tropics, therefore making it a lot hotter and generally more humid all year round!) to food (in Beijing they are famous for their Peking duck, whilst in Guangzhou, they are renowned for their dimsum – both amazing tasty dishes!)

And speaking of food, WOW was it amazing! I have only been back in the UK for two weeks now and have already managed to sneak away to Chinese restaurants three or four times! Food in China tends to be quite an important thing. The main centre point of the Chinese New Year would be families gathering from all over the country to come together and eat, friends will oftentimes invite other friends out for a meal to show respect or gratitude and colleagues will generally go out to discuss their meetings at fancy restaurants, rather than at offices. Food and eating is quite central to their culture in a lot of ways that it is not in the UK, and the cultural differences during eating could not be more clear! For starters, whilst I usually eat with a knife and fork in the UK, Chinese people tend to prefer chopsticks for most meals, and maybe a spoon for rice.

Not only that, but group meals in China tend to be more of a shared experience, with usually a group ordering a few big dishes together and then sharing them over rice, whereas in the UK, people tend to order separately.

In terms of types of dishes, there is just SO MUCH! I tried to have new food every day and in all honesty I still don’t think I managed to try even a fraction of the amount available in China! This isn’t helped by the fact that Chinese dishes vary a LOT depending on whereabouts in China you go (Generally there is a saying that ‘South is sweet, North is salty, East is spicy, and West is sour’) and each province has their own speciality dishes! Overall however, I managed to get a lot of duck, beef, pork, chicken, noodles, prawns, rice, dumplings, buns, egg and various types of Chinese vegetables none of which I can remember the names of.

So, as you can probably tell, I really enjoyed the cuisine aspect of living abroad 😉

Aside from that, it was just a totally eye opening experience. China is so fully of beautiful landscapes and scenery and architecture. It is very very very different to life in the West, and in some ways, that can be strange to adjust to at first. However for me, this is a good thing. Different cultures, languages, histories and lifestyles give the world colour! It can occasionally be a little frustrating to deal with perhaps, when you are used to a certain way of doing things, however I feel that it is very important to say that no one culture is right or wrong. They are just different. And with that in mind, I intend to discover as much as I can about as many different lifestyles and other countries as I possibly can, because for me, acceptance and understanding of other people is the most important thing one can possibly learn in a lifetime.

And so, that is it from me for today. To those of you who are about to set off for summer, I wish you an amazing and undoubtedly well deserved break! If any of you are planning on travelling, please do let me know where you are going and how you found it so that I may add it to my ever growing list of countries to visit 🙂 Other than that, I hope you enjoyed reading about my travels whilst on my Year Abroad and see you all really soon 🙂

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A Tourist’s Guide to Beijing!

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Dear my wonderful readers,

So, I had originally planned to write about the culture of China, and some really interesting points about Beijing and Chinese language however it suddenly occurred to me that many of you probably haven’t visited Beijing China before. So, to try and introduce my new city a little more, here is my list of top 8 things to do in Beijing! This list is a little eclectic as I have only managed to make my way around a few of the seemingly endless tourist sights here, and there are some slightly more obscure things which I enjoy but might not necessarily be specific to Beijing. Also note, this list is likely to change as Beijing is S-O H-U-G-E that I am constantly discovering new bits and pieces to add to my ever growing ‘must-see’ list of things to do 🙂 And now that the disclaimer is out the way, on to the list!

1. Tian’anmen Square and The Forbidden City

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 Number one, absolute MUST if you are in Beijing. Possibly one of the most historically and culturally significant places in Beijing, Tian’anmen Square is, for starters, absolutely mahoooossive with many interesting and insightful buildings everywhere you look. Quite easily able to fill a whole day, Tian’anmen Square is home to the National Chinese Museum, The People’s Monument, Mao’s Mausoleum as well as The Forbidden City (also known as The Imperial Palace but that’s not as cool sounding). Whilst it seems like a really obvious place to go and probably won’t make your trip the most unique of experiences, just standing in Tian’anmen is really a truly ‘Bucket List Worthy’ experience 🙂

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2. The Great Wall of China

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Again, not one of the most obscure of sights, however still well worth seeing. The Great Wall totally lives up to the hype. There are five spots you can visit on the Great Wall and whilst the most entertaining location is often said to be Mutianyu (due to the massive toboggan!) I really enjoyed the visit we made to Jinshanling. It is one of the more steep parts of The Great Wall, with just steps upon steps upon endless steps however I absolutely LOVED the trip I took there. The view from the wall is amazing however I feel that if you choose to use a cable car, you sort of forget the sheer scale of the wall. Which is why I relished the steps. A physical reminder of how difficult the wall must have been to build…. I also felt like I got a sense into what life as soldier must have been like having to climb the wall everyday! (Except they also had weapons and huge amounts of heavy armour whereas I just had a small purse…..). A little tip though – DO NOT WEAR A SKIRT OR A DRESS WHEN CLIMBING THE GREAT WALL! As cute as it looks in pictures, it is so impractical given that the entire trip is just walking up millions of stairs and given the huge amounts of wind that the top is prone to! (Trust me on this, I learnt the hard way….)

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3. The Summer Palace

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So, whilst the Forbidden City/Imperial Palace is, like I said, a must-see, in terms of the palaces of Beijing, I much prefer the Summer Palace. You see, for me, whilst the scale of the Forbidden City is impressive (I mean 9999.5 rooms…. that’s insane!), I feel that the Forbidden City is a little lacking in terms of variety. The Summer Palace however is a beacon of beauty, with vibrant gardens, stunning pagodas and, of course, the Kunming Lake.

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4. Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang Shan)

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One of the things I find really interesting about Beijing is that, despite being a major city, it is SURROUNDED by the most amazing mountains. Although surrounded is probably not quite the correct word, given that these mountains are considered a part of Beijing (the Phoenix Mountain for example is even part of my district in Beijing, Haidian, despite being about 2 hours away from where I live!). Given that the UK isn’t exactly the most mountainous of countries in the first place, and the fact that I have spent the majority of my life in London where we boast of concrete jungles but no actual wildlife/natural scenery (because no, Hyde Park does not count as natural scenery), I am really enjoying the opportunity to trek up into the mountains during my weekends.

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So far, my trip to the Phoenix Mountain is the highlight. It was a truly amazing experience! I have been city hopping all my life (London, Manchester, Frankfurt and now Beijing!) so the ability to leave behind the roar of cars and just get out was amazing! And the sense of achievement you feel when you reach the top is truly unrivaled. Again though, bring lots and lots of water and some food as there isn’t much in the way of shops on the actual mountain. Also, something worth pointing out maybe – Chinese mountain climbing is very different from what I’d previously experienced in the west. Instead of making your way up a vague dust path and having to cling to precarious rocks to get up, in China, most mountains have stairs, which makes it a little easier! (Although does have the after effect of making me not want to see steps ever again!)

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5. The Olympic Stadium

This one, is, for me at least, best appreciated at night because, whilst the Bird’s Nest is still spectacular during the day, as is the aquatics cube, at night is when this sight really comes alive. The lighting is just simply spectacular! Although, I might be a little biased because I’m sort of obsessed with bright and colourful things (making fireworks one of the most exciting events ever for me!) However seeing this at night does have the downside of not being able to go up the viewing platform and you wouldn’t get to see the Olympic Park. Sooo I guess you could either go twice, or just choose which you value the most!

6. Wangfujing Night Markets

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One thing I really do love about China is the shopping. I must admit, given my penchant for both pretty things as well as cheap prices, China is pretty much my dream in terms of places to shop! And the night markets are just the start of it! Night markets in China tend to be predominately dominated by food’y things and trinkets, from jewelry to cards to toys as well as many more things I’ve almost certainly forgotten. As well as being reasonably cheap, the night markets are also notorious for serving weird and wonderful ‘specialities’. The weirdest I’ve seen so far has got to be the deep fried scorpions on sticks! I mean, I love experimenting with new foods and in general I love Chinese cuisine but even I had to give that one a miss!

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 7. Tianjin

Alright. So. I know this isn’t *exactly* Beijing, however Tianjin is a city really near Beijing and so it perfect as a ‘day trip’, just …. well just because you can really! Personally, I love Tianjin. I mean, I probably won’t go back as there isn’t enough to do for more than a day, but the day trip was, again, perfect. Tianjin has a very different feel to it than Beijing, and is noticeably smaller and definitely less busy! It is home to the infamous China House, which is truly magnificent albeit a little expensive and again there are more markets (The Ancient Street is the best place for shopping!) You also have the option to do a 2 hour bike ride round part of the city, which is a truly great way to view all the sights whilst also have fun biking! My favourite part of Tianjin, however, has got to be the night time scenery next to the river. Skylines, rivers, bridges are all things I love in cities, however Tianjin also has so much more than that! There is a lovely Tianjin Eye (although the London Eye is obviously better 😉 ) and there are lanterns! Everywhere!!! I must admit, part of the reason I was so desperate to visit Tianjin in the first place was because I heard about the lanterns. Having watched Tangled at least 500 times, letting off my very own lantern has been a dream of mine and I was not disappointed! So many people, all letting theirs off one by one next to the river into the dark sky has definitely been a highlight of my trip. It was truly like something out of a dream!

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8. The F.R.I.E.N.D.s Cafe

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A rather odd addition to the list, given that Friends is a) finished and b) not Chinese, however considering the fact I am a massive Friends fan and the fact that I missed the pop up version in London, you can only imagine the excitement I felt when I discovered there was one here! Located in the CBD (Central Business District), the Friends cafe can be found at the top of an abandoned mall and, despite the eeriness of the abandoned mall, exudes a very homely, if slightly surreal, feel. The cafe is almost a perfect replica of the one from the TV show, with a TV dedicated to playing friends on loop and quotes scrawled all over the walls. They even have their very own smelly cat!

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And there you have it! My top 8!

Also, tja, ich weiß doch, dass acht ein bisschen komisch ist… Ich wolltete eine ´Top 10´ Liste schreiben aber dieser Post war schon lang genug und ich habe weniger Zeit momentan also… Ja. Top 8. Ich hoffe, dass Sie es gut oder am mindenstens interessant gefunden hatten, und bis hoffentlich bald!

xxx

Mysteries of the Orient…

Dear my lovely readers,

I apologise. It has been far too long, I know. I have little cause for my not having written, other than the fact that moving half way across the world turned out to be slightly more of a hassle than I had originally thought. However, I recognise that this is not a hugely great excuse and so, for April and May, I shall be writing two posts to make up for the lack of in January and February.

Sunset from my dorm <3

Sunset from my dorm ❤

So. Beijing.

Where to begin?? So much seems to have happened that I barely know where I should start! The first thing I must tell you is that China is so unlike anything in Europe. The cultural differences between the UK and Germany seem now to be minuscule in comparison to the cultural differences between Europe and Asia! To start with, China is huge, meaning that their cities are H-U-G-E, both geographically and from a population density standpoint. The bustle of Beijing really puts Europe to shame and the phrase ’24 hour city’ seems to really be the case here! Shops, cafes, restaurant and cinemas are open every day of the week for hours upon hours before the darkness sets in and night markets spring to life. It is a truly amazing lifestlye and I feel that every moment of my being here is not only helping my language ability, but also my cultural understanding of Beijing.

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Ablaze with life~

Ablaze with life~

Night Market

Night Market

Unlike in Germany, for the next few months, I will just be studying in China, rather than working, and that in itself is a very different experience. Right from the get go, I was surrounded by new friends and classmates, all eager to learn the language and culture of not only China, but also where everyone else is from! I am lucky enough to have met a lot of international students from America, Denmark, Sweden, Japan and Korea so far and am endeavoring to find more!

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Unfortunately, a lot of my time in Beijing so far has been spent settling in, finding my way around the campus and studying, so I have not yet had a chance to tour any of the big sights, apart from this one:

German Section:

Am fünften März, bin ich und meine Freunden nach die Olzmpische Stadium gegangen. In 2012, war ich einmal schon gewesen, aber dieser mal, hatte ich es im Nacht gesehen. Ich muss sagen, es war wirklich wundershön! Vielleicht besser im Nacht, die Lichte könnte man von überall sehen! Weil es noch nicht Frühling war, war es doch richtig kalt, aber ich habe noch spaß gehabt!

Beijing 2012 Olympic Stadium

Me and some friends 🙂

All in all, Beijing is truly wonderful. The lifestyle here is just so different to everything I had experienced, and I absolutely cannot wait to share this wonderful adventure with you!

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Until next time where I shall talk more about food, shopping and other such fun stuff!

xxx