Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

26 days in China, part 1 – Beijing

Happy new year! It’s been a month since I last wrote but I have an excuse – I was in China for 26 days during the Christmas holidays and had only gotten back to Glasgow three days ago. I’m still suffering from post-holidays withdrawal because there’s such a drastic difference between Glasgow and my port of departure, which happened to be the Pearl of the East, Hong Kong. I’ll get to the Hong Kong post eventually – this is supposed to be chronological.

Within these 26 days I visited 9 cities. In order, they are Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Huzhou, Hangzhou, Wenzhou, Guangzhou (my hometown), Kunming, and Hong Kong. The main mission was to visit friends from Bordeaux or Glasgow who have gone back to China and now reside and work in these cities, so it’s a series of reunions plus local-guided tours of these cities, half of which are new to me. This is something that I had wanted to do for a long time, and I finally made it happen at the end of 2016!

Yep, it was very tiring because I was constantly on the move. As I only had 26 days and I wanted to spend most of it in my hometown with my family, I could only spend around two days in each of the other places. Throughout my travels, I summarized my experiences in each place and condensed them in 9 photos for each destination. Why 9? As WeChat is the main social networking platform in China, I chose to share my travels there and the maximum number of photos per post is 9. This may seem very limited, but it forces me to choose from the highlights without excessive photo-binging. Was it hard narrowing down each place to 9 photos? You bet it was! But I’m glad I did because that allows me to get to the most important points without rambling on too much like I’m doing now.

Without further ado, here I present my series on my trip to China 2016. If you do wish to see more pictures, feel free to visit my Facebook album where a much more complete selection of photos are found.

Bejing, the capital of the most populous country in the world and my port of entry into China this time. I had been to Beijing twice before, in 1995 and 2004, so it’s been 12 years since my most recent visit. The first visit was with my mom when I was 7 years old, the second with my dad when I was 16, and both were made with tour groups. This was the first time I went to Beijing all by myself, but I had the best local buddies to accompany me, as you will see!

First, before the plane even landed, I saw the most majestic mountain ranges at the China-Mongolia border (thanks to the little plane icon thing on the flight status screen), layers among layers of grandiose peaks seemingly stretching far beyond the horizon. I was rather intrigued and almost gasped aloud at such amazing scenery right at the tip of my nose. Window seat forever!

At the airport I was greeted by two good friends that I met in Glasgow last year, LY and XM. Big hugs!! They’ve only gone back to Beijing for three months but it felt like forever since I had seen and hung out with them. Best of all, they are both authentic Beijing locals that knew the best places to eat…oh yes, did I tell you that eating all the best foods in each city was also one of my missions? As we were all part of our own “Mini Glasgow Foodie Group”, I was excited to see what food paradise (AKA Beijing) had to offer…drooling alert!

So I arrived in Beijing with…no smog?! I had anticipated to experience the infamous Beijing-style smog during at least one of the two days that I was there, but I was surprised that the entire time I was there, the skies were clear and crisp blue. Apparently the wind blew away the smog, ha! Even LY and XM marvelled at my extreme luck. The temperature was moderately chilly at 5 degrees, but it was a very comfortable chill and I began to wonder if I had indeed overpacked. I was going from north to south so I stuffed my suitcase with clothes for all seasons…could you blame me?!

First tourist stop: Jingshan Park for a panoramic view of the Forbidden City. I think 12 years ago I was at this exact spot and remember taking a photo with an old-fashioned film camera, but I cannot find that photo to save my life. Therefore the first out of the two “must-go” places (second being the Bird’s Nest, which I did end up seeing) was this. Oh, how magnificent was the Forbidden City, the imperial history of this rich culture that stood right in front of me!

In the evening was a rendez-vous with the first of many Bordeaux friends, HR! How I missed student life in France! We had a delicious lamb hot pot and ended the night with some drinks and some heart-to-heart talk that was long overdue. I had so little time and that meant that every meeting was short but precious.

Second day was spent on another typical tourist activity: climbing the Great Wall! I had gone with my mom during my first trip to Beijing and apparently also with my dad in 2004, though for some reason I have no memory of the latter…?! I will just trust my dad, who said that we went to Juyongguan… O_o This time around I went to the more popular Badaling as it was easily accessible via train and the most well known section of the Wall. Oh, the climb was tough, alright! But at least I was prepared with snacks 😛 Still a long way to go from here…

My company for the day was LY’s mom whom I met for the first time. LY was unfortunately unavailable for the day but Mrs. L was kind enough to be my buddy in conquering the Great Wall! Fun fact: the person who took this photo for us was a cute guy that I had been eyeing throughout my climb. Maybe Mrs. L noticed and that was why she asked him to take the photo, hehe 😛

There’s a saying in Chinese that goes, “If you don’t go to the Great Wall in your lifetime, you are not a real man”. Literal translation that takes away its poetic feeling, I apologize! There happens to be a rock somewhere along the Badaling Wall named…”Real Man Rock”. These two gentlemen decided to show off some of their kungfu skills on said rock. Perhaps they are the legendary…crouching tiger and hidden dragon???

Oh, food…did I forget to mention food in Beijing? Of course not! Here’s only a small sample of the delicious food that I had in the capital. Top left: mixed pig internal organs with chunks of flatbread (sorry, I cannot translate it better…), absolutely appetizing and flavourful and wonderful. Top right: snow pea cake (left) and red bean roll (right, otherwise known as “rolling donkey”). Bottom left: zhajiangmian, or noodles in soybean sauce/paste. According to my friends this was the perfect noodle to sauce so that the sauce doesn’t overpower the dish. Bottom right: Peking duck feast. Finally some real authentic roasted duck in its place of origin and can I just say…that it was SUPREME!!! Crispy golden skin combined with succulent meat wrapped in a thin pancake with scallions, cucumber slices, and a sweet bean sauce…the most heavenly combination one could imagine. I’ve had Peking duck in Canada before but it’s got NOTHING on the real thing. Can I just emphasize again how AMAZINGLY DELIGHTFUL it was. Absolute unbeatable perfection and made my trip to Beijing complete ❤

So here you go, folks, my experience in Beijing in 9 photos. Next stop: Shanghai!

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