Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: city

My stories 01: That time in San Francisco

From time to time I remember random bits and pieces from my trip to Boston, San Francisco, and Vancouver in 2017. Earlier, the walk by the waterfront near Fisherman’s Wharf flashed in my head, and the feelings were as prominent as ever. That evening, I took the ferry to Sausalito, but by the time I got there, it was already dark (around 6 pm in mid-November) and there wasn’t much to see. I ended up only staying for maybe an hour before heading back to San Francisco. Then I contemplated whether to walk from the ferry terminal to Pier 39 or take the bus or tram, and eventually decided to walk. It was not a short walk, but it was pleasant as I had the entire time all to myself. When I arrived at Pier 39 (I had originally wanted to skip going altogether because I thought it was probably overhyped), it was a lot quieter than I had expected, without many visitors. I guess that only made sense, as it was already what, 8:30 pm? 9 pm? I don’t remember. Many shops were closing for the evening and the buskers have called it a day – I heard there were buskers, at least. The place even felt a little desolate and melancholic but…I somehow enjoyed the atmosphere. Maybe that was how I already felt, and the environment merely reflected the state of my heart. After a brief wander, it was time to eat a late dinner. I again had to make a decision, this time between expensive fish and chips and the never-failing McDonald’s. Of course, I chose the latter…did that surprise you?! Finally, I took the tram from the wharf and went back to the hostel, ending an entire day spent alone. I don’t know why these scenes from that particularly ordinary evening surfaced in my memory, but it was one of those little moments where I felt completely content in spite of the melancholy, perhaps for no reason at all aside from the luxury of freedom and self-fulfillment.

A stroll by the waterfront near the San Francisco ferry terminal in the evening – dazzling urban lights always mesmerize and impress me!

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December 2018

With the end of 2018 also came the end of December…or it really should be the other way around, but I like a little bit of plot twist 😉 The monthly photos continue as Wuhan entered winter in full swing, without central heating of course as we’re considered to be in the “southern” part of China according to the heating division. It’s harsh, alright, very harsh, but what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger! Here is December 2018 in nine photos.

Dining at Hutaoli, a (sort of) fancy restaurant with nice decorations and atmosphere. They pride themselves on the live musical performances, which are nice, but it’s definitely not a place to be if you want a quiet, intimate chat with friends because the music is SO LOUD. I guess the point is to try to mimic the style of a bar, so it isn’t somewhere I’d like to go often!

Friends with whom I dined at Hutaoli. On the left: my PhD labmates JJ (front) and YF (back). On the right: J (front) and me (back). JJ and YF are both from Wuhan, and we reunited here years after we all graduated!

A random cat that I encountered in a parking lot at Wuhan University. Not sure that it was impressed that I was taking photos of it and getting closer and closer by the second…

Photo taken by J when he went on his morning run – yes, even in the snow! First snow of this winter season but the final one of the year, and I didn’t even realized that it snowed so hard until after I got up (much later than did J). So cold, but so beautiful!

View of the neighbourhood in my residential complex from the window of my flat on the 11th floor. The snow didn’t make it for a white Christmas, but it was just in time for the new year! Traffic that morning was horrendous, and whereas it normally takes me about 20 minutes to get to church by bus, it took almost an hour T_T

Taking a short stroll around the residential complex in the evening, I passed by a lone lamp that lit up the frigid air. It was probably around 1 or 2 degrees Celsius, nothing compared to the -20s in Canada, but it was still freezing!!!

A trip to Shenzhen in the TRUE south of China in mid-December (warmth!) brought me to the summit of Lianhua (Lotus) Hill, where I was able to get an amazing panoramic view of the most prosperous area of Shenzhen. There was supposed to be a light show that got cancelled the day that I went, but since I didn’t know of it beforehand, I wasn’t disappointed because I didn’t expect it anyway.

Obligatory selfie with J! This is me going, “Why is it so cold in Wuhan 😦 I miss central heating 😦 😦 😦 ” J’s response was probably something like, “Hurry up and take the selfie so I don’t have to pretend I’m holding some sort of pose XD “

This photo was taken at the worst angle as it reveals without mercy the chubbiness of my face, but it was the only angle that was able to capture the Duomo Cathedral (not a real cathedral, but it mimics Notre-Dame de Paris) with the Christmas tree in front of it. Once again J was like, “Are you done with your selfies yet -_-” but no J, one can never take enough selfies, especially with the one you love!

And that’s all, folks, for 2018. It’s only day 2 and I’m already looking forward to the Chinese new year and going back home to Canada in exactly one month! 19 more work days to go – wait for me, my home!

November 2018

As I was walking this morning I thought, “The only time that I liked the city that I live in now was when I didn’t live here.” Sounds pessimistic, I know, but the air this morning smelt disgustingly of grease and gloominess (was it smog?) to the point where I wanted to puke, and at that moment I couldn’t gather up any pretension to say that I liked the city. Oh well, it’s the end of November, and it’s been a tough one, but we got through it safe and sound, thanks be to God! One more month till 2019…let’s go for it!

Third time in Macau. Away from the casinos and central tourist spots, Macau has maintained its history and traditions in hidden alleys and little-known districts. The red sign with the golden words says “Back in the day” in Chinese.

Annual chrysanthemum festival (one of the locations) in Wuhan, where the flowers bloom for weeks in the autumn. Such beautiful colours!

An insect on a leaf, caught while I was taking a stroll outdoors after lunch. Little details like this remind me of how much I loved taking photos of random things, the process during which I could sharpen my senses toward the world around me.

Sumptuous buffet in Macau, courtesy of my local friend and her family. Unlimited servings of lobster, scallops (and other types of seafood), sashimi, sushi…among other varieties of delicious food – indulgent and luxurious!

Another meal in Macau: traditional dim sum (or yum cha, as we call it in Cantonese). This famous family-owned restaurant, Long Wah, is well known for its cha siu, or roasted pork (red in the center). Of course I also had to order my favourite, steamed spare ribs. You could never get too much dim sum!

Speaking of ribs, another spare ribs dish that I love very much is the garlic deep-fried spare ribs. I don’t know what the secret is to this dish, but the first time I had it in Glasgow, it was instant addiction…and it tasted even better in China!!

Movie night with the boss and the colleagues at a mini private theater. Good company, good times, good evening 😛

My company during the Macau day trip, TK (local friend) and LS (friend living in Zhuhai, which is literally right next to Macau). Bus selfie, cheese!

I love this man so much and I would go to the ends of the Earth for him – literally, because Toronto and Wuhan almost couldn’t be farther apart as they’re almost on the exact opposite side of the Earth as each other. It’s not been an easy month for him but we’re still fighting together. 明天加油!

October 2018

Since August this year, I’ve been posting a series of photos on my WeChat Moments at the end of each month to sum up the month. Unfortunately I don’t have the original photos for August and September anymore, so I will begin by sharing the October series here. November series coming very soon…

Trip to the Three Gorges Waterfall in the Three Gorges scenic area near Yichang in Hubei province, China, during the National Day week-long holiday. This is not the actual waterfall (which is huge at 102 m) but a small cascade that was on the way to the main attraction itself.

Dew drops on a leaf on the morning after a rainy night – the beautiful wonders of nature never cease to amaze me and bring joy to my routine everyday commute!

Fresh morning air – perhaps the only time that the air could be fresh in this polluted city.

Night in the Optics Valley area.

A fancy fountain pen set that I saw at a new bookstore that opened close to home. Normally I would probably have bought it – and I was tempted – but it was way too pricey to be anything close to worthy.

A collection of doorplates and road signs plastered on a block in the corner of an intersection in the Hankou district of Wuhan.

A dark and foggy morning – drivers would not be able to see farther than 5 m in front of their cars.

Qiaokou Road station on subway line 1, in the Hanyang district. There’s a stretch of line 1 that is completely overground, and being able to see the city outside the windows made the usual subway rides a lot more interesting and bearable.

A walk around Yujia Lake, and as it’s close to where I live, I’ve become quite familiar with it. A rare sunny day – not too hot and not too cold – meant that many people were out and about enjoying the weather before winter truly settled in.

Living in Wuhan – Transportation and getting around

I intended to write a continuously updating mini-series on living in China, specifically Wuhan, as a semi-foreigner but of course laziness (mostly laziness, though life itself had been hectic) wins. Oh, China. I’ve officially been living here for three and a half months and there was a whole lot that I’ve had to get used to. Let’s start with transportation, shall we.

Traffic and (the lack of) rules –> Survival of the fittest, fiercest, and fastest

OK. Where do I even start. The simplest way to put it is this: traffic is BEYOND CHAOTIC in China. I thought driving in Toronto was bad but realized that drivers in Toronto are tame little angels compared with drivers in China. Let’s just say that I’m going to delay the possibility of ever driving in China because well…I don’t want to die.

Wuhan is a Tier 2 city in China with one of the highest GDPs among the large Chinese urban centers. However, MUCH remains to be improved in terms of road conditions and safety. I WOULD talk about traffic regulations and driving etiquette and such…but wait, what regulations? What etiquette? Other than obeying the traffic lights (actually, bicycles, motorbikes, and pedestrians ignore them most of the time anyway), there aren’t really any strict… “rules”. What’s yielding? What’s signaling? What’s stopping? People will probably laugh at you and shrug it off if you suggest they do this because WHO HAS TIME TO SLOW DOWN, RIGHT!?!

To see it from another perspective, there’s nothing that you “can’t do”, in most cases. Going against the flow of traffic when you’re riding a bike or motorbike? NO PROBLEM! Just stay on the side of the outermost lane, be cautious, and you’ll probably be fine (don’t do this in a car…) No traffic light nearby and you need to cross a busy street? NO PROBLEM! When there is any sign of a gap between cars, JUST GO (preferably with a bunch of other people) and vehicles will reluctantly slow down or swerve around you as they approach. It takes guts and assertiveness, and the drivers WILL be reluctant, and pissed off, BUT IT WORKS and may be the only way to cross the road in some circumstances (unless you want to wait >15 minutes for a “safer” time to cross). The best comparison I can think of is playing a game of real-life Crossy Road (mobile app) where traffic is more random and not easily predictable as it is in the game. Life is a gamble – a potentially dangerous one if you live in Wuhan…

An “intersection” near my apartment, where road conditions are abysmal because of recent subway line constructions. That little gap where the scooter is – yep, that’s where you need to cross. It sometimes takes more than 5 minutes to get to the other side because of the absence of traffic lights, and no cars yield to bikes or pedestrians. Definitely harder than it seems during rush hour…

I think Charles Darwin has gotten it right when he developed the theory of “the survival of the fittest”. I, however, would like to extend this theory to what I call “the survival of the fittest, fiercest, and fastest” (the three Fs), with regards to living in Wuhan. The philosophy of “ME FIRST” dominates, and any consideration for other people will be looked upon as a weakness and a hindrance. Letting someone go in front of me? How abominable! Caring about the safety of others on the road? You’ve got to be kidding. In order to survive the chaos that is the roads of Wuhan, you’ve gotta practice the three Fs. It sounds cruel and that’s exactly it – it’s a cold, cruel world out here on the roads of Wuhan 😦

Get out of my way!

Another thing is that Chinese drivers honk a lot, whether it is on a car, scooter, or bicycle (ring, in this case). I’ve come to realize that it’s not necessarily a bad or rude behaviour – on the contrary, it is quite necessary. When I’m on a scooter and going behind a bike or pedestrian in a combined scooter/bike/pedestrian lane, I give a quick honk to let the person in front know that someone is behind and that I intend to pass. This allows them to shift slightly to the side and let me pass safely with sufficient space, avoiding a potential crash, and I don’t have to continue following super slowly. Same scenario when I’m on a scooter/bike and there’s a car behind me – I rather appreciate it when the driver lets me know by a honk that there’s someone behind me so I could be on the alert. In Toronto, honking is rare, but any time you hear a honk, it’s likely someone being pissed off at being cut off without warning or subjected to danger by irresponsible driving. Here, no one cares about signaling or safe passing or making sure that no one is behind when backing out, so you’re always in danger anyway, HARHAR. Then, honking here is more of a way to say, “Hey, be careful, there’s someone behind you” rather than “WTF man you !@*(##)@!!@#* jerk!” You kind of just learn to be more alert and react quicker, and somehow…we all manage to survive, which itself is a miracle.

Only at major intersections do bicycles, scooters, and pedestrians even consider following the traffic lights. Ready, set…GO!

Nah, I lied, most of the time honking is still the driver’s way of saying “Get the F*** out of my way or else suffer from the consequences of my wrath” (at least in the case of car/truck/large vehicle drivers). That epiphany hit me this morning as I was squeezed onto a crowded bus on a busy road, jammed to the max. The driver did not hesitate to show his aggressive temper as he continuously honked at the cars in front (some cutting lanes randomly) to get them to move, although I failed to see how it would have been possible to move as we were stuck at a red light. So yes, I completely contradicted what I said in the previous section by implying that people actually had consideration for others…too young, too naïve.

Bike-sharing is your best friend

Even if I were given the choice to drive in Wuhan, I think I would likely pass because the traffic jam would drive me insane before I got to my destination. Through traffic jams on local roads, bike-sharing is a godsend. I’ve seen bike-sharing programs in Canada and in Europe, but they’re not nearly as ubiquitous and useful as the ones in China. Scan the QR code of a bike that you could find anywhere on the street (unless you’re in a remote, undeveloped area), get to your destination, hop off, and lock the bike. It costs around 1 yuan, which is around 20 Canadian cents (even cheaper if you have a membership), per half hour, and the good thing is that you could drop off the bike anywhere you want. I find it to be exceptionally useful when I have to get home from the nearest bus station that has a direct bus to my workplace. I COULD change to another bus, but that requires extra wait time and more traffic. I could also walk home from the station, but it would take ~25 minutes. The solution, of course, is bike-sharing, and I usually have no problem finding a bike at the bus station where I get off. Cycling back home takes approximately 7 to 8 minutes, and I could almost LOL when I get to zoom past the traffic jam along the way by riding on the side lane and zigzagging a bit if necessary. When cars are stuck at an intersection for 10 minutes, I could fly past it in a jiffy and enjoy home-sweet-home, whereas if I drove…good luck making it home with unscathed sanity, Annie. Cycling also alleviates a bit of the heat because the way back home is on a slightly downward slope, and the wind acts as a significant de-stressor. That’s what you gotta do in China, find the little things that make life a bit less stressful and make the long day a little easier to endure.

Lots of bikes ready to be used outside my apartment. The most popular ones are Hellobike (blue), Mobike (orange), and ofo (yellow). Just scan one and go!

I would like to continue on the matter of transportation and getting around, but this post is getting too long. In a future post I will specifically talk about the public transit system in Wuhan (buses and subway), which really does warrant a discussion on its own. Hopefully the next post won’t take another three months to write…

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