Annie Bananie en Europe

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Tag Archives: night

Chongqing, the Mountain City

Xiao mian of Chongqing was in the previous post about noodles so let’s talk about Chongqing. The final trip of 2019 happened in Chongqing, after a friend’s wedding took place in Chengdu in Sichuan province. Chongqing is one of four municipalities under direct government rule in China (the other three being Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin), which means that it is not part of any province (though it used to be a part of Sichuan). J and I had wanted to visit Chongqing for a while (well, it was mostly me), and because it was less than an hour and a half away from Chengdu by train, we had the perfect opportunity to visit. Chongqing is known as the “Mountain City” because it is built around hills and its elevation is constantly changing. As a result, there were a lot of stairs and layered views involved in this trip, as you will see.

It was quite cloudy during our two-day visit but thankfully it didn’t rain. The sky was gray and visibility was low, but you could see what I mean by varied elevation. Some buildings were established at ground level (by the Yangtze River, which traverses Chongqing) while others were constructed on hills. Walking around the city became a real workout at some point!

Another wide river that traverses Chongqing is the Jialing River, and this bridge was still under construction when we were there. Still gray all around…

City trips in recent years have become more relaxing as I’ve stop chasing landmarks and prefer slow, spontaneous explorations. J and I wandered around random streets without really knowing where we were going, turning corners here and there. This is a sign that says “Beautiful Zhongshan 4th Road” πŸ™‚

There is a walking trail that runs through the hills along the Yangtze River known as the “Mountain City Alley”. Along the trail you could see some old houses and remains of the past. I especially like how it is hidden within a forested area, and people below in the streets can’t really see the trail above, making it almost like a secret tunnel.

There were some fantastic murals to be seen along the trail and here are some of my favourites. I think in the one with the dog and the chessboard, the front part of the chessboard was actually real and sticking out from the wall…which means that only half the chess set was present. Ooo and the cat’s eyes…they stare deep into my soul as if it knows everything about me…meow.

By the way, you know what Chongqing is most famous for? Spicy hot pot, of course!! The Chongqing locals love their hot pot and have a million ways of eating it, but it must be as spicy as you could imagine. We met up with a friend of J who works in Chongqing and went for hot pot one evening. Yes those are chili peppers in the red hot boiling water. The round part in the middle is the clear non-spicy soup, which was severely needed. It’s not that I can’t handle the spiciness, but I feel that immersing the food in chili peppers kind of ruins the original taste of the food (what a Cantonese thing to say). Thankfully there was the choice to alternate between the two. And yes there were veggies, they were on a cart beside the table πŸ˜›

You see how much Chongqing loves its spicy food? They even have a chili pepper statue as a mascot in one of the public squares! The information below the statue reads: “CAPSICA RedLight – A giant bronze red chili pepper sculpture, crafted by the famous Italian artist Giuseppe Carta, with height of 6.5 m and weight of 2.3 tons. The miniature sculptures of the ‘CAPSICA RedLight’ and of the ‘World’s Biggest Hotspot’ were firstly exhibited at the 2015 World Expo in Milan, Italy.”

Now we continued our city exploration and I wanted to find a cafe to sit down and write. Upon searching on the Internet, I found a place that was supposedly hidden in local residential complexes but offered a magnificent view of Chongqing. The instructions said that we had to climb steps to go up approximately nine storeys…what!!! I was ready for a workout but the serendipitous thing was that we by chance took the bus that dropped us off at the TOP of the steps, which meant that we missed out on the anticipated intense uphill walk…to my delight! Here’s the view looking down and you can bet that I was super thankful for my streak of luck!


And what we found was a chic little cafe where we spent some time chilling and relaxing. I ordered a matcha latte and J ordered an original one. Then I took out my journal to write while J napped a little πŸ˜‰

Looking out to the left, I could see what my colleague told me about: if you were at the bottom of the hill, you’d think that you could see the top of a building, but from another angle, the “top” might be the ground floor of another building. And this is the norm in Chongqing. No wonder you’re called the Mountain City!

Ah, yes, this is the view from the cafe that I was talking about. Again it was SUPER cloudy so it was less impressive than it should have been. I surprised myself by not taking the cable car across the river. It was something that I had planned to do, but in the end we didn’t want to be too rushed. We certainly will come back to Chongqing some day – after all I have to come back to this very cafe to catch a night view of Chongqing, which is bound to be amazing.

Here we were at Chaotianmen (Chaotian Gate), which is the point at which the Yangtze and Jiangling rivers converge. Bad-angle selfie time!

This is a scene that is unimagineable in COVID-19 times but was anticipated for many as it was new year’s eve. There was some event that was happening here, but we were just passing by and we weren’t joining the crazy crowd. Definitely a good idea that we got out of there as fast as we could…

The next destination was Hongyadong (Hongya Cave), which sort of went viral as the tourist hotspot in Chongqing. I guess it’s clear why – it looked splendid at night! The area was supposedly a reconstruction of historical architecture that is now overly commercialized, like any other tourist destination. We didn’t go into the actual lit up area and preferred this view from the Qiansimen (Qiansi Gate) Bridge.

The Qiansimen Bridge crosses the Jialing River and this is the view of the other side, facing Hongyadong. Love the night views – it’s got some Shanghai vibe to it, doesn’t it?

The official we-are-spending-new-year’s-even-in-Chongqing-and-Hongyadong-is-behind-us selfie. I don’t get to travel as much anymore but trips like this remind me that I love travel, I love traveling with this man, and I love this man!!! ❀

Final look at Chongqing after we’ve crossed the Qiansimen Bridge. Hongyadong is now on the other side with the gleaming metropolis as its backdrop. Regrettably J and I were only able to spend two days in Chongqing and we barely scratched the surface of what this sophisticated city has to offer. There aren’t many places that I say I’d go back to after traveling there, but Chongqing is one of the few that I’d like to return to and explore more in-depth. Shouldn’t be too out-of-reach as it is right next to Hubei Province, but the limiting factor here is vacation days. Oh well, hope to see you again sometime, neighbour!

February 2020

Because of the COVID-19 situation in China, Jian and I couldn’t get back to Wuhan after our honeymoon in Japan. As a result, we’ve been stuck in the city of Dalian in northeastern China since the beginning of February. It’s been a month, and the lockdown in Wuhan still continues, so we wait. Thankfully, Dalian was not hugely affected by the virus, so our quarantine (expected as we were from Wuhan) was not extremely strict and we were at least able to go out and explore the city during this period of time. This would become the city after Wuhan where Jian and I had spent the most amount of time together πŸ˜‰

Upon arrival in Dalian, we were directed to a specified hotel that was able to accommodate citizens of Hubei province under directions of the local government. It was not cheap, but we were thankful to have a place to stay (most hotels were not allowed to accept guests from Hubei during this period). And hey, at least the view out of our window was spectacular, as we welcomed a bit of snow on our third day here!

Same view, different day, different time of the day. Dalian is situated at the southernmost tip of the province of Liaoning, which is the southernmost of the three northeastern Chinese provinces. I guess that’s why it’s not extremely cold, even though it’s way up north by Chinese standards.

Third view out the window, this time at sunrise. We were facing east so every morning we had a nice bit of sunshine coming in through the window to wake us up.

Now, getting out of the hotel, we began our exploration of Dalian. It was super foggy one day with very low visibility, but I was glad to be able to get out and get some fresh air (with obligatory face masks unless you want to be arrested) after the initial days of quarantine.

Dalian is located on a peninsula in the middle of the Yellow Sea between the Korean peninsula and mainland China, so we knew we had to go to the seaside for a stroll. Oh, it was windy, very windy alright…

A random bit of colour fun here as I contemplated what I could make out of what I had in the hotel room. Red and green are my favourite colour contrast, and strawberries give off such an aesthetically pleasing hue of bright red. I also got a small matcha-flavoured Swiss roll at the nearby bakery, but I definitely had to put the two together before I ate them πŸ˜›

Why, hello there. The sign in the elevator says “This region has been sanitized”, and most public places are now obliged to undergo frequent sanitization. Face masks have also become a rare and much-sought-after commodity in China, as you can imagine. Luckily we got some in Japan…

…and the Eiffel Tower appears in Dalian? Nah, just a small model in a commercial shopping area. Jian is so happy to be outside. Fresh air has never felt so precious.

Final view of the city of Dalian from our hotel window, at night. It might seem like we spent most of our time in the hotel. Well, this is true, as we didn’t want to cause any unnecessary hassle or misunderstanding. But I’d say within a month, we gained a pretty good idea of what life is like in Dalian. In the future, this city will always hold a special place in our hearts.

As we continue waiting for the end of the Wuhan lockdown and the day we are allowed to return, we are still thankful for the blessing of safety and health in the midst of the chaos in the country. Here’s to hoping that the March 2020 post will be written in Wuhan…!

January 2020

January 2020 has been a dark month for China and the city of Wuhan. Never would I have thought that the place I now call home would be in international spotlight, but overnight, everyone knows Wuhan because of the coronavirus outbreak. Everything was paused in China, and Wuhan was placed in lockdown with no entry or exit allowed. Till now, Wuhan has been on lockdown for almost a month, and the crisis is still ongoing in China, with many people dying and families falling apart. In the midst of darkness and despair, I put together several photos of night for the month of January, all with a single theme – there is darkness, but there will be light.

Night falls in the quiet village of Wanghe, my husband’s hometown. No one ever expected that anything could disturb the peace and serenity felt here.

Deserted street on the HUST campus. Most students have left the campus to go back home for Chinese new year.

Quiet alley in Gora, Hakone, the first stop on our 10-day honeymoon in Japan.

Side street in Ginza area in Tokyo, Japan, late at night. Even in a metropolis as prosperous and flourishing as Tokyo, night instills a sense of tranquil solemnity and protects the city folks in their dreams.

As the plane landed in Hokkaido, the sun left behind a colourful trail in the dusk as if saying, “Sayonara, see you tomorrow, enjoy your evening πŸ˜‰ “

Residential area in Otaru, Hokkaido, where the guesthouse we were staying at was located. The city was covered in snow and it seemed as if everyone has gone into hibernation.

January 2020 was actually an important month for me personally as a lot of events took place. Jian and I held a wedding banquet in his hometown, after which we went on our honeymoon in Japan, after which…we couldn’t get back into Wuhan. As a result of the lockdown, we’ve been staying in the city of Dalian in northeastern China for around 20 days and counting. Trains and flights are still suspended, as is work in most companies, so we’re stuck until the coronavirus situation gets better in Wuhan and Hubei province. Till then, we hold on to the belief that there is darkness, but there will be light.

July 2019

Of course summer came. Did I really think that I could avoid summer in Wuhan, one of the four ovens of China? Nope, not a chance. Amidst working during a busy season and planning our wedding in October (not sure if I’ve mentioned this before), July has been rather hectic, but that doesn’t stop us from taking some time to observe the beautiful things in life that keep us sane πŸ˜‰

These flowers look like roses but they’re not the typical ones that you get for your loved one on Valentine’s Day. These ones were growing just outside my office building in mid-July, looking elegant and sassy!

Lotus is definitely the summer flower of Wuhan and there is no shortage of lotus ponds in the city, especially in university campuses. Here’s the one close to the south gate of HUST, though J joked that it was so hot that day that the lotus pads were drying – and it was true!

The people of Wuhan do love their lotus…to eat, that is. You’ve got your good ol’ lotus root but there are parts of the lotus that I didn’t even know existed before coming to Wuhan. Lotus pods and baby lotus stems, for example, are delicacies here that I can’t get enough of πŸ˜›

I travel west when I head home from work and so I often catch some nice sunset skies as I hop off the bus. It’s good to see God’s beautiful work of art at the end of a long, exhausting day.

This was a sight to behold. J and I were on a walk around Yujia Lake one evening and it began raining – with lightning and thunder! I am usually terrified of lightning but it was too good of an opportunity to capture some photos of lightining…or at least try. I kept pressing the button of my phone’s camera really quickly, hoping that one of the 2387942 photos that I took would turn out well – and I guess it sort of worked?!! This was the best one that I managed to get – not of a lightning streak but of light emerging from dark clouds looming over the book shop in the distance. Spectacular!

This cat did not seem to mind the outdoor heat and was ready for a long, lazy day ahead. It was only morning though, and I was pretty sure it went hiding somewhere else as soon as the heat of noon hit…

A random gathering with work colleagues from my department, at a very large round table that turns by itself! Convenient, as we didn’t have to turn it ourselves to get food, but you also had to be quick to get the food that you wanted or else you won’t get an other chance till it comes around the next time…if there’s any left πŸ˜›

My dear LS dropped by Wuhan as a short stopover and we only had a couple of hours to chat over some drinks. Very rushed, but it’s always fun and jokes when this lady is around. See you soon in October πŸ˜‰

New glasses, yeah? It’s about time – I think I haven’t gotten new glasses for seven years! These took a bit of time to get used to but I like the thick black frames. And I complimented J by saying that he looks handsome in this photo and he blushed like a little kid, hehe ^_^

Another two weeks to go till September and then it’ll be one month before our wedding…stress and anticipation!! So much work, so much planning, so much to look forward to!

May 2019

Here goes May, the month where Wuhan tried to initiate summer but sort of failed, thankfully. (I feel like I can’t start a Wuhan-related post nowadays without talking about the weather – go figure.) The temperature hovered between 25 to 28 degrees Celsius during the final week of May, which was PERFECT, and as much I know it’s wishful thinking, I seriously hoped that it’d be like this all summer. Mid-May also marked the one-year anniversary of my official arrival in Wuhan so at least I could say that I reached a milestone. Good to be still hanging in there πŸ˜‰

One of the things I do to keep myself sane on a daily basis is to take photos of beautiful things that I see, one of which is cloud patterns. I often see the stunning artworks of God in the form of clouds and they are enough to make my day. This photo was taken at the Guanggu 7th Road subway station in the late afternoon, and it almost seemed as if the smoke was emerging from the sky lit by the setting sun.

Another photo near Guanggu 7th Road station, this time taking in the early morning, from the other direction.

Third and final photo of beautiful clouds in this mini-collection, taken near dusk in Yancheng, Jiangsu province. J and I attended my cousin’s wedding in Yancheng and was heading to Nanjing for the evening, and saw this while waiting for the train. The sun and clouds fascinatingly accentuated the silhouette of the city, sending us a perfect goodbye gift.

A change of scenery here – a view of “Fairy Island Lake” from the highest point of the scenic area. This was taken during a company spring outing and though I honestly did not enjoy 90% of the trip, I give credit to the 2.5 hours of free time that we had in the end. It was raining pretty horrendously when this photo was taken (rain only during the free time, great) but I somewhat managed to capture the surroundings successfully. Perhaps the rain made it more…”fairy-like”??

Not going in chronological order, this is the Pagoda/Temple of Gratitude in Nanjing during the evening. It is named so because it was commissioned to be built by a king in the Ming dynasty as an expression of gratitute to his mother. I think the original has been destroyed and this is a replica, but it looked magnificent at night. The pavilion is lit up in alternating colours but there is a 20-second window every 5 minutes where it is lit up in multi-colours. Very beautiful!

Still in Nanjing, this is a serendipitous photo of a little girl staning in front of the lyrics of the Chinese national anthem carved into a wall, with the score. I was wondering why there was no English version, but I think the four languages at the bottom might all be ones spoken by minority ethnic groups in China. I’m going to venture a guess from left to right…Mongol, Sanskrit, Arabic, and transliteration of Korean. Can someone confirm??

Probably the most random photo of this post is of this small cocktail that J ordered as part of a meal deal. The deal doesn’t exist anymore so unfortunately I can’t find its name, but it certainly was an aesthetically pleasing little addition to an otherwise great (and very large-portioned) meal ^_^

This set of pig figurines (and the large piggy bank) that was displayed at the front desk of the Nanjing public library made my day and I wish I could have gotten the entire set! So adorable!!! The last one on the right must be doing some sort of yoga post, heh, I love it ❀

Obligatory (almost) monthly photo of me and J, taken in Yancheng. J looks so sleepy and clueless in this photo but actually it was just him being his usual dorky self πŸ˜›

Overall May 2019 has been a pleasant month, and I think I’m finally realizing this: I can constantly complain about various aspects of Wuhan, but at the end of the day, I have to accept the fact that I’m living here and learn to embrace its imperfections. I will probably still complain just as a way to vent (and it is necessary), but again, keeping a record of beautiful encounters will be my way of maintaining sanity and reminding myself of the good things in life. Yes, even in Wuhan.

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