Study China Photos

So I apologise in advance for the bad quality of pictures, I was using my phone and they look fine there but when they’re blown up they don’t look so fine anymore. I also know that I’ve posted some of these already but I felt they would make it look complete, sort of. This is a response to misswinnielondon‘s comment about more photos. I hope you enjoy them 🙂 ImageThe Main Building. We had Tai Ji in the courtyard outside (you can see some people there) and had some lectures inside too. It has over 17 floors!

ImageI have no idea what this building is/is for. I just took a picture as this was the first day and I was a little excited about getting there in one piece and with all of my luggage.

ImageA model of the University campus, which is huge. If you look really hard in the bottom right corner one of the buildings has an orange slice roof. I never saw it but it looks cool on the model. It’s in the main building (1st picture)

ImageThe front of the Forbidden City at night. I went twice (at night), this being the first time.ImageJust before the opening ceremony starts. They introduced our student volunteers and Mandarin teachers and also gave us a chance to talk to the other students on the programme. We also had a group photo which they gave us a copy to take home at the end. ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImageI don’t really need to explain the above pictures, except maybe the last one which I’m not quite what it is to be honest but lots of people were taking pictures of it…so I did too. Actually the picture before is just a statue/piece of artwork we saw when we were walking around.ImageHotpot. It was really spicy and really nice. There’s an earlier blog post about this.

ImageForbidden City Entrance, visit 2. It was so cold that night. The coldest I think I felt (until we went back again…)ImageOutside Wangfujing shopping centre, the most Christmassey/Western decoration we saw whilst we were there.ImageThe entrance was in the subway station…that was weird. It was closed when we got there (about 8pm) but I don’t think we would have gone in anyway.ImageReception in the company we went to visit. The map has the times for countries around the world, which we corrected because of the daylight savings time so their clocks for the UK and Europe were out by an hour. That was a little awkward but they trusted us (being from the UK and all that).ImageYou can just about see the panda hiding behind the bamboo. It was not a happy panda.ImageThe moment before it hit the window…that was scary.ImageCutest animals ever.ImageVery big, cool looking statue near the lions, tigers etc.ImageThe beluga tank inside the aquarium, which was the most expensive part of our ticket. If we didn’t visit the aquarium the ticket would have been much, much cheaper. The show was cool though.ImageOne of the many elephant statues near the elephant house. There are pictures of us sitting on the bigger ones…ImageThis hawk was way too chilled out. It must be the cold. ImageVery big turtles. ImageThe dinner our host family gave us. It was so yummy. Even our lop-sided dumplings.ImageThe little girl and her mother had stayed in the US the year before and so had been introduced to the idea of Christmas and had a tree which we helped decorated. It had lights and music and everything. They even gave us a little Christmas gift each.ImageActually, this day was the coldest. Apparently the coldest in 13 years or something, my friend said. The third time I went there but the first we actually got to Tiananmen Square and saw Mao’s body.ImageImageThe Forbidden City. It was really open, which made it feel ever colder despite how pretty it looks.ImageThe Fu Dogs were everywhere, this is the first of many pictures.ImageThe Temple of Heaven on a very cloudy, snowy day. ImageImageImageImageImageThe Lama Temples were really pretty. I prayed quite a bit whilst I was there and probably used up most of our student volunteer’s incense sticks but she was really nice and let me use them. She even showed some of the others how to pray and which temples were for what.ImageAnother Fu Dog at the Summer Palace.ImageThe frozen lake at the Summer Palace. My friend went over Easter and went on a boat. We just took a few steps on the ice. No boats. Not sure which is better.ImageImageYou can walk up the stairs here and go to the top where you can see some nice views of Beijing. It was sunset too so that made it better. We managed to cover the Lama Temples and the Summer Palace in one afternoon – about 4 hours. It impressed people a little when we told them what we did. Carpe Diem.ImageJust outside Tianjin train station. ImageAlso near the station, showing how fast development is.ImageA frozen river. With people fishing. One guy rode his bike across!ImageImageImageInside Culture Street. Very cheap market and really, really friendly vendors.ImageThe Tianjin Tower. Just managed to fit most of it in one shot.ImageImageImageImageTianjin from the tower. ImageHow high we were compared to the lake it’s in. Which was also frozen and some of the local children were playing ice hockey! I sent this picture to my friends and they all didn’t realise how high it was. ImageImageAt night time, just before we got the train back home.ImageImageImageImageThe Great Wall with its crazy signs.ImageImageImageAnother great visit with our host family. ImageJust outside Food street near Wangfujing. Western-style malls next to a small, hutong-esque food market. I went twice in three days.

ImageFinally, the graduation (closing) ceremony of the programme. It was sad to say goodbye but we all still talk now, which is really great 😀

So that’s about it. There are a lot of pictures and I think I repeated quite a few of my earlier posts but it’s a snapshot (or whistle-stop-tour, as one of my uni friends said) of my three weeks in Beijing.

Final days of Study China

So this will be the last post about Study China and I’ll combine the last few days into one, slightly long post. I’m actually surprised how long it took me to document this all, as it’s only 3 weeks and it’s been just over 3 months since I got back…but anyway. (it’s so late that the next lot of study china participants are coming home…)

After the trip out with our host family, we still hadn’t finished shopping and decided to return to the night market. This time I went with different people though, and I somehow ended up being the only girl going…which was weird, to say the least. Earlier in the day we had a presentation for our economics course which went okay as the professor asked us questions so I think that’s a good sign? At the night market we ate some Beijing hot yoghurt – yoghurt with honey but it’s warm so it’s really nice, and cheap. You have to return the pot though as one of my friends nearly walked away and the vendor went after him. I think I mentioned earlier that it’s slightly easier to haggle at the night market, but even so one of my friends didn’t think the prices were cheap enough when we were buying scarves. He managed to get a deal that we’d buy two scarves for 34 Yuan after getting it down from one scarf for 25 Yuan. I bought one for my mum, as did the others because they were pretty.

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Outside Wangfujing near the night market.

 

The next day was our HSK 1 mock test, which everyone did well in and most people are planning to take sometime later this year. I scored 100 after many attempts (and so did a lot of other people) but my friend called me a know-it-all anyway (amongst some other inside joke names) and said ‘we’ve only known each other two weeks and we can already have all of this banter’ which I think that’s one of the great things about this (note: nobody was offended by any banter whatsoever). We’re thrown in with 50-something other people and live with them, see them every day so close friendships form really quickly. The graduation ceremony was good even if we had an awkward song but everyone loved it, there’s a video on YouTube somewhere but I won’t post it here…our Chinese teachers loved it and that’s what matters as they had spent lesson time helping us with the pronunciation. We then had a last meal with our group and Pan, who’s one of the student helpers. They were all so nice, and I’m so glad they were looking after us. After the meal we spent the last of our money on junk food and stationery to take back home before crowding in my friend’s room to watch movies. (We only managed Rush Hour before everyone decided to go to bed, although this was 1am by then)

And that’s all there is, the next day was my last and we all woke up at ridiculous hours of the morning to catch our flights and say goodbye. We were all a bit too sleepy to be emotional and alot of that had been dealt with at the graduation ceremony, especially with the volunteers who had put up with us for 3 weeks. 

And that’s that.

Another hutong, ice-cream and a frozen lake

Technically I shouldn’t say this but I missed an economics lecture as our host family (a few posts back) met us again that afternoon one last time before we had to leave.

They took us to a hutong that even they hadn’t been to! After 7 years of living there, they hadn’t been so that was surprising. There was this sign/plaque at the entrance (I think it’s the entrance?) saying what the street was and the layout.

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The shops were pretty cheap too, probably the cheapest I saw in Beijing, and we did some more shopping (despite being a group of 1 girl and 2 guys) and the host family were great with translation and helping us find some nice gifts. The father took us to this shop selling stones/expensive gems and gave us a bit of history about it.

It turns out we were near a lake which we had visited on one of our first days there. The lake has loads of bars around it (which is why we went…) but I had no idea about the hutong behind it! 

We went for ice-cream at this western-style cafe, caled ‘Wonder Milk’ where the father knew the owner so they gave us ice-cream sundaes – enough for one each at a discount (I’m guessing…?) Image

 

The strangest part of that day was what happened next. There weren’t that many seats so we gave a chair to these guys sat next to us, and the little girl sat on her dad’s lap and the guys were setting up this board game. The next thing we know, is that they are trying to teach us, how to play. The language barrier was definitely a problem and this game was so complicated the mother didn’t understand how to play, let alone explain it to us so we ended up just chatting to them for a while. It was bizarre to say the least.

They then took us out for dinner at a different hotpot restaurant. Apparently the one we went to is known for being spicy – which would have been useful to know as I think the first time a few people felt like they were on fire. This one was different though because each person gets their own pot and choice of soup base.

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They also gave us this satay kind of sauce which was nice. The host family were really great though because they knew what to order (unlike us) and ordered loads of strange things. Delicious all the same, but strange.

And on the way out, the manager saw us waiting near the freezer and opened it, and gave us an ice-cream each! Definitely made one of the best days there even better!

New Year’s Day

So this looks majorly confusing as it was Chinese New Year last week but I’m writing about New Year (1/1/13) whilst I was in China.

It was pretty cool actually. We had an organised trip to the Great Wall, and had been warned that it would be very, very cold. It was cold, but no colder than it had been, although we didn’t feel the full effect of that until the top of the wall. All of the pictures of people taken up there look like they are dying inside. My friend spilt some water on her jacket and it froze almost instantly.

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This isn’t that high up but it felt like it, the steps were massive and some of the shorter girls had trouble. I had trouble on the way down because they were so uneven and had no railing, as well as the ice. But there were little kids running up and down, I wish I was younger so I could have done that too. A couple of tourists had some beer though! At 12pm in the morning! That was crazy.

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The signs are great, I particularly like the one about not using a mobile phone, not sure if you can see. It says to not use one during a thunderstorm…

After the fairly tiring trip to the Great Wall, as it was New Year’s alot of us didn’t want to stay in and sleep the day away so a small group of us went to the ‘food street’. It’s near Wangfujing and felt so out of place with the huge, western style mall as it’s very hutong-esque. The food is cheap and great though, so I was glad I went. They had starfish and scorpions too! I didn’t try them though as some people had been ill after eating the starfish…there were also small shops to buy souvenirs so that was good for last minute shopping. Haggling was a big easier there too compared to silk market so it’s worth a trip if you want to save some money!

 

 

New Year’s Eve

So my New Year’s Eve was pretty uneventful because it wasn’t Chinese New Year (but that’s happening this Sunday) and there weren’t many things happening. 

Since it was the last week of the programme my Mandarin lessons were revision, going over mock HSK 1 papers for our ‘exam’ on the Friday.

After that some people decided going to a New Year’s Eve party would be good (as British students we all needed some kind of clubbing) but I passed on that as it was cold and I didn’t want to pay £15 for a ticket! I can go clubbing for £5 normally so I felt it was a bit extortionate, especially for China. Although everyone who went had a great time, I’m glad I didn’t. Instead a small group of us went to the summer palace with one of our student volunteers as we thought we might be able to see fireworks or something, since we saw them preparing everything when we visited (see more sightseeing post). However this was sadly not the case as you needed a special sticker to get in and see the laser show, so we went for nothing. Except we didn’t, as we huddled in a McDonald’s until 11.50pm talking about ghost stories and what we had learnt so far on the programme. The ghost stories were great, as our student volunteer told my friend in Cantonese who then translated it back to English for us, but she got a bit freaked out as she only understood the story initially and the rest of us stared at her blankly. Let’s just say we didn’t get the bus home that night. Or any night after that.

But we had a group photo and bonded a bit more, the cold weather does that to you, and welcomed a new year with new people in a new country.

Tianjin

So awhile back I said I would post more about my trip to Tianjin and I didn’t but it’s here now! Image

So this is part of the city from the viewing deck in the tower, and you can see the frozen lakes. There’s some haze/smog though which wasn’t too pleasant but I think it’s hard to avoid nowadays, we saw the same thing from the University buildings (17 floors up) in Beijing. It looks worse on clear days but at least it’s sunny.

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That’s the lake that the tower is in. The glass is slanted so I was leaning over the edge to take this, which was scary and cool at the same time. My friend went under the barriers to lean against it but kept one hand on the rail just in case he fell through. Funnily enough nobody told us off or anything, they just carried on as if nothing was happening. That could have been because we both look Chinese…

Taking the bullet train there was a nice experience. The only thing was the language barrier which wasn’t too much of a problem as we just said ‘Tianjin’ showed our ID/passport and got tickets. We were all given separate seats though which led to one of us being sat in the dining carriage (and getting a late breakfast) whilst the rest were 3 carriages further down. It’s fast, really quiet and there’s a fair bit of legroom too – Virgin should take note of this! And that’s economy class!

Once in Tianjin we bought a map for about 80p which was our lifesaver. It made getting everywhere easier as we headed for ‘culture street’ which looks a bit out of place, oddly enough. It was built in the 1980’s (I think…) to promote tourism as Tianjin is just another city with giant skyscrapers everywhere. Culture street is a bit like a hutong, with this at one end so we knew we were definitely in the right place.

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This is from inside the street, I’m not quite sure what it says though but it was pretty.

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I’m not sure why but an escalator in the middle of an old-style cultural street was funny and a bit sad at the same time. I found it funnier than my friends did but…yeah.

There were tons of stalls there, and it was much cheaper than Beijing markets and they were much friendlier to us as well. They totally understood if we didn’t want to buy anything which was a relief. One of them was selling wooden frogs that you play to make a frog noise but we didn’t know, so the lady selling them showed us. She then let my friend try playing the biggest one so we all bought at least one. It’s one of the coolest things I bought, for £1.50. I bought lots of packs of cards too, they have anime characters, Harry Potter, even Barack Obama ones!

The only bad thing I have to say about Tianjin was the service at lunch. We didn’t expect anything glamorous or great, but they missed off part of our order – which we made sure wasn’t on the bill and just ignored us for most of the time that we were there. I’m not sure it’s because we were foreign or anything but it was disappointing.

After the interesting lunch we went to the tower, sorry for the strange order of this post. We took taxis to get there as it was on the other side of the city. The taxis are teal coloured. If you scroll up to one of the earlier pictures you can see them. The map was most useful here when I pointed at things and mumbled some incoherent Mandarin.

After the tower we got taxis back to the train station which proved to be more of a challenge than getting around in the firstplace. My taxi got there fine, I even had a quick conversation with the driver in Mandarin about our day and where we were going, but the other half of our group didn’t turn up at the station. Their taxi driver took a more ‘scenic’ route and they ended up on the other side. Buying tickets home could have been disastrous after that as we needed our UK passports and not the student ones BNU gave us. We were all sat near each other this time which was good.

The station was bigger than we initially thought as my friends had actually been dropped off at the right place to get the train back to Beijing. So we walked all the way back, passed through security and waited for our turn to board. The train station is like an airport, it’s huge and has lots of gift shops and feels very new but we were so tired by then we didn’t buy anything. We just got on the train and fell asleep for the journey back.

So that was super long, sorry but Tianjin was a great place to go to. To see the differences between there and Beijing was also incredible as they’re 30 minutes away by train but so, so different. It also gave me a chance to practise my Mandarin too!

For the ending of this post, Tianjin clock tower at sunset – it’s opposite the train station and gets lit up at night!

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More sightseeing

So I had Mandarin lessons on Saturday morning, yes, a Saturday morning! I’m not sure who it was, but someone initiated a group outing to the Lama Temple. We were accompanied by one of our student volunteers who knew the way and also brought incense sticks with her. I think it’s technically one temple but there are lots of halls where you can pray. I think most people pray in either the ones they need – like for health, job prospects etc. or they pray in every hall. You can also leave a donation too as well as the incense. I felt like a bit of a fool praying whilst all of my friends were just watching, they didn’t see the point when they didn’t understand how to pray or why they were. They just took pictures.ImageThis is the entrance to one of the main halls near the entrance. The ticket is quite cool too as there’s a mini CD included – I haven’t yet loaded it onto my computer but I will, and will probably be overwhelmed by Chinese text.

There are also cynclindral type things? (I’m not quite sure what it is..) that you can spin for good luck too, like the one below.ImageMy geekier Maths side also came out when I saw this sign outside one of the halls.

ImageIt was pretty cool to see that there.

There’s also the world’s largest Buddha (there’s a small plaque outside mentioning the Guinness World Book of Records) and it’s massive! Also apparently carved from one tree…which is pretty impressive. My camera couldn’t fit it all in one shot either.

Realising we only had a week left, my friend and I decided to visit the Summer Palace after as we didn’t have any time during the next week to go somewhere that far. My other friend had been once already which was good as he too us around the main parts.

There’s a giant lake which was frozen and people were casually walking across. We went a few steps before running back to the platform, it would not be fun to fall in no matter how many locals do it. The palace isn’t really a palace as there aren’t any walls since it was used in summer and alot of it is spread out around the lake. It’s still pretty cool to go to the highest part and look out at Beijing though.

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This is part of the lake, by the time we got there is was quite late and sunset but it meant great pictures and great views! 

There’s also a bridge leading to an island in the lake, you can walk across the ice or take the bridge like we did. The island isn’t as great as the rest of the place, but it was getting dark and cold so I’ll probably go again in the summer to see what it’s meant to be like.

When we got back we were really hungry and my friend wanted to visit Lakers as he hadn’t been yet (which was strange as everyone had been by this point) and instead of the huge 19-inch pizza I got a burger.

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Sorry for the very long post but I condensed as much as possible! It still shocks me how much we managed to do in three weeks…if we had more time who knows what else we could have done?