Travelling in China

As I mentioned in a previous post, China is a beautiful country, there are so many interesting and wonderful places to visit. But it can also be exceptionally crowded. With a population of around 1.4 billion, it’s easy to see how! 
Many Chinese people work for seven days a week and are only able to take the national holidays off work (eg. Spring Festival, National Day and so on.) These festivals will be the only chance they have to travel, so people will crowd onto public transport and visit relatives or scenic spots in China. I have experienced travelling during these times, because our university holidays coincide with the Chinese national holidays. Yay! This photo is an example of crowded public transport (people are queuing up to have their ID cards and bags checked before getting on board a ferry. They do the same ID and bag checking procedure for the trains too.)

ID and bag check

Luckily for me, I live in the most populated province in China (Henan), so I think I get to enjoy even greater crowds when I travel! For example, last summer I went to Yuntai mountain, on one lovely weekend with two friends, only to find that everyone else in the province had had the same idea! The weather was really hot (around 38 degrees C) and I’m sure the rather large number of people on these mountain passes didn’t help. Despite the crowds, we really enjoyed our trip -although you do have to get used to being pushed rather a lot. As I have mentioned in a previous post, Chinese people are lovely and friendly, although they seem to forget this on public transport and on crowded mountain paths, where they will push and shove to get ahead of as many people as they can!
Oh, only in China! 

Yuntai mountain

Yuntai mountain

Yuntai mountain

Life in China 

So, I have been living in China for almost two years now, and I must say that I love it! China is very unlike any other country I’ve visited – the culture, language and general feel of the place is very different in many ways! At first, the unfamiliarity of the country was very daunting, but now I guess I’m becoming more used to it. Most people are friendly and willing to help foreigners in any way they can. I speak a little Chinese, but often rely on my students to translate for me, or communicate with people through crazy gestures and so on. This is the way I communicate with the ladies who work in the college canteens, for example, who always seem exceptionally excited to see me! 

A disadvantage of living in China is the air pollution… we have days when the air is quite literally black and you can’t see things that are more than one meter away! 😜 Also the traffic can get a little crazy! There only seem to be two traffic rules in China: don’t hit another vehicle and don’t hit any pedestrians. Otherwise, pretty much anything goes! Cars, buses and motorbikes will do anything to overtake each other -just to arrive at their destination a few minutes earlier! And they love to honk their horns constantly, seemingly just for fun!

Advantages of living in China are the friendly people (I have met many people that had never seen a foreigner before -so were very excited to meet me!) There are some beautiful places to visit in China -spectacular scenery, stunning mountain ranges, famous historic sights, temples and so on. Plus, I love the flowers in the spring and summertime. And the cost of living is relatively cheap! 😊

China is developing quickly, I see evidence of this everyday, with the huge amount of construction taking place everywhere in my town. Amid China’s development, I find that Chinese people are proud of their rich, 5000 year old culture and will do all they can to hold onto their traditions in the rapidly changing world, for example by continuing to practice tai ji in the parks, restoring old buildings (or rebuilding them as many had previously been allowed to fall into disrepair), or practicing traditional Chinese art and calligraphy. You can see many of these activities taking place in the parks in China, which are often blissful havens in the busy, bustling and crowded cities. 

While I feel like I have gotten used to some of the more crazy aspects about living in China, there are some things that will never seem normal… People’s stares of disbelief at the sight of a foreigner, endless construction and finding a family of 4 squeezed onto a motorbike all seem quite normal now. Whereas, I will never be able to get used to the sight of children peeing and pooping on the street, the spitting and the overly crowded buses. But then again, who would enjoy travelling for an hour with your head stuck in someone’s smelly armpit, while the driver takes you over as many bumps and potholes as he can?! 😜
Photos are from the Green Expo Garden, Zhengzhou. 

Gulangyu Islet, Xiamen, China 

(Written for a travel writing competition.)

Despite being situated merely a few metres away from the coast of Xiamen, Gulangyu Islet is surprisingly difficult to get to. I failed on my first attempt because I had forgotten my passport. The next day I returned, only to find that the ferry terminal directly opposite the islet is for residents only. All other passengers, foreigners and Chinese tourists alike are directed to a bus that takes you to the International Ferry Terminal on the outskirts of the city. This terminal is an incredibly crowded place, mostly thanks to day-trippers to Gulangyu, although you can also sail from here to further away places, such as Taiwan.

We joined a queue to buy tickets, but found we would have to wait for three hours until the next available boat. It seemed that everyone wanted to visit the islet that weekend. Determined to see what made Gulangyu Islet so interesting, we bought tickets and waited until it was time to board our ferry. Of course, when the time came, a vast amount of pushing and shoving ensued, as people strived to get a seat on the boat. My friend and I waited politely for this to subside and chose to stand by the rail at the back of the boat, which in our opinion gave much better views anyway.

The journey took about fifteen minutes and we enjoyed the sea air and views of the city on one side and tiny islet on the other. When we landed, the islet was packed with visitors walking around and enjoying the sights. I instantly saw the appeal of the place, with old Portuguese-style villas, clean beaches, delightful views and plenty of exotic trees and flowers. Somehow the place reminded me of a film set in the Caribbean. You just had to ignore the vast crowds of people, although as the ferries ran every fifteen minutes and each one was packed with around 500 passengers, this gave me an idea of how crowded the tiny islet, with an area of less than 2 square kilometres, would be.

 Gulangyu Islet is crowned by a large rock, boasting excellent views of the area, but it was cloudy that day so we decided to save our legs and visit the piano museum, an interesting place where we learned about how several former island residents went on to become famous pianists around the world. I found it hard to imagine how anyone could actually live on the islet these days. The whole place seems to exist just for tourists, indeed every building appeared to be either a museum, hotel, cafe, restaurant or souvenir shop. A lot of construction was taking place, to restore the islet to how it would have looked during its days as a foreign concession. However, this merely added to the unrealistic feel of the place. Despite the construction and crowds, the islet had a certain charm and appeal, although I didn’t find it quite as ‘restful’ as the guide book had claimed.

About me

So, I thought I’d write some things about myself, for the benefit of any people that happen to stumble across my blog and wonder about who the creator of all of these wonderful things is…

I’m from England and am currently teaching English in a university in China. I only have 20 teaching hours a week, so I have quite a lot of free time for having fun! A lot of my time is spent hanging out with my lovely students. I love travelling, going to parks and taking photos. I also enjoy spending time on the hobbies featured in this blog: namely writing stories and drawing!