Back in 2016 we had a holiday in China and we had invited my father to join us. What I remember most from that trip is the incredible and annoying City Tour Extreme. As there was just so much to write about I split the adventure into four parts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4. Besides that city tour we experienced the standard MIL madness/ the whole crazy family. Why am I writing about it now? Today I went through my dad’s camera and found the pictures he took last year. Okay that is until the battery was empty on Day 2 of the city tour and he had forgotten to take the proper charging cable with him.
My father has a different viewpoint when it comes to taking pictures. First of all he is still used to the time before digital cameras swarmed the market so he barely takes more pictures than would fit on an old film (max 36 pictures depending on the film). Secondly he is not wasting as much times as me on taking pictures as he is not aiming for the perfect shot but to have just some “memory” of the trip. Besides those two points he did not take any pictures in Xi’an except from the city wall and from some temple. I think this is because he has been everywhere before back in 2011 so he did not deem those other places worthy of using any space on his SD-Card again in 2016.
On our city tour extreme I am not sure who was more annoyed by all the misplanning. I mean I was really annoyed but my dad was really really annoyed, especially when our tour guide “The Howling Monkey” did not even let us sleep in the bus after waking up each morning way too early. He even took a picture of the tour guide in order to never forget that person again. He also got rather annoyed by MIL’s behaviour as it was first time he really witnessed all her crazy doings over the span of three weeks. In fact he is right now thinking how he can survive her again next year when we go to China as we will take my father with us once again!
What is really surprising me is that my father actually has still the energy to do such trips with us as he just turned 76 this year. Especially those long flights are hard on him besides trying each day new unknown food in China. Despite having sometimes really many problems in China back in 2016 he still agreed to come with us instantly after we asked him to join us. My mother on the other hand had the same reply as last time “No way I will ever go there again!”.
Going through the pictures I wondered sometimes on how different they were compared to the ones I took. Sure I took a lot more than him but some places I did not recognize at all or had forgotten as I never captured them with my camera. At times it is really interesting to see how two people can have so very different pictures when visiting the same places. Next time I will make sure that he has his charging cable and I will try to motivate him to take more pictures.
Have you ever checked pictures of another person (friend, spouse, family member) after you went on the same trip somewhere?
Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts. Furthermore there is also my Instagram account in which from time to time some pictures and short videos might pop up.
I warned you in the last post that the torturous city tour did not end at day two with the trips to Yangzhou and Suzhou. Day three is the day when it really got out of hand with an insane plan for the day. It meant once again hours in a bus too small for humans, a howling monkey tour guide doing her best to keep us awake, tourist trap stops and spending too less time in the cities. Please not that this post is a bit longer as it was a very long day.
So I ended last post with the remark that we went to our hotel and were able to enjoy some eatable dinner. The hotel, as mentioned last time, was surprisingly good. In fact it was nearly a five-star hotel, everything was clean, no tobacco smell anywhere, a bathroom bigger than the first hotels main room and a nice view from our room at the 17th floor. My father and I were already looking forward to the breakfast as the previous days that part was never something good. Oh boy, we should never ever have hopes in China it seems. You see, first of all we went to breakfast at 6:30 which meant it was nearly one hour before normal breakfast time for this hotel. At first glance it even looked good until we realized that under nearly all the food covers at the buffet only emptiness was awaiting us. So what food was ready this time? Indeed, mantou and some more mantou BUT there I found coffee and even milk. Big mistake again. The coffee was undrinkable as it appeared that they used 1/5 with actual super strong coffee, 1/5 with milk (or something similar to it) and last but not least 3/5 of sugar. After one sip my stomach was in turmoil so I grabbed the milk and big surprise it was hot milk with a weird aftertaste. The time between this experience and the bus leaving for Hangzhou I spent in the bathroom…
Hangzhou was our next city on the agenda roughly 2 1/2 hours by bus. However after 30 minutes we stopped at a Pearl Museum. It sounded very nice and started off so well. There was this museum guide explaining the history of the freshwater pearls in China and how one scholar figured out how to cultivate them successfully back in the day. There were wonderful pearls on display, a dress full of pearls worn by Cixi 慈禧 and even a Buddha statue covered in pearls. As you might guess it was just the beginning which was nice at this museum because as we were walking to the next room we were suddenly in the biggest pearl selling place I have ever seen. First there were several rooms filled with hundred if not thousands of tourist at the different pearl selling stands. It was so loud and crowded, just so unbelievable how the whole scenery changed from a nice museum tour into this tourist trap within seconds. After we managed somehow to get out of those pearl selling rooms we were out of nowhere surrounded by vinegar selling stands then in the next room it was all about clothes and and and. We went from room to room, from floor to floor for about half hour until we finally got out. I am not kidding that they basically had everything to sell there what you might find in a huge mall, from jewelery over toys and clothes to food.
After this wonderful tourist trap stop we went on with our journey to Hangzhou. I don’t think I need to mention again how comfortable this trip was. The first destination in Hangzhou was Song Cheng, a large theme park with the architectural style based on the painting “Along the River during the Qingming Festival” by Zhang Zeduan. Once again it was just huge there and despite the terrible weather (yes, it was still raining) it was packed with people. My wife loved this place as she had watched before an episode of “Hurry Up, Brother or Running Man” 奔跑吧兄弟which was shot in that theme park. I must say it was really nice there but of course we had just too little time there. The nice howling monkey reminded us once again that we had 60 minutes on our own there until the show “Romance of the Song Dynasty” would start. This gave us only time to visit few things there such as one of the great haunted houses (my wife is still scared) and a couple of amusement rides for Nathan. The show itself was incredible and what was even more incredible was that it was just huge there, the biggest theatre hall I have ever seen. All in all this was once again a place you could easily spend an entire day to see it all.
Again it was time for a bus trip for a half hour to reach the West Lake. There a little “ship cruise” was planned and while waiting for the ship/ tiny boat we could enjoy the beautiful scenery there. We could see the Leifeng Pagoda and the Jingci Temple on the opposite side of the lake. The ship cruise itself wasn’t that interesting except that we saw one ridiculous ship which looked like a giant dragon. As our howling monkey got lost in the park trying to find the way back to the bus we passed by many interesting spots within this park but sadly it was raining the entire time and thus I could not take any pictures.
Now then to my favorite part of this day. From Hangzhou we drove roughly 1 1/2 hours to Wuzhen, a wonderful little town. As the schedule was completely messed up we arrived there around 7pm instead of half day earlier. At first I was afraid it would be another tourist trap as I saw pretty much millions of busses in front but as soon as we went to the check-in area it was empty. All visitors have to leave the old village center till 6 or 7pm and only the inhabitants, inn-guests and workers can stay. We had some delicious dinner there (the best food for the entire trip!) and then had to find our own inn rooms in the old village center. The view was just incredible as during night-time all the houses and bridges are covered in lights. After getting our luggage to our guest rooms we went for a little tour around to take some pictures till most of the lights were turned off. I can only recommend visiting Wuzhen or even stay in one of the guest houses within the water town as it is definitely a place I would love to stay for a couple of days.
With this a very long day came to and end. It was certainly chaotic and only towards our last destination we could finally relax and enjoy the surrounding for a bit. After this night in Wuzhen only two days remained however they will be in one blog post as it is all about Shanghai (and some annoying side stops…).
Have you ever visited Wuzhen?
Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts. Furthermore I also have a YouTube Channel in which some videos might pop up from time to time
For people like me who grew up in little towns the buzzy streets in China in the evening is like entering another world. Xi’an is by no means a huge city by Chinese standards with its 8 million inhabitants but that is already 3 million more than the entire population of Finland.
When I arrived for my first time in China I was amazed at the insane traffic and the amount of people on the streets. The streets would fill up with people already in early morning time and decrease only towards noon when the temperatures reached near unbearable levels. It took me a while to realize that each street was filled with shops and restaurants, something I only knew from shopping streets in Germany and Finland. No matter in which street I went they were lined with hundred of shops next to each other and people all around. But it wasn’t till my first journey during evening hours around the small side streets of Xi’an that it made click and I comprehended that I really arrived in another culture.
You see in the little German city I grew up the stores closed latest at 8pm and already before that magical time the streets were abandoned as if they had rolled up the sidewalks. In Finland it was no different except the occasional partygoers at weekends in Helsinki. So what made me comprehend that I arrived in another world? It was already dark and those little side streets were packed with people. Not so much as for trying to still get some late shopping done but to socialize at the restaurants and street kitchens. Everywhere people were sitting outside on plastic stools around small tables filled with food and more often than not countless bottles of beer. The ever-present mouth-watering smell of different foods all around overloading the brain for a decision on what to buy first.
In Finland were we lived back then it was near complete silence at evening time. Only the occasional car passing by or some animal sounds but nothing more. I was so used to the quiet of the night that I walked around the streets of Xi’an with utter disbelieve on what I saw and heard. Loud chatter coming from the groups of people clouded around those little tables, some vendors selling melons on the street praising the quality of their goods, silent death scooters cruising around managing somehow not to collide with anyone and of course the awkward tourist here and there.
The city was full during day time and alive but it all paled in comparison to what the city was like during evening hours. It got dark by seven pm and this would mean in my hometown that it is dark except some street lights. But there in Xi’an it wasn’t dark, no it bright everywhere. Colourful signs at each shop and restaurant and nearly all buildings illuminated by lights reminded me on those old Hong-Kong movies I used to watch in my youth. Each small street felt like a treasure to be discovered as each one had their unique feeling and groups of people. Later on my travels to China I would always enjoy going out for a walk around the streets in the evening as it somehow felt special to me.
I know that this description of Xi’an fits basically most cities in China or Asia however that city has been the place I spent most of my time in during my holidays in China for the past years. Each time before traveling to China I get excited about the holiday itself but I am especially looking forward to those small evening walks and enjoying the food from the street kitchens. This blog post has been existing already for a couple of years but somehow I never got around posting it. This post is pretty much different than my usual stuff as there is no Nathan, MIL or anything about my crazy family, just my experiences and feelings when thinking about time spent in China and enjoying the time there.
What do you connect with Asian cities during evening hours?
Be sure to follow me also on Facebook and on Twitter as I will post there occasionally pictures which do not find their way into my blog posts.