Tag Archives: Xi’an

What my father saw in China

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.

Going to some temple in Xi’an

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.

The “Old Old city Wall” within/ under the “Old City Wall” in Xi’an

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!

The Howling Monkey in pink, one of my father’s Archenemies

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!”.

An ocean of flowers at the Slender West Lake in Yangzhou

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?

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Plans for the new apartment

Following my last article about the new apartment I have some new developments to write about. First of all I am sorry that I didn’t manage to do so last weekend but some basic company related mess kept me away from writing anything. For everyone who doesn’t know about this apartment and does not want to read through the whole blog post from two weeks ago called “This and that” I will give you a quick summary.

My parents in-law are about to buy a new apartment in Xi’an. This apartment is roughly 25% cheaper for them through some reason I still don’t really understand, it involves somehow them being former workers at that factory which used to be on the grounds of that new apartment block. Two weeks ago I wrote that I am not too happy about them buying that apartment as it is first of all far away from the city center and second of all it would also mess up their daily lives as they need to commute everywhere by bus and thus making everything harder and more expensive.

Those lovely buildings in the background is where my in-laws are living right now

For the past twenty’ish years they have been living right in the city center of Xi’an within the old city walls. Sure the area is not the prettiest around as the buildings haven’t been taken care of at all ever since their existence but it had some certain feeling to it as most neighbours know  each other, on the streets in front of the buildings you can have all kind of delicious food, all kind of stores are all around there and it feels just real. In short it is for me the real Chinese city life, not those fancy malls or new skyscraper apartment blocks. My parents joked when they first saw the area that it looks like Germany after WWII (which my father even witnessed so there must be some truth to it). My in-laws apartment is in stark contrast to the outside of the building as everything was nicely renovated six years ago and everything inside is more “western” orientated with the basic Chinese kitsch to top it off.

Yeah this is me with long hairs eating an apple in my in-laws old apartment

The new apartment they want is in another area of the city which used to be an old industrial site. Apparently both of my in-laws used to work there (also the entire rest of the family as far as I know) and now they all got some nice discount on buying apartments there. My in-laws are planning to buy a 98m² (1055f²) apartment which would be about 1/3 bigger than their old one. Of course in China those 98m² are not actually the entire living space you buy as some of those m² are counted into the stairway and what not all so I believe the new apartment will be 85m² at most. Next to the new apartment buildings are the old buildings of the factory workers which are also in a terrible condition. There crazy granny still lives with crazy Uncle and his family (they already purchased the biggest available apartment in the new building). All around there is actually not much to do. There are not even many street kitchens, during daytime you can by only some watermelons from one vendor and there are some car repair place, nothing more. The nearest supermarket is 20 minutes away by walking so all in all it is not really a dream location.

Now to the apartment itself. The apartment is right now pretty much bare brickwork (okay it is concrete) without anything but some windows and the piping done. This means after you purchase such apartment you still have to invest tons of money. What else is not that great is the layout of the apartment which is in my opinion (everyone we asked) really bad, especially the kitchen is the size of a small storage room and I do not know how they will fit anything inside there. As they have installed already windows you can’t purchase yourself proper windows. In China the basic windows you get are some kind of “sliding” windows and they have as much insulation as a sheet of paper. All in all it is a real mess.

What is the new development when it comes to the apartment? You see my wife and I already convinced them to keep the old apartment as its value will increase a lot once plans are made for tearing it down and building a new apartment block there (not one of those ugly skyscrapers but something more traditional looking and not that high as it is within the city walls). After we brought our concerns forward regarding how hard life would be for them when living there they started to think about it themselves. MIL quickly realized that there would be no shopping for her any longer and that she would have to travel for over half hour to her dancing lessons and classes (half hour in case there is no traffic so it is more like one hour for a normal day). Also FIL would not be able to go to his table tennis sessions everyday as it would be the same as with his wife too: much traveling.

This is just 10 minutes away from the old apartment…

Right now they still want to buy that apartment but no longer want to live in it. They also do not plan on renting it out at all! They just want to buy it and leave it in its current condition. As they can get the apartment 25% cheaper they want to wait for a few years and then sell it with a nice profit. I must admit that I kind of like the idea especially as 300k RMB (~45k$) are not from their own pocket but from another source located in another country…

Would you move to such new location? What do you think about my in-laws new plan?

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The Countryside Experience for the Wealthy

Over the years we have been several times to China. Xi’an is the place where we had spent most of our time so I also learned one or two things about the city. One of those things I learned is where you want to have an apartment in case you got a bit more spare money on you. Yes I am talking about the Qujiang New District 曲江新区which was at first only for tourism but evolved quickly into a real district. What makes the place so interesting for people with some money? It looks just great with parks around, a lake and tons of shopping malls growing like mushrooms here and there. Also the apartment blocks are bit more luxurious than the standard ones you find in other city districts as they even have their own parks in the inner yard with ponds and tiny temples.

Ain’t a bad place to have an apartment at

One friend of my wife had the luck and got one of the apartments there and now my little story starts. That friend is someone my wife knows since Elementary school and was always a bit wealthier than others around. She married a prince charming who studied in the UK and these days they live in the above mentioned area. Now what is so interesting about the younger generation in China who grew up in big cities is that they kind of lost the connection to nature and rural life. Sure it is wonderful to take walks around the parks in that area in Qujiang New District but it is not really a natural landscape. So what do younger people do when they get bored with going around shopping malls, eating in luxury restaurants or buying food in overpriced supermarkets? They leave the city for a few hours to experience the village life, or what they think the real village life is like.

Nearby the guesthouse, you can see Xi’an in the background

This year we joined them for such trip into the rural depths of Shaanxi. Mind you I don’t complain here as it was a relaxing trip in a nice surrounding with wonderful food. However it is a bit amusing to see how these people think about life in rural areas. So what kind of place we would visit in order to experience village life? Of course a fancy guest house on a mountain slope just outside the city. With fancy guest house I really do mean a fancy guest house. We were eating in guest houses before and none of them got even close to this one. The whole little village was a bit better looking than what I had gotten used to over the years. While driving up the village road I noticed that nearly each building was a guesthouse with nice cars parking outside. Once we reached our guesthouse I was somehow not surprised anymore to see a collection of BMW’s, Mercedes and Audi in the yard.

Part of the Guesthouse

The building itself was not so different from the normal guest houses you might encounter in China just a bit bigger and very nicely decorated. The main attraction here was their garden which was turned into a small restaurant with big shady trees and a bamboo fence all around to keep unwanted eyes away from the wealthy patrons. There was even an interesting self-made bamboo waterplay going around next to the fence which caught the attention of the playing children. The patrons who were not busy eating or drinking coffee were lounging in the swinging seats or in one of the hammocks. The more adventurous people were even taking short hikes up the mountain till they reached some run down houses and turned back in fear. All this while taking tons of Selfies posing in this village surroundings.

Latest at this spot most visitors rushed back to their guesthouses

By now you might be wondering why there are not specific pictures of this village, the guesthouse or other things I described. I was not allowed! For one there was some strange tower/ bridge like metal construction with military personnel and I was not allowed to take really any pictures there and the second reason being that some of the patrons were people who do not wish to appear in any kind of photo making it impossible to do anything within the guesthouse. For me it is just so interesting how this all is happening. The friend of my wife and her husband were so amazed by the hammocks and that there were chicken on the street, it just blew my mind. I mean scenes which are for me just normal in China seems to be something the “upper class” has no contact with or idea about. It seems just so surreal that these normal things are something special for them and they even pay for it to see it. I must say that this particular village/ the guesthouses certainly found good way to make money, by simply giving wealthier people a polished version of the countryside life.

Have you ever experienced something similar? I just lack the words and can only sum it up as “fake countryside for rich people”.

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