My last weekend in China was the midsummer weekend and we decided to travel somewhere but we had no idea where. A friend of ours recommended Pingyao and we decided to go there. The day before we left Beijing was struck by the worst rain in 6 years. It rained and rained and rained. The morning after it was still raining and it was incredibly difficult to find a cab. Luckily the guy who usually drives my mom to work when it’s raining was outside (he drives a bicycle taxi). He took us to the tube station and we went to the place where we were suppose to change. I think I checked 3 different apps and googled the connection yet when we arrived it didn’t exist. So we had to go back a station and now we were late. We were basically running all the way there and in the end we arrived 30 minutes early. Funny how time works.
Anyways, in China there are 3 types of train; High-speed, fast and slow train. I’ve only taken the high-speed before to Shanghai and it was a high-speed train again. It took us 4 hours to get to Pingyao. On the way there we had a 5 (ish) year old Chinese boy who started telling us all random English words over and over again (counting to 5, colours, etc…) When we arrived a ton of people wanted us to ride with them to Pingyao (the train station was a bit outside town). We do not like people who run up to us (+ it’s usually a scam) so we started scanning for legit taxis but could only find one that was already occupied. So we started heading for the bus and the guy following us kept saying “bus no go Pingyao, no Pingyao”. Guess what? The bus did go to Pingyao. So we took the bus. It cost us 1 SEK each.
Pingyao Ancient City is in the middle of Pingyao surrounded by the “modern” city. Apparently in 1997 when they put it on UNESCO world heritage list they threw most people out of the ancient city into the modern. Now it mostly consists of small stores and tons of museums for different things such as bodyguard museum, weapon museum and bank museum.
We lived inside the ancient city in one of the courtyard hotels which surprisingly was very cheap. The first night we bought our tickets (one ticket for the entire city) and visited the court and prison. The prison was apparently in use up until the 1950s. The next day we met our guide and visited the bank (first bank in Asia), bodyguard museum and then afterwards we took a cab to a big courtyard museum outside the city. The last day we visited the weapon museum and ring wall. I even got to try archery at one place.
I started writing this post, paused and then realised I had forgotten what I wanted to write so I apologize for it being short. Pingyao is definitely worth a visit, especially considering how cheap it is to visit. Tickets back and forth is about 600 SEK and the hotel cost about 100/night/person. It’s extremely beautiful. The only downside is that once you’ve seen one house, you’ve seen them all. They pretty much look the same. Also Pingyao is famous for its vinegar which doesn’t smell very good and while walking through the town you could suddenly be hit right in the face with the smell of the vinegar. Yuck. It was also very interesting because I only saw 2 or 3 western parties in the city. People were very curious about us to say the least.
Also finishing this off with a picture I found on my mom’s phone. A lady wanted to take a picture of me together with her kids. Fun stuff.
At last I have finally taken the time to write about Inner Mongolia. I have around 300 pictures so I couldn’t fit them all but I hope I didn’t add too many.
This post starts with Thursday the 15th of June. I was suppose to have my writing exam between 8-10. The flight left at 10:50 which means there was no way I could sit the full time and make the flight. I had however, based on my previous exam, predicted to be done in less than an hour which I was and ended up at the airport somewhere around 9:45. We flew from Beijing to somewhere in the middle of China and drove for 2 hours to a town called Zhongwei. We went out for dinner and noticed that exactly EVERYONE was staring at us. It seemed like they weren’t too used to tourists. After that we went to sleep. The next day when we went for breakfast we noticed they had no “breakfast”, only asian breakfast which is basically lunch. After that we took a car to the corner of the desert and changed to the car in the topmost picture. We thought it was to drive us straight to our camp. It didn’t. Afterwards we were told it was called something like dune surfing or whatever but what it was was basically a roller coaster. The car (which was enormous) went up and down sand dunes very fast which basically threw you around in the car like a glove. After that we were let off for lunch which was lukewarm beer and soup. We were told that we were to ride camels for 3 hours (!) and then walk back. So we mentally prepared ourself and waited. After a while the camels arrived and we started riding. No amount of mental preparation can prepare you for a camel standing up/lying down. Mine went down like it was diving for something in the sand. We started riding out into nowhere but for some reason Emil’s camel always started moving sideways. After an hour the camel driver decided that it was enough (thank god) and we started walking back. It took us almost 2 hours to walk back. We had basically no idea where we were going and our guide (not the driver) had absolutely no idea what she was doing. 3 times she sat down because she got too tired to walk and we asked her multiple times if she wanted to ride but she refused to as she “had to take care of the guests”.
When we finally got back we noticed that they had put up our tents and started cooking dinner. For dinner we basically got lukewarm beer and barbecued meat. They also gave us a kind of red hot dog that you eat on sticks in China. I ate 2. I haven’t been able to eat a sausage ever since, that’s how bad I feel every time I think of them. We decided to climb up on the dune just behind our tent and watch the sunset. It was fantastic. After that we went to bed. Emil and Ebba shared one tent while my parents shared another one and I got the last one for my self that was a bit smaller. It turned out that they all were model Chinese. I had to lie diagonally to fit and even then my head was poking one corner and my feet the other one. And there was an insane amount of flies/mosquitos. The following morning we woke up for the sunrise for some reason and then went back to bed. For breakfast we were served a kind of sweet bread (sockerkaka typ. Luckily we had brought some bars so I could at least get something to eat. After that we headed back. The guide invited us to some kind of lavender farm so we spend 2 hours there going around a golf court that wasn’t a golf court but instead a “grass park” (it is forbidden to build golf courts in China for some reason). We then continued to the airport and waited for about 7 hours there as that was the only flight we could take back.
I’m very happy that I got to try out my new lens that I bought in Japan (18-200mm), it turned out to take some great photos. Hopefully I will be able to upload my photos from Pingyao this weekend as well and then after that a normal post about this week. Cheerio!
It’s insane how fast time passes but we’ve now entered my last week in 中国. We got back home late last night from Pingyao and I went for a swim together with the ambassador’s son Valdemar. We had decided to go for some sightseeing so today we spent our morning at the Lama temple and at the Confucius temple. After that we headed back to Sanlitun to have lunch. On our way to the restaurant we noticed a long motorcade coming with flashing lights and sirens. We both grabbed our cameras but somehow both of us managed to fail to record it, sadly. It was definitely something worth seeing with police officers blocking the streets. We had lunch at the cockroach and headed back to the embassy. Everyone who worked there was out at the lawn to take a picture with the Swedish prime minister who’s visiting China this week to take part in the World Economic Forum in Dalian. I was also able to take a picture with him. It feels really cool to have met and spoken to the most powerful man in Sweden #hubris. After that we decided to head to Wangfujin which is a food market close to Tian’anmen Square. They sold EVERYTHING on sticks; scorpions, squid, fish, tofu. Absolutely everything. It was quite fascinating. After that we walked to Tian’anmen and took a taxi back to the cockroach (again) to meet up with some friends for beer. It’s now getting late (00:33) and I realise that I still haven’t gotten around to fix the pictures from Mongolia and Pingyao. Will probably not do it until I get home from China (sorry). Den som väntar på något gott…
Last week we visited Inner Mongolia and had a lot of fun but I haven’t been able to look at the pictures yet so on Sunday/Monday when I get back from another trip I will make a separate post about the desert. You’ll have to do with 1 picture for now from my phone.
Today was my graduation. In the schools auditorium we had the ceremony with awards, performances etc, it was fun. During the entire semester I’ve been afraid that I’ll fail and therefore I haven’t applied for student loans (CSN). It came as a big surprise when I ended up having 87, 89 and 92 out of 100 total in writing, listening and speaking respectively. After that our teacher 徐老师 invited us for lunch so we went to a traditional Beijing restaurant. The food was absolutely amazing. Since it was raining really badly me and Alex decided to go to the internet café together with Ruizhi (a korean girl). When it stopped raining I started to get home and when I finally arrived at my subway station it was poring down so badly I had to get a taxi and leave my bike knowing that I’d have to pick it up later today as I’m going away tomorrow. The rain did not stop. Ever. It just got worse. So I went to get my bike and got wet to the bone. Now we’re packing and preparing for tomorrow as my mom and I are going to Pingyao, one of Chinas ancient cities. Exciting, except for the 4 hour train ride there. Sometimes you forget how big China is.
It’s been a really long time since the last update but not much interesting has happened recently. Next week is my last school week with 3 days of school and 2 exams. As we’re going to Inner Mongolia on Friday I’ll do my exam on Monday instead which is great. Really excited about this trip, we’re going out into the desert to sleep in jurts, sandsurf, ride camels etc. Hopefully I will be able to take some nice pictures with my new camera lens.
We’ve also celebrated the national day with the Swedish embassy. It was interesting, I finally got to eat meatballs again for the first time in four months. My dad, Emil and Ebba also arrived last weekend so we’ve got a full house at the moment. Lastly I’ve also been babysitting for my mom’s colleague’s daughter which has been fun as it’s been a while since I last babysat.
Since I didn’t have many pictures for today I figured I could add one from last year when we visited North Korea which is the most recent family picture we have.
It’s been quite a while since I last. I’ve planned to do it several times but something else always popped up so I’m going to try to summarize what’s happened since my last post. I’ve finally gotten my passport back with my new Visa so I can go to Tokyo next weekend which I’m very excited about. I also had another visitor that arrived just after Frida left which meant I had to redo all the sightseeing again. While we had a lot of fun it’s nice to finally be able to go back to normal after 3 weeks of sightseeing. The big exception however is that we visited the Great wall at Jinshanling (see pictures above). It took 4 hours due to massive queues during labour holiday but it was so worth it. There were almost no tourists and it wasn’t restored either so it was very cool to see. Since it also zigg-zagged a lot it resulted in quite a view. The weather was absolutely sublime at a steady 33 degrees. Then it took us another 4 hours back. Still worth it though.
Then it was time for Valborg. For those that do not know Valborg is a festival celebrated at the end of April and usually results in people sitting in a park drinking alcohol. Beijing was not an exception. Young Professionals organized a get together or whatever you want to call it in Chaoyang park where we played Kubb and had a good time together. On the way to our massage Sophia and I came across a very interesting situation. At an intersection cars were waiting to turn left and the light was red. The 2nd car honked and honked and honked and then he just got out of his car and started banging on the other guys windshield. I guess he had someplace to be.
Today I had lunch in the school cantine for the first time. All the food was displayed in big trays and you had to point at whatever you wanted, no english description. It was rather interesting and I managed to get edible food which is definitely not something you can expect here in China. On my way home I managed to find a truck belonging to my employer. The work morale in China seems to be a bit lower than in Sweden and the driver had decided to take a nap. We’re also in the middle of a sandstorm so the weather is kind of bad right now with the AQI way of the charts (500 is max for the scale, it’s currently on 900…). I also had a Skype call with Fiona the other day and we browsed extremely expensive homes that we’d probably never afford but it was a lot of fun. The quality on Skype wasn’t the best though but sometimes you have to make due with what you’ve got. That’s all for me this time.
So last week passed by extremely quickly. Every day we’ve visited different parts of Beijing. The hutongs, summer palace, Beihan park, my school and so on. I wasn’t feeling very well come Thursday and had to visit the doctor but (sadly) the didn’t find anything. On Friday we went for dinner with some friends at the cockroach, beers at the german pub and later on karaoke. We had some problem finding an ATM so we were running back and forth for money as we were going on a tour the following day. We finally got home at 3.00 and got to sleep for 3 hours before getting up to go see the Ming Tombs and the great wall. It was the first time that I visited the ming tombs and I must say that they were quite the disappointment. The wall on the other hand is nice as always and we the weather was amazing. As part of our tour we had to visit a jade factory and a tea house which was pretty dull but it kept the price of the transport down. When we got home from the tour we were so tired that we almost fell asleep instantly. We ended up ordering takeout.
On Sunday we checked off the 2nd last item on our list; the Temple of Heaven. Being so close to the Pearl Market we also ended up doing some shopping. Later that night we went out for burgers and beer at my favourite place, Great Leap. After that we rounded up our week at a cool, hidden bar that has the most amazing drinks. When we finally got home we couldn’t find our keys. After some moments of panic we called a locksmith who opened the door. When we got in we found the key in Fridas bag. An interesting end to a fun day. Worth mentioning is also that the elevator has been broken for a week now and we live on the 7th floor…
Been a while since the last posts but the days just fly by and suddenly a week has passed without you noticing it. My weekend started very dramatically. At about 10 on the Friday we here people shouting and chairs being thrown. It turns out that a student next door has gone bananas and is throwing punches everywhere. Me and 2 other guys rush in to help holding him down and I end up getting an elbow to the face. 4 days later though it ended up being worth it as the guy was deported, I got a USB stick as a thank you from the school and we saved a younger guy from getting beaten up. After that I had lunch with Dani (a chilean girl from my class) and we went together to the embassies as I was going to the Swedish and she was going to the Chilean (they’re in the same neighbourhood). I ended up listening to a 30 min Spanish presentation on how to vote in the chilean presidential election 2017 at the chilean embassy. It was interesting seeing how the embassy and how chilean people are. For example the remind me of french people as they kiss on the cheeks when they meet.
Later that night I went out to the airport at halv past midnight. After one hour of waiting I get a text message from Frida. It turns out that her bag was left in Moscow. At the time we expected it to arrive early Saturday morning. It didn’t arrive until Sunday afternoon which meant we had to go on a shopping spree. As we got home so late (3 in the morning) we woke up quite late and the entire day was spent at Pearl Market. Luckily we had our shopping guru with us (mom) who knew all the ways to the best shops that you’d never be able to find without a guide. One was hidden behind some fake plants and the other one was inside another. Sunday was spent in the same fashion having brunch at Solana and shopping.
Monday meant it was time for sightseeing. We (Frida) decided that we should visit 798 art district. It takes some time to get there but it’s definitely worth seeing. It’s an old abandoned military factory where they’ve opened up several hipp shops and display streetart. I bought a little motorcycle statue made of scrap metal and Frida bought a painting.
Today (Tuesday) we visited the forbidden city. It was my fifth time but it’s always nice going there. The weather was absolutely amazing as well. For the first time I visited the lookout post and it was nice, you could see the forbidden city in its entirety (see pictures above). On our way down though we managed to get lost and walked really far. Amazingly enough though we ended up in the hutongs where we wanted to be and I had frozen yoghurt.
Train stations are usually smaller and easier to navigate than airports. Except when you’re in China. Beijing has 4 train stations and they’re all the size of an airport. Makes sense though since the train rides are usually longer than most flights. Anyways, we took the train at 10 this Saturday from 北京南-station and 5 hours later we arrived in Shanghai （上海). The train trip was rather uneventful but what’s interesting about taking the train in China is that Chinese people ALWAYS have to chew on something. This means that your nose is constantly bombarded by different smells of food. I am amazed how a family can eat continuously for 5 hours but it as apparently possible. I haven’t done much this weekend except sightseeing and having drinks at skybars. Absolutely fine by me. I took the train home alone Monday night and had the Tuesday off as well as it’s tomb sweeping day. Tomorrow I’m back to school again at 8 in the morning, woho. We also have a presentation on Thursday where we’re suppose to talk about a celebrity which in my case is Morgan Freeman. I also need to hand in my passport as I need to apply for another entry into China. Will be interesting to see how it works. Friday night my friend finally arrives so I also need to start planning that. It will be an eventful weekend hopefully.
Some people might also think after reading some of my posts that I am negative towards Chinese people. Their culture is very different from the one I’ve grown up in and therefore it’s perceived as negative. The one thing that can make you extremely annoyed of Chinese people is the subway. Whenever they get on the subway a lot of them just stand in front of the door, even though there’s plenty of room in the cart. They do not move aside so you can get on which means you have to press yourself through and somehow they get annoyed because of that. Queues does not exist in China. People do not wait for you to get off the train, they will rush on as soon as the doors open. It’s an interesting country.
I was suppose to post an update last Wednesday came, then Thursday followed by Friday and finally it’s Wednesday again. Finding the time to blogg is more difficult than I expected. Anywho. As mentioned we had a calligraphy class last Wednesday. It was fun but very difficult. Sadly my ink was a bit too watery so it’s very light. The rest of the week wasn’t very exciting. We did however go to a Persian restaurant Persepolis one day, they had really nice food.
This Tuesday we finally got some good weather and we decided to play some football. On campus we have a large football field, a natatorium, basketball fields, tennis courts etc and we decided to use it. It was fun, I haven’t played football for several years.
Today we had our pinyin competition. It was divided into several segments;
As expected the highest class won but we had fun anyways. This weekend we’ll be celebrating Tomb-sweeping day which means no school Monday/Tuesday. We decided to spend the weekend in Shanghai so on Saturday we’ll be taking the train. It takes about 5 hours. Hopefully I’ll be able to post more pictures then.