I was lucky enough to return to China for one special week in September. Having lived out there before, teaching English for 6 months in Chengdu, I was itching to return. On this trip, I visited Beijing and Shanghai, both for a second time, and a day trip to Ningbo as well.
I only spent a day and a half in Beijing, but made the most of my time there. I stayed at Leo Hostel, close to Tiananmen Square (Qianmen metro station), which is down one of the narrow streets off the main road. The really narrow alleyways are called hutongs, and offer a glimpse into the locals’ community-style way of living. A little while later, I still wasn’t feeling jetlagged so I headed to Changying station where I met an old friend. We’d met as teachers back in 2014, and he’d stayed on to teach in Beijing. We went to his friends house for dinner and ate chilli con carne which wasn’t what I thought my first meal back in China would be! Later that evening, I headed back to the hostel, and got talking to one of my roommates, Yang. We were staying in a 6 bed dorm, and we arranged for us all to visit the Forbidden City the next day.
After a delicious breakfast of dumplings (10 vegetable and 10 pork) from the restaurant across the road, we set off towards Tiananmen Square. We were from all over the place- Israel, Spain, Ecuador, England- but that’s one of the great things about travelling, and staying in shared dormitories, you just meet everyone! The Forbidden City was simply breathtaking in its size, and it seemed endless! We spent around 3 hours there, but that was just walking from south to north! Afterwards, we went to Jingshan Park, which is just over the road from the Forbidden City. If you climb to the highest pagoda, it should give you a great view of the city, but due to bad air pollution, we couldn’t see much!
That evening, us girls in the dorm went in search of a manicure, but unfortunately to no avail. We did get to walk through a quiet hutong though, so it turned out to be a cultural visit! We headed back to the hostel, and stayed at the bar that night instead of heading out (being a tourist is hard work, after all). I left Beijing early the next morning, and caught a high speed train that would take me onto Shanghai. The train travelled at 307km/hour, and took 6 hours to get to Shanghai. I will always remember the train views being breathtaking. When I took the train from Chengdu to Guilin, we were trailing between huge, high mountains, with low-roofed houses and vast farmlands. And on this journey, from Beijing to Shanghai, I tried to see as much as I could on the other side of the window. Trucks flying down dirt tracks with waves of dirt kicked up in a giant wave behind; orange-roofed houses clustered together in fields; small cars crossing bridges that ran over little lakes and rivers; tall buildings with large, red characters naming the important companies they housed. We passed a mountain with four giant, white characters spelling something out towards the top, and then endless buildings with the red Chinese flag flailing in the wind.
And then, as we pulled into Shanghai, the next adventure was ready to begin…