In Your Light (China)

And my trip is done! On Thursday, we rented bikes and rode about three quarters of the 14 km city wall of Xi’An. I finally got to try a bicycle built for two! But technically, I didn’t really bike as I let my dad do most of the work 🙂 It was scary riding in the back though, having absolutely no control over where you go! After that, we went to the Shaanxi History Museum. As history isn’t really my thing and museums also aren’t really my thing either, I kind of fast forwarded through the museum and just spent the rest of my time outside. We then took a quick look at the Big Goose Pagoda before going to the airport. Then, we waited for our flight to Beijing, which ended up leaving two hours late. When we were supposed to board the plane, it still hadn’t left Beijing yet! So we didn’t arrive until about 1:30 in the morning, giving us a good excuse to sleep in the next day.

On Friday, we went to Tiananmen Square, the biggest square in the world. We didn’t get to look around too much since we went on a tour through the Forbidden City. It was so huge! It was really cool to see where the emperors used to live back in the day. My feet really hurt by the end of it though. We also got to meet a nephew of the last emperor, who we got to watch do a personalized calligraphy parchment for us. Ron took us to a market since all of us were starving after walking all day but we soon lost our appetites. This market sold everything on skewers, with a few things that I recognized as food (like grapes, apples, and chicken) and many, many things that I have never, ever considered as a source of food. Scorpions (that were still moving on the stick!), starfish, seahorses, snake, ostrich, baby birds, lizards, the list could go on… I stuck with only eating dumplings and fruit, but with the smells of everything else, it was difficult to want to eat. Cool experience though! It was also nice to be able to look at all of the little shops in the market since we hadn’t had much shopping time during our trip.

Saturday was the day we went to the Great Wall! It was about 1.5 hours to drive there from Beijing so we left early to try to beat traffic. We were lucky to actually get sunlight while we were in the Beijing area! With all of the pollution, it’s quite common to only have smog, and that’s what we got used to seeing. The steps of the Great Wall are all uneven so that if the enemy had ever been able to actually climb onto the Great Wall, it would be difficult for them to run up it. And now I know how the enemy would have felt! I hated stairs before; while hiking, I’d rather walk up the steep hill beside the stairs than walk up the stairs themselves. But doing uneven stairs… Wow. One step could be a foot and a half and the next could be a couple of inches, but you seldom would see two steps of the same height in a row. And there were really steep points on the wall without stairs too; the angle was crazy. And there were some girls doing it in high heels! After two hours, my parents and I went for lunch and did some shopping while the others continued their climb. Then, we had the long drive back to Beijing. And was it ever long! With it being a national holiday October 1st and everyone only having to work half a day that day, it seemed like absolutely everyone was on the road. That night, we went back to the market for dinner and then Lauren and I did some shopping until the stores closed.

On Sunday, we spent the morning at the Temple of Heaven. The park was really pretty, and all of the buildings were cool to see as well! After my mom had a tripping mishap, making my mom and dad go back to the hotel, the rest of us went to another neighbourhood of shops and markets. That night, one of Ron’s mom’s coworkers (the bigwig of the company in the Beijing area) wanted to take us all for dinner. We went to an extremely expensive restaurant for a Peking duck meal. He also bought a crazy expensive bottle of alcohol (63%) and after doing a, “Cheers!” with the group as a whole, he did one shot with every person sitting at the table; it was insane! Lauren, Troy, and I had quite a lot of trouble even sipping the stuff, let alone shooting it! It reminded me of the raki in Greece that I had; it burned all the way down. The bottle was finished quite fast, which we couldn’t understand since Troy, Gord, Lauren and I had two shots each maximum, meaning most of the huge bottle would have been split between three people. And after that bottle was done, he bought beer and chugged a glass with each and every person. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone drink that amount of alcohol and still be able to act somewhat normal; we were all shocked! Somehow, arm wrestling came into the picture in this nice, expensive restaurant, but luckily, the other customers seemed amused by what was going on. We went back to the market for awhile and then went back to the hotel.

Monday, we woke up extremely early (4:30) to get to the airport and catch a flight to Shanghai. We got breakfast on the plane, which probably wasn’t the best choice of food… Whose idea is it to serve hard-boiled eggs to a couple hundred people who are in an enclosed space together for the next two and a half hours? Luckily, the flight went by really fast and when we arrived in Shanghai, Yang was there to greet us! We went out for lunch to a steamed bun restaurant (which is now one of my favourite things!) and then we walked along the river. It was absolutely crazy since it was October 1st; I feel like everyone came to Shanghai to celebrate the National day. It was way too busy to try to walk around, especially while trying to keep track of eight people! Most of China takes their holidays from October 1st to 8th so we had to be prepared for it to be busy the entire week. Apparently there were 750 million locals travelling around China that week! We got settled back in the hotel and then went for dinner at a fancy restaurant. Whether the restaurants are fancy or dingy, the food is always amazing! I’ve never had a disappointing meal yet; it’s all been great!

On Tuesday, we went to the Jinmao Observatory Building, where we got to ride the elevator up to the 88th floor and get a fantastic view of Shanghai. What was even cooler was looking down the centre of the building and being able to see every single floor all the way down to the floor of the lobby. We headed to the airport to drop off Troy and Gordan, and to have one last lunch together. Then the rest of us drove to our next destination, Suzhou. We were luckily right in the centre of a night market and because we were back with Yang, I was able to do some shopping again! I found two more purses and then the next morning, I found some new clothes at Cache Cache (they’re all over China too, yay! – but the clothes have a much more Asian look to them haha). After shopping Wednesday morning, we went to the Humble Administrator’s Garden, a crowded but beautiful Chinese garden. It would have been much nicer to see without so many people though! We had lunch and then headed to our next town, Wuzhen, a water town similar to Venice but not. It was extremely crowded so we didn’t get to see much that night but the next morning, we got up early enough to see the park without so many people around. We all took a gondola ride down the river, which was fun! We then went back to Yang’s hometown, Hangzhou, which is where we spent the rest of our time in China. Evan had been staying with Yang’s mom so he was pretty excited to see his mom and dad again!

On Friday, we spent most of the day at the Hangzhou Safari Park. It started with us driving past lions, giraffes, zebras, camels and more (with many of them coming right up to the vehicle!) and then we parked and walked through the rest, which was pretty much like a zoo. The conditions were pretty depressing at most times, and most people ignored the, “Do not feed the animals” rule. I’d see baby monkeys chewing on plastic candy wrappers and stuff like that; it was sad. But I got to see my first panda, which was cool! Evan loved seeing all of the animals as well; I think we all had more fun watching him than watching the animals. That night, we went to the night market to look around and find stuff to buy. I don’t think anyone actually bought anything but it was still fun to look at everything.

On Saturday, we went to a tea restaurant on a hill to relax and not do any sightseeing (finally). However, we didn’t know ahead of time that we would be doing this and had I known, I would have brought a book or SOMETHING to keep myself occupied. After six hours, I was nearly in tears because I was so bored. I wasn’t used to being isolated with no choice of where I could go; I had been travelling for nine weeks, deciding absolutely everything I could do. So I think it was just hard for me to sit there and do absolutely nothing when I could be out walking around or shopping or something. You can only stare into space for so long, right? We headed back to the hotel and worked on packing our suitcases, since we had all acquired a lot more stuff since we first got to China. My mom and I luckily escaped dinner that night; we were so sick of Chinese food, always having to wonder what we were eating and if our stomachs could handle it. We found an English pub and got pasta and got to eat with forks and spoons. It was a nice break!

On Sunday, we spent most of the day shopping and strolling around the lake. That evening, Yang came to pick us up and we went out for dinner with her mom and some more of her family. Both Ron and Yang’s family were so hospitable, even though we couldn’t communicate with each other at all. They’d bring us gifts, take us out for dinner, or give us a ride (or lend their car) any time, even though they had just met us. It was really amazing! I truly felt welcome by both of their families. After dinner, Yang, Ron, and Evan came back to our hotel so we could do some final visiting before they went back to Yang’s mom’s house.

On Monday morning, my mom, dad and I got a ride to the Hangzhou bus station so that we could take the 2-hour bus ride (which ended up being a 3-hour bus ride) to the Shanghai airport. I was supposed to make the trip alone since my flight left two hours before everyone else’s, but luckily my parents decided to go with me. Otherwise, I’d have to carry two big suitcases, my backpack, my purse, and my Chinese musical instrument that I bought (ha) all by myself, and I don’t think that would have went over very well. Because the bus was so late, I didn’t have much time to check in my bags (no extra costs, yay!) and go through security. Then I had a quick final meal (noodles with chopsticks, how could I not?) before boarding my plane for the 10 hour 40 minute flight. For the first time in my life, I crossed the international date line so I’ve basically been able to live Thanksgiving Monday twice! Neither time with turkey though 😦 Now I’m back in Canada! The first thing I could smell when I walked through the airport was Tim Horton’s, and then I saw its heavenly beam of light shining down, just taunting me since I couldn’t have any until I got through customs. It was so awesome to be around English again! To hear people speaking it, to hear it on tv, on the radio (the first song I heard was the overplayed “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye and I was actually happy to hear it!), I got to SEE English: on restaurants, on buildings, on magazines (ah, I think I’ll buy one!)… I have a 4-hour layover in Vancouver, then I fly to Edmonton, which is when I’ve officially went completely around the world! Then I wait in Edmonton for an hour and I arrive in Saskatoon around 5:30. I’m so excited to be home! I definitely started getting anxious towards the last week of China; I was ready to just go back. The weird thing was, everyone else was ready to go back as well, even though they had only been gone for two weeks. What amateurs… Haha so excited to see everyone when I get home! It definitely hasn’t felt like three months at all. And no, I didn’t bring souvenirs for anyone, just so you all know ahead of time; sorry. Thanks to everyone who kept up with my blog (I hope there are people still reading it??!)! And that, my friends, is the story of how I went around the world in 91 days 🙂 Love always

In Your Light – Gotye