-note： this blogpost was supposed to go online a while ago (today is day 33 if I’m not mistaken), but the internet is so crappy… I also tried to upload pictures but that also failed completely-. -note 2: managed to upload some pictures!-
Almost 10 days after my previous blogpost! I went to Xishuangbanna, which is a city in southern Yunnan. I absolutely loved it. We took the bus to Hangzhou airport and got on our plane, which had a stop in Guilin (also Yunnan), but we didn’t have to get off and board another plane, which was nice. The flight took about 5 hours, which was longer than I had expected (but I also didn’t expect a stop in Guilin so that’s why). We arrived around 7:30 PM and took a taxi to our hotel, which was just outside the city center, across a river, in another part of town. The architecture there was stunning, not at all what I had expected. The vibe in the city is also very different from Hangzhou, it feels a lot more relaxed and easy going. The room in the hotel was clean and neat, the airconditiong was working properly, free Wi-Fi and had a western style bathroom. Needless to say I was already very content.
In the five days we were in Xishuangbanna we visited numerous places of which the Ji Nuo mountain village was among the most interesting. The Ji Nuo are a ethnical minority (also known as 少数民族) who were discovered not that long ago (max. 20 years ago if I remember correctly). We got there by taxi, and that same taxi driver also took us to a rainforest park. That park was actually quite a ways out, and when we arrived there, I heard a Chinese guy say: “Hey look, a foreigner”. That was actually the first time that I heard someone say that. In the rainforest park we “encountered” another minority, and they were kind of taken aback by my foreign appearance. The women were really nice and just wanted to touch my hair, skin and look at my eyes, but the guys were kind of intimidating and scary. However, they didn’t lay a finger on me (thank god) but they kept staring at me in a very uncomfortable way. (The scenery was beautiful though!)
Also very interesting and beautiful was the wild elephant park. The park itself is actually very big and more like a nature reservoir where a large group of Asian elephants roams around freely. We took the cableway to the endpoint and we walked back to the entrance. The view from the cablecart was amazing, and the cableway took about 15 to 20 minutes to get from start to finish. We didn’t see any wild elephants however, also not on the way back. Bad luck!
On the last day we just went to discover the center of Xishuangbanna a bit more, but it was so ridiculously hot that we spent most of our time in the Walmart, browsing around. When it was time we took a taxi back to the airport and got on the plane back to Hangzhou. This time the flight only took about 3 hours (it was a direct flight), and we arrived back in Hangzhou around 00:30 AM.
So today is Thursday the 22nd of September 2016. I’ve been in Hangzhou for almost 2 full weeks but it feels like I’ve been here for a month at least. Classes have started, and I’m in level 5 (upper intermediate). The classes I have are grammar, speaking, reading and writing. So far speaking is the most interesting and difficult class, the rest is okay, so I think this level is best for me.
I have discovered Hangzhou a bit more: West Lake, Feilai Peak, Broken Bridge and some parts of the shopping district (once I have received the scholarship money I’ll definitely go there to buy some more clothes and cosmetics). I have started to really Hangzhou and I’m sure that there is a lot more to discover, so I’ll keep you updated!
Tomorrow I’m leaving for Yunnan for 5 days (to Xishuangbanna to be exact, a small town near the border of Laos –> tropical climate) which is supposed to be a gorgeous place. I’ll definitely upload some pictures when I get back next week.
There still a couple of things that haven’t been properly been “set up” yet : the only thing that we hear about the scholarship money is that we will receive an email or a phone call about it, which is super vague. I also still have to go to the police station for my residence permit but apparently it is crazy busy so we will go on the 29th or 30th.
I have really started to miss cheese and some other Dutch foods though! 😦
Anyways, this was update 4, see you next time! (following updates will contain some more info about living in China, being a foreigner, food, etc. )
Today is Sunday, the 11th of September 2016. I’ve been in Hangzhou for three days now and I have to say it really is something. Let me start at the beginning ; we flew from Brussels to Beijing, a flight which was quite comfortable (partly because no one was sitting behind us and we were able to lean our seats all the way back), but it really did take ages. 9.5 hours is a lot longer than you would think. When we arrived at Beijing we had to go through immigration first (which sounds a lot worse than it actually was), get our suitcases, go through customs and check them back in again for our flight to Shanghai. It was hot and humid at the airport and we were super sweaty and tired, and could not find the place where we were supposed to check our bags back in again. Eventually we did find it, checked in, and went through security. The second flight to Shanghai only took about 2 hours, and once when we were properly up in the air you could really see a layer of smog covering the land when you looked down.
Once landed in Shanghai Hongqiao airport we could immediately retrieve our bags and then find our way to the train station. The train station was actually on the third floor of the building and after a 15 minute walk we arrived, booked a ticket, and waited on our train to Hangzhou to arrive. Boarding the train was easy and went in a very orderly fashion. About an hour later, we arrived in Hangzhou (which was around half past 1 in the afternoon). We hopped on to a cab and told our driver where we needed to go. The driver was very nice, but the traffic was completely insane, extremely chaotic. After a 30 minute drive we arrived at the gate which was closest to the building where we needed to check in. We announced ourselves present and we received the keys to our “apartment”. This is where my expectations flew out the window, and not for the right reasons. From the outside, the building looks very old and kind of.. gross. The word gross got another meaning when we actually opened the door to our apartment and found out the one of the toilets was just a hole in the ground… When you haven’t slept in over 27 hours, sweating, aching, and arrive at your apartment where you will be staying in for the coming months and it’s like this, you can imagine the disappointment.
Anyhow, our room itself is actually okay. It has working air conditioning, the beds are a reasonable size, and there is a lot of (dirty) storage space. My classmate and I are sharing one room, which I think is better than sharing your room with a ‘random’ stranger.
After dropping our bags and doodling around for a little bit, we decided to go look for the Wallmart which was supposed to be near the campus, to buy water, food, etc. We could not find it at first (it’s behind a really big sports stadium) but eventually we did, and I have to say, it is the best supermarket I have ever been to in my life (so far). It has everything you could ever want to buy for your normal everyday life, in one huge store. However, by walking around the city for a while, I really noticed how bad the smog was and realized that I would definitely need a mouth mask.
So that was basically day one. On the next day we properly registered ourselves at the international college building and we bought a Chinese sim card . Also, we went to Wallmart again with our other housemates, to buy cleaning stuff and some appliances.
So today is the third day and we explored the campus some more (when we went back from Wallmart on the first day it was already dark and we got lost on campus) and went to Starbucks. At the moment it is 6.30 PM and we are about to go out for dinner. Tomorrow we will have our placement tests and hopefully be able to get Wi-Fi in our room. The classes won’t start until Monday the 19th so we have some time to find some shopping malls and visit West-Lake.
“Do I have enough socks with me..?” I wonder as I look at my suitcase. I can barely close it so I assume I have enough of everything in there. Tomorrow is departure day, so the last few days I have been stuffing my face with everything that I probably won’t be able to eat for a while : dark chocolate, all sorts of cookies, ice cream, pepernoten, more chocolate.. I’ve been on a constant sugar-high.
My emotions so far have been very mixed : stressed out about packing, sad for leaving my beloved horses behind, anxious, excited and happy that I’m really going to do this. I feel like I’m ready and I hope that I am. I have no clue what to expect except for some really hot sticky sweaty weather (Hangzhou – currently about 30 degrees Celcius and a 60% humidity).
I’m just really glad and relieved that a classmate is coming along with me and that we can make this trip together. For now, thank you everyone for your sweet wishes and till the next update!
So yeah. This is my first blogpost. It’s Sunday, the 4th of September, 2016 and I’m sitting on the couch, typing away. My suitcase is almost completely packed (and not yet exceeding the weight limit!), my MP3 has the latest two albums of F.T. Island on it, and I’ve installed VPN software on my laptop and my phone, so bypassing the Great Firewall should not be an issue, but I’ll guess I find that out once I actually get there.
So here are a few details:
x. my flight departures on the 8th of September (Brussels – Beijing – Shanghai).
x. from Shanghai we’ll take the bullet train (yeah that’s right, we, I’m going together with a classmate of mine) to Hangzhou. I’ll assume we will take a cab to get from the railway station to the university, but we’ll see once we get there.
x. I’ll be attending Hangzhou Zhejiang University.
For this first blogpost I don’t have an awful lot to say but I’ll think I’ll post another update on the day before I leave.