Monday, 28 September 2015

Let's Introduce: Hanyang District, Wuhan!

Wuhan keeps on showing me more and more, each weekend gives me another slice of this Chinese city! Crossing the mighty Yangtze River on two occasions I wanted to see more of Hanyang, a developing Wuhan city district that's got body! Checking out Guiyuan Temple, seeing the city from a hill top park and serving some Realness at Qinqchuan Pavillion, I was ready WUH! 

Going underground I found Guiyuan Buddhist Temple without any problems, supposedly one of Wuhan's most popular temples I wanted to see what all that fussing was about! People needed to have some damn respect, kill your conversations and leave your camera alone because a temple commands respect! Feeling slightly delicate from the night before I was looking for some divine intervention from the two faced deity that's know as a Guanyin. My knowledge of Buddhism isn't good. I appreciated the main temple shrines and gardens, built in 1658 during the Qing Dynasty this Buddhist temple still gives life and protection. I won't compare the other temples that I have been to in Wuhan, each house of religion possesses a different flex and vibe, therefore I won't place judgement but I wasn't a fan of all the people who almost made the place look messy, I didn't appreciate that negative energy Hanyang! No!

Trust and believe, I wanted to get the best from Hanyang because my friends in Wuhan kept throwing shade on this developing part of Wuhan. Being based in the Optics Valley means most things are shiny and new so before Hanyang follows suit I wanted to capture some Hanyang Overness! Honestly, it's unbelievable how negative some people can be! The two faced deity at Guiyuan Temple gave me life, in a way it pushed my hangover to one side! A stark contrast was served in many ways, the backdrop for the temple was a huge span of towering flats all looking pretty council looking if I wasn't mistaken?! Nevertheless, that Buddhist deity had a watchful eye on both sides of the temple to show that being two faced isn't a complete crime! Guiyuan is a Buddhist Temple not a photo opportunity, I have no respect for people who disregard rules that are set in such a peaceful place of worship! Like a prayer, Wuhan will be taking me to more temples and shrines! Yes, Wuhan!

With my visit to Guiyuan Buddhist Temple complete I returned to Hanyang a little while later to continue my desired plan within that Wuhan city district. Away from the super-shopping centres I made my way to Guishan Park, but I didn't see one single sign for that park. Consulting a translator after my day out I found that Guishan Park is the Chinese for Tortoise Hill Park, putting that confusion to one side I was ready to see what was so special about that Hanyang park. Paying my £1.50 entrance fee I climbed to what felt like the top of Hanyang and Wuhan for the incline didn't show any signs of decreasing. As I made my way through the vast Tortoise Hill Park I could catch the occasional glimpse of Wuhan's manic cityscape, she's a city that's forever serving something truly epic! To be surrounded by trees and a simple form of nature whilst being slap bang in the middle of a crazy city was amazing! 

The Tortoise Mountain TV Tower stood in front of me, it stood vacant within the sprawl of trees and park life. Whilst walking through the park I could sense that specific parts were either under renovation or hadn't been in service for a while, it didn't affect my visitor experience but it was quite bizarre nonetheless. Things make me constantly question the safety of some things here in China for the steps down to the road were super steep and didn't have a banister, I don't do stairs so let me have that declaration! Whether there was life inside the Tortoise Mountain TV Tower I'm sure something's being down because the view would be incredible, another tourist moneymaker Wuhan could make use of?! Guishan Park had been on my tick-list of places to visit in Wuhan, I want to see everything I can possible see in this Chinese city! Pushing my fear of heights I made the best of the stunning views of the Yangtze River as I walked closer to my next Hanyang destination. Hanyang was on fire B!

Concluding my Hanyang discovery I found Qingchuan Pavilion, after researching some alternative things to see in Hanyang I came across a series of beautifully crafted sights of interest. Admission is free, I was more than OK with that because money isn't the best subject right now for me! I had no time to loose, I wanted to find the Qingchuan Pavilion building to admire the colourful paintwork and Chinese architecture that in this case dated back to the Ming Dynasty. Like most things that have been built during the 1300's some structural help has been given to the buildings of Qingchuan. Taking a moment or ten to take in the views of the Yangtze River, I could see the Yellow Crane Tower on the other side of that mighty river! A hotspot for newlyweds, a gorgeous young couple were having some wedding photos snapped at the entrance to the Pavilion, the brides dress looked flawless! Yes, that new Mrs. served up! 

Taking some steps down from the Pavilion I found a quaint courtyard that oozed Hua Mulan Realness, I frankly don't care because the many alcoves and passages gave the same scene that Disney film gave. I know the status of that Disney warrior princess is questionable and Disney's depiction of the legend of Hua Mulan but this Hanyang cultural gem served something that I could recognise from that said princess film. Getting a few timeless snaps of the many buildings that made up the compound I could leave for Guanggu feeling that I had achieved exactly what I had set out to see during my Hanyang days. Whatever change Hanyang sees in the future I know that these three gems will be in my mind and safeguarded in this blog, does everything have to be all shiny and new?! Whenever Wuhan takes me next I know that I won't be walking to the top of Guishan Park again or whatever its professed to be called! Taking everything into consideration, yes I'm hung up on Hanyang! 

Hanyang's Got This! 

Joseph Harrison 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

2015: Those September Days...

Well, well, well! September 2015 was a month that has been eventful for sure! I changed my job, no longer do I teach at that training school because its all about nursery rhymes and games in my new role. Getting down to the Optics Valley International Tennis Center to be a part of the Wuhan Open vibe I have been busy! Of course September was a hectic month! 

Unfortunately, Guanggu Square remains a continuing construction site, when will all that crazy be completed? I remember getting off the metro at Optics Valley Square Station on the 3rd of July 2015 to witness a sight of pure mayhem, there were people in every possible direction and a sea of diggers that were tearing up the centre of Optics Valley Square. Things are progressing every week but throughout September its been great to see more of the project come to life, hopefully some more news will be released about the new Wuhan Metro lines that will be making their way to the Optics Valley, Wuhan?! I try to kid myself that I'm already used to the sea of people that walk the pavements of Guanggu Square to and from the metro but it seems to be getting busier and busier! The only time this place is quiet is when I walk back from Wuhan Prison during the small hours! Cutting that crap, Guanggu needs to get it together! Now G!

Someone told me when I got to Wuhan that this Central Chinese city only has two seasons, one being Summer and the other one Winter. Backtracking to one of those September afternoons at work I noticed the temperature dip considerably, it felt like a shock to my system because the previous two months had served nothing but hot, dry sunshine. The beginning of September gave me three days off work to celebrate 'Victory Day' it was a big deal for the Chinese as they celebrated something significant from WWII. Myself and a good friend made the best of the that victorious holiday, for two of the three days we went around Wuhan to see Baotong Temple, East Lake and I even got to see the Yangtze River from a ferry boat. That unexpected long weekend was an amazing chance to paint Wuhan whatever colour we wanted, it was great to get crazy at Wuhan Prison and to find Beer Barn beside West Lake! Yes, through those September days in 2015, it was just what I needed! 

So, I parted ways with my original English teaching employer. I then gained employment at a Kindergarten in Guanggu, Wuhan at the end of August 2015. The school move was a blessing to me and that's all I'm going to say! I've been working at this Wuhan Kindergarten since September 1st 2015, I have to say that I'm loving every moment there because its fun and very different to my previous job! I have embraced those early mornings and the bus commute has started to get easier, well only in the mornings! Trading a more formal way of teaching for singing nursery rhymes and playing games with flashcards has been a breath of fresh air! I had every intention to remain in China once my previous work placement didn't pan out as expected so I trusted this new situation, its all good. Waving hello and goodbye to the children is fun, I'm love getting to know the families, it feels great to be working with real people! Okay?

I teach six lessons over the course of the day, the classes range from nursery to pre-school ages with a bridging class that I have first thing in the morning. I have the weekends off now and also benefit from having more National Holidays compared to my previous employer. I have moved on from that place and I'm enjoying each energetic class where I can just be silly and teach English at a very different level compared to before. In actual fact I get my dinner included at the school, I look forward to finishing my second nursery class in the morning so I can have my dinner and then catch a ninety minute nap before my three afternoon classes. Six classes might seem like quite a lot for one teacher but my lessons are from twenty to thirty minutes, I know those early mornings are worth something at least! The children are as cute as can be, some have the cheekiest of personalities but that's what keeps things fun! For the moment, yes I am loving being a Kindergarten teacher! 

I had never been to a real tennis match until I moved to Wuhan, China so booking a ticket for the 2015 Dongfeng Motor Wuhan Open was a gamble indeed! Falling on the 27th September 2015 I honestly didn't have a clue what bus to take, saying no to the bus I caught a taxi because my apartment is close to the Optics Valley International Tennis Center. Converting my ticket price from Chinese Yuan to British Pounds it only cost me £10.00 to see the matinee session of games at the Centre Court. World Championship tennis is relatively new to Wuhan as the first tournament of this kind was inaugurated in 2014 at the Wuhan Open. The newest addition to that Hubei sporting facility was the 'Whirlwind Stadium' that wasn't long completed before the tournament began on the 25th Septemeber 2015. Yes, I have to be honest the opening ceremony was completely bizarre, filled with typical Chinese gimmicks I witnessed. 

I stayed for the opening ceremony and six sets of the first women's tennis game of the day, during the ceremony a Chinese tennis icon made an appearance that certainly pleased the crowd to no end! That lady had to be no other than 'Li Na' a fellow Wuhaner and former world tennis champion who has become an ambassador of this Wuhan Open event if I'm not mistaken?! Playing at Centre Court was Varvara Lepchenko of the USA who was competing against China's own Saisai Zheng, it was a heated game that was played in the brand new stadium with Zheng taking an early lead but the American was victorious in the end! I was definitely rooting for China! When all is said and done I can't fault September 2015, even though starting a new job has been something to get used to again I feel blessed that I have been given a new beginning, a chance to start over again. I haven't finished with September 2015 just yet as there another post will be published about my Hanyang days of fun!

September Slayed! 

Joseph Harrison

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Victory Day 2015... Reloaded!

Always staying victorious, Wuhan had something more to show me during that September Chinese National Holiday. Street food is my favourite but I wanted to seek something different, away from the familiarity of Lumo Road. Rolling on a river, I had not seen the mighty Yangtze River properly so that was also on the list! Victory Day showed me a new side of Jianghan Qu!

Hubu Alley, now a popular side street that's gathered some serious notoriety as a tourist spot for international and Chinese visitors alike. It's not for the faint hearted at all, I even had to hold my sense of smell for short intervals because that stinky tofu made an unwelcome appearance! Passing through the grandly painted entrance to Hubu Alley I was greeted with a sea of vendors who were selling all types of Chinese fast food items, but not in the same style of 'fast food' such as McDonald's! Following my friend I didn't know what way to go and what food to choose from one of the many vendors. Bacon wasn't the only part of a pig sold at Hubu Xiang for pig's trotters and tails looked like a firm favourite from my view. I was truly spoiled for choice, settling on a piece of chicken that was stuffed with rice. Hubu Alley took me for a ride, I was glad I wasn't alone because Hubu Xiang was acting like a crazy fool! Go!

I have learnt the hard way that in China there are no queues or ordinarily fashion that I'm used to in England, so getting around a very crowded Hubu Alley took some patience. Every single cultural difference may be strange to deal with at first but I'm getting to grips with the absolute berserk vibe of this far eastern country. Grabbing several Chinese snacks we made our way to a dumpling house for some steamed mushroom delights, I thought I had my chopstick game down on lock but I had to be schooled in the art of using them to eat those delicious treats. After feasting on some other Hubu Xiang delights it was time for us to find something sweeter because its difficult to find desert kind foods in this part of China! I found some rich tasting cakes that had a peanut taste, that was just fine for me! Thankfully, I have seen Hubu Alley because it was a mad experience, I would only repeat at a quieter time. Chinese food will never be the same, nothing compares to the real thing!

Away from the craziness towards the mighty Yangtze River along Dufudi Road lies Jiangtan Park, a meeting point for the Wunhese people to chill out, meet beside their gargantuan river. Taking our time we took a stroll along the Yangtze River to be surprised that the heavens decided against opening, I was informed that the skies between the river never mix so the rain wouldn't be falling that afternoon. The original Yangtze River Bridge initially stood in-front of us, a mass of iron that effortlessly links Wuchang with Hankou. To the left of the Yangtze River Bridge looks like a replica of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge but that Wuhan suspension bridge definitely serves its own throw of Wuhan overness! Back to the edge of Jiangtan Park we could see some seriously brave people taking the plunge into the epic waters of the Yangtze River, the current was fierce! I can confirm that I won't ever be getting into that water! No way!

Using our Wuhan Tong transport passes we boarded a Wuhan River Ferry to reach the other side, taking us to the shores of Hankou. The views of Wuhan along both sides of the river was a sight I won't forget for a long while! With the ever-growing Wuhan skyline fronting us, I could tell that this Chinese City would be fashioning itself into a Manhattan style city with its own Wuhanese groove, beckoning the winds of change to build towering skyscrapers. I chose Wuhan because it was developed to a healthy level, now I can hopefully watch it grow to a new height! I really hope so! As our Yangtze River Ferry made its way closer to the shores of Hankou I tried to capture my first views of the Jianghan District, it was special! The bustle of Hubu Xiang had left us but we faced another hectic city scene, that's the thing with Wuhan its got so many personalities, each one of them have something extra to keep things fresh and new! The Yangtze River looked imposing but I love it! I think I'll stay!

Bound for some pretty coffee shops our final phase of Victory Day had us over the Yangtze River near Hankou's Central Business District. Trading the brighter lights for a rather quaint looking street that goes by the name of Lihuangpi Road. We were originally bound for a cup of coffee but I was more in the mood for an ice cold beer! Catching some funky looking brickwork from the corner of my eye I was like 'we are going there now!'. I get what I want most of the time so it was done, Bistro became our place of choice! Styled like a old English smoking lounge this refined setting made me forget that I was in China for a brief few seconds, almost like when I discovered Costa Coffee! Choosing a Vedet to toast our already successful Victory Day weekend, it was a cosy place to relax in and have a conversation of a relaxed vibe because those few can be so traditionally minded! Give me a whisky on the rocks! More, please WUH?

As dusk slowly turned into night I was shown a series of cute side streets that had a lovely feeling, those apartments were just so damn cute! Feeling rather hungry I was led to a Taiwanese noodle shop that had a modern yet traditional style, run by two young Chinese guys this 21st Century noodle shop served us some delicious noodles, had we not already had enough food already that day? Never! Making our way ever-closer to the metro to take us back to Guanggu we had a lovely stroll along the Hankou Riverside Bund, well that's what I think it was called? I'm usually good with names but the nighttime view had me starstruck as the lights dazzling from the Wuchang side of the Yangtze River. All in all it was another full packed Victory Day in Wuhan, I was blessed with so much inside knowledge about this city so it proves that it's not what you know, its who you know! Hubu Alley served the crazy vibe and a lot of tasty Chinese street-side food. Yes, the Yangtze River served! V-Day was blessed!

Rolling On The Yangtze River!

Joseph Harrison 

One Day In Wuhan, China...

A new school meant a whole lot more Chinese National Holidays for me to enjoy, with that said it was time for me to embrace Victory Day! Having three days off for that heroic National Holiday I was up for another beautiful day out in Wuhan, China. Finding solace in another fine temple and being beside one formidable lake, I was feeling victorious for sure! Let's go!

Along with a friend who's special to me, we found Baotong Temple without a hitch because the first time I got a bit stuck. Paying our entrance it was time to zone out from the crazy that is Wuhan, she's a crazy thing! Having an epic history that has spanned over 1500 years I was ready to learn from this wise Buddhist Temple. Catching the aromas of the burning incense brought back familiar memories from my visit to the nearby Changchun Taoist Temple. Baotong Temple welcomed us with a feeling of calm and chill that was in supply for us all to learn from. Having my Chinese friend with me it was easy to understand why Buddhism is a respected religion, let's just say he prayed before the figure of the great Buddha several times during our temple visit. Leaving a special and confidential message on a red piece of material I offered something to gods. I'm not religious, that temple had me under a spell! 

What's Victory Day? It's a celebration endorsed by the Chinese to rejoice the overthrowing of the Japanese during World War Two. Getting back to the solace of Baotong Temple I was at one with the peace and outstanding architecture, respecting the rules and the almighty Buddha I refrained from taking any photos inside of the temple shrines. I must admit that the flawless figures of the Buddha looked amazing, that depiction of the wise god had eyebrows that were on fleek! Climbing what felt like one hundred steps to reach the top of the temples highest shrines we were reminded that this Buddhist Temple stood within a bustling and ever-changing Chinese city, I was truly amazed by what we saw that afternoon! If I was to choose principles from any religion it would have to be from Buddhism, there's just something that makes sense? Offering my messages to the gods I found a deeper sense of peace during our visit to Wuhan's timeless Baotong Temple. Oh yes, Wuhan! 

Ni Hao Donghu! Oh, Donghu is Chinese for 'East Lake', a lake that has got to be Wuhan's most famous beauty spot! Following the Wuhan Metro from Baotong Temple we took a bus from some station I cannot pronounce or even write, finding ourselves at the gates of Wuhan's East Lake. Doing my research before arriving in this Central Chinese city I had my eye on this natural hangout. Like Baotong Temple, seeing the waters of East Lake took the stresses of the city away for a short while. The first installment of Victory Day was shaping up just fine. Chilling out to a healthy state we took some time to sit by the lake to appreciate the view, it was my first visit to I was blown away to see so much nature because Guanggu, Wuhan is one big concrete jungle! Taking the title as the largest lake in China within a 'city limit' its only right to declare that East Lake serves Wuhan Realness! Get me back to East Lake now Wuhan! 

Captured above is one of the lush views of East Lake with some of the underlying Lotus ponds, a sight that was a welcomed change compared to my Chinese concrete home. The local Wuhanese people were out in their droves, taking time out to chill out during that Victory Day National Holiday. Part of the East Lake High Technology Development Zone this Wuhan scenic spot is home to a theme park called 'Happy Valley' and many other amusements. We shunned those parts of the park in favour of a chilled walk along the causeways, admiring the view and keeping away from the blazing heat. I wanted nothing to do with roller-coasters! Wuhan keeps showing me more, with each day out I am astounded by the treats I'm being showed, East Lake impressed me! Dodging a raucous group of tourists and a few others we followed our own path during our time beside the waters of Donghu. Oh, I was promised that we would go to the Hubei Provincial Musuem soon! I'm thirsty W!

Saying goodbye at the metro I had no clue what my evening would have in store, making some enquiries I called up on some friends through WeChat. The day must have been long because I accidentally took a short nap, thankfully my friend called me before 9pm. Hopping back on the metro for the thousandth time that day it was unclear to me where he would be taking me, but I knew it was one of his friends birthday? Getting off at Wangjiadun East, I met with my friend, he had kept one of his cans of cider from Marks & Spencer that we had bought at Han Street a few weeks before, it was a treat for me! Marrying the night I didn't have a clue where I was going!? Finding a bustling waterfront strip of bars I was fronting 'West Lake' it would be a day of temples and lakes? We stopped at Beer Barn, a Hipster looking hangout with off license style fridges full of beer and strong drinks. So, Samuel Smith sells to China?

Picking a six pack of Corona I noticed a familiar selection of British products made by Samuel Smith's! Recognising those craft brewed beers from a familiar Shad Thames London pub. The Anchor Tap may have been a few thousand miles away but the fridges of Wuhan's Beer Barn presented a slice of something I recognised! Retailing at forty-eight Chinese Yuan those Samuel Smith's brews looked pricey compared to the local beers, nevertheless it would cost over six British Pounds back in Blightly at one of Sam's establishments for a bottle so not to shabby when that's taken into account. Purely the facts, I'm not throwing shade! Messing about on the lake we rented a pedalo boat to join the rest of the birthday party on the water, it was a great night all round I tell you! Getting back to dry land we hit Brussels Bar for a pint of Vedet or two, meeting new people gives me life! From the spirituality of Baotong Temple to the quietness of East Lake and loving Beer Barn, I loved it! 

Stay Victorious Wuhan! 

Joseph Harrison