16 June 2017

2 Years In China...

I can say for certain that two years ago my Sri Lankan Airlines flight took off from London's Heathrow Airport! With this two year milestone reached this will be the final installment of this blog series about my time spent in China for this Wuhan segment. 2017 began with a bang, well I couldn't remember the start because I was absolutely trashed! It's been a busy time!

Fresh from my Christmas holiday in Yunnan Province it was back to work for the whole of January 2017, that first month flew past as Chinese Spring Festival approached. I had chose the milder climbs of Southern China the previous year but I had planned to head to the far Northeast of China for 2017's festivities. Cruising over what could of been Jilin or Heilongjiang Province I marveled at the grand firework displays from my in-flight view. A hint of drama shaded me as I arrived at my Harbin hostel but I wasn't fazed by that joker whatsoever! Harbin's Russian history gave me life, with a fair bit of it still in good condition it was amazing to see another slice of Europe in China! Trusting China Highlights for the second time I was shown an amazing day trip to the Siberian Tiger Park, Snow Sculpture Expo and the world renowned Harbin Ice Festival, the only trouble was the freezing temperatures dipped to minus 25 degrees! Icy!

So, I saved Changchun for another time, speeding past its West Railway Station in favour of a weekend in Shenyang, Liaoning. My second 'off the radar' city, I had only seen about the Korean connection that had motivated my visit. Grabbing some Hui Chinese food on the first evening I bumped into a icy food alley that specialised in Hui style Muslim food, it was delicious! Getting up with the birds I concurred Shenyang's Beiling Park before 09:00 am! Seeking a sense of Mother England a familiar sight found me, I experienced a Chinese TESCO for the first time! Through the familiar supermarket layout and signage I found some 'Everyday Value' chocolate. Shenyang showed me a great night out on the tiles, so much so I felt extremely tender the next day during my sightseeing mission. North Korea just got a little closer, dining at the Pyongyang Rainbow restaurant was an experience with state run media playing and Kim chi for dinner. Feeling very blessed February had the best start! Yass guh!

By March 2017 it was time to start thinking about the months ahead, I would be finishing my final semester at my current Etonkids campus in Wuhan so I wanted to give my best classes. Three months had almost passed, I had a new after-school program to teach and the beginning of that transition period was madness! After a few weeks into April that English interactive class became a lot easier to navigate even if the kids were crazier than a box of frogs. I was waiting for my new colleague at that point but being China a whole lot of confusion and crazy would delay that arrival. It was mad to see the Bridging children as they had grown up so much in such a short space of time, it would soon be time for us to practice the graduation song but we were keeping busy, learning new things each week was the perfect distraction. Yes, Spring Festival honestly seemed like a world away, as ever I was ready for the next trip!

April slipped into view, with the semester almost half way through it was nice to have a small break during the first weekend of that month. Hangzhou called me for that long weekend trip, I pride myself for my independence when travelling but when time is limited I see private tours as the answer. Checking out the Lingyin Temple had to be done, battling the spring weekend crowd wasn't fun but the temple was worth the drama, along with some cool looking caves and an evenings's visit to Wulin Square it was great! My China Highlights tour guided me to four places in one day, beginning at the magnificent West Lake I was able to witness its true beauty. Grabbing some lunch at Hangzhou's Chenghuang Pavilion was nice, it was a chilled sight that allowed me to see Hangzhou from a higher point. Museums aren't my thing but I got some Chinese tea at the Museum of Chinese Medicine, of course I'm yet to try it! Finally, I even picked my own Green Tea leaves at a lovely plantation! Go HGZ!

Securing two extra days off work, I made 2017's May Day holiday one to remember by taking a once in a lifetime trip to Lhasa, Tibet. Flying up to the Northwestern city of Lanzhou the night before I took my first sleeper train ever to capture the vistas along the Tibetan Plateau. It wasn't without a shaky start but the train journey was fine, the hard sleeper cabin was much better than the soft compartment, I would find that out the next month. The air may have been thinner than Wuhan but I was living a dream, Lhasa's old town was like nothing that I had ever seen. Tibetan food never tasted so good, tracking down a small tea house by myself I had my first taste of Tibetan Butter Tea. Getting into the tour I just loved both Drepung and Sera monasteries, both serving the right measure of Tibetan Realness! Jokhang Temple showed me the most captivating and intricate figures of the Dalai's, like a prayer I was there!

Altitude sickness had a hold on me but with a cocktail of unknown tables and a bottle of oxygen I never missed a beat, those moments couldn't be recreated! Pilgrims from far and wide had descended upon Lhasa to make their prayers and perform their religious rituals, I wasn't on a religious hype but the atmosphere was indescribable. Wrapping up the experience I climbed those steps to the top chambers of the grand Potala Palace, decorated in such splendour I was mesmirised by the colours, features and grandeur of the former quarters of the revered previous Dalai's. Sure, I would of made those reservations if that Potala residence was a hotel! Chengdu, we didn't make a deal to delay my flight back to Wuhan! Let's just say my final arrival into Wuhan Airport was very stressful! Thrown back into work the next day it was time to get back to teaching my Kindergarten kids, the clock was ticking before my arrival home! Nearing the two year mark, 2017 was on fire T!

Wuhan has thrown a scorcher of a summer in our faces, I do not appreciate the clammy and uncomfortable weather that's been dished to us at this moment! Not today! My time in Wuhan is drawing to a close, so to keep me going at work I decided to switch things up, after a visit to a lesser known city for Dragon Boat Festival I was motivated to see Enshi during a normal June weekend. The wet weather definitely had something to do with my train being delayed, the soft sleeper compartment didn't impress me much, I pledge to return to the hard sleeper cabin for my next overnight train in China. Back to Enshi, that Hubei city showed me something more lush than Wuhan would be capable of! That overnight trip wasn't without its drama but seeing a chilled city environment was good for my soul, it gets draining throwing shade all the time! Why hadn't I got my weekend travel hype on before?! Yes, Silly me!

Nanchang had been one of those smaller provincial city's that I'd been eyeing up for sometime, biting the bullet and using another weekend I hopped on a train after work this weekend to Jiangxi Province. Nanchang was a nice city, compact and well served by buses it was nice to see a place that wasn't famous like Shanghai or Beijing. As July grows nearer I have one more weekend trip before I fly home, that final sejour will be to Yichang, Hubei from a Friday to Sunday to see the Three Gorges Dam. Since January to this very moment I can safely say the final six months in China has been amazing, if not very busy but that's just the way I like it! Hopefully in the next six months I'll be in Beijing continuing my journey with Etonkids, trading Wuhan for the big smoke! Wuhan has been great, its moving at a pace I can't handle and the locals are a crazy bunch! From Harbin to Hefei, this first half of 2017 in China has been beyond amazing, I'm ready for Mother England now! Like, right now?!

It's Almost Time!

Joseph Harrison 

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