So the Chinese New Year has finally dawned upon us! I have been looking forward to those two weeks off for a LONG time.
The Chinese celebrate their new years according to the Lunar Cycle not like us and the end of December. Almost everyone in China is moving around at that point, it is hard to get any transportation anywhere. Buses, taxis, trains, planes are all booked up and flying all over. Millions of Chinese citizens are moving about its insane.
So for Chinese new year Alicia, Sara, Jenny and myself decided we were going to first visit Shanghai. Shanghai is a super popular city and I have wanted to go there since I first came to China.
We all had to travel from different areas so we took separate trains, and met up in Shanghai. This was the first time I had actually been on a fast train (or really any train) ever! The station was very foreign to me, but it was set up kind of like an airport. Then they had a leader-board with the train numbers and what waiting area you would go to. Nothing was in English so I was going on just the train number and the number across from it I thought was right. Luckily I showed a few people my ticket and they gave me the head nod for “you are in the right area lady”.
I boarded my train almost first (that was my intentions) because I had heard it can be a mad house, and sometimes you have no room for your luggage. I got a sweet spot in front of my seat and sat down for the 5 hour voyage through Chinese countryside to Shanghai.
Taking a train gives you a whole different perspective on China. You get to see everything… the small cities you pass through are crumbling and look completely different than any country I have been to (even Belize’s practically abandoned looking cities/villages). As we got further south we began to see more fields, crops, and gardens. Some of them were quite beautiful very lush and blooming.
Finally I arrived in Shanghai Railway Station, and met up with Jenny who was on a train ten minutes behind me. We grabbed some Starbucks (mandatory) and headed to the taxi station to get to our hostel. Traveling around, especially during Chinese New Year the cheapest places to stay were Hostels. The hotels were insanely over priced or the cheap ones were all booked up. Even taxi’s will raise their fair during Chinese New Year because they know they can take advantage of you. That part quite honestly sucks because then you have all these additional expenses.
When we got to our hostel we met up with Alicia and Sara who had arrived a few hours earlier. We were ready to hit the town and see what Shanghai was all about!
We went to the Bund first and got to see a spectacular view of the water, and the amazing huge buildings across the river. The architecture in Shanghai is such a mix, you see European, Colonial, modern, 80’s… hahaha and everything in between.
We saw many things the 4 days were were in Shanghai, we went up to the tallest observatory which was beautiful. It was very foggy but eventually the fog cleared just like magic and we had a view of the buildings and lights it was insane! Poor Alicia who can barely stand a 10 story elevator was forced to go up… (I think it was) 80+ stories. Holding Sara’s hand for guidance and shielding her eyes she finally made it to the top.. but neither lasted long up there! Hahhaa, I love you guys! We ate at some great restaurants. Got a city bus tour (highly recommend). Saw the Jade Buddha Temple where many people were praying and giving their new year offerings to the temple. They get gold sheet of paper which are viewed as money and they throw them into the fire pits symbolizing their offerings and that they are wishing for a new year filled with blessings.
At night we hit it hard. First night we found a place with free margaritas Zappatas (we are on a budget). We took advantage of that offer and sat upstairs shooting the shit for awhile and enjoying each others company. Maggie might have had too many margaritas and made friends with a bush on the way home (sorry Grandma, cold hard facts here).
We found Shanghai Brewery and sampled some of their home brews the next night. Not the best beer but not the worst and the fajitas were amazing! We went to a Club called The Apartment. Filled with people from all over the world, we danced our butts off! It was 80’s night and Queen was blaring from the speakers. As you may or may not know, Queen is my family’s JAM. We know all the songs, blare them, and dance.. so this was a perfect night for me. Meeting some people from Great Britain we danced and carried on til wee hours of the morning. We also met a monkey that night. He was so adorable. Scared Jenny and I at first because he climbed right up her leg into … an undesirable area. We screamed, then Alicia screamed (with joy) and couldn’t get enough. The monkey I am sure was for pick-pocketing, or getting money from tourists, and at the end of the night with a margarita in my belly I admit.. I gave that man 50RMB (which quite honestly is a lot for them).. but I couldn’t resist and we did play with the monkey for quite sometime. We left the night by Alicia screaming “i love you monkey! Skype me! I wish monkies could Skype ” and then screaming her Skype name to him. Good times.
We also went to a place called Adams Place, 100RMB ($15USD) for all you can drink til midnight. Again taking advantage of this opportunity we sat down for rum and coke and gin and tonics on my end. We played a game of Kings and lit sparklers with the owner to signify the New Year. It was a blast. That night though Alicia had too much fun and made friends with a bush.. and the sidewalk.. and the middle of the road. Sometimes it happens, no judgement.
***Damage of Shanghai– one lost wallet, one lost phone, taxi rides nowhere just to walk back to where we came from and plenty of Starbucks to keep us going***
After our Shanghai adventures it was time to head off to Xiamen which is in the southern part of China. So we were SO READY for warmth! It had snowed and blizzard in Shanghai (it never snows in Shanghai) so it was time for some palm trees and sunshine!
Jenny hadn’t gotten her ticket yet to Xiamen so we got her the only one left.. standing only. On this train it wasn’t too bad because there were nooks for people to stand and be in, and the train wasn’t too full which was a plus. Alicia, Sara and myself had bought our tickets earlier (you need your passport to get your ticket) and we sat just a few rows ahead of Jenny. The ride flew by! Playing suduko, listening to music (Too Close, Next) and singing the songs at the top of our lungs made for a fast and successful train ride. Eight hours later we arrived and were so excited. It was around 8pm and we called our hostel man, Chris who was going to meet up with us at the bus station so he could walk us to our hostel. We walked through a university parking lot, over a crumbling brick wall (which quite honestly freaked me out Nighbor was in the back of my mind “Maggie be careful”), then down a dark little street, then finally down a dark alley way where I stopped in dead tracks and said, “I don’t think this is a good idea!”… No one agreed with me, and we forged forward! Hahaa. Looking back it was fine, no worries, you are in China. But honestly it was straight from a bad movie or commercial warning you against making wrong decisions. We walked up another dark alley way and was greeted by a man lighting a firework off in honor of us coming to their hostel. We later found out we were the very first foreigners to stay there! Mostly just students from the University stayed there. What an honor and so much excitement for us! They also treated us to a night of great authentic Chinese food, and drinks. We had wine, beer, and a few dishes that were memorable. After that we headed up to our bedrooms which were practically from a magazine. I mean they weren’t American style but they were very unique and modern. The shower/toilet was in the room with blinds covering it but it was very nice. White linens and walls adorned the walls and gave it a clean modern feel. The windows opened up Disney Princess style so you could greet the morning and birds, which .. oh and I did with excitement!
The first day we met up with our friend Onra who teaches there and Sara who came from Kunming! It was great seeing old/new friends and being able to spend our vacation with them. Figuring out the public transportation is one thing though so we had a few bumps in the road but eventually met up with them!
We spent that day walking around and exploring. Eating delicious vendor/street food and walking down the roadway next to the water. It was gorgeous and just what we needed after snowy Shanghai. We went to a four story Starbucks, that’s right FOUR stories! They had a beautiful patio on top that had a few of the island and water, it was amazing.
During our stay in Xiamen we went over to the island south west on a 8RMB ferry ride. They literally pack the ferry like the apocalypse is coming and you stand/are groping the person next to you for about 5 minutes until you get to the other side. The island when we got there was packed and honestly not my cup of tea. Too packed. Too many people. You couldn’t enjoy the views and you had to rush because if you didn’t you were trampled under foot. We crossed the island to get to the beach on the other side. It was a long haul, past vendors, glass topped walls (to keep out trespassers) and down small sidewalks. Eventually coming out at an area with a beautiful view. I took my sandles off and walked down the beach to the water.. then looking down realized there was broken class everywhere.. put my sandles back on. It was beautiful though you could see for miles and the smells and fresh air were something I haven’t had in a long time.
That night we hit up a beach/bar area Onra recommended. We settled on Me and You Pizza which not only was the food fantastic, but it had live music every day of the week! The band was fantastic playing mostly American music but some in Chinese. We danced, ate, and drank the night away. When the band took breaks a girl came out and low and behold they had a stripper pole on stage.. LOL. She (dressed don’t worry) did the coolest tricks and acrobats on the pole. Everyone was memorized After she left, I thought hey I love to dance and I love that pole so lets give it a go. Getting up on stage I shook my money maker.. maybe too much, because I split my pants. Yup. And unfortunately that’s not the first time that has happened. I just get way too down with my bad self. I felt the split, ran off stage and whispered into Jenny’s ear “I think I split my pants” and gave the Oh sh#t face with a smile 😀 Jenny took a look and yuppers not in the middle (Lady Gaga style) but by my leg! Hahaha. Honestly no regrets it was a great night.
After those shenanigans we headed down to an outlook area where we were the only ones there and we had a view of the other island, all lit up. It was beautiful and something I will never forget.
…more updates soon