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Off to Lausanne tomorrow

We are all packed and ready to head off to our new life in Lausanne tomorrow.

We have had a lovely summer, taking advantage of the hospitality of both sets of parents plus siblings and friends – thanks all! However, we still didn’t get to see half the people we wanted to see, but we are hoping for lots of visitors once we are settled.

Our life in China seems like a long way away. We had such an amazing time and made some good friends. It is strange to think we aren’t going back.

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Lijiang

We spent the next few days in Lijiang’s old town. We didn’t like this as much as Dali, mainly because the streets were so busy it was hard to move around. We did have a brilliant day out at the Jade Dragon snow mountain. We took a cable car up to the Yak Meadow at 3,800m above sea level. There were hardly any other people up there and the view was amazing. There was also a small Tibetan Buddhist temple, complete with chicken!

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Dali

We took the train from Kunming to Dali. The train was very old and packed. Our seats were so uncomfortable we had to stand up every half an hour or so to get the feeling back, not great for a 7 hour journey. It was well worth it, though. Dali has a really laid-back feel with many good places to eat. Our hostel (The Lily Pad) was great, really friendly.

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Yunnan Provincial Museum

We spent a nice afternoon in the Yunnan Provincial Museum. This slideshow shows pictures of the masks and religious decorations from Yunnan’s ethnic minority groups plus lots of bronzes from the Dian people who lived in the region about 2,000 years ago.

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Kunming

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Kunming bull

Kunming is the capital of Yunnan Province, so it made sense to start our adventure here.

The flight from Shanghai took about 3 hours and managed to be really uncomfortable. Somehow the seats seemed the wrong shape to relax in. We stayed at the Cloudland Youth Hostel, which was basic, but nice. The main problem was that due to a drought in the city there was no running water for most of the day.

Kunming is a big city, so not very different from other Chinese cities we have visited, although there is more of a mix of the different ethnic minorities native to Yunnan.

Kunming Gate

We especially enjoyed visiting the Yunnan Provincial Museum. The museum has a big collection of masks and costumes and also lots of small, intricate bronze items created by the Dian people over 2,000 years ago.

On our second and final night in Kunming we went to a performance of dancing and drumming based on traditional Bai, Naxi and Tibetan cultures. It was really interesting and the music was a wonderful introduction to the sounds of the region.

Back from Yunnan and packing for home

Wuxi city centre

We arrived home last night after our journey through Yunnan. We now have two days to get packed and ready to leave Wuxi for good.

Our holiday was brilliant. We were both really glad we decided to visit that part of China before leaving. We took loads of photos, so I will write a separate post about each place we visited. Our favourite places were Dali and Shangri-La, but there were interesting things to see in Kunming and Lijing too. The best thing was seeing the different cultures and ways of living which seem a million miles (and years) away from the high rise buildings of Wuxi.

Our last day in Wuxi is Friday (John’s birthday). We are staying in the historic Peace Hotel on The Bund in Shanghai that night, before flying back to the UK on Saturday.

Off to Yunnan

This morning we are off to explore Yunnan Province for a couple of weeks before going back to the UK. Yunnan is in the South West of China, bordering Tibet in the North and Burma, Vietnam and Laos in the South. We believe (hope) that it is completely different from the Eastern part of China where we have been living for the past year.

We are flying in to Kunming (the capital) today then travelling by train to Dali and Lijiang. We hope we will then be able to travel on to Shangri-la which is in the foothills of the Himalayas.

I won’t have access to this blog while we are there, so check back in a couple of weeks for photos!

Saying goodbye

Dinner at Taste

Today is John’s last day of school. He doesn’t have any actual lessons to teach, but has gone in to sort out files, tidy up and say goodbye to his colleagues. In the meantime, I am at home packing up boxes to be shipped to Switzerland. I have no idea how we managed to acquire so much stuff in one year.

Most of John’s colleagues are flying home for the summer this weekend or early next week, so it has been a week of goodbyes. This is the reason we have managed to eat out every night since Sunday.

On Monday we went to Taste, the same place we went for Christmas Dinner. The owner is a Kiwi (New Zealander, not bird) and the food is excellent. We went with Sarah, Steve, Lisa and Paul, some of the first friends we made here in China. Sarah, Steve, Lisa, John and I all went for hot pot dinner in the first few days of arriving in China when we were all still pretty overwhelmed and unsure what was going on. Of course, we are all experts now. Lisa and Paul are staying in Wuxi, but Sarah and Steve have decided to try their luck in a new school in Qingdao.

On Tuesday, we visited Mark who was staying on the 36th floor of an apartment-hotel in the city centre as he had moved out of his own apartment. He will be relocating to Dalian later in the summer with his wife, Yi Lin. It was great to get  bird’s eye view of the city, although it was a shame the weather was so hazy. Afterwards, we went to a tappenyaki restaurant at the top of the Great Eastern department store. The food is cooked in front of you by the chef, great in theory, but frustrating when you have to wait for the group next to you to get their food before your food is cooked.

Football teams

On Wednesday, I had my last Chinese lesson with Grace. She is moving to Shanghai in the summer to start work in the international department of a high school. After my lesson, John joined us for lunch at a Hong Kong restaurant that serves the best steamed shrimp dumplings in town. It was good to sit and chat. Grace has been a good friend to me. As well as teaching me the language, she was the person who taught me how to get around the city on the bus and showed me where the interesting places are. It has been invaluable having inside information.

After lunch, John played in a staff v students football match. Yes, you did read that correctly – John played football (for the first time in about 20 years). When the students came on looking young and fit in their matching kit, I thought the teachers would be thrashed. In fact, the teachers won 1-0. A good example of age and experience coming top.

The playing/ watching football made us thirsty so afterwards we went to HBO, a bar not far from the school, for beer and burgers.

Last night, the headmaster of the school invited all the foreign teachers (and spouses, luckily) to a meal at an Italian restaurant in the city. The food there is delicious, but the service is a bit random. Many main courses arrived before starters and I ate half someone else’s dinner before being given what I ordered. Never mind, it’s good to share.

So after all the goodbyes and packing today, we will just need to decide where to eat tonight – we have no choice now I have packed the wok.

Mountain climbing

View of Hui Shan from the park

On Saturday we (well, John) decided it would be a good idea to walk to the top of Hui Shan, a mountain on the edge of Wuxi. We got up nice and early so we could avoid the midday heat, we also thought it might be a bit quieter first thing.

We reached the park at the bottom of the mountain well before 8am and the place was absolutely heaving. There were hardly any spaces to park our bikes. The park was swarming with people doing Tai Chi (with swords), dancing and generally milling about.

The mountain path has stone steps all the way up. The lower steps were really busy. There were even stalls on either side of the path selling fruit, snacks and various random items.

The crowds thinned as we got higher. The steps were pretty steep and as we made slow and steady progress, we were occasionally overtaken by a wiry Chinese grandfather who looked like he jogged up the mountain every morning.

At the top was a cafe where we stopped for tea and to admire the view. It was a bit hazy, but well worth the effort.

Visitors and changes

Kennedies in Suzhou

We have had a busy few weeks from the end of April up until now. John’s parents were visiting from the UK. It was great to be able to introduce them to Wuxi and environs. They have been to Hong Kong before, but never to mainland China. They made the most of their time by arranging a tour of Beijing, Xian and Guilin while there were here.

They are currently spending a week in South Korea, but will be flying back to Shanghai for one night only on Saturday. Hopefully we will get the chance to show them the lights of The Bund at night time. The view really feels like something from the future.

I think they have enjoyed their time in China. I was very impressed at their language skills. We arranged a brief lesson for them with my teacher, Grace, and afterwards they were ni hao-ing and xiexie-ing like natives. I also admired their chopstick skills, I don’t think there is a noodle or peanut in China that could get the better of them.

It will be sad to say goodbye on Sunday, but we will be seeing them soon, as well as lots of other friends and family. We have made the decision to move back to Europe this summer, rather than staying for another year. John has a job at a school in Lausanne and now I just need to find something for myself. We will be leaving China on 21 July in order to spend a few weeks in the UK before term starts.

Anyway, we have a lot to do before then. John’s students are now in the middle of exams and I have my own exam booked for 17 June (HSK level II), so all being well, I should have something to show for my studies. We planning a tour of Yunnan Province before we leave. It will be good to have an adventure before we go.