Fast Track to Beijing

A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed a weekend in Beijing. This was not much an exploration trip but a reunion trek. I hadn’t seen one of my good friends that brought sunshine to my university life in four years. So, you can imagine we had heaps of catching up to get through so I didn’t plan much sight-seeing.

As the lone wolf that I am, I booked a return fast train ticket from Harbin to Beijing which should take just under 8 hours. This is phenomenal as it would normally be a 20-24 hour drive! I had to be at the Harbin West Railway Station by 06:30 am – I am a morning person so I chose the first train out so I could be in Beijing for the afternoon and enjoy a night out in town in the evening.

Seeing Maya again as she she was waiting for me at the station exit. We both shrieked in disbelief. Four damn years!!

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The train ride was alright. I had a book, my travel journal and some sleep to catch up on. I had booked myself a second-class soft seater because a sleeper would have been a little awkward. A cabin always has four bunk beds so travelling as a lone female would make me a little uncomfortable. After my little nap against the window, I woke up to the gentleman sitting next to me watching me sleep. Then guess what? He smiles at me as if watching strangers sleep is normal. I couldn’t get myself to sleep after that.

I stayed at Peking Youth Hostel which is owned by a florist so you are surrounded by flowers and plants which is a winner, of course. This is on one of the ancient hutons (alleys) in Beijing, NanLouGuXiang. It was clean, cosy and the staff were friendly so I might be a regular. I say this because I fell in love with this part of Beijing. It is lively, youthful and friendly. My first meal in Beijing was a falafel pita! Oh My God! A small Israeli restaurant tucked away in one of the hutons. Heaven and reminded me of my Durban Night Markets which always ended in a juicy falafel wrap!

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The evening ended with some beer and food at a bar with live music. Well, open mic, to be exact. We moved out swiftly when we could no longer handle the croons of a shiny clothed expat with his Michael Jackson look-a-like friend. No, really! I really could not hold in my chuckles!

We enjoyed a slow morning and started off at a dumpling restaurant with a smorgasbord of delights. We should really practice eating with our stomachs and not our eyes. Steamed broccoli, fried dumplings, steamed dumplings, potato and aubergine goodness and tea! Don’t forget the rice!

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After waddling out of the restaurant, we took a beautiful stroll to the Lama Temple. There are so many hidden treasures. So many! I wanted to stop every 5 minutes just to explore.

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After meandering the hutons, exploring all the nooks and crannies, we made it to the Lama Temple. I loved the incense and looking at the ancient buildings. I found it rather peaceful to browse the information building with a monk reciting his chants in the background.

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Since it was a Friday night and two friends from Harbin were joining us, we decided to paint the town red. Well, not quite. We started off at a live music bar called Temple. My kind of place, really. Live rock music! We watched two bands play (the second band was a little strange) then decided it was time to check out the salsa bar! My goodness, what a jam! They had a reggaeton/latin dance band playing and it was awesome. I felt like I was in a Dirty Dancing scene.You know, a guy eyeing you across the room with the music in the background then comes over to the bar to talk to you..

It was time to leave this bar!

We went back to Temple and sang old school rock music at the top of my voice while having cheap tequila shots. Please note that I had to set my cellphone alarm to 03:45am so I could leave the bar to meet up with Maya to go to the National Day ceremony at Tienanmen Square! This ceremony takes place at sunrise so this is 05:00. So, straight from the bar to a family ceremony! It was hilarious!

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As a foreigner, the locals thought I should stand in front to see exactly what was happening! So, there I was, a black South African celebrating China’s National Day (the day China became the People’s Republic).

This was a memorable trip and I will be doing it again soon. I still need to walk the Great Wall.

x

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In the Woods..

The first opportunity to get hiking outside the city was granted, I grabbed it with two hands! There was no way I could let that pass, no matter how exhausted I am. Since I have arrived in Harbin, I have made a deal with myself to travel as much as I can. Even if it means that I live like a peasant. I have planned a number of big trips in the coming months so I am finally getting to live my dream.

It all started with a small Moon Cake and a cup of coffee. I packed a light backpack with all the essentials for a day trip: sun screen, wet wipes, tissue, water (!!), a rain jacket, lp balm, a spare plastic packet, lunch and snacks for the trek up.

Destination? Xiang Lu Shan. To get there, we had to take a train to the end of the line (Hadongzhan) then two buses thereafter. It gets rather rural and the air becomes cleaner and fresher! Score!

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I thought this would be a walk in the walk, really. It started off really well with stunning Buddhist prayer rooms and flat walks with trickling streams. After the iron swing path way, it all went uphill from there.

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I honestly thought I was relatively fit. Halfway up, I was sweating and panting and asking myself why I do this to myself.  Why?

To put it quite simply, that is the reason. The challenge, the fresh air, the forests and appreciating mother nature. I resembled a tortoise walking uphill. Eventually, I caught up with the gang. The final battle going uphill was worth it. The view from the top was breathtaking – it was worth every curse I said under my breath. Note to self: Anele, cut down on the Harbin beer, noodles and rice. 

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Aaaaah.

If you ever make it to Harbin, I would recommend that you spend a day Xiang Lu Shan for a day hike. If you are coming in the winter months, then you can ski down the mountain after trekking up.

A day well spent. I love sore thigh muscles after a good work out!

With love, x

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Road trip to Bush Fire..

What a magical weekend.

Right, let us get the background first. I have been interested in attending the MTN Bush Fire Festival for the last three years. It seemed so worldly and care-free. But, I could never really afford it – very common issue, I’d say. This year (27-29 May 2016), the universe was on my side. In the shape of a very kind and fun soul, of course.

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This meant, R-O-A-D-T-R-I-P!! It is a little odd but I take them seriously. Snacks, a BOX of CDs to suit every mood, checking and double checking documents, more snacks and an endless amount of water. Also, a really annoying sing-a-long happy-go-lucky voice. I must sound like Donkey from Shrek. Oef…

After over six hours, buying an assortment of alcopops and getting a new stamp on my very bare passport, we were ready to set up camp in Mahlanya Market, Malkerns, Swaziland!

We arrived quite late in the evening but I had a smooth gin and tonic sippy cup to keep me warm in the long queue of campers. The music was pumping and boy, we were getting super excited to get in to it all.

The entire set up was absolutely phenomenal. Africa, you beaut! If you had to walk around the camp blindfolded, you would have no idea where you were – the languages, accent, diverse music! This is where my heart belongs.

Saturday morning. The one thing I never miss about festivals is the shower queue. After standing in a snaking queue to jump in to a cold shower but what’s worse is the cold water running out then having to dry your soapy body with a dry towel. Half loaf is better than no loaf, they say. Half clean and ready to eat, drink and dance through the festival.

 

A beautiful atmosphere, incredible talent and one of the best that I have attended with the absolute gem company.

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The image that captures the weekend: fun, colourful and just dance
Warmth fills my soul when I think about this amazing weekend.

With happiness & love,

x

Roadtrippin’ to a New Year..

I have been procrastinating a lot lately. I’ve been on a two week break and I have been the best sloth yet. No, really. I didn’t know what date it was until it was Christmas then again on New Year’s Eve. It was incredibly beautiful to just be with my family (my mother and sisters, in particular). I pretty much tried to avoid shopping malls and people, in general. Where do ALL of these people come from? Surely they all don’t wait for the Christmas break to crawl out of their cocoons. Maybe they do… Who am I to judge?

I don’t quite remember the start of the holidays. I don’t know what I did, or what I got up to. It’s all a bit of a blur. The first night with my mum, I do remember being mauled by silent mosquitoes. You couldn’t see them, hear them but these itchy bumps kept on emerging on my skin. My sister smiled after seeing my horrified face and said, “Ah, they’ve finally got you too, I see.”

With my mind being on holiday mode already, I recall forgetting my handbag in my sister’s car and her driving off with it. There goes my cellphone, car keys, driver’s licence and purse with my money, oh and not forgetting my lip balm (seriously, how do people live without it?). That’s when I realised that I could be quite a write off of an adult. I made it though after a few phone calls off a landline.

I got roped in to going to Sea World with my nephew. The thing is, my family knows I love animals and I hate seeing them enclosed. I am not particularly fond of zoos, circuses and sea world-like places. Somehow though, they always talk me in to family quality time. Who can resist that? It was a fun day in the sun with some Dolphin giggles and splashes. I suppose I am incredibly fortunate to have seen Dolphins in their natural habitat when I was on the Rainbow Warrior in early 2015; happily swimming and splashing about and “chasing” the ship as kids would do.

My kind of holiday means travelling to a new place to meet new faces.

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Open roads, singing along to Green Day and making a couple of stops along the way. Okay, let’s not forget about getting lost for half an hour — driving in the opposite direction of our destination and ending up in the middle of nowhere. That’s all the fun, innit?

We were actually looking for the Nelson Mandela Capture Site (It is on the R103 in Howick, KZN). We found it, eventually 🙂 And, the entrance was f r e e !

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So happy to have ticked that off my list.

Then, next stop: Piggly Wiggly.

Fresh bread, cheese, red onion marmalade, pizza and locally brewed beer! Stunning day to have a gorgeous, fresh pizza (you watch them knead the dough to perfection!) and to people-watch! There are many shops to browse through and many more drinks to try and wine to buy. I didn’t get a chance to find it but I hear there is a Belgian Chocolate Waffle place on the same road; frothing!!

Final stop: The Bend in Nottingham Road. A 148 km drive from Durban. This would be the place I would be saying a slurry “hello 2016″.

It wasn’t a very slurry greeting. It was a stunning one.

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After breakfast and cleaning up, we decided to spend the day at the dam.

After tubing, zenning and making flower head bands in the scorching heat, it was home time.

Of course, the day was not over. I had to visit a dairy farm. I wish I hadn’t though. I watched a cow getting impregnated by a human! No, not that way but syringes and odd appliances were involved. It’s a really dirty job and I wish dairy farms were about lush fields and cows treated like royalty. It was awful and it reinforced my morals; why had become vegetarian. Consuming less dairy and ultimately becoming a vegan (ey, play nice – don’t roll your eyes at me) did cross my mind.

It was a glorious time away. Lord knows, everyone needs to take a break from the city.

This year is going to be a treat despite what the sordid horoscopes read! Ew! This year involves a lot more travel, relocation and a bit more reading. I would say 2015 was quite a splendid year, I would do it all over again.

With love & happiness,

x

Aging is Not Lost Youth..

So, the dinner that I was a little too excited about blew me away. It was phenomenal and way beyond my expectations. For once, I had an outfit co-ordinated (by myself, of course) with Purity Ring and Oscar & the Wolf as my background music.

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I arrived 9 minutes late. Fashionably so. My best friend organised such a beautiful affair! The dinner and drinks was at S43 in Umgeni. Quite the hipster place to be.

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I knew straight away what would be on my dinner plate – there was only one vegetarian option. That’s good enough for me! A giant-sized chickpea and spinach burger. They also have a banting diet option where the bun is replaced with large portobello mushrooms. There is something for everyone to enjoy.

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A cosy, friendly ambiance. A beautiful evening at S43 followed by a nightcap at a local pub to watch the Rugby World Cup 3rd Place Play-off.

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Biggest stoked face – thank you, thank you, thank you! I would not have had it any other way.

Also, I l o v e sparkles 🙂

With love from a 25 year old, x

Good Deed: Surfers Not Street Children..

I love being a good Samaritan. I love listening to peoples’ stories. I love seeing people change their lives for the better. So, I just love seeing human beings practicing ubuntu.

I have been involving myself in numerous projects. Great projects, where both parties benefit. Recently, I have become more drawn to the skating and surfing (board-riding) world. I mean, I grew up with friends that surfed but I could never afford the gear. So, I immersed myself in reading about the chilled board-riding culture.

Then, we found a unique organisation in Durban that gets children off the streets by teaching them how to surf. This is, of course, the extremely simplified version. Surfers Not Street Children is an organisation that exudes stoke! I have met young men that have gone through a tough upbringing that lead them to drugs and living on the streets but today, they always have smiles on their faces, travelling through surfing and have become quite the young gentlemen.

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I have been making visits to the Surf House (where the former street children stay) and I must say, if looks and feels like a large family house. The lads are all welcoming and so is their resident puppy!

I went there again recently with the Entrepreneurs Organisation to listen to Tom Hewitt talk about his organisation. He is really laid back and surely can talk for hours (we tease him about this).

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The great story is that these are former street children, they are black and they have changed their lives around! You have qualified surfing instructors, coffee barristers, trainee chefs and pro surfers representing South Africa all living under one roof! The phenomenal part is that they are making waves, inspiring other street children!

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I will be on the beach a lot more with the team. Such rad ous!

Feel free to drop me a mail if you would like to know more about the organisation.

With love,

x

Markets. Sushi. Gardens. Family..

What a beautiful weekend filled with laughter, dances, Thai spring rolls, sushi, family braai, a walk with monkeys and Hadeda Ibises and a relaxing Sunday.

I started off the weekend with a catch up at the Musgrave Roof Top Night Market. I have moved away from just eating Falafels. I have discovered amazing Thai Spring Rolls with glass noodles! What?! So. Good.

My Saturday started off quite mellow. I didn’t really want to get out of bed. I did. Otherwise, Nick would have been bleak with me.

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I bought sushi from my local take away spot run by three young Chinese guys who have asked me out on a miso soup dinner date.

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A feast more than a light picnic. Go big or go home, eh?

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We pretty much could not move for a while. All we could do was lie flat on our backs, look at the sky and listen to the birds sing.

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When we had been bitten by enough mosquitos, we decided on a walk around the Botanic Gardens. We have always had this place available to us but we just do not visit it often enough. It is the best picnic spot in Durban. Also, seemingly the place to take wedding photos.

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A walk with Hadedas and monkeys in the heat seemed like the most perfect moment. All life living in harmony.

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After the lazy stroll. It was time to see my family for a late afternoon/evening braai. It is always so lovely to see my cousins. We literally sit outside, have beers and talk utter nonsense. For hours! It is the best!! 🙂

I would not have had this weekend any other way.

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like & celebrating it for everything that is.”

With love, x

Let’s Go Skate..

If you’re not skating for fun, what are you skating for?

A dearly beloved and I had a lunch catch up at the beach on a splendid Saturday afternoon. It started off a little strange with Marc Jacobs’ Promo Girls surrounding me asking to take a photo and asking some questions. That was fun. Then I had people staring at me; I am not quite sure why.

It sounds a little strange but I normally park my car about 2 or 3 km away from where I will be having lunch. I build up an appetite by walking to the location and digest the food on my way back to the parking lot. Also, I fit in a bit of exercise that way 🙂 s n e a k y

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I enjoyed a ridiculously delicious mushroom burger with heaps of rocket. I could not take photos. I ate everything; messy, with a cheese sauce all over my face and hands. Ah! Worth it. With my americano in hand, we enjoyed good conversation and a bit of people watching. It was a hilarious kind of windy – where everything blows away. The little milk container (because we drink coffee all day, everyday) blew on to Nick’s crotch so it looked a little dodgy. Someone’s rocket blew off their pizza and on to my face. All of the serviettes blew off our table that I had to sit on one just to save it for later. Then, I was distracted by a little charmer.

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He looks tough but he was the sweetest little dog. He even posed beautifully for this photo.

I went back to the windy table. The bill blew away. A side note, Surf Riders has a rad DJ set on the first Saturday of each month. If you love beer (or cocktails), burgers and electronic music; you would really enjoy it. Actually, who wouldn’t enjoy such a happy, vibey afternoon.

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I bailed on our way back. Laughed on the floor. Gravity prevails sometimes. Carried on. We took turns.

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Look at the show-off 🙂 What a stunning day!

With Love,

x

Green Fingers and Dirty Hands..

I enjoy being outside, as you may have figured out. Beautiful Saturday morning at the Green Camp in Umbilo, Durban. Naturally, being a hippy.

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This space is the epitome of the recycling concept! The building itself is recycled! It is an old dilapidated house that has been transformed in to a homey, relaxing space. A place for artists to gather their thoughts, for avid gardeners to grow their own vegetables, for inspiring meetings and a home.

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Everything here is recycled or upcycled. The clothes and pieces that are gathered from people all over Durban will soon be on sale or available to swap (still an idea!) to uplift the area. It is such an incredibly happy place. I felt at ease here; basking in the sun and playing the Kalimba poorly.

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Personally, it is Durban’s best kept (free) secret. Everything grows so wonderfully. It is a great concept that is still being revised and improved as they go along. A little bit of trial and error.

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I will be visiting this place a lot more. Share some ideas on how we can turn this in to a self sufficient zone. We spoke of having a solar training where we can learn how to make our own solar generators, recycle zones, making our own grocery bags, etc. There is just an endless list of ideas.

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Or, you can just relax under a beach umbrella and read.

With love,

x