Swan Lake at the Harbin Opera House

The winters are long and brutal up north so you do end up hibernating, involuntarily. However, you can find that there is loads to do besides bar hopping and drinking warm Harbin beer. I stumbled on a leaflet: Swan Lake (Russian Kremlin Theatre) was coming to town! I had never been to a ballet before so I thought, this is it!

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I often take the bus because it’s cheaper. Not on this evening. I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – I had to take a taxi! I treated myself to a sushi dinner before the show; yes, it was a splurge day! I arrived early so I could take some photos and enjoy a cup of coffee in the theatre foyer.

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The architecture is magnificent! I stood in the foyer in silence in absolute awe; enjoying the general spleandor.

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I hadn’t been excited in a while so this show could not have come at a better time. New experiences always replenish your enthusiasm and sense of adventure. Well, the ballet certainly did. Of course, I did not know what to expect except for the routines I had seen in Black Swan the night before.

A beautiful, well-executed show that was worth every penny! I could do it again and again!

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So, there is more to Harbin than Bar Street and the Ice festival. You just need to search a little deeper.

The Deets

Where to stay: Well, I live in Harbin but I would recommend Agoda to book hostels around China.

Transportation: The subway and bus combo is cheap and reliable. Taxis are also in abundance, just make sure the driver uses the meter. It should cost no more than CNY 50 from the Qiaonan Jie area. If you take the bus, take the bus 119 from XiDaQiao to SongBei on the other side of the river. You can walk from the final stop or you could take bus 35 from the SongBei stop.

How to purchase tickets: I use the official website to see what’s on but I purchase the tickets at the Grand Theatre ticket office. It is tricky to purchase the tickets online if you do not have an ID.

Tip: Do it!

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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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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

In the Woods Somewhere..

Today is one of those days when all I want is to hide away in the woods…somewhere. I need an escape from the chase, or lack thereof. It is probably time to take a step back and really look in to what I really want to do.

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I may be having an existential crisis (read: quarter-life crisis). My mind is always doing back-flips and somersaults, nothing is constant up there. Which is a great thing, obviously. But, frustrating at the same time. You know.

I am hoping the universe helps me out along side the long pros and cons tables, early mornings and late nights. Somethings gotta give, right?

I will be standing at this crossroad for some time – it’s all up to me.

No pressure.

With love & confusion,

xcave

Coffee Acoustics..

Oh, and what a beautiful melody this makes.

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A fantastic way to spend a Saturday morning, feeling all uhm, altogether while reading a book. The Factory Cafe. A little favourite of mine that I don’t venture out to often enough. You find hipsters here working on their Macbooks on a Saturday morning, looking oh so serious. I have photographic evidence. If you are out in decent clothing, working on your Apple Mac and drinking a strong espresso – you are certainly busy and important. Or, just pretending to be busy and important.

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While dressed like a true Durbanite (Jeans and Slops), I enjoyed a glorious Cappuccino Grande, and a Breakfast Pancake (Scrambled egg, avocado and feta). Yum, who needs bacon anyway?! Ssshh..

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To top the morning off? An acoustic jam session. Matt Vend has a voice you would like to take out on a date. Seriously. I had to stop reading and really enjoy his music. Harmonica, guitar and that voice! The great news is that he is touring South Africa at the moment (Aug – Sept) and you can get his relaunched album at his shows! What a darn treat!

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Support local. Enjoy Local.

With love,

x

Roof Top Night Market..

All things that make you feel warm and fuzzy in the belly..

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No. Not just the wine. It is the food, live acoustic music, laughter AND the wine.

Naturally, I was a bit of an eager beaver and arrived a little too early that I had to sit in the car and read while I wait for a beloved friend.

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I absolutely loved the music. Young, talented local artists. So passionate about what they do and you could see it on their faces.

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Support Local. Wherever you are.

With Love, a Falafel wrap staple and wine,

x

No Man is an Island: Ben Howard Live in JHB, Zoo Lake..

Ben Howard live in Johannesburg on the 25th of July 2015. I have been meaning to write about this amazing weekend without sounding like a complete creep. I left for JHB on Friday evening. I don’t mind long bus rides, really. It is cheaper, which is the most important part! Hah! It was pouring and cold. I arrived at 05:00 and a beloved friend picked me up with a huge smile on his face! We hadn’t seen each other since October last year but we picked up where we left off. He is a true gem. Anyway, coffee and nuts to start off the day. The concert was only starting at 13:00 so I had time to catch up. Thank you Jen and Sophia for welcoming me with wide smiles. As a Durbanite, JHB winters are what nightmares are made of! IMG_1568   IMG_1569 I arrived at the venue at 12:55! I honestly could not contain my “kid in a candy store” excitement. It seems like people do not go to concerts alone, but, erhm, I had a fabulous time. I met new people and sure had a jolly good time. Farryl Purkiss and Bye Beneco were the opening acts. I had seen Farryl Purkiss numerous times during my university days; great acoustic music and fine voice to get me in to the mood. Bye Beneco, they are interesting. Gypsy sounds. I would definitely add them to my wanderlust playlist. Do give them a listen.

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Farryl Purkiss
Bye Beneco
Bye Beneco

Ben. I have so many words for him. I do not want to take photos with him. Nor, do I want to scream and go mental just to meet him. I just want to say a simple thank you. I have never been moved by music like I was for the 1hour30minutes! Is it possible for someone to sound even better live? It is the lyrics, though. The words are like a gently flowing stream. He started off the show with “Small Things”; I had goosebumps all over and at that point, I knew it was going to be a magnificent afternoon. He sang “Black Flies” and that’s when he got me! Glassy eyed and all. It is just surprising that I have turned to his music for almost every event in my life since leaving University. I remember listening to “Keep Your Head Up” as I was packing up my room back in 2012. I have listened to “Old Pine” and “End of the Affair” after the end of a relationship. I have listened to “Conrad” on repeat after a bad day. I have had his entire discography on repeat when I am reading. He is just part of my life and I absolutely love it.

Ben Howard
Ben Howard

IMG_1584   Of course the crowd chanted “we want more!” He came back out and started to play “Esmerelda”. However, being in South Africa, as the clock struck 18:00, we had loadshedding. The power went out and the show was over. I met up with friends in Kensington for a birthday bonfire. By 23:00, the temperature had dropped to 0 degrees. I needed more layers than the five that I had. This meant, going to snuggle on a couch with a rather attached dog. The sweetest, large bugger! IMG_1601   IMG_1607   IMG_1610   The long bus ride was quite a stunner! Worth every penny, worth the wretched JHB winter, worth waiting for 6 months! “Hot sand on toes, cold sand in sleeping bags. I’ve come to know that memories were the best things you ever had…” With Love, x