One Night in Shenyang

Unless you’re working for a Chinese public school or a kindergarten, Language Centre ESL teachers in China do not have the weekend off. Instead, you have two split days during the week – I have Monday and Thursdays off. When we have a holiday or two consecutive days off, I take full advantage of this! At the beginning of April, China celebrated Qing Ming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Festival). This is the time when people remember the dead. To be honest, I have not seen a cemetery in Harbin. Strange, right?

So, the point is…I decided to spend one night in Shenyang.

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I hopped on to the G train at 07:00 in the morning and there I was, on a mini break. I spent about 2 and a half hours on the train – I slept most of the way. I walked to the first taxi I saw and insisted on him using the meter. I thought I was a pain in the arse for this but oh well… Found the hostel with ease as I gave the driver directions verbally.

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Firstly, it was way warmer than Harbin so I was a little too layered. I decided to head over to the Qing Dynasty (Fuling) tombs. According to my GPS, it would take just under an hour to get there. So, water and a map! Due to the public holiday, the traffic was insane. So, it took a little longer than expected.

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The Fuling tombs are well-looked after and a great space to clear your mind! It is a large site so you need at least half a day to explore. There are some closed off areas that I under reconstruction or restoration. I needed to use the bathroom as I was leaving but I couldn’t find one. (There is an embarrassing story here but I will keep it hush hush).

Well, what else is there to do in Shenyang? Having a look at Tripadvisor would be a great start.

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When you’re finally exhausted of the historical sites, you could take a wander around the Unit 11 Art complex.

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There are numerous cafes around Shenyang. Make sure you have a beverage at Lenore’s! There are a few around town. They make a good, frothy cuppa!

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The Deets

Where to stay: I use Agoda to book hostels around China. I stayed at The Lazy Bee Youth Hostel.

Transportation: The buses are cheap and reliable. It’ll cost just about CNY 2 for a one way trip. Ask your hostel about which bus line to take. If you have an iPhone, you can just type in the address on Maps and it’ll show you which bus to take!

Entrance to the Fuling Mausoleum: CNY 50.

Tip: Try not to visit on a public holiday, it’ll be packed!

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An Outing: Harbin Opera House

A friend invited me out to see the grand Opera House. I absolutely love design and architecture that I had heard of the Harbin Opera House before I even had the opportunity to leave South Africa.

Well, we both had the day off, it was a beautiful sunny day albeit the 2 degrees celsius!

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I took three buses to get over the bridge to the location. I could have taken two – my mistake. I took bus 119 to connect to the bus 35 at Song Bei Road. Really easy. I even read that you can take the subway to Teiping Lu then take the bus 35 from there. I have noticed that many foreigners prefer to take the taxi (too costly) because it’s more convenient, saves time or you just show the driver the address without an effort. I prefer the buses, to be honest. They are inexpensive (1RMB) and if you had to get lost you get off the bus, cross the road and take the exact same bus to where you started. Then, back to the drawing board. Or, take a taxi 🙂

I made it there after a lovely walk back to here I needed to be, the Opera House. I missed my stop. I was stopped by an overly excited Chinese woman – a photo with me, of course. She kept on saying how beautiful  (mei nu) was so I couldn’t say no.

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Well, the Opera House is all that and more. Except for the ticket office. So, the friend and I wanted to know whether we can walk in to the building for a bit of sightseeing. There was a bit of confusion of “we can but we can’t”. Then, we wanted to know how to get tickets for the shows (I really want to see a ballet showing at the start of November). This ballet could be on showing at the end of October. Or, not. Could we get tickets? The ticket office didn’t know. Well, that left us confused. So what do you do at a ticket office if you can’t get the schedule or purchase tickets or enquire about future shows. Sanch and I walked out thinking, “did that just really happen?”

We continued to meander about and get some good shots.

dsc04574dsc04602dsc04612It was time for an early dinner and head back home.

After spending half the day outside, I now have sniffles and a sore throat. Layer up!

x

PS: crediting Sanch for his photography skills…

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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

Chilly Ferry Boat Ride to Buyukada, Prince’s Islands..

The morning I decided to go to the Prince’s Islands, it was a little gloomy and really, a normal person could have postponed it. I was adamant though. I was set on going so I did. I should have dressed more appropriately, you know. Warmer clothes and the likes.

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I met an American (originally from Khazakstan) who was on this trip with his uncle. A gentleman and a great distraction from the sad short stories I had been reading.

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I took a ferry from Kadikoy (I quite like saying the towns with a Turkish accent) to Buyukada (the largest island). If I had all the time in the world, I would have stopped at all four islands. I was not expecting the colonial architecture. Actually, I have never been in New Orleans before but from all of the documentaries and photos I have seen, Buyukada’s architecture and set up is similar to that of New Orleans. Strange observation.

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I took a walk to the park, which is situated towards the peak of the island. I chose not to hire a bicycle (to save money, and it was all uphill to the peak). I also chose not to take the horse carriage. Mainly because the horses were in such an unhealthy state. I saw one with a bleeding foot, some with their horse shoes coming off and others looked a little malnourished. The horse poo smell grew on me. I got used to it.

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I enjoyed some really good elastic ice cream on the walk. I forgot to mention that on my way to the ferry, I decided to get a cheap lunch from the cafeteria. It was flavoured bulgur rice with vegetables in a tomato based ratatouille form. So, as I arrived at the park, with my muscles all worked out, I found a bench to enjoy my 4TL lunch and a gorgeous view!

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There are different shades of stray cats on this island. And, various modes of transport.

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A day beautifully spent. A cuppa tea at the peak. A wonderful walk.

With Love,

x

Istanbul Nightlife: DoRock and Istiklal Cd in Taksim..

I made a little durak at DoRock! I found an alternative scene in Istanbul, just off the main, bustling Istiklal cd in Taksim. I enjoyed this place. Great rock music from local bands. I went to this dark, grungy little place twice. The first time I went alone but I made friends with two guys my age. Burak and his Brit mate, Joe. I didn’t realised there were still people named Joe in the world. Hah! Actually, this was the first Joe I have personally met. These guys were awesome, funny and witty! We enjoyed some rock music, wine, laughs and a sip of raki (I really could not drink it). We may have been tipsy and convinced Joe to take the stage at an open mic session at the bar next door. He was unexpectedly good! The great thing about meeting locals was that they can educate you a little. We spoke about what was happening in the country; from the Kurds, to the Congolese and Syrian refugees. We were a little hungry and ended up in uncharted territory where most of the Syrians try to make a living. I had a little falafel wrap with a sip of Joe’s Ayran. Great night out with locals.

The second time I went to DoRock, I decided to take my host, Levent, for some live music before we’d go out partying! He was taking me out clubbing, the Turkish way. It was the night before I left for the Asian side so it seemed a great idea to leave with a bang!

Both of the nights showcased fantastic, FREE live alternative music.

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Istiklal Caddesi is the 1.5 km stretch which is the heart of Taksim. I would think? It is where people meet up before a night out, where people shop until way after midnight, where people spend their days (and evenings) busking! It’s basically where everything happens. I loved walking up and down this street. This street sees thousands of people each day! This is the street that led to the Galata tower, it led me to the shops where I spent a fortune in, which led to great conversations with shopkeepers and it also led me to two girls from Durban. How did we find each other? Earrings! One of the girls and I were wearing identical wooden “Africa map” earrings made by a local craftsman in Durban! Small, small world. The little pleasures.

I made ice cream, coffee, store browsing stops the whole way to the end of the street. There are MANY alley ways that you could find yourself lost in the maze! I basically zigzagged my way down the street.

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Istiklal Caddesi at Sunset.
Istiklal Caddesi at Sunset.

I have learnt so much about myself. I have learnt so much about this city. Taking it all in. One breath at a time.

“Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.”

With love,

x

Autumn Hike in Injisuthi, Drakensberg..

I can use my limbs again!

Also, what I did not know was that you find little boys shouting out “SWEETS” when you drive past. Apparently, it is quite common in the more rural townships. We had about four boys herding some livestock shouting out for these sweets. We had to stop and wait for the cows to move out of the way. During this time, we had these little 8 year old boys almost climbing in to the car demanding sweets or money to buy said sweets. A friend had an apple to give one of the boys. They can get quite aggressive but at the time, it was hilarious! Little boys having fun.

Woah! Breathtaking experience that I will, I dare say, do it all over and over again!

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I organised this hike to Injisuthi, Drakensberg thinking that it would be a walk in the park. Just a walk to a cave, casually, you know. Little did I know that this trek would take 7 hours just to get there! I may have said some prayers and curses in the last hour as it was dark, I was not feeling too well (altitude, lack of food, exhaustion, hot & cold) and I couldn’t figure out why we could not find this darn cave!

We arrived at the Marble Bath cave SEVEN MINUTES before the heavens opened and it poured. It was so cosy, and absolutely breath-taking! We were completely sheltered from the thunderstorm and fell asleep like a baby with the sounds of rain, wind, river streaming and thunder as my lullaby.

Oh, I was the leader and map master! Ahem…

Here are the photos of this glorious, majestic and well-worth it hike! (Clearly I have not had enough, I am planning a four day hike as we speak…)

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Thank you, Nature! You are one helluva a stunner!

With Love,

x

PS: That water (Marble Baths) was delicious!

Cape Town Tickets: You Beaut!

Cape Town.

It always captures my heart. I am in my element here. It is as though the surrounding beauty speaks my language. We are in tune.

This was not a good ol’ touristic trip. It was to be reunited with my best friend who now lives and works in the United State of ‘Murrica. A weekend was not enough. Oh hell, a week would not have been enough.

The beginning of this “let’s cause a bit of havoc and occupy CT” mission started at 3am on Friday morning. I woke up way too early. Too keen.

Easter weekend. This is why there are people driving about at 4am. Oef! I was awake so early because I live approximately 40 minutes away from the airport. I love airports. You see the most genuine facial expressions here.

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Upon arrival. Breath taken away. Inhale. Exhale.

I travelled with Natalie. You special person, you! She was hungover and not entirely responsive that morning. Hilarious to watch, really. I was a hobbit: by 9am, I was already on “second breakfast”.Cape Town

What a treat! Sunny with a chilly breeze. Ice cold sea water! Is that even normal? Durban has a minimum of 18 degrees sea water. Ah! Blaspheme! Needless to say, I could only stick my toes in the water. Then, I ran! Away! As fast as I could!

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After the beach, meeting Carl and his gnarly mates, it was time for a little walkabout around town. I took some photos on the promenade. Unfortunately, my battery died. I saw some middle-aged women reading magazines in their thongs. Cape Town. You would think you are no longer in Africa. I stopped by at a rather inviting place called Knead. Nothing like freshly baked bread. I bought some for the braai that we were hosting that evening.

Huh?? I don't know what this is. But, I want one..
Huh?? I don’t know what this is. But, I want one..

Our punch brought all the mates to the yard! Kelly is the queen of making deliciously potent punch (I will never forget the punch you made for your 18th…). We played a drinking game of Kings. You must know the game — it was solely invented to make the players ridiculously inebriated.

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After a blurry night out in town. We had a boogy on Long Street — and, I am told that I witnessed a girly cat fight on the dance floor. As far as I am concerned, I killed it on the dance floor. I must have paraded some wicked Durban dance moves. Or, not.

Saturday morning.

Let’s not talk about it. However, let’s talk about Saturday afternoon. Vortex. The drive was beautiful. Stopped by for a Wimpy breakfast to somewhat cure the hangover. May have worked. Vortex is a psy-trance music festival; and this time, it was in Caledon. Approximately 1 hour 30 minutes away from Cape Town. I say approximately because I was in and out of sleep (I was not driving!).

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Great stomping. Fun music. My god, I love people watching at such festivals. You end up questioning existence. Or, sanity. I woke up the next morning in the back seat of the car curled up in my sleeping bag with cramps and a rather sore hip. The word “tickets” was going around. I don’t recall why, but apparently I had these “tickets”. I mean, I was first man down… Is this the ticket for the point of no return? Someone. Please.?

Also, it was freezing! Possibly 12 degrees! Please don’t argue with a Durbanite – it was freezing cold!

That was the end of the trip. Checking in late (5 minutes before the check in closing time) and then having turbulence on the flight home after the rough two nights I had gone through. The universe was against me. Perhaps, it was trying to tell me to stay in Cape Town a little while longer. You know, to search for my name that I had chucked out the window. Mildly.

Thank You!
Thank You!

 Thank you for making this one hell of a trip. Kelly, your kindness amazes me everyday! I missed you as soon as I said goodbye! Errgh! See you soon.

I’ll sure make another date with Cape Town soon.

With Love,

x