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2k15 in a photo dump


2015 in photodump

I got a thousand photos taken this 2015 and while several of them are screenshots (of funny, mushy and somehow memorable conversations with certain people), most of them are moments — moments that are the highlights of this fruitful year.

I created this post as well to thank those people who have been a great part of my 2k15. If you have seen your face on the photos below, then good on ‘ya. This year’s been great because you’ve been a part of it.

Continue reading “2k15 in a photo dump”

10 things I learned in China

  1. If they say 9:00, then 9:00 it is. 9:01 is never 9:00. The locals here are strict about the time. If it’s 8:40 on your ticket, the train is leaving at exactly 8:40. Be late once, then better be prepared to hear “Ah! You’re late!” instead of their usual warm, “Ni hao!”
  2. The art of bargaining. Chinese vendors tend to charge foreigners up to 70% more than the original price. However, they would eventually give in if you become too makulit in bargaining. Here’s one tip though: if you are not satisfied with their final price, you can just walk away. Count two seconds and they will call you back to let you buy the item with the price that you wanted. ๐Ÿ˜‰
  3. Snickers is a better choice than Oreo. Because they are sooo much cheaper there. A regular sized Snickers there costs around 2.80rmb, which is around 28php only. The regular sized Oreos are being sold in 7rmb (49php), almost the same price here in the Philippines.
  4. Drink hot water. Because it’s safer. You can’t just trust the glass of water they serve in restaurants because tap water in China’s not that good, so they serve it hot, just to prove that the water they give you is safe.
  5. There isn’t such thing as a standard way to hold chopsticks. It’s all up to you. Each local has a different way to hold a pair of chopsticks. Whichever way you think will be the easiest for you — well, use it.
  6. Initiate a conversation, even if you are the foreigner. Locals tend to be a bit shy, especially when they are not too good in speaking English, so if you want to make friends, you better start talking to them first — politely.
  7. Taiwan is considered as a Chinese province. And even if they use Mandarin, their accent is very different from the people in Mainland. I didn’t know this until our tour guide pointed at huge standee of Lin Chi-ling (Jerry Yan’s ex-girlfriend…) and told us that she is from Taiwan — a province of China just above the Philippines. And I was like, oh… *me so dumb*
  8. Dumplings are considered as staple food. Dumplings there do not mix with rice and noodles. They are too heavy to be paired with other staple food — because these dumplings are also considered as staple food.
  9. Your student’s ID will be your best buddy. It is the key to endless 50% discounts on tourist tickets and such. Make sure it is always with you.
  10. Pick the middle bunk bed when riding the train for more than 8 hours. You wouldn’t be able to enjoy the view when you pick the topmost and the lowest bunk. Plus the hassle.

The Xi’an Experience

If Beijing has mesmerized me, well, I can’t find the right word to describe how beautiful Xi’an is.

When people talk about China, you would often hear Beijing, Guangzhou or Shanghai. Xi’an is not as popular as these three, but little did others know that this city possesses several of the most famous landmarks of the country, and one of the oldest and most prestigious universities not just in China, but in Southeast Asia as well.

As summer campers of Confucius Institute, aside from enjoying perks such as “free dining, transportation and tour” for fourteen days, we are required to attend Mandarin classes, including learning the language, and some of the traditional Chinese culture.

That is why in traveled for 12 hours via train (with cabin beds) all the way from Beijing to Xi’an, and stayed in Northwest University for ten days.

For several days we attended morning classes with two of our favorite laoshi’s (teachers), Heidi and Christine, whom both we have known in the Philippines before. We are fortunate enough to have them, since it will comfortable for us to learn because we already are familiar with them.

During the afternoons, we have the culture classes. We learn one traditional culture per afternoon, such as Chinese traditional painting, Chinese calligraphy, and TaiJi (Tai Chi).

During TaiJi classes. GAME FACE ON!
After-class photo with TaiJi Master Hua.
With the one who is so professional in Chinese calligraphy, Viga Li laoshi!
All of them are boasting their paintings, and then there’s me… nevermind.

And if we ever have free days or afternoons, we are all in tourist mode! ๐Ÿ˜‰

One of the first places in Xi’an that we had the chance to visit is the Bell Tower. It is located at the center of the city, and people value it so much that they don’t build establishments higher than the said tower because of the respect that they give to the popular landmark. If there would be a building in Xi’an that is higher than the Bell Tower, that establishment will be ordered to be demolished.

The view from the Bell Tower. Sorry we didn’t have a photo of the tower — the view’s too nice!
Groupie at the Bell Tower

Just nearby the tower, there is this place called the Muslim Road, where you can buy cheap souvenirs like ref magnets, keychains, chopsticks and even different kinds of street food.

We have also visited the famous and historical Terracotta Warriors…

The famous Terra Cotta Warriors
I bless you, my dear warriors… ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Historical Ruins of Imperial Hot Springs…

I just used to see this on postcards…
I just had to. I’m sorry. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And the Great Wild Goose Pagoda!

Guess who almost touched the tip of the Pagoda? ๐Ÿ˜‰

But my most favorite spot is the South Lake (also known as the Swan Lake). It is that kind if place that you often see in movies and TV shows, wherein there is a beautiful lake, a beautiful bridge, and a beautiful sunset to look at! Perfect for taking photos, definitely.

“Lumot sa Bato”
Again, I just had to. Duibuqi. ๐Ÿ™‚

There are numerous unexpected adventures, like visiting the new campus of Northwest University, and our “great escape” to the ไบบไบบไน (big supermarket), but I guess the post would just be too long if I included the whole story (especially the great escape. Hihi).

The whole trip was nothig but memorable. Maybe it’s great since its “free,” we only paid for our airline ticket and the rest was sponsored by Confucius Institute, but the whole experience is priceless.

China may not be in good terms with the country that I am from, but I don’t have a bad experience at all with dealing with the locals. At first we tried to hide our nationalities because of the dispute, but since our complexions and dialects were too obvious, we decided to just tell them truth. Frankly, most of them did not care about the dispute. They were so warm and welcoming, especially the students of NW.

The China Babies with ate Nicole, the sole Filipina in studying in Northwest University.
Me with some of the Chinese students I talked to before going home.

Because of this, I see a slight resemblance of China to Philippines in some way. China, despite all the bad things about it, especially these days, you can never deny that their country is beautiful. Just like how beautiful Philippines is, in spite of all the negative things people would usually associate our country with.

I consider this an achievement โ€” travelling to a country (which has a dispute with my country, beat that!) without anybody related to me waiting for me there. After all the shits I went through, from the hassle of getting a new passport, to dealing with the error on my name stated on my airline ticket, I should say that the whole trip is worth it. So worth it.

to Jairalaine Trogo and Aaron Paul Dela Rosa for some of the photos posted above. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mesmerized by Beijing

Beijing is beautiful— I don’t even know where and how to start.

We stayed there for four days — three before moving to Xi’an, and one before we went back to the Philippines. And since I was still having an internship hangover the moment I boarded the plane to China, I don’t have any expectations on what will the place, food and people be like in there. I just hopped on the plane, slept and landed on Beijing, also known as Peking — the next thing I know, I was amazed.

Beijing’s traffic is almost similar to Manila’s, the only difference is that they don’t have trikes and jeeps, and it is much more quieter — no angry drivers blowing their horns anywhere and the city’s buildings reminded me somehow of Makati. This is one reason why I think I did not experience culture shock at all.

We checked in at Majesty Hotel after taking our first lunch, and rested after a sleepless and tiring flight.

We started touring the second day, and it was 12-13 degrees Celcius kind of morning, and I cannot help but to savor the chilly wind carressing my face. Our first destination is the National Museum of China (ไธญๅ›ฝๅ›ฝๅฎถๅš็‰ฉ้ฆ†) located on the East side of Tiananmen Square.

Their museum is boasting of a total floor space of 200,000 sqm with four storeys, and it has a very tight security system wherein they would scan each visitor and his bag, just like in the airport. If they found a bottled water in your bag, they will let you sip it in front of them to make sure that it is not some kind of explosives.

Sorry for the LQ photos, I was only using my iPad and it was too dark. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

But what amazed me the most is the fact that the Chinese people are incredible when it comes to preserving their culture and their past. For a country that is too big and is rich in historical stories, their people are doing a good job when it comes to educating their next generation about their history — one of the things that I would like to happen in our country.

The next stop is the famous Forbidden City (็ดซ็ฆๅŸŽ) located at the center of Beijing. The place served as home to the emperors and his wife, including his concubines for almost several hundreds of years. It was called forbidden because nobody can ever enter or leave the walled city without the emperor’s permission.

The Forbidden City covers a total of 72 hectares, so yes, it was a hell of a long walk for us. But I must say, the view is great, and before I was only seeing this palace on TV and in encyclopedias, so it’s definitely worth it.

On our third day in Beijing, we visited a jade gallery and factory. What people don’t usually know is that China is not just famous for jade jewelries but jade plays a big role in Chinese culture.

The jade gallery and store
How a jade ball is being carved
A pure jade ball
Zodiac animals made of jade

And then after, we climbed the Great Wall!

There are absolutely no words for this one. Yes, the Great Wall (้•ทๅŸŽ) was hard to climb (because we chose the path where there were less tourists, but more steep steps!) but the view up there was breathtaking. I haven’t managed to go up further and reach an end, (thanks asthma!) but the feeling was amazing. I climbed down thinking to myself, “I can climb anything now!” LOL!

Long way up
Just before climbing the Wall

View from the top… the “top that I reached”, actually. ๐Ÿ˜‰

After visiting the Great Wall, we proceeded to Beijing Olympic Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, and to the Beijing National Aquatics Center, or the Water Tube. These two architectures, which were built for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, were my most anticipated stop because I thought we weren’t going there anymore, and I am a sucker for unique architectures like these! Luckily, we have enough time just before we boarded the train to Xi’an.

I met Minnie as I was going to the Olympic Stadium!
Bird’s Nest, finally!
After the name shits before entering China, we are now here! Hello, ate Ellaine! โค
Paulinians represent! ๐Ÿ™‚ With Albert Tante in front of Beijing National Aquatic Center

After ten days of staying in Xi’an for Chinese classes and some tour, we went back to Beijing again to have our one last tour in the city, and visited the Summer Palace (้ขๅ’Œๅ›ญ).

The Kunming Lake, which is a 100% man-made lake, dominated the palace, along with the Longevity Hill which is about 60 meters high. The place was called as the Summer Palace because way back during the times of Ancient China, the emperor used to go there during summer since the wind there would be cooler because of the waters.

Kunming Lake and Longevity Hill
Last tourist mode before flight back home ๐Ÿ˜‰

Just like any other cities in the world, Beijing has its own flaws: ย the traffic, the pollution, and the reckless drivers… But I bet not one city in the world has nothing wrong with it. Maybe because somehow, this city reminds me so much of Makati and Manila, but I think Beijing is just too beautiful to not be appreciated by foreign tourists. Given the chance, I would surely go back once more (hopefully this time, with someone!), visit more places and take more photos.