Thoughts of a Flowertot…Compact Galleries – Pingyao, Xian, Chengdu and Shanghai

Aahhh, this time last week we had just checked our bags into Singapore’s Changi Airport with a few hours to kill.  Looking back since we set off some 160 days ago I’ve realised that my travel diary only really comes into play at bad times. My sparse blog entries have mainly been rambling whiny episodes and to the outsider it would seem that I am having a really bad time.  In truth, if I’m having a good time I never stop to think to write it down. I’m too busy enjoying it! This is all well and good for now but I’m already beginning to confuse which country I am actually in so I fear that in 20 or 30 years time my alcohol addled brain will recall nothing of my adventures. The majority of my diary documents the negatives so I want to make sure that the good stuff is there too.

Invariably your experiences are coloured by the people that you meet rather than solely the location. We’ve met some stunning people along the way, travellers & holidaymakers, young & old, sober & drunk. One of the greatest benefits of taking such a chunk of time out from your life is having the opportunity to actually stop & re-evaluate. I still haven’t a clue what I want to do with my life whenever this trip ends but meeting such a variety of people reminds you that so much is possible.

Travel is an invaluable experience that everyone should take, even if only for a few weeks or months although the longer the better. 5 months in, I feel as though I’m only just starting to relax into things. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to have a house, a kitchen, my own bed & how it feels to pull clothes out of a wardrobe rather than a scrunched up pile in a bag.  After spending so much time planning what we were going to take with us, I now understand that it really doesn’t matter. Valuables (passport, cash cards & digital photos) are kept with me, or locked up. Anything else can be replaced. Clothing continues to be an ‘issue’ but it’s really not a bind.

We set off from home with only base layers – multiple to layer of course, we’re not stupid!?!  Except I was already pretty cold on the platform of Huddersfield station ‘and we’re going to Siberia’ we laughed ….slightly nervously. Within days of reaching Berlin we had bought a coat each, by Poland I had bought some woolly tights and – god forgive me – a fleece. As we moved through Russia, Siberia & Mongolia the layers got thicker and thicker until I resembled a Michelin man. I found that it’s really quite difficult to bend down when wearing 3 pairs of trousers, 4 tops, a fleece and coat. It’s also really not a good look. Thankfully I managed to squeeze in some make up & a pair of mini hair straighteners into my backpack without Pauls knowledge. These contraband items have proven to be a life-saver, making things seem a little more bearable on the days where I feel like a baby elephant!

My ‘winter wardrobe’ which will be needed again in South America also adds unwanted kilo’s to my backpack & despite having sent 2 clothes parcels home we have since bought summer clothes & are still totting up 18/19kg each. Scarily close to the 20kg limit.  I have had the mortifying experience of bending down to pick something up and actually falling over – in the street – due to the weight of my bag. Like a big fat turtle!  So, while it’s nice to have all this stuff it would also be quite nice if my bag had never made it to the next airport!

While they don’t physically weigh anything, we have both been conscious of the stockpile of compact camera pics we’ve collected over the past few months. At first I saw it as a bit of a bind to trawl through thousands of pictures, but in fact it has been lovely to remember so many fab times & people. Sooo, quite a while back but here’s the rest of our Chinese adventures.

Pingyao & Xian

Pingyao. The very atmospheric & traditional walled city – but also bloody cold! Next we moved to the much more upbeat city of Xian. We learnt how to make fresh Chinese dumplings & made friends with some local ex-pats who took us clubbing. Fun times, until we had to get up early the next morning for a pre-booked tour. Ouch!

Chengdu & Shanghai

Chengdu – we saw more of the hostel than Chengdu due to the fab people we met here. Our cookery skills were put to the test again in a  cooking class with Amy & Paul which involved lots of tofu & that special ingredient MSG, mmm!  A few visits were made to the usual tourist spots including the mental People’s park where locals carry out fashion & music shows. Oh yeah & Paul acquired a cockerel there…

Our final stop on the first visit to China was wonderful Shanghai where we managed to catch up with our train traveller Tom again before he returned to the UK, along with the lovely Zoe who we met at the hostel – our food saviour for translating menu’s!