An unexpected adventure via South Korea: Part Two

Sunday 28th June

So, as you can guess, after a dance-filled night out, this morning was a write off. We only managed to get ourselves out of the door at half past one! Once again we had our toast breakfast 😀 then headed off both Luis and I following Sooguen as he took us around the city. We caught a bus and got off outside a temple. This temple was small and tucked back in-between bigger and taller buildings. We couldn’t step into the temple itself as there were crowds of people in prayer or participating in a ceremony of some kind. However it was beautiful. The Korean traditional style buildings seem to use a few brighter colours than the Chinese, I feel they use green much more which is really pretty! There were rows and rows of colourful lanterns hung up above us. From there we walked across the road onto a street that was popular for tourists: Insa-dong. The street is said to be one of the most memorable attractions in Seoul and represents the focal point of Korean traditional culture and crafts. It has a small outdoor shopping centre which you just follow a ramp all the way around to climb up to the top, passing various shops selling jewellery, artsy stuff and snacks.

From there we headed towards the Bukchon Hanok Village which is a small part of the city full of the old style houses. Despite being newly built (they looked too perfect and unweathered to be genuinely old!), they were lovely. We didn’t get to look inside because they are current homes to Korean citizens. I love the Asian-style architecture. I think it’s much more beautiful than the thatch-roofed cottages or Victorian-style houses we find in the UK. I asked Sooguen about the average price of houses for one person with a stable job and it was as pricey as London. With that in mind, we were then faced with a decision. To climb or not to climb. There was an option of catching the bus up the hill (that we couldn’t see at this point) to SungKyunKwan University but as we’d have to walk in the opposite direction and wait, we chose to climb. It was boiling but what’s a little hill gonna d0..!? It’s a killer. That’s what it is. It was also big. Luckily it didn’t take too long to climb and it meant we had a fantastic view back over the city but seriously.. We walked back down into the campus and were led through a view passage ways to a building to catch the elevator up to the top floor. This brought us out to a patio grassed area which would be so lovely to sit in and study when you want to escape from the world. I’m a bit sceptical as to whether we were allowed but we then climbed a ladder (ergh, I am scarred for life after the one in the Tiger Leaping Gorge!) and were welcomed by a panoramic view of Seoul. I fell in love. I already had when I had seen it from Naksan Park but this was just amazing. I am a sucker for panoramic views of a city…

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Panoramic View of Seoul from SungKyunKwan University

We walked through the campus and out to the front end of the University to see the old main building that appears on the 1,000 won bank note however as it was a Sunday, the gates to go into that particular area were closed earlier than usual. Oops. Nevertheless we rewarded our long day of walking with a Mexican-style dinner! It was absolutely delicious. I have to say: the restaurants, fast food, cafes, etc. in Seoul never disappointed. And as a food-lover, I was extremely happy. Even though Luis did say that it wasn’t “true” Mexican cuisine, he enjoyed it a lot 😀 Once stuffed we went to Dongdaemun Design Plaza. This is the fashion hub in the South Korean Capital. Dongdaemun has every fashion item imaginable: fabric, clothes, accessories, and wedding goods. There is a massive shopping centre full of Korean and International high-fashion brands. Alongside the shopping centre is the gate itself, officially named Heunginjimun (meaning ‘Gate of Rising Benevolence’) but is much more commonly known as Dongdaemun: ‘Great Eastern Gate’. It wasn’t my most favourite part of town but for any fashion enthusiast it would be amazing to visit. My favourite part of it was a grass area filled with lit up white plastic roses. I don’t know why they were there – or if they copied the idea from the Tower of London anniversary – but it was beautiful to see once the sun had set. By 9pm we were exhausted and headed back to the hostel, Sooguen headed home as he had University classes to go to the next morning. However we did not crash until at least midnight due to Jisoo coming over to chill with us for a while! 🙂

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Roses nearby the square in Dongdaemun

Monday 29th June

We had a chilled day, slept in, ate our daily toast and were tourists. We went to see the main Palace in the centre of Seoul. It’s amazing how there are big hills or small mountains inside the city!! It wasn’t an eventful day so I’ll just post a few pictures of the city 😀

Tuesday 30th June 

Today we got up late again. We were to meet Jisoo at some point as he had told us he was free. And as fate would have it, Sooguen was suddenly available for the whole day too so he decided to join us. It was the only day where all four of us were together 😀

As Luis and I hadn’t done a great amount of sight-seeing we chose to meet them at Changdeokgung Palace on the North-eastern side of the city. Sooguen was already there when we arrived and we ate lunch as we were all quite hungry and had to wait for Jisoo. There was a street near the metro station that was full of eateries, coffee shops and a couple of small clothes shops. We went to a cheap place that sold fried rice cups and it was so good! I chose a seafood one and Luis chose the original because it was non-spicy (hehe). I am quite proud that my tolerance to spice has risen. Once stuffed we went to the Palace… And realised that if we went the next day, it’d be free entry for everything for Luis and I. We decided to do something different seeing as we had another day, it would be free, and it meant Jisoo and Sooguen wouldn’t have to walk around something that doesn’t tickle their fancy at all! 

Koreans are big fans of baseball so it was suggested that we go see a game in the late afternoon. We got on a bus that took almost an hour to get down to the south side of the city and went to see Lotte World. The owner of the company, Lotte, wants to go down in history thus is building the tallest building in Seoul. Beside it lies a large Lotte World shopping centre and another indoor and outdoor amusement park across the road. We spent a few hours in that area. I found a Krispie Kreme Doughnut Shop and excitement took over! I, honestly, ran to it (with three guys just wondering how crazy I was) and bought a doughnut. Totally worth it. Then bad luck struck and we realised it had rained so it was unlikely the game would be on… Damn.

Instead we went to a entertainment part of the Jamsil district and were treated to a delicious Korean barbecue by Jisoo and Sooguen. As the game was cancelled, we played a few arcade games, each having a go at a baseball simulator, and the guys had a go on a shooting game. Then, we actually went into a gaming centre that was a underground room FULL of massive computer screens. We played a multiplayer car racing game for an hour for 5,000₩. That is equivalent to £3! Unbelievably cheap but so much fun! 

Wednesday 1st July

Today we resumed the role tourists and headed to Changdeokgung Palace (after our round of toast that was becoming a tradition for us to have each morning). We had the cup of rice for lunch again which was delicious! And somehow the rest of the day ran away with us. Partly due to our late start but also we found ourselves just waddling around slowly in the heat. We went to Namdaemun (the South Gate) before heading down to the Han River for one more walk along it. The view was still as fantastic as the first time we crossed it. 

Sooguen came to meet us at our hostel at around 7:30pm to decide what to do for dinner. Despite Luis just wanting to have food delivered and sit on the couch for the rest of the evening, we headed out to a pizza place which was ten minutes walk away. This pizza was HUGE. It was one slice too much for three of us and had space to have three different style toppings on it! We sat outside and ate it which was really nice. 

This evening Sooguen and I had chosen to use all the points I had on Ctrip to stay somewhere a bit nicer than a hostel… (no offence to the hostel, it was really nice!). I chose the Pacific Hotel in Myeong-Dong district because it was more central and easy transport wise. It was a lot nicer than either of us expected. And so exciting! Finally a little teeny bit of luxury after five months – and many nights in hostels – in China. Sooguen suggested that we go up to the Namsan Tower, otherwise known as the Seoul Tower. I dare say.. it was perfect. It was quite a clear night and the full moon was high in the sky. Although we didn’t go up the tower, we caught the gondola up to the top of the hill it stood on and the view points there were still fantastic! It was the most perfect last night I could have ever had. ^^’

Thursday 2nd July

As Luis was due to leave the hostel for Seoul Airport at 11am, I made sure I was back at the hostel by 10am so we would be able to drag our luggage together. However when I arrived I found he was only half packed and, in a typical Luis way, we had a situation to deal with. His flight was booked for the day before. Oh bugger. He was frantically searching for a flight out the same day however Jeju Air is a rubbish website and never seems to work with any credit cards at all. So he got himself sorted and went to the airport to buy a flight there. It was weird to be saying goodbye to him for the final (for now) time. I had said the words ‘goodbye’ to Luis four times by now (having only meant to have parted ways twice) and we were laughing at the idea of it possibly being the fifth if he couldn’t get a flight. Nevertheless he managed to get the exact same flight and we were definitely not going to cross paths for the next year at least. 😦 I am so glad that I did end up going back to Ningbo and got to know him properly. He is a gem of a guy 😀

We dragged our (well, my) bags to Seoul Train Station for Luis to catch the Airport Railroad (train) to the Airport and for me to chill in the station before I, myself, headed to the airport at 2pm. And you won’t believe my luck.. the ovens and machines in McDonald’s weren’t working! So I sat and read for a while. Sooguen had said he’d come after his classes finished and I managed to get hold of Jisoo incase there was a chance I could say goodbye to him properly too. Eventually they appeared, one after the other, and they took me up to Burger King where we chatted together until it was time for me to catch the Airport Railroad.

Jisoo & Sooguen seeing me off in Seoul Station
Jisoo & Sooguen seeing me off in Seoul Station

I don’t really have any words for leaving Seoul. I am pretty aware I’ve repeated a million times how saying goodbye has been for me so I’ve probably bored you all to death with my woes… The main focus for me this time was Sooguen and all I’ll say is saying goodbye to him was tough. :/ I’ve become a complete softie and cry at anything. I managed not to let the tears appear until I was on the escalator descending into the underground.. So there we go, a week in South Korea had been lived in a blink of an eye.

Thursday 2nd July

It is finally home time. I woke up torn about leaving this wonderful place and returning to my parents’ abode in good ol’ Calgary.

Seoul is definitely a city I would return to. I don’t say this because the whole week was incredible and I have a bias that takes the form of Sooguen. Rather, I loved the atmosphere of the city itself. There are parts that are busy and scream “city life” but others that are so much calmer thus more like a english ‘town’. It is a city you can escape in. The river itself is beautiful and relaxing to walk along. As Luis pointed out, it has a mixture of old and new architecture scattered across the city which reminds you how beautiful it is. I want to return and see the rest of Korea next year. For such a small isle, there is a lot to see that we didn’t even get close to. It’s good to have a goal for next summer. It comes hand in hand with the idea of going to China to work after graduation. 

The flight home was rather bumpy with turbulence. I couldn’t focus on much as we rollercoast-ed our way to Vancouver so I just listened to my iPod, thinking about the past six months. I am aware that I am so so so absorbed in Ningbo and what it was, and my life there but it is such a big part of my life right now. Understandably so.. right? XD I’ve gone through every moment trying to glue it to my long term memory so I won’t forget any of it. As many have seen I made a video and now to moving on and looking forward to the looming fourth year that I need to throw myself into..! 

Xo.

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Year Abroad: Relationships & Friendships on Exchange

I would say that one of the biggest worries about going abroad is that of our relationships. Even coming back with only one year to go it is a small weight on our shoulders. I refer to the friendships we have had for a long time, those made at university and any relationship we are possibly in.

It is scary to have to leave all that behind to go off to an unknown place where we won’t know who we’ll meet, what will happen and what our lives will look like in six months or a years time. For some, who have been together for ages or are more accustomed to long distance anyway seem to have a higher chance of staying together but is that true? I think it’s safe to say many young people ‘google’ “will my relationship survive the move to uni?” “Is long distance possible?” as if their questions will be directly answered with the top result being: “yes [insert name], your relationship will (or not) survive and you’ll be very happy together!” 

And despite our small ounce of hope, we know that we will never know the answer until we’ve lived it. As a saying goes: “life can only be understood backwards, but it is meant to be lived forwards.”

The first hurdle all of our relationships have to leap over is the move to university. For me, most of my friendships have survived and I’m still very much in touch with a few who I’d now say are friends for life (unless they meet a replacement much cooler than I in the near future…. Kidding). My relationship also survived. We had only been together a year but we gave it a go and succeeded. It was long distance (UK version) – him in London and I in Nottingham – but taking turns to see each other almost every other weekend worked magic and we were happy. We communicated a lot every day on WhatsApp which kept us as close as ever.

So there’s advice #1: forget the distance and just tell them everything you would as if you were both back home; whether you do it on messaging or during your phone calls doesn’t matter. Social media makes it *so* easy these days (compared to the past anyway).

My advice #2 is to make the effort to see them. If it is possible, set a rough date or arrange a time where either they can come out to see you or you go back to see them. If you’re really lucky then do both! For us UK lot, this is a lot easier if our exchange program is based in Europe… Outside that, it does get a lot trickier. 

Advice #3: although it sucks that you can’t be with them all the time, enjoy the fact that you have someone that you will see (eventually) and have to talk to whenever and wherever you are.

I think the foundation that holds up the relationship is how you feel about one another. No doubt everyone knows that. You gotta love ’em for it to work. 

This is where it changed for me. I was one of those googling about relationships abroad, desperately trying to find a site or post that would explain everything to me. I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do, why I feel what I feel so I didn’t feel so alone about it. I started the year of 2014 utterly fearful that my relationship wouldn’t survive… Little did I know that my heart had a different plan to what I had anticipated. I had said that I wanted to fight for our relationship no matter what. However, it all built up towards the end of the year and led to me choosing to do the exact opposite: to end it. I am certain that I was in love with him during the three years were together but it turns out we aren’t meant to be. I rationalised it and thought over it a million times, questioned my heart, tried my best in hoping that I was just having a weak spell because I was not home but, sadly, no.

But sometimes it’s even scarier to feel numb, to feel stuck, to feel the desire slipping away.

It’s easy to explain why you adore someone, or why someone’s good for you. It’s harder to describe why those old reasons aren’t enough anymore. It’s hard to explain that to your friends, and it’s often impossible to explain to your partner. Sometimes, it’s hardest to explain to yourself because you don’t want to be the person who admits that it’s over first.

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With this, I finally admitted that I had fallen out of love. My gut instinct knew that and my head had to accept it. This wasn’t necessarily by fault of him nor I but a culmination of many things. My year abroad has definitely changed me, what I want to life and how I feel about things. And above all, I felt the need to do the cliché thing and “find myself”. Despite how much it hurt to say goodbye to the lifestyle that I had when I feel to Canada to start 2015 with my family, I knew what I did was right. This isn’t written to say that long distance relationships are doomed to fail. There are so many that have survived across the world that we don’t know about. It is easy to ask google about it all and just find forums where one in eight people have a surviving relationship. Thus conclude that the odds are not in many people’s favour.

I have two friends now who have decided to have a long distance relationship having only met and known each other in exchange for five months. One lives in America and the other in South Korea yet they make it work. It is adorable. I think it’s fantastic that they are together because relationships on the exchange are so different. Normally the quote goes, “what happens on exchange stays on exchange” but in my friend’s case, it has kept going! 💖

Basically. Expect the unexpected. Keep in touch. And milk the entire experience for what it is worth!

Xo.

Guide 101: when your family moves abroad without you

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while and have only managed to sit down and do it recently.. The title says it all really. So here we go..

As the world is becoming more global and multicultural, it is becoming common to hear that families are not only moving house but moving to another country or even continent.
When my parents’ decided to move to Canada in the summer of 2013, I found that there was nowhere I could turn to for advice. The simple solution of “Google it.” wasn’t working. It appeared that no one else had ever experienced this before. I knew that I can’t be the only one. At all. But why wasn’t there any comforting or informative blog or thread to for me to waste hours reading?

I have realised that in the build up and period of adjustment to the “big move” there just wasn’t that much information or advice out in the world wide web that helped me or my family through it. Many google searches rendered useless except for the obvious fact that having the opportunity for my family to live abroad was one of the best things they could do. Most would assume that those members of the family that are moving have the hardest struggle of all. I don’t disagree with this at all however in this particular situation, it was missing out one important factor. My parents’ and brother were emotionally pushed to the limit when they left – my mum still cries in the airport no matter who comes and goes – and I admire them so much for braving it out. But they do have each other in a physical sense. What I mean by this is that they remained intact as a family unit whilst I floated along on to be attached through the use of Facetime and WhatsApp.

 

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I still find it difficult to explain to people because I feel like I am coming across as melodramatic and a weepy mess. Many people, friends and strangers, that are young adults are most likely to say that they don’t see their parents much either except for obligatory holiday visits or if they happen to be taking a weekend break from being at University. I understand their position because if we were to count the amount of days they see their parents and I see mine, it may total up the same. But the crippling thought for me that is quite un-relatable is the psychological fact that my parents’ just are not there to go home to. Hence this is the core as to why I wish I had someone who experienced the same as I. Even if they’ve only posted once on Yahoo! Answers. Yet to hear their side of the story too could have made adjusting so much easier.

Anyway!

To stop my babble continuing… I’ve boiled it all down to five things I wish I had known when it all began… I most likely paint myself to be a grumpy and melodramatic but it is difficult to explain emotions and goings on without it. Nonetheless, I hope it’s a good read…!

1. Honesty & Expression

In short, let yourself feel your emotions and don’t internalise them if they are doing you more harm than good. I’m not suggesting that you let the water works flow constantly but it’s better to talk to someone about it before letting it build up and then explode out in a jumble. I definitely remember one occasion where I just burst into tears on one of my housemates’ bed because I just let all the emotion and thoughts build up and break out when completely unrelated things were stressing me out.

2. Keep yourself busy

Sometimes the saying ‘the grass is always greener on the other side’ may ring loud and clear because your family will be doing different things that you aren’t able to do back home. If you don’t want to be alone, you don’t have to be. If none of your friends or other family members are over, go to the cinema, look up creative DIY ideas you can do at home or do those chores you’ve been putting off for ages. I found that most of the time I didn’t worry or think about it consciously but every now and again, I had to give myself a boost of positive thinking when I was stressing about whatever a 21 year old does stress about…

3. Communicate

 I have to admit that now my relationship with my parents’ has improved massively through the use of FaceTime and Whatsapp. An important thing is that if you want to talk to them, tell them. As we both have this need to check in with each other once everyday, it means we talk about everything and anything that is going on. My mum is a lot more like a best friend than she has ever been. I understand that as everyone grows up their relationships with their parents’ mature and improve and the same has happened to me. I guess the positive is avoiding my mum’s nagging by accidentally hitting the mute button… 😉

5. You are not alone

 I found that this is the hardest one to come to terms with. Due to this not being a common situation, it’s hard to feel that you have someone to turn to. Most of my friends were all really lovely about it and were always happy to lend an ear if I needed it. However it felt really difficult to be open about it because it’s not something they can relate to personally. When we want to help our friends through  a difficult time, we use our own experiences to give advice. Most of the time that helps but for me; all I wanted to do was just let it all out with someone without a word being said. That being said, it is so simple: you are really not alone and you’ll always have someone to listen should you need it. Even if it is your poster of Justin Bieber or the teddy you just can’t get rid of that sits on your bed. 

After this whole rollercoaster, I am so lucky to have the family I do and to have experienced all the opportunities that have arisen in wake of Calgary being added to my ‘places to call home’ list. Despite it still being more of a ‘holiday house’ for me, I have definitely accepted it in all it’s trauma and glory.

My Family, Canadian Summer 2015
My Family, Canadian Summer 2015

I hope that this has helped anyone who’s gone through, or going through the situation. More so, that it may help anyone, who has a friend who is in the exact position as I am, understand it all that little bit better. I’d love to know what you think of all this or if you’ve experienced the same!

Big love.

Xo.

An unexpected adventure via South Korea: Part One

Wednesday 24th June

Today I was meant to be on a looong journey back to the land of Maple Syrup and Cowboys. Alas, that is to come next week. Instead I boarded a flight heading to the capital of South Korea; Seoul. I only decided this the weekend before when I was with Luis and knew he was going to come to Seoul for a week. It it the most spontaneous thing I have ever done and I am still slightly surprised at myself for doing it. I had been wishing and wanting to go since I started planning my travels in May however I was aware of money and of the fact that I wanted to prioritise China. Yet after a lot of deliberation, and bravery, I changed my plans. The flight lasted just over three hours. It was torture. At first I was excited at the idea of being able to watch movies again. I tried both the new Cinderella and The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel but I just couldn’t focus after half an hour in. I also tried reading a book which I couldn’t get into. I tried to have a nap but once I managed to drift off I was awoken by a member of the cabin crew to put my seat up for lunch time. Sleep avoided me after that. The meal was actually one of the best I’ve had! It was Korean bibimbap. The vegetables, meat and rice were all so fresh and delicious. Then I just passed the time listening to music. The flight was only half full which I think shows that there are definitely less people venturing over here due to the MERS outbreak. The last ten minutes of the descent to the ground my brain just stopped working. How am I on my way to South Korea? Did I really make such a spontaneous decision? Should I be regretting this right now? Putting my expectations lower than the height of a mouse? I have no idea what the answers are to my questions but I can definitely say that although I’m not exactly believing I’m here, I’m definitely completely buzzing about it. When we broke through the clouds I was blown away by the view of an idea off the mainland that was surrounded by the glittering sea reflecting the sun rays. Even after we landed my jaw was still on the floor. My facial expression is just in complete disbelief. I don’t understand why! 

I went through immigration and baggage reclaim quickly and soon enough I was down at the ‘Airport Railroad’ to catch a train to Seoul. The airport – as always it seems – is forty five minutes outside of the city on the fast train. I battled to get wifi when I could when I arrived so I could contact Jisoo as he was going to meet me as he lives really close to the Pine Tree Gueshouse (hostel). Eventually I surfaced at Samgakji metro station dragging myself with all the baggage I had with me. Luckily there was free wifi outside the station so I was able to get in contact with him and he came to rescue me. We found the hostel and I moved my stuff in. I am the only one staying there! Can you believe it!? I can’t. It’s because of the MERS scare. All tourists – who are mostly from China and other nearby Asian countries – have cancelled coming. I haven’t noticed It at all though. There are few people wearing face masks and life seems to be going on as normal. The hostel is a little bungalow and its all mine mwahaha. I hope it continues to be like this. Well, Luis is arriving tomorrow but to have the place to ourselves would be so cool! Once I ditched my things Jisoo and I went on a hunt for food as it was already serve o’clock. He took me to the international area where we ended up having kebabs! It was different because I never have a kebab. Not even after a night out in Nottingham as McDonald’s is always my first choice! We then walked back towards the area of the hostel and carried on further to find a place that serves Korean beer. It was a cute little place on the second floor that looked out onto the street. We had a beer each and shared a chips. It was soooo lovely. And the beer was actually enjoyable! I have definitely been converted during my travels! By this point it was half past nine so we headed back. Jisoo chilled at the hostel with me for a while then headed home himself. It took me a while to go to sleep but eventually I managed. 

Jisoo and I having a Korean Beer - 24th June
Jisoo and I having a Korean Beer – 24th June

Thursday 25th June

Today I slept in, got ready and met Jisoo at eleven to go further into the centre of Seoul. As I was planning to go to the National Contemporary Museum, we went to that area to have lunch. We soon found ourselves in a Japanese style restaurant which was pretty good. I can’t wait to try Korean food though. Although Jisoo has told me I should try octopus tentacles. The difference with these and the deep fried kind we eat back home is: it is not cooked, freshly cut so the tentacles move and you could die by not chewing it enough when you eat it. Do I really want to put myself through that!? We’ll see…

We split ways after lunch as he went to study  and I went to educate myself on recent Korean history. The museum was pretty good. It was very hi-tech with many videos, informative short films and, moving images. Although most of the smaller bodies of text and information weren’t in English I understood the surface history of this land so I’m happier! Following that I spent an hour in the museum café reading my book to pass the time before going to Hyehwa to see Naksan Public Art Street. Jisoo mentioned he wanted to join me so I wanted to give him as much time possible to study because I don’t want to be a burden!

It’s nice not to be stared at here. Well, I do get looked at a little bit but it is not as bad as China! Koreans don’t feel very fussed at all. They have quite different customs to the Chinese. For one they are a lot calmer, polite and docile. Yet they do have an air of importance around them. An important custom is to bow your head a little when you walk into a public area such as the museum or shops etc because it shows respect. The awkward thing for a foreigner is ‘when the hell do I bow? Do I need to get the timing of it perfect?’. It’s hard to determine whether to be the one to bow first, bow at the same time and hope they notice you do or bow after they have. I may have to quiz the guys about this… I came out of the metro and I was instantly in student central. I believe there are two universities in this part of time so it is teeming of young people. There are lots of cafes and small shops too. I came here in search of the art street and I did eventually find it! Firstly I went up a (rather steep) hill to Naksan Park and had some awesome views looking back over the city. Honestly, I think I’m falling a little bit in love with this place. I climbed all the way up and took a few pictures of the view before going around and back down. I told myself I’m not going home until I’ve found this art street and luckily my perseverance paid off.

I had googled directions to the Art Street and copied them to notes on my phone. So I followed them and eventually came across it! It wasn’t as impressive as the Graffiti Street in Chongqing but it was cute! The most impressive art was on the staircases. It only took around fifteen minutes to go around the whole place and soon enough I was back down by the metro station. I waited for Jisoo to appear as he said he was done studying for the day. It had been enjoyable to sit and watch the life of Seoul go by. There were two young people rapping and singing (busking) nearby which was nice to listen to. Once Jisoo joined me we decided to go to hoehyeon market

then went back to our respective residences. Jisoo had already done so much for me and was a wonderful tour guide! So he was to have a day off before we met Luis and Sooguen the next evening… I can tell you now I was unbelievably nervous about surprising Sooguen. Even though you know it won’t go badly, we still did not have a plan as such, and I just couldn’t help but worry! I can safely say it took me a while to get to sleep that night.

Friday 26th June

I slept in and had the laziest of days. I only left the hostel to go to the local shop to buy lunch which consisted of two packets of pocky (chinese snack with chocolate hehe). I then spent the day watching one of my favourite TV shows that I have not been able to catch up on for the past five months: Once Upon a Time. It was perfect to pass the time and distract me from being nervous as each episode was about fifty minutes long and there were five or six to get through! Eventually it was time to start the day (at quarter past five in the afternoon) and soon enough Luis landed in Seoul after being delayed by two hours. There was a lot of disorganisation and not knowing how to go about this surprise because, as Sooguen had no idea I was here, he was free and was happy to meet Luis sooner rather than later. Thus we all ended up meeting in Seoul station. Luis told us he was to meet Sooguen in McDonald’s. Jisoo went to meet them and I hung around back near the metro. I had to make sure I had wifi otherwise I would easily lose them and it would all go utterly wrong! I was expecting to receive a message saying: “come to McDonald’s” but instead Jisoo said: “wait at the front of the gate” (meaning for the underground) and all my nerves went crazy. I looked about for them but couldn’t see them. At this time I was using wechat which sometimes is slow and doesn’t receive messages so I was also worrying that I was going to miss them. I got to the top of the escalator and as I was about to go down I spotted three guys with a large suitcase heading my way. Jisoo and Luis saw me easily however it was amusing watch Sooguen get as close as two meters away and not clock me at all. In hindsight, maybe I should’ve got on the escalator ahead of them and waited for them at the bottom but instead I jumped through a group of people. Jisoo and Luis would say that they thought he’d be more surprised but I say that he so was! His face was priceless. It was such a great feeling for us all to be reunited even though only a month had passed since we had been back in Ningbo together.

We headed back to the hostel to let Luis sort himself out and leave his big suitcase so we could go for something to eat. It was so nice to have the whole hostel to just Luis and I! Once he had showered and sorted himself out we headed off! Jisoo was particularly hungry so he was keen to get food quickly. Sooguen and him, as they were our “tour guides” for the week, decided to take us for ‘chicken and beer’ in the Myeong-Dong area of the city. This area would normally be teeming with Chinese tourists however due to the MERS outbreak once again, it wasn’t very busy at all. The dinner was delicious. It was basically fried chicken, one served with cheese and a little chopped vegetables and the other just simple drumsticks, which we accompanied with Korean beer. I loved it. We also had some soju – a Korean alcoholic liqueur that is now premixed with flavours and soda so it’s more like a mixer – and learnt their custom of accepting a drink from someone. You have to hold the small shot sized glass with both hands up to the person pouring the soju then you have to turn slightly away from then and drink with one hand over your heart/chest. The drink is so tasty!

After eating we went to the Cathedral nearby which looked really ghostly at night but still quite nice to take a stroll around the outside. As we were in the centre it was easy to then walk over to the man made river, Changgyecheon, that runs west to east from the centre square through downtown Seoul and out to join the Han River. As it was dug out the path is at a lower level than the road, it didn’t feel like we were in the middle of a city as we walked alongside the stream. The weather was good so we were able to sit and chat for a while before tiredness hit us and sent us back to our beds. It was such a good day!

Saturday 27th June

Luis and I started the day late by not leaving until half past eleven but we had had our complimentary jam on toast (he had peanut butter ergh) so we were feeling ready! Our plan was to see a bit of the city on foot so we headed east towards the international district Itaewon then south down to the Han River and to the south side of the city. We had a quick Indian lunch in Itaewon. Once fed we headed on. It was an easy walk down to the river and once we arrived we were seriously impressed. We were to cross the Jamsu Bridge which is below the Ganpo Bridge, forming the lower half of a double-deck bridge so that both pedestrians, cars and public transport can cross safely. The view was spectacular. Neither Luis or I had anticipated for the Han River to be as wide as it was. It was definitely double the Thames River and the water wasn’t brown either. With the sun rays beaming down we merrily crossed the bridge and veered left to walk along the bank. There is a really popular cycle path along the Han River full of a mix of families to serious cyclists! It was just a fantastic walk. We were just soaking in the Seoul vibes and falling more in love with the city. We walked for around two hours to Seongsu Bridge (feeling rather melted by the sun) before heading inland down towards the Cheongdam-dong district and COEX Mall. Sooguen sent us a message to tell us he’d meet us at the mall. This mall was like any mall except for the fact that it was all underground which makes it the biggest underground mall in the world. Despite us being broke travellers’ we wanted to have a look to see if there was something special about it. To be honest, it was just a mall. XD

Nevertheless, we had something else ticked off our Seoul To Do List! Once Sooguen met us we headed out to do something different and ended up going into a store that is dedicated to K-Pop celebrities. Particularly the band called Exo (of whom I have now downloaded half of their songs hahaha). Luis knew of this band so he recognised all the singers on the various pieces of ridiculous merchandise. I can’t believe people go there specifically to buy an overpriced pillow of a picture of their favourite singer…. I know that I am being slightly hypocritical as my fifteen year old self would have probably enjoyed finding a store dedicated to the Jonas Brothers but alas, my twenty one year old self is mourning that right now… Anyway! Once we had been thoroughly entertained by all the memorabilia we decided to go back to the river. Sooguen suggested that we could have a takeaway dinner there and wait to the see the ‘Banpo Bridge Rainbow Fountain’ that Luis had mentioned he wanted to see. We sat in a big open space by the bridge that was already rahter busy with many city dwellers who were enjoying a picnic dinner in the setting sun. Unfortunately there was a guy busking who sang rather high pitched and squeamish for our liking… Nonetheless he did add to the atmosphere so who can blame him? Haha… Sooguen ordered Chinese food – a LOT of Chinese food – to which Luis then confided that he wanted to be a bit careful of the food since the chicken the night before. So both Sooguen and I tried to eat the feast before us but it was a challenge too big. It was an amazing evening though. The water, the warm temperature, the (albeit slightly offputting) singing, the crowds gathered around the same spot… Just beautiful. Once the sun had set we walked around to the left side of the bridge to watch the fountain and see the floating buildings light up. It was really picturesque. ❤

As it was a Saturday night we couldn’t reject the opportunity of having a night out in Seoul! When we arrived back at the hostel we met a new roommate (I can’t remember her name …..) and she joined us on our night out! She was so sweet. We headed to Itaewon at about half past eleven to find it full of both internationals and Koreans drinking in the bars and the street. Similar to most places, it is cheaper to buy drinks from the convenience stores and drink in the street. We walked along the whole street to see what each of the bars were like and look for ones with good atmospheres before deciding to buy beer from the local store and drinking it in the street. It was a great atmosphere in the whole area! Once the drinks were drunk we headed into a club called Queen’s. It was fantastic. The music was good, everyone was dancing and it wasn’t too crowded either. There was a air conditioner by us too! One of the best experiences I have ever had! 😀 We called it a night at around half past two and headed back to the hostel. At first we were going to catch a taxi but seeing as it was only a twenty minute walk we opted not to. My feet were definitely shattered by the time we got back to the hostel… Bed!!! 

Itaewon, Seoul - 27th June
Itaewon, Seoul – 27th June

And this post is already so long.. I’m going to have to make another!

Xo.

Reverse Culture Shock: Ningbo Style

It has been just over a month that I left Ningbo behind and I don’t know about anyone else but I feel like I am in mourning. Yes, I am rather a dramatic person but I have been followed by a little black cloud ever since I left that just takes me back to various moments that I remember or had briefly forgotten. I would do anything to be able to do it all over again and I wouldn’t change anything. I know that a lot of the exchange students I became friends with have gone through (or are still going through) the ‘Reverse Culture Shock’. It’s one of those feelings you get that seem utterly inexplicable to anyone. Thus because it is rather difficult for anyone to relate then it seems like I am hitting a brick wall a few times! So this is my take on it:

The first is: “where have my friends gone?” 

As I haven’t flown home yet, I haven’t yet returned to normality and been able to re-adjust to my daily life before I left. I guess not keeping myself busy with seeing friends and family again, moving into my humble abode in Nottingham and going through all the fuss of being back is not distracting me from wanting to go back to China. But that aside, I met some wonderful people on the exchange to Ningbo and basically, I miss them!

It is an odd thought that I’m not going to ever wake up again in Flat 406 to able to meet any one of the internationals for lunch, to hang out, go to InCity with, or even drag ourselves to the relentless 9am lectures… Also being more than friends with someone is equally odd to not have once I left. People say that it’s not worth the risk because it is just exchange – why let yourself risk being hurt at the end? but I disagree with that. If it happens, it happens. Because it will probably make you even happier than if you didn’t. It took me quite a while to let it happen when I was in Ningbo because I didn’t know what to do or how to feel, but letting it happen ended up being one of the best decisions I made. Even though leaving has been rather tough and the feeling as if I won’t move on… it was worth it. ❤

Despite being so fortunate to have the social media we have nowadays it is scary that it is not certain I’ll see half these people again. It is common knowledge that people you meet, who are not from your home country, in another part of the world are those you are more unlikely to see again. I half take this as a challenge to see them all again!

The second: “why don’t you understand what I’m saying?”

One of the biggest shocks that I still can’t adjust to is not being able to just use and mix more than one language into one conversation. Every time I say a single word in Spanish or Chinese (or any language I came across) my parents and brother just stare at me blankly until I realise, I’m not amongst internationals anymore… I became so accustomed to hearing a mix of languages being spoken around me that I am finding english a rather boring language right now! I basically miss the multiculturalism that we were exposed to being on an international campus. From day one the notts girls and I conversed in a mix of English, Chinese (only a little) and definitely “Chinglish”. As we got to know others more languages were added to the mix. The girls all practiced their french with the Frenchies and our friends from Montreal. And I practiced Spanish with Luis. Towards the end of our trip, Luis and I, at times, spoke in four different languages in one conversation! (English, Spanish, Chinese and very awfully pronounced Korean.)

Another thing is our english grammar is shocking. Many of us from Notts definitely had a few moments where we had to double take what we had just said and correct ourselves! And that is still happening despite having returned back to the western world..

The third: “why is water that expensive? it should never be that expensive..!”

One of the main conversation topics in Ningbo involved many of us comparing the prices of basic food, activities or even sofas to our respective homelands. We all agreed (except for Luis who said that food was cheaper in Mexico) that China is BONKERS cheap. Our meals averaged around £1 if we ate in the canteens or £2 if we ate in the campus restaurant yummys. Even eating outside of campus cost about £3. It may equal to what a student would spend in Sainsbury’s for a weekly shop but it comes with the perks of not having to cook it nor wash anything up! Wahey…! It was also rather cheap to travel around the country. A two hour train journey to Shanghai on a high speed comfortable train ( bought on the day or in advance) cost between £9 – £15 which is a bargain compared to trains in England. If you were to decide to go to London for a day (which is the same length journey) you would have to fork out £35 atleast. And that price is for railcard holders which gives them a third off the total price! Outrageous… See my distorted view of reality?

The fourth: “can I just have all the moneys to be able to travel now please?”

That pretty much sums it up. I am constantly trying to work out a million different ways to go around the world to see people. Thus I am just putting off the facts that my bank balance gives me a flat out ‘no’ and my conscience keeps mentioning “but don’t you have an really important degree to study ridiculously for…?”.

Pfffft. I’ve been bitten by the travel bug and just having friends living in various places totally justifies my reasons to going places without worry. (That’s not a complete accurate portrayal of what my response would be but it’s what I’d love it to be!)

This articles I’ve linked below sums up the ‘reverse culture shock’ perfectly with the most appropriate gifs (of which I agree with alll of them)! Enjoy 🙂

http://www.thirdyearabroad.com/when-youre-back/item/2597-10-signs-youre-suffering-from-reverse-culture-shock.html

I hope this short post just gives you a bit of an idea of what it’s like coming back from being abroad. Although it is so lovely to be back with our home comforts that we craved and seeing family who we missed, it does twist our vision or reality a little. One thing I do know is that I am going to move back to Asia (probably China) when I graduate next year. And I am so excited for it to happen when it does 🙂

Xo.

Lisa and Georgie’s Food Review: Xi’an & Pingyao

This is our last one of our travels! Hope you enjoy lovelies!

To give you an idea of what we mean by our ratings:

0 out of 10 – we will never eat again

5 out of 10 – average snack that we’d eat if it was the lesser of two evils

8 out of 10 – really good and delicious

10 out of 10 – “I’m just going to go ahead and buy five, that’s not crazy right?”

Glossary:

味道 – flavour

小吃 – it’s quality as a snack, is it a snack we’d have again?

外貌 – aesthetics (appearance)

菜 – it’s quality as a dish, would we have it for dinner again?

肉夹馍 – roujiamo

We saw many people queuing for something along one of the main streets in the Muslim Quarter and immediately decided to buy whatever they were buying. It is a local food that is basically a beef burger but only in appearance. The inside is a beef brisket with a spicy sauce used rather than ketchup 😉 with added juices. The bun is made from white flour that is first steamed then slightly toasted on a sandwich toaster before being filled with beef. The chef cuts the beef every time he makes a burger so it is hot and fresh! He also adds a spoonful or two of the juices into the burger. All we can say is: *cue Homer Simpson drooling*.

We’re in two minds as to whether this is a snack or a meal that you’d have at lunch (or with a packet of crisps). It could count as a meal if one has a whole one to themselves because it is a huge portion! Yet as we shared it was more like a snack. The first few bites were good, the middle balanced and delicious yet the end a little anticlimactic. It was soggier and had more of the chilli paste that deterred Georgie from finishing it off. However Lisa enjoyed the whole thing in its entirety. The meat was tender, well cooked and juicy. Aesthetically pleasing! We can understand why so many people queued up to try this, and also why it was worth the twenty minute wait!

9 out of 10 小吃

(8 out of 10 菜)

10 out of 10 味道

10 out of 10 外貌

牛肉泡馍 – niurou paomo

This is a DIY dish where they give you a bowl with two bread rolls in it. The bread is different to western bread as it is denser and completely white (inside and out). You have to rip the bread roll into tiny pieces. Then you hand your bowl to the chef who adds a clear soup, beef brisket, and clear vermicelli noodles. The bread soaks up the soup, turning soft and chewy (we expected it to get soggy but it didn’t!) The soup itself is quite oily, and because there are so many carb-y elements it is quite heavy on the stomach. However the taste was average to good. We found that adding chilli was a great idea because it “spiced it up” (the pun is courtesy of Lisa ;)). The beef was tender and very juicy. This dish, overall, was an exciting experience but wasn’t necessarily a delicious one. It tasted good but once the novelty had gone, we didn’t walk out utterly satisfied.

5 out of 10 菜

6 out of 10 味道

7 out of 10 外貌

Biáng.svgBiáng.svg面 – biangbiangmian

Lisa got the opportunity to eat this famous dish whilst Georgie lay on a sofa in the hostel trying to fight off a cold. Biang biang noodles are thick noodles resembling tagliatelle but double the width, and it’s a white colour. The name comes from the ‘biang’ sound that the noodles make as it is stretched and hit against the table. The noodles came with cubes of potato, tomato, celery, cauliflower and wood-ear mushrooms. This was garnished with a sauce consisting of chilli oil, vinegar and a hint of peanut sauce. Lisa loved this noodle because it was a dry noodle! Noodles were textural and chewy, but slippery to pick up! In terms of texture,the thick noodles are somewhat overpowering compared to the small cubes of vegetables/meat, but still enjoyable because the noodles are yum. I feel a touch of soy sauce would have made the dish better. Overall, yum!

7 out of 10 菜

7 out of 10 味道

8 out of 10 外貌

Lisa and I: 浇汁考栳栳 (Pingyao)
Lisa and I: 浇汁考栳栳 (Pingyao)

浇汁考栳栳 – jiaozhi kaolaolao

This is a quirky dish because it is aesthetically different to a lot of dishes. we were first intrigued by the name then by the picture beneath! It looked like a flat block of honeycomb with hollow cylinder served against one another. It is made of oat noodles that have been flattened rather than strung into noodles then made into a little cylinder shape. It is served with a vinegar, chilli oil and sesame oil (which we ended up not using because we are not fans of sesame oil!). The noodles were dry but when added to a bit of vinegar sauce they were moist enough. It wasn’t a particularly flavoursome dish but perfect for breakfast. It also felt pretty healthy because it was made from oats!

6 out of 10 菜

5 out of 10 味道

7 out of 10 外貌

The dish Lisa points at is the Pingyao Beef, the dish closest to me is the Cats Ears
The dish Lisa points at is the Pingyao Beef, the dish closest to me is the Cats Ears, the dish to the right of that is Wantu (review below)

猫耳朵 – maoerduo

The English name is ‘Cats Ears’ and originates from, coincidently enough, having the appearance of cats ears. They are small curled pieces of noodles that resemble sugar puffs (the cereal). The dish was served with vegetables such as peppers, tomato and wood ear mushrooms in a salty sauce. In short, it was a delicious and well-balanced dish with a good ration of noodle to other ingredients! Definitely would eat again.

8 out of 10 菜

8 out of 10 味道

8 out of 10 外貌

平遥牛肉 – pingyao niurou

This is as simple as a dish gets. This is freshly carved cooked but served cold beef. It has a good pink colour, the flavour is not to strong and not too dry on the tongue. It was of a good quality that Georgie’s dad would approve of! It was lovely to eat at a meal but not on its own.. Unless you’re having it in a sandwich! It is used in all the beef dishes and adds a different yet yummy flavour that contrasts to the common way of cooking the beef.

6 out of 10 菜

7 out of 10 味道

6 out of 10 外貌

碗秃 – wantu

Round rice noodle sheets are made using a small bowl as a mould (hence the name “bowl bits”).Then they are cut into strips and chilli oil is added, so flavour wise there isn’t that much going on. Noodles chewy and not too dense. A simple dish (albeit a bit boring), served cold and a good entree for dinner.

5 out of 10 菜

5 out of 10 味道

6 out of 10 外貌

石头饼 – shitoubing

This is a pancake made in stove full of hot black stones. Due to this method of cooking, the final product resembles a poppadom as it is flat yet has a wavy appearance. It is quirky! We had one spicy one, a salty one with five spice and a salty “original one”. After the first bite they were rather crispier than Georgie expected. However it didn’t dry out our mouths and was rather soft to eat! All were well balanced but Georgie’s favourite was the five-spice. Lisa agrees that the original was too original in flavour. Stephanie (a friend who joined us) enjoyed the spicy one for the kick. Overall, a great little snack that isn’t too filling and a change to the stodgier pancakes.

7 out of 10 小吃

(Original) 5 out of 10 味道

(Five-spice) 7 out of 10 味道

(Spicy) 6 out of 10 味道

7 out of 10 外貌

(can’t find a picture for this one… Sorry! So I stole one off the internet hehe)

20128231958412404

过油肉 – guoyourou

This is a simple and good dish so we don’t have much to say about it overall! The sauce was thick and tasty and there was a good garlic flavour. Pork was succulent and the garlic stems were crunchy and matched the pork perfectly.

8 out of 10 菜

8 out of 10 味道

7 out of 10 外貌

Lisa and I: 平遥蒸饺
Lisa and I: 平遥蒸饺

平遥蒸饺 – pingyao zhengjiao

These are dumplings specific to this region of China. They are different to normal dumplings because oat flour is used instead rice or normal flour. Hence the texture is like a dry thin bread rather than being smooth and chewy. However the way they are presented and the fillings are the same as normal dumplings! We happened to cone across these by Stephanie and Hayden ordering them by accident, but they were good to try all the same!

5 out of 10 菜

5 out of 10 味道

7 out of 10 外貌

Thank you for reading guys! Hope you get to try amazing food when you’re out travelling, sometimes the street food is the tastiest and most local food you can buy. Be safe on your travels.

Xo.

Lisa and Georgie’s Food Review: Chengdu & JiuZhaiGou

Unfortunately, again, this is quite a short one as we didn’t stumble across any streets that sold a lot of the local food. However we did try the best we could to eat Chengdu cuisine!

To give you an idea of what we mean by our ratings:

0 out of 10 – we will never eat again

5 out of 10 – average snack that we’d eat if it was the lesser of two evils

8 out of 10 – really good and delicious

10 out of 10 – “I’m just going to go ahead and buy five, that’s not crazy right?”

Glossary:

味道 – flavour

小吃 – it’s quality as a snack, is it a snack we’d have again?

外貌 – aesthetics (appearance)

菜 – it’s quality as a dish, would we have it for dinner again?

look away if you’re squeamish for the first one!!

兔头 – tutou

Yes. We challenged ourselves because we are crazy. I apologise to all vegetarians and people who think we are the cruelest in the world. It’s a marinated cold rabbit head that is boiled in its own juices. When you forget about what it is, it takes like any piece of meat on a bone. The meat is tender and well seasoned. The marinade is rather spicy (for Georgie) and has a soy sauce taste but has a good kick. As it is a head there isn’t much meat on it thus it is quite hard to eat. Although the tongue was the very delicious (says Lisa). Basically, it’s a weird but tasty snack if you close your eyes! Beware it has teeth and eyes…….

6 out of 10 小吃

7 out of 10 味道

3 out of 10 外貌 (hard to judge because it didn’t look appetising but it was well presented)

担担面 – dandanmian 

(香菇) Similar to noodles we’ve eaten called 杂酱面 but this time Lisa had the vegetarian option with mushrooms. The taste is complex and delicious, it’s a little salty with the right amount of spice. However the noodle to mixture ratio could be more even. It wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as it looked rather bland, thankfully the flavour made up for that! Overall, a good noodle dish!

8 out of 10 菜

9 out of 10 味道

6 out of 10 外貌

蛋烘糕 – danhonggao

This is a pancake. It is like the western version but is smaller and served folded over with a filling in between. You can choose between a savoury one with pork floss or a sweet one with sugar and sesame seeds. Having had lunch, we were in the mood for sweet. It was what one would expect but was a nice treat! It didn’t have much texture or interesting flavour which probably would’ve been more present should we have had the pork floss one. It is also pretty small comparing to the size of our palms, it’s only a little bigger. Nevertheless it was a nice snack. The major downside is it isn’t a Chinese snack…

2 out of 10 小吃

4 out of 10 味道

6 out of 10 外貌

冒菜 – maocai

This dish is basically a whole lot of raw ingredients boiled in a spicy broth. Like hotpot without the DIY aspect because it comes as a large pot with the cooked food inside. Also not as spicy as Chongqing hotpot! Ingredients included duck, tofu, mushrooms, bean sprouts, lotus roots and condiments. This method of cooking means that everything is cooked just right. We already asked for little spice, yet the dish still came flaming red with a layer of red chilli oil on the top! I found the dish very yummy especially with rice to soak up the soup. But the vegetables totally soaked up all the spices so they were really quiiiite spicy. We had to rescue all the food from the pot so that they wouldn’t keep on soaking in that spicy soup! 

7 out of 10 菜

(Lisa) 8 out of 10 味道

(Georgie) 6 out of 10 味道

6 out of 10 外貌

Lisa and I: A feast with 麻婆豆腐 (the red dish in the middle)
Lisa and I: A feast with 麻婆豆腐 (the red dish in the middle)

麻婆豆腐 – mapodofu

This is an iconic spicy dish that most people recognise from Chinese takeaways, in English it is called ‘Mapo Tofu’. Unlike what Lisa and I cooked for our group meal in Ningbo, the tofu in this dish retained its shape as little squares dotted about in the sauce. The texture was firmer but still slippery smooth. The sauce it came in was a good balance of black bean, chilli oil and garlic. We can admit that we didn’t have it with the normal amount of chilli due to the risk of Georgie’s tastebuds being killed off too soon on our travels… However it was obvious that the spice would only complement the flavours of the dish and make it even more delicious than it is. Again, it has the salty spice that adds another layer of flavour that is common in Sichuan province food. It looked fantastic when it was served; the glowing red of the oil against the clear white of the tofu. So all in all, it is a dish that should always been had whether you go to a Chinese restaurant or to China! Especially in Sichuan province!

8 out of 10 菜

8 out of 10 味道

8 out of 10 外貌

回锅肉 – huiguorou 

The English name for this dish is ‘Twice-Cooked Pork’. This dish consisted of a stir fry of pork belly strips and chives. The pork to chives ratio wasn’t the best, but the chives were tasty so that was ok. Sort of a salty chives taste – not very spicy. But debatable whether we tasted the traditional dish or just the tame version- because we asked the chef to not add spice, and one second later the dish came with no spice…anyhow, nice enough but not amazing. 

7 out of 10 菜

7 out of 10 味道

6 out of 10 外貌

That’s Chengdu and JiuZhaiGou folks!

Xo.

Lisa and Georgie’s Food Review: Chongqing

Unfortunately this is quite a short one as we didn’t stumble across any streets that sold a lot of the local food. However we did try the best we could to eat Chongqing cuisine!

To give you an idea of what we mean by our ratings:

0 out of 10 – we will never eat again

5 out of 10 – average snack that we’d eat if it was the lesser of two evils

8 out of 10 – really good and delicious

10 out of 10 – “I’m just going to go ahead and buy five, that’s not crazy right?”

Glossary:

味道 – flavour

小吃 – it’s quality as a snack, is it a snack we’d have again?

外貌 – aesthetics (appearance)

菜 – it’s quality as a dish, would we have it for dinner again?

凉糕 - Chongqing
凉糕 – Chongqing

凉糕 – lianggao

It is a plain jelly surrounded in honey or a brown sugar sauce. We can’t tell what the jelly itself is made out of. It’s easy to eat and resembles a crême caramel but hasn’t got the custard texture, because it is firmer than crême caramel. It looked great – a perfect white dome surrounded by a sea of honey syrup. Overall, it was a good dessert, I especially liked the honey syrup.

7 out of 10 小吃

7 out of 10 味道

8 out of 10 外貌

糍粑 – ciba

This is like the baba but the pancake is made from cooked rice that has been flattened into dough than using bread or pastry. i chose the salty one with pork and spring onion. As it was made of rice the dough was thick and chewy. There wasn’t a good filling to dough ratio so it was quite bland. However the parts with prok were quite tasty. In comparison to the other pancakes we’ve had, the texture nor taste were as good.

3 out of 10 小吃

3 out of 10 味道

5 out of 10 外貌

凉糕 - Chongqing
凉糕 – Chongqing

麻花 – mahua 

This pastry is twisted, fried and covered in various condiments, either five spice, chilli powder etc. Every store normally has a long queue of people flowing from it so our expectations were high. However we think it’s a rather unappetising snack. The texture is like shortcrust pastry but we found it oily rather than buttery and rather dry. As it is fried it is quite crunchy which would be good if the flavour was better. The appearance is deceiving because it does look appealing with a even golden outside. Overall, nice to try but there are definitely so many better things to snack on.

2 out of 10 小吃

1 out of 10 味道

5 out of 10 外貌

重庆小面 – chongqing xiaomian

Georgie could feel the spice from looking at them so it’s safe to say she didn’t eat any… So Lisa… It is made with egg noodles, Chinese broccoli and spicy soup. It is 麻辣 ‘mala’ flavour which means numbingly hot and spicy. First few bits were tolerable but then as Lisa continued the spice becomes dominant. It leaves an aftertaste that is quite bitter and just feeling like your mouth is on fire. The worst of all is that the vegetables soak up a lot of the chilli oil, and because Lisa took her time eating it, the noodles and vegetables went a little too soft for her liking. It is a basic dish as it only consists of noodles, vegetables and soup. Overall, if you want to give yourself a ‘spice’ challenge, this is the delicious dish to eat.

6 out of 10 菜

6 out of 10 味道

7 out of 10 外貌

抄手 - Chongqing
抄手 – Chongqing

抄手 – chaoshou

This a is dumplings dish, it’s name originates from its appearance of looking like a dragons paw. It’s different from a common dumpling, resembling more of a wonton, with thin outer layer of dough with only a small amount of filling in the middle. This is traditionally served in chilli oil. We ordered one of each, one spicy: 麻辣抄手 and one normal: 过桥抄手 (‘over the bridge’). Both sets of dumplings were delicious. The dumplings themselves well made, the dough the right consistency, the filling was well seasoned. The 过桥 had less complex flavours yet was a tasty contrast to the 麻辣. There was a lot of chilli oil served with the spicy one and as the dough does soak it up, it can be quite hot in the tongue! (Lisa was hardly fazed….) The 过桥抄手 could easily be a staple dish whereas the spicier version only needs to knock out socks off every now and again.. We agreed that both dishes were delicious because they weren’t dense, small enough to eat in one go and not an effort to chew! It is also an option to not have soup and instead dip the dumplings in vinegar or soy sauce. These are very good qualities for dumplings. One of Lisa’s favourite Sichuan dishes during our time in that province. Georgie also would eat many, many more…

9 out of 10 菜

(过桥) 9 out of 10 味道

(麻辣) 8 out of 10 味道

8 out of 10 外貌

酸辣粉 – suanlafen

Lisa has had this spicy noodle soup dish in two places. As always, different places make them to a different standard. The first place used rice noodles that are white and thin, the second used glass noodles. Lisa preferred the glass noodles because as they seem to soak up the taste of the soup. This may be because the soup in the second dish has a lot more depth and flavour to it than the first. So it makes sense that the second is also spicier. Lisa was very happy that the second place offered free soybean milk to counter the strength of the spice. The noodles are also served with green vegetables and fried soybeans. The beans were better in the first dish as they were a lot crunchier, making the texture more interesting. Overall, it’s a dish that’ll test your tastebuds but it very delicious to eat. The dish in the second place was the winner. With that, Georgie has come to the conclusion that the backstreet places in China make the best authentic food.

7 out of 10 菜

7 out of 10 味道

8 out of 10 外貌

And that’s Chongqing folks!

Xo.