China & I

Shanghai Bund in the smog

Finally, as promised, a little post about my recent trip to China!!! I’ve been putting this off since I got back because there is so much I could write about that I figured it would take forever. So instead, I’m just going to keep this as short as I can (so as not to bore you all…). So for those of you who don’t know, my younger brother lives and works in Beijing and I hadn’t seen him in ages so booked a trip over for 3 weeks in January/February. It was perfect timing for me as work was not as hectic as usual and my brother had some time off for Chinese New Year so we would get to hang out.

One of many designer stores

I’ve been to China before. In fact I lived in Beijing in 2004 while working for an american company. So I knew what to expect. Or did I!!! My first impressions let me know that China was now a totally different country, with plenty of wealth and foreign influence compared to 7 years previously. Everywhere I looked there were the usual Starbucks and McDonald’s, but now they were side by side with Zara, Uniqlo, Steve Madden & Mango. Not to mention every designer brand I know!!! Yes, those Chinese ladies are huge fans of fashion.

Fried scorpion, starfish or seahorse anyone???

Of course, being China, there were plenty of markets selling the usual fake goods. I have never seen better made fake shoes and bags to be honest… You name it, and they have it. Their favourites seem to be Marc Jacobs bags, YSL shoes and Abercrombie hoodies, because they are simple designs. But the Chanel bags and other iconic brands like that look of far less quality. It was very interesting to see how big a business this is in China now, and very sad to see the tourists lapping it up too. But the markets also sell beautiful jewellery, scarfs, dresses and artwork that I indulged in, along with some pearls.

One of my favourite buildings

I’ve done most of the touristy stuff in Beijing before, so avoided all that this time. Instead I wandered about the hutongs, skated on the frozen ponds (it was VERY cold!!), ate anything that was put in front of me, and hung out in the amazing art district, 798. My brother and I also spent a half day hanging out in the Olympic park and had a ball! The stadium and pool are both magnificent structures and the grounds around them are so open and clean – it was hard to believe we were just outside the city there. I loved walking about the city checking out all the amazing architecture and innovative buildings – none of these were here on my last visit! This is one city that moves so fast….

In one of the city parks in Shanghai

Chinese New Year was insane! It was one of those things I will never ever forget! I thought I knew what to expect but I really had no idea… The first thing to note is that everyone buys enough fireworks to last for weeks – they are for sale on every street corner for little or nothing. Then, everyone sets off their fireworks where ever they like, whenever they like. So I’m not exaggerating at all when I say there was CONSTANT fireworks for at least 3 days, 24 hours a day… Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep! It’s impossible to explain the noise so check out this video I recorded outside the apartment one night (and bear in mind, this is one tiny street with only about 30 peopleĀ  hanging out beside me).

For one of the weekends I was there, we flew down to Shanghai for a change of scenery. Beijing and Shanghai couldn’t be more different. Shanghai could be any big American city with its beautiful, organised skyline, high-tech transport ecosystem and melting pot of cultures. And the smog was terrible the weekend we visited! In Shanghai we went to the top of one of the tallest buildings in the world, travelled on the fastest train in the world to the airport, hung out in a huge Barbie store, marvelled at the Culture Chanel exhibition and enjoyed the serenity of the city parks.

Tallest building in China - the glass floor up top was terrifying!

So to wrap up – my trip to China was all about the food, the socialising, the shopping, the art & culture and celebrating the new year is style. So many good memories!!!

One of the Barbie dolls I would have loved as a kid!

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