China · 122 Days · 109 Moments · February 2019

China 2019

4 days ago

The last time I came to Baihuatan Park last year, everything seemed a little dry and grey. But today it was far more impressive after plenty of recent rain. By the time we made the return journey after coffee, the guy has finished the painting, and it was really good (didn’t get a photo). Apparently the cost to buy it was 100RMB! We reckoned that was about $6AUD/hour for his time, skill and materials... My uncle says he will go back during the week with the intention of buying one of his pictures.
The first of four days with my Uncle and wife in Chengdu. As expected, it was nearly all eating from midday til 9pm - lunch at a new Nepalese restaurant, afternoon snacks and coffee, and the usual first-night big family gathering. And then back to Graham and Yan’s hotel for a couple of wines to end the weekend.

5 days ago

FETE DE LA MUSIQUE 2019 Carol introduced me to this French music event last year, memorable for not really being very French. This year Carol was busy studying, and it was being held at a different venue, so I headed off to it alone. Again, you’d have been hard pressed to pick that it was a French festival if you’d just stumbled unknowingly on the event. At least I got a French tattoo on my head last year. The locals seemed more willing to get involved with the dancing this year, even though the music - from Chubby Checker to recent dance music - had little to do with France. For my part, I was happy with the 10RMB beers and remaining an interested spectator...

7 days ago

And suddenly it’s nearly all over again. Three more weeks of class to go. Slowly the numbers in class are dwindling as students return home, make plans to move uni / city for the next semester, or perhaps just can’t be bothered. For the first time this semester we got some group photos - a mix of Chinese (teachers!), English, American, Thai, Mexican, Russian, Polish, and possibly some other nationalities I never found out - as our Polish classmate LuoLan was due to leave today. She was possibly the next most “mature” student after me!

8 days ago

The Wild West Bar in JinLi. Last time I came to JinLi I noticed a strip of bars that looked worthy of further investigation. Despite my best efforts I couldn’t find anywhere offering happy hours, so - shock - I had to pay full price. But it was a good spot to sit and people-watch, and they had some interesting beers. I was hoping to try the 8.8% Pepperception, but alas it was sold out. The 8.2% Double Luck was enough to put a smile on my face, mind you.

9 days ago

QUAKE A couple of days after learning the Mandarin for Earthquake, we got to experience one last night. I was in bed, just about in the “falling asleep” zone at around 11pm when the earth moved... it was noticeable without being at a scary level. By the morning there were plenty of comments on WeChat as well as photos of university students all evacuated to the outside of their dorms. The epicentre was around 300km from Chengdu and 250km from Chongqing - I’m sure if it had been closer to either of these two mega-cities the casualties would have been far greater. The teacher reassured us today that although Sichuan was highly unstable, Chengdu itself was extremely safe. Perhaps more lucky, I would say.

15 June 2019

JAMES AND AMY My English classmate James recently got engaged to his Chinese girlfriend Amy, and they invited some of their friends for a meal on Saturday evening. Amy brought her daughter Cloud along, and our classmate Adam brought his new girlfriend. Then there were a couple of Chilean ex-classmates of James, as well as a 65yo bloke from Burnley who brought along a 25yo Chinese girl. So an interesting mix. James, Adam and I will all be in England in July, although they will both return to Chengdu after holidays and sorting out new visas. A good night was had by all... although on reflection I could’ve done without the 3am drinking games back at James’ apartment, but you live and learn (maybe).

12 June 2019

TAOBAO - EPILOGUE The final piece of the Tao Bao experiment was how and when I would get my goods delivered. I didn’t have to wait too long - no more than 14 hours after placing the order I received (and purposely ignored, partly due to being in class, but mainly because I knew the caller would be unintelligible to me) a phone call, and then a follow up SMS saying that my parcel had been delivered. Fortunately my American classmate Clinton is one of those Tao Bao junkies, and knew of three locations on campus that act as delivery agents. So later in the afternoon I managed to locate the collection location, using my phone message and name as proof of ID. Well that was easier than expected... I can see why people can get addicted to this, particularly at the Chinese prices on offer. Suddenly all manner of new things I really “need” come to mind...

11 June 2019

TAOBAO 2/2 As my bank account’s registered mobile number was a previous one from 2017, I had to go into the bank to update it. This took a good hour, and the resources of three staff and a member of the public, who far from seeming to be inconvenienced waiting behind me in the queue seemed quite entertained by the spectacle. Quite painful, I must’ve written my name in English electronically on their pad about a dozen times before they deemed it my signature - when in reality it was just my name in capitals! Finally with setup complete, I embarked on my first purchase, armed with a list of useful Tao Bao translations I’d learned. I’d like to buy a new man-bag, but I’ll start small and cheap - a 49RMB charger for my phone. If it goes smoothly I might get addicted. I’ve heard it said by other students that when they get drunk at the weekend they buy all sorts from Tao Bao, and barely remember the next day! Who needs Tinder for a Saturday night thrill...?
TAOBAO 1/2 It has to be said that I have been very slow to adapt to many of the modern conveniences offered with a few swipes of an iPhone app in China. They are all supposed to make life easier, but I usually expect more frustration having to deal with people in Chinese. One such app is Tao Bao, the Chinese equivalent I suppose of Amazon. Apart from the fact I haven’t really needed to buy anything, I’ve always been put off by the perceived hassle of how to receive goods to the dorm, and what to do if things don’t go as planned. There are a couple of things I’d like to buy while in China though, things that will undoubtedly be cheaper here. So I downloaded the app, which then required me to download Alipay - one of the main payment methods in China. Alipay then needed to be linked to a bank account, of which I have one in China, but in order to establish the link between Alipay and my bank, they wanted to send me a PIN to my mobile...

9 June 2019

And of course there was plenty of food...

8 June 2019

A very damp end to the weekend in Chongqing...
CiQiKou Ancient Town... looking at some of the photos in the museum, maybe the good ol’ days weren’t so good...

7 June 2019

YANGTZE RIVER NIGHT CRUISE Chongqing is well known for it’s city lights, best seen from the river on a night cruise. We managed to secure some window seats for the hour long trip, although photos taken through the glass didn’t necessarily do the views justice. The evening took a bit of an unexpected turn when the cruise was interrupted midway with rumour that someone had jumped or fallen into the river. Staff were rushing about the boat carrying inflatable rings and making frantic phone calls. We weren’t really sure exactly what the outcome was, but when everyone finally disembarked, all male passengers were required to show their ticket and ID, which would suggest there was still someone missing :-(
A little more from our first afternoon exploring Chongqing, including another method of navigating the ups and downs of the City....
CHONGQING Another relatively unknown city in the West, but Chongqing has a population on 18 million in the city, and was China’s capital for a while during the Second World War. It’s very mountainous so there was plenty of walking up and down hills, even just looking around the City. The Yangtze River flows through the city, and one way of traversing it is via cable car. We were a little surprised that it was only 30RMB for a return trip, but this was obviously on account of so many people being squeezed into a car - it felt similar to being on the Metro, other than with a better view!

6 June 2019

Views during the train trip from Chengdu to Chongqing - probably more “countryside” than expected.

5 June 2019

After a relatively comfortable first half of the semester, we’re well into new territory for me now. Around once a week we get tested on the new words from the previous chapter’s two reading exercises. The teacher generally introduces some additional associated words, so that’s perhaps 40-50 new words to learn to write in both Chinese characters and pinyin (Roman characters with correct tone marks). I can usually remember most of them, but it is short-term memory that wouldn’t stand up to much scrutiny a few weeks later! The grammar seems to be getting noticeably harder. As noted before, even the English explanations are unintelligible! But as a Chinese friend pointed out recently, if you actually think about the depth of English grammar, it is far from easy!

1 June 2019

Tai Koo Li on a Saturday night on the first day of Summer. The weather forecast is for 30+ for the next week to 10 days.
The next trip is booked... Chongqing next Thursday afternoon til Sunday, on account of a public holiday on Friday. Winny will fly there, and I will go by train, as it’s relatively close to Chengdu (in fact it used to be part of Sichuan Province). The ticket collection process wasn’t particularly enjoyable: a 45 minute queue, and several people just trying to push in, the way (some) Chinese people do. I was in no mood for it, and was happy to practice some blunt Chinese to tell them to get in line!
Origins Coffee... A place run by Americans with a good rating on TripAdvisor. I’d only been once before - maybe last year, or even 2017, as it’s probably 50 minutes away, and (as I found out last Sunday) only open 9 til 7 Tuesday to Saturday. Good coffee! Unfortunately it was the only non-water thing to pass my lips in the first 36 hours of the weekend due to a very severe case of “Chengdu Belly”.

31 May 2019

Loyalty has it’s rewards... after hitting the 1000 rewards points (1000RMB spent) at Element Fresh, I was lavished first with some free tacos, and then a Mediterranean platter... not something I necessarily think of eating in China, which made it all the better.

27 May 2019

SWUFE INTERNATIONAL CULTURE FESTIVAL I was in two minds as to whether to attend this event, but as we’d been given a day off class, there really was no excuse. And despite the continual rain it really was very good. Representative groups of students from 30 or 40 countries (a couple of which I’m not even sure I’d heard of) set up stalls to showcase their local food, costume and culture, and everyone was free to go and visit and try some food. I was persuaded to try my hand at making the traditional Chinese snack zongzi - rather unsuccessfully, until one of the local Chinese “Aunties” came to my rescue. It was also nice to run into old classmates LiYa from Ukraine and FeiSi from Togo, have a chat with fellow gym-goer Sof (the only Azerbaijani on campus), and tour the various African stalls with Cameroonian classmate LuoHao and his Nigerian friend James. I didn’t actually get to sample that much food, so was happy to join the African boys for dinner at Mojar later in the day.

25 May 2019

DUJIANGYAN This was one of the first places I visited in China with my Uncle in 2015. I won’t waste my 1000 characters trying to paraphrase Wikipedia, but given it was built over 2000 years ago, and has kept Chengdu flood-free and fertile since then, you’d have to say it’s a pretty amazing feat of engineering. Perhaps Brisbane could do with something similar... Going “outside” of Chengdu always seems to be a challenge. I tried last month to do this trip, but after reading conflicting advice on the best route, I couldn’t even find the right bus. And giving up is always a reasonable option :-) At least this time I managed to complete the 5 hour round-trip. Plenty of (minor, in retrospect) frustrations along the way, I still don’t find China at all easy! So I think my 2015 visit will remain my best memories of Dujiangyan!

20 May 2019

IF YOU ARE THE ONE When I was recovering from knee surgery three years ago, I really got into watching the Chinese dating show known as If You Are The One in Australia. It involves 24 girls deciding whether they like the single male contestant after seeing him interviewed and several videos about his life. They can choose to turn off their lights at any time, and after the third video the man can choose from whichever girls are still “in”. Which is often none, or one or two, and very rarely more than five. At the time, my Chinese friend Chloe told me about one famous (and unique) contestant - from the UK of course(!) - who all 24 girls liked for the entire show. I watched it on YouTube, and was as jealous of his Chinese skills as much as anything else! My English classmate Adam is in Chengdu because his brother is here, and talks of him quite a lot. Today Adam casually mentioned that his brother was THE ONE from the TV show! Hahaha!

19 May 2019

A wet afternoon in Chunxi Road.... This is probably the area of Chengdu I’m most familiar with (on account of 3 or 4 visits most weeks), but there is so must “stuff” here, it’s virtually impossible to say you know it well. Today, in between the rain showers, I walked around exploring streets and malls that I hadn’t really seen before. I discovered a massive food court a couple of levels below ground which I think will be a good place for dinner in future, as well as probably the biggest shopping centre I’ve ever been in; 13 huge floors of shopping paradise, haha! I feel a bit sorry for any retailer on the upper levels as I doubt too many people think of popping up to the 11th floor just to see if the socks are a bit cheaper.

18 May 2019

My first Hot Pot in quite some time - with “Chinese family” members Victoria and Jeffrey. I must be totally adapted to this now (at least heat-wise) as there was no concession to a half spicy / half mild broth. But it’s very addictive, even when you know you’ll be paying for it later in the night ;-)

17 May 2019

Friday night in Chunxi Road I stumbled (not quite literally, although I had had a few happy hour wines) across a pop-up dance party outside the Metro station. It seemed to be promoting the JellyFish nightclub, as well as Israeli Tourism. Perhaps not a totally random pairing, as my Israeli classmate Olsen from two years ago had worked at said nightclub (and I visited a few times), and I seem to remember many of the staff were Israeli. With cheap al-fresco beers and some good music, I was easily persuaded to stick around and watch some of the Israeli dancing classes... until rain unfortunately stopped play early....
Over the past few weeks I’d been painstakingly working my way through Mojar’s 15RMB daily specials board. Yesterday was the Beef Burrito, Monday the chicken burger, and last Wednesday - purely for research purposes - a further trial of their Club Sandwich. All are pretty good! My budget is pretty stretched, and going to my usual haunts at Tai Koo Li for a couple of Happy hour cocktails / wines, followed by dinner nearby is usually about 90RMB. Hardly expensive, but if I come to Mojar twice a week and get a couple of beers and a meal for 25RMB, it certainly makes it easier to keep to budget for the rest of the week...
HALF TIME By my reckoning, yesterday was the 40th of 80 class days that make up the semester. It was also the day when we started some material that was new to me. While spending my out-of-class time last June drinking beer and watching the World Cup, our teachers didn’t QUITE get enough time to take us through (the wholly appropriate) Chapter 20 of the book... I’d only really wanted to spend around a month of this semester recapping stuff from last year, but there wasn’t really a class that allowed me to do that. Devoting two months to old material has hardly been a waste of time though, I feel like I’ve consolidated much of last year’s knowledge, learned plenty of new words along the way, and occasionally had the chance to be the class know-it-all to boot ;-) This year’s classes continue to be the most comfortable of the three years I’ve done here... and I’m still not complaining about that!

16 May 2019

My grocery shopping is pretty straightforward. About once a fortnight I’ll go to the supermarket to buy oats, muesli, yogurt and milk powder. On top of that every few days I’ll buy a 5 litre bottle of water, and a few bananas each week, and that will just about cover all my breakfasts and half of my lunches. The other weekday lunches are usually steamed buns and dumplings bought en-route to Mumu for my lunchtime coffee, or snack food from the Uni canteen. Due to no in-room cooking facilities, dinner is almost always at an eatery, or takeaway taken back to the dorm.

11 May 2019

Saturday with Ma Li, and we spent much of the afternoon in the Chengdu Museum. There are six floors, and we only really covered one as much of the afternoon was spent in the museum coffee shop! Ma Li’s English is very good, and she likes to practice it (who am I to try and stop her wth a few stuttering words of Mandarin?). So we chatted away on subjects as diverse as Diana’s death conspiracy theories, how she could get herself an Australian boyfriend, and how the heck are Australia allowed to compete in the Asian World Cup groups and the Eurovision Contest....? I didn’t have any answers for her.
Some free Saturday afternoon entertainment in Tianfu Square... While the Guns n’ Roses comeback tour got off to a low-key start, the Sichuan traditional face changing is always interesting, as the performers repeatedly change their masks in the blink of an eye. It’s very clever.

9 May 2019

Apart from Winny’s visit last month, social life in Chengdu had been decidedly ordinary in recent weeks. Keen to have a more interesting weekend than the birthday weekend a fortnight ago, I’d been a little more proactive in arranging stuff for the next few days. First off was a return to a Thai restaurant near the LiuLin campus with Carol. We’d been there last year, and when she offered to shout me a meal there last night, I was more than happy to go. It was a bit of a fleeting get-together as she had lots of study to get back to. Just enough time for me to learn that there is a very popular Australian singer called Troye that sends 20 year old Chinese girls into a quiver, but is strangely unknown to 52 year old men. Saturday I’m hoping to meet up with Ma Li for lunch, and on Sunday evening I’m going to watch the last night of the English Premier League season with English classmate James. Add in a few hours work and cleaning the toilet and floor, and it could be full weekend.

8 May 2019

England flavoured cake... Rotherham was a bit chewy....

5 May 2019

I escaped unscathed from Guangzhou, and the World’s most dangerous escalators...

4 May 2019

Our last full day in Guangzhou was hindered by the weather a little, but didn’t prevent a full day of eating. We started the day with some Yum Cha, and agreed it wasn’t a patch on the food we’d had a couple of days ago. And it was far too early in the day for me to be staring at a dish of chicken feet... In between the showers we walked (and lunched) in Guangzhou’s African / Arabic neighbourhood, Xiaobei. Once it was obvious that it was pointless having expensive cocktails up high in one of the city’s towers due to the inclement weather, we instead went for last night cocktails and dinner to a branch of Commune, a bar I had been known to frequent in Chengdu (at least until they restricted Happy Hour to females!j.

3 May 2019

An evening cruise on the Pearl (Zhujiang) River....
Everybody was kung-fu fighting.... Bruce Lee’s ancestral home. Not sure how long he actually lived here, but his father certainly did. We weren’t supposed to take photos inside but I managed a couple of sneaky ones. I didn’t realise he was only 32 when he died....
Shamian Island is hardly an island, although technically speaking it is surrounded by water in the Zhujiang River that flows through Guangzhou. It has quite a few European buildings owing to the fact that the Brits and French had a lease of sorts over it in the 19th Century, and it was those Europeans that actually built the canal that separated Shamian from the northern part of Guangzhou. One of the most interesting places we saw was a ‘shop’ that actually appeared to be a museum of many old relics of technology... much like myself...

2 May 2019

Guangzhou has three of the tallest towers in the World, including the CTF and IFC towers at the International Finance Centre, and the Canton Tower, which we had originally planned to go up. The Canton Tower seemed to just be a tower for the sake of being a tall building, so instead we took the free option of going up the IFC Tower, as it had an accessible Four Seasons Hotel on the upper 30 floors. The hotel lobby is on the 70th floor and a bar is on the 99th floor. We managed to take a few photos without going to the expense of buying drinks there, as even a tea was nearly 100RMB!
Guangzhou is famous for its Yum Cha, and this was possibly the best I’d eaten. Google Translate did a pretty decent job of live translation of the ticket of dishes we’d ordered - very clever. Seven dishes was really far too much food, but in common with most Chinese people, Winny can eat half her bodyweight at any one sitting, so we gave it a good go. The desserts made of fried milk (top right in the fifth picture) were particularly delicious.

1 May 2019

GUANGZHOU First impressions of Guangzhou on Wednesday was that it was a little too full-on... even by Chinese standards. Arriving in one of the World’s biggest cities on a public holiday I suppose it was to be expected, but I’d never seen the Chengdu metro anywhere as near as packed as what we experienced yesterday. Even with trains arriving every two minutes we sometimes had to let 2 or 3 pass as people were jammed in like sardines. Guangzhou, and the Guangdong province in general, is the home of Cantonese cuisine, so Winny had promised me many local delicacies over the next four days...

27 April 2019

Jin Li - one of Chengdu’s most popular tourist destinations, and somewhere I visit annually. Actually it’s probably worth visiting more often as there is a lot to see there, and many many strange things to eat, if you’re that way inclined...

25 April 2019

TESTS AND EXAMS We’ve been doing weekly tests to practice writing the new words introduced in each lesson in the book, generally about 30 new words across two new texts in each lesson. It’s the sort of thing I can do pretty well as it really just needs repetitive practice, and as we always know the range of new words we will be tested on, there aren’t usually any nasty surprises. The grammar review of the first four lessons covered this semester was equally something I felt pretty comfortable with. So tomorrow will be the first really tough exam as it’s based upon listening and speaking. Unlike the similar exams we did last year, we haven’t been given subjects to prepare, other than all the material covered in the four lessons in the book. I’m not good with the listening and speaking, even more so if I can’t prepare my speech in advance, so it will be a challenge. And then a week on Monday (after our five day break) there will be a mid semester reading, writing and grammar exam.

24 April 2019

James gave me his Mojar card. I feel like I’ve found one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets, shame it’s only valid from 10am til 4am ;-) I only come here to study though, not to get plastered for a fiver....

22 April 2019

One of my main complaints (and I don’t complain - much!) in China is that although many things are cheap, many of the things I enjoy are relatively expensive - namely coffee, alcohol, and Western food, to name three... the equivalent of AUD $5-8 for a coffee, $9-11 for a wine or $15-20 for a restaurant burger is as much or in some cases more than back home... So I took some pleasure in this evening’s spending... two beers (20RMB) and the Monday special of a beef burger (15RMB) at Mojar, followed by a MuMu cappuccino (14RMB), and still some change from a 50RMB note... at least hypothetically, as it was all paid for via WeChat.
Whilst doing some research on what to do and eat in Guangzhou, I came across a couple of must-try dishes.... I’m sure I don’t need to point them out...

18 April 2019

NEXT STOP: GUANGZHOU With the first three days of May being public holidays (of sorts) in China, there is a 5-day looong weekend on the horizon. That’ll make up for missing out on Easter and Anzac Day..... I’m going to Guangzhou to visit Winny (she lives in Zhongshan, not far from Guangzhou), and the flights were booked yesterday. The cost was about in line with expectations - just under 2000RMB return. You can certainly make the trip for less, but this is a peak travelling period. I always procrastinate when it comes to booking hotels, and usually go for something with free cancellation, just in case I change my mind or find a better deal. When trying to take into account two people’s preferences, that’s double the procrastination.... includes breakfast? Decent room size? Near a metro station? Good reviews? Clean? Can I afford it? I’ve finally booked a room... but with 13 days still to go and a free cancellation option, who knows if this will be the place to spend 4 nights.

17 April 2019

The search for a decent place to watch football is ongoing.... After being underwhelmed on several visits to the Shamrock, I thought I’d try another place I’d read positive things about, The Leg and Whistle. With the time difference between China and the UK, and the preference to get home before public transport tails off at around 11:30, an early UK kickoff is a good option. So on Saturday I arrived at about 7:15 ready for the lunch time kickoff in the UK... only to find the place closed, and seemingly not just closed, but closed down. I had a backup option, an Irish pub called McElroys I’d come across earlier in the day. At least this place was open, and, at my request, they put the game on. But there was no sound to listen to, and most of the (western) clientele seemed to be more interested in pool, or just chatting. When I returned to class on Monday, James checked with his friend and the Leg and Whistle hasn’t closed down, but didn’t open til 7:30 that night! Doh!
MOJAR A few times in class I’d heard classmates make reference to Mojar... was it just a Chinese word I’d never come across? Most likely... Anyway, my English classmate James seems to have found many interesting places to eat, including a Thai restaurant that does Full English Breakfasts and Sunday Roasts at the weekend... and... Mojar. Mojar is a Mexican restaurant / bar close-ish to the Uni, and in fact only 100 metres or so from a Starbucks I semi-frequently visit. I was on my way to said Starbucks tonight when I stumbled upon Mojar. The big attraction is western food at prices unlike every other western eatery I’ve come across in Chengdu. The menu prices are quite reasonable, but they also have daily 15RMB specials, today’s being a quite decent club sandwich. Add in a 10RMB draught beer and I can see why it’s popular with both the foreign students and locals. The staff are friendly and the Wi-Fi good. What’s not to like? I’ll be back... but time for a coffee now...

14 April 2019

Some more photos from San Xing Dui. Ma Li is notably absent as she doesn’t like having her photo taken!
SAN XING DUI HISTORIC RELIC SITE My friend Ma Li had suggested a day of culture, as she wanted to visit a site near Chengdu where a lot of ancient relics has been discovered in the 80s. There is a similar site, Jin Sha, very close to the university that I’ve visited previously. Neither though come close to the Terracotta Warriors site in Xi’an..... San Xing Dui felt like a bit of a trek, metro and two buses, so around two and a half hours each way. There were some interesting things there, but three or four hours of ancient relics is probably about my limit in any given year...

13 April 2019

Yet another new Metro line taking shape.

12 April 2019

Just about a quarter of the semester - one month - has passed. I think there are now around 17 or 18 registered for our class, and every day we get around 12 turning up. I think I may be the only ever-present, perhaps a Korean girl too. It is common for it to just be us two when class is supposed to start at 8:30am, and everyone else meanders in over the next hour. Before the semester started I didn’t necessarily want to be surrounded by a lot of westerners, but I must admit I’m enjoying sitting with the two other English guys, and the fact that there are at least half a dozen others whose first or second language is English. I’m already resigned to the fact that my progress this year will be slower than each of the two previous years, but that’s fine... We’ve only got two exams this semester - previous years they did them monthly - and the teachers aren’t giving too much homework, so at the moment it is all feeling quite comfortable!
Eight little steamed buns for lunch - 6RMB :-)

7 April 2019

Some more photos from the weekend - mainly eating. Including Hot Pot, a pastry filled with red bean and duck egg, and something with the taste and texture of roof insulation. Winny assured me it was edible and had to buy some as it’s so difficult to find it “freshly made”. I ate a lot of spicy food over the weekend. Being a Guangdong local where the local food is the relatively mild Cantonese cuisine, Winny found it all too spicy, but wanted to try all of the local delicacies anyway. I paid for my over-exhuberance in the spice department later on Sunday evening....

6 April 2019

WINNY THE POOH... AND PANDAS TOO... Like just about everyone visiting Chengdu for the first time, the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre was top of the list of places for Winny to visit. Given it was not only a weekend but also holiday long weekend at that, we left the hotel early to try and beat the crowds. But they were really unavoidable, especially on such a nice day weather-wise, but at least getting there before 9am meant we could avoid the inevitable queuing in the heat of the afternoon. This was my third visit, and there were certainly more pandas to see than on my summertime visit in 2017, but unfortunately no baby pandas like I’d seen on my birthday visit four years ago. Winny was happy with what she saw anyway... For the first time in a couple of years I took a “proper” camera with an 8x zoom lens out with me to try and get some close-ups of the pandas. But actually these iPhone pictures once blown up and cropped look pretty good.

5 April 2019

Winny’s arrived (with a panda for me too!) and I took her for a tour of the University before dinner at a Taiwanese restaurant at Tai Koo Li. Meanwhile the panda kept guard of my bottle of NZ wine...
ALL SET FOR A LONG WEEKEND Yes, today is a public holiday in China, so no class today. And with perfect timing the weather has switched from just Spring-like to what looks to be 4 or 5 very warm and sunny days :-) Winny is flying in from Guangzhou at lunch time so I’ll meet her at the airport, armed with a panda cuddly toy and two bars of Cadbury Old Gold chocolate (the best of Chengdu and Birmingham). There’s already a pretty full itinerary planned - much it it revolving around eating. But we’ll also go to see the real pandas tomorrow, so hopefully this unusually warm weather doesn’t mean that they avoid coming out to play.

31 March 2019

Weekend highlights... #1 Chinese style lamb pizza #2 Another disappointing visit to the Shamrock. It always sounds like this Irish pub would be a good place to visit to watch English football, but once again it was deserted. Even so, when I asked for the volume to be turned up they said no, on account of them having a live act later. There was no evidence of this by half time (nor many more patrons) - just 45 minutes of lift muzac. So I left. I’ve visited about half a dozen times now, and even when the World Cup was on last year it was hardly buzzing, despite the website’s list of nightly events; live DJs, Salsa dancing, pool comp. And I’ve emailed them several times to ask if they are televising a particular game, and never a response! #3/4 A tasty snack, the name of which escapes me #5-9 A Sunday afternoon stroll through the biggest green space in the city centre, People’s Park. #10 I don’t know what prompted me to order so much... but I managed to eat it...
WEEK TWO The second week in class was reasonably comfortable. I like both teachers, but I think they both need to tweak their teaching methods a little. The Mon/Tues/Thurs teacher uses too much English, certainly compared to the other five teachers I’ve had at this university. And the Wed/Fri teacher seems to be concentrating too much on grammar, when really her focus should be listening and speaking skills. So probably both of these factors are adding to the comfort levels. I bumped into one of the American students at the gym, and he has moved up a class for these very reasons. But the classes remain popular - just about every day we’ve had over ten students, which again gives a feeling of slightly slow progress, when compared to the intensity last year of often being in a class of around 5. Mind you, it’s never exactly “easy” in class, so it’s quite nice to get to midday and not be feeling as overwhelmed as was the case on many days in the previous two visits!

30 March 2019

Shaanxi Province food #2: These Biang Biang noodles were quite delicious. I never got round to trying them when I visited Xi’an (in Shaanxi) two years ago, but tried some earlier this week. They are probably most famous due to their name. The Chinese character for Biang is one of the most complex. Hopefully the teacher won’t sneak it into Monday’s listening / writing test....

29 March 2019

Shaanxi Province food #1: This one’s English translation is Characteristics of Fried Cat Ears. Once I’d assured myself that no feline had perished in the making of the dish, I quite enjoyed it, although a little fiddly to eat with chopsticks.
Week 2 navigated ✅ Work hours completed✅ Homework already done✅ Minimum 4 gym visits completed✅ 1 AFD (modest target) under my belt ✅ A few hundred RMB still in my WeChat wallet to spend this month ✅ Time for a drink.... This is the Abbaye, a Belgian bar at Tai Koo Li. My first time here. And possibly the last as it’s really quite expensive. The cheapest glass of wine is about $A14, but at least two-for-one during happy hour. The beers are Belgian-esque prices too, and the food is also similar to what we pay in the West. How do normal Chinese afford to come here? And most of the clientele are Chinese. I suppose if they are all holidaying tourists and they only stay for happy hour that’s ok. But 100RMB for a burger? Give me six of last nights sweet and sour chicken for the same price any day!

28 March 2019

Sweet and sour chicken.... a Chinese take on an age-old English favourite! In fact at two quid (16RMB) the last time I paid this price for Chinese takeaway in England was probably around 1979...
Even the Starbucks at 宽窄巷子was quite pretty. He says, trying to justify visiting six different Starbucks in six days... Tonight’s was a freebie for this loyal supporter of the brand ;-)

26 March 2019

I spent a couple of hours at宽窄巷子, Chengdu’s Wide and Narrow Alleys on Tuesday evening. It’s always an interesting place to wander around and look at all the local food and costumes. The food isn’t as cheap as other parts of the city as this is one of Chengdu’s main tourist attractions. I settled on some Dan Dan Mian, a local noodles specialty, and it was only 20RMB, so hardly expensive. As well as the cheapish street food, there are also plenty of restaurants, bars, shops, galleries and places to watch the local Sichuan Opera. So it’s likely to be on our itinerary when Winny visits Chengdu the weekend after next. Maybe I can tempt her with a pig snout...

24 March 2019

No shortage of bikes for hire today. And that’s after the biggest company, OFO, went into administration, so no more yellow bikes to be seen. Glad I got my deposit back last year :-)

22 March 2019

SCHOOL WEEK Week 1 of 17 has been navigated reasonably well. I think I will stay in this class, it feels quite comfortable in some respects, but that’s really due to gong over material I’ve already covered. It’s been nice to have some English speakers to chat to at break time, but I think we’re all keen to not resort too much to English during lesson time. For Wednesday and Friday’s listening / speaking teacher we were her first ever class here! I think she was a little concerned she was speaking too quickly, but, I assured her, it was mainly me that was having problems understanding! There are several students like Julius, a Cameroon guy who can understand everything she says, but he cannot read / write Chinese (so the opposite of me really). But his English is good and there’s already talk of us going for a beer. We were down to 6 students today, but as everyone is free to try different classes in the first fortnight, it’s hard to know how many will turn up next week.

20 March 2019

UNTIL NEXT TIME... Uncle Graz and Yan head back to Australia on Thursday after a very brief stay in Chengdu. It’s been a very social week, with four family meals over the last four evenings. I’m always worried there won’t be enough for me to eat, but even after passing on the plate of duck tongues, and the pots of fish, there always seems to be more than enough. And the Australian wine is always in plentiful supply.

18 March 2019

THE NEW CLASS As the new class started, it felt very male and very Western, with a mix of Americans and English the early arrivers. Eventually we probably got into double figures but certainly not the 17 names that were originally listed. We’ve actually started with reviewing the previous level’s study book, so the subject matter is very familiar to me. Today’s class actually had more in common with the courses I’d done in Queensland rather than the previous two years here... the teacher used more English that I’m accustomed to, perhaps reflecting the number of English speakers in her class. And at break time there was far more chat between students because of their common language (and I don’t mean Chinese!). Overall, just a less formal feeling than in previous years. It’s good that everyone seems very friendly, but I don’t necessarily want it to be too casual. No homework today, which is a bonus while my Uncle is in town :-)

17 March 2019

FAMILY MEAL My Uncle and his wife arrived in Chengdu for a few days. The tradition of the first-night family meal was duly observed. We’d been to this restaurant before, and I think they’d even had a family wedding reception here in the past, so it was obviously highly regarded by them. The restaurant is over several levels, and the higher levels are made up of private dining rooms of various sizes. Our room had it’s own mini kitchen and a bathroom, so fair to say this quite a high-end dining venue. The food was very tasty too, I think they know the sort of stuff my Uncle and I find palatable, and make a few concessions for us! My Uncle always ensures there’s a plentiful supply of Australian wine, and I think we got through about 7 bottles... mostly consumed by the naughty side of the table...
The Chinese family have recently opened a coffee shop. It’s really quite impressive, and huge. The coffee was OK, expensive and quite small though. It’s actually more than a coffee shop actually as there’s a bar, a full kitchen and lots of Mahjong rooms, spread over two levels.

16 March 2019

LIKE BUSES It seems to be the way that as soon as I get to China for these study trips, my wafer-thin budget goes to pot. And so has been the case this year, with a few financial headaches already, not least of which being the fact that my apartment in Toowong is still vacant three weeks into the trip. My reduced working hours just covers my expenses in Australia, so the rent from my apartment is basically my spending money while I’m here. So currently that is $zero. After a few near misses with potential tenants, I asked the property manager to reduce the rent on Thursday. Even though the reduction was quite modest ($550 to $520pw), by Friday I’d got not one but two seperate applicants, and I accepted one for a five month lease starting on the 23rd. It does mean I won’t be able to get back into my home on 1st August as originally planned, but I really wasn’t in a great negotiating position, so was happy to accept. I won’t celebrate too much until I see the signed lease though!

15 March 2019

I’d had this dish once before last year. Not sure what it’s called but it feels like the Sichuan equivalent of a Sunday Roast... lots of vegetables and really hearty. One thing that made it very Sichuan, though, is the amount of chillies in it, as can be seen once I’d eaten most of the vegetables. For the second night running, dinner had me mopping my brow. In fact the previous night’s food - a cold Hainan chicken rice dish - was even hotter than the beef and vegetables.
The new text book looks very familiar... because it’s the same book I most recently studied last year. The books are very cheap - 68RMB - so I decided to buy new, as I had already completed a lot of the worksheets etc in the old one. Last year we got up to lesson 19. I’d requested to be put into a class where I could review a few lessons before getting onto new material, partly because this is actually the second semester of the academic year, so whatever level my peers are at, they are likely to have studied the material quite recently, whereas for me it has been 8 months. So I will be going back to lesson 13, and at about one lesson (chapter) a week, it will mean about a third of this semester I’ll be covering stuff I’ve already learned - or at least been taught, haha!. So not exactly an adventurous target, but I think the right one. It should give me chance to consolidate on my weaker areas, such as listening and pronouncing the tones. I’ll find out after the weekend.
ASSESSED AND CLASSIFIED Today the class designations have been posted for the semester beginning on Monday. Notably, after saying recently that I hadn’t come across any English or Americans, there are two of each in this class - an English Adam, at that. I don’t recognise the Mandarin names of some of the countries. 17 students seems like a big class, after most of last year being in a class with 5 or 6 students. But everything can change - people decide to swap classes in the first fortnight (as I did last year), and many people just don’t show up that regularly. In 2017 I was placed in a similarly sized class, but typically there was only 8 or 9 students attending on any given day, and occasionally it would just be me for the first hour!

14 March 2019

Some interesting new choices on the Blue Frog menu. A pink burger - that’s the bun, not just a burger cooked rare. The Beertail looks to be a full bottle of Corona upturned in a cocktail. And then there’s the 100 Shot Challenge... responsible service of alcohol? Nah this is China! I think I’ll just stick to my happy hour 2-4-1 Stellas today. But then again, if the Beertail is included in happy hour...

13 March 2019

After the Eastern Suburbs Memory, I thought I’d have an explore around this part of the city. My spirit of adventure (haha!) was rewarded firstly by finding a very pleasant, almost Brisbane-esque dedicated cycle and pathway along a very nice stretch of river, with neatly manicured gardens. And secondly a quite delicious chicken egg fried rice from a local restaurant I stumbled upon. It’s probably 50 minutes from home but I’ll definitely come back!
After work today I paid a return visit to Chengdu’s Eastern Suburbs Memory Music Park. I’d visited with friends last summer on a weekend and it was very busy. This afternoon it was far quieter, but a chance to look at some of the old factory buildings that have been repurposed into bars, cafes, galleries and live music venues. Most of the buildings have a sign with a little bit of history in both Mandarin and English, so it’s a bit of a living museum I suppose. There seems to be a lot of events on here so I should try and come back in the evening and enjoy the entertainment.

11 March 2019

Case in point, if I’d eaten dinner at the Happy Hour place, I’d have been lucky to get change from 100RMB... whereas this huge bowl of beef noodles was 12RMB.... and just what I wanted, big, cheap and spicy :-)
HAPPY HOUR AGAIN... Of my four (semi regular) drinking locations from last year, it’s been disappointing to find that Commune have discontinued their Happy Hour (unless I become a woman - always an option...), and Moka Bros are closed for renovations. Blue Frog is still there, and indeed has collected my cash three times already, but today I came to Element Fresh, just about next door to the Frog. They have a two-for-one on cocktails for their happy hour, so I was more than happy to partake in a couple of Long Island Iced Teas for 60RMB. Most of their food and drink prices - like Blue Frog - are similar to Western prices, so I really just come here for some cheap drinks and then find something more local to eat, in the 20 to 30 RMB price range.
HERE COMES THE SUN Since coming back to Chengdu a week ago the weather has been a real mixed bag. Two or three cold drizzly days, not quite as miserable as Hangzhou, but fairly wintery. And there have been a couple of lovely days, today being the best, with plenty of warm sunshine. 22 is very good for this early in Spring. Even on days like today, a blast of heating is needed late at night and first thing in the morning, especially now that I’m back working and spending many hours in the dorm. But once the sun streams through the window it’s very pleasant.

10 March 2019

...and on to dinner. Carol had a favourite Hot Pot restaurant she wanted to go to. And it was very good - particularly good service. I passed on the fish cakes but most of the other stuff was vegetables or tofu. Hard to see in the last picture but the waiter was doing some nifty twirling of the noodles, stretching them in all directions before they got chopped up and chucked in the Hot Pot.
GONE TO THE DOGS A bit of socialising today with my young friend Carol, one of my few constants in Chengdu life as we first met when she was nominated as my language partner in my first year at the Uni. We pretty much speak in English these days, at least 80%. Last year she had taken me to a couple of cat cafes (they’re a thing in China), and today she suggested going to a new dog cafe that had eight huskies. I’m more of a cat person than dog person, but I was happy to go along. In common with the cat cafes we’d been to before, it’s safe to say these places trade on their four-legged friends, not on their coffee, which was not only rubbish but expensive too. Anyway, Carol has a great time chasing and occasionally catching a dog if they were tempted by her little treats. And I gave the odd one a pat or two, in my pseudo-friendly way.

9 March 2019

It seems like the Uni have converted one room on each floor in our block to be a mini kitchen. Quite modest in facilities though, just a kettle (which I already have in my room) and a hot plate. I still have Granny’s toaster so I could possibly use this room to make some toast, but with no fridge / freezer to store stuff, I doubt I’ll bother.

8 March 2019

Interesting... who’d have thought there’d be so many Uzbekistanis coming here. Not sure I’ve met any of them as yet. Although in my two and a bit semesters here so far I’ve never met a Brit, American or Aussie either.

7 March 2019

My (Chinese) dentist in Toowong tells me that the Chinese have never been very good at looking after their teeth. And I kind of see that... This despite possibly the largest array of toothbrushes I’d even seen in one place, and this was just the local supermarket.

6 March 2019

FIRST NIGHT FREEZE It might look like I’ve just shoved things into the wardrobe with gay abandon, but I prefer to title this composition “Metamucil on mousepad”. I’d stored quite a bit of stuff with the Chinese family - a small case prior to travelling to Suzhou, and a big case of stuff at the end of last year’s trip “just in case” I returned. A masterpiece of planning to have my kettle, modem, sweatshirts and duvet waiting for me... or so I thought. On unpacking everything, I swiftly remembered that the duvet (that’s DOONAH to the Antipodeans) was actually too bulky to pack away... so I had a duvet cover and nothing to fit in it. Despite the fact the temperature only dropped to 11 degrees, and I had the a/c on heating all night, and I was wearing a t shirt, sweatshirt and tracksuit trousers, I still felt quite uncomfortable all night. A bit soft, I know. So priority number 1 today was buying a duvet. Looks quite cosy. But that 200RMB could’ve bought me half a dozen coffees...
Last year it took three trips to the IT geeks to get my internet connection operational. This time it was relatively straightforward... although I was mildly alarmed when I told the girl I couldn’t remember my Wi-Fi password, and she was able to write it down for me.... Speed seems OK... but evening time going through a VPN might be a different story.

5 March 2019

The Uni cafe used to do a pretty decent bacon pizza, but on returning today I found that they only do a (God-forbid) durian pizza. That’s my only excuse for ordering this Happy Meal-esque dinner tonight. And I didn’t request the fries and popcorn chicken to be smothered in ketchup either, although I’m sure I would’ve done it myself!. My dad and brother will be salivating mind you :-) This was just a blip though, the other things I’ve eaten in the last 48 hours have been far more Asian....
SUPERMARKET SWEEP Reminiscent of Granny in her heyday, I’ve made six visits to various supermarkets in the last two days, as I hunt out the best bargains to fit out and stock my new home. While she may have been adept at hunting down a well-priced can of salmon or packet of digestives, I’ve learned over the last couple of years that while Metro might be good for Mister Muscle and muesli, Carrefour has the only decently priced mouthwash, and Le Super often has well-priced Australian wine. And nowhere seems to have reasonably priced sunscreen or shaving foam. This inside knowledge however didn’t stop me from agonising over whether to buy a certain pair of scissors or back-track 20 minutes to save 2RMB at a different shop. I still have no idea why the likes of towels and bed linen are often cheaper in, say, Kmart or Tesco, despite being made in China, but I let it go eventually and splashed out 200RMB for a bath towel and bed sheet.
An addict will go anywhere to get their hit, as my Starbucks reward card transactions will testify to. I think I’m batting at least one visit a day since I left Australia. But help is close by. Instead of paying 29RMB at Starbucks, now I’m back at the Uni campus I have both MuMu (15RMB) and the Uni cafe (19RMB) close at hand, for a better, cheaper alternative.

4 March 2019

REGISTERED 9am Monday morning and I was first in line to register at the College of International Education. The process was pretty familiar: present your paperwork, pay the tuition and accommodation fees, get the dormitory room card in exchange for another 1000RMB bond, check the contents on the room inventory, and registration of address at the police station. In fact most of the faces were the same. The staff in the admin office, the gatekeeper lady, even the policeman giving me the big red stamp on my paperwork, were all comfortably familiar. The female students checking in might have been different, but their problems were all too familiar. Where do we find a strapping Westerner to get our 30kg suitcases up four flights of stairs? I only wish I knew....

2 March 2019

HANGZHOU (STILL) IN THE RAIN I awoke to the expected dank weather that had been forecast for today - pretty much rain all day and a top temperature of 8 degrees. Despite this, I had to try and see a bit of Hangzhou, however difficult it was through the gloom. The first stop was Qinghefang Old Street. It is one of the most well-preserved parts of the city, and attracts lots of tourists not only for the buildings but also the restaurants and shopping. Next was a walk along the river close to the city centre, followed by the LiuHe Pagoda. The view was good, although my knees didn’t appreciate the couple of hundred windy steps upwards. In the evening I had a look around the Raffles City Shopping Mall, more to stay dry whilst looking for dinner than a shopping trip. I’d hoped to see a bit more of modern Hangzhou too, but the weather really prevented this. So that was a brief look at Hangzhou. Sunday afternoon back in Chengdu promises 17 degrees and SUNSHINE :-)

1 March 2019

There’s life in the old knee yet! Although I’m not sure how much...
THE WEST LAKE WASHOUT The forecast didn’t look promising for my two days in Hangzhou, and so it proved to be on Day One. I had planned to go to West Lake after checking in to the hotel, and although it was already raining, with only a day and a half here and no prospect of the weather improving, I stayed with the plan. As the photos will testify, it was difficult to see anything, let alone pagodas swathed in mist or a mesmerising sunset as the websites had promised. Still, some artistic shots were still possible (the angled ones owing more to my lack of proficiency with my left hand whilst holding an umbrella with my right). The weather could well put the ruin on this weekend. It was so cold and wet I was tempted to stay in all evening and watch my socks dry. But I’m glad I made the effort, for after a disappointing “Eat Street” visit no doubt a victim of the weather, I randomly chose a restaurant where I had quite possibly the best meal I’ve eaten in China. Every cloud...
TO HANGZHOU Although my return flight from Shanghai to Chengdu isn’t until Sunday, I’d only booked four nights at the hotel in Suzhou. Options for the last couple of days included extending my stay for another couple of nights, having a couple of nights in Shanghai, or - as I eventually settled on - a visit to Hangzhou. It wasn’t somewhere I’d considered visiting previously but it is highly rated by the Chinese (they have a saying: there is paradise above and Suzhou and Hangzhou below), and it’s number one tourist attraction, West Lake, is often listed in the top ten “must see” places in China. Even with a relatively short two hour fast train trip to get there, it will only leave me a day and a half, but hopefully time to see West Lake and one or two other points of interest.

28 February 2019

ON THE WATER My last day in Suzhou was spent walking around two of the main tourist areas, Shantang Street and Pingjiang Road. Both have lots of places to eat and shop (for those that want to), but Shantang Street runs right along the canal for several km so had plenty of spots for a photo. I returned there in the evening and did a boat cruise along the canal. It’s a pity it was so cloudy that there was no chance to get any sunset shots, but it was still pretty as all the buildings started to light up and put on their red lanterns for the evening. Afterwards I found a cute little bar - of which there were quite a few dotted along the canalside- for a beer, and bought a few street snacks (none of which were particularly memorable to be honest).

27 February 2019

TONGLI TongLi is one of several famous ancient water towns close to Suzhou, and this one is probably the most accessible - around 1.5 hours by metro then bus. It has a series of canals dividing it, and about 50 stone bridges (the oldest around 800 years old), so it did have a feel of Venice about it. Sadly the weather, which always looked to be pretty dodgy on today’s forecast, got progressively worse as the day went on, so I probably didn’t get to see as many of the sights as I would’ve liked to. Although the constant rain seemed quite apt for a water town! Maybe I should’ve prioritised looking at some of the old buildings when I first arrived rather than looking for a coffee shop :-)

26 February 2019

Jinji Lake and Suzhou Industrial Park. Lots of new buildings - shopping centres, restaurants, entertainment, but hardly any people. Admittedly it was a Tuesday afternoon in winter, but even so...
The Humble Administrator’s Garden - one of China’s most famous gardens.
SUZHOU Suzhou is a very popular tourist destination in China, famed for it’s gardens and canals. It is sometimes called The Venice Of The Orient, which strictly speaking should probably be The Birmingham Of The Orient, as we all know Birmingham has more canals than Venice. Whether that name would draw in quite as many romantics from far and wide, I’m not sure. Although a city of millions in it’s own right, it is often considered part of Greater Shanghai, one of the biggest - if not the biggest - cities in the World.

25 February 2019

TO SUZHOU... WITH A BULLET After three nights in Chengdu, I was off travelling to fill in some of the time before I could check into the dormitory next week, so it was back to the airport for a flight to Shanghai and an onward trip to nearby Suzhou by fast train. Ever since booking the train ticket I’d been regretting only giving myself 1:45 to transfer between plane and train. Even with the train station being adjacent to the airport, it seemed unlikely the flight would be on time, I could find the train station, get through security and figure out how to collect my ticket. As it happened everything worked better than my catastrophic expectations (as is usually the case). At the airport my case was second off the carousel, and when I asked an Information girl how to get to the train station, she kindly walked me 15 minutes to the entrance! The journey itself was only around half an hour, so I doubt the train even got up to full speed with a couple of stops en route.

23 February 2019

...AND FIRST DAY FRUSTRATIONS ... One of the most important things to get done when arriving here is to sort out a mobile phone connection. It also seems to be one of the most tricky things to do without any local help. I was hoping this year it would be a little easier, as last year I’d purposely tried to ensure my SIM card would stay activated in case I returned, so a friend had helped me put it on a holding plan. Any hopes of “plug and play” with last year’s SIM were quickly dashed though, and I had to ask my friend Winny to sort it out. Even after the SIM was reactivated, I still needed to change the plan, and although I have the company’s app, it’s all in Chinese - as is their telephone support (quite reasonably!). I made a call to their helpline anyway and tried to explain what I wanted. This didn’t appear to work and I was getting a little frustrated that I couldn’t sort this thing out myself. However a little later I received an SMS, and it seems my request was actioned!
FIRST DAY FOOD... No-one could accuse me of not diving head first into the local food. I started off with some steamed buns for breakfast, which I found during an early walk, and it was only a quarter of the price of a hotel breakfast. Later I found a lady selling some snacks on the street and she recommended the spicy potatoes. They were absolutely delicious. I needed to store some stuff with my Chinese family while travelling next week, so we arranged to go for Chuan Chuan for dinner. I was given first choice of selecting the skewered foods to go in the Hot Pot, so I made sure there were plenty of vegetables. Everyone else seemed to prefer little morsels of animal parts though, so I tried to keep a mental note of where I’d placed “my” food - which became increasingly difficult as more and more skewers were piled in. The family seemed to think my Chinese has improved, but I doubt that’s true having been away for so long. I suppose I’ll find out in 3 weeks when class starts!

22 February 2019

A FAMILIAR PLACE After the first day hassles last year where my original hotel wouldn’t accept foreigners, I decided to return to the Ibis Hotel I eventually stayed at, and also spent another pleasant night there at the end of the stay. Although the first two pictures at first glance might look alike, there are actually ten subtle differences...
HERE I GO AGAIN Time flies, it’s nearly eight months since I left Chengdu to experience the long-to-be-remembered “Summer of 2018” when the sun shone in England and the football team played well.... So for the third time, I’m heading to Chengdu to do the Spring semester of Chinese Language at the South West University Of Finance and Economics. This year’s semester starts and ends a little later than last year, so I have the time - if not the money - for a little travel before I start work in a fortnight, and Uni a week later. All being well I’ll last the semester and have time to call in on Birmingham and Singapore before the end of July... but if I don’t find a tenant for my home pretty soon, I could be back in Brisbane in time for an Easter Egg....