HOME- I arrived home yesterday evening and though I am really sad that my three weeks in China are over I am so excited to see my parents and stop eating Chinese food!!! Thanks for reading my journi I hope you found it in some way interesting or amusing! Freya 😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁😁
Our last day started with an early morning flight back to Beijing✈️. We then spent the afternoon in the National Museum of China which is on Tiananmen Square which was a really interesting experience and was in some ways more remarkable for what wasn't featured! They had a massive exhibition called the Road of Rejuvenation which charted China's change from the Opium War defeats to the present day. It was super interesting to see the language used to glorify Mao and the CPC and contrast it with my knowledge of Mao's leadership that included disasters such as the Great Famine. We spent our last evening at the hotels rooftop bar and then at Lost Heaven a yunnanese restaurant which had some amazing chicken!
TERRACOTTA WARRIORS: we started the day with an awesome breakfast of churros, muffins, fresh fruit (oh and bran flakes🙄). The different excavation pits are vast and it's really cool that it's still a working site that has the potential for even more to be discovered in the area. I just couldn't comprehend the power the Emperor must have had wielded to get what must have been an enormous workforce to create such an elaborate burial masterpiece. It was very very hot and exposed at the Terracotta Site and I was super happy upon exit to see my salvation in the form of a Haagen Dazs shop! Later in the day we went into the Muslim quarter in the centre of Xi'an which was full of interesting shops and food vendors all owned by Muslim shopkeepers. This is a legacy of Xi'an's previous role as the empire's capital and a key hub in the Silk Road network that linked China to the Middle East and beyond.
25 July 2017
Yesterday we arrived in Xi'an which was a sweltering 42 degrees!! We got a taxi to our hotel which had no seat belts and a driver who seemed to enjoy frequently and loudly yawning which did little to ease our fears of emerging from the journey unscathed. That is something perilous about China in general- the complete disregard for traffic lights, signals or safety. We arrived at the hotel which has an incredible lobby area and even a Haagen Dazs!! We were promptly upgraded to the residence club due to our "loyalty to the brand" (neither of us have ever stayed at a Gran Melia) which includes free drinks, canapés, a private gym and a pillow menu - we tried to play it cool. We then endured the heat and visited the Dayan Pagoda which is one of the local sites and was first built in 652 AD. Also the canapés featured the world's smallest avocado toast (see below)!!
24 July 2017
Yesterday we left the brickyard hotel and travelled back to Beijing 😰 we were sad to leave because it was such a cool place and everyone was really helpful and friendly during our stay. We spent the afternoon walking around the Summer Palace in the north of the city and also took a pedalo around Kunming Lake which was really fun and had great views of the park. In the evening we had our first duck dinner which was amazing.
22 July 2017
THE GREAT WALL: after an early morning rain-scare we set off around 9:30 for our hike to the Great Wall. It was really cool to go by foot as it afforded some great views of the wider mutianyu area as well as of the Wall during the ascent; however I did get SO sweaty and the journey was not without expletives! The wall was incredible and truly the pictures don't do it justice - but that didn't stop me from taking like 3000😂 We then got a stairlift down from the wall and spent the rest of the afternoon chilling (stevo)/ recovering from the hike (Freya). I rewarded my physical endeavours with another one of the amazing brownies because trust me I definitely deserved it!!
Today we went to the Temple of Heaven Park which was historically where the Emperors went to pray to Heaven (unsurprisingly) and where we got photo bombed by a cute Chinese boy (see below). It was a really nice green space within Beijing and probably one of our fave places so far. We then travelled by car to the Brickyard Mutianyu hotel to the North of Beijing and within easy distance of the Great Wall. This hotel is so cool it has views of the wall, is eco-friendly and has an epic brownie on the dessert menu!!!
20 July 2017
Apologies for lack of posting but we have been super busy trying to see as much as possible!! Yesterday in the morning we went to two temples the Lama Temple and Confucius Temple both which were amazingly decorated! It was also much less oppressive weather than the day before as it had rained in the morning which helped clear the smog and humidity a bit. We went for lunch at Baozi Pu! Based on outside appearances I would NEVER have gone in, but actually the dumplings were some of the best I've had and it was super cheap too! We then walked through a Hutong neighbourhood to Behai Park - there was loads of great shopping opportunities and stevo had to drag me out of 3 separate stationery shops! I am also pleased to say that stevo is catching up with me in the random-photos-with-Chinese-people stakes as he was asked twice at the temples!! Even more surprisingly he actually went along with it!
STEVO IS HERE!!! He was super tired, but we went straight to the Forbidden City equipped with our smog masks (see below). I can't overstate how vast the forbidden city is and there are so many different palaces and gardens to explore. It was however quite difficult to navigate around as everything looked quite similar to an untrained observer. We also went to this special gallery where all of the Emperors clocks were housed which was pretty cool especially as all the clocks are extravagantly (excessively) decorated with different scenes/animals etc. Also another two girls asked for my photo- obvs I was very willing to pose sadly no photo requests for stevo 😂
19 July 2017
Just a quick note to say I survived the journey to Beijing. It seemed unlikely at times given the weight of my suitcase and the many many stairs of the Beijing metro, but have rewarded my efforts with some jacuzzi time and room service!!
17 July 2017
After a hairy moment at Hong Kong immigration I made it to Shanghai relatively unscathed! I travelled to the city centre of the world fastest train going at an incredible 300km/hour. The hotel
here is amazing my room is on the 30th floor and you can even see the Bund in the distance. I headed to the Yu Garden which was incredibly beautiful despite being very difficult to find! I then went to see another amazing skyline; the skyline wasn't the only thing being photographed however! Daniel warned me that people in China would want to take photos of me (being one of the only white people around) and already 2 people have asked to do so today 😂they wanted me to pose and everything very bizarre, but people on the whole here seem to be really nice and helpful.
16 July 2017
Last day in Hong Kong and I celebrated with an avocado toast brunch of dreams 🥑. On my way to brunch I saw what the Hong Kong locals call 'Little Manila'- literally hundreds of Filipino women spending their Sunday off work chatting, eating and socialising on the pavements and walkways of Central. It was a really bizarre experience, but I thought it was nice they found space to make their own away from the live-in commitments of their work. I then met up with Daniel and we went to Hong Kong history museum which brought back loads of memories of A Level history! It was particularly interesting as it detailed a lot about Hong Kong in WW2 under Japanese occupation which I hadn't really learnt about before. As we walked to get the ferry back to HK Island we witnessed another strange sight- an international military tattoo! I have to say seeing Chinese people playing traditional Scottish music on the bagpipes was very amusing!
15 July 2017
I started the day with a trip to Man Mo temple which was a interesting but sweaty experience. The humidity plus the lack of air con plus the copious amounts of incense burning meant that there were no photographs taken of me at the temple due to my rather dishevelled state. I recovered from this trip by going for a swim at the hotel pool which looks out over Victoria harbour and is really cool. As it was Daniel's last night we went out for sushi together at this Japanese place called Genki. It was so good - you order the food on an iPad and when it's ready and miniature train delivers it to your seat. Very high tech, very Japanese! The food matched the service and I had these really nice soft shell and avocado rolls 😋😋😋
14 July 2017
I've finished my vac scheme!! Yesterday was the last day and it was honestly really sad to leave the office I have really got on with the Banking team there and they have all been really helpful and supportive this week! To celebrate finshing (and because it was a clear day) I decided to go and see the HK skyline from yet another viewpoint - this time Victoria Peak! I swear this location must have been Apple's inspiration for the panorama as the views all around were simply amazing and I was lucky enough to be there for sunset so saw it from both day and night perspectives. I took the Peak Tram back down to the city which was quite rickety and unstable - not a patch on my hometown tram!!! Also Abi, Gus made it to Victoria Peak (see below) I then came back to the hotel and had a lonng and much needed lie-in 😴
13 July 2017
Last night all the vac schemers were treated to a trip on A&O's own junk boat for sunset drinks in Victoria Harbour. It's apparently quite common for big companies to have their own junk out here which is available for employee hire! It was an incredible experience the cocktails were great (Malibu) and there was nachos and guac so my perfect set up! It was surprisingly choppy so I was very glad I didn't suffer from sea sickness as some people did start to feel pretty bad. In the day I started work on drafting a share mortgage agreement which I am planning to finish before I leave today. I also went to a Spanish restaurant at lunch with a corporate trainee to find out more about that seat. I'm just about to start my final day at the office and it seems to have flown by. I am so excited to have a lie in tomorrow morning the late nights and 7:30am starts are catching up on me, but I plan to be busy again this weekend ticking more HK sites of my list 😁😁
12 July 2017
Yesterday at the office I went to a really interesting talk about A&O's Pro Bono work on HK which was the first time it became apparent to me the degree of inequality in HK. As I am living very near to my office which is obviously in the business centre of the city I haven't been exposed to the underprivileged sides of HK, but it was really inspiring to see the firm were taking these issues seriously and getting involved in lots of cool community projects. On my lunch break I found this amazing viewpoint across to TST - I don't think there's a nicer place to have salad!! Post work I met up with my college husband Daniel and we went to the Happy Valley races along with some people he knows from HK who also go to Cam. The races were super fun, very busy and were attended by a whole cross section of HK residents - from the old die hard gamblers, to corporate workers and young adults. I gambled $30HKD but sadly didn't win anything (although I was close!!!).
11 July 2017
2nd Day at A&O and I still can't get over the office views and the fact that there's a Starbucks in the building😍 it was actually really great to get involved with some of the deals that Banking team are working on at the moment and I am being mentored by some really great people in the department. My trainer Roberta took me out for a wanton noodle lunch at Mak's Noodles which were very different to the ones back home but very tasty. I then tried the HK favourite bubble tea, which I can't say I loved, but seemed to be a must-try whilst I was here. This evening I went to the Ozone Bar which is the highest in the world and offered some amazing views over Hong Kong🍹
10 July 2017
Today was my first day at A&O and I was doing my best to channel Scottie vibes (Suits reference). The office literally couldn't be in a better location and the views out to TST are simply incredible! Spent most of the day doing induction stuff and getting to know my team. I am sitting in the Banking department this week which should be very interesting and also a good contrast to the Employment team I sat in at Christmas. I feel like jet lag has finally caught up with me so post-work went to the cheapest Michelin dim-sum restaurant known to man before picking up a choc milkshake and heading back to the hotel for some Netflix and potentially a face mask!!!
9 July 2017
That was not all!! I also went to Mong Kok market which is like Oxford St except it's only Chinese people and there's roast meat being served on the street!! I attempted haggling somewhat successfully and managed a dressing gown upgrade (see below) as well as a lucky cat which my mum was desperate for. This evening I went to Ho Le Fook (yeah I didn't get it till I read it out loud 😂) which is a modern Chinese restaurant with the other guy on the vac scheme Dan - the dumplings (pictured) were by far my fave.
8 July 2017
First full day in Hong Kong and I managed to cram so much in! First I went to the Apple Store to get my tourist SIM and now I have data anywhere anytime PRAISE THE LORD! Had a cheeky Starbucks breakfast and then it was off to see the Big Buddha. The cable car over there was incredible as there were views back into the city and out to the South China Sea. I also made my friends with an Indonesian family and their son in particular who was excited that Ed Sheehan was playing there soon!! The Buddha is really impressive and when I initially got there was shrouded in a misty cloud which added to its magic. I secured an insta-worthy shot before heading to the Po Lin monastery which was spectacular in architecture and design although the incense was a bit overpowering!!
Last night I ventured out solo in Hong Kong. I went to the Kowloon side of the city as this was recommended to me as the best place to see the Symphony of Lights display. The HK skyline at night is truly amazing and I was surprised how busy it was given that the show is a nightly occurrence. It was also really cool to see the traditional junk boats lit up and set against such a modern backdrop of the Hong Kong financial and business district which is packed full of skyscrapers. I have also found it strange that I have spoken to so many more different people in the short time I've been here than I would have done if I was travelling with my own friends or family. Last night at the show I spoke to a couple who worked in Beijing hotels and were down in HK for a holiday- which was cool as I got advice from them for the weeks ahead! I then got the Star Line Ferry back from Kowloon to Central which was founded in 1880 and is a true part of the Islands' history.
The journey: flight was actually really good I watched the whole first season of Gavin and Stacey as well as the new Beauty and the Beast, which Abi and Amber will be pleased to know I really enjoyed! Then got picked up at the airport by my driver Gary who's car seats reclined to practically horizontal and managed to rival those of the VUE Cambridge. Sadly driver Gary was not as communicative as Dad Gary but he was still happy to pose for a photo (see below!) I then checked into Hotel Jen and got a free upgrade to a mountain view room on the 22nd floor which is AWESOME! I then unpacked and made the most of my bathroom facilities (see below for the shower cap's return to social media)
So here I am, feeling kind of like a child that has found itself impersonating an adult of the corporate world! Currently at the gate waiting for a flight taking me to Hong Kong for my international vac scheme. A year or even 6 months ago I would have never dreamt that I'd be here -- I am super nervous but also very very excited. Hoping that the seat next to me on the plane will be A) vacant or B) taken by someone nice and friendly, but not too chatty as have many movies to get through!! Saying goodbye to my parents was difficult (I think this is the longest I have ever gone without seeing my mum) but at 20 it's time to test out whether I can really hack this solo travelling thing and at least on here they will be able to see how it goes!