China has my heart in so many ways. It was the first momentous change of my life. It was my first ever trip alone. My first ever home and job abroad. And one of the scariest/bravest things I’ve ever done!
I remember being in Beijing and wondering near Wangfujing Snack Street (the place famous for its scorpion and tarantula on a stick!) and being completely lost. I felt safe and in no panic at all. Beijing was grey and full of smog, just as you’d expect, but it’s full of history and is a great starting point for an adventure in China! And it’s the home of peking duck, mmm. Also, thanks to my friend Eddy who took me on my first Chinese night out to a bar with the best deals (girls get in free and unlimited drinks for £1, COOL) and an evening meeting his grandparents in their home.
Teaching English for six months changed me in so many ways. I was placed in a school, in a remote village. But even then, the village itself was a huge town compared to ours in England. Lots of things in China seem to be pretty over the top. I’ve never felt coldness like when I first moved there, and my first home had no heating and no window… just a space where one should have been. Lol. Then the summer was filled with sun and humidity like I’d never experienced too. The weather itself was a whole new experience. The teachers were lovely, and every weekend we drank brandy and sang karaoke at the local KTV bars, as well as cool stuff like exploring other cities, seaside weekends away and weird cinema trips. And the teaching itself was extremely rewarding. Hard work at times, but the children are so respectful and unlike lots in the UK, eager to learn and well disciplined. I loved watching them grow and learn english, while they taught me other things like, how to do the peace sign in every single photo for the rest of my life. I rarely cry, but leaving them on my last day nearly pushed the tears out!
I met my bestie and we travelled on sleeper trains and buses. Wuhan had a lovely art district but had a very odd vibe to it. Shanghai and Guangzhou are truly mega cities with mega skyscrapers and mega hordes of people. There’s so much to see and do in both, but highlights were Guangzhou Zoo which was one of the best I’ve ever been to, and all the super high towers. Lots of it is industrial, and busy city life, but China is a huge country and there’s so much beauty too!
In complete contrast was Guilin, one of my favourite places in China with some of the most amazing landscapes. Riding around on the back of motorbikes and eating dumplings every morning is all I needed! We also had a day in the rice terraces of Yangshou. The sun was baking hot and we climbed for hours, high up in the terraces. It was so amazing that people still lived there and harvested the crops still. China is full of tradition and culture. Most of the places were relatively cheap, money lasts a long time especially if you stick with street food which minus the odd duck foot and chicken head, the food was delish.
The country itself is one of the most baffling to me. It’s a weird and wonderful place, and you find yourself whispering “wtf” to yourself at least ten times a day. Overall though, China is an amazing country to visit and there’s so much to explore. I recommend teaching to anyone and living there was easily done. I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.