Okay so this post is probably going to be a bit long and involved as much has happened since the last one and I have had no time to update. Basically fro December 25th Xmas party until now the students and staff gradually trickled off home from campus for the Spring Festival which takes place on January 25th.We have 5 weeks holiday and during this time most of
the foreign teachers nip off on their travels,either to warmer climes (it is freezing here) or in some cases off home to see their folks for Xmas and the Chinese New year.So we are doing both- we decided to travel a bit,especially as it is REALLY cold here,and then we will go home to Israel for a couple of weeks to see the boys, and my dad and to do a bit of paperwork that needs taking care of .Second semester begins here on February 13th so we are flying back here on the 10th.
So on January 7th we got a flight down to Xiamen, a lovely coastal town which we had heard good things about. Coincidentally two of our colleagues,Iain and Courtney are doing a 3 week Chinese course there and another Becky arrived just after us. We spent 3 lovely days in Xiamen which lived up to its reputation as a great resort,with seaside,lovely warm weather and a charming island called Gulangyu which is car-free and used to be home to Europeans looking to escape to a romantic getaway. The little winding streets and seafood restaurants are kind of like Cornwall but not really! There are also lots of funny little knick knack shops selling porcelain and wooden cats,for some reason. The island is reached by a small ferry from Xiamen which is itlself an island. Xiamen proper is a pretty big city complete with western style shopping malls,flyovers and restaurants and also a lovely nightlife area full of bars where Chinese with dyed blonde hair and cowboy boots sing songs by Bachman Turner Overdrive and Queen.
In the evening we met up a couple of times with our friends from Lin’an for Hotpot and Italian food and one time for a beer. We left Xiamen by overnight sleeper bus for an 8 hour trip to Shenzhen, the border crossing into Hong Kong. The sleeper bus was very weird.You board the bus at 10pm ,remove your shoes which you place in a plastic bag at the bottom of your bed,and go to sleep and wake up in Shenzhen at 6am where you can cross over customs into Hong Kong which is truly another country. Not only do they use Hong Kong dollars and speak Cantonese and English,they also drive on the left as in England. The whole place felt like one enormous glitzy shopping mall. We spent 5 nights there and I can’t say I was totally enamoured of the place- maybe for people who care about Yves St.Laurent,Chanel and all of that crowd it’s shopping heaven but we really felt we could have spent more days in Xiamen more profitably.Plus it turns out that a lot of the wow of Hong Kong is based on the amazing views from the top of Victoria Peak and Victoria Harbour,but since it was horribly cloudy all the time we were there we felt a bit cheated on that score. We did get a few good shots of the harbour at night with all the lights,but again, not the most exciting place we have been on our travels.
On our second day in Hong Kong we took a tram to a little island called Lamma Island which also has no cars. Unfortunately the weather was not very kind to us again. It was very misty and a bit drizzly. The island was nice but not nearly as nice as Gulangyu. We did have a great evening at our friend Nigel’s house, met his lovely wife Susan and very much enjoyed their local cuisine. Many of the things we had planned to do in Hong Kong seemed to be dependent on the sunshine,so we left Hong Kong feeling a bit underwhelmed. We flew back to Hangzhou and on to Lin’an to find the campus completely deserted. We did meet a friend,Simon, a German who is studying Chinese here. He said that nearly all the campus shops and restaurants are closed,and we shared a taxi back up to campus with him ,and indeed the place looked like a ghost town. We are only staying here 3 days luckily, just long enough to pack up the stuff we have bought to take home and then we will take a bus to Shanghai and then fly on to Israel on Friday.