China adventures 2012 – week 1

In this series on the International Study Trip please welcome Mark Willems as the second guest reporter from China. Mark made us the honour to write an extensive report of the whole (tourist) trip, including pictures … [for the sake of clarity and although I don’t like it, I will split this very long post, you’ll need to read it on the web]

Day 1 – Shanghai

I arrived early on Monday morning in Shanghai airport.

The Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train brought me to the city center in 8 minutes at a maximum speed of 301 km/h. During the day the train reaches a maximum speed of 431 km/h.

Maglev picture by Frederik Mennes

Maglev picture by Frederik Mennes

Speed indicator picture by Mark Willems

Speed indicator picture by Mark Willems

After another short and “slow” metro ride I arrived at the Blue Mountain Youth Hostel where Frederik checked in the night before. He was barely awake when I knocked at the door but it was nice to see a familiar and non-Asian face. Apparently I already felt alienated in China and that after only a short train and metro ride ;-) In the subway I was at least a head taller than the others and I was the only one wearing a non-black and even a colorful sweatshirt. Can you imagine ;-)

Stijn, a friend of mine studying an MBA in Gent, was also staying in the same Hostel. We all gathered and took off to People’s Square in the city to meet up with our Leuven classmate Gilles. From there on, we first visited the Jade Buddha Temple.

Jade Buddha Temple picture by Mark Willems

Jade Buddha Temple picture by Mark Willems

Afterwards we travelled to the famous Bund where we got a first glimpse of the Pudong new area across the Huangpu River. The Bund is a waterfront area between the river and Zhongshan road.

Bund waterfront picture by Mark Willems

Bund waterfront picture by Mark Willems

Eager to see the Pudong new area from close by, we crossed the river by taking the sightseeing tunnel.

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel picture by Mark Willems

Bund Sightseeing Tunnel picture by Mark Willems

As you will see in the following link to a You Tube video, this tunnel is less spectacular as seen in many pictures (mine is pimped by playing with the shutter speed), but it was nice to have seen it though.

Once we arrived at the other side we grouped with two other classmates, Vanessa and our one and only Chief Party Animal, Fabian.

We climbed the large bottle opener shaped building, the Shanghai World Financial Center, housing the second highest observation deck worldwide at 474 meters.

Next to this tower an even higher beauty of 632 meters is being built, the Shanghai Tower, which will open for public in 2014.

Spyshot picture by Mark Willems

Spyshot picture by Mark Willems

Pudong new area skyline picture by Mark Willems

Pudong new area skyline picture by Mark Willems

For dinner, Frederik arranged us a nice table at Shook! where Kevin Cape, a British highly respected chef, presents an Asian and Western blended menu.

We tried some different nice dishes but it was mainly one of the desserts that caught our attention. Even for a culinary adventurist like me, the “Malaysian Ice Kacang” was very innovative. Or did you ever try a dessert that combines shaved ice, corn, sweet brown beans, peanuts and grass jelly?

Shook! dinner picture by an unknown Shook! waiter

Shook! dinner picture by an unknown Shook! waiter

Day 2 – Shanghai

On day 2 we went to visit Yu Yuan or Happy Garden in the old part of Shanghai. Again Frederik advised us to go a restaurant called Nanxiang Mantou Dian, famous for its dumplings. Afterwards Frederik fell in love with these ugly looking bastards ;-) most likely because they were absolutely delicious.

Yu Yuan picture by Mark Willems

Yu Yuan picture by Mark Willems

Yu Yuan picture by Mark Willems

Yu Yuan picture by Mark Willems

Hu Xin Ting Teahouse picture by Mark Willems

Hu Xin Ting Teahouse picture by Mark Willems

Nanxiang Mantou Dian picture by Mark Willems

Nanxiang Mantou Dian picture by Mark Willems

Dumplings picture by Mark Willems

Dumplings picture by Mark Willems

After dinner we made a quick stop at a fancy teahouse where we soon left because of it’s exclusive character. From there on we went to an area called TianziFang where we met a Chinese friend of Fabian. It was there that I drank my first “green tea” ;-)

"Green tea" picture by Mark Willems

"Green tea" picture by Mark Willems

Before dinner we decided to go to the Fake Market for an hour or so. 3.5 hours later we finally managed to leave but we were loaded with black plastic bags full of nice souvenirs. We decided to have dinner close to the hotel in the Xintiandi district, known for its restaurants, entertainment and car-free shopping.

Day 3 – Hangzhou

Early in the morning we left Shanghai by train and met Vanessa’s colleague, another Frederick.

In Hangzhou Frederick invited us for lunch at an old village that was turned into a luxurious resort called Amanfuyan. This quiet and relaxing place was only just outside the busy city of Hangzhou. Apparently we were all craving for some peace and quiet without realizing it. After lunch we rented a bike and did a small tour around the beautiful West Lake.

Amanfuyan picture by unknown waiter

Amanfuyan picture by unknown waiter

In the evening Frederik and I left to the bus station where we had a quick dinner at a basic traditional Chinese place. Guess what Frederik ordered? On the bus to Huangshan we met a very nice couple, Felipe (Brazilian) and June (Chinese).

We arrived late at the Old Street youth hostel located in the heart of Huangshan city.

Felipe & June picture by Mark Willems

Felipe & June picture by Mark Willems

Day 4 – Huangshan

The next 2 days we joined Felipe and June on a 2 days tour to the Yellow Mountains, one of the most memorable things I have seen in China.

Day 1 we climbed the 1860 meters high Brightness Top where we saw the sea of clouds. We spent the night at the White Goose Hotel at the top of the mountains.

Brightness Top picture by Frederik Mennes

Brightness Top picture by Frederik Mennes

Welcome Tree picture by Mark Willems

Welcome Tree picture by Mark Willems

Yellow Mountains picture by Mark Willems

Yellow Mountains picture by Mark Willems

Sea of Clouds picture by Mark Willems

Sea of Clouds picture by Mark Willems

Day 5 – Huangshan

We got up early to see sunrise but missed it because of heavy rainfall.
The rest of the day we descended the mountains in continuous rain but this gave it a special rain forest touch.

The same day, late in the evening we took a plane to Beijing.

Day 6 – Beijing

Still heavily impressed by our hike in the mountains we left of to the Temple Of Heaven and regrouped with some of our classmates, Vanessa, Fabian, Bart and Pablito. My stepbrother Ewan and his girlfriend Catherine work and live in HongKong and they decided to pay me a visit in Beijing. We explored the Temple of Heaven Park, Tiananmen Square and Beihai Park. For dinner we went to the open air food market where we had some appetizers. We decided to have our main course at a different place ;-)

Temple of Heaven picture by Mark Willems

Temple of Heaven picture by Mark Willems

Tiananmen group picture by unknown Chinese person

Tiananmen group picture by unknown Chinese person

Tiananmen Square picture by Mark Willems

Tiananmen Square picture by Mark Willems

Beihai Park picture by Mark Willems

Beihai Park picture by Mark Willems

Food Market picture by Mark Willems

Food Market picture by Mark Willems

Food Market picture by Mark Willems

Food Market picture by Mark Willems

Food Market picture by Mark Willems

Food Market picture by Mark Willems

Day 7 – Beijing

The last half-day of the touristic part of our trip, we spent at Summer Palace.
At lunchtime we had a Vlerick welcome lunch and started lectures afterwards.
In the evening, after dinner, we went to check out the well-promoted Russian nightclub Chocolate (promoted by classmates that went there last year).

Some of us still remember that it was a great night ;-)

Summer Palace picture by Mark Willems

Summer Palace picture by Mark Willems

Beihai Park picture by Mark Willems

Beihai Park picture by Mark Willems

Many thanks, Mark! After this very extensive report on the 1st week in China, hope that we will be honoured by an as-well extensive report on the 2nd week …

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