Yu yuan classical garden in the heart of Shanghai

China is definitely filled with beautiful temples and fabulously manicured gardens. Walking through these tranquil gardens on these hot summer days is such a peaceful experience. We spent the morning walking through this beautiful gardens enjoying the sunny weather and the cool the shade provides.

Yu yuan Garden was finished in 1577 by a government officer of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) named Pan Yunduan. Yu in Chinese means pleasing and satisfying, and this garden was specially built for Pan’s parents as a place for them to enjoy a tranquil and happy time in their old age.

In the 400 years of existence, Yuyuan Garden had undergone many changes. During the late Ming Dynasty, it became very dilapidated with the decline of Pan’s family. In 1760, some rich merchants bought it and spent more than 20 years reconstructing the buildings. During the Opium War of the 19th century, it was severely damaged. The garden we got to explore is the result of a five year restoration project which began in 1956.

Yu yuan Garden
Dragons cover the tops of the walls in the Yu yuan Garden

Yu yuan Garden occupies an area of 20,000 square meters. The pavilions, halls, rockeries, ponds and cloisters all have unique characteristics.

As we entered the garden we encountered a rockery, which is called the Great Rockery. With a height of 14 meters, it is the largest as well as the oldest rockery in the southern region of the Yangtze River.

the Great Rockery
A small temple on top of the Great Rockery

Cuixiu Hall sits at the foot of the rockery. It is a quiet and elegant place surrounded by old trees and beautiful flowers.

Cuixiu Hall
Cuixiu Hall at the foot of this rockery

Sansui Hall was built in 1760 and was originally used to entertain guests. Later it became a place to hold ceremonies for the gentlemen and bookmen. With a height of nine meters and featuring five halls, it is the largest and most commodious structure in the garden. The name Sansui is derived from the book History of the later Han Dynasty, and means ‘propitious’ and ‘lucky’.

Sansui Hall
Mom relaxing in the Sansui Hall
Yule Pavilion
Me in the Yule Pavilion

Wandering through the area of Yule Pavilion and Wanhua Chamber, we found  numerous pavilions, corridors, streams and beautiful courtyards.

Wanhua Chamber,
Wanhua Chamber

After such a peaceful morning we couldn’t wait to have a cup of lovely Chinese tea in Shanghai’s oldest teahouse.

Gritty Alleyways reveal the old Shanghai

For all its glitzy modern skyline, perhaps the real jewels of Shanghai can be found at street level, away from the hustle and bustle in the captivating back alleys. One of my favourite things to do in Shanghai is to explore the backstreets, either on foot or by bike. The narrow lanes behind the main streets are soaked with tradition and colour which offer a unique glimpse into local life.

In these narrow lanes, below masses of tangled electric wires, hanging laundry and meat hung out to dry, the slower paced life of the real people of Shanghai awaits to be discovered.

The small area around Yuyuan Garden area has the oldest type of alleyways you’ll find in Shanghai. As It feels like I have stepped back into time as I leave the touristy Yuyuan area and enter these old forgotten alleys.

A walk through these grungy streets is always filled with surprises, and most importantly unexpected encounters or finds. Though lacking many amenities, people still live here, going about their lives, brushing their teeth, hanging up laundry, chatting and chopping vegetables for dinner.

Unfortunately as the city grows exponentially, these lanes gradually get demolished, year after year, month after month. It saddens me that the unstoppable onset of modernism in Shanghai is unable to make room for the existence of alley life. Very soon, more and more high rise structures will invade the old city streets destroying a piece of what makes Shanghai so special.

Gritty Alleyways of Yuyuan
Washing, electrical wires, bicycles, motorbikes and even discarded matrasses fill the alleyways of Shanghai.

An invitation of a beautiful street is an invitation to walk within a dream!”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

 

A Taste of Street Art in Shanghai

In a city of over 20 million, I was bound to come across some street art. It surprised me that the Chinese word for graffiti is tuya (涂鸦), a word used to describe “scribble”. Traditionally, graffiti is viewed as criminal art or vandalism in China. If caught painting in non-designated areas, artists will be fined, arrested, forced to paint over their work, or possibly held in jail for a few days.

Street art in Shanghai
A beautiful mural I found in Pudong, Shanghai.

In an attempt to reverse the negative connotations of graffiti, some artists refer to themselves as aerosol artists. Also to development of graffiti in China all the materials must become popular and cheap for everyone as spray paint is a rare commodity in Shanghai.

At the moment the government allows street artists to only paint in certain designated places and are often supervised while doing so.

Street art in Shanghai
Artist at work under the supervision of the police

Despite the ambiguity of the law against graffiti the phenomenon of graffiti is on the rise. I look forward to seeing what other pieces I can find in this bustling city.

10 Things my first months of Living in China has Taught me

Moving halfway across the world to live and work abroad is always a big challenge, but also hands down my favourite way to explore this amazing world. I’m still new to Shanghai, China but reflecting on the experiences and lessons I’ve learned in this short period of time I know this has been a good move. I moved to China with the idea of living here for a year, but one month in I realised that I would definitely be living here for longer.

Here are the most important things I have learned so far while living and working in Shanghai, China.

1. WeChat is Everything

The mobile phone is king in China and you will be lost without a smartphone. I had my smartphone unlocked before I moved to China and downloaded WeChat the Chinese version of Whatsapp. But that’s just the beginning, because WeChat is your life. Chinese people actually don’t use regular text messages, they just use WeChat to text, send voice messages and even to send actual documents as attachments. I have also embraced WeChat pay which you can use to pay for almost anything, so I don’t need to carry cash with me here in Shanghai. Even the tiny hole-in-the-wall places has a QR code that you can scan to pay with WeChat. Other than WeChat you need a smart phone to order taxis, food delivery and train or plane tickets by using different apps on your phone. You also need your mobile phone to access the shared bikes here in Shanghai which makes life so much easier.

2. Free VPNs Will Not Cut It for Internet Usage

If you want to access sites and apps like Facebook, Google, Gmail, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Tinder, and more, you’ll need a VPN. It is a virtual private network which allows you to access sites that are blocked here in China. I am so glad that I was warned about this before moving to china. The going rate tends to be about $50-$100 USD per year for a functioning VPN. Trust me, the free ones might work for a week or so but in the long run you realize how lost you are without access to the big world wide web without a VPN.

3. In winter, AlWAYS go well wrapped up to restaurants and cafes

I wish someone had told me that, due to a government decree, there is no central heating in public buildings south of the Yangtze river. This policy was intended to bring about huge savings in energy costs. Just a few miles to the north of Shanghai, the public buildings are toasty warm throughout the winter. However, in Shanghai itself, we are expected to happily shiver through freezing winter temperatures whenever we leave our houses.

4. Invest in a proper face-mask as Surgical Masks Don’t Do Anything

When I moved to China I had no idea what the pollution level was. I have seen images of very polluted days in China, often accompanied by photos of people in surgical masks. I thought these might be rare occurrences but soon found out that this is quite common during the colder months. Forget the surgical masks, they are great for keeping yourself from getting sick on a crowded subway, but they will not work for the pollution at all. What you need is a 3M mask that will protect you from PM2.5. Don’t worry, you will be able to buy one here in China, and they even come in funky colours!

5. Buy an Air Purifier, your lungs will thank you

The media emphasizes wearing a mask outside, but let’s be honest, if it’s really polluted, you’re probably staying indoors. This is an option I have opted for a couple of times so far this winter. Unfortunately the pollution filters into our houses and I have woken up coughing more than once on heavily polluted days. I now know that it is very important to invest in a good air purifier for your apartment if you plan on living here for a while.

6. Fitted Sheets Are Not Popular

I never really thought twice about my sheets. While I like to sleep with soft and comfortable blankets, my bottom sheet never concerned me all that much. Well, over my lifetime I’ve become very accustomed to fitted sheets, and I was shocked to find that China does not share my love for fitted sheets. After searching a bit online I eventually found a place that sold them. But next time I am definitely bringing some from home!

7. Coffee Is Expensive

While many of the foreign restaurants are only expensive by comparison, imported foods and coffee are much more expensive than they are back home. Thanks to China’s tariffs, you can expect to pay up to two or three times the original price for items like coffee, cheese, peanut butter, and cereal.

Coffee is seen as a luxury in China, and many coffee shops price the drink accordingly. I was shocked to find that I could buy an entire meal for half the price of a tiny latte.

8. Bring Your Own Sunscreen

I was warned before moving to China that sunscreen isn’t very common here. Most people in China cover up to avoid the sun’s harmful rays so sunscreen tends to be sold in small bottles and is super pricey. In China you will also find the term “whitening” on your sunscreen along with most facial moisturisers. So I have brought my own, as personally I am very nervous about using a product that will end up bleaching my skin.

9. Don’t Flush Your Toilet Paper

While I knew about squat toilets, no one ever told me not to flush my toilet paper. Next to every toilet you’ll find a small basket for you to throw your used paper. Chinese pipes aren’t equipped to handle non-organic waste, so you may find your toilet clogged if you try flushing your paper one too many times. Trust me, I learned this the hard way.

Many public restrooms also don’t have toilet paper or soap, so you’ll probably want to bring some hand sanitizer from home and pick up a mini pack of tissues when you arrive.

Living in Shanghai, China
Bike of Burden

10. “That’s so China” Is an expression you will also end up using

Being open-minded is so important, as cliché as it may sound take everything with a pinch of salt and remember that you are a guest in another country. What you may see as the cultural or social norm will most likely be different, once you learn and adapt to living as a ‘guest’ in another country you will enjoy the experience a lot more. A saying that has stuck with me and can only be fully understood by individuals who have experienced travelling or living in China is to “expect the unexpected” and “that’s so China”. As soon as you think you have seen it all, whether it’s something new or shocking, positive and/or negative something else will occur making you say “that’s so China”.

Living in Shanghai, China
Drying chickens with the laundry on a sidewalk next to a busy street…..only in China!

China is a complicated country with a long history, and living here has been positive and negative all in one. I have experienced and accepted some of the ‘negatives’ to living and working in this big city but still love the country as the positives out shine any of the negatives. I think the surprise of discovering new things every day has made my life here an adventure. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is to arrive in China with an open mind. China is so large and complex, discovering new aspects of life and culture are just part of the fun!

Living in Shanghai, China
Happy Chinese New Year!!!

Don’t let your fears and apprehensions hold you back from the adventure of moving to China.

Dafu Buddha, a Chinese Masterpiece

 Mom and I in front of the Leshan Giant Buddha

Mom and I in front of the Leshan Giant Buddha

MASTERPIECE.  No matter where you are (and where you’ve been), I’m certain you’ve stumbled upon something extraordinary: a place that blows your mind; a work of art or object that speaks to you; or even a location or scene that’s special, unusual, or even magical in some way.

I thought of the Dafu or Leshan Giant Buddha that I had the opportunity to see while on my China Odyssey with my mom.

Construction on the Leshan Giant Buddha started in 713, led by a Chinese monk named Haitong. He hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. After his death, however, the construction was stuck due to insufficient funding. About 70 years later, a jiedushi decided to sponsor the project and the construction was completed by Haitong’s disciples in 803.

The Buddha is 71 meters tall, the largest stone Buddha in the world
The Buddha is 71 meters tall, the largest stone Buddha in the world

Apparently the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the waters safe for passing ships.

His shoulders are 28 metres wide
His shoulders are 28 metres wide

When the Giant Buddha was carved, a huge thirteen story wooden structure, plated in gold, was built to shelter it from rain and sunshine. This structure was destroyed and sacked by the Mongols during the wars at the end of the Yuan Dynasty. From then on, the stone statue was exposed to the elements.

At 71 meters tall, it is the largest stone Buddha in the world and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.

How to Be a Mindful Traveller

I am sure that your first thought upon hearing mindful + travel joined together is that its about being hyper-conscious and conscientious about each and every little detail of everything you’re doing when you’re on vacation or out there one the road. But that is not what I mean.

I believe that travelling is not just about capturing the perfect Instagram picture, or sharing our every moment on Facebook. Before social media we travelled differently. Of course we had our cameras and captured moments, but these moments were for ourselves, they were treasured memories not staged photographs to please our followers and gain more likes.

These days it is hard to escape the feeling that everyone is travelling and perhaps we are missing out. And that maybe travel has become more shallow than before. Is travelling really only about becoming famous on social media? Or making your Facebook friends jealous? Now more than ever, we need to take time to think about how we can be a mindful traveller, an admirer of earth. How can we get back to a more simple way of travel, like we enjoyed before Instagram and social media changed the way we travelled?

1. Take Your Time

Don’t rush. If everything you do and everywhere you go is rushed because you’re in a new place and want to see everything, chances are you won’t actually see anything. Take a deep breath and think about what you actually want to get out of the experience.

How to Be a Mindful Traveller
A peaceful morning spent in the park

Do you want to see everything as fast as you can? Or do you want to have real and meaningful experiences in this new place, build relationships with people, and create memories?

Take three conscious breaths and stop dead in your tracks long enough to notice where you actually are. Take your time to prioritize your own awareness and realize the significance of each place.

2.Feel Each Step

Your body always exists in the present moment, whereas your brain can travel far from where you are. If you’re walking, notice each foot as it touches the ground, lifts and swings.

Notice the feel of the air on your skin. No need to make a big deal of it. Just enjoy the sensuality of being in your body. This awareness will help you remember how you actually felt as you travelled through a distant land, a new place, and a new culture.

3.Savour Each Moment

Eating? Taste your food. Hiking? Breathe in the fresh mountain air. Talking with a local? Really listen to them and remember what they say. Looking at beautiful sites, landscapes, and world wonders? Don’t think of it as only something to capture for Instagram or to share on Facebook.  Immerse yourself in the moment, and remember it.

4.Get Local

Don’t forget why you travel. To experience something new! The ability to go to a new place and remove yourself from your own cultural upbringing and constraints is a perfect way to practice acute awareness. Notice the subtle differences and embrace them. 

5. Relax and Rest

Put away those devices for awhile and have some time that is not governed by schedules, deadlines, and the latest news and information. Drink in something that is timeless and simply cannot be captured on a screen.


“One of the most powerful things you can do when you’re travelling is to let go and passionately wander. “

How to Be a Mindful Traveller
Beauty in the middle of the busy city

A Glimpse of Modern Shanghai

The value of your travels does not hinge on how many stamps you have in your passport when you get home — and the slow nuanced experience of a single country is always better than the hurried, superficial experience of forty countries.”
― Rolf Potts, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Doors in Shanghai

If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living… Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be.

Joseph Campbell

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Preparing to Teach English in China

Moving to a foreign country to teach English is a huge step and needs preparation; mental, financial and physical. It can get hectic trying to figure out what you will need to do and at times you may feel overwhelmed. I always make myself a checklist of all the things I need to do or take with me before I move to a new country. It helps me stay calm and focussed so maybe it will help you too.

Here is a checklist that could help you a bit in your preparation to teach in China.

Passport and Visa

First off make sure that your passport is valid for at least a couple of years and not expiring within your contracted work year. But, most importantly, have your work visa ready before the day of travel. Make sure you get the appropriate visa to enter and travel around China. If you are going to teach English in China, you will need a Z visa. This visa allows you to work in China legally. Registered schools are authorised to provide Z visas for their teachers. Do not trust a school who says its okay to start work on a tourist visa and that they will issue you a work visa later, this is illegal. For you to be given a Z visa you must be a native English speaker, have two years’ work experience or a minimum of 120-hours TEFL certification and possess a bachelor’s degree. Once you arrive in China, you are given 30 days to convert your visa into a resident permit.

Prepare to Teach English in China
China is filled with unexpected things….#onlyinchina is a real thing!

Personal items

It is advisable that you pack wisely, pack only what you need for your travel and especially for work. Leave the just in case items but be prepared for all kinds of weather as you are planning on being in China for at least a year.

Clothing

Pack enough light, easy to dry clothes including a sweater or light jacket. Remember summers in China can be incredibly hot so to pack enough sunscreen (SPF). It is quite expensive here in China and often contains whitening, bring your own sunscreen and protective creams for the skin. You will definitely need rain gear (raincoats and umbrellas) but those are easy to purchase once you are in China. Pack a comfortable pair of shoes because you tend to walk a lot in China, especially in those first couple of months while you are still trying to orientate yourself in your new city.

Personal effects

You will find most personal effects readily available in China. Pack enough toiletries for the first month as it can take time before you find the brands that work for you in China. Pack some tissue, wet tissues and a hand sanitiser for use in toilets during travel. You can find sanitary towels al over china but only the big cities sell tampons so you might want to stock up on those before travelling. Due to change in climatic zones, our skins tend to react so remember your lotions and moisturisers.

Medication

When travelling, it is advisable to have a small travel medical kit with you. If you suffer from a chronic disease, pack up all your medication and stock up enough for a given period of time. Other medications you can include in your kit are laxatives, painkillers, allergy medicine, motion sickness medicine and contact lenses or eye drops. Have bottled water to accompany your medication and to drink too as tap water in China is not safe for consumption.

Plane Tickets

Book your plane ticket only once you have signed your work contract and have a start date. Because you are travelling with a work visa you will not need to buy a return flight which is great as you don’t always have your end date in advance. Pay that little bit extra when booking your flight so that you are able to change the date without having to pay again. Do some research to find out which airlines offer the best baggage deals as you might need to check in an extra bag and don’t want to pay exorbitant fees. Check in online the night before you travel to make sure you get a seat where you are not squashed between 2 other people for eight hours. On the day of travel, arrive at the airport about three hours earlier as sometimes there are delays at the airport and its best to keep this at the back of your mind just in case. The good thing about working in China is that most schools will reimburse you for the price of the flight ticket after a couple of months!

Locks and tags

Ensure that your suitcase or backpack is comfortable and that it can be locked. Have luggage locks and identity tags to ensure the safety of your luggage during travel and to make your suitcase stand out on the conveyor belt.

Electronics

Remember to pack your camera because China is an endless adventure with photo opportunities around every corner. Pack your mobile phone too and a tablet or laptop. Do not forget your chargers and adapter plugs or converters.

Of course, everything you can think of is available in China, so there is no need to worry if you forgot a charger or a shirt!

Money

When travelling to teach in China, convert a substantial amount of your money into Chinese Yuan. You will need to purchase a new SIM card and there are some other set up costs to be covered your first week or two in China. The first month you can withdraw money from foreign accounts at institutions such as HSBC and Travelex. But do not forget to inform your local bank about your travel, they could be of assistance if you got stuck while in China. Your school should help you to open a bank account into which they will pay your salary for you.

Apps and VPNs

China censors the internet, they have put up a great firewall which blocks foreign websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat among others. Luckily, WhatsApp and Pinterest are not censored. To get around these restrictions, it is best to download some Apps and VPNs before you leave for China. WeChat (Weixin) is the most commonly used social media in China. It operates like a combination of Facebook and WhatsApp and is mainly used for communication. You may also need Chinese dictionary apps such as Pleco, Hanpinlite and Baidu Translate. These will teach you a few survival phrases you may need for communication in China.

You will need a VPN (Virtual Private Networks) to visit a blocked website. VPNs are used in China to bypass the great firewall. As a teacher of English in China, you will need some websites to enrich your lesson. To make this possible, VPNs such as ExpressVPN, Betternet, Buffered and VYPR are used to enhance internet access in China. Ensure you download a few on your gadget because the Great Wall causes most to have fluctuating performance. And do this before you travel as you cannot download it once you have entered China.

Books and Films

Before leaving your country, buy some books and save some films to help you deal with the homesickness that comes with being in a foreign country.

All the best as you prepare to go and teach English in China.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Glimpse of a Wet Market in Shanghai

A wet market is a market that sells fresh meat, fish, and other perishable goods such as live fish, shellfish, and frogs. These markets are so named because the floor tends to be wet, thanks to the live fish flopping around and the vendors’ habit of throwing water on the ground to keep the area clean.

Wet markets are a major part of the culinary exploration while living in China. Wandering through old Shanghai neighborhoods in the morning, I am sometimes greeted by the very strong smell and the lively noises of wet markets. Venturing into the small local wet markets that are dotted all around Shanghai is one of the most interesting and also shocking things to do here.

Here I have seen eels moving from bucket to bucket, live turtles trying to escape their plastic prisons and live frogs looking resigned to their fates of becoming someone’s dinner. I can never linger too long at these market stalls as the practice of keeping these animals alive in such conditions, and to sell them as food is quite upsetting for me.

Empty streets of Shanghai

There is a certain unique and strange delight about walking down an empty street alone.

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Foreshadowing a humid day

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author hints certain plot developments that perhaps will come to be later in the story. It is used to arouse the reader, viewer or listener about how the story will proceed and mentally prepare them for how it will unfold.

The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall
The Magnificent Mist covered Xian Wall

Exploring the magnificent city walls of Xian during our China Odyssey was definitely an amazing adventure. Here is a taste of our mist covered morning spent on one of the most famous ancient city walls in China. Xian wall is the longest, the most intact and best-preserved, and the largest in scale of the ancient defense systems in the world. This wall has a circumference of 13.74 kilometers which you can walk, bike or for the soft option take a little “golf cart” trip. 

4 Wonderful Experiences to Try

Once upon a time, holidays tended to consist of going somewhere hot, eating something (more or less) exotic and then tanning for as long as possible. But, as welcome as relaxation is, today’s travellers (rightly) demand more varied affairs, balancing indulgence with adventure, and comfort with exploration. And this opening up of what a vacation can and should be has also meant that wildly different regions now welcome tourists to take in experiences only known to locals even a generation ago. And so, we present here a handful of exclusive destinations to give even the seasoned traveller something new to look forward to.

Mt. Fuji, Japan

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  1. A cherry blossom tour of Japan

The cherry blossom season is definitely the right time of the year to visit Japan – this is when the country’s already breathtaking natural beauty is raised to another level. Whether you’re exploring the urban delights of Tokyo and Osaka, the natural splendour of Mount Fuji, or the historical charms of Kyoto, each location on your itinerary will be enhanced by the cherry blossoms spreading all around. The Japanese celebrate this time of year with ‘Hanami’ (flower viewing) parties – where friends and families gather together underneath the blossoms to enjoy each other’s company and appreciate the natural spectacle all around them.

 

pine trees on mountain with white snow during daytime

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2. Heli-skiing around the globe

A world away from the cosmic dance of celestial bodies – but still very, very high up – the technological adventure that is heli-skiing is gaining in popularity every year. For the uninitiated, this involves a helicopter transporting skiers to mountain spots inaccessible (or at least impractical) from the ground. This not only means pristine ski-ways in soft snow but also much less crowded slopes. Canada and the US lead the way, with multiple operators in British Columbia and Alaska, but there are also opportunities in Switzerland (naturally), New Zealand and Japan.

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3. The timeless ruins of Bagan

While Machu Picchu and Angkor Wat have been on the tourist trail for some time now, another awe-inspiring archaeological wonder – in Myanmar – has somehow stayed off the map, despite its comparable scale and grandeur. The more than two thousand superbly preserved Buddhist temples in this historical complex are surrounded by the ruins of more than double that again. Many of these are almost a thousand years old – countless otherworldly pagodas rising through the trees. Best of all, until tourism fully catches up with Bagan, the site can be experienced without the kind of crowds that can distract from the ancient architecture.

aerial photo of city highway surrounded by high-rise buildings

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4. The future today, in Dubai

From the remains of a lost empire to a marvel that’s still under construction – the global city of Dubai offers an incredible vision of the world-to-come. Especially well-suited to family holidays, the futuristic landscape offers up landmark skyscrapers boasting the world’s fastest lifts, and a shopping mall containing 1200 shops (making it, yes, the world’s largest) but also a floor-to-ceiling aquarium with 30,000 fish. Truly, this is a place built for superlatives – from the magical islands reclaimed from the sea to fountains which spout higher than the London Eye.

Four reasons why it’s time you take a Road Trip in Germany

Nestled among nine other countries, Germany is an expansive paradise for travellers who love to be on the road. Its idyllic mountain scenery and lush countryside combined with deep pride in its automotive exports are a formula for some of the best driving conditions in the world. The diligence and care they take in the cars they produce are reflected in the pristine, perfectly maintained autobahn. Here are just four of many reasons why a road trip in Germany should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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  1. Go on a nostalgic journey through an enchanting Fairy Tale Route

The Fairy Tale Route is perfect for the young at heart, spanning from Hanau where the Brothers Grimm were born to Bremen. There are countless charming towns and villages along the way that still retain that picturesque medieval quality we associate with The Grimm Fairy Tales.

 

Some of the places you pass through actually featured in the stories – such as Hamelin, where the Pied Piper legend was born, Alsfeld, where Little Red Riding Hood’s house still stands, and Bad Wildungen, where Snow White lived.

 

  1. Lovers of wine can follow a route dedicated to the beloved grape

The ‘Deutsche Weinstraße’ is the oldest wine route in Germany, having been established in 1935. It starts in Schweigen-Rechtenbach, on the border of France, continues throughout the stunning Rhineland-Palatinate vineyards and ends in Bockenheim an der Weinstraße.

 

From March through to October many places along the German Wine Route host some of the largest outdoor wine festivals in the world. Everyone from amateur wine drinkers to expert sommeliers can soak in the heritage and majesty of the wine-growing region.

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  1. Enjoy a thrilling driving experience with access to roads that have no speed limits

While there are certain stretches of road that do impose limits, Germany is the only country in Europe that has no official speed limit on motorways. Drivers go at speeds of up to 150mph and sometimes more, with the government believing people do not need to be micromanaged. For the ultimate road-trip make sure you choose the right car and have a clear plan of your route. If you do decide to drive fast, be sure to have read the relevant highway information and adhere to all regulations.

 

  1. Spend a day in areas of astounding natural beauty like Lake Konigssee

The name means ‘Kings lake’ and at 190 meters, it is the deepest lake in Germany – surrounded by the steep cliffs of Mount Watzmann, all road trippers should wind down with a trip here. Fellow travellers recommend typing Hotel Bergheimat in Schonau am Konigssee into your navigation system. This brings you to the main road that leads into the Konigssee where there is a large area for designated parking that is close to the lakes and boats.

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As well as the ones already mentioned, there are a number of routes in Germany that are connected by a theme. The roads are signposted clearly and provide road-trippers with tried and tested circuits that suit their interests.

Doors found in Shanghai

If I can’t make it through one door, I’ll go through another door- or i’ll make a door. Something terrific will come no matter how dark the present.

Rabindranath Tagore

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Windows of Shanghai

I enjoy traveling and recording far-away places and people with my camera. But I also find it wonderfully rewarding to see what I can discover outside my own window. You only need to study the scene with the eyes of a photographer.

Alfred Eisenstaedt

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

A Photo Tour from the Backstreets of Shanghai

If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody.

Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”
― Anthony Bourdain

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Shanghai a city that is constantly changhing and modernising

The wish to travel seems to me characteristically human: the desire to move, to satisfy your curiosity or ease your fears, to change the circumstances of your life, to be a stranger, to make a friend, to experience an exotic landscape, to risk the unknown..”
― Paul Theroux

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Postcards from Shanghai

The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
― Christopher McCandless

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Photos of Life in Shanghai

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”
― Pico Iyer

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

A Walk through the Old Shanghai

No man is brave that has never walked a hundred miles. If you want to know the truth of who you are, walk until not a person knows your name. Travel is the great leveler, the great teacher, bitter as medicine, crueler than mirror-glass. A long stretch of road will teach you more about yourself than a hundred years of quiet.”
― Patrick Rothfuss

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Images of Life in Shanghai

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It

Published as part of Wordless Wednesday

Reason #1 Why China is making me a Vegetarian.

I have stopped eating red meat ages ago as I never really liked the taste. But I still love eating fish, chicken and yes, duck meat every now and again. But since I have moved to China I have started to worry about eating duck or chicken as I have come across so many unsanitary conditions where meat is either held or sold. In China it is quite common to come across meat hanging out in the open.

I have come across raw meat hanging on a washing line, the duck carcasses dangling as birds gathered in the trees above. In a separate incident, I came across a duck left out hanging in the open where flies and all kinds of bugs could get to it. As I walked further it seemed like the normal thing to do here in Shanghai is to hang and dry your meat in your window, exposed to all the elements. Flies can often be seen landing on the meat, some even hanging close to flocks of birds jostling in the trees above, the whole set up is just unsanitary.’I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, except for here in Asia. It is enough to put me off eating meat.

Reason #1 Why China is making me a Vegetarian.
Looks like drying meat out in the open just is the norm here in Shanghai.

Would you eat meat that was left hanging out in the open like this?

Memories from Old Shanghai

Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” 
― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky