The last week of school, we did a lot of reviewing in class, and outside of class, I accompanied my friend Hannah in doing more classic Beijing things, such as visiting Nanluoguxiang’s hutongs, walking around Gulou and eating Peking duck, and chilling at some bars in Houhai. We also visited a fake market in Liudaokou, and got manicures for $8.50. Finally, classes ended for the semester, and after my last class on Friday morning, Hannah & I made our way to the train station, and boarded our high-speed train to Shanghai.
New Years in Shanghai
As we pulled in to Shanghai Hongqiao, I instantly felt so happy to be back in my old home, surrounded by everything familiar. Having lived in the Jiangnan region of China before in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, and Shanghai for a total of over a year, I really do consider it to be my China home. Stepping off the train, the air was warmer and moist, and we easily navigated our way to our Airbnb on Maoming Rd. — the most ideal location between Shaanxi Nan Rd. & Nanjing West Rd. metro stops. That night, we had an amazing-as-usual dinner of Shanghainese cuisine at Nanxiaoguan in the super fancy Plaza 66, eating yummy xiaolongbao, shengjianbao, congyoubing, Shanghai noodles, soup, seaweed salad, sweet pork, and more. Then we strolled along Nanjing West Rd., admiring the beautifully decorated shops and trees, and took the metro from Jing’An Temple to Lujiazui. In Lujiazui, we walked along the elevated walkways underneath some of the world’s tallest buildings, and went for a drink at the Park Hyatt in the World Financial Center, enjoying our cocktails at the 91st floor bar, gazing down at the Bund across the river. We ended the night at MYST, another Shanghai classic.
The next morning we woke up to light rain and the loud voices of our elderly neighbors squabbling while hanging their laundry. I enjoyed both — as it never rains in Beijing, and our neighbors’ Shanghainese dialect sounded familiar and homey. After we got ready, we walked to my favorite alley noodle shop for a late lunch. I kept joking I was reliving my summer, but I really really missed those noodles. 12 kuai never tasted so good. We then went to the rather touristy Yuyuan Old Street with the aim of visiting the garden, but found out it was already closed for the day. Instead, we ate more xiaolongbao from the famous shop there, and sat in Huxinting Tea House on the corner of the Jiuqu Bridge, relaxing, drinking yummy tea, and enjoying the view. Later on that evening, we met my German friend Mia for an Italian dinner in the French Concession.
The next day was New Years Eve. We started the day with a coffee in our neighborhood, before making our way back to Yuyuan and actually seeing the garden. Even though I’ve been to the garden several times, we explored a section I guess I’d never made my way to before, and I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional Jiangnan architecture. Gardens and parks have always been some of my favorite places to visit in China. We planned to take the metro to Tianzifang, but the crowds were overwhelming; even after we took a taxi there, the narrow lanes were so packed we could hardly move. More crowded than I’ve ever seen it, and SO unenjoyable. Sort of a bummer to our afternoon. After getting ourselves ready, we met my friends from Beijing for NYE dinner at Lost Heaven on the Bund, which is always a yummy meal. Then, we went to Hu Bar at Le Royal Meridien for their New Years party & countdown. We spent the night between the more relaxed and classic, old-school Shanghai bar floor and the modern nightclub floor, with free flow all night, the countdown at midnight, crazy views of the city, and just all around good times with good friends. Could not have imagined a better start to 2018!
In the morning, Hannah left to catch her flight, and I lazily packed up my stuff, had a quick lunch, and went to Hongqiao to catch my train (aboard China’s newest and fastest train — Fuxinghao; SH – BJ in only 4.5 hours! also very modern and shiny). Back in Beijing, I went to my new fav Korean BBQ place for a lonely but yummy New Years Day Korean dinner, as is my family’s tradition.
The End of 1st Semester (!!!)
Early the next morning, I had an exam, followed by another that afternoon. And so it continued until Friday, with one more exam each day. I was exhausted from so much hosting, traveling, and studying, and altogether burnt out from such a long semester, with none of my usual breaks for holidays that are important to me. Sufficed to say, I was elated when I finished my last exam Friday morning. To end the semester, my classmates & I got our teachers some gifts and invited them to a big lunch. I’ve honestly loved my two Chinese teachers this semester so much. Their teaching styles and relaxed personalities were so suited to my own learning style, and my Chinese really has gotten a LOT better over the course of the semester. In fact, I passed PKU’s “入系” test (test to take undergraduate courses in Chinese), so I’m planning to study alongside Chinese students next semester.
As a finish to the semester, I got a hot chocolate at Guanghua Cafe, then joined my classmates and other friends for ice skating on Beida’s famous Weiming Lake. The school rents skates to students for 5 kuai / hour (less than $1), and it was so much fun! It was also something I had read about before coming to PKU & was really hoping I would have a chance to experience while being here. Such a good time. Later, I went to a HUGE gathering of friends for a goodbye dinner for HK, one of my Korean friends. The end of the semester is sad because most of my friends here are going back home. Now that winter break has officially started, I’ve already said many goodbyes. It’s weird how fast the semester has gone by. When I look back, I have so many great memories, new friends, and lots of acquired learning from the past 4.5 months. It’s not exactly how I expected it would go, and Beijing itself may not be my favorite place, but I’ve loved the experience here as a whole and wouldn’t change a thing. That being said, a whole new semester still lays ahead, and I’m so excited for the potential of what it may bring.
…and Winter Break begins!
So far all I’ve been doing is resting, sleeping, cleaning, hanging out with the few friends who remain, and doing some reading, but I will soon be leaving Beijing to travel around China for a month or so! No school until February 26th! 🙂