Hi everyone! This post on the last two weeks of the program took eons to finish because there were so many photos to go through and so many events to review. There was a huge delay because I’ve been trying to move into my new place near UCLA and settling into my new classes for the summer. School never ends.
During the last two weeks at Beijing, I revisited many of the spots I hung out at over the course of the program. I got to meet some new people (it never ends!) and also explore some new places as well.
Saturday of week 17, I headed to Nanluoguxiang to shop around for souvenirs (I know it’s a tourist trap place but I was too lazy to go any further) and tried out a Japanese restaurant there. There happened to be another girl who was there by herself at the bar and we started a conversation together. She was a Master’s student studying at Beijing Institute of Technology which is well, SO SMART. We talked about all sorts of stuff including how I’ve never had a boyfriend before (I cry).
We started talking about food since we were at a restaurant and I said that I missed Cantonese food and how food in Beijing was too heavy for me and she exclaimed,”But Cantonese food is so BLAND AND TASTELESS!” This I realized, after hanging around many parts of China, was a common reaction to Cantonese food. Cantonese food tends to focus on freshness and the original taste of the ingredients (I guess similar to Japanese food right?) while Northern food is more salty, Sichuan food-the trend right now in China- tends to be spicy, and Shanghai food is sweet. Anyway, she told me how much she hated Cantonese food and how she couldn’t do two days in Hong Kong eating that stuff, and I was just sitting there nodding because I was feeling really sad about how so many people didn’t like my food. It made me realize how strange Cantonese food can be to people who didn’t grow up with it (I mean, who eats a whole plate of vegetables plain cooked in soup or boiling water ahah) and also made me appreciate it a little more because of how different it is in development and taste from the other cuisines in China. So I told her that there’s a lot of parts to Cantonese food and that I would take her places next time she visited. On that note, definitely eat around China or even within Beijing to taste all the different parts of the country because each cuisine developed because of historical and geographical differences. I didn’t get a chance to show my friends good Cantonese food in Beijing but maybe we’ll get a chance in the future.
We moved on to a different topic since it got awkward talking about the food and we started talking about how there’s been a decrease in coverage on American politics in Chinese news but that conversation also dwindled down when I started getting deeper into international relations and stuff since she was a mechanical engineer and focused on different areas than me. Anyhow, it was a fun conversation and we added each other on Wechat before going on our respective ways.
I revisited Nanluoguxiang again in the blistering Beijing heat to pick up some ceramic crafts a made a few weeks ago before heading into a random hutong to avoid the tourist crowds. I think my favorite thing to do now in Beijing is wandering through the hutongs-you’re bound to find your way back out and while in there, you get to enjoy some peace and quiet. The sunlight filtering through the trees and the little parts of everyday life that you get to see while walking through them are just so wonderful.
Since my finals were coming, I found some cafes in the area to study at. My favorite has got to be Dandelion. It’s located next to the busy Zarah but it’s usually really quiet and the desserts/drinks are really good. I also visited another cafe located in a youth hostel on the main thoroughfare of Nanluoguxiang which is a nice place to study as well, although it could get a little loud on busier days.
During week 18, we had our UCEAP goodbye dinner at Quanjude (全聚德) which is a really famous chain store duck restaurant. We walked through the humid heat all the way to the Tsinghua University Technology Park(?) which wasn’t all that far but it was definitely sweaty. We were treated to an overload of food and had lots of fun catching up with everyone for one last time, especially for people who were mostly in Tsinghua.
On Saturday, my friends and I went to Jing A (京A) for brunch. It’s a pretty famous brewery in the Sanlitun area. We ordered their brunch set and I opted out of getting a beer because I had to study later (ahahaha nerd). We all ordered something different so I got to take lots of food pictures. I ordered eggs benedict as always because I’m basic. At night, I met up with my language buddy one last time at Haidilao (海底捞). We discussed some stuff about the future of the Chinese government and I learned that a lot of younger people are not going into the government because of low pay and low prospects of ever making any change. It’s just more viable to find a normal job where you can get a raise to support yourself or your family. Very interesting considering how everyone is trying to figure out what’s going to happen to the government as the generations phase out.
Sunday morning, after waking up and going back to sleep a couple of times, I finally made myself ride to Tsinghua. I had been meaning to visit the place for a really long time but was always too lazy to. For Peking University students, the two school’s student ID card can get you through each others’ gates so you don’t need to wait in line or anything.
Tsinghua was a completely different campus style than PKU even though it was literally right across the street. First of, Tsinghua was established under the pressure or sponsorship (however you want to look at it haha) by the United States in 1911 so the original campus really resembles your East Coast Ivy League schools. They also had a giant domed auditorium that resembles the MIT one- maybe all the top engineering and STEM schools are required to have the dome because they’re uber smart and the dome is a comparison to their brain HAHA. In comparison, Peking University was established in 1898 as a replacement for the Imperial Academy and its architecture reflects a more traditional Chinese influence, with a lot of fengshui designing and curved roofs. Both of them are super pretty though.
It took me three hours to explore the entire campus and along the way a lot of people kept on asking me directions around the school and I had to disappoint them with my PKU card. The school is huge, practically its own city. Honestly, I should have come over earlier so I could explore a little more.
Treating myself one last time, I headed back to Rosewood for some French bistro food.
Sadly, our dreaded Chinese Perspectives final arrived but our brains were already depleted. Our test was at 3:00PM but we started studying in the lecture hall at 10:00AM. We basically tried to stuff a semester of information into our heads since basically no one read (or really…no one read). The only information we got in was the difference between CCP and CPC and the DPRK. Our greatest achievement that day was ordering a giant McDonald’s delivery to the School of International Relations.
To take a break from studying, I finally watched a movie at the 百年堂 (hundred years hall) which is the school’s largest lecture hall/theatre. Super cool place, and I would recommend looking up plays and movies that will play here during your stay.
The HYXY tests were pretty easy and right after taking them, I headed to the airport for Shanghai.
I finally got the chance to visit Shanghai again after seven years. The last time I came was in 2010 during the World Expo and I had mostly stayed on the newly developed Pudong side. I decided to explore the old Puxi side, like the French Concession, this time around to gain a deeper understanding of Old Shanghai, the connection between the East and the West, and to relax a little bit. Since I was traveling by myself, I just booked an airbnb next to Nanjing Road so I would be close to the Bund and the metro stations. I was stunned by the view the place offered though. Located next to rows and rows of well preserved shikumens (basically old Shanghai-styled architecture buildings where many people lived, like the hutongs of Beijing) right outside. Although it was just a few steps from the Bund and the famed Nanjing Road shopping street, the neighborhood was quiet and undisturbed by the tourist hordes. Definitely a hidden gem.
First day there, I visited the Normandie Apartments (famed for its architecture and the suicides of artists and literary folks during the Cultural Revolution) and Soong Ching Ling‘s house. I grabbed a chai tea latte at Griffin Coffee on Yongkang Lu. The road is renovating right now, but it’s still a great place to check out the small one room coffee shops all along it. After taking some pictures of the Normandie Apartments and experience denial when I asked someone to take pictures for me (so sad), I headed into the Soong Ching Ling Memorial Residence. I got to see her zoology notes and other documents like study abroad letters (so relatable) and passports that belonged to the First Lady of the Republic of China. Her house really reminded me of the ones in Huntington Beach or something. It was a lot homier than expected from a woman who played such a great role in history and in modern day China. After visiting the residence, I visited Tianzifang but because there was so much people there, I quickly left. Also, a lot of the stuff they were selling there, I had already seen in Nanluoguxiang.
The next day, I went to the Bund No. 18 for brunch. Since the restaurant wasn’t open yet when I arrived, I decided to take some photos of myself with the automatic timer. I finally finished taking the photos, and the door opened right on time…only to find the entire staff behind the door laughing at me taking pictures of myself HAHA. I think they saw me through the peephole. The food and view were really food though. I walked around the Bund a bit, reading up on the history and sorts. I also explored the Peace Hotel which housed many important figures and now has a little museum for visitors to explore. Afterwards, I shopped a little on Nanjing Street before going food hunting…ending up at Din Tai Fung which isn’t even from Shanghai but oh well.
That night, I visited Tsukiji Aosora Sandaime which comes from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo (their main chef is trained there too) and had the most amazing sashimi dinner ever. So melty! I rode a bike all the way back to my airbnb to enjoy the cool night air and city sights.
On my last day in Shanghai, I visited the K11 Mall which was smaller than I thought and had dinner with my dad (who came to basically pick me up) at No. 8 on the Bund. We walked the Bund at sunset and I got to see a beautiful sky full of fairy-like clouds. It rained the next day when we left so thank goodness for the awesome weather I experienced during my trip.
Finally, I returned to Guangzhou (Canton) for the last leg of my China trip, completing the well known “BeijShangGuang” (北上广) journey down the three largest cities in China. As tradition, my dad treated me to Japanese food there. I met up with my friend (since middle school) there since she was going to Yonsei for summer (GO UCEAP) and we visited my favorite cafe, Xing Mei Le. I also got to play tourist and went up the Canton Tower where we experienced what it was like to be in the middle of a storm cloud. Gloomy, rainy June days in Guangzhou are so nice.
I’ll end this last “weekly” post with some pictures of the Beijing sunset since it’s a goodbye to the program. I’ll be posting program reviews and recommendations for food/tips in the near future.
Thank you all for following me on my yearlong study abroad adventure!