Thick rolling fog, craggy outcroppings, and touches of fall foliage everywhere. As we ascended up the mountain, first gliding above it all on a tranquil cable car ride and then pushing onwards up punishingly steep stairs, it became clear that our experience at Fanjing Mountain would be the epitome of a perfect autumn Saturday. This trip, as well as September’s visit to Yaoshang, was arranged by our local education department as a way of welcoming us to the area and encouraging us to become familiar with the local culture and attractions. Over the weekend before Halloween, we visited Fanjing Mountain and a nearby Miao minority village.
For those who’ve never heard of Hangzhou before (us, until 3 weeks ago), it’s Shanghai’s next door neighbor and the capital of Zhejiang province. Shanghai is so big and important that it basically makes up its own province, but they call it a municipality. Yikes, China is confusing! Despite its obscurity in the West, Hangzhou actually boasts 9 million residents and several tourist attractions. We spent two days there visiting Tommy’s old college roommate, Bin Yang. He was a great guide, showing us the highlights and introducing bizarre and delicious new food.
For our Golden Week holiday, Tommy and I had the chance explore Hangzhou and Shanghai. I’ll share more on Hangzhou later, where we had a great time catching up with Tommy’s old roommate Bin and trying weird new foods (have you ever watched your meal die in front of you? We now have!). But for now, Shanghai! This city knocked it out of the park with its crazy skyline – sorry, Hong Kong! – and blend of new and old, East and West.
…Just kidding, kind of! This week we spent Monday and Tuesday in Hong Kong, a special administrative region which acts autonomously. It is still technically part of China, but you’re required to go through customs and get exit and entry stamps in your passport. I know, we don’t get it either. We didn’t have much time to explore – the main purpose of our visit was to fix our visas – but what time we did have we absolutely loved!
Time moves at a different speed in China. It’s like you’ve gotten thrown into a weird alternate dimension that throws you back and forth in time, sometimes feeling like it’s been two months and other times two days. In reality, we’ve been here for about two weeks. We’ve gotten bizarrely adjusted to being constantly surrounded by an unrecognizable language and different looking everything, but each day we still encounter some small new adjustment that throws us for a loop and reminds us that we’ve only just started this adventure.