Almost exactly a year after quitting my PhD I’ve finally managed to secure a trainee programmer job. 2014 was a tough but exciting year and I couldn’t be more chuffed with the way it worked out.
Saturday 24th May
The plan for our last day in Shanghai was to see some of the very old bits and all the very very new bits of town. First we headed to the Old Shangai Street area of town, which is basically a bit where all the buildings are made to look really old (but actually look rather too new to be entirely convincing). It’s the oldest street in Shanghai and contains lots of crazy street markets, a genuinely old temple, some parks and a large walled garden.
Thursday 22nd May
We made our way to the airport in the morning for our flight to Shanghai. I’d heard nothing but good things about Shanghai so was pretty excited to finally be heading off there. The flight didn’t exactly go swimmingly as we were delayed by two hours without any reason given. Having flown again since, this seems to be pretty much par for the course when it comes to internal flights in China. Once we actually got to flying everything was great. The approach to Shanghai flew us over the entire city and looped round to Pudong airport in the brand new swanky part of town.
Wednesday 21st May – Chengdu
We started this rather surreal day by alighting our train at around 5am in what appeared to be a fairly grubby looking city. The exit to the station was like something out of dystopian fiction. Grey slabs and rubbish everywhere, everyone looking thoroughly miserable. Needless to say, we weren’t exactly thrilled at this sight after such an exhausting (and poop-filled) journey. But this was where the pandas lived, according to an American guy we met in a bar in Beijing.
Editorial: Written whilst on the train from Xi’an to Chengdu. Yes… it’s the one with the baby pooping on the train.
This day completely made up for the previous day about ten fold. Xi’an is home to the Terracotta Warriors, an army of stone warriors built to protect an ancient emperor in the afterlife. We got a coach to the dig site about 30 miles out of the city, taking in the incredible mountains and leafy scenery on the way up. We spied a mountain with cable car an earmarked it for later on that day.
Saturday 17th May
We slept for about ten hours straight after our Great Wall excursion. Had a bit of a lazy day the next day but managed to see a few more sights in central Beijing. The Drum and Bell towers are situated in the north of the city and provided the city’s first public timing system. On the way to this part of town we dove down some alleys and through some street markets. Street food here is excellent stuff, nothing like the generally mixed bag you get in England in that it’s actually good and doesn’t make you hurl.
Wednesday 14th May
On Wednesday we went to Tienanmen Square and the Forbidden City located in the heart of central Beijing. Tienanmen square has lots of interesting stuff like a mausoleum (Mao-soleum?) containing the embalmed corpse of Chairman Mao, a museum about Chairman Mao, statues of Chairman Mao, and also some large pictures of Chairman Mao. At the moment China is on high terror alert due to a series of attacks in other parts of the country. Consequently, the centre of Beijing is currently crawling with heavily armed soldiers (shotguns, sniper rifles), with security checks at most entrances and exits of public buildings, metro stations and tourist attractions.