10/19/17

There is no place I’d rather be

I’ve been living in Guangzhou since March 2010 and it’s often been a rollercoaster ride with ups and downs. I’ve gotten my dream wedding day here, I’ve stayed in a hospital for over a week. I’ve struggled to make long term friends and then found my place with amazing women who share the joy and struggle of living in another culture.

Now that I’m soon starting my ninth year in Guangzhou, I feel I am coming to a peace, I have found my place. My small family is healthy and happy, our daughter is in a great daycare and in the weekends we enjoy taking her out to explore or just stay at home cleaning together. Now at almost 2 years old she is such a fun person to be around!

Me and my husband are working together in our business. He is in charge of management and finances, I’m in charge of teaching and promoting. We have grown from teaching at coffee shops to having our own office in the center of Guangzhou. A small office, but an office nevertheless! We are approaching our 50th student any time now.

Regarding friends I have found other long-timers who are married to Chinese men and have young children as well. We have all lived in Guangzhou for years, some of us over 10 years. And most likely will stay in for the foreseeable future as well. When moving to a new place, especially into a new culture, it really makes a huge difference to be able to meet friends who are in the same situation as you are.

For making friends I’ve found GWIC, Guangzhou Women’s International Club, to be huge help! I’ve made so many new friends through coffee morning and afternoon teas. I’ve explored new places in Guangzhou and even started my own club inside the community.

The best season has started in Guangzhou, the Autumn. Temperatures are between 23 to 28 degrees, it doesn’t rain that much and the sun isn’t as scorching as during the Summer. If one wants to travel to Guangzhou, October to December is definitely the best time to come!

There are always new challenges coming when living in China, but right now Guangzhou is the best place to be. For me at least.

Until next time!

10/6/17

Where to go with kids in Guangzhou – Lingnan Impression Park

There are many great places to visit with your family or kids in Guangzhou, after today I’m going to add Lingnan Impression Park to the list. I was a bit worried if it would be just a fake theme park, but it actually had everything needed for a fun day with the family.

Lingnan Impression Park  岭南印象园 is located in University Island, just half an hour drive from the Guangzhou city center. Tickets are 60rmb for adults and 30 for kids, small kids get in for free. Many discounts are available if you book in advance through group buying apps.

The area is big enough to spend half a day, we ended up staying for five hours, but 2-3 hours can be enough too. The village main street is the busiest, but even today on a holiday it wasn’t too crowded. Areas around the small lake were quite quiet during morning and lunch time, offering some peace and beautiful views.

The main street offers a few restaurants, coffee shops and plenty of Cantonese culture shops. All the traditional art forms are present here, including Lingnan architecture, sugar painting, paper cutting, Cantonese opera, costumes and so on. The park is full of great spots for photos!

The park is located on the spot of the original Lianxi Village. Fok family temple is one of the oldest, constructed in the Ming dynasty and renovated in 2002. There are a few other old buildings as well, but mostly is newly built replicas that continue the Lingnan architectural style.

During the day there are several shows being presented around the area, including puppetry, dancing and Cantonese opera. You can visit several temples and replicas of private houses to get a glimpse on how the wealthy lived back in the ancient China.

Don’t forget food! The main street is full of small food stalls and there are at least three Cantonese restaurants in the park. Coffee shops serve ice cold drinks and ice cream is available no more than few  steps away no matter which part of the park you are.

Besides getting to know the Lingnan culture, the park is also a big playground for kids! There are several play areas for kids of different ages. Huge sand pit, climbing, slides, catching small fish and even a splash pool that is open during the Summer holiday.

Kids will enjoy the playgrounds for sure, no matter what age! Anna’s favorites where the slides and playing with the sand.

These slides have to wait a year or two before we let Anna go in them, but luckily there were smaller slides and climbing nets for the toddlers as well.

All in all we enjoyed our day at the Lingnan Impression Park a great deal. We didn’t get to visit any of the museums or temples, but today was all for having a fun family day so we spent our time at the playgrounds. Next time we want to visit the farm side and see the small animals too, this time Anna’s nap time didn’t allow us to see everything.

More family friendly sights and activities in Guangzhou coming soon!

10/3/17

Mountain Escape Yangshuo – Hotel Review

Bedroom on the second floor

It’s time to go back to our trip to Yangshuo and introduce our peaceful and amazingly renovated hotel!

Mountain Escape Yangshuo is located in the ancient Yulong village, about half an hour from Yangshuo city and one hour from the train station. The courtyard has a history of at least 80 years and has only four beautifully renovated and furnished rooms. Chinese style with Western luxury and comfort!

Bathroom

When we first arrived we were chanted by the old brick houses, so similar to our own house! But when we opened the door to the courtyard and then to our room, we didn’t believe our eyes! And old black brick house was fully transformed into a modern hotel room but still had the history of the building intact.

Guest room first floor

Our daughter Anna was especially fond of the huge bath tub which fit all three of us at the same time! Now I got to say that this isn’t exactly a family hotel, the rooms all have queen size beds but no room for a cot or bed for a child. Luckily Anna sleeps with us so that wasn’t a problem!

Rooftop terrace

We were really impressed when there was a knock on the door and a beautiful woman in blue and white qipao offered us their special cold drink and small gifts. She even asked us what our preferences were for breakfast. (The actual breakfast served didn’t fully follow the paper form they asked us to fill though.)

Hotel courtyard

The hotel courtyard consists of several buildings including for guest rooms, offices, owner’s living quarters, restaurant and a rooftop terrace. As we live in a Chinese style brick house too, but only 40 years old, we were inspired by the decorations and elegant style of the hotel.

Dinner and lots of desserts!

Breakfast, and desserts, were Western style, but dinner was simple but delicious Chinese cuisine. We really enjoyed the food there and stayed in for dinner both evenings. The owner even prepared his hometown noodles for our daughter when we mentioned how much she loves noodles.

For breakfast we had toast, bacon, eggs, vegetable rolls, sausages, vegetables and fruit. The variety wasn’t as much as it seemed on the “pick your breakfast” paper form, but it was tasty and enough to fill our tummies.

Me and Anna, Sunny from Bike Asia and Gary the owner of the hotel

What we missed was a hotel leaflet that would introduce the hotel, services, the village and things to do around there. I always enjoy reading these service manuals no matter where I stay.

The wifi connection also wasn’t that good in the rooms, especially in the first floor. It was easy to connect but the connection got cut off often. Good for relaxing, but bad for us smartphone addicts.

I would definitely recommend this hotel for a romantic get-away for a couple without kids who enjoyed peace and quiet. If you want to experience the beautiful nature of Yangshuo, but stay away from tourist crowds, then Mountain Escape Yangshuo in Yulong village is a great choice!

* Hotel stay sponsored by the hotel

09/28/17

Day off at Xiaozhou Village

Xiaozhou village is an old historical village and the first time I visited it was by accident more than 7 years ago. We were curious students who walked over the bridge from University Island and found the art village by pure luck. After that I have roamed the alleys of Xiaozhou village at least ten time, but the previous visit was almost two years ago. So it was time for a new visit with our daughter Anna!

We started off with a delicious Cantonese breakfast, Anna loved the egg rolls, congee and dumplings! My husband Alan was also impressed how the flavors brought back memories from his childhood. A perfect start for the day.

Xiaozhou is Guangzhou’s own little “water village”, with a narrow canal going like a snake through the village. Before it was an important life line for the villagers and even these days I saw villagers using the water for washing carpets and rugs.

Numerous small bridges can be found all over the village. Keep an eye on your kids as many of them don’t have railings or gates! On the bridges you can also see art students from the University Island drawing or photographing the views.

Old traditions are still important all over China, including Guangzhou. Offerings are made to ancestors and gods especially on imporant festivals and holidays. Even though Xiaozhou has become more touristy through the years, the locals still keep their old habits and it’s perfect for getting a glimpse on the true life of Cantonese locals.

Xiaozhou also offers peacefull coffee shops, made for reading and writing you bestseller novel. You might notice that some of the coffee shops iare the owner’s living rooms, the family with pets bring lively athmosphere. Our daughter Anna was eager to play with cute little dog at one of the coffee shops, but once the dog came closer she got a bit afraid.

All in all we had a lovely morning and lunch at Xiaozhou village. Next week is 8 day holiday because of the national day, so we hope to explore even more old and new places in Guangzhou.

08/26/17

Relaxing trip to Yangshuo

Yangshuo

Balancing between hectic work and being parents to an active toddler really makes “rush hour years” like we say in Finnish. During the workdays life is a triangle between home, work and daycare. During the weekends it’s either catching up with household chores or going out with friends. I bet many parents can relate, there is seldom time for just relaxing.

So when we got a chance to escape the busy life in Guangzhou and travel to Yangshuo, we welcomed it with open arms.

Yangshuo station

Fast trains operate between Guangzhou and Yangshuo many times per day and it takes just two and a half hours to reach Yangshuo station. Ticket for one adult one way is 117RMB. These are modern and comfortable trains, bring a magazine and some snacks and you are ready to go. Meals and snacks on the train are much pricier than in shops.

Mountain Escape Yangshuo

We were invited to Yangshuo by Gary who is the owner of Mountain Escape Yangshuo, a boutique hotel in a quiet village away from the busy city center of Yangshuo. I’ll share a hotel review with you later, but I can tell you it was one of the fanciest places we have stayed!

Yulong Village Yangshuo

It was Saturday afternoon when we arrived to Yangshuo and first we just relaxed at the hotel. After checking every corner of our room we headed out to walk around the small Yulong village. Unfortunately few months ago there had been a huge flood and some of the old mud houses had collapsed.

Bike Asia Yangshuo

After breakfast on Sunday morning Gary drove us to the city center where Bike Asia‘s Snowy was waiting for us. She had planned a family friendly biking tour from their shop through rice fields back to our hotel. I haven’t done any exercise for a long time, but the route Snowy chose was perfect for me and I didn’t feel too tired even after cycling for 18 kilometers. Anna enjoyed the ride and beautiful scenery at the back of Alan’s bicycle.

Mountain Escape Yangshuo

Our trip to Yangshuo happened to be at the same time as a small group of families where having a family trip to our hotel. On their last evening they organized a kids party for everyone with delicious dishes and even more mouthwatering desserts! While other kids stayed and joined the activities, for us it was time to get a shower and put Anna to bed.

Yangshuo Yulong Bridge

On Monday morning we still have a little time before our train back to Guangzhou so we decided to check out the ancient Yulong bridge that was just 10 minutes walk from our hotel. The Yulong river was full of bamboo rafts waiting for tourist, but we decided to hang out at the coffee shop and enjoy the view with a cooling fan.

Yangshuo

Just after two short nights and three days it was time to head back to Guangzhou. During our short trip we realized how many activities there are in Yangshuo and definitely need to head back for a longer holiday one day soon.

In my next posts I will introduce the hotel, the bike trip and share lots of more photos from our family getaway.