Fast forward a year later, and I’m living in Zhejiang Province. I’d heard largely good things about it before I moved here. I’m not surprised. It is the ‘money province’. Unlike Shanghai and Beijing, it isn’t super crowded. Most of my Chinese friends said that it is one of the best places in China to live. Compared to other cities, the air quality here is supposed to good. (Ahem… Ahem…) It’s a great place for locals to live and is not one of those cities that’s littered with a whole load of expats. Oh and by the way – Ali Baba is headquartered in Hangzhou.
The weeping willows that were everywhere had a way of making the West Lake area look tragic for reasons that I can’t possibly fathom. The weeping willows were lovely – in a melancholic kind of way. I never knew a tree was capable of such great sadness…
Baopals is the English version of Taobao – a Chinese online shopping website headquartered in Hangzhou (my home city) and owned by Alibaba. It is the world’s biggest e-commerce website. I’ve bought all kinds of random bits on pieces on Baopal – from chopping board sets, to bins, to whole cartons of milk (and beer lol), plates, cutlery, honey – you name it and Baopal’s got a range for you to choose from. Depending on where in China the package is coming from – it can arrive at your doorstep in anything between 2 days to a week.
There’s nothing like sitting in your bed with a beer and shopping in the comfort of your apartment. Unfortunately, the Taobao website is entirely in Chinese and the banking procedure is kind of complicated. My boss told me about Baopals which is an English version of the website complete with English language support. Although I would have figured out how to use the Chinese version eventually, I couldn’t be bothered messing around with it… Baopals is slightly more expensive than Taobao, but hey… I’m happy to pay for the convenience.
Although I’m not in a megacity like Beijing or Shanghai, the smog that hangs over the city is still there. There are good days and bad days. Somedays I look out and am surprised to see clear skies. And other days it’s so polluted I can barely make out the next building. This is despite the fact that I live in an area that’s full of trees and is pretty far away from any factories.
Pinch me. Seriously just pinch me. Am I really here? Am I really living here?
I love Japan – always have, always will. But it is a love that is born of duty and familiarity. Beijing – on the other hand – set my heart on fire. I didn’t expect it. But once I started to feel that way – I couldn’t control it. My passion had been reignited – and now that it has been awakened – there’s no putting it back to sleep.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that our Singaporean national identity is one of multiculturalism – one that is embracive and strengthened by its ability to adapt. As a culture, we cannot afford to build great walls because our economy is intertwined with the world economy. Singapore was founded on the premise of international trade. Even till today, we have one of the busiest ports in the world.
I sink my teeth into the first wrap. The flavours are far stronger than what I’m used to. The duck is electrifyingly crispy and fatty, the sauce is tangy and sweet and the condiments are confusing. Midway through my first Peking Duck burrito, my waiter magically shows up with a plastic glove and a pair of chopsticks. He looks both mildly concerned and thoroughly amused.
As a born-and-bred Singaporean, I am no stranger to Chinese culture. But it really is something else to be here and see the vastness of this and to see where Chinese culture was, where it is now – and perhaps where it will one day be.