I’m relatively familiar with history of the Uyghur Community in Xinjiang Province – since it’s covered in the news a fair bit – but I was largely unaware of the Hui People of Xi’an. But ignorance is nothing that a bit of light reading and personal experience can’t fix. The origin of the Hui People is believed to have started on the Silk Road as a result of the intermarriage between Muslim traders and Han Chinese.
Zhejiang Province is an industrial area populated with factories, businesses and businesspeople that emit copious amounts of smoke. You simply cannot run from the grey fog. Clear skies are rare. Given the poor air quality, I still can’t wrap my head around the number of smokers around here. And they smoke wherever they like. But that’s another story for another day. Anyhow, I’m not sure if this is the right town for me. There just isn’t enough heart or soul to keep me happy – even though materially I lack nothing.
Shanghai feels more ‘Western’ than any other ‘Western’ city I’ve been to. Seriously. Nearly everyone wears dark colours. Err… whatever happened to Chinese people love red and gold? Hmm… People here are fashion and status conscious. Even the foreigners fit in like locals. No one stares and no one gives exaggerated comments when you speak Mandarin. They’ve got better things to do… THANK GOD.
Whenever most of us think of Shanghai, we always think that it is some big capitalist soulless city, but places like this remind us that even the most capitalist of cities still have that soul… if you know where to look.
I booked myself a first class ticket on the bullet train from Hangzhou to Shanghai. Whatever expectations I had to travel in class and luxury were shattered within the first five minutes. There was some guy in the carriage watching a soap opera sans earphones… (Believe it or not this is a regular occurrence in this part of the world). AND the guy next to me was talking so loudly on the phone that you’d think the person on the other end was hearing-impaired.
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.
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?