Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Have Yourself a Maoy Little Christmas...

Before I knew it I had come to the end of my advent calendar and it was Christmas Eve. I was very excited to jump on the train heading to Beijing. After only two hours door to door we arrived at Helen�s and 365. After settling in to our favourite hostel in the Chinese capital we decided to have an amble around the Forbidden City, once home to many important people, emperors and such. Common folk like us were once excluded but no more. I am not sure why the emperors required 980 rooms but I am sure they put them to good use. Strutting around the 500 year old palace in our santa hats was great...

There are lots of places to hide in the Forbidden City....
Christmas Eve evening was filled with fun, laughter and Chinese Great Wall wine. Naturally Chinese was on the menu for dinner and we entertained/slightly frightened the restaurant owners and other diners with festive Christmas songs, including the full 12 Days of Christmas (led by the lovely Jonny). Then it was on to Sānlǐt�n, bar street, to continue the celebrations. We had been having issues trying to persuade Helen�s (the expat bar attached to the hostel) to play my ipod complete with 52 festive gems, so I was ever so pleased to find a bar that was playing Mariah�s classic (the first Christmas song I had heard since arriving in Beijing). The bar then went on to play Bloc Party and The Strokes so everyone was very happy and we counted down the minutes until Christmas Day, still wearing our Santa hats.
Christmas Eve grub

Out in Sānlǐt�n on Christmas Eve
Christmas Day began with bucks fizz and not so Secret Santa fun (Mike playing the role of Santa). I got some lovely things from my secret Santa, Fiona, including a jewelled panda necklace (very Chinese), oreos (my number one favourite biscuit in China (which I have had to give up for New Year as I will soon turn into one if I eat any more), and some lovely bangles. Christmas dinner was no Roast but it was a fantastic Chinese alternative and all for �4.50 each!

It was then out for the traditional Christmas Day walk, only this year it was around Tiananmen Square to see Mao and do our traditional jump of the day photo.
Christmas Mao
Christmas Jump of the Day: The Girls
Christmas Jump of the Day: The Boys
With 15 of us strolling across the square in Santa hats we attracted a lot of attention, with one guard asking a Chinese friend whether we posed a threat to Chinese national security. We were a kind of walking advert for Christmas, hopefully bringing some festive cheer along with us!
Attracting attention in Tiananmen Square
As the evening drew in we started to wind down; �Love Actually� was put on, three different types of red wine consumed, charades and 20 questions were played endlessly and we all spoke to our families at home (mine still being in bed having not opened a single present!).

On Boxing Day we visited the Lama Temple which is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery. It houses a 26 metre tall Buddha carved from a single piece of sandalwood. It was rather impressive and very beautiful. Again Jake mentioned Jesus when he saw how enormous the statue was.
At the Llama Temple
Our next stop was the completely frozen h�uhǎi lake, complete with ice hockey players, fisherman and professional skaters practising on the ice. It was here that we found the cutest bar/caf� to warm ourselves and play more party games.

Jonny on the ice having been chased by a
Chinese ice hockey player!
Christmas Day fishing...
Having had a wonderful Chinese themed Christmas experience, we rolled onto the train in Beijing and off again in Tianjin, then straight into bed after a very different but superbly Maoy Christmas!

Xīn Ni�n Ku�i L�!!
For New Year we were all out in Tianjin and started our evening at a gem of a curry house. We saw in 2012 with friends, a lot of wine of varying colours and even managed to sing/slur a chorus of Auld Lang Syne. It was not quite the same as New Year�s festivities at home as it is not traditional to celebrate 1st January here but on the plus side, being in China we get to celebrate two New Years in 2012! To see in the new lunar calendar this year, on 23rd January, we will be in the exceptionally exciting city of Hong Kong�.

But for our next stop: the wonderfully frozen ice city of Harbin for their annual ice festival.
Current weather forecast: sunny with an average temperature of -20�C
A glimpse of what we have to look forward to
in Harbin!

1 comment:

  1. Hello Sarah,

    I always look forward to reading your blogs. Most time I am green with envy at your travels. Wish you and all your friends the very best for 2012. I always look forward to your writings and photos about the temples and their history being a Buddhist. And look forward to reading about your chinese New Year experience. Alan and I are hoping to visit Thailand or there abouts towards the end of the year. Anyway just wanted to say that someone is reading your blogs and enjoying it tremendously. Take care, Sha