Our last buffet dinner and free flow evening at Cafe Mondo in the IFC, a lovely evening with these ladies, who I will miss dearly.
Our final sports awards evening at the Unkai Hotel (back within a week after the NAE games!) was a success and it was lovely to finish off our time here celebrating the season with our teams! I even managed to hobble up to the stage with my bad leg!
We stayed at the Unkai, which is 5 mins from school, to save the journey back into town. The view in the morning of Baiyun Mountains and into the city was fantastic...
We hosted 5 other Nord Anglia schools to come and compete over 2 days in athletics, swimming and football. This was no mean feat and we were all hoping for good weather otherwise things would not go ahead! I organised the athletics with Matt helping in the field part and I was so pleased that it all went well. It all went really really well, with lots of medals and trophies being won across the board and the kids all having a great time. We took the overall trophy as well, which was an added bonus!
The weather was grand and if it wasn't for my nasty fall down the steps after the second night of hosting... it would have been a great weekend!
The changing shades of my ankle... 3 ligaments damaged, quadriceps and tibias anterior damaged and patella tendonitis... all because the school does not have lighting outside! Here is hoping that I can run my 2 half marathons in September and October :-( !
Catching up with Rich and Bex in style at a wine tasting event accompanying 4 courses of fine thai food. This was only £30 and we had 4 glasses of wine, selected to go with the food and a high selection of Thai cuisine ( a lot more than I thought we would get and regretted the hot cross bun snack before coming!!). A wonderful evening and glad that we have been part of 'The Wine People' group as we have had a lot of different and wonderful evenings (and wine!)
With our school hosting the NAE U11 Games over the Chinese national holiday, we were given a day in liu, which we used to head to South Korea and explore Seoul. An over night flight and arriving in time for breakfast at our hotel in the Myeongdong district. It is really easy to get a ticket for a seat on a 'bus' (a luxurious coach with reclining big seats) which takes you to/near your hotel!! We were at an Ibis Styles which overlooked the area where the Seoul Tower sits above the hill and my favourite part about the hotel was the balcony you could sit and eat your breakfast overlooking the city and the hills.
We headed out on the subway to Gangnam district, which is quite business like and different to how I imagines South Korea. We did find the iconic dance memorial! Then we went around a park which had some good views of the city and some interesting information on the cities past.
Next we headed back the otherside of the river to one of the palaces, Changdeokgung, which was very pretty but we did not spend lots of time here. It was lovely to see couples having their wedding photos done in traditional Korean dress. (I will add photos from my camera at a later date).
Hanok Village is an ancient village in South Korea with lots of great older buildings, which are still lived in. There are lots of little alleys and shops which you can wander around as well as a lot of Koreans hiring traditional dress to take pictures throughout the village. This was probably one of my favourite parts of our time in Seoul and I loved the iconic spot where you can see modern Seoul amongst the traditional village. This adventure was topped off by a traditional Korean dinner of pork schnitzel and all the trimmings before walking back to the hotel after a long day with minimal sleep!!
Day 2: DMZ and Urban River
We went on an organised trip to the Demilitarised zone which is 40minutes north of Seoul. It was fascinating seeing, hearing and reading about the history between North and South Korea and being in a place like nothing I have ever seen before. We visited the area where you could walk over to the border and they had recovered a train which was bombed and shot at in the DMZ when it was taking aid to S.Korea. Then we went to a look out point which was right on the border and on a clear day you can see across to the North Korean flag. We did an underground walk down into one of the tunnels which the North Koreans had dug to infiltrate S Korea and still to this day deny that they built it for this. They even painted the granite on the walls black to pretend they were digging for mining purposes!! The last point on the tour was at a train station, which at the moment only has one train going from Seoul and returning again. It has been built in hope that one day there will be a trans-Korean railway to the capital in North Korea.
Upon return to Seoul we explored our district which had lots of hidden gems and street food and we found ourselves on the Urban River which had lots of people sat beside chilling out and some street music on too. It was a lovely place to just people watch and you can walk about 10km down alongside it.
Back in Myeongdong we ate in a Korean Bar and enjoyed some Korean cocktails before heading back through the electric streets and enjoying all the stores of cute Korean socks!! Seoul was an absolute delight, the transport, people, fashion, shopping, food and sight seeing all fantastic!!! I wish we could have had longer to explore more of South Korea, if we can come back, we will!
Although Matt has been here several times with the boys, I really wanted to see what the madness was all about. It all started very well, with a high speed train from Guangzhou South to Zuhai, where we had to cross the border by foot into Macau. There are free buses from the border to your hotel, so we got to the Sheraton very easily, where we ended up in a Suite as an engagement gift from the hotel!!
We went to explore over in the Venetian and found the best Indian restaurant, The Golden Peacock and enjoyed all the lovely food. All without going outside!!
The casinos are also, gigantic and nothing like I have ever seen before. Then inside the Ventian in between the shops, you can even ride a gondola down the river.
Saturday: Macau Old Town
So, Macau is not just about gambling, shopping and casinos... there is also an old town area which is of Portuguese decent. The good thing is, you can get on free buses from casinos to get into this area and have a wander around. The weather was scorching at nearly 40 degrees, so we headed out early and did as much exploring as we could bear!
Once in the back streets and alleys, away from the more metropolis area, the views were stunning of this place and the architecture did make you feel like you were in a European town. We did what most people do and headed towards the ruins of St Pauls via Senado square, but then went off the beaten track and found more hidden gems.
After rehydrating and eating at an Irish pub (classy!) we went to a Ferrari exhibition which was worth wandering around, before watching the afternoon performance of "House of Dancing Water". I was not overly convinced that the show would be worth watching, but on friends recommendations we booked our tickets and I am so so glad that we did!! Not giving too much away, but the audience is seated in a circle around a huge pool of water and there are acrobatics and diving into the pool, firstly from a big pirate boat that emerges from the waters depths!! It tells a story through the dance and then randomly at the end through a motorbike show (the staging comes over the water at various points), click here for a trailer.
We headed upstairs in the City of Dreams to find our dinner at a lovely tapas restaurant, before heading to the casino for my debut! As I am sure you can tell, I went wild and as soon as I made a profit I checked out. So showbiz!!
Sunday: Macau in the daylight
A lazy morning and one last look around the Cotai area before heading back to the border for our journey home. I was suitably surprised by Macau and enjoyed how different it was to 'normal' life! Well worth a few days here if you are in Hong Kong and can get the ferry across.
After a truly busy and intense week prepping for my interview, I had some lovely treats and well wishes all weekend from such wonderful people! Saturday night brunching with a group of us whilst Kat's parents were here, then surprise treats at Bex's on Sunday and then cards and loveliness too. Feeling very spoilt and loved from such great people here <3
Sorry to those who read my Instagram post but wanted to put this on the blog, as although it is not somewhere I have explored as such, running really has been with me throughout this whole big adventure and seen me overcome challenges I never thought I could do.
You could sit there and read this thinking, well you play sport and you are a PE teacher, of course you can run. Or you are slim so you must be able to run. I am going to say that actually that is all false. Before I came to China I rarely ran, I enjoy playing and the social of team sports and mentally I could never go further than 10km. It is such a challenge, but when you finish it is so enjoyable (once you finish...) But actually out here, it has given me a mental strength to overcome tough China Days and a new hobby and achieved half marathon paces I never ever thought I could do. Even completing one I never thought I could ever do!!
It has been a welcomed surprise and throughout the 700km these trainers have got me through, I have so many memories of new countries and experiences. But most importantly it has kept me smiling.
If you have not read Bella Mackie's book, Jog On: How Running Saved my Life, i would highly recommend it. Even if you can just get those trainers on and jog to the end of the street the first day, it is amazing what you can achieve if you persevere. I now regularly run the 12km back home after work in 30degrees+++ and 90% humidity amongst electric bikes, busy pavements and weird and wonderful smells- if I can do it...so can you.
Enjoying the last time we will stay in our favourite Langham so far. Nice to get back from a long weekend, have 2 days at work and then be off somewhere else again. What a life we lead...
It wasn't all relaxing though as I prepped for my interview later the next week but I can't complain as what better place to prep for it?!
Enjoying the extended weekend, we headed off to Taipei, the capital of Taiwan. We had heard really great things from friends who had visited and were excited to see it for ourselves. The flight was only an hour and a half and then the centre of Taipei was about 40minutes from the airport. We stayed at ArTree Boutique Hotel which was in a great area, walking distance to a metro and a lot of great areas to wander around.
Day 1: Saturday 27th April
Using a trusty map (yes a paper one!) we navigated through the Sun Yat Se memorial hall and park towards to Taipei Mall which is where the Taipei 101 building is. There is a good view of the building from the park.
The weather was not great, but the rain held off thankfully. The mall is full of high end stores and then some high street vendors as well, such as a personal favourite - Zara!!
Where Din Tai Fung originated, Taipei!! We went and enjoyed Dim Sum, Xiao Long Bao and other specialities in the heart of Taipei. Definitely worth a visit, but be prepared to get your ticket and then wait for up to an hour in peak times (we used this as another excuse to wander around the mall!!)
Longshan Temple and Huaxi Night Market
Navigating the much more spacey metro and quieter carriages we were quickly on the authorised of the city. Here was one of the most highly decorated and ornate temples which you could wander around. The intricate details on the dragons and elaborate designs on the roof, will be something that will always be spectacular, no matter how many temples I have now seen! From here, it was very close to Huaxi Night Market, which we wandered down through and it did have shops and things open to peruse but I can imagine that it really comes alive in the evening. What was strange, the huge snakes which were being kept outside the restaurant and the mice/rats being kept to presumably feed them(!!!) On a lighter note, I did enjoy seeing people playing on retro games in little arcades, like the man playing tetris in the photo below.
Huashan 1914 Cultural Park
This was a recommended place for those who like arts and it is based in an old industrial building, with lots of shops and exhibitions dotted around it. We happened to catch it when there was a festival going on, so there was even more going on and shows to go and see too. Nice area to explore and enjoy a drink or two!
Spotting a brewery on the map, Matt was keen to check it out nearby... well as it turned out, clearly it can be called a brewery if it has kegs outside the gates and has benches outside a shop where you can buy it!
Shilin Night Market
Shilin Night market in the northern part of the city has many streets filled with games, toys and most importantly F O O D! Taiwan night markets are renowned for their high quality food in substance and flavour and we were very impressed from what we ate/saw! I could not really tell you what it was... but it was tasty. There were lots of fairground type games as well which the children enjoyed playing (and some adults!)
And yes... that was all in one day; 21,000 steps and 15km later!!
Day 2: Sunday 28th April
And finally the sunshine was here! What a lovely day to go to the top of this tower, the worlds tallest tower from 2004-2010! We got there for 9.15 to get in the first wave of tickets and it was not busy at all. When we came down however, just an hour later, there were queues, so do get there early. It was good to get a perception of the city from this high vantage points. And also to see the only visible damper in any tall building around the world, which prevents the tower from moving as much when there are typhoons/earthquakes!
A short metro ride away and a well sign-posted walk later, you arrive at the bottom of a stepped hike up 'Elephant Mountain'. Here you can get exceptional views (on a clear day!!) of the city and Taipei 101. I have got some good pictures on Matt's phone which I will add at a later date... for now here are mine.
Maokong Tea Plantations
If you go to the end of one of the metro lines to the zoo, it stops at a Gondola station which you can take up and over the hills to the tea plantation area. Here you can go on buses to explore this area more and take in the vast views and really appreciate the diversity of this city away from the hustle and bustle of the centre. We went to a restaurant with a roof terrace, very close to the gondola station, to enjoy some Taiwanese cuisine, tea and the views. Unfortunately the weather for us, was not so lovely and the blue skies were no more!!
After having a few hours downtime resting our legs, we headed out to the W Taipei down the road and then to an incredible sushi place! We live next door to W Guangzhou, and have not been there yet, but we now have been to the one in Taipei!! I was told this had good views of the tower - now it had great views, but not of the tower!!
Addiction Aquatic Development
All the fish is cooked (is that the right word here... maybe prepared!) to order and as you can see from the pictures it has a lot to choose from! It is a standing sushi dining experience and well worth visiting if you enjoy sushi!!
So all in all - an AMAZING trip and well worth seeing the culture and the sights which Taipei has to offer. If we had had more time, a trip out of the city to the coast would certainly have been the thing to do.