Day 7: Final Day in Sichuan Province

The day started with a quick taxi ride to the railway station, followed by just under two hours standing on the train back to Chengdu.  It was the only ticket I could buy to get back to the city so I had to go with it.  I stood where the train cars connect and was surrounded by probably about 10 men at any given time smoking cigarettes.  Smoking in China is much more popular than in the US, and almost all smokers here smoke cigarettes and not vapes.  Sharing cigarettes and smoking together is seen as a very important social aspect in China, and it is considered very rude to refuse a cigarette.

When I arrived in Chengdu I went straight to Kuanzhai Alley to grab some street food and got these awesome treats 🙂

Delicious spicy fries, perfectly seasoned!
I’m not sure exactly what this is but the best way I can describe it is balls of fried dough on a skewer

The alley made me think of an upscale, more European version of Beijing’s hutongs.  It was built with grey bricks and there were people everywhere buying snacks or getting their ears cleaned (I forgot to mention in a previous post that in Chengdu you can have a traditional ear picking done in which the ears are cleaned of ear wax in public!)  Others window shopped or had their portraits done by street artists.

A young lady gets her ears cleaned

After Kuanzhai Alley, I made my way to Tianfu Square.  Some say that if you go to Chengdu and don’t go to Tianfu Square, then you didn’t really go to Chengdu.  Tianfu Square is a central point that leads to various museums and lots of shopping.  I found it’s a great spot for people watching.  Though impossible to see from the ground, Tianfu Square is arranged into the shape of a large Yin and Yang symbol.

From Tianfu Square I went to Anshun Bridge, another noteworthy spot in the city.  At the bridge itself there is not much to do unless you want to eat at the fancy restaurant that now sits on the bridge, however in the areas further down the river I watched a women’s dance troupe perform dances with traditional Chinese fans.  I also stumbled into a nightclub area with lots of contemporary artwork.

I was super paranoid from my last time trying to make a train in Chengdu, so I decided to take a taxi to the railway station with PLENTY of time in advance to make sure I wouldn’t miss my train.  I got there with plenty of time to spare!  My original plan was to take a 36 hour train ride back to Shanghai, but I changed my plan last minute and opted to take a 24 hour train to Beijing, spend the weekend, and then take a 4.5 hour train back to Shanghai on Sunday, making up days 8, 9 and 10.

The best way to cook ramen when you don’t have something to hold down the lid? I learned this from watching the locals on the train

Day 1: Overnight Train to Guilin

Boarding my overnight train marks the first step in my journey over the next 10 days – solo backpacking through Southern and Midwestern China! First stop: Guilin! These are my quarters for the night, pretty tight but all part of the journey. 

Traveling today has been especially crowded because today marks the start of the Chinese Qingming holiday, in which many Chinese travel to their home towns to celebrate deceased relatives and clean their graves. It is also traditional to eat this, which I tried in both black sesame and red bean.  I am not entirely sure what is is made out of but almost seems like some type of grain ground into a paste with a filling inside. A bit of an acquired taste, but again, all part of the experience!

As of now I feel pretty restless on the train, but the steady rock back and forth is soothing. The other inhabitants of my cabin are very polite, offering me sunflower seeds and fruit (the Chinese are so hospitable and generous). I am so excited to pull into Guilin tomorrow and finally see the beautiful mountains! 

Holy Cross, Meet Chinese BBQ

You all probably think this is a food blog by now!  However, I really feel that it is necessary to include these pics from my trip to get chinese bbq in the middle of the night!

We started with some seafood and gradually moved to mouth watering skewers of lamb, chicken, beef, potato and more

The experience was exactly what I pictured study abroad would be like before arriving here: gathered around a table with some of my closest friends, both American and Chinese, sharing delicious food, speaking in Chinglish, and laughing and learning about each other.  Moments like these make studying in China absolutely invaluable to me!


I’m Addicted to Tea

I’ll be the first to admit that living in China for the past 7 months has made me completely addicted to bubble tea… but part of the fun of studying abroad is trying new things right? On top of that, you can buy a large bubble tea here for on average $2 USD which is basically a steal!

My two favorite places for bubble tea so far are Coco and Yi Dian Dian, however I recently tried the up and coming LeLeCha’s pineapple tea, which was so life changing that I actually decided to do an entire project on it for my international marketing class!  LeLeCha’s products are so delicious and marketed so well that they can charge upwards of TWICE what a tea costs at competing firms….craziness, I know, but so good!

my precious pineapple tea from LeLeCha

Almost One Week in Shanghai!

Tomorrow will mark my first full week in Shanghai!  As some of you know, after completion of Fall and January semesters in Beijing, I will be spending the spring semester in Shanghai.  This semester includes components such as Chinese language class, two elective classes, and a part time internship.  While I’m still settling in, I wanted to share some pics from my first week here below:

Soup filled dumplings with rice 🙂
Visting the home of famous Chinese author Lu Xun
The Lu Xun Memorial and Museum was about an hour and a half train ride outside of Shanghai in Shaoxing
Street food such as stinky tofu and lotus seed
Time for a boat ride!
My awesome new roomie

Just outside my new campus
Views from Shaoxing
More views from Shaoxing
Even more views from Shaoxing

The Best Strawberry I EVER Tasted in the Most Unexpected Place

Last Saturday my program took a trip to a village outside of Beijing called Xinzhuang Village, which is known for its commitment to more sustainable living.  The village was about an hour drive outside of Beijing; on the way we passed by crop fields and mountains in the distance.  When we arrived at the village we had the opportunity to go to a local home where we conversed with the owner for about an hour and learned about his daily life, as well as the village’s initiatives for protecting the environment.  We learned how this village specializes in growing strawberries, which our host offered to us to taste.


This strawberry was allegedly grown without interference of genetic engineering, making it much smaller in size however incredibly sweet and juicy.  It truly blew me away.

In fact the visit overall was very surprising to me and pretty much nothing like how I thought it would be.  The streets were clean but deserted.  Overall it was much more developed than I thought it would be; I was picturing a more rural setting with grass and dirt.  In addition, while our host spoke PuTongHua, which is the standard version of Mandarin I study, his Beijing accent was so thick that he was hard to understand.  It was a very interesting day trip and definitely made me more curious about exploring parts of China outside of the big cities.

Making the Best Out of a Bad Situation

Over the course of the past semester, I completed my ICIP for Holy Cross, which is a project for study abroad students meant to help cultivate cultural immersion.  I chose to focus on contemporary art in China, and used interviews with local Beijing citizens as a means of research.  While I learned a lot about traditional Chinese art, it seemed that my interview subjects had very little knowledge of Chinese contemporary art or street art, or if it even existed at all.

Last week, I was finally able to see first-hand some contemporary Chinese art, although this opportunity came about in a rather unfortunate way…

As Beijing continues to rapidly develop, it is not uncommon to see this character spray painted over traditional houses or old buildings: 拆 chāi.  When you see 拆 spray painted on a building, you immediately know that there are plans to tear down this structure in order to build up something new.  China works fast – the demolition crew is practically around the corner.  It is a controversial yet fairly common phenomenon.

Sadly, I received news that a long standing and very much cherished branch of Tube Station, a pizza chain in China, was going to be torn down, along with the entire block.  In celebration of the years of enjoyment it brought to the community, Tube Station held a party during its last weekend, complete with free pizza and beers.  In addition, a Chinese street artist by the name of ROBBBB was given free reign of the space to create his signature aesthetic, known to encompass his view of Beijing as an ever changing city, simultaneously developing and in ruins.

I convinced a couple friends to go to the party with me.  As we walked out of the train station we could immediately tell something was off – the street felt dark and quiet in comparison to a typical Beijing street brimming with life and energy.  The entire area seemed completely abandoned, if not for the neon glow of the Golden Arches across the street.  We finally found the Tube Station branch tucked away between gated off areas of construction and entered.

The place was completely transformed – splatters of paint covered the walls, floor, and ceiling, while a light show danced to the beats pushed out by the DJ in the corner.  Already, people stood in line for pizza amidst a mountain of chairs and torn paintings clinging to the walls.  ROBBBB’s own original artwork was also there on display.  It seemed to be a great group of people present, and it was really exciting to see such a great turnout in support of the restaurant.

Overall, despite the grave circumstances, it was a really cool event that I am glad I got to be a part of.  I think Tube Station handled a bad situation in the coolest way they possibly could have, and I loved that they incorporated ROBBBB’s art and vision into this community event.  Here are some pictures from the event:


Sushi on Thanksgiving ?

As my first semester in China is coming to an end, I have been reflecting on how much I have learned here, the amazing relationships I have made, how much I have learned about myself and what makes me happy; I truly am the happiest I’ve ever been living here in Beijing, challenging myself and growing every day.  It has been an experience and opportunity that I’m so happy I chose to take.  I am so thankful to have two more months in Beijing before I move to Shanghai!

Carve that turkey up!

Celebrating Thanksgiving here in Beijing was bittersweet – while I missed my mom’s amazing Thanksgiving stuffing, seeing family and friends from back home, and participating in some of our most cherished American Thanksgiving traditions, celebrating Thanksgiving in Beijing made me appreciate all of that so much more, while also making me so grateful for the amazing people I’ve met in Beijing and our memories together.

My two best friends in Beijing, Alex and Jason. Beijing wouldn’t be the same without them!

My program organized a great event in which we were all able to come together and share a Thanksgiving meal.  We had two turkeys, and some of my classmates helped prepare some fantastic traditional (and nontraditional) dishes such as stuffing, mashed potatoes…and spring rolls and sushi.  Who knew you could eat sushi on Thanksgiving??

Two seconds before our Thanksgiving feast got demolished

Overall it was really moving to see how much we have all bonded since the start of our time abroad together, and while I stay here in Beijing during the holidays, it is going to be really sad to watch some of my favorite people go back to the States…

7 Foods That Have Surprised Me in Beijing

Here are the 7 foods that have surprised me most so far:

I took this picture during my first trip to Pizzahut in China.  Pizzahut is really popular in China, along with KFC.  The menu was surprising to me – almost completely different from the American menu, and specializing in black crust pizza that I have never seen back in the States.  Needless to say, the pizza was delicious, and the matcha green tea cheesecake was to die for!

This picture is from my local supermarket down the street.  I had to double take when I saw this gigantic cucumber(?) – my friend and fellow Crusader, Jason, is in the background for a size comparison.  I have never seen one this size!

Another food item I was surprised to find here in Beijing?  Fantastic Mexican food! If you know me, you know I LOVE anything with avocado, but especially guacamole.  This guac at Taco Bar has been my favorite so far, and surprisingly authentic tasting.  After chips and guac, my friends and I love to grab tacos here on a night out and treat ourselves.

My absolute favorite snack: Lay’s Wasabi flavored potato chips.  Incredible!  China’s potato chip selection is completely different from the US – it can often be impossible to find favorites from home like sour cream and onion, sea salt and vinegar, or BBQ.  More common flavors here include cucumber, Italian red meat, tomato, etc.  However, while you can sometimes find American Classic, my new favorite is Wasabi, which has the perfect amount of spice and mouthwatering flavor.  Will definitely be sneaking a bag home with me!

This is a picture of the mooncake I ate in celebration of the Mid Autumn festival in October.  I love the designs on top of the mooncake, and I especially love the story behind why we eat mooncakes (check out to learn more, it’s a great story!) Nowadays you can get mooncakes with almost any flavor, from red bean or green tea, to chocolate or ice cream.  It was really exciting being able to try a mooncake for the first time and participate in this Chinese cultural festival!

Still mustering up the courage to try one of these Chinese beef floss pastries.  The outside seems to be covered in something with a texture that looks like fur…update to come!

This particular green tea matcha ice cream comes from a traditional neighborhood in Beijing called HouHai.  If you like green tea, you will love the strong, almost bittersweet flavor of this ice cream.  It was the perfect way to end the day after walking through the busy streets of the hutong and enjoying the sunset on the lake.

Thanks for reading! 再见!

My Top 7 Foods in China…so far

Here is a look at 7 of my favorite meals in Beijing so far:

Chinese hotpot!  Simply one of the best ways to bond with new friends in China, which you can see in this pic from my first week in Beijing.  Collectively, the table orders a variety of uncooked meats, vegetables, mushrooms, potatoes, dumplings, etc and cooks them in a large pot at the center of the table.  The experience makes for great conversation and gives the opportunity to sample lots of different delicious foods.  After cooking my meats, I love to dip them in the brown colored sauce (seen in the white bowl) which has a peanut butter-like flavor.  So delicious!

My favorite breakfast food (honestly, anytime food) – Baozi! At almost any convenience store you can easily find baozi, which are these delicious white buns filled with meat or vegetables.  I typically like to order mine with Zhu Rou, or Da Rou, which are various ways of preparing pork.  Eating a nice warm and moist baozi can be a great (and cheap) way to start your day or have a snack.  I will 100% have to import these to the US when I return home.

Beijingers are generally known to eat a lot of noodles with their food, which I absolutely love!  These soupy noodles have a fantastic combination of greens with a spicy, peppery sauce.  I could be happy eating these noodles for days.

Because Beijing food delivery closes so early (usually before midnight), and because of the Chinese inclination toward family style eating, it is not surprising that my friends and I have already explored McDonalds in China, which is open late and where you can conveniently order your own food.  This is the Chinese Big Mac, which, as far as I can tell, is pretty much the same as the Big Macs we are used to in the States (although I’m convinced the special sauce has been tweaked slightly).  It is not uncommon for fast food restaurants to alter their recipes and meals to cater to the Chinese consumer, but this is one distinctly American treat I can count on to be the same as back home.

This is a bowl of spicy noodles in broth offered at the dining hall across the street from my dorm.  On a cold day, I love ordering these noodles that make me feel nice and warm.  For a great price, these noodles taste great and will leave you feeling full.

While you can purchase egg waffle ice cream in the States, my first time having this Asian-style treat was here in Beijing in an traditional style neighborhood called Nan Luo Gu Xiang.  This particular vanilla ice cream was topped with mango and an Oreo and was absolutely delicious.  10/10 would recommend!

One of my favorite parts about studying with CET is that every Friday after class, our professors take the class out for lunch to a different restaurant each week.  This picture is from our class lunch at a restaurant that specializes in Sichuan style food, which is a style of Chinese food that is known to be very spicy.  This was my absolute favorite class lunch because the food was incredible – from spicy tofu to salty green beans to sweet glazed pork, every dish was mouth wateringly good.


Coming next – 7 of the most intriguing foods I’ve seen in China!