Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Peace, Tranquility and the City

My favourite part of my trip to China was visiting the Jing'an Temple. That's 静安寺, in Chinese, literally translating to 'The Temple of Peace and Tranquility'. A title that's quite apt, considering the peaceful atmosphere of the grounds. The surroundings bring about an immense feeling of calm, despite the fact that the temple is full to the brim with people.

I found this Buddhist temple to be particularly awe-inspiring due to its location. It sits in the heart of Shanghai, dwarfed by close-by high-rise buildings. In spite of its location, a wander through the temple is more like a pilgrimage than a city stroll. You forget that you're in a city of over 14 million; it's just you and your thoughts. You forget that you're in a city of pollution and smog; there's more than enough incense to distract you from that. You forget, even, that you are an outsider; everyone else is so engrossed in prayer that you won't even merit a glance. It's the perfect way to escape the chaos of the city, without leaving the city at all.

There are a number of rituals that I took part in, as I explored the temple. To reveal a purer self, I burnt incense on the furnace. To bring wealth, I had to throw a coin behind me and land it in the offering box. It took a few attempts but I got it eventually, so I can look forward to a properous life! Next I rubbed my back on an old rock... I never found out the significance of this act, but I spotted locals doing it so there's no doubt I'm calling something positive into my future!

So, that's what I got up to on my wander around Jing'an Temple! To those of you who plan to visit Shanghai one day, I recommend that you put 'join in with the rituals at the Jing'an Temple' on your to-do list. I promise that you'll be treated to a lovely little glimpse into the religious traditions in China, in beautiful surroundings.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Shanghai: First Impressions

On the 30th of May I woke up in Donegal, Ireland. On the 31st of May I fell asleep in Shanghai, China. Between these two points was 9367km and a 12 hour plane ride. A long journey, but I needed to travel far away to get a true culture shock. And China certainly shocked.

First, a bit of context: I journeyed to China with my classmates and lecturers, for a business-slash-educational-slash-fun trip. It was a week long and we visited Shanghai before taking the high-speed train up to Beijing. So without further ado, take a peek at my pics from Shanghai...

These photos are mostly taken from the first day, when our lecturer gave us a non-stop walking tour around the city. We barely had a moment to pause and take photos of the city landscape surrounding us, so mostly we just stared wide-eyed. As we explored the city, I was struck by a few surprises...

The first thing of note was the extent to which we were outsiders. We were so out-of-place that stares and pointing fingers were commonplace. And then there were the photos. People would whip out their phones and take photos of us Westerners, sometimes sneakily, other times not-so-much. At one point we were posing for a group photo, with the Shanghai skyline as our backdrop, and there was around 10 random people staring back at us and taking photos. Myself and the other two redheads were particularly popular, no doubt due to the novelty of our hair. On a few occasions I was asked by the curious to get in photos with them. Of course, I obliged... Anything for my fans! haha!

My next realisation was just how lost you could get here. I've become comfortable with day trips to European countries, where many people are able to speak English (putting my own language learning skills to shame). Plus, many words in European languages look and sound similar enough for you to get by. Mandarin, however, is an entirely new playing field - not only did none of the words sound remotely comprehendible to me, but they have a completely different alphabet. An alphabet which, to the untrained eye looks like scribbles, albeit beautiful and intricate scribbles. Utterly indecipherable for an ignorant Westerner such as myself.

Another point of note was the style in Shanghai: It was incredible! Prior to my trip, I had read online commentators warning that the Chinese steered clear of colours and frowned upon loud Western clothing. Much to my delight, I found that this was not the case at all! The style of the young locals was amazing, with some opting for the tulle skirt and heels combo that I adore. I was impressed... I only wish I had been on-the-ball and took some street style pics so I could share the great outfits I spotted.

The pollution was an aspect of Shanghai that hit me immediately. After touch down, it was a matter of mere hours before my skin felt oily and dirty. Fast-forward a day or two and I found that my skin had broken out in smog-induced spots. The haziness of the photos above are testament to the smog of the city.

While I may sound a tad negative in mentioning the pollution of the city, I'm eager to stress how much I loved Shanghai. As well as being in awe of the buildings surrounding me, I felt safe in the city. Okay, the driving was insane (taxi rides were... stressful), but the city itself has a pleasant, safe atmosphere, which is such a relief when visiting a new place.

Well, there you have it. My first impressions of the crazy, the wonderful, Shanghai. Look out for my next post where I'll be sharing pictures of my favourite spot in the city!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

No More Excuses

No More Excuses Graphic

Hello again! I'm back after disappearing from the blogosphere there for a bit too long. I could list a number of reasons why I left my much-cherished space on the internet so bare for a full month... But those would simply be excuses - and as you can see from this post's title: I ain't about that right now.

No more excuses. The night before I handed in my final assignment for semester 2, I created a note that declared just that. The whole year I'd been saying to myself: the summer will be so much better, I'll have time to exercise in the summer, I'll start the YouTube channel in the summer... As if I'd have all the time and money in the world when the warmer months rolled 'round. Now that it's here, I can see that this isn't the case. But if I keep putting things off to some ever-changing time in the future, I'm going to march through life feeling unfulfilled and bored.

So I combated any excuses I came up with for not posting this post. But I don't have a photo for it! Create a graphic for it instead. But I'm out of the loop in the blogging community! Post now, catch up on favourite bloggers next. But I don't have time to create a post! Set the alarm for earlier in the morning then.

No more excuses. Since you're reading this now, you can see I took my own advice. So stay tuned, I'll be back in a few days with pictures from my trip to China. Goodbye again, dear reader, but not for so long this time.