How to get The Great Wall of China to yourself (on a budget) | Jinshanling edition

8/25/2019


The Great Wall of China is known as one of the most famous Seven Wonders of the World. This iconic landmark is probably on every travelers' bucket list, and I don't blame them. The Great Wall has a reputation for bringing you back in time, leaving you in awe, and be overly crowded. 
I have seen multiple photos of hundreds of people packed like sardines next to each other at the Great Wall. Luckily, there are parts of the wall that are not as crowded. 

When I was looking for ways to get to The Great Wall, I got overwhelmed with choices. A lot of the options that I was looking into looked good, but after some research I stumbled across the Jinshanling section of the wall. Jinshanling is known to be one of harder sections to hike, but it is totally worth is since it is also one of the the prettier sections of the wall and the least crowded. 
I was with a group of friends and we decided to not book a tour, but go by ourselves. Some tours are quite expensive and time intensive, as the students we are, that was not for us. Maybe not the smartest move, but we got there in the end after an adventure. If you want to play it safe (what I recommend): there are loads of tours on the internet that will go to the Jinshanling part, but we decided to take a bus.


STORYTIME: HOW I GOT THERE

We got told to take bus 980 from Beijing station to Miyun station, and take a different bus from there. The bus drive was around 30/45 minutes and when we arrived... we arrived in the middle of no where. No other bus in sight that would take us to the wall or back to Beijing, and no other people around apart from very aggressive taxi drivers. Since we did not had much of a choice, we decided to take a risk and made a deal with one of the taxis to bring us to the Wall for 30 yuen per person.
It was a scary ride, since the taxi was pretty much illegal and the driver did not spoke any English. Luckily, it was all good and the taxi drove us there and waited five hours till we were done, to bring us back to the bus station again.

THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA

When we reached the wall it was quiet, calm and pristine. We had the option to go for a long walk, or for a slightly shorter walk (around 2 hours shorter). We decided to go for the last option. We took a gondola (40 yuen) to the top of The Great Wall and hiked the wall from there.

When I got to the top, I was blown away. I didn't really know what to expect of the Great Wall (I honestly thought you would go up the Wall, take some photos and go down again), but this... this was amazing. It was gorgeous. The way the mountain held the wall and the sun hugged the landscape; it was perfect. And we had it all to ourselves, which was probably the best thing. 



The hike on the Jinshanling area is challenging, so keep that in mind when going. There was a few times where I thought that I was going to fall of the wall and my knees still burn when I think about the stairs and the hills. But it was fun. 
We went on a very hot day too, it was 37 degrees and there is a little to no shadow on the wall. Our taxi driver asked us before if we had enough water, but I thought that one bottle would be enough and ended up buying water at on of the stalls one the wall. I recommend bringing your own water, we got told later that the water on the wall is probably just tap water in a used bottle and a few of us got really sick after.  

COSTS

The hike took about 4 hours and it was so hard to leave. At the end of it you're exhausted and invigorated. The total we paid for the trip was 155 yuen, which is around 17 pounds (20 euro's). 
- The bus - 20 yuen
- Taxi - 30 yuen p/p
- Entree fee into Janshanling area - 65 entree 
Gondola to go up the Wall and cut off 2 hours of walking -  40 yuen
When I was looking at tours, most tours asked around 80 pounds. With most tours, you will get a tour guide too and you have a bit of assured safety, but if you want to save a little over 60 pounds, I recommend to take a bus and hire one of the taxis. Of course, keep in mind, safety first and do not trust all taxis. 
We spend the 60 pounds later that night by having a big dinner, since we were absolutely starving after the walk. It was honestly a perfect day.





Choi Hung (Rainbow) Estate Hong Kong

8/15/2019


Choi Hung Estate is a residential building complex that has become very popular due the colourful and bright rainbow buildings, which make for a very instagrammable backdrop. The best view of Choi Hung Estate is from the basketball court that was on top of the 3 storage parking garage.

CHOI HUNG ESTATE HISTORY

Choi Hung Estate was built in 1964 and is an old public housing estate in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong government provides these types of subsidised public housing so that low income residents can afford somewhere to live. According to the Economist, Hong Kong is the second most expensive city in the world.
Choi Hung means "rainbow" in Cantonese. There are stories going around that these homes were painted like a rainbow to uplift the resident spirits. There are seven buildings in total and every building starts with a different colour of the rainbow.

TAKING THE PERFECT PICTURE AT CHOI HUNG ESTATE

Unless you go to the estate early in the morning, you will probably be greeted by quite a few other tourists wanting to get the iconic pastel picture. I was advised to go around 2 in the afternoon as the light on the building would be optimal at that time. However, if you come around 9 o'clock in the morning, the sun will start peeking through the buildings which can give you a cool shot too.
I ended up going around 12, which was a good time since there were not that many people around. When the sun did come through at 2 it was insanely hot and I was sweating buckets to say the least. plus the basketball court was full with tourists around this time.

I am not a big fan of having other people in my photo's, especially if everyone is posing and having their camera's out (like I did). Usually this means a lot of waiting or getting creative with the different angles. Some of my top tips on getting the shot:
  1. Pick a spot and wait it out. Eventually people will move and then take the gap to get that photo. Be ready to pose so you don't get taken over by other people.
  2. I got some great pictures at the benches and by sitting on the wall, the closer to the building the less people.
  3. If you want to take photos at the basketball court, I would recommend to go for a blurry shot with a DSLR or portrait mode on your phone, so you still get all the colours but you blur the people out.

HOW TO GET TO CHOI HUNG ESTATE

The best way to get to Choi Hung Estate is to catch the MTR (underground). Make your way to Choi Hung Station on the Kwun Tong Line (green line). Once you're at the station, be sure to exit from the C3 or C4 exit. There are plenty of signs around the station to help you get to the estate. 

You will find the Choi Hung Estate directly in front of you once you exit the station. Walk around the complex and you will see a multi leveled car park. The basketball court is located on top of the car park. Walk up a few flights of stairs and that's where you will find the basketball courts. From the ground level, the basketball court is easy to miss so be sure to keep an eye out for the car park stairs.


Fun fact: We stole this basketball from a 10 year old kid that was playing basketball on its own. Wouldn't recommend it, but it got me a great photo.

Photo's of me taken by Quentin / No Sugar, No Milk

So, I moved to Hong Kong. Now what?

8/11/2019

On this lovely morning, I am writing from my apartment in Hong Kong, my new home sweet home.

It has been a wild year so far, and that's putting it delicately. Let's just say, 2019 is doing me good, very good. Starting off the year still at university in England, trying to live my second year of university to the fullest while searching for a placement. At the beginning of 2019, I had no idea where I would be in 5 months time. I had idea's; I knew I was going to be overseas, for sure. Singapore? Australia? New York?
Something far away at least, something that was different from England or the Netherlands. Hong Kong has always been on my mind. I visited Hong Kong back in 2015, but moving here sounded too scary for my liking. USA and Australia are still quite western, a comfortable option, while Hong Kong is different. Different language, different culture, different things in the super market. I decided to still shoot my shot in Hong Kong, since life starts outside your comfort zone, right?

In February I received THE e-mail, a work placement offer in Hong Kong starting in July. I could not hide my happiness, I was going to move to Hong Kong in less than four months (say what?). How cool is that? It still makes me tear up when I think about that moment, especially after all the rejections I have received.
In the same month I got an acceptance email to a summer school in Shanghai too, for a month of studying Mandarin language in June.

It's now August (two months later) and I have to say, without having done an exchange in Shanghai for a month, I probably wouldn't have loved Hong Kong as much as I do now. And I probably wouldn't be this open-minded and outgoing as I am now.
Living in Shanghai was scary, but still comfortable. I had the comfort of going with a group of students from my English university. We all shared the same experience, the same culture shock and the same difficulties. If I did not had them, moving to Asia would probably be a whole lot more scary.
Now, because I have experienced China for a month and have travelled around Asia since 2015, the culture shock isn't as big as expected and living in Hong Kong is actually quite easy.
Hong Kong is very open-minded, vibrant, a city that never sleeps, and is full of expats. It is very different in comparison to Shanghai, but so much better than I expected. The first three weeks, my life has been packed with work and socialising. I still need to find that work/life balance, but so far, I think I am nailing it.

Besides being afraid for a culture shock, I was also afraid that it would be really hard to make friends. What if my colleagues don't like me, what if it is really hard to meet new people? The opposite seems true. In my three week I met so many lovely people, I even organised a social event for expat girls like me.
It helped that my colleagues have been incredibly helpful and loving too. It is like coming into a new family. In the first week they took me out for lunch every day, so I got to know them better, and they really take the time to explain logistics to me.

It is funny, because before I was born, my parents where planning on moving to Hong Kong (hence why they named me Chynna) for work. However, this plan got cancelled. If this was not cancelled I would have been born and raised in Hong Kong instead of the Netherlands. Now, 21 years later, I made it to Hong Kong anyways.

If you have specific questions about my move to Hong Kong or anything else about living in this concrete jungle, please drop them in the comments and I'll be sure to address them in future posts.
Until next time, much love.


Photo's of me taken by Quentin / No Sugar, No Milk

Mango & Pistachio Chocolate bark + Day in Bristol

4/18/2019


So lately I started to realise that I am very proud when I say that I study in England, but somehow, I barely have seen anything from England, apart from the city where I study and London. I did not come all this way to see barely anything, I must and will explore more. So I went to Bristol, a vibrant and energetic city, with a new friend who is studying here for only a few months. 


Before I went to Bristol, I already knew a few spots where I wanted to go. I wanted to get lunch at the Florist, a gorgeous little restaurant at Park Street. The Florist is famous for their interior and special cocktails. We did not had any cocktails (since it only just turned noon), but we did had an incredible lunch. They don't have typical lunch food (like sandwiches), it is more like dinner food. Which was fine, but not what we expected.
I went with a raw Pad Thai salad and grilled seabass, Moana went for the gnocchi. Both dishes looked stunning and the Pad Thai salad was so good, I can't say anything bad about it.

After lunch, we got advised by one of the members of staff to go to Cabot Tower and the Suspension Bridge, which we did go to. To reach the top of the Cabot tower, you had to climb these really narrow stairs and it felt like there was no end to it. But once you reached the top, you had an amazing view over the whole of Bristol city. 
We walked to the Suspension Bridge, which was quite a walk, not going to lie. We walked passed the Clifton Village district, which had a famous bakery in it. ANNA Cake Couture, they are famous for their wedding cakes and special flavours in macaroons. If you ever come in Bristol, please grab yourself a box of ANNA macaroons, they are the absolute best. I can honestly say that I never had better macaroons than this one (even when I was in Paris). I choose flavours like ginger and white chocolate, Rose and raspberry, and earl grey and lavender.  Which were all great. 

We ended the day with a stroll trough the St. Nicholas Market, which is so pretty and they sell loads of street food. From vegan cakes to falafel wraps. The smells were incredible, unfortunately we just had our lunch. After we had big shopping session at the Cabot Circus Shopping mall and dinner at the Italian place Zizzi. 

Mango & Pistachio Chocolate Bark

When I was still in high school, I had a friend who sometimes made me a "chocolate pizza", basically a huge chocolate bar with loads of toppings on it, like M&Ms, oreo, cookie crumble, peanuts etc. I was absolutely obsessed with it, but haven't had it in years. Last weekend, I decided to give it my own twist, and came up with a mango and pistachio chocolate "pizza", or chocolate bark. It is so good that it is addictive. Plus, it brings all my childhood memories back.

The dried mango works so, so well on chocolate. It makes it a bit chewy and so sweet, it is perfect in combination with dark chocolate. The pistachio nuts make it a bit more crunchy, gives it a little bit of a bite and texture. The coconut flakes are just a nice extra and the salt tickles another taste spectrum, so it is not sweet on sweet on sweet.

Ingredients
- 1/2 cup pistachio nuts
- 1/2 cup dried mango, chopped
- 1/4 cup coconut flakes
- 7 ounces good quality dark chocolate
- 3,5 ounces good quality white chocolate
- Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Line a baking tray with baking paper
  2. Melt the dark chocolate until smooth and spread it in an even layer over the baking tray. Melt the white chocolate in the same way and pour this over the dark chocolate, run a knife trough it to make a desired marble effect.
  3. Scatter the chopped mango, coconut flakes and pistachio nuts over the chocolate, pressing them in a little to make it "stick". Sprinkle a tiny bit of salt over the top as well.
  4. Put the whole tray in the fridge for at least 1 hour. When completely harden you can break them up in uneven, big chunks and store them in a container in the fridge. 

What would you love to have on your chocolate pizza?

Family recipe: Masala Chicken

3/28/2019

The recipe that I am sharing with you today, lies very close to my heart, since it is a family recipe of Masala chicken that has been made for generations. This is not your typical chicken masala, it is different from the Indian curries that we know, but it is honestly so much better. The chicken almost falls off the bone, the sauce is packed with flavour, and the best thing is that it is made within 20 minutes. It's been in my family for generations for a reason.

Also, please tell me that you have seen Peaky Blinders, I am obsessed! Tommy Shelby is officially my new man crush.  I know that I am a little bit late to the party, but I recently got introduced and could not stop watching it ever since. Only six episodes in and I already completely understand why this man got the Peaky Blinders cast tattooed on his entire back. The cinematography is mind-blowing and there are so many diverse characters in this show. 
Peaky Blinders gives you a great sense of what Birmingham (UK) is like after the first world war. We follow a family that is known as the Peaky Blinders, who are all about power and money. A police man out of town is looking to stop this family, but that does not seem easy. 

The last time that I was this obsessed with a tv-series, was when I started watching Outlander, which is about Claire, a married nurse from 1945, who is swept back in time to Scotland in 1743. She is forced to marry Jamie Fraser, a young Scottish warrior (hello, man crush #2), their relationships makes Claire choose between two vastly different men in two different lives.
I was so obsessed with Outlander, that I actually went to Scotland for a few days, to attend a fan club weekend and travel all their film-sets. It was an amazing experience, since I got to meet the cast and walk around in the most beautiful handmade, 17th century inspired dress. 

Also, I have finished the series Dirty John a couple weeks ago. If you liked You, then you should definitely give Dirty John a go. Based on a true story and that makes it far more mind blowing and well, kinda scary. My mom recommended it to me one evening, and two days later I was done with the whole show already. The storyline was so unpredictable and it kept me hooked. Connie Britton was fantastic as Deb and the storytelling was phenomenal. Each episode was a rollercoaster and I was definitely shocked at the end. Highly recommend if you're looking for a new series to binge watch.

Something I have been making a lot recently is a recipe that has been in my family for decades. It is a special version of masala chicken, that my grandma used to make me whenever I came over to her place and my mom made it almost on a weekly basis.

Since I live on my own, I had to give it a go and make it myself. It took me a lot of practise and experimenting, but I finally got the hang of it and almost made it taste like I was home again. This recipe only takes 20 minutes maximum for me to make, and since I cook it in big batches, I will have enough chicken for the whole week. Which makes this a very cheap recipe as well.

I gave this recipe my own personal twist by adding Garam Masala powder, coriander on top and loads of ginger. The ginger combines the flavours in this dish, because, let me tell you, it is PACKED with so much flavour. I usually serve it with plain, white rice and some sautéed vegetables on the side.  

Family recipe: Masala Chicken


Ingredients
- 1kg chicken drumsticks
- 1 1/2 tbs tomato puree
- 1 1/2 tbs Kicap Manis
- 1tbs curry powder
- 1tbs garam masala powder
- 1 red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 1/2 inch ginger, minced
- beef stock cube
- 1tbs coconut oil (or any other oil)
- Black pepper and salt
- 1 1/2 cup boiling water

For assembling 
- Coriander
- Sesame seeds
- Rice

Method
  1. In a large wok, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, and cook until the onion to get golden and soften. Add the beef stock cube and break it up. Stir until the onion is coated.
  2. Add the tomato puree, Kicap Manis, curry and garam masala powder, some pepper and salt. Stir until it is all combined and leave it for 2 minutes. Add the boiling water and stir until all incorporated.
  3. Add the chicken in the pan, cover the wok and let it steam for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, turn the chicken around and reduce the heat to medium.
  4. Leave the chicken on for about 15 minutes. If needed, you can add some more boiling water. Serve warm, with rice. 

Do you have a typical family recipe?
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