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

© Chynna Falandt | Travel & Food Blog • Theme by Maira G.