Year Abroad

My Guide to Wuhan

Last year I was on my year abroad in Wuhan, China studying Chinese language for a year. Before I left I didn’t really know too much about the city. Wuhan is not very well known internationally, so there are not many guides on what to do there. After living there for a year I feel I know the place quite well, so here is my guide to Wuhan. Maybe it will come in handy for the next lot of CCNU Portsmouth students. 🙂

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The city

If you like Chinese history and politics Wuhan is a very interesting place to visit. If anyone has seen the Netflix show Marco Polo, they mention the place “Wuchang” frequently in the first season – there was a great battle there between the Chinese and the Mongols. Today, Wuchang is part of the city of Wuhan. In fact, Wuhan (武汉) is made up of three former smaller cities: Wuchang (武昌), Hanyang (汉阳) and Hankou (汉口), which grew together due to population rise and formed one big city. As of 2013 Wuhan’s population is 10 million, making it the largest city in Central China. It is also the capital of Hubei (湖北) province. The Yangtze and Han rivers intersects in the city, dividing it into three parts all with unique sights. Due to the rivers’ intersection marking the centre of the city, Wuhan doesn’t really have one city centre like most other cities does. Instead everything is kind of spread around, and each area of the city has its own little centre.

Historically, Wuhan was founded more than 3,500 years ago. The Chinese film Red Cliff tells the tale about a battle that happened between three different Chinese kingdoms. This battle happened right outside of Wuhan, in Chibi. Wuhan was the setting for the Kuomingtang’s nationalist opposition lead by Chiang Kai-shek, and it was wartime capital in 1937 when the Japanese ruled parts of China.

So even thought the city is not that famous, lots has happened here!

Sights

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Tingtao Park

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Tingtao Park

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Cherry Blossoms at Wuhan University

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Cherry Blossoms at Wuhan University

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Cherry Blossoms at Wuhan University

East Lake

Possibly the most well-known sight in Wuhan. This area of over 80km² offers beautiful flowers in spring, such as cherry blossoms and lotus. Every spring thousands of people flock to Wuhan University’s campus which is located right by the lake to see streets filled with cherry blossoms. By another part of the lake you find shopping area Chu River and Han Street (Han Jie for short). This is one of the more modern shopping areas in Wuhan, with international brands such as H&M and Bershka. There is even an M&S there, which became my saviour on my year abroad! Han Jie is also home to Wuhan Madame Tussauds Museum.

Surrounding the lake is also many parks with different attributes such as Mo Hill with it’s temple overlooking the lake, Tingtao Scenic Area, Forest Park, and Wuhan Botanical Garden. You can also find fun park Happy Valley and Hubei Provincial Museum next to the lake.

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Yellow Crane Tower

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Yellow Crane Tower

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View from Yellow Crane Tower

The Yellow Crane Tower (黄鹤楼)

This historic building dating back to year 223 AD (current version built in 1981) overlooks the Yangtze River and has the most famous view of the city. Entering the tower area you pass by the tower park, gardens, statues, and some other pagodas before reaching the Yellow Crane Tower and the view.

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Fruit drinks at Hubu Alley

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Coconuts!

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Trying sugar glazed strawberries at Hubu Alley

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Eating frog!

Hubu Alley

The main snack street of Wuhan. Located right next to the Yangtze River bend in Wuchang, one of my favourite things to do in Wuhan was to head to Hankou, take the ferry over to Wuchang and end up right next to the Changjiang Bridge and Hubu Alley. On a clear day the sunset from there is really nice to watch, and you can try all kinds of snacks in the snack street such as reganmian, soup dumplings, frogs, fruit drinks, and more.

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Stairs leading up to Qingchuange

Dayu Myth Park and Qingchuange

This part tells the tale of Yu the Great who stopped the flooding of the Yangtze River in Wuhan, and is home to protective animals who will ensure it does not happen again. Qingchuange is an old temple pass, now it stands above a busy road but is still quite an interesting sight.

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Guiyuan Temple

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Guiyuan Temple

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Baotong Temple

Temples

Like most Chinese cities, Wuhan is home to many Buddhist, Daoist, and Conficuan temples. The most famous temple in Wuhan is Guiyuan Temple in Hanyang. Personally, my favourite temple in Wuhan is Baotong Temple located in Wuchang (not far from CCNU!). It is a lot more colourful, and it is built upwards on a hill, so you can see the view of the area. When you reach the top there is a very old pagoda which you can climb to the top of. The climb is not easy, and when I did it I was scared I was going to fall on my face, however it was such a cool experience.

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Gardens at Hubei Museum

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Performance at Hubei Museum

Museums

All state owned museums in China are free (and closed on Mondays). Private museums may charge a fee, but usually not too much. The Hubei Provincial Museum is the most famous museum in Wuhan, along with Hubei Museum of Art located next door. These two are a must to visit, and often have interesting exhibitions on display. Next to Guiyuan Temple lies the Wuhan Stone Museum (private), which has an incredible collection of stones from jade to amber and amethyst. Wuhan is also home to several war memorial museums such as the 1911 Uprising Museum, and Wuhan Museum, but sadly I never got to visit those.

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Zhongshan Park roller coaster area

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View from Zhongshan Park ferris wheel

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Sun Yat-sen statue at Zhongshan Park

Parks

The Chinese love spending their spare time in parks dancing, enjoying the sunshine, and renting boats to go on the lakes. Wuhan has a few parks as well! Zhongshan Park is fun because it has roller coasters you can go on.

Shopping

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The model of Notre Dame in Guanggu

Optics Valley (Guanggu)

Located in Wuchang, not too far from CCNU by underground, this is the largest shopping area I have ever been to. One of the shopping centres has several hundred shops. It’s so big if you find something you like I advise you to purchase it straight away, you probably won’t find the same shop ever again. Here you can also find international shops like C&A, H&M, Forever 21, and supermarket chain Carrefour.

Behind the shopping centre are some themed streets like German Street and Spanish Street. They have a model of Notre Dame, and it’s a very cool place!

Hankou

Hankou is home to the largest pedestrian street in Wuhan. We would always go here for SUPER CHEAP EVERYTHING SHOPS Miniso and Mumuso. These shops became my life. From this area you can easily get down to the river and take the ferry across to Wuchang, very nice thing to do!

To Eat

Suggesting restaurants in China is very difficult for three reasons:
1. Places look so dodgy.
Me and my friends’ favourite restaurant whilst we were there was in a place very difficult to come buy, and we only knew about it because our friend lived right next to it. I don’t even know the name of the street, and even if I did, nobody would ever believe it was the best place ever because it looks like a place you should never even go in to. But it had the best home made Chinese food I have ever tasted. But even if I told you it was great, and you went there, and saw what it looked like, there is just no way you would go inside, haha.

Like, this is it….:

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2. Restaurants come and go so quickly. A place that was there yesterday can easily be gone tomorrow, so it is very difficult for me who is not there now to say what will be there in a week.

3. I don’t know any restaurant names. We would refer to them as “the dumpling place” and “the ramen place”. Seriously.

But, I will do my best and recommend some that I do know!

On the CCNU Campus

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Enjoying some ramen

Chinese-Dumplings

Dumplings!

On campus is a place called Cultural Street, which is packed with places to eat. Since we didn’t have proper kitchens in our dormitory, this is where we ate most of meals. In the morning I would go down the hill and buy reganmian or dumplings from the women selling breakfast. And for lunch and dinner we would go Kebab Kingdom when we wanted something very savoury (my usual was the chicken shish kebab), or “the ramen place” next to Kebab Kingdom. There is also a dumpling place with the loveliest dumpling guy ever, and I could never even understand what he was saying, but he would always smile and wave and after being there twice he knew our order.

Off campus

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Dumplings in the food hall

The food halls

Food halls are a big thing in China. They are usually a bit hidden places, where you go inside and you come to a massive hall with tables in the middle, and many mini kitchens around cooking everything you can imagine. These places are great. You can get so many nice things here, for very cheap. In Wuhan, there were two main ones we would go to regularly.

The closest one to CCNU lies next to Guangbutun underground station Exit J. When you walk out of the exit, keep going straight ahead. Go past the McDonalds, past the Bank of China, and shortly you see some stairs going down into a hall and you can see the chairs. It’s behind a bus stop, if I remember correctly. They serve the best vegetable dumplings down there, and it is soooo cheeeeeeeap.

The next one is in Zhongnan Road and it’s a bit fancier. Get out at Exit D2, and walk straight ahead until you see a shopping centre called Suning, next to a cake store. There is a side door with some stairs going down. Here you can get proper meals like rice bowls with meat and veggies, noodle soups and other stuff. I used to go to this one place where they had little bowls of sides, and you’d get some rice with it. It was yummy.

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Guobaorou (top) and other Chinese dishes

“The Pork Place”

Like I said… I don’t know many names of places. This place is in Jiedaokou. From the CCNU campus, walk straight ahead past Exit B of the underground station, cross the road so your are in the Exit C side, but don’t go towards Exit C, just keep going straight for a few minutes and then you find this place. You can recognise it because it has a little kiosk right inside the door to the right, where they sell bottles of Coke and stuff. It has the best guobaorou I have ever eaten. Guobaorou is pork fried in sticky rice flour and has a slight corianderish flavour to it. It’s very tasty! They also have other classic Chinese dishes.

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My Kazakh class mate enjoying a little too much BBQ

Chinese BBQ

In China, you can go to restaurants where they have barbecues on the tables, and you just go grab whatever you want and grill it on your table, buffet style. It is so much fun, and very social. If you are at the CCNU campus, walk towards Guangbutun, and cross the first walking bridge you come to. Take left, and you will see a red door with a lift. Take the lift upstairs and you hit a massive BBQ buffet place. You pay close to £4 and you can eat and drink as much as you want, including meat, veggies, cut fruit, cake, ice cream, and alcohol!

Aloha Restaurant

This place is quite far away, but it’s super nice. It’s located in Hanyang, and I’m not so sure that many students from CCNU knows about this place. Aloha is run by a woman from Hawaii and they serve proper American food. It is definitely the most expensive place I have been to in Wuhan, and I’m talking England prices here. But it was worth it. It is located in French Street, which I believe will be a quite up and coming area in the city once the new tube opens. (When I left Wuhan summer 2015 you could not really get to it because the main road was closed off since they were building a new underground. Hopefully it is open now!)

Brussels Bar

Belgian bar and restaurant in Hankou. Has the best steak I had whilst in Wuhan!

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Outside Chicony

Chicony

Chicony is a shopping centre in Jiedaokou, next to the CCNU campus. Inside the shopping centre you can find many nice places to dine such as Bellagio which serves Chinese food, Grandma’s Kitchen which has the best American style burgers, and the best Indian place in Wuhan on the top floor.

 

Transportation

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The underground use chips instead of paper tickets!

Getting around in Wuhan is quite easy once you know where you are going. They are currently extending the underground lines every day, and in the not so distant future you will be able to go all the way to the airport by tube. The underground currently has three lines, which can take you pretty much anywhere. The underground has information in English and is very international friendly.

Going by bus is easy if you know where you are going, but only if you speak Chinese. There is no information in English of the bus routes. Whilst in China I only knew about three busses, and they kept changing them all the time. The good thing about the bus is you get to see more of the city than if you were on the tube.

Going by taxi is very cheap, however you need to have the address of where you are going in Chinese. Many drivers don’t speak English!

Hope this made you want to visit Wuhan! Sorry it became so long. Any questions I will try and answer to my best abilities ^_^

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Portsmouth, Year Abroad

Going back to Portsmouth

As we didn’t have Christmas Break this year we’ve just had a month off to celebrate Chinese New Year. Five amazing weeks! I kicked off my holiday with a trip back to Portsmouth. The flight from Wuhan via Hong Kong to London seemed to take forever, and when I finally landed it was a very emotional moment. After six months in China I was incredibly happy to be back on English grounds.

Arriving back in Portsmouth was so strange. The whole city seemed much smaller than it did a year ago, probably due to Wuhan being such a big city I’m just not used to the smaller ones anymore. It was nice to walk the familiar streets of the uni campus again and to see people around that I recognised. Of course I headed straight to the Student Union once I was back, for a snakebite and a catch-up with my friends!

I stayed in the UK for two weeks of my holiday. A few days after I arrived in Portsmouth I went on an overnight trip to Brighton. This was my first time in Brighton, and I must say I fell in love with the Pier area straight away. People were not joking when they told me Brighton is nice. We were lucky with the weather when we were there and I got to witness a really nice sunset from the beach while watching a massive flock of birds playing on the sky. Incredible! I also saw some of the other famous sights of the city, like The Lanes, The Royal Pavilion, and Hove. I also dropped by the village of Angmering on the way back to Portsmouth. Back in Norway I grew up watching English crime series on TV and have always had a thing for cute English villages, and Angmering fits the description of a stereotypical English village perfectly.

Back in Portsmouth I spent most days catching up with different friends and eating my favourite foods. As I don’t have a kitchen in my halls in China it was nice to finally cook again! I appeared on Pure.fm with two of the other student bloggers. I had never been on the radio before and I really enjoyed it. I was quite nervous before I went on because I always giggle when I’m in front of a camera so I thought I would do the same on the radio. But it went alright! I also ran for the position of President of the University of Portsmouth Cinema Society for when I return next year, and I got it! So happy! I was Vice President of the society last year, and I’m excited to be on committee again next year. Hopefully I will make a decent President and not screw it up!

My two weeks in Portsmouth went by so quickly, and I had such a great time. I even got to celebrate Valentine’s Day, have Sunday Roast and see the annual Chinese New Year Show in King’s Theatre. Thank you for everyone who made my two weeks a great stay and I can’t wait to be back 100% in September.

The next two weeks of my holiday I spent traveling around China, which I is what my next post will be about!

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Year Abroad

Celebrating the Holidays Abroad

We didn’t get any days off for Christmas this year because they don’t celebrate it here in China. So both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I had normal classes with dictations and homework. It wasn’t too bad, though, some of my classmates wore a Santa hat and in one of our lessons we did presentations in Chinese on how we celebrate Christmas (or New Year’s Eve for people of other cultures) in our home countries, it was really nice. We also did a class Secret Santa and I received a lovely candle holder from my Kazakh classmate. On Christmas Day my friends and I got together for a little Christmas party in my friends flat. It’s really cool to get to know so many people from all over the world. New friends pop up weekly from other countries and it’s always great fun.

For me, my biggest fear of the holiday was New Year’s Eve. We had five days off for this occasion and I was afraid I would get in a lazy mood and miss my friends and boyfriend back in Portsmouth too much. I’m happiest when I travel and explore new places so I decided I wanted to go somewhere fun to celebrate. So on the 30th of December three of my friends and I flew off to Hong Kong!

Hong Kong and Mainland China are like two different worlds. China is not a bad place, but Wuhan is one of those cities that has recently seen effects of the rising Chinese economy, and the whole city is undergoing a revamp. It’s a bit difficult to explain what it is like here without having seen it yourself, but believe me when I say Hong Kong and China are not the same. Going to Hong Kong was like coming back to Earth after five months on Mars. Open Internet access, ocean, cleaner air and the fact that everything was so organised. You can really tell that the British has had an influence in developing the place, they even had Cadbury chocolates!

We saw many of the major sights of Hong Kong, and we even went on a day trip to former Portuguese colony Macau. It was so strange to know I was still on Chinese territory but here is a little part of it that looks just like a European village where they all speak Portuguese.

The countdown to 2015 we spent standing on a rooftop in Hong Kong watching the fireworks. The new year started off quite well and I hope it will be a good year. Happy New Year everyone!

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Year Abroad

Wuhan Update

Days here in Wuhan are going by so quickly, I can’t believe we’re almost in the middle of December already! I’m guessing all of you back in Portsmouth are finishing off your essays for the year and preparing to go back home for Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Meanwhile, I will have Chinese class on Christmas Day and be preparing for my exams in January. Might sound awful to have classes during Christmas time, but to be honest they don’t really celebrate Christmas here and there is nothing here reminding me of Norwegian Christmas so my Christmas spirit is non-existing. We do, however, have five days off for New Year’s! And yesterday three of my friends and I booked a trip to Hong Kong (and Macau)! New Year’s Eve in Hong Kong, I’m buzzzzzing! And just a month later I’ll start my one month holiday and go back to Portsmouth for two weeks. Exciting times ahead!

Even though we have a lot of homework and are busy studying, we do have some free time to explore the city and do some activities. Wuhan is home to 8 million people, so it’s quite big here with lots of things to see and do:

Shopping:
Wuhan has a lot of shopping areas, so there are plenty of shops to pick from. I really like Hanjie shopping street and Optics Valley. Hanjie even has a Madame Tussaud!

Madame Tussaud, Hanjie

Madame Tussaud, Hanjie

Wuhan Provincial Museum:
The university organised a class field trip to Wuhan Provincial Museum, home to the local and Chinese history. Even the outside is worth a visit, the museum was so pretty with the garden in front of it.

Wuhan Provinical Museum

Wuhan Provinical Museum

Music performance at Wuhan Provinical Museum

Music performance at Wuhan Provinical Museum

View from Wuhan Provinical Museum

View from Wuhan Provinical Museum

The garden of Wuhan Provinical Museum

The garden of Wuhan Provinical Museum

Celebrations:
We’ve done a few celebrations here already. Halloween, Thanksgiving, my birthday and some of my friends’ birthdays. For Halloween we all dressed up and went to a karaoke party with my friend’s (who is a teacher) students, who are all Chinese. They got to practice English and we practiced our Chinese. A lot of fun!
I celebrated Thanksgiving this year with my American friends. We had no turkey or Indians, but still managed to have a good time.
My birthday we went out for dinner and out to a bar. A lot of fun, too.

Halloween

Halloween

My birthday

My birthday

My birthday

My birthday

Thanksgiving Meal

Thanksgiving Meal

Visiting temples:

Everywhere you go in China you will find temples of different sizes and characteristics, also in Wuhan. The most famous temple in Wuhan is called Guiyuan Temple, however my favourite temple so far is Baotong Temple, just one metro stop away from the CCNU campus. Baotong Temple is very colourful, it’s built upwards on a hill and at the top is a tall, narrow pagoda which you can climb from the inside.

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Guiyuan Temple

Baotong Temple

Baotong Temple

Inside the Baotong pagoda

Inside the Baotong pagoda

Rollercoasters in Zhongshan Park:
Zhongshan Park is one of the major parks in Wuhan, and it has a small theme park inside where you can ride roller coasters all day long. I’ve been there twice now and it’s a lot of fun! Just maybe avoid going there in the weekends and holidays, it gets very busy.

Zhongshan Park

Zhongshan Park

Zhongshan Park

Zhongshan Park

Chinese Opera Mask Painting:

Our university has a kind of society which organises events for international students, and one of them was to paint our own masks Chinese Opera style. Chinese Opera is nothing like Western Opera. It’s actually more like a theatrical play or show than an opera. It has different characters, a lot of costumes, mask-changing, and a special kind of singing. There are also different kinds of opera depending on where you are in the country. My favourites will have to be Beijing Opera and Sichuan Opera and I would love to go see it sometime.

Mask painting

Mask painting

Here is a short video about Beijing Opera:

Exploring the Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge Area:

In the heart of Wuhan lies the Yangtze river, and the view and scenery around here is breathtaking. The Wuhan Yangtze River Bridge is the oldest bridge crossing the Yangtze, and they say if you walk across it with your boyfriend or girlfriend you will be in love forever. My friends and I decided to walk across, have a look around in one of the parks and a temple by the riverbank, before crossing the river back by ferry. It was such a great day, Wuhan is so pretty in the nice weather if you go to the right places.

Yangtze River Bridge

Yangtze River Bridge

Yangtze River Bridge

Yangtze River Bridge

Yangtze River Bridge - View of the Yellow Crane Tower

Yangtze River Bridge – View of the Yellow Crane Tower

on the ferry

On the ferry

Dayu Myth Park

Dayu Myth Park

Temple by Yangtze River Bridge

Temple by Yangtze River Bridge

Yangtze River Bridge

Yangtze River Bridge

I think at the end of the year I will write a proper student guide to the best places in Wuhan. I hope you will all enjoy your Christmas and eat some roast on my behalf.

– Marie

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Uni Life

Greetings from China

Choosing to study abroad can be one of the biggest most life-changing decision a person can make. For me it was completely random. As a Norwegian I had no intention to study abroad (or in England), it sort of just happened. One day I was browsing through the internet, as you do, and suddenly found myself looking at universities abroad. I knew I wanted to study Chinese and quickly discovered that at University of Portsmouth I was able to study International Relations AND Chinese. I applied, and a few weeks later a lovely woman phoned me saying I had been accepted. I was moving to England!

When I stepped off the airplane in September 2012 it was actually my first time in the UK. I spent a few days exploring London before heading down to Portsmouth. The first thing that struck me was how flat it is! And I love the cute brick houses, we don’t have those in Norway. I was very shy to speak English at first, but quickly adapted to a very English accent and people could no longer tell that I am Norwegian. My first year in university was exciting. I lived in Margaret Rule Halls, met some amazing people, joined some societies… It was a lot to take in, so many new impressions, but I never regretted my decision of moving abroad.

My second year was even better, if possible. As you can’t live in Halls second year I moved into a student house in Southsea with four of my friends. I became the Vice President of the Cinema Society, and kept myself busy arranging socials every week, keeping up with my friends, and, of course, studying hard towards my degree. I met so many amazing people in my second year, much thanks to my involvement with the Students’ Union! At the end of the year I really didn’t want to leave.

And now I’m in my third year. Yet again I have moved countries because this year I am on my year abroad in Wuhan, China. I’m here for one year studying a very intensive Chinese course at Central China Normal University. So far it’s all good. I live in the International Students’ Dormitory with students from all over the world. My Chinese is improving rapidly and it’s great to be so close to the Chinese people and culture. One thing is learning a language in your home country, but learning in the country of its origin is a whole other experience.

Having lived in Portsmouth for two years and now in China I have experienced both cultures and been able to travel a lot and learning so much. I believe I may have some interesting stories to tell and I want to share my tips and tricks about university as an international student with all of you new (and recurring) students at University of Portsmouth. I hope you will enjoy your year!

Here are some pictures from my time in uni so far:

Southsea Common

Southsea Common

Trip to The Needles, Isle of Wight

Trip to The Needles, Isle of Wight

Fresher's Fayre 2012

Fresher’s Fayre 2012

Snow in Portsmouth!

Snow in Portsmouth!

International Students' Dormitory in Wuhan

International Students’ Dormitory in Wuhan

Shopping in Wuhan!

Shopping in Wuhan!

Marie

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