China is a country which I never thought I would have the luxury to travel to, as it is very isolated and can be difficult to travel. And being from the UK I do not speak a word of Chinese and they do not speak a word of English. But after visiting for a week I can tell you, I am dying to go back to as I only saw a tiny fraction of this massive country. I was lucky enough to partake in the Lishui international photography festival through my university as we are paired with a school in Hangzhou and with them did a collaborative project which was featured in the show. This alone was a once in a lifetime opportunity to have my work displayed in China and to make it even better have the chance to work with a student from China just made the experience even better.
We were extremely lucky with our trip as after visiting Cambodia a few months before and constantly jetting off before I couldn't really afford this trip. But when we were told that the school which we were working with were paying for the prints and our hotel whilst in Lishui, I just couldn't say no. As although it was still an expensive trip it was a lot cheaper than it could have been, as we only had to pay for our flights, visas, one night stay in Hangzhou, trains and the odd bit of food. But we often ate at the hotel which was we were given vouchers for. Which obviously made everything much cheaper, and the food at the hotel was good! Although all my friends judged me for having noodles for breakfast (when in Asia).
We flew from London Heathrow terminal 5 to Shanghai Pu Dong terminal 2 flying with British Airways, this was a simple and comfortable flight. Furthermore travelling from Farnham to Heathrow was easy another as we had to get the train from Farnham to Woking and then the Heathrow express from Woking to Heathrow which stopped at all of the terminals. One thing which surprised me was immigration as it was surprisingly easy as they did a visa check at Heathrow before we handed in our luggage and before boarding, although this might seem accessive it was needed as I was super worried about the visas as applying for a Chinese visa is something which I did not find that easy (or cheap) but I will write that all in another blog post. Once we landed in China I realised that they really don't have social media which was bizarre as they still allow you to get the notifications so it almost teases you. After being allowed into the country and gaining a new stamp (it is the small things which excite me) we headed to the coach station which is in the airport and boarded the bus heading towards the train station this cost us around 30¥ and the journey took around an hour. When we arrived at the train station I was surprised that they did a passport check, but your passport number is on your ticket so make sure keep your passport close to hand until you're through the train security as they also put your bags through the x-ray machines. From here we grabbed some food and struggled with chopsticks for the first time of many times before we boarded the bullet train towards Lishui, this train journey alone amazed me, the organisation is amazing compared to the trains in Britain as you are not guaranteed a seat but in China, everyone had a seat and they were spacious seat and because everyone had a seat it didn't feel claustrophobic as everyone had a space.
Sadly I cannot remember the name of the hotel which we stayed at as I did not have to book it so did not make note of it, but it was close to the centre of town and a nice hotel, basic but nice and I had no issues with the hotel what so ever and would happily stay there again. The festival itself was an amazing experience and something which I never imagined I would get to partake in, I was also shocked by the sheer size of it as it took over the town! We were given special lanyards and tickets which got us into all the events one of my personal favourites was the opening festival which was filled with traditional Chinese dancing which was memorising.
On our day off from the festival, we headed up to Dongxi Rock which was probably the highlight of my trip! This was the most beautiful place I think I have ever been to, like the views on the walk were beyond your imagination. From the way, the mist hung to the trees to the pagodas it was a dream and something which I had always dreamt of seeing but never thought I would be so lucky. Although the walk was tiring it was worth every step, and something which I would do again in a heartbeat!
Overall my experiences in Lishui and Dongxi were beyond compare and I would do it all again in a second if I could, this was the perfect starter into China and we still had Hangzhou to visit and technically Shanghai although we only did the airport and train station. Until the next month, Ashleigh xx Here is the discount code, to give you £15 off your first trip over £55. www.airbnb.co.uk/c/ashleighh1808