Sitting down to write this blog post has made me realise two things. Firstly, this year I have travelled to almost as many countries as I did in 2016 and I wasn’t even in my gap year – how crazy is that?! And secondly, I have been a pretty bad travel blogger. The amount of posts I have in my drafts folder right now is laughable — but they will all eventually get published. I think (no promises, hey?)
The first place 2017 took me to was none other than China with my family, where we revisited my hometown and also explored Shanghai. I hadn’t been back to Anhui for twelve years so I really appreciated going back at an age where I could remember everything myself.
Shanghai was also pretty great. Again, we hadn’t been back for a long time so it was interesting to go and form my own opinion of the city. I do like Shanghai (mmm, kind of) but it really doesn’t feel like a Chinese city. So if that’s what you’re hoping for when you arrive, I’m sorry to burst your bubble. Shanghai is cosmopolitan, trendy and is very much Westernised. You feel as though you could be in any business city in any country in the world. I hope to do a few more posts on Shanghai, talking about where to go/what to do etc. this coming year.
Next up was a week-long trip Jack and I had planned for once term had ended in the summer. I had the Trinity College Commemoration Ball to go to the week after we broke up for the summer holidays, but that was at the end of the week, so I had a few days to kill 😉
We picked Lithuania because we both wanted somewhere that was slightly rogue, cheap, and a country neither of us had gone to before. Vilnius is honesty such an underrated city: there’s lots to do, it’s cheap as chips and it’s beautiful (see more photos here). Trakai Castle was magical and definitely something I’d recommend doing if you ever take a visit.
From Vilnius, we took a €12 coach to Riga in Latvia – definitely something worth considering when visiting either country as it’s so convenient! When planning our trip, Jack and I were both stuck on which city/country to go to; taking a coach meant we could do both in one go.
Highlights of the very short time we were in Riga were splashing out on a restaurant which didn’t have a set menu (it was really good), and spending our last evening watching the sun set in a rooftop bar. We sipped on Latvian cocktails and lauged at the fact we were ridiculously under-dressed (the bar charged men for entry, sorry Jack).
Just four days later I found myself on a coach to Amsterdam, clearly still under the spell of Wanderlust. It was a completely spontaneous trip and we only had 12 hours to get as much done as humanly possible. It reminds me of the time I booked a trip to Poland the day before catching the flight last Christmas.
In 12 hours, I think we did a damn good job. Amsterdam, I’ll be back soon!
China (again!) + Inner Mongolia
I spent a total of five weeks in China over the summer holidays: just under two weeks were spent travelling and the remaining three were spent on the Study China programme at ZheJiang University. I flew to Beijing after five years and remembered why I hadn’t been back (not really a fan), and I also went to a province that few people in China have been to, let alone us foreigners: Inner Mongolia!
How I ended up planning a trip to Inner Mongolia is actually a crazy story, but let’s save that for another time. Inner Mongolia isn’t somewhere anyone would think of visiting (it definitely wasn’t this high up on my radar at the time of going), but it really should be. While it’s practically impossible to go if you know no Mandarin, there are tour companies that travel there.
I saw one of the best sunrises I’ve seen in my entire life, hiked numerous hills (the Chinese like the call them mountains), rode a Mongolian horse into the sunset and slept in a Mongolian yurt, and I climbed onto a hotel roof to watch the sunset (something I’ve always wanted to do). Inner Mongolia was one of my highlights of 2017 because it will be one of the most unusual and unique places I will ever have been to in my entire life.
I also lived in Zhejiang for three weeks whilst studying on the programme, and I’d never even visited this province before. Hangzhou is now one of my favourite Chinese cities because it has the bright lights and the city and skyscrapers, but it’s surrounded by so much natural beauty: the West Lake, dozens of nature reserves and parks, and the Wetlands.
A place that I had never even heard of but one I am so grateful to have visited. I spent a week hopping from one city to the next with Kalpak Travel in September before going back to university and it was one of the best weeks of 2017.
I can’t begin to tell you how breathtakingly stunning this country is. Head over to my post about whether Uzbekistan is the most Instagrammable place, like, ever?! And if you need some more convincing to make a trip, check out my latest Huffington Post article 😉
And that’s it folks! I think I’ve had a fab year of travel and I look forward to much more in 2018!
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Peace and love,