It’s the year of the pig here in China. I am a pig! I was born in the year of the pig and I certainly share some porcine attributes with my fellow piggies – I love to eat and drink and I can be a bit gluttonous! To get away from it all, I decided to take a break from the big city of Shanghai for the Chinese New Year celebration.
Sunny climates like Thailand, Vietnam or Bali are popular CNY destinations for China expats. While these vacations sound great, I went for a very cost effective and more unusual option – I headed for rural China.
A break in the country
This was my second Chinese New Year in the countryside and it was an amazing experience, rich with relaxation, healthy vegetarian food, exercise and fun. I followed my Ayi to her hometown. I promise she invited me, and that I wasn’t avoiding the responsibility of watching an active 9-month-old baby on my own 😉 Ayi is from a very small farming and industrial town in Anhui province. While driving to her hometown from Wuhu city, I could see nothing but the wide road and stars for miles. I instantly felt relaxed.
I enjoyed gazing at the pearl farms, crab farms, vegetable gardens and hundreds of chickens and ducks that surrounded me. Every evening there were vibrantly coloured fireworks across the horizon.
We spent a day hiking around a beautiful mountain. We spent hours walking through the town’s back-roads and streets. We talked with many villagers who were interested in what brought me to their town. There were old buildings, small temples and people practicing traditional Chinese New Year activities. I always ate dinner and lunch with Ayi’s family and was made to feel very welcome. Chinese hosts often order huge quantities of seafood and meat dishes to impress their guests. However, they ordered a load of vegetable dishes for my benefit. The food was fantastic but my hosts probably never want to see another vegetable in their lives!
I have written this before but it’s worth repeating – it’s amazing what can be done with vegetables and tofu here in China. Back home, vegetables usually meant sautéed in olive oil with some garlic or tomato sauce. Here, the variety is fantastic. I had sweet lotus root stuffed with rice, spicy peppers with marinated tofu and crispy rice with mushrooms in mushroom sauce. I had at least 40 different Chinese vegetable dishes during my trip. Even my baby loved the vegetables! I only took a few pictures of the gorgeous food; mostly because I was too excited about the eating and socializing part and forgot!
Back To Reality in Shanghai
I came back to Shanghai feeling well rested and relaxed, and with a new-found appreciation for the festivities of Chinese New Year and Chinese hospitality. Nearly ready to throw myself back into the fast-paced, over-stimulating, money-burning city of Shanghai! As someone who loves the big city and being busy, I’m always striving to strike a balance. Sometimes I’m successful and other times I get caught up in it all. An occasional retreat to the country can definitely help with getting the balance right. Thanks so much to Ayi & her family for such fantastic hospitality!
Until the next time,
EWS! – Jessica W.