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QingMing Festival and March Updates

One of the unexpected bonuses of using Instagram whilst in China is the way it has connected me with other people who also tag Yuyao in their posts. I recently started speaking with a girl who is from Yuyao and had recently returned from travelling. She invited me to spend Qingming Festival with her and her family in the countryside of Yuyao. Not wanting miss out on an opportunity to visit some scenic areas and spend time with a Chinese family, I snatched up the offer.

We travelled together with her elder sister and brother in law, and their very sweet son who was a little shy, but very inquisitive and curious to ask questions about England. Her grandmother’s house is in a beautiful area of Yuyao (I forget the name of the village/area) but it was surrounded by mountains and farm land and located right next to the reservoir that is the water source for all of Yuyao. The weather was gorgeous (like a warm summer’s day in England!) so after meeting the rest of the family, we had a walk around. We harvested some bamboo and some grass/leaves which I’m not sure of the name; then we all had lunch together. Her mother is a vegetarian for religious reasons, so there were lots of delicious vegetable dishes, all freshly prepared and very healthy. The whole family were extremely welcoming and I felt completely at home despite the language barrier (my friend speaks fluent English, so was translating some things for me!). It was interesting to get a glimpse into the way families eat and spend time together around national holidays- in some ways it is very different to back home, but still I could feel a common ground between their family and my family at home – the same warmth and happiness that comes from relaxing and spending time together, making conversation and eating good food.

Qingming festival (or Tomb Sweeping Day) is an occasion to pay respect to the dead, as well as being a seasonal symbol to mark the start of warmer weather and more rain- an important time for sowing seeds and ploughing the land. Before we ate lunch, everyone took turns to say prayers and pay their respects- something I am not used to back home.

After lunch we went for another walk before returning to her home and posing for a group photograph- something I suggested as a token of thanks to her grandmother (I know how much my gran loves a family photograph to look back on!), before heading on to Fenghua in search of Peach Blossom trees. It was a fairly short drive away and we arrived to a very crowded tourist area (obviously everyone had the same idea to make the most of the holiday and good weather). Still, we had a nice stroll around the peach blossoms and walked up a small mountain to get a good view (the most crowded part). The paths were packed with street food and souvenir sellers where I bought some jarred Yangmei berries preserved in sweet juice – delicious!

When we returned to the car, my friend asked if I wanted to visit Zhoushan island (just off the east coast of Ningbo) to go out for dinner. I had mentioned it to her earlier that day after talking about possible camping trips in the future, and so snatched up the offer. Her sister is a big seafood fan, and being a small island, it’s a great place to go for fresh seafood. It was a couple of hours drive and by the time we arrived it was getting dark. We found the seafood restaurant square where we chose a restaurant and ordered way too much food for 6 people. There were a lot of vegetable dishes as well as seafood, so I had a lot of choice! It was all very good and I tried some interesting vegetables that I hadn’t had before.

It was so much fun to spend the holiday with my friend and her family and in a way, made me feel like I have put down roots here (at least for the next 12 months).

I’ve also discovered some new places in Yuyao and surrounding areas. I had a lovely day out to Shaoxing a few weeks ago where I decided to take the bus/train to have a look around the city on my own. I’d read about Shaoxing before I came to China, so it was really exciting for me to visit and look around the waterways and old buildings.

I also found a beautiful area in Siming Mountains (around 30 mins away from my home by bus) where a couple of friends and I went on a short hike. The weather has been getting much warmer and more humid recently, so I want to make the most of it before it is too hot to really do much outdoors!

Anyway, here are some photographs from the past month… I still can’t believe how lucky I am to actually have the opportunity to visit these amazing places…

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