One, Big China

China is pretty big. 

It covers a very diverse area, and the people from different areas are very diverse. Even beyond Hong Kong and Taiwan the concept a single unified China is something I struggled to get my head around. Our guides would often reference dynasties from hundreds of years ago and say “they unified all of China.” 

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Historic, since 1982

China is old.

They have a recorded history going back quite a while. Though there ██████ are some notable ██████ blank spots ██████ in that history.

We visited a lot of places that were very old, or at least were old at some point. China seems to have a new found pride in its history, or █████ at least █████ parts of ████ it.

On the way to the Great Wall we visited the Ming Tombs. Our guide explained that a number of the tombs were destroyed during the cultural revolution. What was left hadn’t been completely excavated.

Ming Tombs
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China – Part 1 – Food and shopping

I studied Chinese in high school, all the way to year 12, though I barely remember any now. I’ve eaten with chopsticks since I was a kid. I just remember chopsticks being in the cutlery drawer with everything else, like the little cake forks you use to eat cake. They’ve always just been there.

Forbidden City, Beijing.

I’ve been to Hong Kong a few times, either as a 3 or 4 day stop over going to or from somewhere else, or for around a week with the school band, I played the bass clarinet. But I had never made it to mainland China.

Dad had been interested in going for years. Dad convinced mum to go by organising the trip through an agent with dedicated guides and drivers each day to take us around.

This was a very good idea.

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Nuuksio – Finland

After spending a couple of days in Helsinki I figured I had rested my ankle enough, and I wanted to head a little way out of the city. I installed the local Helsinki public transport app on my phone, and asked Google Maps for directions. Nuuksio (which I still have no idea how it is pronounced) was two busses away. I knew I didn’t want to be trying to get back to Helsinki in the dark, so I set out quite early in the morning, in the dark.

One of the best investments I made. Spiky things for my boots.
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Chasing Aurora

One of the things I was most eager for on this trip was a chance to see the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. There are also the aurora australis or southern lights that occasionally pop up in the south of Tasmania, but due to geography and physics, they aren’t nearly as strong or prevalent.

When booking the holiday I looked around to find a guide to take me out to hunt the aurora. There were some options for self supported cabins in the far north of Finland, but that seemed a bit much. I found a guide, Thomas, who operated out of a town called Oulu, about halfway up Finland on the coast, that seemed to be a good compromise. I booked two nights, the theory being if we don’t have good weather on one of the nights I would get a second chance the next day.

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