This summer we were lucky enough to spend one month in South-West China in Sichuan and Yunnan province. In my day job I am a social worker for vulnerable BME children so I am aware of just how privileged my children were to have one month ago in the wilds of South-West China whilst many of the children I work with barely left their neighborhood over the holiday.
I first went to China 15 years after after graduation and went to teach English in Wuhan, Hubei province. My brother followed a short-time later and met his now wife Keng-Keng who is from Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province.
For this trip I wanted to show and introduce my daughters Malika and Ameenah, to my China favourites.....my favourite hang-outs in Chengdu,the capital of Sichuan province and Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province and and of course the sublimely beautiful scenery outside the major cities.
First stop on our journey was the amazing Panda Research Base in Chengdu, Sichuan Province which is around one hour outside Chengdu. We organised a trip through the Chengdu Lazybones Hostel Templeside Poshpacker, which is a great hostel and located a five minute walk from one of Chengdu's major tourist sites, the Wenshu Monastery.
The girls absolutely adored the pandas and they especially loved the baby pandas!! This is such an amazing place to visit in Chengdu but it is best to arrive early as the crowds after midday are phenomenal.
New born pandas!
I love this photo of Malika and Ameenah - this is typical comedy Ameenah!
The People's Park, Chengdu
人民公园, 成都市Malika and Ameenah adored the People's Park in Chengdu and I was delighted to take them and show them the many delights inside as this was a favourite hangout of mine when I lived in Chengdu 14 years ago! (Oh my i feel so old!!!)
The girls loved the ancient sugar art lollies; they loved spinning the wheel to choose their animal, they loved watching the hot sugar spun into wonderful shapes, and they loved eating them!
Ameenah and her 蝴蝶 ! (butterfly - hudie)
The girls loved watching the ancient art of Chinese water calligraphy in the park and watching the characters appear and quickly disappear...
Everywhere we journeyed to in China we found ourselves surrounded by crowds of young and old longing to have their photos taken with Malika and Ameenah. Malika and Ameenah loved this for the most part but there were times they found the numbers of people overwhelming!
Ameenah attracted the most attention as many many folk both young and old wanted to touch her to see if she was real!! People would frequently approach Ameenah, squeeze her arm and proclaim "hen pang" which means very fat in Mandarin and is viewed as a compliment!
I love this photo of Malika deep in thought at the People's Park...
After Chengdu we headed to Emei Shan, 峨眉山, one of four Holy Buddhist mountains in China. I had climbed the mountain twice before and loved the epic three day climb to the top, sleeping in ancient Buddhist monasteries on the way. I knew that Malika and Ameenah wouldn't manage this so I planned a child friendly trip which would allow them to experience the joys and highlights of Emei Shan without undertaking a three day trek.
For the first night we stayed in the wonderful Teddy Bear Hotel in Baoguo Town which is at the bottom of Emei Shan. The girls absolutely loved the Teddy Bear Hotel (as did I!) and would have happily stayed there for the remainder of the trip!
Our room was incredible with a carved wooden teddy bear face from ceiling to floor on one side of the room....and of course the room was full of teddies!
The beef rice noodles on the breakfast menu were incredible!!
米線 - mǐxiàn
Malika and Ameenah with the brilliant "Andy" - the laoban老板 - boss - of the Teddy Bear Hotel...
Crossing a very rickety old bridge on the way up Emei Shan...
After climbing Emei Shan, we took a quick trip to Leshan to see the world's biggest Buddha. The journey from Baguo to Leshan is just over an hour which was very manageable for the girls. However there were crowds from all over mainland China in July so not the most ideal time to travel with children.
On the way back from the Buddha we stopped to eat in Leshan and once again faced huge crowds!!
The next stop was Kunming 昆明, the capital of Yunnan Province: 云南
Malika and Ameenah were delighted to meet up with Keng-Keng's grannies, Nai Nai and Po Po.
Keng-Keng is a milliner and she made these wonderful hats for her grandmothers. She has also recently made the hats for the latest Star Wars film.
The girls had so much fun meeting Keng-Keng's niece Candy and speaking Mandarin with her....
This is Baba Tang, Kengy's father, who is incredible with the girls - one of the most humble men I have ever met.
It was rainy season when we were in Kunming and Ameenah loved parading around the beautiful Green Lake with her rainbow umbrella.
I love this shot of the whole family spanning four generations and bringing together a Yunnan and Irish-Scottish-Moroccan family.
Beside the Green Lake Malika loved to swing upside down on the exercise equipment.
We also travelled to Dali, 大理, an amazing town north of Kunming, which is home of the Bai people of Yunnan. Behind the old town of Dali lies the sublimely beautiful Cangshan mountain range which we explored one day after taking a cable car to the West peak.
The girls loved enjoying the simple Yunnan pleasures on CangShan - sitting and eating delicious cold noodles. Yum!
Malika loved this traditional Bai outfit that we bought at the bottom of the mountain range.
After Dali we headed further North to an incredible town called JianChuan, 剑川.
Jianchuan is a traditional Bai town, full of artisans, stonemasons and master woodworkers.
We stayed with the local police chief (my brother had stayed there previously) in his wonderful Ming Dynasty house.
The girls loved staying here as the friendly police chief host loved teaching the girls martial arts and traditional Chinese painting!
We arrived in Jianchuan just in time for the fire festival which is mandarin is called the 火把节!!
(Huo ba jie). Once again as soon as we hit town the crowds gathered to take photos of Malika and Ameenah!
Last stop on our journey was a trip to the sublimely beautiful Tiger Leaping Gorge and Jade Dragon Snow Mountain.
I had climbed in the gorge twice before and really wanted to share the experience with Malika and Ameenah. We hired horses and off we went on our final adventure of the trip!!
I love this shot of the girls heading off on horseback into the mountains...
We stayed in an incredible guest house with the most amazing views across Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and I was really proud that the girls managed a two day trek in such an awesome landscape.
These photos of Ameenah capture the spirit of our final few days in Yunnan province!!
And a rare photo of the three of us at the top of the Gorge!