Winters have been pretty rough in China. The air quality gets really bad, so there are weeks we don't even leave the house due to "hazardous" air. When the air quality is bad, you can just fee it! You feel sluggish, your get headaches, and the kids asthma will start to act up.
After another day stuck inside, we decided we needed to get out, so we booked train tickets that departed just 2 hours later, to Zibo, China. Zibo is a small town in our province (4.5 million, half the size of Weifang) that is about 30 minutes away by bullet train. I have many students from Zibo, and they all told me how beautiful their hometown is, and that we needed to visit one day. We booked just one night for a short getaway.
When we arrived in Zibo it was about 5 pm, we stayed at the Sheraton on the 29th floor and the kids loved the window wall with the view of the city! They also LOVED that there was a bathtub, that's their favorite part of traveling! After settling in, we were invited to the lobby by some of the staff, who gave Ellie and Grant yummy desserts. They spoke English so Grant warmed up to them well.
We decided to get out and explore, and noticed our hotel was literally connected to the biggest, nicest mall I've ever seen! There was a side door and hallway that led straight in to the mall, so we didn't even have to go out in the cold! We walked around the mall and were excited to see so many Western stores, we've come across many Starbucks and burger kings, but there were 2 new stores we hadn't seen yet in China! Toys r Us and Baskin Robins! It as so fun to see (and smell) something familiar. The rest of the night we relaxed in the hotel and the kids took a nice long bath.
The next morning after breakfast, we went to the Thousand Buddha temple in Zhoucun and the Zhoucun Ancient City. The temple was absolutely amazing! Out of respect we didn't take pictures, but it was something I will never forget. the building itself was very simple, just a 2 story, old, traditional Chinese building. The first floor was pretty standard. There was a golden Buddha statue with kneeling pads and incense for worship, but the upstairs is what took my breath away! Upstairs were three more large golden statues, but what caught my eye were the walls. Each wall had little Buddhas that were all hand carved and unique. Each tucked in their own hollow. Each wall must have had hundreds of tiny statues in their own hallows, it was so unique and beautiful to me!
After the temple, we walked over to the ancient city. Although not nearly as ancient as the last city we visited, it was still fun to see such old and well preserved architecture. The city was established in the early 1900s and was a big trade area, specifically silk. It had been awhile since we went to a new town and we had forgotten that we make such a scene! We had to walk through fairly quickly to avoid crowds and pictures.
We ate lunch in the ancient city and continued to look around at the different shops and vendors. By the time we had finished walking around, it was time to head back, grab dinner and go to the train station. For dinner we found a western restaurant with yummy pizza! My favorite was the thing crust cheese pizza. On top of their cheese pizza was arugula dressed in balsamic vinegar. I had never had that combination before and really loved it! We made it to the train station and home and the trip was over before we knew it! But it was so nice to just get away for a day!