My month in the Philippines

For the latter half of August & the first half of September, I spent my time in the Philippines. I must say, of all the times I’ve been to the Philippines, this was my favorite trip. I’m assuming because I’m older and used to the Philippine climate thanks to China and Thailand. It was nice having a family reunion and seeing family I haven’t seen in years. 

We spent a little more time in Manila, than usual, but it was pretty fun. I normally hate going to Manila because of how hot, crowded and polluted it is, but this time was different. August is known as the rainy month in the Philippines and it rained about half the time we were in Manila. The traffic was terrible, but the weather was cool. Plus Uber is available for use out there so that was super convenient. While we were there, we were able to celebrate my grandma’s birthday (Dad’s mom).

After Manila, we went to visit my mom’s hometown, Dumaguete. I love being in Dumaguete because I get to ride with my cousins on their motorbikes and that’s always fun.

While in Dumaguete, we took a day trip to Sumilon Island, after swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob.

After a day in the sun on the boat and on that island, I came back so dark and sunburnt. Needless to say, all the other times I went swimming, I wore sunscreen.

Towards the end of the trip, my family and I took a trip to another island, Mindanao. It was my first time there and it was so beautiful. We were there to celebrate my Aunt’s birthday, who would’ve been 60. For one of the days spent there, there was an all day town brownout, so we spent the day at the beach. The beach was clear, but kind of green and not particularly my favorite. It was a great beach for just sitting and soaking in the sun.

Our last day on that island, we went to ‘Dakak Resort’. It was my first time there and it was so much fun! The resort is beautiful and the property is huge. By the time we checked in, it was already sunset, so we watched the sunset, had a lovely dinner and laid on the beach. 

The next morning, before breakfast, my cousin and I went jet skiing. So much fun! I’ve never been jet skiing at a beach before, but I find it way better than at a lake. The waves were choppy and we had a blast.

I had so much fun vacationing in the Philippines, but it felt so good to be back in my “home” in China.

Xo,

Pristine

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My trip to Thailand

From June 1st-June 10, I spent my time traveling to and in Thailand. All the flights I booked had me sleep overnight at the airport, so that was an experience I’ll never forget.

On my way to Thailand, my layover was in Guangzhou, China and I was swindled. My flight was already delayed and had me land in Guangzhou at 1AM, with my flight to Chiang Mai, Thailand at 8AM. I had plans to sleep in the airport since I’m not very high maintenance and don’t mind a little sleep deprivation for a day or two. Upon arrival in Guangzhou, I was looking for my next gate(mistake #1) and asked an employee what direction to go. He told me where to go, but told me it was closed and that the whole airport was going to close at 2AM so I needed to get a hotel room until 7AM, when they open back up. Looking back, I shouldn’t have even asked where my gate was because it’s not like I could’ve waited there anyway. Needless to say, I learned from that lesson and it won’t happen again.

Aside from all the travel chaos, Thailand was an absolute blast and I can’t wait to go again. While I was in Chiang Mai (Northern part of Thailand), my roommate, was in Phuket (Southern part of Thailand). It was fun coming back about 2 days apart and comparing our stories about the fun we had in Thailand. Phuket has always been on my bucket list, but it’s quite expensive (because it’s a tourist destination) from what some locals in Chiang Mai told me so I’d rather wait until I’m settled to go there.

Prior to me going to Thailand, I contacted a Chiang Mai touring agency and booked my activities for the whole time I was there. The main reason I wanted to go was to ride and play with elephants, but obviously I couldn’t do that the whole week I was there. My planning ended up a success and everyday was such a busy day, leaving me exhausted at the end of it. Just how I like my days to go.

Day 1: Arrived in Chiang Mai at noon, caught up on sleep and went to the famous “Night Bizaar” in town. It’s basically a giant shopping market that opens at night, geared towards tourists, selling all types of souvenirs, etc.

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Had my first fruit smoothie in Thailand and it was the BEST! Fresh fruit put in cups and all you do is pick the one you want and they blend it in the blender and voila, your smoothie. It was so refreshing since the weather in Thailand was SO hot. There wasn’t a day that went by I wasn’t sweating, uncontrollably.

Day 2: I booked a private car to take me to see some Tigers & Monkeys. Seeing the tigers was SO much fun!! I can’t think of any other place I can get that close, or even touch a tiger. Tiger Kingdom had 4 packages to choose from. I chose the 2nd least expensive one to see the “small” & “large” tigers. Their options were smallest, small, medium and large. My package cost about 840 baht and for a photographer was 200 baht (since I was by myself). So for about 1,000 baht, divide that by 33 and that’s how much it is in USD. That’s about $30 – totally worth the money.

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After seeing the tigers, we went to the Monkey Centre. I forgot what type of monkeys they were, but they were SO cute and so well behaved! I was impressed.

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After playing with the tigers & monkeys, I was hot and starving. My friendly tour guides took me to a local Thai restaurant by the river and it was so delicious with a wonderful view.

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Day 3: ELEPHANT day!! Just what I came to Thailand for 🙂 (They’re my favorite creature, for those who didn’t know.)

The elephant camp was about an hour away from the city of Chiang Mai, up in the mountains. It was so beautiful seeing the country-side of Thailand, reminds me so much of the Philippines.

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For the elephant camp, we were “mahouts” for the day – which is the term for an elephant trainer. All the elephants knew basic commands such as sit, kneel, go, reverse and stop. They taught us what to say while we rode them, preparing us for our ride through the jungle.

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They had two baby elephants there & they were absolutely adorable! Few things I learned about them: they don’t like pictures, they’re greedy when it comes to food, they’re clumsy, and do whatever they want.

After riding them through the jungle, we went down to the river. At the river, we swam, bathed and played with them. SO much fun!

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Day 4: Went to the #1 tourist attraction in Chiang Mai, Doi Suthep temple in the mountains.

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The evening of Day 4, I went to the Night Safari. Basically like the drive through safari in San Antonio, but you’re driven in an extended golf cart in the dark. Was able to pet a miniature horse! Their coat is so soft and they are so adorable.

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After walking around, trying to find where to go, I found a little where I could feed a baby tiger! I know I took pictures with tigers my first day, but I wasn’t able to hold them so of course I said yes! Plus, it was a white tiger. All the white tigers at Tiger Kingdom were locked up.

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Day 5: My longest, busiest day of the week. We started the day at 7AM and came home around 10pm. We went to a different city, Chiang Rai, and was also able to enter the borders of Myanmar and Laos.

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Our first stop was to this all white temple, which is privately owned by a man of Thai descent. The gold building is the bathroom. While in Chiang Rai, we were able to stop by the longneck village which I found so fascinating, as I’ve read about it in National Geographic when I was in high school.

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Day 6: Organic Thai cooking school

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We started off the morning by buying vegetables at the local market. When my instructor picked me up, she informed me that I was suppose to take the class with 2 other american girls, but they canceled last minute so I was the only student 🙂

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Day 7: Fishing!!

My first time fishing and I had a BLAST!! I caught about 15 fish from 9-5 and left there exhausted, sore and with a farmer’s tan. My smallest fish weight about 12kg while my largest weighed 35kg.

I caught two 35kg fishes that day. This one was the 2nd fish I caught in the morning which really made my day, since the others I was fishing with had fishing experience and I had none. It was a great start to my morning 🙂 — my fishing instructor had to help me hold him because he was almost 80 pounds and didn’t want me to drop him.

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Excuse my stance in these 3rd picture below, the fish got so heavy as the day went on and I just wanted a picture for a quick 5 seconds. That was my 2nd 35kg fish and it was so much heavier since I caught about 1o other fish in between the two.

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Met 2 recent high school graduates from England who were backpacking through Southeast Asia. We had a little competition to see who’s fish was heavier since we caught one at the same time. Mine was 5kg heavier 🙂

That was my week in Thailand, it was an absolute blast, but I’m glad to be back to my normal routine here in China.

Xo,

Pristine

My favorite zoo! (So far)

Last Saturday, a couple friends and I went to the zoo just down the road from us. I’ve been wanting to go since my friend Diana went last year and was able to hold a baby cheetah. It was only about a 30 minute bus ride and was the best zoo experience I’ve ever had. The zoo environment was absolutely beautiful. We did a lot of walking, with some hiking paths and inclined hills, while surrounded by mountains. The weather, as you can slightly see in the pictures was just perfect. Clear blue skies, sunny, and 73 degree weather.

I loved this zoo because they have a bridge you go on to see the “beasts” such as lions, tigers, coyotes down below. I love the concept of the zoo.

I’d have to say my favorite part about this zoo was getting able to feed almost every animal we came across. I’ve been to Houston’s zoo, but was only able to feed a giraffe. Of course over here, I would be paying the same amount to feed the animals, but in CNY.

I don’t remember the name of this little critter, but it reminded me a lot of a beaver.

Feeding a lion.

My favorite part of the zoo! Feeding/playing with the lemurs!

The deer pen.

Being in China, one thing almost everyone wants to see is a panda. I’ve been told that pandas are scarce here in China because of the male to female ratio, same with the people population. You can find a panda at the Qingdao zoo, in the city, but this zoo had a Red panda aka “the lesser panda”. The stereotypical black and white panda is known as the Great Panda. Isn’t this red panda adorable though? I’ve never heard of them prior to me seeing them, but they’re so cute.

I’m not sure if you can tell the size of the snake just by the picture, but this was the biggest snake I’ve ever touched. He was so heavy and really scared me. The keeper handled him in a way that proved to us he was harmless, but I’ve seen too many TV shows where snakes seem to be unpredictable.

Feeding a giraffe.

Xo,

Pristine

Sports Competition

This week, we had a sports competition held at our university for the students to participate in. Apparently over here, for big events like that, it’s a really big deal. They had an opening and closing ceremony in which each college had a good number of students walk, representing their college. I also participated in the opening ceremony along with several other international students representing the College of foreign languages. I really didn’t want to do it at first, but I’m glad I did. It was a great experience and was a lot of fun.

Here’s a picture of a few of us before the opening ceremony started. William & I (guy to the right of me) are the only Americans in this picture. Everyone else is either from Russia, Mongolia, Vietnam, or South Korea.

The girl in the purple dress holds the sign that lets the people know what college we’re representing and the gentleman behind her (my other friend from America) is holding the school flag, which every college also held.

Our group as we walked past the school officials.

As we walk, there are several Chinese students on the sides cheering and taking pictures, so as we walked by, we waved, smiled and chanted a friendly little American saying.

Here, we are standing listening to the school officials speak. To the left of us, you can see another college being represented. Almost all the colleges were wearing the same outfit/colors except for us since we are all from different countries and did our best to wear clothes from our country.

The picture on top is the back of our group turned around to watch the flag being raised. The picture below is the front row.

 Random pictures with friends 🙂

Kate from Russia

Fei from South Africa
Tim from Kazakhstan and Kate from Russia
Emmanuel from Ghana.

My trip to Shanghai

This past weekend, May 1st-May 3rd was labor day holiday here in China. I left Thursday afternoon to try and beat the weekend crowd. I discovered once I left my university that it didn’t matter when I left; as long as it was a holiday weekend, the streets and cities were going to be full of people trying to get home for the holiday. The buses were packed and all the taxi drivers were trying to get the customers who were desperate enough to pay their high fares.

Originally, I was going to ride a taxi to the Qingdao airport, which is about 90 minutes away and would cost me about 240kuai. Divide that by 6.2 and that’s how much it’ll be in USD. My friends fortunately told me about an airport shuttle bus that would take me to the airport for only 40kuai. I was so relieved to use that and it seemed to take a lot quicker.

I arrived in Shanghai at about 8:30pm and the night lights were so beautiful. I only saw what I could see from the highway while my driver drove me to the flat of my host.

I tried couchsurfing for the first time and it was an experience I’ll never forget. I’m thankful to have had the opportunity to stay with a nice, 22 year old girl for free, the 3 nights I was there.

Once I arrived, I changed, and we explored the streets. Shanghai is so full of bars and places to hang out at. I came across so many expats in Shanghai, it felt like I was in America. What surprised me the most was how safe the city was at night. We were out until about 1AM that night and I saw many people (especially women) walking the streets alone and people eating on tables & chairs on the sidewalks. My host said that no one resorts to violence there, which was really comforting.

We met this guy and his father (who took the picture) while they were trying to flag down a taxi. I started the conversation with his father commenting on seeing a forklift pass us by as a vehicle. They had a little to drink and were joking about it from across the street, I told him it reminded me a lot of Texas. After asking where we were all from, it turns out my host and them were from the same city and state in the US. She received her marketing degree from James Madison University in Fairfax, Virginia before moving to Shanghai to pursue her dreams and career. They were a nice father and son duo who were there on a business trip, for their global-wide company.

The next day, was a gorgeous, clear, warm day in Shanghai. My host gave me a list of sights to see and give to the taxi driver and I went. Apparently, I didn’t dress appropriately for the weather and was quite miserable the whole day through. I took some great pictures, the city is so beautiful.

I’m always amazed by how beautiful the flowers/roses are in China. They are just so vibrant and pretty, with the grass so green.

Here’s a picture of how packed the number 1 attraction in Shanghai was. (The Bund)

Shanghai was so crowded and hot that day.

On Saturday, my last day there was so much fun. It was the complete opposite of Friday. It was dark, gloomy and rainy. I enjoyed myself because the weather was a bit chilly and I had rainboots with an umbrella to keep me protected from the weather. The pictures below may look like the infamous smog in Shanghai, but the factories were turned off for the holiday and it looks like that because of the overcast weather.

Speaking of rainboots, I went back to the Bund to get my infamous Bund picture and made friends with the nicest woman.

I started conversation with her off the topic of our rubber rain boots and discovered she was from Michigan. She and her husband are a teaching couple in Shanghai and have been there for 6 years. After about 5 minutes of convo, she invited me to dinner with her husband and two colleagues. They all applauded my decision to study in China for a year and are well-traveled themselves. That was probably the nicest restaurant I’ve ever been to and the cuisine was delicious. It was Yunnan cuisine, which is West China, near the Tibet area.

The pictures are so dark because the restaurant environment is so dimly lit.

They so generously ended up paying for my dinner, saying they remembered what it was like being a college student, having college students of their own. After dinner, we took a walk on the Bund to see it at night and paid a visit to a nearby 5-star hotel to have some drinks at their sky-view lounge.

Overall, I had a great time in Shanghai and can’t wait for many great experiences!

Xo,

Pristine

Campus Mountain

Last Friday was a great day. I had one class, which was at 8 AM. After that. I went back to my room and just waited for Fei to get ready. She had a couple of errands to run and prepared a little lunch for us for when we went up the mountain. At about 2pm, were ready to go. There is a mountain on our campus and it has such a beautiful view at the top.

The hike itself took about 45 minutes and from the top, all you see are condominium buildings and our university. It was so nice enjoying a beautiful, sunny day at the top of the mountain enjoying a nice home-made lunch with a good friend of mine.

At the top, we were so excited to see goats come up and wander around. With them was their shepherd and a cute dog.

It was a great hike and I plan to do it as often as the weather’s nice.

Xo,

Pristine

Upcoming holiday

Now that I’ve been in China for almost two months, my life isn’t as exciting as it was when I first got here. School has me busy from M-F and on the weekends, I’ll either relax or find something to do with friends. This past weekend I went with two friends into the city of Qingdao (90 minutes away) and had a great day.

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My friend Fei took me to a nice Japanese restaurant here in town. It’s the nicest, most authentic Japanese restaurant I’ve been to yet. I tried sashimi for the first time and I’m not a fan. I ordered the California rolls and those were delicious.

The next day in Qingdao, we went to another Japanese restaurant, but known for their ramen noodles. Here’s a picture of it half-way through the meal, you can’t see any of the noodles because of the broth, but it was the best kind of ramen I’ve ever had. I tried matcha tea for the first time and it was okay.

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In my second to last post, I said for our 3 day holiday, we went to the city of Hangzhou. Well, now we have another holiday coming up (yay). I’m currently trying to decide where I should go for it. All I know so far is that I’ll be going solo, I’m kind of tired of traveling with a group of people, as we all have different travel agendas. I can either take the bus, train, or plane. Bus is the cheapest option, with train and plane following behind. I’ve decided to take a plane so it’ll be quicker and hassle free. I’m planning right now to spend my holiday in Shanghai. Shanghai won’t be as crowded as Beijing will be during the holiday and it’s only an hour and some minutes away by plane.

For this trip, I’m going to find a host I can stay with. I discovered a website called couchsurfing.com and it allows travelers from all around the world to stay with locals for free and ‘crash on their couch’. I think it’d be a really great experience – you get to meet new people and get a first-hand experience of living in the city you’re visiting. Anywhere I visit, I like to do things locals would do, not tourists.

Spring here starts in May. This week, we’ve been having 70 degree weather and it excites me so much. I’m so tired of 30-40 degree weather.

Xo,

Pristine

Fei’s Birthday Weekend

This weekend was a good weekend. My friend from South Africa, Fei, celebrated her 20th birthday this weekend since her actual birthday is on Tuesday. On Friday night, we attended a Chinese language competition for the international students to participate in. At the competition, they have to recite a speech and do some kind of performance. It’s amazing how quickly some of the students have learned the language and sound so proficient in.

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This is a picture of my friend from Sri Lanka. Anytime I have to do anything that has to do with the locals, I bring him. His Chinese is just as good as any Chinese person I know. He told me he picked up the language in 4 months so I’m hoping I can do the same.

Once we got back from the competition, Fei was hanging out in my room, when our friends surprised her for her birthday. We ended up celebrating in my dorm room and they were so kind to buy her a nicely made cake and wall calendar.

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The cake had rose petals made of fondant and on the inside, was chocolate with cherries. Her favorite.

On Saturday night, we went back to Luigi’s for dinner. This time, I ordered their pizza. So delicious!

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The man who makes the food there is an actual Italian so the food is delicious. The pizza above is their margarita pizza – it’s plain, but delicious!

Once we left Luigi’s, we went over to a sports bar called “Knuckles”. That place was pretty cool, I liked it. I think I overheard some people say Knuckles was a famous Rugby team and they have pictures/tv monitors showing Rugby all over the venue. Immediately when walking in, I noticed foreigners! I was so happy to be surrounded by people, other than Chinese.

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Fei’s first margarita :).

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The flash on my iPhone is terrible, I’ll have to figure out a better way to take pictures.

They had live music playing and the members of the group happened to be Filipino. It was so nice seeing “familiar” faces after being in a country with no familiarity whatsoever.

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We had to leave in time for curfew (11:00pm), but our taxi ride was the cheapest I’ve ever had it. 28RNB for the 4 of us. No complaints here. 🙂

Xo,

Pristine

Super Late Post – Hangzhou

I’ve been having internet issues (as always), but now I am officially settled. I had a router installed in my room, but I also purchased internet hours from a separate provider. I bought 300 hours for 17RNB, that’s really cheap – so I’m happy. 🙂

Last weekend, a couple friends and I took a 7 hour bus trip to Hangzhou, along with 40+ other students from different universities. It was a nice experience, but it’ll be a while before I do it again. The bus ride was suppose to only be for 7 hours and it turned into 15. Apparently in China, it’s common for the buses to “sleep” when driving in the early hours of the morning. We parked the bus at 2AM and started driving again at about 5. Once we entered the city limits of Hangzhou, the traffic was crazy. I would compare it to the time my family and I evacuated for one of the Hurricanes.

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People were getting out of their cars and shutting off their engines. In the meantime, we took pictures.

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I don’t think you can tell from the bus pictures, but we were burning up in there. It seemed that each time the bus wasn’t in motion, the A/C wasn’t working.

Once we got to our final destination, we went to some nice tourist attractions. Everywhere we went in Hangzhou was so full of people , it was irritating. I’ve never seen so many tour buses in my life. Aside from all the people, where we were was really a nice sight to see. Full of nature.

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Another bad thing from that weekend was the weather. I was expecting sunshine and 30 degree Celsius weather, but what we got was 22 degrees and RAIN. It was terrible.

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We made the most of our trip with the rain, but it was rough.

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At this site, you’re able to rent little boats that will take you on a tour of the site. We did one boat ride and it was much like a ferry to Galveston, but around the island.

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Of course, on the boat, we took more pictures.

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The guy on my right was a nice guy from France that we met while on the bus. He and another student came together and are learning Chinese very quickly.

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Overall, the trip was pretty fun. I was excited to be back in my room by the time it was all over with. Hangzhou was a beautiful city I will probably never go back into.

Xo,

Pristine

Italian food in China

I went back to the Metro yesterday with my friend Fei. I love going there because I see all kinds of items from other countries I’ve never seen before. Here’s a picture of what the store looks like that reminded me somewhat of Lowe’s.

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All I bought this time was some mocha flavored coffee for my kettle. It’s crazy seeing how expensive some items are here compared to what they are in America. Of course, I know it’s because it’s imported, but still.

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Here’s a picture of some Ben & Jerry pints of ice cream they were selling. $10! I would never pay that much for a pint of ice cream.

I can’t wait until lent is over so I can buy and enjoy this :). (I gave up candy and chocolate)

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Afterwards, we met up with a couple of our friends and headed over to an italian place Jonathan and William have been to before. It took us a while to find it online and even more time to get there. We got a van-taxi to take us who said he knew where it was, but he clearly did not. We ended up going in circles and he kept getting out and asking random people where the restaurant was. By that time, it was already 9pm and our dorm curfew is 11pm. I was so happy to hear China had an italian restaurant! Italian is my favorite cuisine and I have been craving some pasta.

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I ordered water thinking it would be like a typical restaurant. Wrong. I got this small little bottle and paid 15yuan for it! At the university, I can pay 1yuan for a large bottle. Definitely bringing my own drink next time. At least my overall bill didn’t cost, but $10. Can’t complain about that.

Xo,

Pristine