Saturday, September 25, 2021

Where in the world are Hermione and Hanna?

WHEN Hans and Deborah Chua welcomed their eldest daughter Hermione into the world, the eager parents created a Facebook page to share her delightful milestones.

But like many first-time parents, they became preoccupied with so many things that they eventually stopped updating the page. Their interest was sparked anew when the family moved from Davao City to China in 2016 because of Hans’ job assignment. They then decided to rename the FB page to “Where in the World are Hermione and Hanna?” to document the places where their daughters (now 14 and 8 years old, respectively) have been.

“I also wanted to post more things about China, but I often hesitated since my husband and I have friends who dislike the country and see things differently,” shares Debs, a Computer Engineering graduate from AMA Computer College-Davao Campus.

“Truth be told, if we had never come to China and experienced what life is like here, we would most likely share the same sentiments. But, what I can confidently say after living here for almost five years is that we rarely encounter the negative things that are portrayed in social media,” she intimates.

Three cities in five years

During the Chuas’ first year in China, they stayed in the historical city of Xi’an, the home of the famed Terracotta Warriors and where the first imperial dynasty started.

After a year, they moved to Guiyang, the summer capital of China. “We lived there for two years and everything was fine until winter came when we realized that centralized heating is not available in Southern China. It made winter a very difficult season for us to live in,” Debs recalls.

In 2019, the family moved to northeast China in a city called Dalian located in Liaoning province. “So far, we love it here! You can truly experience four seasons and since the city is near the sea, seafood is very abundant”.

Fascinating China

Living in China has fascinated the family to no end. For instance, QR is everything in China. “We use it to scan whatever we want to buy online. Once you scan the QR, you can view the restaurant menu with pictures in your WeChat app; register a membership; fill up a form, etc. This convenience simply makes our lives much easier,” details Debs.

In addition, utility bills like electricity and water are very cheap. “300 RMB (P2,200+) can usually cover two to three months of electricity consumption. Water is charged every few months because the amount is too small to be billed on a monthly basis. Our internet connection runs on 100Mbps fiber connection for only 800 RMB (P5,900+) per year,” Debs reveals.

She also says that there is a CCTV camera wherever they go. It is normal to see places where instead of swiping a card for entry, the door will just scan one’s face for access.

Moreover, urban planning is well thought out, and they usually segregate the residential zones into multiple communities. Each of these communities has its own gates and ecosystem. “As you step out of the community, you will see fruit-bearing trees everywhere and you are free to pick the fruits. The streetlights are powered by solar panels. You can see China’s efforts to make the country as green as possible,” the homeschooling mom explains.

Road less traveled

Their personal blogs/vlogs, “Where in the World are Hermione and Hanna?” on FB; @hdc.travels on Instagram; and HDC Travels on YouTube are a labor of love among the family members.

Before visiting their target scenic spots, they usually look at travel sites and Douyin (China’s Tiktok) to get inspiration on how to shoot their photos and videos. As for the captions, it is Debs who finds the quotations that will match the scenery.

“Every place we visited has given us so many memories and experiences that fueled our wanderlust each time,” declares Debs. Exploring beyond the more famous Beijing and Shanghai, these are some of the Chua family’s most favorite attractions in China:

HARBIN ICE FESTIVAL – Debs describes it as such an amazing sight to see with giant ice structures covered with colorful bright lights. It was -36C degrees when the Chuas visited Harbin.

YINGGESHI BOTANICAL GARDEN IN LVSHUN DISTRICT, DALIAN CITY – The vast garden showcases thousands of tulips in a variety of hues. There is also a pink mountain filled with shibazakura, a plant that is unique to Japan, but available in Dalian as it used to be under Japanese rule.

HUSHAN GREAT WALL IN DANDONG CITY - This lesser-known Great Wall is more manageable to hike compared to the one in Beijing. What’s unique about this tourist spot is you can see North Korea from above, and there is an area that is literally one foot away from North Korean territory.

XIAOQIKONG IN LIBO COUNTY - Xiaoqikong when translated is called seven little holes, and it used to be a trade route for local Chinese back in the early 1900s. The area is filled with natural wonders such as long rivers and multi-level waterfalls.

KUNMING SHILIN STONE FOREST PARK – The enchanting stone forest in Kunming boasts stunning limestone formations.

With fewer travel restrictions because of the improved Covid-19 situation in China, the Chuas hope to tick off more places in their bucket list. Here’s to more extraordinary family adventures!

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