Welcome to freedom, fresh air, little pokey villages and at time of writing – butterflies absolutely EVERYWHERE? Wild flowers are great, don’t get me wrong, but I’m literally swimming in them. Whilst you guys have been locked in little concrete boxes in the sky, I have been having an absolute ball cycling up mountains, hiking chocolate box villages and generally living the good life.
3 things I have to share:
1/. What have we been doing when international travellers and SH/BJ/GZ expats cant travel?
2/. What have we got planned for you now you are free, and China has won the war against Covid?
3/. Some well meaning and broadly positive ramblings from Ed about where we are in the pandemic.
1/. WHAT HAVE WE BEEN DOING WHEN INTERNATIONAL TRAVELLERS AND SH/BJ/GZ EXPATS CANT TRAVEL?
Well – business has obviously been quieter – lets be honest, dead. Those who can do a tiny bit of travel do it within their province to minimize risk of getting banged up far from home.
We’ve had two outbreaks here – of single digits – and they took a week and then died down. We had to traipse into an old tea barn every day for PCR tests (cant do inside, and its too hot outside) and the pictures are a story in and of themselves.
So we just put things into cryo-stasis. We aren’t suffering financially like some people really are, but things are just… quiet. I’ve been swimming in rivers (sometimes taking a guitar, see video here), mapping new hikes (did you know you can get to the old bridge at Zhangcun from the back, THROUGH THE HILLS??!!) and spending a lot of time with the kids which has been great.
I’ve dug up the lawn again and laid it again. Still not sure it will work.
I’ve gotten really into cycling (100km+ each time, find me on strava: edgawne) and photography (insta: wuyuanskywells)
But the best thing is spending time with the kids. We decided to raise family here so we can enjoy all the cool countryside stuff. Victoria loves raising our own chickens. I’ve got a new baby carrier which I love and Peter tolerates on long hikes. They do stupid stuff like run around naked in the garden and have water fights which maybe I wouldn’t do if a well-to-do group of wealthy ladies from paris was here, but we could just NEVER do in Shanghai.
So its been not-as-bad-as-it-could-be money wise and GREAT personal life wise. That said, wer’re a hard working family business, not a charity, so we’re ready for you guys to come back, lie in the sun and enjoy an ancient tea mansion with a gin & tonic again when you are!
2/. WHAT HAVE WE GOT PLANNED FOR YOU, NOW YOU ARE FREE, AND CHINA HAS WON THE WAR AGAINST COVID?
We lived in Shanghai for 6 years together before Jiangxi: (1/. yan’an lu/ panyu lu, 2/.dingxi lu anyuan lu, 3/. zhongyuanliangwancheng 4/. yongjia lu x maoming lu, 5/. shaanxi nan lu x jiashan lu, 6/. xianyang lu x jianguo lu) and Selina’s grandparents, aunt live in Minhang so we completely understand the Shanghai rhythm of life, and what a break from the city means. We’ve been to all the crap little chinese guesthouses on xiaohongshu and overpriced trips to naked castle because they have an English website. Been there, got the T-Shirt.
We own two guest houses. The one which is not Skywells is now open, and welcoming everyone. Its Victoria House, our newly built English country manor on the river, about 5 mins drive from Skywells. Originally, the plan was Skywells for foreigners, Victoria House for Chinese. We’re only going to open one place first, so we can focus all our energy in one place. (Also honest business reason: otherwise we have to open two hotels, two teams, for few guests as people start to travel). What can you expect?
- Finished in 2021 – imported aussie hardwood floors, american standard bathrooms, International design team (https://www.piu1studio.com/home) and its absolutely gorgeous.
- Basically same place as Skywells – 3km as the drone flies. Days out to same waterfalls, hiking trails, bike routes, village kitchens
- Bar – we focus more on beer and wine range (27+ beers, 13+ wines from Altavis our wine partner who are champs getting the best out here to the countryside). Posh G&Ts and fancier coffee than skywells. We don’t do cocktails here. You still have to suffer Ed’s playlist.
- MAAAAASSSSive garden (2 acres) backing onto the river with lawns, veggie beds, proper river swimming (deep – not for little ones) and our flock of chickens. Superb outside location with 100 acre qing dynasty tea fields on one side, and river bend on the other.
- Selina is the hero – She runs the show behind the bar. Any return guests will know shes the star of the show and Ed rests on his laurels as ‘foreigner in China’. Same Skywells chef smashing out awesome dishes.
3/. SOME WELL MEANING AND BROADLY POSITIVE RAMBLINGS FROM ED ABOUT THE PANDEMIC
2022 hasn’t been great for any of us – but – we as a business had a great run 2020/2021 compared to friends at home in the west, and I’m guessing you did too. If you’re still here, you’ve made the same bet as us, that the sky is darkest before the dawn. Find me at the bar for a good long ramble about the bad things, which I’m happy to do – but UK government, where I am from, would die for the economic growth still going on in China. I still love the energy, positivity and warmth of the place I call home. Nowhere in the UK would strangers invite me into their home for a drink to celebrate their son’s wedding, which has happened multiple times here and I of course oblige.
I’m incredibly lucky to live the life I do – that I always dreamed of – I get up at sunrise to take photos of the sun on the river, take my kids hiking in the hills to look at the wild silver pheasants and every night at the bar sit and chat with the most varied group of people: C suite execs, ambassadors & consuls, free jazz musicians, entrepeneurs, committed booze hounds, fresh of the plane young ‘uns and third culture people who aren’t sure where they fit.
If China is pissing you off right now, come and sit on the river bank, take a beer, let the kids run and remember why you fell in love with this country in the first place. There’s so much more than the angry people you see on your wechat feed every night railing agains the 大白. You have to listen to Ed’d rambling stories and bad music; consider that entry price 🙂