More anticipated than Santa Claus on Christmas and more appreciated than sitting at a hot summer night with a cold beer and a pretzel in a German beer garden was That’s China’s second photography trip of 2016. This time it brought me and 20 photography enthusiasts from all over the world to Songyang – a city you probably haven’t heard of yet – but I promise you will soon be found of one of China’s main tourist destinations. We stayed in an Architectural dream of a hotel overlooking the vast river running through this marvelous city with a breathtaking view of its temple on top of a hill giving making a scenery like in a fairy tale. Our days were filled with wonders of ancient streets where skilled craftsman are manufacturing everything from iron tools to fine textiles and vast tea hills were I tasted the best tea I ever had in my love.  After returning back to Hangzhou the two days felt like two weeks with so many new dear friends and impressions found during the trip. We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls and I found a true gem of a city – Songyang.



Every child has a dream that he or she wishes to come true one day. I was growing up in the 90’s always inspired by Hello Kitty, this bright and kind-hearted little girl cat whose favorite subjects in school, English, music, and art, were the same like mine and who also loves her Mama’s homemade apple pie. Naturally my dream was always to meet my idol in person. Therefore I was thrilled when I heard that this year’s That’s China’s first photography competition trip will offer photography enthusiasts like me a trip to the ancient and wonderful Anji including a visit to the world’s biggest Hello Kitty theme park.  A childhood dream finally realized and the perfect place to let out your inner child. The park stretches over 9.5-hectare and opened one year ago to celebrate the 40th anniversary of everybody’s most loved cat. The park hosts performances, parades, a huge Ferris wheel, alongside with a theater, shops, restaurant and cafes. It has six zones accommodating Hello Kitty in Hello Kitty’s Home, four of her best friends and the friendship plaza where they can all play together. Hello Kitty’s little girl rabbit friend welcomes you in Melody Village, the green adorable frog Keroppi swims around in Happy Harbor, Bad Badtz-Maru rules the Steam Kingdom and the banana-loving monkey Monkichi running wild in the Spirit Forest. Although Hello Kitty’s Home is the most adorable house you ever saw in your life it’s not big enough so lodge all her many visiting friends. Fortunately, a jaw dropping gigantic castle rises next to the park which turns out to be a luxury hotel including an excellent restaurant also with Hello Kitty styled rooms.
As soon as we set a foot on the park, the pervasive cuteness and pinkness immediately caught us, and everybody’s mental state became that of a ten year old school girl resulting in uncontrolled excitement of the parks many wonders. At first we all run to the Ferris wheel in order to get an overview. It has two sorts of cabins, a normal fixed one like all (boring) Ferris wheels I saw before and a constantly shaking and moving cabin. Of course we all rushed to the second one, and had a hell of a ride with no moment at rest putting the image stabilizer of our cameras to the test. Gaining a shaking overview of the park’s landmarks we plotted a path for our exploration. At first we visited the villa of our host. It looked from outside a little like a birthday cake to me and although you couldn’t eat it – except some plastic fruits in the kitchen who looked too real for my taste, but let’s not elaborate on that part of the story – it was overwhelming sweet inside. Every room decorated like Hello Kitty has personally planed the interior design and a good show room for all who ever wondered how your apartment would look like if you use all the pink color your hardware store has in stock and you bought all the merchandise from a hello Kitty shop in a shopping rush, it provided enough impressions to empty a whole camera battery in it. Worth mentioning are the pink kitchen, pink bed room, pink bathroom and pink pictures of Kitty’s family and a non-pink storeroom proving that Kitty is not a pink fanatic but also values a red mop and a yellow bucket. Equipped with a new battery – I mentioned we are all photography enthusiast, or? – the picture hunt continues with the Melody Village. Although we were feeling to be very young, the go kart track with its amazing collections of mini landmarks ranging from the pyramids over the statue of liberty to Mount Rushmore thought otherwise and pointed out its limitation to small children and didn’t let us ride a car. A beautiful yet little slow carousel nearby seemed not to give us the kick we were looking for. But Kitty’s friends also offer wilder rides, so we joined a swing ride for a round. Gaining a glimpse at the neighboring steam-punk styled steam kingdom we started running towards there as soon as it seemed safe enough to jump from the swing ride. It’s worthwhile mentioning that we only had two hours for the whole park, which is definitely too short to appreciate all its many wonders and therefore we were running, a lot, for two hours, only stopping for enjoying a ride and its very short queues.
Bad Badtz-Maru, in all its glory, my childhood hero was guarding the entrance to its kingdom and we took a moment to cuddle with him. If it happened because of our over boarding excitement to be at the park or because of our progressing dehydration from all the running in the heat is hard to tell now. Maybe we just anticipated his basement, and oh boy, he is hiding something there: A 3D shooter ride where you and up to five of your friends drive together in a wagon equipped with light guns and have to  shoot your way through the most amazing ride of my life. Fluffy yet unfriendly creatures, popcorn, end game bosses, you name it, they had it, were so constantly coming ubiquitously from everywhere that I had the feeling they came from at least four or five dimensions. It was the best thing I ever saw in an amusement park and one of the best moments I ever had in China. Following the maxim to stop when it’s best we decided to go to Kitty’s castle restaurant for dinner. On my way, I decided to buy a small souvenir but facing such a stunning choice of Hello Kitty products I couldn’t stop myself from equipping myself, my room and my everything else with charming Hello Kitty products.
Maybe it’s the abundant pink or Hello Kitty just taught the chefs very well but the park will definitely gain reputation not only as Eldorado for Hello Kitty fans but also a landmark for gourmets with offering such a delicious meal. With a happy inner child and so many unforgettable beautiful memories I was amazed the park has still one more thing to offer: An amazing illumination of the castle and the park. What a day to remember and a pink Hello Kitty styled future to remind me.