14 April 2016

Mandarin study trip to China

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On Wednesday morning we set off from Sevenoaks to Shanghai, taking an easy flight from Heathrow and landing at 9:30am. We went to drop off our bags at the hostel, before heading to a restaurant for our first meal. We were hesitant to start, but soon fell in love with the food and tried lots of different dishes.

That afternoon we walked to the impressive People’s Square, down the famous shopping street Nanjing Road, and along the riverfront of the Huangpu, named the Bund, which we revisited that night to see the amazing lights of the commercial sector of the city. This taught us a lot about the rapid urban development in China, and the impact the Cultural Revolution had on many people and places.

Throughout the rest of our time in Shanghai we visited many iconic locations, such as the famous Pearl Tower, where we walked along the glass corridor (259m high) and other observation decks, and the impressive Shanghai Museum. We also went to a small underground museum on Chinese propaganda posters, all holding lots of different messages, and an ancient water town, Qibao, with architecture influenced by many different dynasties of Ancient China.

We also attended a daily Mandarin course, learning about local music, art and the famed tea ritual, as well as useful parts of the language, from booking a hotel and buying tickets to bargaining with the locals in a shop. Perhaps the most beautiful part of our stay in Shanghai was a nighttime cruise along the Huangpu River, watching the sky fill with the beautiful lights of financial offices, residential areas, and even the large adverts screened all over the famous skyline. Our time there was concluded by a trip to a beautiful Buddhist Temple, the traditional, decorative structure greatly contrasting the high-rise heart of the city.

We then left the commercialized and surprisingly homely city and boarded an overnight train to Xi’an, to begin our next part of the trip.

We arrived in the ancient capital Xi’an in the morning and went to the hostel. Then we went out to visit the Terracotta Warriors. It was overwhelming to see the sheer size of the army. Each statue was different and had many unique features. For lunch we tried the typical spicy and salty foods of Xi’an. Then we went to the Muslim Quarter where we saw many shops and different street foods being made. The architecture was unique and pretty. At the end of the Quarter we got to see the Drum and Bell towers which were lit up.

The next day we were lucky to visit an orphanage which looked after children whose parents were in prison. We gave them some gifts and played some Chinese games with them. It was very touching to spend time with them. To finish our trip to Xi’an off we rode round the 14km ancient city wall on bicycles. The views were amazing. We went back on the night train headed to Beijing.

During our stay in Beijing we visited many stunning attractions, including the Summer Palace, where we were fortunate to have clear skies, the Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square; the heart of modern China and the inspiring Temple of Heaven. On the first day we were lucky to visit the Giant Panda house in the Beijing zoo, an animal that we had been obsessing over the whole trip. We had two kungfu lessons, learning a basic form, and self-defence, at the end of both all the boys were left lying on the ground from our master Tom. We tried many interesting types of food, ranging from fried scorpions, which a few of us brave enough tasted, to the Peking Duck, a delicacy of Beijing.

After many photos were taken, many meals were eaten and many places visited, we went to the airport and said our final goodbyes to China. After a lot of waiting, we arrived home. It felt odd being back, but there were certainly many of us who felt the need to pick up chopsticks and say ‘xie xie’ instead of thank you.

Rebecca Cain-Renshaw and Anna Power

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