MTGS China Trip 2016
At the start of October half term 35 girls and staff headed off to China, on a much anticipated cultural trip to Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. Only Mrs Blagbrough and a couple of our girls had been to China before so there was some trepidation about how well we would handle the language, food (not to mention the chopsticks) and cultural differences. But from the first day, after meeting our guides and consuming two Chinese banquets, we were reassured that the days ahead would be a living dream.
A walk in the hutong (narrow streets) neighbourhood around Houhai, followed by some recuperation at our hostel, gave us a gentle introduction to Beijing, before a walk on the second day in Tiananmen Square, a place of so much history, and on through the Forbidden City, a place of so much mystery, before looking down on it all from the heights of Jingshan Park.
Those who thought our girls would follow the guides’ confident statements in the evening that the food sold at the market stalls was ‘for photos only’ were very much mistaken – even they were surprised at the enthusiasm with which scorpions, lizard and starfish were consumed!
On Monday the smog lifted right on cue, allowing us to witness the Great Wall of China in all its glory. Some visitors review their trip to the Wall as overcrowded and underwhelming, but our tour company’s decision to take us to a ‘private’ section that was almost deserted, quite immense and very beautiful, left us all in awe. We wanted longer there but there was a banquet to be eaten and an acrobatics show to see back in the city … then another banquet when Amber laid claim to the title of ‘Queen of Dumplings’.
Trips the next day to the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace introduced us to more intriguing history and splendid architecture (and a lot of enthusiastic locals wanting their photos taken with us) before jumping on our night train to Xi’an.
Xi’an is a city not that well known outside China, but the Terracotta Warriors were found near the city and put Xi’an on the international (and tourist/cultural) map – this was our first port of call after noodles for breakfast. To think the sculptures of thousands of warriors were buried with China’s first emperor in 210–209 BC to protect the emperor in his afterlife and remained undiscovered until 1974, is truly amazing. Our day was completed with a wonderful Chinese Burger (a specialty of the area) then a wander in a street food-market where anything and everything is prepared in great quantities right in front of you.
The following day we visited the Wild Goose Pagoda and tried our hand at Chinese calligraphy, before going for a bike ride on the mighty Xi’an City Wall – great fun and a great way to see the city.
So on to our second overnight train, to the vibrant (and, for us, wet) city of Shanghai. A trip to Shanghai Museum helped keep us dry and showed us snippets of the long, fascinating history of this country, before leaving to make an early arrival at our hostel to dry out and recharge our batteries (both biologically and electronically).
The following day we started with the purchase of a job lot of umbrellas to help fend off the relentless rain, before walking around Yuyuan gardens and attending a tea sampling session – it was really interesting trying different teas and hearing about their medicinal qualities. After lunch the rain stopped, just in time for our trip to Shanghai Zoo to see not just one, but two types of panda found in the country, the ‘red’ and the ‘giant’. Not everyone agrees with keeping animals in captivity but it’s fair to say that most of us were quite taken by these rare and beautiful animals.
Our penultimate day was one of the busiest and best of the trip, starting with a visit to a silk factory and demonstration of silk production – it’s easy now to see why the cost of silk clothing is so high. Onwards and upwards (literally) as we went up the Shanghai World Financial Tower, where we got amazing views over this magical city at the height of 463 meters. Then on to a floating restaurant on the river, before walking on the Bund, a walkway by the river overlooking the plethora of skyscrapers. A bit of souvenir hunting (or should we say bartering – at which some of the girls were very good) was followed by an evening cruise on the river to see the light show that is Shanghai by night – a real highlight.
So to the last day and a visit to Xiangshan High School. We didn’t quite know what to expect, however the school was modern and clean and, from what we saw, the pupils were very studious and well behaved. After an introductory meeting, when Vicky, Sophie, Lucy and Freya gave a well received address in Chinese, we looked at the school’s art gallery, tried our hand at pottery and, after our school dinner, played badminton in a 10-court hall dedicated to the sport. It is a school specialising in arts and sport and it was impressive, educational and fun.
We just had time for another banquet and to sing happy birthday to Caragh, before saying goodbye to our guides, Darren and Lee, and to China. It is a mystical country that, over 10 amazing days, unravelled a little of its mystery and opened our eyes to the magic of the Far East.
Thank you to the staff for their time, organisation and friendship on the trip, and especially to Mrs Blagbrough for organising such an amazing experience. Thank you too, to our clothing sponsors for making sure we looked good and for making us stand out to the locals who were always so keen to have their photos taken with us. China may be gone from our daily lives but it will certainly not be forgotten!
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