Today we went to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. The events that transpired in 1989 at Tiananmen Square are incredible in their magnitude and political implications. Finally being able to see the infamous location has been fantastic for us as travelers, but moreover as students.
After Tiananmen square and the Forbidden City we went to an acrobat show and saw quite a few talented acts. Tonight’s dinner wasn’t our best, but tomorrow night we are trying Peeking Duck for the first time. Our tour guide, Brad, has been excellent and even taught us how to bargain; unlike in The States, all prices in China are negotiable. This is an aspect of the culture that we thoroughly enjoy, and it has helped us learn how to better communicate with the people of China.
Today we went to see another temple, though it was a scaled down version of the previous ones it was still amazing. All of the temples have been serene and relaxing, though sometimes our group breaks the silence a bit. Today we also toured a pearl making factory where pearls were rendered from clams. The process involves simply opening the clam and chipping off the pearls around the shell. The clam opened in front of us produced about 12 pearls alone.
The weather here is quite cold and as we travel along it gets colder and colder. We have all been taking care to layer our outfits, however, I unfortunately forgot a fleece! Luckily I have been able to layer a few sweatshirts, though I am not sure if that will do the trick at the Great Wall.
Long time no blog, I know, but unfortunately getting an internet connection has proven to be quite hard around here. Today we woke up and went into Hangzhou for a boat tour of a few of the larger Buddhist Pagodas in the area. The boat was very rustic and the boats around us were driven by foot pedals! Life here seems to be quite simple, something far different from life back in the States. And I think we are finally starting to get used to the food, thank Buddha.
After the boat tour we went to see a Buddhist temple. The temple is enormous and all of the paintings and designs within it are intricate and actually handmade. There are many Pagodas around the cities, essentially our version of a church. They are all used as centers for prayer by the local Buddhists. It has been interesting for us to learn about the incredibly vast differences between our culture and theirs, though as we go along it seems we have more in common than we may think.
Greetings from Shanghai! We have been traveling all around China for what seems like months, though it has only been four days.
Shanghai is beautiful and seems far different from Hong Kong. In Shangai the language is Mandarin, whereas in Hong Kong they speak Cantonese. Since we study Mandarin, we now can put our language skills to use and start communicating a bit with the locals. We began to do this at a marketplace in the heart of the city. The market is full of yelling and bargaining, as sellers try to market their products.
Luckily one of the phrases I have become quite familiar with is “bu yao” which means “No thanks!” After shopping for a while we checked into our hotel and rested up for the upcoming day of cultural experiences.
We are finally here! The flight from JFK to Hong Kong Airport was a gauntlet of questionable airplane food, crying babies, and reruns of Walker Texas Ranger. All of that aside, the experience thus far has been the most incredible one of my life.
On the first day, after landing and making it safely through customs with no glitches, we met our tour guide for Hong Kong. We boarded a tour bus and were off for a day of sightseeing. The first thing we did was drive up one of the higher mountains in Hong Kong to get a panoramic view of the whole city. Hong Kong looks much like Hawaii, however there is far more development and more of a city atmosphere. The view was beautiful and we took many pictures which I would love to upload, save for the fact that my camera endured a fall onto some Chinese pavement and for some reason no longer “works.” I will now have to be sure to provide incredibly vivid details in my blogs, because I suppose that a thousand words is worth a picture.
While in Hong Kong the tour bus took us to many different locations. We got to see a jewelry making shop where artists hand crafted Jade into magnificent sculptures and jewelry accessories. After the tour we went to go get lunch, which I knew would be interesting. Our tour guide asked us if we wanted “Western food” or traditional Chinese cuisine, and we excitedly answered the latter. The excitement died down a bit when one of the dishes that we were staring at stared right back at us. Everything about this eating experience was different than anything we were used to; it was the ultimate culture shock.
After an interesting lunch we went to our hotel which looked out over the city. At night all of the high rises are lit up in front of a backdrop of lush mountains. After checking in we went out to explore the nightlife of Hong Kong, which there was an abundance of. My first impressions of China are that it is a fantastic place with so much culture to discover.
As I prepare for my trip to China, I am perplexed with many questions and thoughts. I wonder what the food will be like, if the citizens of China will welcome us (especially given the political circumstances which we find ourselves in), what the weather will be like, and other things of that nature.Coincidentally, the History channel has been airing many different programs about China ranging from the building of their empire, to the different technologies and innovations that they have perfected over time.The programs are interesting and insightful, and as I learn more I am eager to fly over there and experience these things first hand!
While I continue to learn more about the country, its people, and its customs, I mentally plan my trip.Of course, most of the planning revolves around the largest manmade structure in the world: the Great Wall.As cliché as it may be, seeing the Great Wall has been the single aspect of the trip that I am most excited about. I know, however, that as the trip goes on I will discover and marvel at far more than just the Great Wall.
Though it has been months in the making, I am finally a few days away from departure.I will fly from D.C. up to New York, and then directly to Hong Kong.The flight will be an arduous 20 hours long, but I’m sure that the friends and professor I am flying with will make that time disappear.I don’t know exactly what to expect in China, but that is one of the most intriguing parts about going abroad.