18 Students and 2 staff from All Hallows leave for China on Friday 24/06/2016 for one week to explore Chinese culture and visit our partner school in Xi’an. Check below for updates of their trip as it happens.
Friday 24th June: Airport Anticipation
We all arrived at 6.30am sharp at Manchester Airport, ready and raring to go.
Due to long queues at passport control we didn’t have much free time at the airport- little did we know this would be the theme of all our airport visits today!
After only two students losing their boarding passes across continents, we made it to Bejjing after a mammoth 16 hour journey at 9am local time on Saturday 25th.
Saturday 25th June: Chopstick Challenge
It’s hot! We were met at the airport by our guides Sue and Lisa who gave us an informative commentary on what we could see on the way to the hostel and told us some of the history of Beijing.
After having a rest we went out for lunch and enjoyed a large traditional Chinese banquet. Chopsticks proved to be the biggest challenge of the trip so far! Slippery tofu and steamed noodles defeated most of us, but our guides were very impressed with the ingenious methods we employed to satisfy our hunger.
We then took a bus to the Houhai lake where watched locals and tourists alike enjoying the views and boat rides. Our guides then walked us through a nearby Hutong area, an integral part of Beijing’s dynastic heritage, which is now home to many shops and cafés. Many of us tried lots of new foods and bought souvenirs, but nobody was brave enough to try the deep-fried squid on a stick just yet!
In the evening we had another traditional meal for dinner (chopsticks skills getting better..!) and headed back to the hostel for a much-needed full night of sleep.
Sunday 25th June: Beautiful Beijing
Today we were awestruck in the morning by Tiananmen Square; firstly by the sight of the adoring temples and Mao’s mausoleum and secondly by the sheer number of tourists there.
We then walked up to the Forbidden City and took in some of the 900,000 buildings that make up the former Ming dynasty imperial palace.
To get a better view we walked up the hill in the Jingshan Park just behind the palace.
After a lunch of onion pancakes and other various dishes, we went to the National Museum of China and saw relics from ancient China and many portraits of former Chinese leaders.
We went straight from there to see a spectacular acrobat show – at one point we saw 6 motorcyclists all circling a cage at once! Incredible.
After dinner we came back to the hostel and relaxed before another long day tomorrow.
Monday 26th June: All Hallows’ Heroes
In Chairman Mao’s words; bu dao chang chong fei hao han. He who has not climbed the Great Wall, cannot call himself a hero. So today we took a coach to the outskirts of Beijing and climbed a remote, 3km section of the Great Wall. Luckily the air was cleaner and the temperature was lower so we were able to climb the steep steps more easily. We spent about three hours enjoying the views and the challenge of the steps before heading for lunch.
In the afternoon we briefly visited the Olympic Park and took some pictures of the Bird Nest stadium and the surrounding buildings.
Today was extra special because Ben celebrated his 14th birthday! Lisa and Sue organised a cake (complete with cherry tomatoes) and we sang Happy Birthday to him in many different languages.
Tuesday 27th June: International Interest.
After a safe and thankfully uneventful journey on the Beijing to Xi’an night train, we arrived in our new city refreshed and ready to explore. Little did we know it would be 36 degrees and counting!
On arrival we headed straight to our partner school, Number 85 Middle School. Here we were welcomed by the headteacher and senior staff and were taken to the “Chinese Romero Centre” for an official welcome. The Principal shared with us how happy he was to receive us in his school and hoped that our partnership would continue for many years. We were presented with gifts and were given an excellent lunch in the school canteen.
We had a tour of the school and were surprised at how similar our schools are, despite being on opposite sides of the world! We were then taken to the local museum where we saw ancient artworks and artefacts from the terracotta warrior excavation.
For dinner we tried the local speciality- noodles! The restaurant was called “The First Noodle Under the Sun” – a bold claim to say the least! The best dish was Biang Biang- a dish made with one whole noodle, longer than your arm and as wide as your belt!
After this we had a walk around the Wild Goose Pagoda where they’re was lots of market stalls and a wonderful fountain show.
Wednesday 28th June: Terracotta Triumph
We got up very early to visit what the Chinese refer to as the eighth wonder of the world and we’d all be inclined to agree!
Our visit started with a lesson in how the Warriors were made and how replicas are produced and then we headed to see the real thing. Split over 3 different rooms, there are over 8,000 warriors to admire, each with its own facial expression, uniform and untold story. Today warriors are still being uncovered and restored.
In the afternoon we went to the local Muslim market where some of us (one of us) tried the local delicacy of goat’s hoof! Smelling distinctly of a farm and tasting of earth, it’s probably not to be eaten again.
This is where we return to Beijing on the night train- this post is being written from the very busy waiting room, so hopefully there will be no stories to report in the morning!
Thursday 29th June: Worn-out wanderers.
Back in Beijing with nothing to report!
Today we visited the tourist hot spots that we didn’t get chance to see earlier in the week.
Firstly we enjoyed a stroll around the Temple of Heaven, where people prayed to the Gods of Heaven and Earth. The temples themselves were awe-inspiring but the most unique about this complex was the sight of hundreds of people doing their morning exercise amongst the trees. This ranged from tai chi to energetic dancing! A section of the park was also dedicated to exercise equipment- many of us were put to shame by older generations who visit the park every day to keep fit!
For lunch we were treated to Peking Duck, a local delicious specialty, and then we visited the magnificent Summer Palace. This was the emperor’s Beijing residence during the hot summer months. Here, he and his family would enjoy the cool air around the lake and the splendid views from the Buddhist temple at the top of the mountain. We were glad of the shade and boat trip across the lake on a humid afternoon.
In the evening we shared our last meal of dumplings (a firm favourite amongst students) and did some last minute shopping.
Everyone has enjoyed a truly wonderful cultural experience here in China- one I’m sure we will all remember for many years.