On the 10th of September ten students and three teachers began the trip to China. We were greeted by warm weather in the city of Kunming. That night we experienced our first traditional Chinese banquet and went to the spectacular Yunnan Dynamic Performance.
The next morning we made our way to Dali, but made a short visit to the Dinosaur Valley that held many fascinating fossils and recreations of historic dinosaurs. After that, we continued the trip to our exchange student’s home town. After a long bus trip, we were greeted by a group of very excited exchange students. We were swarmed by a sea of flower crowns and hugs. The wait was finally over and we were reunited with our students, and met our new families for our stay in Dali.
The stay lasted for a week that consisted of us going on a cruise around Lake Erhai, seeing the Three Pagodas and visiting the World’s Smallest Island selling all kinds of weird seafood.
We also were lucky enough to be able to attend their school, Xiaguan Number 1 Middle School, which was a real eye opener after seeing how many students were actually in a single class. We were taught Tai Chi, Kung Fu and were fortunate enough to be able to learn some traditional Chinese calligraphy. After saying goodbye to our Chinese friends a week later, we headed off to Lijiang.
We spent one night in Lijiang, shopping and finally getting to eat western food. The evening in Lijiang was really relaxing and in the morning we were up early to catch a flight bound for the ancient capital Xian. We were blown away with the size of Xian and even more blown away when we arrived at our 5-star Hotel. You should have seen Mrs Douglas’ penthouse suite!
The main highlight of Xian apart from Mrs Douglas’ penthouse suite was the gruelling 14km bike ride around the ancient city wall and a walk through the crowded Muslim street. However, the best was yet to come and during the next morning we were lucky enough to visit one of the ancient wonders of the world, The Terracotta warriors!
After our luxurious stay, which consisted of room service we made our way to Beijing, taking a 5-hour bullet train across the country that reached speed of over 300km per hour. Once arriving in the very busy capital city we settled in and passed out for the night.
The next day we ventured out to the much-anticipated Great Wall of China. We climbed a section the 8851km wall, which was extremely tiring but well worth it as the views were incredible. We all felt a huge sense of accomplishment after climbing the wall that we had to reward ourselves with some bargain shopping at the Silk Markets. We loaded our suitcases up with rip-off designer handbags and shoes not to mention some small gifts to family and friends.
Out final day in China was spent wondering through Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, and breathing in the not so clean Beijing air. At this stage we were really tired but we were amazed at the incredible history and the sheer size of the complex where the Emperor of China once ruled.
We were lucky to spend an amazing 16 days with our friends and our teachers in another country so foreign to Australia and the cultural experiences that we gained were so rewarding. We made lifelong friends with our Chinese hosts and we would recommend this trip to anyone who would love the challenge of getting out of your comfort zone by trying new foods and experiencing another culture.
By Laura Gathercole, Mimi Barbary and Bonte Stone.