11 Feb Amazing opportunities, history, culture and excitement
Wow. What a week we have had! Absolute Internship really went to extremes to get us into the Chinese New Year spirit. On the weekend of Chinese New Year us new interns made a trip to Wuxi. We caught the bullet train at around 8am and arrived at 9am, travelling at an average of 300km/h. Once we arrived in Wuxi we met our driver for the weekend and got on the bus to our first destination. We arrived at a Chinese New Year festival that was full of market stalls. There was Chinese festive music blaring, red decorations hanging everywhere, the smell of pork throughout the air and a ridiculously large crowd of people. However out of these hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people we did not see one fellow Westerner. This was made apparent by all the stares we received from locals and the amount of photos we were asked to be in with them. Every time we looked around there was a Chinese person taking a sneaky photo of us. But we embraced it. My poses became more extravagant with every photo that was taken, to the point I was laying down in the middle of the festival with my legs in the air and doing the ‘blue steel’. Our fans loved it.
After checking in to our hotel we went to the hot springs, which were located at a 5 star resort. Once we arrived we went into the change rooms to get into our bathers. They told us we had to go into the springs naked and that men/women were in separate springs. This was not true – however we believed them at the time. What made this more believable was that almost every lady in the change room was strutting around naked, wearing only shoes so they would not dirty their feet. I really thought Chinese women were quite reserved….I stand corrected. Or maybe it’s just a Wuxi thing. Us girls decided against going naked – thankfully. However Tom and Jordan decided they didn’t rate bathers, so they walked out in only robes. Somehow it was brought up in conversation that it was a joke about being naked, and suddenly the boys were feeling a little over exposed….
The hot springs were gorgeous with their surroundings of luscious greenery. There are 72 pools at the hotel, so us Absolute kids managed to find one to ourselves. The hot spring was average of 39 degrees Celsius. I could not stand the heat for very long, so even though outside was freezing, I felt very warm sitting on the edge with my feet in the water. After the hot springs we had dinner at Korean BBQ and then went back to our hotel.
On the Sunday we had breakfast at the hotel and then checked out. We then went to see a reenactment of a medieval Chinese battle. The place was absolutely gorgeous, just like how you would imagine China to look. There was everything from statues of golden warriors to cherry blossom trees. The reenactment was awesome; there were flags of kingdoms everywhere, soldiers on the field, extravagantly costumed warriors charging other warriors on horses, and great sound effects. It looked so good that I actually felt a little scared watching it. When the ‘battle’ was over we began walking around and started noticing how big the place was…then we realised we weren’t just at a reenactment, we were at some sort of Chinese medieval themed amusement park! It was called the Three Kingdoms. There were markets, rides, playgrounds, temples and boat rides. It was amazing! Us interns had way too much fun on the obstacle course in the playground. I also had wayyyy too much fun being dressed as a warrior and sitting on a real horse. After we had our fun we left to get lunch at a nearby shopping centre. This is when the adventures of ‘Where’s Michelle?’ began. Long story short – we went to a restaurant that sold pizza, we tried to order pizza, they said they had none, then they said they had some, then we waited a VERY LONG TIME for the pizza, then Jordan and Michelle never got theirs, then they said they didn’t have enough dough. So Michelle and Jordan went off separately to get lunch. We had to be at the train station at 3:20, it was now 3pm and there was no sign of Michelle. Tanmay and Michael ran through the centre looking for her, Jordan looked near the entrance and the rest of us were looking outside. We called her approximately 17 times, and texted her. No word. 20 minutes later we are still looking. As everyone begins to meet up outside, out walks Michelle through the front entrance looking like a happy chappy with her McDonalds and ice-cream. Nobody found her. She just appeared. It was so freaky. These adventures have continued in less dramatic but equally funny forms. So I will keep you updated with ‘Where’s Michelle?’
The next day we were off to Beijing for Chinese New Year! So we re-packed Sunday night and left at 5am on the Monday morning to get to the Bullet train. Unfortunately, our Program Director could not make it to Beijing, so he provided us with a tour guide named Penn and a driver instead. As soon as we arrived in Beijing we met Penn and we went straight to the Summer Palace. Penn had so much knowledge about all the sites we visited, so he told us some interesting facts about the Palace. For example it is home to the longest painting in the world, which is just over 700 metres. It was absolutely freezing at the Palace; this was the first time I had seen a frozen lake! I accidentally put hot chocolate on my nose and it was so cold that it frosted! The palace and its lakes were really beautiful. That night we went to the best Peking Duck restaurant in the world – but actually. Oh boy was it amazing! My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The worst part about this night was trying to get a taxi – there were no available taxis and when I finally hailed an available one the driver looked at us, noticed we were Westerners and drove off. We even tried asking random hotels to book us a taxi, but they would not help us. This is when we realised how much more accommodating Shanghai is to Westerners in comparison to Beijing.
The next day we had breakfast then were off to explore one of the seven wonders of the world – none other than the Great Wall of China! This is something I have always wanted to do, so you could only imagine my excitement! The walk to the wall was worse than the wall itself! We climbed 800 steep stairs in under 15 minutes to get to the wall. But once we got there I was speechless. The view was just gorgeous, the structure and length of the wall was unbelievable and the feeling you got just being on something so historically significant was breathtaking. I carved my name into the wall along with the thousands of other names. Walking the wall was the best thing I have ever done in my life. After lunch we went to the Temple of Heaven, which is one of the four temples located in corners of Beijing. This was the most beautiful temple I experienced in Beijing. The colours of the building and the architecture were phenomenal. From there we walked to the Pearl Markets, which had so many great things to buy – from clothes, shoes and wigs to pearls and souvenirs. For dinner that night we decided as a group to try some street food. It was delicious! Tom committed and tried scorpion and snake and apparently enjoyed them! We finished the night off at a Belgium Bar eating Belgium waffles and drinking cocktails and beer.
On our last day in Beijing we checked out of our hotel, had breakfast, then went straight to Tiananmen Square. Apparently this is the biggest tourist destination in China due to its historical significance. I believed that after I saw how many people were standing in the square, it was crazy! We then walked through the Forbidden City, which was beautiful and a lot larger than I expected! It was crazy to think that we were standing where a Chinese Emperor once stood. After lunch we explored the Beijing Olympic Park. We walked past the bird’s nest and the water cube, which were so brilliantly built. This concluded our Beijing trip, so we then went to the station to catch our train.
So the past week has been full of amazing opportunities, history, culture and excitement. I feel so lucky to have experienced Wuxi and Beijing, while being in the Shanghai program. This has definitely been one of the best weeks of my life. It is almost like a dream. Can’t wait for the next weekend trip!