Georg Müller-Methling, Form V reports on the recent school trip to China.
A group of 17 pupils and 3 teachers left St.Columba’s College on March 22nd very excited about the upcoming trip, less about the fact that they missed out on the house singing event the same evening and that they had to leave at 04:45 in the morning.
The group took two 8 hour flights, first to Abu Dhabi and then on to Hong Kong. The first day in Asia was very tough, for most of us the warm and humid climate was very unusual and we arrived in the morning, which meant that we had to stay up for another whole day, but everybody quickly forgot the exhaustion. We were welcomed by our first tour guide Ball-Ball (“because my body looks like a ball”), who was very interesting and funny, and spent the afternoon in a shopping mall to get some food and then we drove to our hotel to relax, before we had our first dinner in Asia. Later, we went for a walk to the fascinating harbour.
The next day we visited the 10,000 Buddhas, which led us to a nice spot on top of the city, then the Hong Kong Museum of History and the Hong Kong Science Museum, before we went to a have the first proper Chinese dinner. Most of us had to get used to the Chinese food, but it actually got better from day to day. The highlight of the day was yet to come: in the evening we went to Victoria Peak, from where you could have a magnificent view of Hong Kong and its enlightened skyscrapers. After that, some of us went to the Ladies’ market to buy some souvenirs.
The next day, Ball-Ball took us to Lantau Island, where we used a cable car to get to the Giant Buddha in the middle of the forests. We walked the way up to the Buddha and also visited the close by monasteries. In the evening we took the metro to the harbour to see the light show. On our last day in Hong Kong, we visited the NanLian Gardens, some of us had lunch in the cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world, while others preferred McDonald’s, before we went to a food market and then on a bus ride to cross the border and get to Shenzhen Airport. As we found out later, saying hi to China meant saying bye to proper toilets, social media and English speaking people. It was a very long day, in the end we nearly missed our flight, but finally we arrived in Zhangjiajie.
Our new tour guide Becky who taught us Chinese songs (at least she tried) took us to the Tianzi Mountains in the Yuanjiajie National Forest Park, the place where the movie ‘Avatar’ was filmed, which was enormously impressive. In the afternoon we walked the longest and highest glass bottomed bridge in the world with a height of 260 Meters. The same night we flew to Shanghai, where our most interesting tour guide Qi waited for us.
In the morning we made our way outside the city in order to get to Zhujiajiao town, an ancient water town, before we went on to see the Chinese Maritime Museum & Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. That night we had dinner in the Xiantandi Area, a small area in the middle of China’s biggest city. Yu Garden and Shanghai’s old Town, where we had a delicious tea tasting, were on our list the next day before we flew to China’s former Capital Xian. In Xian we were accompanied by the probably funniest guide called Richard who had the very interesting habit of ending every sentence with the words “oh yeah”.
One of the most exciting and interesting events of the trip awaited for us the next day. We got to visit the Terracotta Replication Factory and the Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. Later that day we cycled the ancient city wall, which goes around the whole city and is 14 kilometers long. The following day we had to travel again, but this time we did not take the plane: the high-speed train (350 km/h) brought us to Beijing, our last destination. It took the train five hours for the 910 kilometers, it was an impressing experience. In Beijing tour guide Jing introduced us to the Peking duck before we headed to the hotel.
We spent Easter visiting the Tiananmen Square, only two days after Kim-Jong Un did, the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven. It was a very exhausting day with a lot of very interesting experiences, a lot of Smog and warm temperatures, a very special Easter.
Our last full day in China commenced with the visit of the Summer Palace from the Qing dynasty. The last site we visited was probably one of the highlights of the trip at the same time: The Great Wall. We climbed the 1,000 not always even steps and reached the top with an awesome view, however there was a lot of Smog unfortunately. After that we had our last dinner in China before we went to the airport to get home, again via Abu Dhabi.
For me personally, and I think for the whole group, this trip was an unforgettable experience. China is an extraordinarily interesting and exciting country with lots of beautiful sites to visit. It was also worth going for the experience we gained. At times it was a bit difficult for some of us, but when you accept the cultural differences like being the main object for a photo by many strangers, it is a highly enjoyable country.
Thank you to the teachers, especially Ms McEneaney, Ms Lynch and Mr Clarke as well as all the parents for making this awesome trip possible! I would highly recommend going on trips like this one in the future, because it is a really good opportunity to travel the world and broaden your mind.