Mark van Hoppe and Stephan O’ Brien’s trip to Shanghai

China 2014

The first thing that I noticed was the size. The city of Shanghai is huge, beyond anything I could’ve imagined. We were picked up from the airport and drove through the city on an elevated motorway for the better part of an hour. The roads were like an intricate spider web, there were roads upon roads everywhere! The dormitories were a bit primitive but the location was fantastic! The metro was a mere 5 minute walk and it took less than 20 minutes to get to the city centre.

We had classes every day, starting at either 8:30am or 9:10am. The classes we had were Chinese, calligraphy or Taiji. Our Chinese teacher was fantastic, her name was Ashley. She seemed quite young, either still in university or had just finished. Although the classes were sometimes very long, 3 hours, she was very enthusiastic about us learning Chinese and it made the classes much more enjoyable. We had a book but she preferred to teach us herself as she could then spend a good chunk of the class practising with us what we had learned. Calligraphy was interesting, our teacher was a master calligrapher and although he didn’t share a language with us, he taught us well nonetheless. Taiji was very relaxing and invigorating, our teacher had been doing Taiji for 6 years and she taught us a few stances and forms in the classes.

We had free time pretty much every day, some days we had from about 3pm to 10:30pm. We went into Shanghai city centre, called People’s Square, a couple times in the 2 weeks we were there. The city centre was breath-taking, skyscrapers surrounded us constantly. We were completely overwhelmed the first time we went there. We could never venture too far though, the possibility of getting lost being too great.

We went on a few very interesting tours in the weeks. The first tour was to Zhu Jia Jiao, an ‘ancient water town’. It was a charming little traditional village with many street shops. They sold things like paintings, incense, food and even terrapins! The second one we went on was to a place called the Yu garden in Shanghai. It was a beautiful Chinese garden next to a huge outdoor shopping complex. The city was beautiful, the pictures were fantastic! The third one was to the famous Oriental TV tower. It is the biggest tourist attraction in Shanghai, it being 467.9m tall at its tip. There was even an indoor rollercoaster there and a 5D cinema. Finally, the highlight of the trip, we went to 2 places called Suzhou and Hangzhou. We left that morning at the gruelling hour of 6:30am on a bus. We arrived at about 9:00am at a famous tourist attraction called Tiger Hill. The hill had a massive pagoda on the top and the story was depicted on the inside of that pagoda, which there are numerous pictures of. There was also a garden, the most beautiful garden I have ever seen, full of vibrant colours and verdant plants, it was magical. After a couple hours, we piled back onto the bus and left to go to a traditional silk factory. We arrived about an hour later and went in. The tour was fantastic, showing in-depth detail of how silk was made in the industrial era. There were even some live silk worms on display. The tour concluded with a silk shop that sold pure silk products at a discounted price. We went back onto the bus then and went to our hotel. It was magnificent, most likely a 4 or 5 star hotel, and it was pure luxury after the dormitories. We only spent 1 night there, unfortunately. The next day, we went on a boat cruise around the West Lake which was very good. There were about 20-30 people per boat, so the groups we went in were small. After that, we went back to Shanghai, arriving at about 6:00pm.

Overall, I had an absolutely fantastic time in Shanghai, everything was perfect. The people I met and the places I went to were all amazing. I would go back there again in a heartbeat. Best two weeks of my life.

 

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