On the 22nd of March 2016, 31 nervous but eager staff and students arrived at Melbourne Airport ready to embark on a journey that little to none of us fully knew what it would turn out to be like. As we all stood in front of the entrance for International Departures, our confused parents watched as we all screamed out our designated number between 1 and 31. Little did anyone know, we would soon have a strong dislike for our specific number.
We arrived in Guangzhou at 6pm the same day and prepared to catch our connecting flight to Beijing. When we landed in Beijing we were greeted with some harsh weather and completely different road rules.
Our first day began with a visit to Tiananmen Square followed by the Forbidden City. This is the best-preserved imperial palace in China and was constructed in the 15th Century. We then took a ride on a rickshaw, and in the words of Lawra, 13RICKSHAW will get you there.
Day two was one of our most exciting days of our trip. We climbed the Great Wall of China. The teachers and tour guide decided to make it a competition to see who could climb our section of the wall first. With no surprise, Ash didn’t walk to the top, but instead ran and didn’t break a sweat. For some, the challenge of the Great Wall was severely underestimated. However, we enjoyed the view at the top and ticked something off our bucket lists. We then had a view of the Bird’s Nest and the main Olympic stadium where the 2008 Olympics took place. Our evening consisted of watching a Kung Fu Fighting show and we came out in awe at how something so complicated could be so synchronised.
The weekend came and we hopped on a bullet train to visit our sister school and homestay families at the Tianjin Middle School. We all walked in with worried looks on our faces when greeting our families. Some of us experienced the luxury of English speaking families, whilst others did not. We returned the next day to learn calligraphy, paper-cut artworks and intricate face masks. We were spoilt with gifts from our sister school, homestay families and their friends as well. On our final day at Tianjin Middle School, we had a sport day that turned into a tug-of-war battle. I guess our school was so competitive, we actually broke the rope (although Mr Jessup likes to think he was strong enough to do it on his own). After some of our performing arts students showcased their capabilities within their respective field, it was time to say goodbye to our families as we moved onto our bullet train back to Beijing. We then travelled to Xian by overnight train.
Upon arrival in Xian, we started out tour with Xian’s Landmark, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. We then visited the Great Ancient City Wall where we saw the city from above. Before our dumpling banquet dinner, we visited a local marker where we learned to bargain thanks to Ms Tsoulakis. She landed some of us bargains from 3300, down to 250, although some spent their money on fold out chairs and selfie sticks. Whilst half of us went to get a body massage, some of the others went and got their feet treated by puka fish. Tarryn, Talia and myself screamed when we first made contact with the fish, while Ansh sat completely calm and collected.
The next day came where we visited the renowned eighth wonder of the world, the Terracotta Warriors. We were truly amazed and able to understand why this was listed as a wonder of the world. Soon after lunch we walked through Shaanxi History Museum. We started to lose memory of all the museums as we had visited four in two days.
A few days after, we hiked along Longjing Hill through the tea plantation. For some, this was just as challenging as the Great Wall. Our next days consisted of Museums and Pagodas. Overall, we viewed roughly 5 pagodas and 7 museums. Our final day in Hangzhou consisted of taking a tour through the silk factory where we saw how silk worms produce silk fibres that turned into clothing and bedding. Also on this day, we visited another pagoda.
We spent one day in Suzhou where we visited some more pagodas and gardens. This one day was the closest we got to a rest day we all craved.
Our final days were spent in Shanghai where the weather finally stopped being good for us and the rain started to pour in. We visited another local market that attracts tourists. We then shifted off to the Oriental Pearl Tower, the fourth highest building in the world. Unfortunately due to the fog, we were unable to get a picture perfect view. We were then taken shopping on the famous Nanjing Road where we spotted legitimate Rolex watches and not the ones from street vendors that were being sold to us for the equivalent of 5 Australian dollars. After our cohort got together and begged for more shopping, we spent another two hours in a new market where most of us spent what money we had left. After our final banquet dinner we boarded a night cruise tour where a group of our students decided to create a dance battle with other tourists.
April 4th came and we started to make our way back to Melbourne. However, before we did, Mr Jessup decided to take us to our final museum for the trip. We then experienced a four hour delay for our first flight. We made it onto the connecting flight with 10 minutes to spare due to the airline delaying the flight one hour for us. Thanks to Enci for getting us through security quicker through his translation.
Overall, the China Trip was certainly something to remember. The major disappointment was that Shanghai’s Disneyland wasn’t opening until June this year. However there’s rumours that the China Trip of 2018 might include that on their updated itinery. All 31 of us created a cohort bond between people we probably wouldn’t have spoken to if we hadn’t attended the trip. Each and every one of us have come back with unique stories to tell. If you’re in years 7-10 now, the 2018 China Trip will hopefully be something you consider. And for the teachers who wish to be chosen for the next trip, we heard Mr Jessup takes chocolate as a form of persuasion.