Junior School Beijing Tour 2017
Day 8: Wangfujing Street and Pearl Market Round 2!
It was a relaxing start to the day with a hotel pool swim before breakfast, building an appetite to devour a hearty breakfast, then off to Wangfujing Street.
Wow! There were so many weird and different choices to tempt the palate - maybe! There was star fish, little ducks, squid, crab, fruits - both fresh and some covered in toffee, and scorpions on sticks, still wriggling, giving us cause to stare! We were asked to film a man from South Africa while he tried some fried scorpions - we watched, not sure whether to groan or cheer! The group continued to saunter up the street absorbing the smells and sights and doing a little shopping in the souvenir shops along the way.
McDonalds for lunch was a welcome rest, and then it was on to the Pearl Market to dig out those bargains and find some wee treats to fill up the suitcase. A very excited group gathered together at the Peking Duck Restaurant again for dinner and then back to the hotel to pre-pack for the final day and flights ahead.
What an amazing week full of sights, sounds, smells and memories to take with us forever! We are so lucky!
Day 7: Super Cube swim and stupendous Pearl Market shopping
Another beautiful day, we are so lucky! Off to the water cube, lots of anticipation and excitement on the bus ride there. The traffic was heavy today so there was enough time for another episode of the 'Beijing Big Bus Quiz' on route. Soon after we could see the Olympic Games area, featuring the Bird's Nest Stadium and the Water Cube with its very interesting three dimensional ice cube-like cladding. The water slides and wave pool were an immediate huge hit, with the whole group finding a slide or swimming area that suited them. Team volleyball and games commenced in the large pool as the waves, balloons and music added to the unique experience.
We had certainly built up an appetite so off we went to lunch at Pizza Hut! Then we sated another appetite - the shopping one! It was literally a 'shop till you drop' two hours at the Pearl Market. Bargains galore abounded, we became very adept at getting the best price out of the sales people. No-one was disappointed.
Over a Chinese dinner including Peking duck, the group shared stories of purchases and bargains, and made decisions about where to head back to tomorrow for a second round!
Some very tired happy campers trotted off to their rooms back at the hotel to look over their purchases and to prepare for another Beijing day tomorrow.
Day 6 - Pandas, Superman Undies??? and The Summer Palace
We all woke up this morning to a blue sky full of sunshine and the promise of a glorious Beijing day. September 28, Mr Hutton’s birthday, and after the traditional Happy Birthday wishes and gift unwrapping, he did not get off lightly. He was given a panda t-shirt, a matching panda tie, an emperor hat and garland, and the final touch, a pair of Superman undies! One requirement - he had to wear everything all day! So he remained looking like a ‘Panda Emperor in Superman Undies’ for the rest of the day, (yes, undies outside of his shorts!) He now has the record for the most photographed person in the group.
Then it was off to the Summer Palace, the best preserved and largest imperial gardens in China. From the motorway, the mountains could be seen in the distance and people could be seen fishing in the river. A gorgeous day, filled with beautiful views, covered painted walkways, a marble boat, buildings and history. During an interlude after climbing to the top of Longevity Hill, an artist took a liking to Mr Hutton’s disguise and painted him. Following that all of the students had a removable tattoo of Chinese characters on their right arm, all with different meanings. This caused great excitement, that and the chocolate, mango and lemonade ice blocks!
A ride on a colourful Chinese boat across the lake, followed by a short walk across a beautiful bridge ended the visit. One last look at the magnificent views and then off to lunch.
Next it was the Beijing Zoo, the biggest zoo in China. The students were able to see up close four or five Giant Pandas, some sleeping, some playing and some moving around their enclosures, very cool to see the national treasure, the symbol of China.
On our return to the hotel everyone was very keen for a long swimming opportunity at the hotel pool. And finally we ended the day as we started, by celebrating with Mr Hutton again, devouring another delicious birthday cake. What a day!
Day 5: Temple of Heaven, Beijing Hutong, Pipe street, Drum Tower
We had a chance for a sleep in this morning with a wakeup call at 7am, another yummy breakfast and on to the bus for the Temple of Heaven visit. So much to see and do! Straight in from the entrance we saw people exercising and using cool shaped diablos which sang as they twirled. A circle of people captured our interest with calisthenics and Tai Chi moves, the Jianzi (feathered hacky sacks) kept us entertained with kicking, flying feathers, laughter and delight when two or more ‘passes’ were achieved in a row.
We moved on to the more significant areas of the Temple of Heaven. There were scented, colourful roses everywhere and the students were very curious about the circled area, the ‘centre of the universe’, where the Emperor prayed. A welcome interlude at a fitness area provided more fun as the whole group tried out every bit of equipment that moved, by hanging off it, spinning on it or being massaged by it. We performed the best haka yet, followed by Chinese songs that drew an appreciative crowd. It was great to see the recycling bins everywhere, and the beautiful carefully maintained gardens. The students were also taken by the face activating toilet paper dispenser – someone suggested they would be a great addition to the Kristin bathrooms!
A short walk found us at the Pearl Market food court for lunch. Then onto the Beijing Hutong area and straight onto the rickshaws for a cool ride around the narrow streets. Mr Mataio’s driver was super competitive and tried to get from the back of the group all the way to the front. We had an awesome walk around some of the Hutong streets, our guide sharing insightful facts about the status of the houses with the 2 or 4 star system painted above the main doors and the size of the door step appropriate to the owner's station in life. Bikes, motorbikes, and other three wheeled vehicles were randomly passing us by, going about their general business. It was intriguing to experience a small part of what their life was like every day.
This brought us to the start of Pipe Street, which was our first opportunity to spend a little money! Very exciting! Some fluffy, cute and interesting items made it into back packs and were shared back on the bus.
A short walk took us to the Drum Tower, but first a visit to the “toilets with no doors”, the girls exclaimed, as some beat a hasty retreat. A few made of stronger stuff were able to do as the Romans do when in Rome and enjoy the complete experience!
Finally, we climbed up the sixty eight steep steps to the top of the Drum Tower. We gazed over extensive views across Beijing and into the distance. We learned some fascinating history about how time was kept in ancient times through candles, incense burning, the Bell Tower and the beating of the drums. We were treated to a ‘full noise’ experience with five drummers beating huge drums, the sound travelling out to the surrounding countryside so that everyone in the city could set or synchronise time by it. And finally, our bonus for the day, was a small show being put on to end our visit in the Drum Tower. We witnessed sword and large ball bearing swallowing!
A bubbly bus headed back to another yummy dinner, saturated with experiences and so many cool things to reflect on.
Day 4: Great Wall of China and The Sacred Way
With an exciting day ahead, we had a 6am wakeup call, had breakfast, then onto the bus for the two hour bus trip to the Great Wall of China. Light rain was falling as we left the city behind, a perfect cool temperature of around 18C today, excellent for a hard walk. Anticipation, nervousness and eagerness was in the air as we saw the wall snaking around the mountains. After all students had picked up a 'moan' stone, the group set off up and up and up – the entire group achieving the highest point, no moaning required! A rousting haka, a calm reflective Maori hymn and a Chinese song, then down, down, down, carefully stepping one step at a time. Sometimes it seemed almost vertical as we looked down on others in the group below us.
A delicious lunch followed at a nearby Chinese restaurant and then onto The Sacred Way (the road leading to Heaven) where we were treated to magnificent marble carved animals representing the dignity of the Emperor. This was a peaceful, serene walk, all students enjoying the flat path and the beautiful animals including the real life black squirrels scampering around the gardens behind the statues!
The bus trip back to the hotel seemed faster with the Beijing Big Bus Quiz and the moving pictures out the bus windows keeping everyone entertained. Chinese dishes and Western fries kept the smiles going at the close of another day of this amazing experience.
Another big day tomorrow - watch this space!
Day 3: Western Academy of Beijing (WAB) and Chinese Ethnic Cultural Park
It was an early start with a 6.00am wakeup call on Harry's birthday! Breakfast in the hotel restaurant with many delicious choices, and presents from here and from home for him and a cheerful happy birthday song to make all the serving staff stop and look. Harry was easy to spot all afternoon wearing his new panda moves t-shirt and his panda hat, setting him apart from the usual Beijing caps!
Off to WAB to be made very welcome by the host class 5M who sang a Chinese song, “My name is China”, with gusto for us all. Our students replied with the beautiful hymn "He Honore" lead by Mr Mataio. Kristin then got to know students from WAB through a tour of the school and then played some exciting games on their tiger turf field including Diablo and Jianzi, (feathered hacky sacks).
Kristin students made us all feel very proud with their PYP exhibition presentation; performing the haka and Chinese songs, answering questions from the floor about their recent experience with exhibition, providing the WAB students with plenty of hints and tips for their own upcoming exhibition, and learning and speaking knowledgeably and clearly on all topics.
Then it was off to Annie’s for lunch – delicious pizzas and pastas were enjoyed. On to the Chinese Ethnic Cultural Park where the many different regions of China were represented. A favourite part of the park was the swing bridge, the Man Museum and the dance we were all shown and took part in at the Cangyuan district.
Mrs Marsh shared this quote today, “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” by William Shedd. There were some cool responses as the students thought about the meaning for themselves in relation to this trip.
We finished the day with dinner at the lantern restaurant and celebrated Harry's birthday once more with a beautiful birthday cake and more songs uniting the group from Mr Mataio and his guitar.
Back at the hotel reflections from what was enjoyed from today were many and varied - someone liked the different school architecture and gardens, someone else enjoyed the Diablos and managed to get it to work, another liked the Man Museum, and for Mr Mataio it was catching up with old friends.
Roll on tomorrow!
Day 2: Pearl market preview, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City
A leisurely start with a delicious hotel breakfast, then off to the Pearl Market to scope out the bargains and different, unique merchandise. Lots of goodies were spied and some bartering attempted, starting to learn what it was like to buy items with no fixed price. (Just looking today)
Lunch at the food court close to the market held a huge selection and saw some great food choices being made. All followed up with the first experience of bathrooms in China – and handled very well by all!
The group wove its way towards Tiananmen Square through many security checks and while hearing facts about how it came about had their first taste of celebrity status with many of the students in high demand for their photo to be taken with locals. A very hot day, with the sun out we passed beautiful historic buildings built for the Emperor of China. Back to the hotel for a cool off in the pool was a huge hit. Delicious dinner at the Lantern restaurant and lights out by 8.30pm.
Ms Marsh shared this quote with the students with the message to live in the moment, to enjoy and absorb all that is here. “The thing to remember when travelling, is that the trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast and you miss all you are travelling for.” Louis L’Amour.
Some of the highlights shared by the students today were: Pearl Market, bargaining, seeing new things, the pool and dinner-time! Pretty much the whole day got the thumbs up.
Day 1: Travel Day
Early Saturday morning an excited tour group performed a rousting Haka, waved goodbye and headed off into the departure lounge on the first leg of the Beijing tour. All went like clockwork, first to Sydney and then a short transit time and on for the 11-hour flight to Beijing. There were many wondrous stares as we walked through the huge airport of Beijing and delight as we took the train to the main terminal, also thoughtful comments about the adventure beginning to unfold.