Junior School Beijing Tour 2018
Beijing Blog Day 1 – T is for Travelling
Two flights, three meals and one bus ride later we had made it to Beijing and sank our weary heads onto our pillows. Aside from the distraction of the entertainment system we also found time to make blanket tents and fix a leaking neck pillow with a needle and thread.
The days ahead promise to be full of fun and adventure, and we can’t wait!
Day 2 - M is for Mind Blowing
The day broke with blue skies, sun and 25 hungry tourists. Given the time difference we were all excited to see the breakfast buffet laid out before us, with the hot item of the morning being pancakes, that vanished within moments of our arrival. A short bus ride later we enjoyed a preview of the Pearl Market, with the temptation to shop too much for Mr Mataio who started things rolling by purchasing the first hand-bag of the trip. The rest of us were satisfied to browse and form lists in our minds as to what to purchase before we return later in the trip.
Lunch was an entertaining affair involving ordering food, receiving a ticket, going to the cashier to pay and then returning to finally collect the food and then eat it. Yes, it was as confusing as it sounds, but we all left satisfied and ready to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Given the square holds one million people we were relieved to find a few less than that there and after a classy bypass of the security queues we were able to soak up the majesty of the environment. Abigail shared with us some of the key points about the square and we moved on to cross under the 8 lane local road and enter the Forbidden City.
Disaster was adverted when Mrs Yang and Ms Neubert managed to sweet talk the ticket sellers to provide us with tickets, although the daily quota had officially already been reached. The number 9 was everywhere, from knobs on the doors to statues on the eves of the buildings, the significance of this number to Chinese culture was never more apparent than in this special place. After Reuben filled us in with some key information we made our way through to the bus and were able to rest our weary feet. A swim in the hotel pool was the perfect tonic to a busy and mind blowing day.
We wrapped things up with a hearty dinner at the local ‘lantern’ restaurant and the opportunity to share Sam’s birthday with him. Roll on tomorrow when we get up bright and early to climb the Great Wall.
Day 3 - C is for climbing
And climb we did, 90 floors of uneven, well worn and very crowded steps all the way to the top. The day started on a touching note however, with a group of intrepid Welsh walkers, who were staying at our hotel, and were embarking on a 5 day walk along the wall. They were raising money for the Paul Sartori Hospice at Home organisation in Wales. Given the sporting ties between our two countries and the cause they were there to promote and raise money for we wished them well and set them off on their journey with a rousing version of E Nga Iwi E. Their response, the Welsh national anthem was very touching. After a combined group photo we were on our way.
Upon arriving at the wall we were struck with the stunning scenery, deep blue skies and large number of people. The climb was torturous, and painful at times, moving only when the person in front of you did. It didn’t take long however before the crowds parted and we were able to make it to our most treasured destination thus far, a Magnum Ice cream stop. Refuelled we moved on up with gusto, finally reaching the summit 2 hours after starting.
Despite our best intentions the mobile data signal was not strong enough to livestream us at the top - you can however watch the video of us in action here. Where is my friend? and the Haka were performed with gusto, and greatly appreciated by the throng of tourists who gathered around to watch.
Then the fun really began - going down. It soon became apparent that the relief of the return was replaced by something else - wobbly legs. The constant pounding took its toll, however after only an hour we were back at the starting point, thrilled to see a toilet with running water again. We did stop part of the way down to record a clip for our new Welsh friends. They are creating lip synch video to The Proclaimers 500 Miles and we were asked to record a segment to send to them while on the wall. Hopefully when compete we will make it to the final cut, time will tell.
After lunch we took a relaxing walk down the Sacred Way, the main road to the tombs in the local area and a special place for the Emperor. The statues of animals and people were as intricate as they were impressive, with plenty of photos taken with them.
The bus ride back to the hotel was very quiet, weary bodies taking the time to recover and refresh. After dinner in the hotel we took the opportunity for an early night before another big day tomorrow, a trip to Western Academy of Beijing and the Chinese Ethnic Cultural Park.
Some statistics from our walk today: / 3.6 km walking / 5743 steps / 90 floors climbed / 3 hours
Day 4 - S is for Sharing
Today was a day of contrasts, from meeting fellow PYP students at WAB (Western Academy of Beijing) to exploring the China Ethnic Cultural Park and the 56 nationalities it represents, there was something for everyone.
The day started yet again clear and bright, with a hearty breakfast (no pancakes in sight sadly) then a bus ride through morning rush hour traffic to WAB. Our visit started with a tour of the school (the highlight being a visit inside their inflatable gymnasium). After making some new friends in 5G and sharing some creative activities with them we moved to the theatre where we shared songs, information about our PYP Exhibition and a variety of videos we created about it. WAB are just starting their school year and asked a great range of deep and meaningful questions about not only what we created, but the process behind it as well.
Incredibly their PYP Co-ordinator was called Jonathan Mueller - it is such a small world!
After lunch at Annies - Italian was on the menu and the pizzas went down a treat, we boarded the bus and made our way to the China Ethnic Cultural Park. Here it is possible to visit all of the regions and nationalities that make up China in one place. A relaxing stroll ensued as we explored every corner of the park. Along the way we had some fun looking for the Man Museum - you can watch our exploits here.
We headed back to the hotel for a relaxing swim, dinner again at the Lantern Restaurant and an early night before our visit tomorrow to the Temple of Heaven, Pipe Street, Hutong Tour and Drum Tower. It will be another full day!!!
Day 5 - H is for Heaven
The pancakes took a hit once again as breakfast was consumed with great gusto. We celebrated Selena’s birthday with the customary panda hat and t shirt with a round of singing thrown in for good measure.
The Temple of Heaven has been open to the public for 100 years this year. Before then it was the domain of the Imperial family only. They used it to pray for a good harvest, good growing and it is considered the heart of the universe. We made the most of the experience, visiting the Prayer Altar, Imperial Vault of Heaven and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest as we made our way through the park.
Despite the majestic buildings, ancient gardens and awe inspiring views the two highlights were more down to earth. Spending time in the exercise playground was right up there, however it was the local wildlife that really stole the show. Just as we were departing a squirrel made a guest appearance climbing a tree and scurrying across the ground. It was soon stalked by an intrepid posse of paparazzi with cameras poised and with the thirst of the hunt in their eyes, they were off. 10 minutes and hundreds of photos later not only had the lust for a memory been satisfied but a second squirrel had also been sighted and photographed for posterity.
After lunch the Hutong tour got into gear. It began with a rickshaw ride through the crowded and bustling streets of the Hutong. Upon arrival at our first destination we were led on foot through the streets to check out a house that had been in the same family for over 100 years. Being 300 metres square in size it is valued at somewhere between 8 to 10 Million New Zealand dollars. Back to our rickshaws we scurried and the lap of the Hutong was dutifully completed. The drivers with children in the back were considerably happier than the ones carrying the adults by the end.
Being let loose on Pipe Street for 30 minutes of shopping was like removing the plug in the bath and watching the water run away. A whirlwind of teal hats flew down the street shopping hard. The end result was a collection of selfie sticks, jewellery, fluffy bunny bags and knick knacks that a professional shopper would be proud of.
The day was completed with a climb up the Drum Tower with spectacular views across the city and a dynamic drumming performance. The climb back down was much more dramatic than the ascent.
The day wrapped up with dinner yet again at the local Lantern Restaurant where we were able to celebrate Selena’s birthday in style. The cake was once again a roaring success.
Bed was calling as we anticipated with excitement the Summer Palace and Pandas at the Beijing Zoo tomorrow.
Day 6 - P is for Panda
The day dawned slightly murky as we put a decent hole into the pile of pancakes this morning. After a shorter than normal bus ride we found ourselves at the Summer Palace. Following an impromptu pause to purchase $1 paper hats (most of which lasted about an hour before they fell apart) we entered the groups of the palace and began to soak up the atmosphere of this impressive place.
The local people let us draw using very large brushes with water on the ground, play another game of jianzi (a bit like playing with a hacky sack) with a group of Australians joining in, and made us feel really welcome.
As we walked the length of the longest corridor in the world we looked up and enjoyed the hundreds of murals that had been painted on it. The corridor seemed to stretch on forever!!! At a natural break we began the ascent of Longevity Hill. The hill that was created when the lake was excavated quite some time before bulldozers were invented. Climbing to the top was both strenuous and rewarding, each of us knowing that after the Great Wall nothing was going to slow us down when it came to steps.
Upon our return to the bottom we enjoyed a trip across the lake in a boat, a welcome relief for our weary legs. After a return journey over the 17 arch bridge we collapsed into our seats in the bus and prepared for the trip to Beijing Zoo and the Giant Pandas.
Lunch was consumed quickly and we made our way with excitement to the Beijing Zoo. Upon entering the Giant Panda House our enthusiasm quickly vanished as Panda after Panda was asleep, even singing to them failed to produce more than the odd scratch as a result.
Our final hope was the Olympic Panda House. As we walked in there was joy and delight, not only was this Panda up, but it was eating bamboo. As the excitement settled we noticed what seemed like Panda movement outside. It turned out that Ping the Panda (we named it ourselves) saved the day with his acrobatics. There was walking, climbing, throwing balls, moving balls, falling off the platform, hanging upside down and a spectacular toileting event that kept everyone enthralled.
The bus ride back to the hotel was quiet as we contemplated the day that had gone before us. After dinner at the Lantern Restaurant we once again settled in for the night.
Tomorrow we are looking forward to the water fun to be had in The Cube and of course shopping in the Pearl Market. If you can join us tomorrow at 2:30pm as we stream live into the Junior School Assembly please do so (fingers crossed). Click here to watch the livestream>>
Oh and we put this together to keep ourselves entertained during the day today. Watch our antics here>>
Day 7 - C is for Cube
When the votes were counted the highlights of the day were evenly split down the middle – slides at the Water Cube and shopping at the Pearl Market. Our first stop of the day was the Water Cube, home of the aquatic events at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. It was looking grim when Mr Mataio had to leave his ukulele at the security checkpoint as musical instruments were banned from the complex. After much measuring and further security we were in, poised to live stream to the Junior School assembly. When we read the ‘no videoing or you will be sued’ sign we decided that livestream from Beijing was just not meant to be. As none of us fancied getting evicted by one of the many pool attendants we would suggest playing our Baby Shark video from the day before at the assembly instead and get on with the serious job at hand – water slides.
The big blue slide was available to all despite their height or weight, the red slide was a different story. The vertical drop and loop required a decent amount of body weight to get around successfully. The other ride on the green inflatable rings including a near vertical drop into a large funnel was also limited by weight, however it was a hit for the few able to have a go. The lazy river full of small balls that made great missiles was a lot of fun, as was the wave pool and other slides on offer. We left tired and happy with lunch in our sights and shopping on our minds.
Pizza Hut provided us with not only a filling lunch, but some of the best toilets seen on the trip.
No sooner was lunch over than it was on, Yuan were flying as bargains were had, and some learnt a valuable lesson about how to bargain with the shop keepers. Three hours later the mountain of purchases dwarfed us as we enjoyed a relaxing drink before boarding the bus back to the hotel. The list of best buys included: Supreme hoodies, panda toys, dumpling man, wooden elephants, Rolex watches, panda hats, Yeezy shoes, a hippo plushie, Anime figures and a pocket watch.
The day wrapped up with the third birthday cake of the trip (possibly a new record) as Mr Hutton enjoyed his big day in Beijing.
Tomorrow we visit the infamous Wangfujing food alley and return for our final burst of shopping (some have more money left to spend than others) at the Pearl Market.
Day 8 - S is for Scorpion
The room for breakfast this morning resembled Tiananmen Square on a busy day as almost all the tables were full, so much so that the children sat at their usual 10 seat table with a couple who seemed to finish their breakfast rather quickly after we arrived.
The bus ride to Wangfujing Street was short but slow, Saturday morning shopping for the locals was in full swing. When we arrived however the spectacular street full of world class shopping brands blew our minds. It is unlikely the Rolex watches bought yesterday can be snapped up for the same price here. Undoubtedly the highlight of this area is the stroll down scorpion alley - the vast array of food, combination of smells and vocal stall holders kept us entertained as we walked the street.
After a spot of shopping it was back to the Pearl Market for lunch before the next round of shopping commenced. Our new ‘friends’ we made yesterday welcomed us back with open arms, enthusiastically offering us the same bargains as yesterday.
After several hours our wallets were empty and our bags full of things we never knew we needed.
We returned to the hotel for a swim and the Lantern Restaurant for dinner before we settled in for our last night in Beijing.
Tomorrow we pack our bags, depart the hotel, spend some time at Chaoyang Park before taking in the sights and sounds of the Acrobat Theatre. Our plane leaves Beijing at 11:45pm bound for home.
Day 9 - M is for Motorbike
There was an extra spring in our step this morning at breakfast as we knew that it would not be long before we are home in our own beds. Before then a massive day was in store. A leisurely breakfast was followed by some intense packing as our new purchases were carefully stowed in our bags ready for the trip home.
We wheeled our way to the bus and then moved on to Chaoyang Park where the lure of the rides was strong. Our first planned activity, a boat ride on the lake was cancelled due to the strong winds. The chair plane on steroids was the first ride we enjoyed. Ms Marsh had fond memories of her childhood rides - this one ended up slightly higher….. After trying out 3 different roller coasters, some very dodgy driving on the racetrack and a compulsory trip through the house of mirrors we were ready for lunch. A leisurely stroll to a nearby restaurant gave us our final taste of a Chinese banquet. We then made our way to the nearby Acrobat Theatre.
After we settled in with an ice cream treat the visual smorgasbord of daredevil stunts, graceful dances and pure strength was a sight to behold. The man running on the outside of a wheel suspended in the air blindfolded was hard to beat, however eight motorbikes riding together inside the Wheel of Death was the highlight for all.
We made our way slowly to the airport (holiday traffic was starting to get worse), checked in, and settled in for our flight to Sydney.
The end of the trip is in sight, having experienced so many things we can’t wait to share our memories with our loved ones back home. Special thanks to Mrs Yang for the marvellous job she did making sure we were in the right place at the right time, keeping in touch with the many people locally that made this trip such a success. We also thank Ms Neubert who planned and organised the trip and led us magnificently during our adventure. She was always ready with a smile and friendly word, while keeping an eye on the finances and keeping us focussed and on track.
We look forward to seeing you all on Monday night, until then zàijiàn.