“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
November 11, 2010
Hong Kong- We arrived into port bright and early and go off the ship as soon as we could. My friend Heidi needed a rail pass for Japan so that was one of the first things we did after finding an ATM. Once we got her rail pass we spent a good amount of time wandering around Harbor City where we shopped a bit and grabbed lunch. Once we finally ate something we went to the old part of Hong Kong, which looks completely different. We took a taxi to the old part where we would catch the old tram through the entire city. The point of the tram was so that you could see the transition that the city has made-from old to new. The tram ride took about an hour but it was really great to see how Hong Kong has changed so much. After the ride we got off and grabbed a bubble tea and went to a market that was right behind the MRT. The market had some of the most random things in it. Including a watch repairman who fixed my favorite watch for the grand total of one dollar. Shannon, Loryn, and I picked up several things that we would need for our adventure to Beijing where it would be below freezing. The sunset really early and by 5 pm it was pitch black we made our way back to the port via the MRT because we had to see the light show that would start at 8. We got back to the ship, got ready in a hurry and made our way to the clock tower, which was the best location to watch the light show. The light show is basically when they play music and the entire Hong Kong skyline lights up with the music. It was pretty cool and we were interviewed by some students learning English, who told us to go out in soho. We took the star ferry across the harbor towards central Hong Kong where we got lost and were confronted by college student who said he would take us to Soho. Well long story short we had to ditch him and he didn’t get the picture for a long time. But Loryn and I ended up eating dinner and this cute Mexican place called Taco Loco and we got burritos and Margaritas. After a couple hours in Soho we made our way back to the port and caught the last ferry across the harbor. We were leaving for Beijing in less than 12 hours and had a lot of things to do to prepare.
November 12, 2010
The morning came and went quickly and the adventure to the Great Wall began. It was Amber, Loryn, and I going to Beijing so the group was small and it was perfect for traveling. We took the MRT to the train station where we would cross the border into mainland China-Guangzhou was our first destination and it would take a couple of hours to get there. Once we made it to the mainland…we had to go through about an hour of security before we made our way to the airport. At the airport our flight was delayed but we ate Chinese food and shopped around the airport before boarding. Once we finally made it to Beijing it was task to get a taxi driver to drive into the center of the city at 1030 pm but finally one agreed and we were on our way to the center. Our hostel was right next to the forbidden city and it was crazy being able to recognize a city after doing all this traveling for months, this was only place I had been to before semester at sea. We checked in to our hostel which was a bit sketchy ( at night ) but really cool anyways. I was exhausted so basically went to bed right away considering we had to be up and out of the hostel but 730 for our trip to the Great Wall.
November 13, 2010
The three of us were up, eating breakfast and out the door all before 730. We took a tour to the Great Walll because the easiest part of the wall to get to was the touristy part, which we didn’t want to go to. It took about 2.5 hours to get there but when I saw the Wall from a distance I was so excited I couldn’t even stop smiling. We got to Mutianyu and the guide told us to meet her back in 3 hours at a restaurant where we would eat after hiking. There were two options, you could climb the stairs up the mountain or you could take a chair lift…we took the chairlift so that would have more time on the wall. Once we made it to the top it was breathtaking and SO EXCITING. We went to the left, which meant that it would be about 4 miles of hiking up and down stairs and there would be about 15 watchtowers. Well, we hiked the entire thing and the whole time I never felt like it was 4 miles, it was too exciting to be worried about distance at all. I took about 200 pictures and after 2.5 hours we made our way to the bottom of the mountain. The way down was awesome, you got to toboggan our way down which was hilarious and the three of us didn’t listen to any of the rules regarding speed or distance between carts…Loryn kept slamming our her breaks to “keep me on my toes” which was a riot. At the bottom of the mountain we walked through the markets which sold fruits and panda hats (which I bought two of ) but we were laughing our heads of because we had to bargain for our fruit, it was ridiculous I couldn’t even believe it… I had to bargain for a banana. With our panda hats we walked down the rest of the mountain to meet our group for lunch before heading back to Beijing.
When we made it back to Beijing we quickly recuperated and made our way to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Since it was getting late and the sun was setting we could actually go into the Forbidden City but we took a ton of pictures of it all lit up at night-which was beautiful. Everyone wanted to take pictures with us because we looked ridiculous all bundled up and wearing panda hats. After a few dozen pictures I took the opportunity to take the girls around Beijing…my fabulous memory led us to this famous square that is near the Forbidden city which resembles most of the China towns in the United States. Little red lanterns everywhere-AND A STARBUCKS we walked around the little area before we made our way to the night market where we bargained for little gifts for our families. When the cold began to get to all of us we started to head back to our hostel and when we passed through Tiananmen square right before we got home we got to see the fountain show that was going on at the forbidden city. Music accompanied 15 fountains that lined the dark red walls of the Forbidden City. We finally got back to our hostel AND we had a new roommate, who was an American living in South Korea visiting Beijing for the weekend. The four of us had dinner together at the hostels little restaurant and we convinced him to take the same trip to the great wall that we had done. Loryn and I spent most of the night talking to him and he gave us some great advice and information on South Korea.
November 14, 2010
It was our last day in Beijing before we would head to Shanghai to meet up with the boat so we were up early to do some major sightseeing. We had a quick breakfast and were off to see Beijing. The first stop was the Forbidden City and we spent a good couple of hours walking in-between all of the courtyards and behind the big red walls along the pond. We left and began to find our way to the Olympic Stadium from 2008. We saw the birds nest and the pond or whatever they call the thing for Michael Phelps won like 50 gold medals. Once again everyone wanted to take a picture with us and after a while we were ready to leave. This part of the city looks NOTHING like the rest of the city. It looks so modern and built up which I am sure was all done for the Olympics. From the Olympic stadium we went over to the Summer palace which was way different from the Winter palace (Forbidden City) at the summer palace there were ponds and trees everywhere which was basically the opposite of the Forbidden City. After a couple of hours of walking around we had to meet up with one of Amber’s friends who is living in Beijing teaching English who had bought our train tickets to shanghai. We met up with him at the silk market, which was seven floors of everything you can imagine. After a few hours at the silk market and getting the tickets from Trey, we went back to the night market behind the Forbidden City to spend the last couple of hours in Beijing. Before we we knew it we were at the train station getting some snacks to bring on the night train…we were leaving Beijing and heading to Shanghai.
When we got on the night train…it was a nightmare there were Chinese people everywhere ( naturally- we were in china) but THEY WERE IN OUR SEATS and thought they could just steal them from us, RUDE, after quick of bit of awkward standing over these people they finally gave up and gave us our seats back. We sat across from 3 boys and before the first hour of the train was over we were all sleeping and loryn was on the ground underneath our chairs.
November 15, 2010
Fourteen hours seemed to take forever and I was so excited to finally reach Shanghai. We got off the train, asked a police officer for help and found ourselves in a predicament…not only were we tired and grouchy but Semester at Sea put a nonexistent address on the Green sheet ( the sheet we use to find our way back to the ship) so not only were we in a foreign country but we were without an address. After a lot of debate we found a taxi driver who would take us to the bund where hopefully we would find the MV explorer. WE DID WE DID WE DID and I was so happy to see it it took a while to go through security and then we were stuck on the ship for 4 hours waiting for customs to clear us…even though we had been in China for 3 days. By the time we got off the ship the sun was setting and the bund (waterfront) was lighting up. We got into a taxi and made our way to Yuyuan a small district with lots of restaurants where we would spend the night eating and walking around before going back to the ship..
November 16, 2010
It was our final day in China and we had the day to explore around Shanghai, we got the name of an area and we set out there before all the other SASers would invade. We spent some time walking around before we found a market( naturally) and spent the last of our money on gifts for everyone. Before we knew it, it was lunchtime and the day was almost over. We ate a quick lunch, walked around a bit more and then went to the bund to take some pictures of Shanghai’s skyline. We walked the entire way back to the ship which was located right on the bund and we took dozens of pictures with each other- and with tourists who thought we looked weird. Because of immigration we weren’t allowed to leave straight away but when we did the bund was lit up and beautiful, it was a great way to say goodbye to China.
China was the only country on the itinerary that I had been to before, and I was extremely nervous to go back. But It was worth it, although many of my reason for not liking China the first time around were reaffirmed I am glad I got to go to the great wall of China. The thing about China is that the country is filled with such a rich history that is hard for me not to love it BUT the people with all the people that I have met along the way, the Chinese have been by far the rudest people in the world (the world that I have seen ) But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy my time and the experience that I had while I visited. Seeing the Great Wall of China was something I had dreamed of my entire life, and let me tell you GO SEE IT!!!! It was one of the most breathtaking and surreal moments of my life. ☺