After nearly a year of expectant waiting, on March 27, students at Duchess’s Community High School finally set off for Dubai, final destination Beijing.
While TV screens fitted into every seat’s headrest provided long hours of entertainment, the movies could not be compared to the sights Beijing and Shanghai had to offer. Valiant effort was shown as we faced The Great Wall, jet-lagged, on the first day.
The sites continued in Beijing from the impressive Bird’s Nest Stadium to the peaceful Summer Palace. There was night entertainment too – from the kung fu show to the acrobatic show which at one point had eight men on motorcycles inside a giant mesh cage.
The markets were also an interesting – and intense – cultural experience.
First time barterers, such as myself, stuck to the rule our guide Fei Fei gave us – pay at most a third of the asking price. Naturally, competition blossomed as the best bargain was searched for. The flea market offered a more relaxed atmosphere, as the shopkeepers were not so forward.
The shopping of the trip was perhaps more successful than the students – and teachers – realised, as there were some suitcase space issues as we prepared to board the sleeper train to Shanghai.
However, before the sleeper train was the school. Two days of kite flying, numerous photos and, quite frankly, astonishment at the work schedule of the students, which left us exhausted.
The time spent in Shanghai was more relaxing overall – a spontaneous cruise along the Bund, a visit to the Yuyuan Gardens and strolling around the Jade Buddha Temple had many people professing their love for Shanghai. Although this could have been aided by the slight influx in the western-style food from The Paradise Hotel.
Paradise indeed. Don’t get me wrong, I became quite attached to the chopsticks, and we did view a range of local cuisine – scorpions, squids, the usual – but trading rice in for pasta was almost better than deciding to go on the China trip in the first place.
Almost. Because as speeches were given on buses, and we said goodbye to tour-guide Richard, the feeling that this was the end settled in.
As flights were handled with military precision and parting with our turquoise hoodies became reality, I think we all realised how fantastic a trip it had been and how no one would want our photograph in Newcastle.
Jess Williams, Year 12