-Submitted by Theresa Corelli, Abroad 101’s Global Ambassador on a Semester at Sea
This week I found myself in China!
Our ship docked in Hong Kong. Before this trip every time I thought of Hong Kong I just thought of Dad flying there for business and bringing home tamagotchis, those things were fun! So the first day we walked all over, we went up to Victoria’s Peak and had a great view of the whole city. It was like New York in the sense that is was crowded, traffic, busy, big, lots of flashing billboards…that whole ‘big city’ scene…just in a foreign language.
We rode escalator after escalator after escalator, I don’t know if the people in Hong Kong are just lazy, but there are escalators EVERYWHERE: inside, outside, mini ones, super long ones…you could get anywhere via escalator. I think I rode 60+ that day, seriously.
For lunch we went to a place that was recommended by The Food Network…can you tell I love food? It was this little hole in the wall place, but the guy that owns it hand-makes all of his noodles everyday. 5 of us went there and he told us that we only needed 3 dishes and that would be plenty, so, naturally, we ordered 5 dishes anyway and ate them all and he thought we were insane…played right into the obese American stereotype, giving us a good name! Lots of noodles, lots of soups, lots of pork, lots of dumplings…yum, yum, yum.
We strolled around the city the rest of the day, rode some ferries, did some sightseeing, and all that jazz. That night we went out to a street called Lan Kwai Fong…it was a street with lots of restaurants and bars…lots of fun. I got a delicious ice cream: cookies and cream ice cream sandwich half dipped in chocolate, WOW, why don’t we have those at home.
Hong Kong is very, very different from Mainland China. I always thought they were the same until this trip, but Hong Kong is actually one of the special administration regions (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China, fun fact! They operate under a “one country, two systems” policy, so Hong Kong has a lot of independence from mainland China, expect in regards to defense and foreign affairs. I guess you could relate it to the United States and Puerto Rico, or something like that. Hong Kong uses the Hong Kong Dollar and China uses the Chinese Yuan, Facebook is allowed in Hong Kong, but blocked in China, and I could go on and on and keep boring you…
Left on a 2.5 hour flight to BEIJING! We then drove another 2 hours to a town called Miyun. We stayed at an International Hotel and the staff didn’t speak anything besides Mandarin…international hotel? only speaks the official language of that country? weird. The language barrier here was ridiculously hard to get past. It’s not like in Brazil where you could get away with a little bit of Spanish, it’s not like in Ghana were at least you could pronounce words and sound things out…I found myself just starring at Chinese characters over and over again, dazed & confused. Every where we went we had to have a Chinese person write the name and address in Chinese and then you would just show it to the cab driver, he would nod his head, you would get in, the meter would start running, and then you would get out and pay…not a word was exchanged. This is if the cab drivers even wanted to pick up Americans, a lot of times they would be sitting there and just shake their heads at us or just drive off when we were trying to talk to them, yea, they don’t like us too much.
We went to an amazing dinner that night. It was ‘family style’ and they would just bring dish after dish out and pile them on top of each other and we would spin it around on a lazy susan, my kind of meal! For the record, Chinese food is NOT like Chinese food at home. While I do love Lucky Kitchen, China Gate, and Haiku and all those delicious, greasy, fatty, Chinese places back home, you can’t find sesame chicken and pork fried rice like that in China. Which makes me think, where did we come up with the Chinese food that we have in America? Our meals in China were a lot of meat…we got whole fishes, whole ducks, lots of chicken, lots of beef and pork. It was also interesting how they served the meals. We would get all the meat first, then they would bring out some vegetables, then bread, then the rice, and then the soup…backwards, right?
Fresh fruit and fried rice for breakfast, yay! This was one of the most memorable days of my life, hands down. We hiked 12.5 miles on Wan Li Chang Cheng…better know as The Great Wall of China! I still can’t really grasp it, it was amazing. The views were incredible, the history of the wall was so interesting to learn about, and the hiking was awesome. We hiked from Gubeikou to the Jinshanling section. It was so incredible because this part of the wall is not touristy at all, it has not been touched-up or anything, so sometimes we would be walking and bricks would fall, sometimes you would be walking on dirt and that was because the wall had collapsed there. I really enjoyed this hike because we got to see everything how it should be. A lot of tourist attractions are re-modeled, re-build, or added on to, but what is the point of going to see these great pieces of history if they are just modern architecture to attract more tourists? Right?
The wall used to all be in separate chuncks, but then the various sections were linked up in 221 BC under the unification of the empire by Qin Shi Huang Di. Over 300,000 men worked for 10 years to complete the wall. Hiking on it was hard enough, I can’t even begin to imagine building that thing; carrying all of those supplies up these mountains and all of that manual labor, very impressive. Our guides were telling us that people would die from building the wall and they would just burry them into the wall, so we were essentially walking on dead bodies…sort of weird.
You all will get a kick out of this one. So, Americans have a reputation of being fat, loving to eat, loving fast food, and especially LOVING McDonalds. Our tour guides said we were going to have a ‘picnic lunch’ on the Great Wall in the middle of our hike. After a few hours we get to the spot that we were going to eat lunch and our tour guide, more excited than I have ever seen anyone, says with a huge grin, “For picnic lunch, WE EAT MCDONALDS! We ordered you each TWO Big Macs because we know one, not enough. You MUST take picture of you on Great Wall holding Big Mac and show friends!!!!” It was one of the funniest things in the world. He was so excited, he thought he made all of our days. Not a huge McDonalds fan, but Big Macs on the Great Wall it was.
We continued to hike the rest of the day and it was incredible. Looking back on that day I still can’t believe it happened. It was awesome to be hiking on a such an important piece of history while learning all about it from the locals. and…I got to see and touch snow!
Hiked another 4 miles on The Great Wall, the fun just doesn’t stop. Lunch this time was a mayo sandwich, a stick of sausage (looked like a raw hotdog), a hard boiled egg, and a banana. As if it wasn’t gross enough, WE GOT TWO OF EVERYTHING! They really think that all we care about is food…which isn’t too far off.
Drove back into Beijing for the night! Beijing is the capital of China and 90% of people in Beijing live in apartments, fun fact!
Then we went to a silk shop, they showed us how they hand make all of these silk products…and then tried to sell us thousand dollar bed spreads…out of my budget.
We went to the pearl market after that, I bought a $1 watch…that is currently broken. 2nd watch I have bought and 2nd watch that has broke on this trip, you think I would learn my lesson and not buy fake, cheap stuff…nope.
We went to a duck dinner this night, they brought out a whole duck and we ate all parts of it. Not the biggest duck fan from what I have had in the past, but this was pretty good!
We went to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, pretty cool! Tiananmen Square is the largest public square in the world! Forbidden City, also known as Imperial Palace, used to be home to 24 different emperors…neat stuff. Then we went to a tea ceremony, they really do love their tea here. We learned how to drink tea, how to make tea, how not to drink tea, how to smell tea, how to sit while drinking tea, how to buy tea, which tea to buy, blah blah blahhhhhh. I don’t really like to drink tea, but you had to finish your cup every time because they kept refilling it with new ones…by the end my mouth was burnt and I still didn’t like tea.
After another feast for lunch, we flew to Shanghai. We got in late, dropped our stuff off at the ship, and went out to dinner. Where I preceded not to eat because I felt so nauseous…and then I threw up. Sorry to tell this story, but I had to mention the first time that I got sick from foreign food! Maybe it was the lunch, maybe the plane food…who knows, but something wasn’t sitting well.
Markets, and markets, and markets OH MY. Never have I ever seen more fake designer products in one place. How are they allowed to do this? Why don’t they get in trouble? Summer bought Rosetta Stone and it broke a few hours later, people bought flash drives that didn’t hold anything, people bought DVDs that only worked once…it was funny. I guess I can’t really talk, I bought two broken watches. They try to rip you off SO bad here. They will try to sell you a ‘desginer’ wallet for 580 Yuan ($92) and then you can eventually get them down to 50 Yuan ($8). If you say “but this is fake” they just say “yes fake, but good quality!.” I found it so entertaining to bargain with them, you just say this is my highest price, you walk away, they start screaming after you, they yell out numbers and get lower and lower, and then they run after you, grab your arm, and say “fine, just for you I give good price.” It’s all such fun!
We walked around Shanghai for the day, we stopped in a Snow Bar…it was freezing. They rent out jackets for people to wear at night haha. Everything was made from ice though, it was pretty cool- no pun intended! Ha.
We got fast Chinese food for lunch. I got rice and teriyaki chicken and we sat there eating saying OMG THIS IS SO GOOD! And then we thought this is just like foreigners coming to America and going to McDonalds and being like OMG THIS IS AMAZING FOOD. We were probably eating the grossest Chinese fast food around, but we enjoyed it!
More markets, more wondering, more metros, more food. Hung out with Madison’s parents for a little, that was fun! Made me miss you Mom & Dad 🙂 and then we sailed away…
Hong Kong & China were incredible, they weren’t what I had expected at all and it was so interesting to travel from Hong Kong to mainland China and see how different they really are.
Two things that I did not like about China: (1) The air pollution is horrible. You could be walking around for the day and literally have trouble breathing. The doctor on the ship told us not to go on a run in China because it is so bad for your lungs. (2) You can smoke inside public buildings, EW. I hate the smell of smoke and it would be everywhere. I guess I wasn’t alive or don’t remember when it used to be like that in the states, but trying to eat dinner and having someone smoking right behind you is the WORST.
Fun facts about China: they walk their birds like we walk our dogs. In the morning you will see people walking around with bird cages, that is them taking their birds for a walk…interesting idea. I guess they wonder why we walk our dogs when they just kill them and eat them, eh? There is no 4th floor in the hotels and buildings because 4 means death. They have a “2 Child Policy” because China is overpopulated and they are trying to limit the number of children that people can have, that is so sad.
So now we are in route to JAPAN! Japan and then Hawaii and then….San Diego. Wow, this trip is FLYING by. Time is going by way too fast, it is so sad. By the time you get back on the ship, catch up on sleep, and go to a few classes, you are in another country! Everything is chaos!