I suppose the best, and ultimately most over-used means of beginning this report would be to thank all the staff involved in making the trip to China possible, especially Mr. Grehan and also the tour guides in China, without whose help, none of this would have been possible. Unfortunately I have neither the time nor patience to type all this up, what with the looming prospect of year eleven and GCSEs. I would like to dedicate this memory to the current Headmaster, Mr. Morris, Enjoy your retirement Sir.
The trip began formulation over two years ago now, if I’m not mistaken, and was originally intended to take place at the same time, a year previous. Unfortunately the outbreak of one of the world’s most mysterious diseases delayed the schedule for at least a year until the whole thing blew over. As it is, SARS continues to pester the Chinese even now to some extent but this wouldn’t stop us from paying a visit. Everybody had grown hungry with pure anticipation and so everything was pulled together and we left for China, via Heathrow, on July 21st.
We spent the first day and a half traveling, certainly not as glamorous as it sounds. The ten hour long flight left me sleepless, dishevelled and perfectly unkempt. A single step from the plane left me feeling breathless and woosy, until we could find the shelter of the Beijing airport and necessary air conditioning. Unfortunately, a combination of declaring my cough and feeling hot and bothered from the change in weather conspired to have me quarantined for a short while. Fortunately Mr. Grehan was, as ever, on hand to oversee the events and ensure my safety. After arriving at the wonderful Catic Hotel, soon to be affectionately re-labeled (literally, see Luke Bramwell 11B for details) The Septic Plaza Hotel, we spent the remainder of the day relaxing and refreshing in preparation for climbing The Great Wall the next day.
I think I am entitled, rather, required to devote an entire paragraph to this, quite honestly the most stunning construction I have ever and most likely, will ever see. We arrived early after a quick breakfast and wash up, and proceeded to climb the rest of the wall from where we had joined. A good way up, but not far enough some might say. The experience, in my view, was one of the best and most relaxing I will ever know. All the steps are uneven and awkward if you’re not concentrating, but the way down had me silenced – quite a mean fete. The views from both sides of the wall were just… awesome. To think that every step you are taking was hand-laid over two thousand five hundred years ago is just mind-bogglingly… awesome. I think that just about sums up the way I feel about that.
So next we were off to the Ming Tombs, not that I knew it – I hadn’t slept the previous night and spent most of the day half alive. We arrived and managed to view the first few before the heavens well and truly tore. What followed was rain not even the likes of Rossendale has seen. We were forced to give it up and go back to the hotel to freshen up for the Acrobat show later that evening. We left a little later for a meal, the food here was excellent – in my opinion, I can’t talk for everybody. The show, or what I saw of it, was brilliant. I was so tired I fell asleep on and off the whole time and eventually got so comfy, not even Mr. Morris could wake me up. I’m told the show consisted of very many acrobatic showpieces such as balancing people on your shoulders while balancing yourself on a barrel, very impressive.
The second day we spent at Tiananmen Square, this place was just enormous and we soon found ourselves subject to the street merchants trying to sell us lots and lots of stamps. The highlight of this day though was the overwhelming Forbidden City and Imperial Palace. The sheer size of the place meant that it would take us over two hours to walk straight from one side to the other. The City contains over eight hundred buildings and thousands upon thousands of rooms. So I’m sure we could have spent a much longer period of time there.
We spent that night traveling to Xian on the best trains I have ever seen, each bed has it’s own plasma screen TV with individual remote, the service was impeccable and the toilets were… holes in the floor. We arrived in Xian early and were transferred to the Wan Nian Hotel by coach. After unpacking and a little mooch around the hotel we set off for the Wild Goose Pagoda. This place has survived over two thousand five hundred years and remains seven stories tall. That night’s entertainment was the Tang Dynasty Show, a traditional dance and music show over a thousand years old. One of the best moments here was one particular performer, imitating a goose perfectly without aid. I was sure this was some sort of mime to begin with, but after a solo finale I was quite reassured that this was all him.
The Terracotta Army is the most incredible product of human collective effort I have ever known or seen. There are rows and rows of individually set guardians each protecting the Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s Tomb after his death over 2000 years ago. This army and tomb took thirty thousand men around forty years to build and is a monument to their effort and strife. I don’t know what else to say about this place, other than the fact that they’re just mind-boggling. That evening we spent at the Huaqing Hot Springs, which is just the most picturesque place I know. Fortunately for me, somebody famous informed us all that a picture says a thousand words.
We also visited the Xian city walls before we left for Beijing again, not quite the same as its relative of greatness but still some beautiful sites to be seen. I managed to buy the promised Chinese dress for my sister from a little shop on the top of the wall. Another beautiful day and another experience to add to the list.
After a great night’s sleep on the train we arrived back at the ‘Septic, settled and made tracks for the Temple of Heaven. This is probably the best looking and “most religiously symbolic building in the world…ever!” It’d probably even win the channel five public vote.
Next we set off for the Summer Palace and Kunming Lake with “that boat that they made out of marble”. On entry we walked down this 700 metre long walkway to enjoy the views of the lake, which – by the way- is spectacularly enormous and dazzling (despite the rain that I’m not going to mention). The Palace gardens themselves were, yet again, phenomenal and just plain gorgeous at times. I would never have gardens like that, I’d be too afraid it might rain or something – I suppose in China that doesn’t often occur really.
That night was the Peking Opera, more focused on strangely combining loud yelps and martial arts than the more traditional stereotype of big men and their other halves bowling immense boulders of powerful song from their innards with amazing grace and elegance for their size. You could argue that this eloquent, delicate part of the show emanates from the weapon-based dance dueling that takes place in part of a more complex “very Italian”, emotion-provoking storyline. Marvelous.
Our last day in China we spent the majority of, shopping. This, the most relaxing of female habits, left Lloyd and myself in fits of panic, joy and angst, more so panic and angst in my particular case. The number of “real china soccer shirts” and “cashmere Burberry” sent my head rushing and my blood spinning. I managed to come away with a couple of hats, one “Von Dutch” – who? And another “és”, along with my pink silk tie created a very nice combo. The popular buy for English punters abroad though seems to be the patented (illegally) fake china football team shirt, sported by many in the following photographs.
Thank you for bothering to read this article, I hope you found it interesting, witty and occasionally informative. Fortunately for me, I’ll always be slightly more astute when it comes to talking about China than you now. Though I’m hopeful that you’ll be able to rival the best.
Thank you and good night.
Phil Durham 11B.