Friday, 11 May 2012

The best thing I've done (to date)

I studied at the University of Nottingham.  The East Midlands isn’t the University’s only home as Nottingham also has international campuses in Malaysia and China. In the second year of my studies my closest ally headed off to complete the year in China, leaving me with an invite to go over during the Easter break.

Although I’ve always had an interest in traveling, prior to this I’d only ventured as far as Europe and always under the safe umbrella with family or friends (admittedly, the latter was slightly less sturdy). This exotic destination would see me on a lone 24hour trip with 2 transport changes. Also, my part time bar job was not likely to cover the cost of the excursion and so I would need to splurge the savings I’d so frugally amounted. But, weighing up the pros and cons (in hindsight there really were no cons) I committed to my China visit and got stuck into travel plans throughout the first half of the year.

Once there my na├»ve worries were blown out of the water – my independent trip over had really been that simple and now I was here, wow – well worth every penny. Introduced to the province of Ningbo with a ride on the back of an e-bike to the local town, I realised that the following jam packed three weeks were going to be nothing like I’d experienced before.  I clung on to the back of the bike as I watched other bikers ignore the laws of the road and vicariously dodge red lights and larger vehicles; I looked up at towering lights that held impressive Chinese characters and I smelt the food that street vendors were frying in tin cylinders along the path. But China had so much more to offer:


Generally the street food was tasty...
...But I did not enjoy snails!
I flew to Beijing and saw Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden city and The Summer Palace; I played games in the park with a local salesman and stood on the stone in The Temple of Heaven that supposedly ensures a direct path to heaven’s gate. I partook in a 4 hour hike across the Great Wall of China (This was the most challenging and unforgettable experience) which ended with a zip wire off over a beautiful lake; I travelled on an overnight train to Xian and took the local bus to the Terracotta warriors (amazing!). I tandem biked along Xian’s city walls, saw the infamous panda and watched an iconic fountain show. I saw acrobats defy the restrictions of human flexibility and got roped into an exercise class as I danced amongst locals in a town square; I was ferried through secret passages whilst shopping in Shanghai, took a boat trip along the Huangpu River and dreamed that one day I would eat at the top of the Oriental Pearl. I ventured up to the top of the World Financial Centre, the world’s 3rd tallest building at 492 meters, and gazed at the rich structural variety below. I embraced traditional Chinese culture and spent hours in a tea house drinking delicate tea and saw how China encompassed the West when I partied in a club. I tasted authentic Chinese food, some delicious, others not; picked up some basic phrases and witnessed the disparities that exist between social classes. 


Zip wiring from the Great Wall of China; an exhilarating end to a challenging, fantastic experience



I feel I learnt a lot from this trip. Not only were the cultural deviations fascinating, on a personal level I learnt that great reward is possible when you make the most of opportunities and don’t allow insignificant things to hold you back. Further, I’ve caught the contagious ‘travel bug’ and aspire to add to the experiences I’ve gathered throughout my life. After all, I believe that we live for life’s experiences and it is these that shape us into the people we become. 

Shanghi's distinctive skyline

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