The events that occurred before departure on the 28th November were useful such as the pre departure meeting and meeting the rest of the group the night before departure. That allowed us to converse and get to know the other members of the group before boarding the 11 hour flight. More information in the pre departure meeting would have been helpful such as maybe a suggested clothing list and including such things as washing equipment, money, security such as beggars and pick pocketers. Especially the security topic as then it would not have been so daunting when we arrived in China.
The 11 hour flight with no sound available on the entertainment system was not a good start to the trip although it was quite good in some aspects as it meant we were required to socialise and interact with other members thus by the time we arrived in Foshan we felt we knew each other quite well.
The kung fu experience was wonderful and a once in a lifetime opportunity that I do not think anyone of our group will ever forget. To have the chance to be taught by such experienced teachers was an honour, especially within the ancestral temple of Wong Fei Hong. Although there was a major language barrier it allowed me to become more appreciative of the skills needed in the art of kung fu. Although I felt that there was maybe too much focus on the kung fu and not enough on the language lessons.
We had one hour lesson on Cantonese and one hour lesson on mandarin. The lessons were not organised at all and I felt I did not learn much at all, not even the basics. I was looking forward to learning much more of our native language and since most of our group could not speak much Cantonese or Mandarin I was very disappointed in the lessons that we had. It would have been great to have come out of this trip with a little bit more knowledge in our language vocabulary.
It was an excellent idea to stay closer to the villages so we could spend more time at there rather than travelling from Guangzhou. Although the resort we stayed at was absolutely disgusting and apparently rates itself as a four star hotel but the rooms were disintegrating before our eyes.
The officials had organised this part of the trip extremely well, this was one of the most enjoyable moments of the trip. My grandmother's sisters family still live in the village so I spent the whole day with them and was dropped off to the hotel in the late evening. My relatives took my cousin and me back to our grandparents houses and their own houses and it was a memorable experience. My cousin, Stuart's grandparents came over from NZ to take him back to their villages but where luckily there to escort and translate for us so we could converse easily with our relatives.
The minority village was interesting but as we had to travel from Xintang we arrived later in the day so I felt we did not have enough time to explore the minority village. The food at the village was horrible and not very appetising, but there was not much variety within the village. The show we attended at the end of the night was fabulous and extravagant. The storyline was translated into English thus we were able to understand it and follow along. It was awe striking but sometimes I felt it was a bit over the top as there was too much going on and it was hard to decide what to watch.
The interaction with the students at the school was a great experience. I found a lot of the students had extremely good English. Ms Long was lovely enough to organise a basketball game between the students and our group by request. There was a girls versus girls and boys versus boys game. The members that participated in the games thoroughly enjoyed the competition. The students teaching us how to write our Chinese names in calligraphy was a pleasure and it allowed us to have a go at a traditional art. It was a pity that we could not eat with the students which would have allowed us to mix and interact with them even more. The school was very hospitable and put on a good and entertaining show for the afternoon. Although it was quite sad to view the school dormitory and facilities as they were very poor living conditions that were not hygienic at all.
The Poon Yue village was exciting to see even though they were not my ancestral villages. I spent the day with my cousin to keep him company with his grandparents to see the village on his father's side. We spent the morning with other members of the groups and I found that their villages were really rushed and they were not given a far chance to spend time there in comparison to the time spent at Xintang. We were rushed through because the officials wanted to visit the whereabouts of the spaceship. It was an experience but I felt that the time would have been better spent looking at ancestral villages since that was the underlying reason of the whole trip was to go back to our heritages.
The museum we visited about Dr Sun Yat Sen was extremely interesting and his residence was humble to explore. It was a pity that we could not venture around the park where his famous statue was situated as it was very beautiful and we were rushed through quite quickly. Even though it was a long drive out to Zhongsan, I felt it was worth it as the history of China and its leaders was intriguing and I found many other members of the group felt the same. We met with the Australian group but only for the day and it was unfortunate that we could not interact with them for much longer.
The flight to Hangzhou was dreadfully turbulent but the Lingyin temple was very beautiful and interesting. The Yue fei temple was intriguing as well. I found the te village quite boring as our tour guide from the place talked too loud into the megaphone. It did not help that it was a very long day for us. The boat cruise on the lake was fun but very long but because we had the company of Janet who gave us a wonderful and knowledge full commentary, it made the cruise very enjoyable.
The hotel we stayed at was stunning and very flash and the bus was a much better quality bus than the one we had on the camp side of the trip. Our tour guide, Bob was excellent as he was a genuinely nice guy who was very talkative and extremely informative. It was a pity that he was not able to sit with us for our meals as that is one of the most relaxed moments where conversation would have been lots of fun.
The Wuzhen water town was very intriguing and I wish we were allocated more time there as we were only able to see one or two extra parts within the village including the puppet show and the bed carvings.
Shanghai was terrific, the control that the western society held over Shanghai was incredible and the whole history of Shanghai itself. I felt I learnt a lot at the Shanghai history museum as it was intriguing and fascinating. I felt the trip to the museum was well worth it. The bund was beautiful and it was a good idea to go to the museum before going to the bund as I recognised many of the buildings from the museum models. It allowed me to become more aware of which building was which and remember the history of each building. The shopping on Nanjing road was lots of fun but extremely busy, but we all enjoyed the Huangpu night cruise although it was freezing cold but very beautiful and a great site to see all the lights at night time.
The hotel we stayed at was very nice but I found it was not central or near much, it would have been better if we were located closer to sites. The free days were wonderful and we explored a lot and the markets were very enjoyable and I spent up large there. The nightlife was good as it was very westernised but extremely expensive which was quite off putting.
I found this part of the trip the most enjoyable as I was really looking forward to the wonders that China has to offer in the historical and cultural sightseeing that China is renowned for. Even though it was the coldest weather in Beijing we were very lucky to have good weather for our sightseeing and it did not snow until the last day when we were leaving. The overnight train was very comfortable and nice and lots of fun with the whole group and I recommend it to anyone.
The temple of heaven was absolutely gorgeous and very articulate with the carvings in stone and the other features throughout the place. It was my favourite temple out of all the temples we visited throughout the trip. It was a great honour to visit Mao's mausoleum as only a few people are allowed to go through each day between certain hours. It was odd to see his actual preserved body but a once in a lifetime opportunity that I appreciated greatly. Tianamen square was huge and would fit a lot of people, I unfortunately was unable to watch the flag raising when people went to see it on their free days, but it would be awesome to include it in the programme for next year as I heard it was quite amazing.
The forbidden city was one of my favourites, even though it was very long and some parts seemed to be looking the same, it was beautiful and one of the highlights of the trip. The jade Buddha temple and the summer palace was gorgeous and a great experience to see these wonders. The Yu gardens were amazing but Old Shanghai town was authentic but extremely busy with many people. I wish we had more time to explore Old Shanghai town.
Hong Kong was great but I feel we did not have enough time at all to explore, it was more like a stop over. Maybe 4 nights in Hong Kong would have been more sufficient than only one and a half days there.
The China trip was one of the best experiences in my life, I would recommend it to anyone and I am glad I decided to participate because it is a life changing experience and I will remember and treasure it forever.