The trip to china for me was a fantastic experience. The culture and environment of China was vastly different to what we were familiar with and just visiting such huge cities was humbling. Our arrival in Gnangdong was most memorable, stepping off the plane to be greeted with the choking fumes and grime polluting the city air (although pollution around the airport was admittedly much greater than the other places we visited here). To me the pollution was not so much unwelcome, but a marker to how foreign this place would be to us. This was reinforced on the long bus drive to Foshan as we travelled in awe through an endless city of densely packed high rise buildings and crowded streets lit by the omnipresent glow of neon signs. We arrived late and tired in Foshan, surprised by the high quality of our accommodation.
The next few days were spent learning kung fu at Wong Fei Hong's museum. This was a beautiful and tranquil location that belied the bustling street where it was located and was an incredible place to learn kung fu. Our kung fu masters here were great and it was an honour to be taught by such veterans, especially after witnessing the amazing performances of their students. Our time spent here was fun and rewarding.
As this was our first stop in China the place was new and exciting to us and more time to explore it on our own would have been appreciated. The very brief language lessons we got here taught as little and be'tier orgamsation and better planned lessens would have improved this. In particular, notes with simple phases, vocab and grammar which we could learn or refemnna at our own pace and outside of the lessons would have been very helpful. Otherwise the lessons could be easily foregone as we managed well in China knowing effectively none of the language; however, it would have been nice to know more.
Visiting our ancestral villages, which was next on the agenda, was for everyone a highlight of the trip. However, difficulty for me and a few others arose from ambiguity to the detail required in specifying the location of our villages. Specifically we needed to know the exact location of our ancestor's houses in order to visit them.
Shenzhen was a great place to shop and one of the best on the tour and more time there would definitely have been appreciated.
The day spent at a local high school was another highlight. The students there were extremely welcoming and being able to talk with them (since they spoke English) and see their way of life was fascinating.
The scenic sites and temples we visited in Hangnhou were worthwhile and enjoyable. I thought less, however, of the history museums we visited on the trip such as the Sun Yat Sen museum. I don't think any of us had much or any prior knowledge of who he was or what he did and personally I don't think l'm of the age to appreciate it anyway. This museum was filled with only black and white photos and Chinese documents and letters needless to say it wasn't very interesting. We also visited a museum dedicated to his wife.
Shanghai was an amazing city and a great place to spend our free days.
My only disappointment here was visiting the Shanghai pearl tower and only going to a history museum at the bottom rather than to the top. Although 1 know a lot of people didn't think much of all the factories we visited (silk, enamel, jade etc.), it was interesting to see the types of conditions and work the locals did in them and was surprising to see the skill they had considering how much they probably get paid.That being said one or two probably would have been enough since they were all basically just elaborate facades for the factory shop.
The train trip to Beijing was surprisingly comfortable and probably preferable to flying. The only nuisance for me was that my luggage didn't have wheels and we had to carry it a tong way to the station.
Before arriving I didn't think Beijing would match Shanghai but I was presently susprised as the sightseeing here was amazing. The Great Wall and Forbidden Palace in particular were absolutely magnificent and vastly surpassed my expectations in terms of scale. The Temple of Heavan and Summer Palace were also fantastic and beautiful sights.
Hong Kong was a good place to buy electronics but everything else seemed awfully expensive having just come from China. Although I stayed on here after the trip, another day here for the main group, I'm sure, would have been appreciated as I know they were frantically rushing to buy all they stuff they wanted.
The food on the trip was rather dull. The banquet lunches and dinners we were served when we arrived in Foshan were very nice and impressive (the best on the trip) but after this we continued to have the same style breakfast, lunch and dinner for the whole remainder of our tour. I assume these meals would have been expensive and more variety would definitely have been welcome. I preferred the cheap local food we bought on our free days.
Overall the trip was a great experience. Apart from the museums, all the locations we visited were really interesting and enjoyable. I thought the trip was well paced, although it could do with a few extra free days slotted in, especially in Shanghai and when we arrived in Guangdong.