From some of the busiest streets and tallest towers in the world, to the tranquility of mountain top villages and rivers through valleys, China is a land of contrasts and wonder. Earlier this year, a group of economists and linguists had the opportunity to experience China’s beauty first hand, and being one of those, I can safely say it was the trip of a lifetime. During those 10 days, we were treated to an education in culture, customs and the ways of the far east, and could experience various aspects of the nation which have made it one of the largest economies in the world.
Getting the chance to travel across China, and witnessing its diversity, was a surreal experience. I felt like a child, in awe of everything, as each and everything I saw mesmerised me more than the last. Travelling from Shanghai to Guilin on an overnight train was one such experience, as, staring out the window to the soundtrack of rattling wheels, I saw high-rise skyscrapers and shopping malls give way to idyllic scenes of mountain life and greenery; the sheer spectrum of colours of the vast China is truly something that will stay with me for a very long time.
The trip also presented the ideal opportunity to bring to life what I had spent hours learning about in the classroom: China’s dynamic and thriving economy. On a visit to a steam factory in one of Shanghai’s ‘Special Economic Zones’, regions of specialised business regulations, the efficiency and business nous synonymous with China became abundantly clear. The entrepreneurial spirit seemed to be brimming in every corner of the country, as the numerous markets we visited were a constant hive of activity, whether it be a hard fought haggle to the last penny, or a wily customer trying to get that 2-for-1 bargain. I shall, perhaps, never forget the feat of brilliance I witnessed, when one of the teachers on the trip managed to snap up a 670 RMB chess set for a mere 130 RMB, after much careful negotiation.
Although it never lacked hustle and bustle, I quickly discovered that China was home to the beautifully serene as well. Hiking to the top of ‘Moon Mountain’, to be rewarded with views of the emerald green of the valleys of the village, was an experience like no other. Cycling through those same valleys was a treat for the soul; one could truly lose oneself in the blissful surroundings.
The trip was by no means all peace and quiet though, as a karaoke night with the raucous voices of 23 highly-excitable boys soon proved. Weaving in and out of tourists at Hong Kong’s renowned ‘Avenue of Stars’, its version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, was an equally exhilarating experience. 10 days of various activities and experiences, including mud baths and cooking classes, interspersed with cultural exploration of China’s food and people, meant that this trip was truly an adventure never to be forgotten.
I can say that, perhaps the most poignant symbol for the trip came when we were atop Victoria Peak, a hill in Hong Kong, and one of its most valuable pieces of real estate. As I stared out into the distance, towards the harbour, I could see an endless skyline of buildings and towers, all standing proudly, representing one of the financial hearts of the world. And yet, on the water, by the bank, I could see a traditional Chinese boat, with those characteristically ornate sails. It was as though China wanted to show off its diversity to us, its visitors, by highlighting its embrace of a glittering past, and an equally bright future. China: a beautiful country, and, for me, a beautiful trip.
Upper Sixth Form