After our very successful school and home stay visits in Suzhou and our very extravagant hotel,we made our way back to the Park Hotel in Shanghai.
After another banquet lunch and check in we headed for the flower, bird, insect and small animal market. This is one of the few remaining traditional markets in town. The Chinese who here for apartment and city sized pets and what a unique selection there is! There is a vast array of critters for sale here but it can be quite confronting to see some of these animals for sale and in small cages!
We also went to the Shanghai Urban Exhibition Centre. Here we saw a scale model of the whole city of Shanghai. We couldn’t believe how big the city is but with a population of more than 26 million they have to live somewhere!
Tonight we went to the world famous acrobatics show at the ERA Circus. On our way to the circus, Charlie thought it would be a good idea to tie her backpack to a pole on the train. We missed the stop but with the assistance of a local Charlie and Mr Schaeche returned to the correct station 5 minutes later. I don’t think she will be doing that again!
Our favourite acts were the motorbikes, silk dancers and catapults. An amazing spectacle. We should all sleep well tonight
Today Bendigo Violet St students joined the Xinghai PS students for Art class.
They were sketching rocks from the Administrators Garden. They worked with oil pastels and paper and used lots of detail.
Olive, Sophie and Chloe met with their sister school Principal, Mr Hong.
They exchanged gifts and then explored the school garden. The school grounds take one hour to walk around!
They watched their basketball team train too.
The class hosted a party for Olive, Sophie and Chloe. They played a game with marbles and chopsticks. They played instruments and showed them a dance and they taught them the Nutbush!
They tried some seasonal foods like lychees and locquts and they tried our vegemite.
The girls from BVPS had some Kung Fu lessons with the Master but he said their push ups weren’t very good!
Lastly all the Team China students went to the Tiger Hill and saw a Pagoda which was over 2,500 years old. It is also known as the leaning tower of Suzhou.
We have loved every minute of Suzhou and hope that we can come back again one day. We will miss our new friends but hope that they will visit us in Australia. Next stop Shanghai !
The Stratfieldsaye girls have also had an absolutely wonderful time, especially at their homestay and at their Sister School, Xingyang School
The girls were also excited to share a beautiful dinner with our 2018 Homestay students, Qiu and Aiden their teacher Leo and their families.
Today was a very exciting day for all! This morning we were all whisked away to our sister schools in Suzhou Industrial Park. These schools included Wencui PS, Weiting Experimental PS, Qing Jian Hu School, Xinghai PS, Xincheng Garden PS, Fangzhou PS, Dong Zhou PS, Jinji Lake PS, Xinggang School, Weiting School, Dong Sha Lake School, Hamlin PS, Xingyang School.
We were greeted with welcoming arms and were made to feel like royalty. Children were introduced to the classes and schools, some even had to make speeches at school assemblies!
Our students experienced many different lessons including music, calligraphy, PE, paper cutting, Kung Fu, Art and science.
Then it was lunch time! Our school meals varied from rice to black beans to KFC to ducks blood!!! Some schools were lucky enough to have delicious cakes for snack time.
On return the tingle in the air was electric. Kids were excited to share their stories and new experiences with each other. A few may refuse to return back to their Australian classrooms!
In the afternoon we ventured to the Humble Administrators Garden. This world heritage site was one to remember. Commonly known in China as ‘The Mother’s Gardens’, we wandered through the gardens with many other tourists and Chinese nationals.
We ended the day with the most exciting part of the trip! HOMESTAYS!
We have spoken to students and they are having a blast! We look forward to hearing all of the stories tomorrow morning! Continue reading →
They say that Suzhou is the Venice of the East – and this morning, the girls and boys found out why. After a colossal breakfast at the Grand Metropark Hotel, we all hopped on the bus and headed out to Tongli – a beautiful Watertown trapped in a time capsule…preserving the old ways of the Suzhou District for all to see! The trip out was entertaining with our guide (Michael) singing us traditional Chinese songs and the Aussie’s abroad returning favour with Bohemian Rhapsody. Those on the other bus may have been pleased to have a bit of peace and quiet instead.
The drive to Tongli was relatively short (half an hour) and we arrived ready to explore. First up was a guided tour on a traditional Chinese boat up and down the gorgeous canals. As we floated by we saw residents washing clothes in the river, tourists sipping tea in canal-side cafes and local business owners selling their wares on the street. Highlights included passing under ancient stone bridges, seeing fishing cormorants perched on their master’s boat and posing for the many photos taken of us by locals as we traveled by.
A tour of a UNESCO World Heritage garden was next – protected to preserve traditional Suzhou gardens and architecture. Our group toured through – enjoying the round doorways, courtyards with bonsai (did you know they actually originated from China not Japan), official meeting rooms, bedrooms, gardens and ponds full of colourful fish – where is Mr FattyPatty? We even saw a famous Chinese Papercut artist working in his studio – truly amazing work to view and even buy!
Shopping was popular after the tour, as was coffee from Illy for the caffeine depleted adults. The kids didn’t indulge in coffee but they sure did enjoy the 2 -6 Yuan ice creams! Even some big kids enjoyed ice creams – it was very hot and humid after all.
Shopping in Tongli was easier with most stores selling goods at a set price – and overall, much cheaper than anywhere else. Popular purchases were fans, papercuts, pearls (you could buy a clam and have it cut open and the pearls inside were yours – what a Kinder Surprise!), fidget spinners, silk landscapes and the famous Suzhou silk scarf. Some kids also had a foot treatment thanks to tanks of fish nibbling away – tasty foot jam fish food!
The group dined upstairs overlooking the Tongli streets and a canal. A delicious array of foods were served, including spicy prawn, pork hock, spicy chicken and peanut, fried rice, and sweet and sour pork. It’s been wonderful to see the majority of children trying new dishes and using chop sticks!
A heavy downpour of rain greeted us as we left the restaurant – so we shelter-hopped our way back to the buses and headed into downtown Suzhou to visit the Silk Museum. We now know the different stages of the silkworm lifecycle and also the process followed to obtain the silk threat – very interesting to see this in action. The kids even got to help make a silk doona – or at least watch as one was made. On departure, the tourists once again spent some Yuan in the shop – with gifts for loved ones the main focus here. Many wanted to bring home a real piece of silk for their beloved – though for those with fake silk items from the markets…no one will know the difference (don’t tell anyone at home how to tell real silk from fake girls and boys).
The second last stop of our big day was at Old Shantang Street for a wander along the canal and over the stone bridges to look for more bargains to bring home. Luckily for those who missed out on buying a clam with pearls at Tongli – there were opportunities to buy here! This area is in Old Suzhou and showcases the beautiful, ancient city that still thrives today with bustling stone streets full of shops. We all enjoyed it, though the visit was short due to being late in the day.
Finally we went to a beautiful local restaurant for dinner – more delicious foods showcasing local Suzhou delicacies. As the day draws to a close we are busy getting ready for school visits and overnight stays tomorrow.
Shanghai Sunday delivered miserable wet weather. Ponchos saved the day and we headed off in fashionable stylish colours to check out Shanghais famous Pearl tower at height of 468 metres…. eeekkk!
The view from the sphere of The Bund,Pudong district, and Huangpu were sensational. But what was even more spectacular was when we stepped out onto the glass observatory deck on the lower sphere (glass level). Though daunting at first, we quickly overcame this and ended up with such unforgettable pictures.
We had no idea that the Pearl Tower was full of surprises. Revolving restaurant, 5D cinema, gift shops, games room but what we thought was the best was it had a VR Rollercoaster. Students and teachers were very vocal during this adrenaline rushing ride. The teachers still shaking after that experience 😉
We all now believe we are now exceptional at bartering after all our practice at the Science and Tech Market today. Most popular purchases seemed to be converse shoes, pandas, fans, bags, sunnies, hats and many more goodies. We have learnt new skills in how to get the best final price.
After a eventful two hour bus ride of singing and popping to music we arrived at Suzhou for dinner. Checking into our Grand Metro Plaza hotel and it sure is Grand!!!! Washed our shirts and have hit the hay for today.
We awoke early for our buffet breakfast before checking out of our ‘Kuntai Royal Hotel’ accommodation.
After plenty of security checks, explosives tests, pats downs and coffees (for the teachers) we boarded our plane to leave Beijing, bound for new adventures in Shanghai. After sitting in the plane’s pressurised cabin, sucking in the recycled air, we emerged into the Shanghai airport with newly-found vigor and sense of adventure.
Once on our Shanghai bus, we met our new guide, Sarah. Her microphone is magnificent.
We managed to catch our first glimpse of the Pearl Tower in the bus ride from the airport to our new hotel. Now THAT is a tall tower. Shanghai seems to be full of high skyscrapers!
Once we had briefly settled into our new hotel, we headed down the street to grab some lunch. There began the Great Dumpling Debacle. We waited far too long for us all to get served, so in the end, we all split up. Some of us went back to the hotel to eat, others hung around the shop. Ahh well, we all got a feed in the end. Delicious dumplings too!
Once our bellies were filled, it was time to brave the Shanghai Metro! What a great experience. Lots of bustling, busy bodies! It seemed like we spent more time walking between trains, than actually on them!!
But, you know, plenty of photo opportunities…
Once we emerged from underground, we weaved our way through the busy streets, dodging motorcycles and slight, spitting rain, to arrive at Yu Gardens. Before we entered, we gave a wave and a smile to the gathering paparazzi, posing for the flashbulbs, of course.
We were amazed by the vast array of colours and beauty present within Yu Gardens. It was a mixture of rock, water, plant life and ancient, man-made construction.
The People’s Park
On the walk back, we stopped at the The People’s Park and listened to a woman sing some karaoke for us. Before long, we had drawn a crowd, sung a song, slow danced and featured in about a gazillion photos.
Unfortunately, due to a forecast storm, our boat cruise had to be postponed. Fortunately, this gave us the chance to explore Shanghai in our school groups. It was so cool to wander around and check out our small area of Shanghai!
Once we had finished exploring, we went back to bed for some late-night calls home, to shirts wash our stinky shirts and a well deserved nights’ sleep.
There is a famous saying in China that if you climb the wall, you become a hero. Well, this morning we woke up regular people and tonight we go to sleep heroes!
Yes, today we showed our admiration for the world wonder that is the Great Wall of China. Nothing could have prepared us for its stunning views and enormous scale.
Arriving there, we saved our energy and caught the chairlift. It was intimidatingly high but once we relaxed we were able to appreciate the views and begin to understand the challenges people faced when building the wall.
At the top it was hot, a little smoggy but incredibly steep! We walked (although at some point it felt like a climb) the Great Wall for nearly two hours, taking photos, exploring and enjoying an ice cream to cool down. Looking at the wall into the distance, it continued on and on over the harsh terrain, as far as the eye could see. The picture below is a perfect example of this.
Phenomenal, inspiring, fantastic, exhausting, better than I could’ve imagined and spectacular were all words expressed by the group. Mr Gow and Mr Pearce were very impressed by the effort taken to keep the rabbits out.
Another highlight for the group was riding the luge to the bottom of the mountain. There were plenty of happy cheers echoing throughout the track and lots of ecstatic faces at the end.
After the Great Wall we ventured to a local restaurant, where we delved into the local delicacy barbecued trout. Din din how!! (which means delicious in mandarin)
For the afternoon, we headed to the silk market to test out our bartering skills that Mollie had previously taught us during one of our pre-departure days. Some of us had a successful first go, whilst others were not so successful with the shop assistant coming out on top. But I can guarantee you that we have future negotiators in the group. For those who didn’t do so well with finding a bargain, look out shop assistants because today’s shopping experience will be our gain when we barter with you in Shanghai. We have learnt from our mistakes!
We finished our night with another spectacular traditional meal around the Lazy Susan. Tonight’s pick was the xiaolongboa (commonly referred to as soup dumplings).
Today is a day that all of us will remember forever. We walked nearly 20,000 steps and climbed 62 flights of stairs to a place that words will never do it justice.
Tomorrow morning is an early start because we leave for SHANGHAI!!!
Day 1 started with the bus ride down to Melbourne with many excited students. We arrived to huge lines at the Air China check in, but once through there it was nice and quick getting through customs. Whilst we had a slight delay getting off the ground, it was nothing compared to the annoyed Jetstar travellers off to Honolulu who were delayed 7hrs.
The flight was smooth with varying levels of sleep amongst the staff and students. It didn’t feel like it had taken 11 1/2hrs. We landed and caught a bus into the terminal. Soon we were navigating our way through Chinese customs. The airport felt huge and we even had to catch a train to another terminal to collect our luggage.
We were finally on the road to our hotel and the one thing that stood out was how much greener Beijing was than Shanghai. As with the Shanghai, the traffic was intense. We arrived at our hotel and the kids were impressed. They were even more impressed when they got to breakfast. There was a wide variety of foods and they even managed to find ice creams!
Soon we were at Tiananmen Square. The security there was very visible. The students were doing a fantastic job, especially considering it was 37 degrees. From here we walk through to the Forbidden City. The Forbidden City stretched 1km and was quite amazing. The attention to detail was breathtaking. Our guide Jerry, did a good job trying to explain some of the history.
After a traditional lunch we were off on Rikshaws around the Hutong, an old, traditional part of Beijing. The streets were tight and full of locals who were working on the houses. The Rikshaw riders did well carting us around. Soon were at one of the traditional houses for Calligraphy and paper cutting lesson.
Dinner was next and again it was fantastic, the highlight being Peking Duck. We were soon back at the hotel and it didn’t take long to get the students off to bed. Tomorrow, The Great Wall of China
2.30 at Tom Flood. Students look for your teacher. We want to be on the road around 2.45pm. Our Flight is Air China CA 166 departing at 8pm. Remember to have shorts and a hat in your day bag, just in case we don’t get access to our bags when we arrive nice and early at our Hotel.
We will arrive around 6am on Thursday morning. As students might not get to contact parents on the first day, we will attempt to upload something here on the blog to let everyone know that we have made it.