Blog post (4): by Jan Farrell

Well, we are certainly being kept busy here in China. Our schedule was fairly jam-packed before we left but Fanfan, our superb tour manager, keeps finding more interesting fun and cultural experiences to add.

The day after our trip to the Great Wall we spent the morning at the National Performing Arts Centre; a spectacular building that is a source of great pride — our guide did mention that it was three times bigger than the Sydney Opera House (actually I think she told us that three times as well)! It took six years to build and no expense was spared, no detail overlooked; even down to acoustic material on the seats.

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In the afternoon we broke into two groups: one went to the Beijing Zoo and the other to the Technology Museum. Unfortunately the Museum was closed but that group found other interesting things to see, our group fussed over the Pandas.

Saturday we had to get our University hats on and attend a workshop morning which flew by and before we knew it we were out exploring again. The afternoon was free time and the only downside was that the smog reading for that day was very high and we all had to purchase and wear face masks. It is hard to tell what is more claustrophobic: wearing the masks or breathing the smog. The masks make it hard to breathe freely and are very uncomfortable, they can only be worn for 15 – 20 minute bursts then taken down for 5 minutes before being put on again. One can only sympathise with those that live with this as part of their daily life – we are so fortunate in Australia; more so than we realise. We were wearing our masks while we went shopping for a basketball shirt. The night before, a group of students had gone to a Chinese League basketball game to watch the Beijing Ducks. In the rush after the game one of the girls missed out on buying a Ducks singlet and we were on a mission to get one. It was astounding that not one shop in downtown Beijing had a Beijing Ducks singlet and yet they all had numerous versions of NBA clothing and basketball merchandise. It just highlighted the Chinese fascination with Western culture.

Sunday morning we packed up, said goodbye to Beijing and boarded the bullet train to Shanghai. Security is strict everywhere — at the train terminal we once again had to produce our passports and go through the security scanners. We are used to seeing these only at airports but in China, bags are even scanned on normal subway train stations.

The bullet network is the most efficient way of traversing China and it only took 5 hours to reach Shanghai. The train is very comfortable and you would think it was no different to your normal commute to work if it were not for the red numbers that keep appearing overhead showing the speed you are travelling – they varied from 280 up to 312 km an hour. We arrived safely and were taken to the top restaurant in Shanghai for a traditional Chinese hotpot dinner. The service was excellent as was the company and the food. We then got back on our bus and set off to our new hotel where we crashed into bed.

Article written by Jan Farrell

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