By Tim Evans, MCTV Correspondant, Senior at MCHS
Thirty-five Morinville Community High School staff and students got some new passport décor as the 2013 Trip of a Lifetime took them across the Pacific to China. After a grueling 13-hour flight, they landed in Beijing, where they indulged in the real Chinese cuisine and explored the many wonders of the city and area, including Tiannamen Square and the Forbidden City, as well as learning about pearls and how they form.
We also celebrated a birthday in Beijing, and it was like watching A Christmas Story all over again, except of course, with the obvious absence of Christmas. We also drove to the Great Wall of China and walked to the top of the section. It was a hard climb, but the views at the top were well worth the challenging stairs. We visited Xi’an next to visit the Terra Cotta Warriors, unearthed accidentally by a farmer who was digging a new well in 1974. For his discovery, the farmer was paid a measly ¥70, or about $12 Canadian.
After visiting the warriors, we had our first opportunity to test out our bargaining skills in a local market. Some of us did excellent, and some of us got ripped off. We still had plenty of time to learn though. The curious troupe ventured over to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, considered the Leaning Tower of Pisa of the East for its 17-degree slant. We learned about Monks and their ways as well as receiving a crash course in Buddhism.
The group then headed over to the city of Chengdu, home of the Panda Place. Of course, the highlight of Chengdu was definitely the Pandas. We were split into two groups. The first group went to the Panda Habitats, where the Pandas come out into a replica of their forest and play around, eat bamboo, but are always so adorable. The second group went to clean panda poo. It wasn’t as bad as you might think. A Panda only absorbs 20 per cent of what it eats, so 80 per cent of the poo is chewed bamboo. Some students went to hold a panda cub too for a hefty price, but by the smiles on their faces, it was well worth the money.
Afterwards, it was time to head to Chongqing on a high-speed train (200km/h anyone?) to board our Yangtze River cruise. In Chongqing, we got to see some marvellous sights, including panoramic views from the top of a hill overlooking the river to learning about how a band of Canadian, American and Chinese pilots took to the skies to defend Chingqing from heavy Japanese bombardment during the Anti-Japanese campaign of World War Two. These brave men were known as the Flying Tigers because of their ferocious defence of the city.
That day, we boarded our cruise ship to travel through two of the three gorges on the Yangtze. We visited the Ghost City, which is the Chinese version of St Peter’s Gate. You are judged whether you will go to hell or heaven. Back on the boat, the students had fun trying to push each other into the pool, dressed for the occasion or not. Some went in willingly, and some had to be pried from poles and dragged to the pool, squirming the whole way. That night the captain had his welcome banquet and held a talent show, where passengers were encouraged to show off their talents. One student had purchased a Chinese flute barely two days prior, and performed beautifully at the show.
Our next stop on the voyage was to Shennong Stream to board little boats to venture to the Hanging Coffins. Someone made a mistake translating, because the coffins aren’t actually hanging, they’re stuffed in little caves along the cliff face. How they got there, no one is still quite sure. It was quite saddening to learn that because of the Three Gorges Dam project, the city that once stood was now underwater under our ship. You can take scuba diving tours to the old city, where many of the structures are still in tact. We enjoyed the scenery of the second gorge and the next day, disembarked the ship to see the actual Three Gorges Dam. Some were disappointed because the majority of the dam was invisible due to the heavy smog and fog that day.
We flew to Shanghai that night and crashed in bed, as the hectic schedule was starting to show. We drove just outside of Shanghai to Suzhou where we learned what it takes to make silk products. Silk is so thin, it’s 1/7th the thickness of a human hair, so in order to make something workable, they combine seven strands of silk to make usable silk thread.
We then went back to Shanghai and visited the Jade Buddha Temple, where two Buddha statues, each carved from a single solid block of jade, reside. Among other things, we walked in the Bund District, where we saw the life of an average Chinese citizen and a traditional market, complete with chickens, pig snouts and rabbit heads. After that less-than-appetizing stroll, we went back to the hotel for Subway or McDonalds, seeing as we had eaten about 41 huge Chinese food meals and had had enough of Chinese food.
After a somewhat familiar meal, we packed for the flight home to Canada. After two weeks in China, the group was looking forward to going home and eating a familiar meal without rice. Many memories were made on that trip, and we can truly say it was the Trip of a Lifetime and a great Grad 2013 farewell holiday.