Imaginitive Traveller Volunteering and Family Reunion
29.07.2009 - 20.08.2009
7 months since we have seen my family - It was planned that my mum and dad would join us during our time in China, We was over the moon that my sister and bro-in-law surprised us and joined us in China too. A family get togehter was the tonic I needed, it was great to see them all.
Arriving in Beijing we instantly knew that it could be problematic if you was to travel around China independently. The language barrier was difficult and as much as we tried to speak the odd word in Mandarin it did not seem appreciated or understood. The straight faces and staring eyes soon turned into smiles and waves once you made the first move. In areas you felt like royalty with people coming up to you and asking to have their photograph taken with you. It was amusing. The country itself was beautiful and has alot to offer with some real hidden gems. Expecting it to be a littered country I was pleasantly surprised. Constantly there were people sweeping the streets, the public areas, even the highways. For nation that has such an awareness for health and inner peace it has some disgusting habits. You repeatedly hear men and women alike clearing their throats and nasal passages then disposing of it on the footpath. Stomach churning and something we did not get accustomed to in all our time here, I guess blowing your nose on to a tissue and then keeping it in your pocket until you find a bin would be disgusting to them.
Having a few days in Beijing to catch up with my family before the tour started was brilliant. Wondering the back streets to see real life China was rememorable, the people here were some of the nicest and kindest we met during our time in China, we had a real giggle with them. The Temple of Heaven built within beautiful landscaped grounds has some beautiful architecture. Donguhamen Night Market well worth a visit to see all the bizarre and local delicacies. Tianamen Square - huge, fitting up to 1 million people in it!? The largest public square in the world. The Forbidden City, hectic, best if you stay away from the crowds that trawl along the centre alleyway. It is a complex of massive structures - grandness is depicted here by concrete.
We hiked 10km on the Great Wall of China. Wow! This was a one of many highlights. Snaking over 6'000km across the boarder it was built to keep out threatening tribes. The hike for us was tiring, with the intense heat really zapping you. I did not imagine it to be as hard as it was - big respect to the locals that hike it more than once every day! The views from some of the 24 towers that we passed through very beautiful and emotional.
Another unbelievable sight was the terracotta warriors. An army of 8'000 individually carved figures for the 1st Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang. He commanded that when he died he wished to be buried along with his army. This meant every one of them being killed - not the most humane! So it was suggested that artists be brought in and create a terracotta army for in his memory of greatness. Only recently being discovered in great pits the detail is amazing - you could even see the ruffles on some of the foreheads, and patterns in the soles of shoes. Incredible.
Another highlight of China was working with the famous Giant Pandas, at Wolong in the Sichuan Province. Now the most endangered species in the world it was such a privilege to have such close contact with them. Daily duties required us to clean out the enclosures and stomping ground, prepare food and feed them - which was repeated several times daily. These adorable creatures are amazing to sit and watch, each having their own character you soon get to know them. My favorite part was working in the breeding centre. Here the pandas were alot more docile, contact and time spent with them was greater. This made the whole experience even more special. Cindy (my sis) and I was lucky enough to get to hold a juvenile panda each – thank you mum and dad! These little cuties being quite content eating an apple as they sit on your lap. Amazing and emotional.
The centers primary goal is to protect the Giant Panda in its natural habitat, and to take care of sick and injured pandas that are brought in from the wild. It was a rewarding few days to know that you have helped in this first hand.
From there we went to Chengdu, if your ever there check out Remin Park – such variety and a fantastic place to watch the local way of life. Dancing, singing, cards, playing music, flying kites, tea houses, ear cleaning, martial arts, and yoga type practices around every corner – your just welcome to join in, what an atmosphere. We also saw the mind blowing Changing Faces Performance – look it up on the internet. A traditional practice of the Chinese and a hidden secret of how it is done.
Arriving in Yangshou was a breath of fresh air. The scenery here beautiful, mountains, rivers, rice paddies, and water buffalos. Sean and I took a motorbike around the lanes of the rice paddies whilst the rest of the group decided a bicycle was their thing!? Much easier in that heat with an engine we thought. OK so not quite so peaceful for us, but fun! This magical scenery was like it had been written in a fairytale.
Another beautiful and just as scenic area we visited was the Dragons Backbone, Longsheng. Rice paddies on top of the world! Layers and layers as far as the eye could see. Breathtaking, both visually and physically. Our time here was spent walking the mountains and in the evening watching as well as performing ourselves in traditional dances and games. Fun, energetic, and for those on the rice wine hard! (hey, mum and dad – never a better match! Dad will always go for you mum even when blindfolded.Xx)
Our last stop in China was Guangzhou City. A cosmopolitan city, at first very hectic after the much loved tranquility of the mountains but as always you can get off the beaten track. We explored the carefully tendered orchid garden, meandered the park and took a comical boat ride in what looked like a kids cartoon drawing. We had time here to just chill and relax with my family before they headed off back home. It was here that I was filled with sadness that they were leaving and I wouldn’t see them again for several months still. (Missing you still!) My tears rolled down my cheeks as we went back to the hotel room after waving them off. I was quickly transformed into fits of laughter as Sean shouts from the bathroom “your bloody mum will never change, she’s just like you”. Mum had left her necklace lying on the sink – a coincidence as I had lost mine just a few days before. I guess you will never be that far away, infact right here within me!
We all had a fantastic and rememorable time in China. Stories that will be told and be laughed about over a lifetime im sure (Tandem bike rides, broken flip flops, butt showing in fountains, etc.) Thank you for sharing part of this year with us Mum, Dad, Sis and Jamie, it meant so much to us Xx
We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Love you all.