David Watson – Summary after first week on China course trip…
After a long plane ride into the city of Hong Kong and our first night stay in a nice hotel, the group headed to the American embassy in the morning for a debriefing on traveling in both Hong Kong and mainland China, where we would be headed in just two days. At the embassy we had people speak on the eight wealthiest families and people in Hong Kong and how 90% of every dollar you spend in the city ends up going into one of their pockets. They also spoke about the “Triads” (Chinese mafia) and their influence in both Hong Kong and Macau. Hong Kong is a very tropical climate, so the city was built on a mountain in a jungle, with high humidity, high heat, a beating sun, and lots of rain. Once returning to the hotel we took a short break and ordered dinner for the group out of some small street stalls, jiaozi and baozi. Then groups ended up splitting off and checking out the close-by market streets for some minor shopping.
The Second Day the majority of the group split off to go to Stanley Market, and a smaller group went to see the Flower and Birds markets. The Flower market ended up being a couple streets filled with stores that sold all kinds of flowers, mixed and matched with small bakeries and restaurants. The Bird market was one small street which felt like you were right in the depth of a jungle, but cages full of birds were all around you, and birds were flying freely in the air and landing on the ground for specks of leftover food. We then went to check out the IFC museum on the 55th floor with a view of most of the city from high up. In the museum there were presentations on the Hong Kong currency and how it had developed since China acquired Hong Kong, and there were windows with a bird’s eye view of the surrounding skyscrapers, along with parts of the bay and the other side of the river. We then visited nearby 5-star hotels, including the YMCA of Hong Kong Island. I then split off with Mr. and Mrs. Usrey to a dim-sum place to meet the speaker, Nicole, for the next day along with her young son, Blake. The evening was spent exploring the area near the hotel and checking out the markets again.
Day Three was the final full day in Hong Kong. Some went by ferry to Macau, others checked out other parts of the city, and my group went on a 1 ½ hour journey by train and bus to see the Buddhist Monastery and the Great Buddha statue, far away from the main city on a smaller island. The group then heard a speaker named Nicole who worked for a company that manages many luxury brands. She spoke about the high margins and operations of her work in managing multiple luxury brands and meeting the market demands of the upper classes to continue to buy them. Afterwards the group went off together to a Michelin star dim-sum restaurant for dinner. I then split off with a smaller group to head for the skyline to see the skyscraper view one last time and ended up getting lost in the city with the group for about 4 hours before being able to find the subway system and reach the skyline – then back to the hotel.
On the Fourth Day the group got up early to reach the subway to take us all the way to the border of Hong Kong and China to go through customs. Customs was extremely packed, though we were told that it was one of the slower days, and it ended up taking us about an hour to get through. We then all took a bus to a port in Shenzhen to learn more on how ports function and see the largest ship that is currently in the water on Earth. During a four-hour bus ride to Guangzhou we stopped by a KFC to check out what a fast food restaurant is like in China, and found it to be close to the same, but smaller portions. We then stopped at our hotel right next to the university where we stored our bags and headed for a big banquet hosted by Guangzhou University of Foreign Studies for our group. Afterwards the students went with some Chinese students to a small café to talk and play games before heading back to the hotel.
On the Fifth day we went by public transit to a large church that had both Chinese and English-speakers for the church service, afterwards going by bus to ‘The Fountains’ for lunch hosted by the organization that helps run the church. We then took the subway to downtown Guangzhou to see one of the larger shopping roads, with many multi-story department stores and chain stores, along with a Buddhist living quarter that was under repair and fragments from the original road that was there in the 1100s. I had a lunch of octopus tentacles with some others and did some shopping before meeting back up and heading to the river for a boat tour Cruise. On the cruise we traveled down a large stretch of the Pearl River and got to see the infrastructure and massive buildings along the riverside. After finishing we headed back to the hotel to sleep for the next day.
On the Sixth day we got to spend more time with the students at the university, sitting in on an early lecture with one of the deans of the university learning about the history of modern China and how it currently functions, with most of the time being spent for questions. We then went to eat lunch at the canteen with the Chinese students before splitting up, some going to a café to talk, and others, including myself, helping prepare a gift from Professor Usrey to the university. Later on the group went to a dumpling restaurant with the Chinese student hosting us, Kairi. At the restaurant we ended up ordering 10 orders of dumplings, which made it out to be a whopping 150 dumplings for only about 10 of us, too much food — though it ended up being very delicious. We then headed back to the hotel to pack and take the bus to the Fountains where we would stay for the next two nights.
On the seventh day we went to another university (Peizheng) where we ended up sitting in on some classes and then spending the rest of the day going around the university with the students, each of us paired up with a Chinese university student. After walking around we had lunch in the canteen and then got a bigger tour of the university before going just outside to rent electronic scooters (going up to 60 km/h) for less than US$1.00 an hour. After about 10 minutes of riding them, it started heavily raining, which was both fun and not fun to drive in, depending on how you looked at it. Of those of us who rode the scooters, we went soaking wet back to the university to tour the living quarters of the professors who taught there and then went to play sports on the soccer field. Then the group went for dinner in the canteen before being able to see the theater group perform various plays for the university, and it was in English! It helped them practice their English, and helped us understand what was being said. The plays were hilarious, and all of us greatly enjoyed them. Afterwards we took pictures and said goodbye to our student hosts, before taking a bus back to The Fountains.