(Note- I started this post awhile ago and the photos were taking forever to load on our slow internet and life got busy. I decided not to change what I’d written but just add to it.)
I’ve now been back from China for a week and I’m just beginning to get a decent night’s sleep! The jet lag is worse on the return as it only took a couple days to get on China time (exactly 12 hours ahead of home).
The trip was fantastic – the smoothest international trip I’ve been on to my recollection – no delays, lost luggage, illness, missed connections. It probably helped that it was a fairly routine business trip, not an adoption trip! The flight is long – approximately 12.5 hours from Chicago to Beijing, several hours in the Beijing airport then another 2.5 hours to Hangzhou. Our smaller group of 5 met up with the travelers who had opted for the extended tour of Beijing at the airport and we all traveled to Hangzhou together. We were all sleep walking when we got to the hotel at approximately 2 AM!
We spent the first day sightseeing and the sights were wonderful. Hangzhou is the most beautiful city I’ve visited in China. It is full of greenery – plants everywhere! It’s like a park with buildings and streets inside of it. Despite the 8.5 million residents and crazy Chinese traffic, I found it quite peaceful.
We spent the first afternoon at West Lake, where we took a boat cruise on the lake (it’s huge, and actually more than one lake). While the sky was somewhat hazy the weather was very balmy and pleasant.
The lake is a tourist destination so there were a lot of other boats on the water and we shared our boat with a group of Chinese tourists. Their guide had a microphone, ours didn’t, so it was hard to hear much. Still it was a pleasant ride. At dusk the pagoda on the hill was lit up, making it a beautiful sight.
According to the guidebook, “Strolling on this street, you will be attracted by the antique buildings and local crafts, such as silk parasols, brocades, noted Zhang Xiaoquan scissors and Hangzhou fans.” I found the people watching to be more interesting than shopping – and while I didn’t buy any, was especially curious about the snacks for sale like this sugar? syrup? dragon!
On the 2nd day we visited one of the top schools in China – the Hangzhou Foreign Language School. It is very large and prestigious and students come from other countries (we met students from the UK and Germany while there) to study while the Chinese students study English, German, Spanish, and Japanese.
Unlike in the U.S. students in China don’t just move from their neighborhood middle school to their neighborhood high school. Instead at the end of middle school (or Junior High) the students take an exam and the results of that exam will dictate which high school they can apply to and even whether they go on to high school.
Hangzhou Foreign Language School has about 2000 students. The blurb on their website says “Every year, 80% of our graduates are admitted to top universities in China and abroad, such as Tsinghua University, Peking University, Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Oxford, etc.”
After a tour of the school we headed out for more sightseeing – this time to XiXi National Wetlands Park. It was not at all what I would have thought of as a Wetlands Park – while there was plenty of wetlands I don’t think I saw more than a handful of birds and none were waterbirds.
We strolled around the trails and took another boat ride, ending up at a shopping street full of stores selling souvenirs (these are ubiquitous). Hangzhou is known for its silk and everywhere we went there were beautiful, colorful scarves!
Once again there were a lot of other tourists there – and even a model photo shoot!
I will leave it there for now as each photo takes a very long time to load! More on the STEM side of things in the next post.