/China Trip

China Trip

On March 9, 2019, 15 Belmont Hill boys and two teachers, Shen Laoshi and Mr. Duarte, embarked on a journey to China that would last over ten days. The trip started at Boston Logan International Airport, where the boys boarded a brief thirteen-hour nonstop flight to Beijing, China. The first day had no time for jetlag, as they visited the Temple of Heaven, a tall spiral tower with elegant decorations made for the emperor to be closer to God. Afterward, the boys saw the marriage market, an open space where prospective parents looking on behalf of their children go to try and find a suitable spouse. Then it was on to activities, as many older Chinese people used a public exercise park just outside the Temple of Heaven to get their blood flowing. The boys enjoyed a time learning how to use the devil stick, Chinese yoyo, and Tai Chi, a form of Chinese martial art used to clear the mind. After that, it was on to lunch at Hua’s Family, one of the most renowned restaurants in China, for a traditional Beijing meal of Peking Duck. After lunch, the boys split into teams closely supervised by the tour guides and went on a scavenger hunt across Beijing. The hunt took them on the subway, past many beautiful architectural structures, and around a lake, where it ultimately ended at the Drum and Bell Towers, two massive ancient towers used for announcing the time. Then it was off to a market, where some of the boys ate scorpions.

The next day the boys got up early and drove two and a half hours to a village at the base of the Great Wall of China to make dumplings and to have lunch at the house of (OWNER NAME). The village’s name was (VILLAGE NAME), and it was unique because it had many families with different surnames. When villages like this were built, they almost always started with one family, so most if not all of the people living in the village had the same surname. However, this village used to be a base camp for the soldiers that would patrol the Great Wall. Instead of expanding from one family, there were artificially brought together, leading to different surnames. After that, it was off to the Great Wall, where the boys first had to climb up to the wall from the Mutianyu entrance. It was tough going, but totally worth it when they got to the top. The day was crisp and clear, and the boys could see for miles across the deserted landscape. On both sides, the wall stretched out like a Chinese dragon, slithering along the top of the mountain and always staying at the peak. One could almost imagine the days of the (MING) dynasty when thousands of soldiers patrolled the wall, waiting for any sign of attack against their people.

After a magical day on the Great Wall and a good night’s sleep, the boys found themselves visiting the Lama Temple, one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Beijing. They learned from their tour guide, Michael, how to pray the correct way, and that most people were doing it the incorrect way. The boys also saw the tallest wooden Buddha statue in the world, standing at 26 meters and carved from a single wooden tree trunk. After that, they walked across the street and explored the Confucious Temple and the Imperial College, and place where the emperor would meet the top students from the previous year. Then it was time for a traditional hotpot lunch. Hotpot is a meal with a giant pot of boiling water that is used to cook the food by the consumer at the table. The water is usually flavored, and there are thinly sliced meat and veggies to be put in the water. After lunch, the boys traveled to the (SECOND) High School attached to Beijing Normal University where they learned about high school life for exchange students in Beijing through the Study Year Abroad (SYA) program. The boys split into small groups and traveled to three different host family houses with current SYA students for a homecooked Chinese meal. They got to know more about the SYA program and the host families and students that make it possible, and the potential for a half or a whole year studying in various cities and countries around the world. It was truly an eye-opening experience.

The last day in Beijing brought with it packed bags and another early morning where the boys visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. They walked under the infamous painting of Mao Zedong on the front of the Forbidden City and learned about the origins of the massive structure. It took the entire morning to walk through the giant palace, with its grand archways and high entrances. After lunch, the boys traveled to the Pearl Market, a sprawling, four-story building filled to the brim with shops and high prices. They had to learn to bargain with the shopkeepers in order to get a better price. Some basic rules were to start with a price of less than twenty percent of the listed and go up marginally from there. Although the shopkeepers were tough to bargain with, most of the times they settled on a price. Then it was off to an acrobatics show at the Beijing Chaoyang Theater. The agenda featured the most flexible people in the world, with performers bending over backward, hanging by their teeth, and swinging on a rope attached to the ceiling. The show culminated in an act where five motorcycles drove in a cage, which had the audience holding their breath. After the show, the boys boarded the bus and drove to a Beijing train station. They boarded an overnight train bound for Xi’an, the next city on their trip.

After an eventful night on an overnight train with a driver much too horn-happy, the boys arrived in Xi’an at 9 o’clock a little sleep-deprived. However, there was no time to be tired as, after a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s, they drove an hour outside of the city to see the majestic Terracotta Warriors. With four dig sites and over 8,000 individually carved soldiers based off of actual soldiers, what little tiredness there was from the train quickly evaporated. The first dig site was the largest, with over 6,000 of the 8,000 soldiers there. The gigantic room was the size of three airplane hangars and filled to the brim with clay soldiers, with even more being discovered day by day. It was equipped with a restoration site, where tourists could see newly unearthed soldiers cleaned and reassembled. The second site was not as large as the first, with commanders and generals, but inside was the only soldier unearthed intact, a kneeling archer that still had some of the original red clay. The third site was yet even smaller but contained higher-ups that reported to the emperor. The fourth site contained bronze statues of chariots made with fine detail. After lunch with a popular Xi’an food Biangbiang noodles, the boys drove back into the heart of the city to bike along the top of the Xi’an wall. The wall protected the old city from invaders and was over nine miles long. One long, bumpy ride later, they traveled to the Muslim area of Xi’an, where they visited a mosque and had some time to explore a Muslim night market, bustling with people.

The next day, the boys woke early and boarded a high-speed train bound for Chengdu. It took them three and a half hours of travel with one stop in between. The train took them through mountains and past countless fields with various crops. When they arrived in Chengdu, it was off to lunch where they got their first taste of the Sichuan province food: spicy. After lunch with plenty of rice, they visited a traditional Chengdu teahouse; a popular spot for people to relax and enjoy themselves for an afternoon. The teahouse was more of a public park, with lots of overgrown trees and bamboo lining a stone path that had plenty of bird droppings from above. In open areas off the main path, people were doing taichi, Chinese yoyo, and the devil stick just like in Beijing. The main teahouse sat in the middle of the park next to a river running through the city. There were many tables and chairs along the river, and the boys learned how to drink tea properly so as not to drink any tea flowers. Then came a lady who made sugar paintings. She made dragons, roosters, and peaches that the boys could choose from. After the teahouse, the boys explored the Narrow and Wide street market. There were many different kinds of foods, including pig snout, rabbit head, and an entire wall of some of the hottest chilis known to man. Then it was time for dinner, where the boys saw a Chinese face-changing show, one of the most difficult and closely kept secrets in Chinese culture.

Another early day greeted the travelers but this time for a different reason. Today it was off to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The crowded base was a zoo solely for giant pandas and red pandas. The entire morning was spent looking at pandas from babies to adults. The most active giant pandas were the babies, and the least active were the adults. However, they all had one thing in common: they ate lots of bamboos. After lunch at the base, the boys drove two hours and a half to the city of Leshan to see the tallest sitting Buddha in the world. The Buddha was built to stop the waves from the river from destroying the crops. However, it worked not because of the Buddha’s power, but because the rocks carved out to form the Buddha fell into the river, giving the river a higher bed which resulted in smaller waves. A half hour later, the boys found themselves in a massive hotel at the base of Mount Ermei. Inside was a huge wave pool and many smaller hotubs with fish that eat the dead skin off of customers’ feet.

The last day of exploring China started with a two hour drive up Mount Ermei. From a town situated on the mountain, the boys climbed two more hours up to a Buddhist temple. There, they ate a traditional lunch of Buddhist monks; a lunch that included no meat. From the temple the boys walked down to an area of the mountain where monkeys were known to be present. However, they could not find any for a little bit. Once they ventured further into the monkey’s territory, there were plenty to satisfy their cameras. The monkeys ranged from babies to old males and females, and none of them were shy about approaching the boys, even climbing on them and grabbing their pockets. Nevertheless, it came a time to leave Mount Ermei. A little more hiking and monkeys later, the boys were back on the bus and driving back to the city of Chengdu.

From there on out it was all travel ahead for the boys, as they awoke the next morning and boarded a flight back to Beijing. From there, they spent their last afternoon in China at the Pearl Market, the biggest and most well known market in China, right next to the US Embassy. They had a late start the next morning, and went straight to the airport and boarded their flight back to Boston. Finally, their adventures in China had come to an end. Spanning ten days, three cities, and countless unforgettable experiences, this trip was one for the books.

On March 9, 2019, 15 Belmont Hill boys, Shen Laoshi and Mr. Duarte, embarked on a journey to China. The trip started at Boston Logan Airport, where the boys boarded a brief thirteen-hour nonstop flight to Beijing. The first day had no time for jetlag, as they visited the Temple of Heaven, a tall spiral tower made for the emperor to be closer to the gods. The boys enjoyed learning how to use the devil stick, Chinese yoyo, and Tai Chi, a form of Chinese martial art used to clear the mind. After that, it was on to lunch at Hua’s Family for a popular Beijing meal of Peking Duck. After lunch, the boys split into teams supervised by tour guides and went on a scavenger hunt across Beijing. Then it was off to a market, where some of the boys ate scorpions.

The next day the boys got up early and to a village at the base of the Great Wall of China to make dumplings and have lunch. After that, they went to the Great Wall. The day was crisp and clear, and the boys could see for miles across the deserted landscape. On both sides, the wall stretched out like a Chinese dragon, slithering along the top of the mountain and always staying at the peak. One could almost imagine the days of the great dynasties when thousands of soldiers patrolled the wall, waiting for any sign of attack against their people.

After a good night’s sleep, the boys found themselves visiting the Lama Temple, a Buddhist temple in Beijing. After that, they explored the Confucious Temple. They then had a traditional hotpot lunch: a giant pot of boiling water that is used to cook the food by the consumer at the table. After lunch, the boys traveled to the a high school attached to Beijing Normal University where they learned about high school life for exchange students in Beijing through the Study Year Abroad (SYA) program. The boys split into small groups and traveled to three different host family houses with current SYA students for a homecooked Chinese meal.

The last day in Beijing brought with it packed bags and another early morning where the boys visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the massive home of the previous emperors of China. After lunch, the boys traveled to the Pearl Market, a sprawling, four-story building filled to the brim with shops and high prices. Then it was off to an acrobatics show at the Beijing Chaoyang Theater. After the show, the boys boarded the bus and drove to a Beijing train station. They boarded an overnight train bound for Xi’an, the next city on their trip.

After an eventful night on an overnight train the boys arrived in Xi’an at 9 o’clock a little sleep-deprived. However, there was no time to be tired as they went to see the majestic Terracotta Warriors. With four dig sites and over 8,000 individually carved soldiers based off of actual soldiers, what sleepyness there was from the train quickly evaporated. After lunch with a popular Xi’an food Biangbiang noodles, the boys drove back into the heart of the city to bike along the top of the Xi’an wall. One long, bumpy ride later, they traveled to the Muslim area of Xi’an, where they visited a mosque and had some time to explore the Muslim night market.

The next day, the boys woke early and boarded a high-speed train bound for Chengdu. They went to lunch where they got their first taste of the Sichuan province food: spicy. After lunch with plenty of rice, they visited a traditional Chengdu teahouse; a popular spot for people to relax and enjoy themselves for an afternoon. The teahouse was more of a public park, with lots of overgrown trees and bamboo lining a winding stone path. Then it was time for dinner, where the boys saw a Chinese face-changing show, one of the most difficult and closely kept secrets in Chinese culture.

Today it was off to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. The crowded base was a zoo solely for giant pandas and red pandas. All had one thing in common: they ate lots of bamboo. After lunch at the base, the boys drove two hours and a half to the city of Leshan to see the tallest sitting Buddha in the world. A half hour later, the boys found themselves in a massive hotel at the base of Mount Ermei with a huge wave pool and many smaller hotubs with fish that eat the dead skin off of customers’ feet.

The last day of exploring China started with a two hour drive up Mount Ermei. From a town situated on the mountain, the boys climbed two more hours up to a Buddhist temple. There, they ate a traditional lunch of Buddhist monks; a lunch that included no meat. From the temple they ventured into the monkey territory, and there were plenty to satisfy cameras. Nevertheless, it came a time to leave Mount Ermei. A little more hiking later, the boys were on their way back to Chengdu.

From there on out it was all travel ahead for the boys, as they awoke the next morning and boarded a flight back to Beijing. They spent their last afternoon in China at the Pearl Market, the biggest and most well known market in China, right next to the US Embassy. They had a late start the next morning, and went straight to the airport and boarded their flight back to Boston. Finally, their adventures in China had come to an end. Spanning ten days, three cities, and countless unforgettable experiences, this trip was one for the books.