In my last entry I wrote about how this school trip ignited my passion for travel. Here is the original blog post, written 5 and a half years ago on my old blog – Nobodysaknowitall. As much as the my little opinionated digs make me blush today, I have refrained from editing or deleting any of my original musings to give you a true insight into the very critical and inquisitive 17 year old me…

19th February 2011

You will probably find me writing more about Beijing, mostly me reflecting and comparing it, and them, with other experiences. This short post does not do the experience enough justice, but for now these are the main snippets:

A culture shock (to say the least), my trip to Beijing has to have been one of the most interesting and exciting 5 days off my life. I only arrived back on valentine’s day, and it is still surreal to think it happened. The most energetic sales people, Kung Fu acrobats, ancient traditions, haggling, interesting cuisine, ‘Communism’, beautiful art and architecture – we witnessed and experienced so much in so little time, it was hard to truly take it all in.

I bought plenty of goods, partially to remember the trip by but also because I just loved how every little thing had some meaning or story behind it. Take my Jade necklace for example, that is good for your health. The black pearl bracelet I bought my mother, not only does it look pretty, but they insisted that black pearls were only for your mother, or other noble women. They still celebrate Chinese new year, even after they have been forced to adopt the Christian calendar, and they all recite and hold dearly the old story of the Zodiac. As much as I enjoy multiculturalism I feel we lack these traditions in England. It was nice being in a country not dominated by the Christian faith. It was comforting being in a place that appeared somewhat connected to the spirit of the world, not necessarily God.

Simply being able to climb the great wall shows how far the east and west contrast. Upon doing so I could not help but ask myself “I wonder how many health and safety regulations this wall is breaking?” As strange as that may sound, in England, I am assured that you could not climb the Great wall (if it were situated here). Stonehenge is sectioned off now for crying out load! I deem that as a huge loss. Reaching the top, that kick of adrenaline, was a phenomenal feeling, a real sense of achievement. To think in England they would have probably built an escalator by it is really disheartening. Even ancient areas, like the Forbidden City or Summer Palace, have been kept up and restored accordingly. Witnessing what it would have looked like centuries ago has definitely changed my view on the restoration of historical and ancient sites. Imagine being able to see the Acropolis restored to its original beauty (or at least a sizeable replica of some sort built near), what an experience that would be. I do not feel it would be at all wrong to do so, if you leave it will only wither away into the background. Forgotten, left only to dream about. I guess with the British Museum refusing to give back their bits of the puzzle would make that an increasingly difficult job to undertake. Keeping my fingers crossed they will uncover something big, ancient and British to replace the halls with soon!

Haggling is my new-found addiction, I loved how it was literally expected of you to do so. It was enlightening to see just how much things are really worth, how much extra we pay in the west for items which you can get for a 1/3 of the price over in the east. A Cath Kidston bag, probably fake but looks identical (I put it up against a real one), £14 in China : £40 over here. Real pearl bracelets for £10, real Jade  necklaces £10, Pizza hut meal for £7 – literally everything was cheaper out east. Makes sense, since everything is made over there alongside having no VAT, it felt good not to be wasting my hard-earned cash. What did not make me feel so good, however, was thinking “Who is behind the scenes?”. I knew it was cheap for a reason. At the Cloisonné factory we saw girls working in cramped conditions, actually being told the best and the worst jobs in the place. The Silk Factory even had a handy show station of the process. Not exactly comforting.

As for ‘Communism’, well I think the dozens of sales people jumping on you at any given moment, the clearly badly paid factory jobs, different star rated hotels and insane property prices, proves China certainly has not got the Communist ideal. But when does it ever work out perfectly eh?

I feel I must give the amazing Kung-fu show we attended a mention. It was absolute fanfuckingtastic in my opinion. I was exhausted, and still jet lagged, but it managed to keep me awake. Okay I admit it, I did indeed doze of for one moment, the romantic moments were literal lullabies (in the best possible way). Nevertheless, it really was a phenomenal show, definitely worth the tiny price of £12! If anyone is heading out in that direction I would recommend you spend a night there. They even come to London every once in a while http://www.chunyi-kungfu.com/home/. Literally mind blowing, Chun Yi is the man to watch!

Despite its failed political agenda, unfair treatment of people (and animals) I definitely wish to travel back asap, next time trying and do the whole shebang. Not being able to see the Terracotta Warriors was gutting, but at least I have the confidence and awareness to head back (without the safety blanket of college) at some point in the near future. China is not the most ethical of countries, but I do not believe that this applies to the majority. As always in contemporary society it is the people at the top who decide on all of that China may be on the other side of the world but unfortunately they have not escaped from that point. If only Buddhism was still prominent, then the ethical situation would be a whole lot different! I could sit and ‘if only’ about nearly everything I suppose.

I loved my time in China too much for the above to bring the whole experience down. I have had to question: why on earth anyone would pay the same money, the sit on a scorching beach and get drunk, when they could get cultured and see the world? I suppose everyone has their preference, their own pleasure scale, but the memories made that week will stick with me forever (for reasons beyond having a wicked time). We were too busy and having fun ! No body felt the need to be at all intoxicated by other means; effectively we were already intoxicated by the experience. There is whole lot more to see and experience, I just haven’t had enough, yet!

(All photos taken by the author, Megan Wright).

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