We then drove to Hang Zhou and took a leisurely cruise on the famous West Lake, where a group of Chinese high school girls proposed to three of our male students. Since then we have always been teasing them that they will never have trouble finding a girlfriend in China. After flying from Hang Zhou to Gui Lin, we travelled to a small city called Yang Shuo by taking a boat along the Li River. Gui Lin and Yang Shuo are both famous for their lime stone hills which rarely have a slope, so they seem to protrude out of the Li River. In Yang Shuo we visited the "Hello Market", where the one word everyone knows is "Hello", whether it is someone serving you food or bringing you into their store, the one thing Yang Shou people say is "hello" every thirty seconds.
After Yang Shuo and Gui Lin it was off to Xi An the next day, where we convinced one of our younger students that we were in Tokyo. Xi An is in the middle of China and is famous for its long history and the Terracotta Warriors. After a jam-packed day of biking along the city wall, visiting the Goose Pagoda and seeing the Terracotta Warriors, we were glad to be able to finally rest on the overnight train from Xi An to Bei Jing.
Bei Jing was different from what I expected. I originally thought it would be like Shang Hai – high rise buildings everywhere you look in a concrete jungle. Bei Jing still held its culture, for example the Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City reflected China's past while co-existing with the buzzing modern surroundings. The two highlights for me in Bei Jing were climbing the Great Wall, which was challenging but greatly rewarding with its beautiful views, and visiting the pandas at the Bei Jing Zoo.
On the last night at Bei Jing, we ate the world famous Peking Roast Duck. It was delicious, but after we had eaten our full we realised we were flying back to Auckland the next morning. Filled with nostalgia, we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our flight. The next day we arrived in Auckland at four thirty in the morning, knowing that we had school on Monday.
We loved China, and experiencing China in real life greatly helped us with our mandarin and our cultural understanding. The hardest thing coping with though, which I'm sure the rest of the group will agree with, was dealing with the traffic. In China, red traffic lights are a suggestion and cars never stop for pedestrians, even on zebra crossings. When you walk across a one way street, you need to look both ways, and cars will park in the middle of intersections. One of the most important things we learnt in China was that pedestrians never have the right of way. When we returned to New Zealand it was a relief to know that if we tried to cross a street, cars would actually stop for us.
After a few days, I already miss China, and I want to go back. So I hope if you ever have the opportunity to go, you will, and experience this amazing country.