Ni Hâo! After more than a week of being on the Study China Programme, I’ve finally made it to my laptop in an attempt to scribble a quick post. It’s been a crazy week and I hardly know where to start. I’ve been busy literally every minute of every day, whether its sitting in the canteen trying to decipher the entirely mandarin menu, chatting on the stairs or in the classroom, attempting to speak mandarin!
I got to Shanghai on the 27th at about 11.30am, leaving Delhi at 11 the night before with a quick changeover in Hong Kong. I made it out of customs and the “health check” (paranoid much?) fairly easily and went in search of the turquoise hoodies (we had them specially made…) that would eventually lead me to the rest of my group on the programme. I spotted a clump of hoody-clad, backpack-heaving group of people littered with empty diet coke cans and crisp packets: students!
To avoid boring you with every little travel detail, I’ll just say we sat in the airport for about 3 hours waiting for the coach, exhausted, and then spent about half of the coach ride drooling prettily: excellent first impressions. My first view of China was somewhat surreal: skyscrapers and massive highways: it’s clear to see why Shanghai is known as the industrial capital of China. It’s about two and a half hours to Hangzhou by coach, and the road is completely built up with massive apartment complexes and houses: an awesome sight, in the true sense of the word.
We got to Hangzhou at about 5pm, and tumbled half asleep out of the bus and were allocated to twin rooms in Zheijiang University accommodation, which reminds me more of hotel rooms than dorms: two large beds and desks, a massive TV, a closet and an en-suite bathroom, wish our rooms at uni were like that! Zheijiang University is one of the oldest Chinese universities and is reputed across China. It has 6 campuses around Hangzhou, and we’re staying at the international campus, called the “Yuchuang campus”. It is seemingly a small, self-sustaining entity of its own, with a supermarket, several canteens (with pretty amazing, if a bit hit and miss food), a fruit stall and a clinic. The buildings are very modern, as are the amenities, apart from the toilets which unfortunately are little more than holes in the ground: standard practice around much of China.
Hangzhou is bigger, uglier in parts and far more beautiful in others than I expected. It has a population of 6 million, a bit bigger than the village I was expecting! Much of it is built up with gargantuan, indistinguishable apartment buildings and officers; however, the area around the West Lake retains its famed beauty. If you ever get the chance to come to China, this lesser known city is definitely worth a visit. The beauty of the West Lake alone should be a draw. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains and the last borders the city centre. The area is absolutely stunning; almost indescribable. It has a wild beauty to it; something that matches my somewhat romantic notions of what China might be like. Pictures, unfortunately, don’t do it justice. I have now seen it both in the rain, the sun and at sunset and it is amazing in every setting. I would wander around it in the rain again, despite getting soaked, if only to see the amazing greys and greens of the lake area.
Having only just managed to get internet (apparently the Chinese don’t know how to configure mac’s?), I apologise for what may be a sudden flood of blog posts, as I’d like to describe all of our amazing experiences so far, including a theatre performance (whose show included live horses and a real waterfall), a trip to a riverside town called Wuzhen (a perfectly preserved ancient town), experiences in Chinese night clubs, and an absolutely amazing visit to Shanghai. Stay tuned!