My program is soon coming to an end in a couple of weeks, so I’ve decided to catch up on some traveling around China before it does. During a four-day school holiday my classmate, Anna, and I decided to travel to Shanghai and Suzhou.
We left on a Thursday night on a two-hour flight to Suzhou. The next day we set out to many places, including the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai’s skyline, East Nanjing Road, a garden and more. Our first stop was the Shanghai Museum, which contained many ancient Chinese artifacts, such as pottery, paintings, calligraphy, seals, clothing, etc. It’s a great place to go learn and appreciate the history of Chinese art.
Next we set out to Nanjing East Road; however, along our way we were stopped by a Chinese TV talk show that wanted to interview and give us food to taste. Anna said yes, but I wasn’t as willing. Once it was over Anna told me that she had eaten a goats’ eye, which surprisingly wasn’t half bad. One of the most interesting things about traveling is that you never really know who you’ll end up meeting or what you’ll end up doing. East Nanjing Road is a commercial street with worldwide famous brands such as Zara, Gucci, Forever21 (four floors), Pull & Bear, Bershka, etc.
We did a little shopping, and then we headed out to see a lovely garden hidden within the busy streets of Shanghai, where we also found some delicious and cute food to eat. I had sweet bread filled with red bean paste inside in the shape of a penguin. I have never eaten food that was this cute before. Later we saw Shanghai’s skyline during the daytime. It was a spectacular view! But it was even more amazing at night, since the buildings and most of the boats that passed by along the river were lit up with colorful lights. It was a wonderful way to end the day.
We went to Suzhou by train, which was about 30 minutes away from Shanghai. In Suzhou we saw the Silk Museum, Buddhist temple, a pagoda, gardens, and famous river canal streets. We first went to the silk museum, where we learned the history and process of how silk is made, since Suzhou is famous for its silk in China. I was also able to see a man make a silk rug using a huge machine to weave; it was very impressive.
Afterwards we went to see a Buddhist temple, garden, and pagoda. It was one of the most peaceful places I have been to in China, with plenty of monks walking around the place. With the constant hustle and bustle of the city, it was nice to find such a peaceful place. Afterwards we somehow ended up in a Chinese tour group. With no idea where we were headed, they took us on a boat ride on a river with wonderful surroundings of bridges and gardens. They later took us to a shopping mall. But Anna and I were not interested in shopping so we left the tour group. It was an interesting experience, since we learned a bit about how Chinese tourism worked. Personally I don’t think I’ll be doing it again. When you are in a tour group I feel everything is rushed so you can’t take the time to look around and enjoy your surroundings to the fullest.
After we left we went to a garden, where we were able to take a rest on the grass. But we soon became an attraction ourselves when a child and her parents asked to take a picture with us. Of course we were happy to but somehow we ended up surrounded by Chinese tourists taking pictures of us with this cute child. In China, it is very common for some Chinese people – especially people who come from more rural areas of China – to take pictures of foreigners, since it is not very common to see foreigners like Anna and I. Finally, we escaped the crowd and ended the day with a peaceful boat ride on the river canal alongside a street filled with local shops.
The next day it took the whole day to travel back to Xiamen, which gave me plenty of time to reflect on my travels. I’ve come to realize that I feel much more confidant about traveling, but not only that I feel as though I can accomplish anything. I’m sure there is something special about traveling that makes you feel this way. Perhaps it’s the independence you achieve while traveling, or adventures with the many challenges that come along with it, that make you feel this way. Either way traveling is something special for an individual as well as the person or group you travel with. I feel it’s something a person should try at least, not once, but several times in their life. Each experience is a new one that you can learn so much from.
Sara Torres-Robles is earning a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at San Diego State University. She is video blogging from Xiamen, China for the 2015-2016 academic year.