Day 9 – The last day and then flight!

Took the opportunity to go for a run along the creek and down to The Bund for one last look at the people flying kites and exercising. Despite it being 5.30am it is full of people exercising, you really have to watch out for those backwards walkers! When I got back a few of us went to the exercise yard in People’s Square. Watching 93 year olds flip around on roman rings is pretty special. They loved having us there. We had a quick hit of badminton with the locals before heading back to wake the kids.

Our first stop for the final day was the Market. We hit it pretty hard and were getting some good bargains. All of a sudden we noticed many stores starting to close up and then some police came through. The store owners just stayed near their stores watching for the police. After a while we decided to head to Yangs for dumplings.  

After lunch we braved the heat and humidity and headed to The Bund for a quick look. It was reasonably clear but nothing on the days earlier in the trip. After some photos it was sadly time to head back to help pack the bus to take our bags to the airport. Just before leaving I tried to use my bartering skills at the Porsche Dealership, but they didnt want to give me a $500000 discount!

We left on the Met to get to the Maglev station. We were determined to make it there by 3.45pm because after that the Maglev only goes 300kmph instead of 431kmph. After missing the fast one last trip it wasn’t going to happen this time. We made it in time for the second last of these trains and it was amazing.

We cleared customs without an issue and then explored the airport a bit and then it was time to board our flight home!!!!

The flight home was a lot warmer than the way over. The girls slept well, the teacher not so well. The food was, … um …… Bad. Customs was quick and easy and most of use got our bags pretty quickly, we just had to wait for Zoe’s! We were greeted with some very happy families.

The Golden Square Girls represented the themselves and the school fantastically. They should be proud, they were a pleasure to look after.

In the next few week I will get the girls to do some reflection on their trip.

Day 8

Yes, sorry it’s a bit late

We packed our beautiful rooms and got on the bus to Tongli village. 65% of the Suzhou area is made up of water. Tongli is an area made up of buildings set on canals like Venice. We had a beautiful gondola ride around the canals and got to see some of the locals going about their day to day lives. Some were fishing, some were washing their clothes in the canals. One fisherman had trained cormorants to dive in and grab fish and then they would jump onto his boat. He had tied something around their necks so they couldn’t swallow the fish. Then he would retrieve it from their beaks.

One of the highlights was Mr King and I finding a decent coffee!

We had lunch at a restaurant alongside a canal. We were seated upstairs with great views. It seemed that the kids were starting to struggle with the food and much of the traditional Chinese dishes didn’t eaten, instead the kids filled up on rice.

After lunch we jumped on the bus for the trip back to Shanghai. It was a bit of a hair raising ride with a bus driver that seemed in a bit of hurray. We arrived back to the Park Hotel and got ready for the ERA Shanghai Circus. The trip to the Circus was the most crowded and uncomfortable MET ride we have had. And as you could imagine after a 30 degree day, the aromas were delightful!

Before the circus I managed to find one of the public share bikes that was unlocked and it was good to spin up and down the road amongst the traffic. The circus is spectacular and you sit there with your heart in your mouth the whole time hoping they won’t crash to the ground. After the performance I got the DVD for the school so that others could share the experience.

 

Tired we headed home ready for our final day tomorrow.

Day 7

20170608-091526.jpg

It was back to Xingcheng Garden PS this morning, this time with some additional schools coming along with us, a bit of a novelty was that the bus had two tables in the middle of it. We arrived to find the GSPS girls there after there homestay, they had a great night with their families. We got to go and do some paper folding and sewing activities before having some dumplings – Yum.

We got to go out in the yard and watch the students from Xingcheng do some PE and rollerblading. It ended with an Soccer friendly between Australia and China. It was probably the highlight of the day. Shock horror the game ended in a nil all draw, who would have thought a soccer match would finish with that score line.

After lunch we left the school and headed for a Kung Fu lesson with a Kung Fu master who has studied at the Shaolin Temple. The kids enjoyed it, but were very tired. At the end he gave a demonstration and it was pretty impressive, very strong. At one stage he broke metal bars on his head.

Next we went to the Humble Administrators Gardens, which are simply stunning. They are over 500 years old and set in four sections. There are fantastic ponds and rockeries. The girls loved finding different nooks and crannies to take photos from. The village outside the gardens is very nice, but very busy with scooters, you have to keep you wits about you. Whilst there we saw OHS at it’s best with people standing on chairs on top of tables. In fact there are a lot of things like that. On day one I almost got burnt by someone oxy welding whilst out running. One of the best thing about driving around Suzhou is seeing the was the way the traffic moves around.

20170608-091704.jpg

Day 6

20170607-110329.jpg

20170607-110222.jpg

20170607-110112.jpg

20170607-110034.jpg

Today was our day to visit our sister school Xingcheng Garden PS. Whilst it was cloudy this morning there was no rain which was good. Breakfast here at the Metropark was good, although I’m not sure ice creams are breakfast food. The hotel is beautiful except I always turn the wrong direction coming out of the lift to go to my room. I need to stick to going up one set of lifts!

We arrived at the school and went into the board room, it was good to see the students that came to Australia last year. We also had Big Hill with us. We watched a video about the school which actual featured some our school students. We had dumplings and after filling us up we were told it was only a snack, lunch was to come. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to walk we were already that full.
We ventured out to see the whole school recess exercise. The school has 1601 students and in the yard at that time there were about 1200 students doing exercises at the same time following the leader who is a student chosen by the PE teacher. We then went to a calligraphy lesson which was quite challenging, but the girls did well. The school is set over 4 levels and they have around 45 in each class. After a delicious lunch we headed back to the hotel where the girls got picked up for their homestay.
For me the afternoon meant that I got to float along with the other schools as I didn’t have the girls to look after. I took the opportunity to ditch the uncomfortable Team China polo. We headed to Tiger Hill which is the burial place for a former King. There was some pretty impressive bus driving to get us into some tight spaces. The pagoda (tower) is over 1000 years old. It is a very beautiful place but also sad as there is a rock there called the 1000 people rock. On this spot it is said that the King gathered the 1000 workers who built his secret tomb and then killed them so that nobody would know where his burial place would be.

After this we went to the ancient street. This is an impressive street with the buildings built on the water like Venice. In fact Marco Polo once visited Suzhou and called it Oriental Venice. The street had a mixture of souvenirs and food shop, I managed to fine a Starbucks along there. After an hour or so we got to experience the chaos that is driving on the roads here.
As the girls were off having a fantastic time with their homestay families I got to catch up with a friend who lives in Suzhou. The taxi ride home was an hair raising, especially with the combination of speed and no seat belts in the taxi. The whole trip cost around $2.60 Australian.

20170607-110138.jpg

20170607-110305.jpg

20170607-110354.jpg

Day 5 – Suzhou Here We Come

I ventured out and had a quick run along Suzhou creek where I was fortunate enough to see lots of Thai Chi including someone doing it with swords. We packed up our bags and Skype to school. I noticed how cold everyone looked!!! But don’t worry it rained here and by the time we got to Suzhou it was pretty heavy. It was a shame it was raining as we missed some of the great scenery as we come into Suzhou. The breeze was cold so we got some $3 jumpers at Decathlon.
Our lunch was in a restaurant and we got to have the famous Suzhou Squirrel Fish – yum

Next it was the Number One Silk Factory and the students enjoyed it more than I thought. A few did some shopping, even bought a tie for myself so, I’m sure I’ll get so much use out of it (lots of sarcasm there).

We checked into our hotel and it was a huge upgrade on the good old Park Hotel. The rooms are huge and the views from a few are sensational. Every one is looking forward to the school visits tomorrow

Day 4

20170605-151538.jpg

20170605-151514.jpg

Some weary students emerged this morning but after a good breakfast we were right to go. We headed for the Insect markets. Here you can see a huge variety of animals. Coloured frogs, crickets, squirrels, dogs, cats, fish turtles, things I had no idea what they were. It is noisy and a bit smelly but most of the students enjoyed it although they did admit it seemed a little cruel. We wandered a few interesting streets and ended back at the metro.

Our next destination was the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, which covers 5 levels showing the history of Shanghai and its plans for the future. The highlight is the huge model of the city. It is extremely detailed, even lighting up the streets and buildings. The museum had added a few more interactive displays since last time I visited. It was good to see that the students tried to take in some of the information around the building.

Lunch was Yang’s dumplings which we took to the park. It was very busy being a Sunday and soon a crowd formed to watch us eat!

The afternoon was spent at the Science and Technology Market (yes Science Mrs Hancock). It was interesting that the vendors were more aggressive in trying to get you into their story. Mr Delaney and I used Chen to our advantage to get some headphones. One vendor got angry with Ms Daley and I when we tried to bargain a price and stated that our friend paid that. He basically told us it was impossible and got very upset. We left but he still tried to do a deal even though he was annoyed with us, No Deal! All up it was a very productive shopping trip.

For dinner we hit a food court and tried a restaurant. They had not much English and our Mandarin isn’t too good so we did some charades to help us out. Zoe and Georgia were brave and tried some chicken feet. After dinner we wandered along Nanjing Rd and was horrified to find that M&M World was CLOSED. The whole huge department store was shut down.

Typing this on the way to Suzhou so will load pictures later when I have wifi.

20170605-151443.jpg

20170605-151616.jpg

20170605-151724.jpg

20170605-151833.jpg

Day 3 – A Big Day

20170604-091301.jpg

20170604-091348.jpg

20170604-091400.jpg

Day 3
Another glorious day greeted us, to think about all the jokes people say about never seeing blue sky and that is all we have really had so far. A couple of girls needed a wake up call this morning after yesterdays big day.

After breakfast we headed across to the park in People’s Square. As it was a Saturday morning they had all the umbrellas out. It is a match making event that parents run to find a partner for their children.A sheet of paper is attached to the umbrella with a description of their child and that of a suitable partner. There was even one there that was after a partner for their child in Australia, unfortunately I was too old and too short to fit their criteria. Then we headed to the fitness area which the students enjoyed, as did the locals. It has been great watching how well the students are mixing with the locals and handling all the attention.

We headed for the for the Yuyuan Gardens, which is a beautiful area of Shanghai with old style buildings. It also has a number of shops where the students can use their bargaining skills. Some students learnt a valuable economics lesson when they had spent their spending money and couldn’t buy a treat at Starbucks, but the GSPS girls didn’t have a problem with that. Our lunch was great overlooking the tea house in the gardens.

After lunch we looked at a few shops, unfortunately I couldn’t buy my wife the jade necklace that we saw, after converting back to Aussie dollars it was $400k, maybe next time.

After dinner we took the long trek down to The Bund to do the night cruise, oh and it was a long trek. We had a fancy boat, but it was a bit crowded and it made good photo opportunities limited, but you still got to see the spectacular lights on the buildings. I am glad that I am not paying the electrical bills. We then made it home around 10pm. The students had walked close to 20kms for the day, I think a sleep in could be on the cards.

20170604-091332.jpg

20170604-091317.jpg

20170604-091159.jpg

Day 2

20170602-230955.jpg

20170602-230824.jpg

20170602-230755.jpg

So being an early riser and having the body clock still set on Bendigo time I was just so happy to wake up at 3am. Couldn’t get back to sleep so when it was light it was time for a run. First thing I noticed was the smog and fog, it was fairly heavy, which made running tough but I was also worried that we wouldn’t see a thing from the Pearl Tower later in the day. I didn’t get the memo that you need to wear black when running along the Bund. The kite flyers were out, I would love to know the road rules on who gets right of way on The Bund, the fishing wire or those exercising. You sure need to keep you wits about you.

The students looked a little tired but the buffet breakfast hit the spot. By the time we hit the streets the wind had picked up and the fog had blown away, clear blue sky’s. We got our first taste of the MET and the students loved it. You could feel the excitement levels rise as we emerged from the MET and saw the Pearl Tower.

We were soon on the viewing deck and the views were amazing. The difference in visibility compared to 2 years ago was remarkable. Of course we were soon on the glass floor viewing deck and the girls all braved it. With it being a little windy the movement of the tower just made the pulse rise a little more. On the way down we stopped at the indoor virtual reality roller coaster. Although it didn’t go for a long time, it was sensational.

Soon we were heading towards the Jing’an Temple but first we needed lunch so we went to the big food court near the Temple only to find it was under renovation. The temple is spectacular and the highlight for the students throwing the coins into the wishing tower. If you get it in then it is said that what you were thinking of will come true, so I can’t wait to get home to my new Porsche.

After a short rest back at the hotel it was time to hit the market and do some bargaining. The Golden Square Girls nailed it and picked up some great bargains, I’m sure they are all authentic!!! Bit worried about how one student from another school is going to get his giant Pikachu toy home.

For dinner it was off to Yangs for Dumplings, which were delicious and cheap. It worked out at about two dollars per student. Then it was off to People’s Square were we joined in dancing with the locals.

20170602-230731.jpg

20170602-230856.jpg

20170602-230927.jpg

Day 1, We Made It

20170601-233120.jpg

A cold start greeted us as we jumped on the bus down to Melbourne Airport. The girls were excited to get on the way. The trip down went smoothly and one of the highlights had to be our Air China A330 flying over the top of us coming in to land as we were slowed up on the Calder Carpark!

Luggage was grabbed and off to check in. Golden Square got themselves in first to check in (we’re not competitive at all) and headed straight for the crying doors – international departures. Through the doors and Georgia and I got selected to do the explosives substance test. The lady then felt sorry for us and escorted us around the line and straight through to the security checkpoint. As were were about to go through the scanners I got a phone call that the lady at check in didn’t scan Ebony’s passport correctly.

We then got escorted out and back to check in, where there were still Team China people lining up, we had a laugh at how long it had taken them. Scanning done a we quickly cleared customs (still first!!) and into the departure area. Had a beautiful coffee and bite to eat and it was soon time to board.

The Air China crew decided let us all board first, much to the disgust of all the other passengers. GSPS were first on board, I’m sure we’re getting medals for all these wins. Unlike 2 years ago, all of Team China were seated together. As it went alphabetically I got stuck next to an annoying student from Maiden Gully that had the same surname as me. We were soon in the air and as soon as the seat belt sign went off it was a dash to the exit row seats. Being so tall I was rapt to get one.

The girls seemed to handle the flight well – no air sickness so that was positive. Although I must admit it was the coldest flight I have been on. We landed and were hit straight away with the heat and humidity, which sure beats the cold we had in Bendigo. Customs was a breeze and we were rushed away by a very impatient bus driver. Before we knew it we were at the Park Hotel and off to bed, although some teachers might have snuck in some dumplings at Yangs before bed.