Far From Home

Before going on our holiday to 曲阜, myself, Erin, Maia, Margaret, Bethany, Scottie and Alexander went on a day trip to长城just at the end of 九月. We went to the lakeside view area in the Huanghuacheng Section of 长城, which is just north of 北京.

Getting up at 05:30 in the morning was not my favourite part of the day, we had to make it over to Nankai University for 6:15 to be picked up by the tour group on the bus. Although it is only supposed to take 4 hours to get there, we ended up taking over 7, which was quite an experience in itself. As this was the weekend before national day we had extra security as we travelled into 北京, which meant we only got to our point of the wall later than expected after getting on and off a few times for security checks. We also got “on board entertainment” from the tour guide singing, as well as getting us to play some games. There were students from a few universities in 天津that came on the tour along with us, and it was a great way to meet other 留学生.

We spent a few hours at the wall, walking up it, taking photos and getting to go along and see the lake. The sights were tremendous, and it was such a beautiful day, which made it even more spectacular, especially seeing the sun shine on the water. The wall went up and down a fair bit and between two hills where a glass bridge separated them, the bridge was extremely colourful, which was cool to walk along as we could see the lake below us as well. However, we did not find the massive climb back up quite so fun. It was hard work to go up but after, I thought the view was amazing and worth the effort (and the 18 hour day).

And onto the holiday…

Before heading off, we spent National day in 天津. It was a fairly normal day for us, comprised of eating, sleeping and of course, packing last minute for our trip. We were able to watch the parade held in 北京 from our phones and laptops while doing so which was interesting to watch.

Packing for a five day trip into one schoolbag was a challenge but miraculously, I managed to fit everything in!

We had to be up early on Wednesday morning, to be ready for our train through to 北京. It only took us 30 minutes to get through as we had got the high speed train, which is known worldwide as the “bullet” train. As our train to 曲阜 wasn’t until the evening we were able to spend the day in 北京, and since it was the day after National day, the city was absolutely pinned!

National day is on the 1st of October and it celebrates the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China. Six days are added onto the national day which turns it into a week long public holiday, which is known as Golden week, having this long a holiday means that we have the opportunity to travel. There is quite a big run up to National day, 天津 had been decorated weeks before, especially as this year marked the 70th Anniversary. There were banners, posters, flags, wreaths and even massive “70” signs put up everywhere, you couldn’t miss it!

In 北京, we went to the Pearl market, where we were able to practice our mandarin while bargaining for things to buy, as well as walking along outside Tiananmen Square where it was mobbed with thousands of people coming to see the festivities, there were even points where it was hard to move! We were able to get photos around the square, with the guards and we even had people come up and ask for photos with us. Eventually, we made it to the train station ready for our 8 ½ hour journey, it wasn’t half as bad as we were thinking since we had managed to get hard seats. Although it was quite packed, with people sitting and standing.

We made it to 曲阜 bright and early, but we were all very tired. We managed to get settled at our flat quite quickly and went out to explore. The differences between 天津 and 曲阜became clearer the longer we were there, we saw hardly any other foreigners around us the whole time we were there which was quite odd, this also meant that hardly anyone spoke any English, so we were almost always speaking what Mandarin we had learned. This was a great way to practice and improve our speaking, especially when we had locals coming up to us to get photos, and sometimes pushing their kids to ask for ones!

A highlight from the trip, for me, was going up Mount Tai in 泰安. It was a very long and tiring day, but it was definitely worth it. It took us about 6 hours to get up and down the (over) 15,000-metre-high mountain, it even started pouring down with rain when we were near the top. This was the first drop of rain we had had since we got here. Even though we thought we were prepared for the hike, we had not prepared ourselves for the rain, and for a group Scottish people, I thought that was quite ironic. By the end of the day, I was happy to be back in 曲阜 (and out of the pouring down rain), as I was excited to explore more.

曲阜 is the birthplace and home of Confucius, making the town a home of culture and history. This is one of the most interesting things I find about 曲阜. From this, we were able to make a couple of days seeing the sights of Confucius; the Temple of Confucius, the Kong family home and the tomb of Confucius. I found it fascinating to walk around and see these monuments.

After our few days in 曲阜, we had to brace ourselves for an 11 hour standing train journey all the way back to 天津. We made the best of it however, playing cards, doing our 作业 and getting some well needed 睡觉! We even spoke to a few locals who were travelling, some were going much further than us, and others even let us sit in their seats at times.

We eventually made it back home, and gradually the rest of the scholars made it back from their own adventures too. It was a funny moment when we were all back together, hugging each other, asking how everyone’s trips had gone. As cringey as it sounds, we really are one big family.


曲阜- Qūfù- Qufu

长城-chángchéng- The Great Wall

九月- jiǔyuè- September

北京-Běijīng- Beijing

天津- Tiānjīn- Tianjin

留学生-liúxuéshēng- Foreign Student(s)

作业- zuòyè- Homework

睡觉- shuìjiào- Sleep

泰安- Tài’ān- Tai’an