TRAVEL: China ( Wuhan, Huai'an, Nanjing and Shanghai)


The Bund, Shanghai
I’d longed to visit Asia for many years and to my delight, in June this year my wish came true and I had the opportunity to travel to China! I’d been unfortunate in 2015 and was forced to withdraw from a planned trip to India, so I can’t articulate how excited I was when I found out that I’d been accepted onto my university faculty's study trip this summer. The trip would consist of 19 Business, Law and Social Sciences students jumping on a plane ( or 3) to China undergo a study exchange with three Chinese universities, with some cultural sightseeing in between.

Yellow Crane Tower, Wuhan
Feeling very nostalgic about the trip, and greatly missing the experiences and people I had the opportunity to meet on the trip, I thought that I would jump at the chance to share some of my 2000 photos and the ins and outs of my trip with you guys. Go and grab a cuppa, you could be in for a long read!

Birmingham -> Amsterdam -> Shanghai -> Wuhan

The first destination for our 18-night trip was Wuhan. We jumped on a short haul flight to Amsterdam before catching a connecting 9 1/2 hour flight to Shanghai before then taking a further domestic flight from Shanghai to Wuhan. After almost 19 hours of travelling, we finally checked into our first hotel, the Wuhan Wugang Hotel, our home for the next seven nights, our longest stay in one place, and the place where we first experienced an authentic Chinese breakfast, including noodles!

The focus of our trip was to complete an exchange program with a number of Chinese universities and work with the students on a combination of work experience projects, seminars and cultural activities.

In Wuhan, where we collaborated with students at Wuhan University of Science and Technology (WUST), our group of 19 UK students were split into groups of 3/4 to undergo some work experience (I worked for Jingdong2Home which works in a similar way to Deliveroo) and gain an insight into the running of businesses in China, before preparing a pitch presentation at the end of the week to present in front of all of the students involved and the CEOs of each company - nerve wracking to say the least! Nevertheless, by the end of the pitch on Friday, despite some stressful and hasty working on the Thursday evening, the relief made it all worthwhile and we could go and eat our final meal satisfied with how we’d performed.

In between our work experience and presentation preparations, we had the opportunity to see some sights within Wuhan. Our first destination was the Yellow Crane Tower, a tower originally built for military purposes. Our time in Wuhan also allowed us to explore the street food region of Hubuxiang, with the assistance of our partnership students who helped us to translate.

During our stay, we were given the opportunity to tour each of the universities we were partnering with. Compared to UK universities I have visited, the scale of Chinese university campuses is vast - almost like their own towns - and even the university food courts are fierce competitors to the Trafford Centres food court.

Speaking of food, the food in China is really something - both good and bad. Admittedly I wasn’t as brave as others in the group where food was involved (people were trying chicken feet, turtles and eel), the safer options that I did select, however, were delicious and even better, inexpensive - though completely different to westernised Chinese takeaway dishes. One of my favourite meals would have to be at a restaurant in a mall local to our hotel in Wuhan where the chef prepared our meal in front of us, even setting fire to ice cream.

On our last night in Wuhan, we decided to celebrate our presentations being over and done with, by taking a trip to the local 24-hour karaoke bar. Complete with a few too many alcoholic beverages, the evening was fun filled and a laugh to say the least, however, I shall be hiding any evidence of me stepping up to the stage and ‘singing’. 

Wuhan > Nanjing > Huai’an

Zhou Enlai Memorial Hall
Hexia Ancient Town

Saturday the 8th June consisted of a very hungover day of travel. We hopped on the high-speed bullet train to Nanjing before bundling into a coach for a 3-hour journey.  When we finally arrived at our next destination, Huai’an, we were gobsmacked by the contrast of our new hotel, the Shuguang International Hotel, to the hotel we’d stayed in Wuhan. The doors were opened for us as we entered the hotel, and we even had the option to have luggage escorted to our room by a bell boy… bliss!

Our first evening in Huai’an consisted of a night canal tour of some beautiful traditional buildings and pagodas. I can’t remember for the life of me the name of this region, but if by any chance you are in Huai’an and nearish to the Shuguang Hotel, we were only 10 -15 minutes walk away, and the view at night is not to be missed.

The following morning, after a dreamy nights sleep in the comfiest double bed, we ate our breakfast, this time featuring some more familiar western style breakfast choices and the most beautiful grape juice, before going down to the hotel lobby to meet the students from Huaiyin Normal University. Compared with the shy and retiring students in Wuhan, the girls from HNU were very outgoing and confident and each spoke amazing English. Having exchanged introductions, we all jumped in a coach to visit old Huai’an town, Hexia Ancient Town as well as the Zhou En’lai Memorial Hall

At HNU we took part in a number of culture based activities, such as calligraphy painting, and tie dying. Once again, we also had the opportunity to tour the vast University campus and taxidermy museum. Some of the HNU students, for our final night, treated us to a Chinese night club experience. An experience to say the least.

Huai’an > Nanjing

Jiangnan Examination Hall

Sun Yat-Sen Memorial

After what felt like too short of a stay in Huai’an, we jumped back onto a coach, this time headed for Nanjing. On our first day, we had some free time to explore the area so decided to explore the shops, even finding a huge House of Fraser, and to take a visit to Xuanwu Lake and Garden.

Our second day in Nanjing consisted of cultural excursions, including the Sun Yat‑sen Mausoleum and purple mountain, Nanjing City Wall, Nanjing Zhonghua Gate, Jiangnan Examination Hall, the Confucius temple and the Qinhuai River

For our final day in Nanjing, we took a trip to our final university destination, Nanjing University of Science and Technology. Here we were given the privilege to meet the dean of the art faculty and watch him paint traditional Chinese calligraphic art. In the afternoon we had the opportunity to meet some students from NUST and work with them to learn Chinese before being taught some Thai Chai - definitely more hard work than it looks!
View from the World Financial Centre, Shanghai

Yuyuan Garden, Shanghai

Nanjing > Shanghai

On Saturday 17th June, we began our journey to our final destination, Shanghai. After a 1 hour and 15 minute trip on the bullet train, we arrived and jumped onto another coach to our final hotel. Disappointingly, Shanghai was to be our shortest stay out of all of the cities we’d visited, nevertheless, we were determined to squeeze as much out of our one and a half days as we could. In such, we all got dolled up before catching the subway to the city centre where we had the chance to see the Bund area at night and where we had a meal in the Oriental Pear TV Tower revolving restaurant - probably the highlight of my entire trip - before getting a shaky tuk tuk back to the hotel. For our final day in China, we decided to visit the Yuyuan Garden and the World Financial Centre, the tallest observatory platform in the world, before revisiting the shopping streets then returning back to the hotel in readiness for our flight home. In hindsight, we could have saved ourselves the £17 we’d spend to go up the World Financial Centre as the view was just as breathtaking in the Oriental Pearl TV Tower. Nevertheless, the toilet with a view on the 52nd floor made it worthwhile.

Shanghai > Birmingham

Overall I had such an enjoyable time travelling and studying in China this summer. I have been so fortunate to have been accepted onto this trip and experience the opportunities that the trip provided, alongside meeting all of the amazing people I have been able to meet as a result. I would strongly urge anyone, should you get a similar opportunity through school or university to travel abroad, to jump at the chance. Because of the heavily subsidised cost of this trip, I was able to visit four major cities in China, including Shanghai, for less than I had spent on my girls holiday to Greece - truly amazing!

Have you ever travelled to Asia? Where is on your wishlist?

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