Field Study Trip Part 1: Guangzhou
On Saturday, myself and many other IB students summoned (barely) enough energy to board a 6:15 a.m. bus to Pudong Airport, where we would depart for Guangzhou, the first destination of our highly anticipated Field Study trip. I, for one, procrastinated like no other when it came to packing: after going to bed at 2 a.m., I woke up at 5 to stuff a few bags with short-sleeved shirts and shorts and a pair of flip-flops. Everyone made it on time, which the exception of a select one or two. It was beyond hilarious seeing them sprint for the bus, bags of luggage flailing. I think that was the first time I saw Yingyi not smiling wide when greeting someone. Nonetheless, we made it to the airport with some time to spare.
Apparently, traffic in Guangzhou can be unpredictable—after waiting in the airport for 45+ minutes, our bus still hadn’t arrived. This suddenly became “okay” when our tour guide, David, offered to pay for everyone’s lunch at McDonald’s while we waited. The look on the workers’ faces when 30 foreigners stampeded in was absolutely priceless. “Together, or separate?” they said, terrified. I wouldn’t have stuffed my face with five Big Macs had I known we would immediately head to a real restaurant for some Cantonese cuisine.
After food, we headed to Bai Shui waterfall for some hiking. Well, a lot of hiking—9,999 steps—up a mountain—to be more precise. Though David said the journey up would only take an hour (“at a good pace”), we only made it to number 3,000 in that same time. I had only gotten two hours of sleep the night before and I don’t think I had ever worked so hard to not complete a hike. While the bus ride back was unfortunate smelling, to say the least, it was an incredibly rewarding experience with spectacular views. Next stop was the hotel for a much needed rest.
I had fairly high expectations for hotel accommodations for this trip given that we were told about all the amazing lodges we would be staying in. But despite this, the hotel in Guangzhou was impressive. My roommate, Tyler, and I were placed on the 30th floor (the highest among anyone in IB, I must say), which overlooked Guangzhou’s impressive downtown skyscrapers. A window separated the bathroom from the living room, which meant that I could watch the BBC while showering. Apparently, some people even had bathroom speaker systems, which, I heard, allowed for some pretty amazing Beyoncé shower sessions. To top it all off, we had access to the breakfast buffet: endless tables of omelets, bacon, and fruit. Some of these perks may have seemed over-the-top to some, but I secretly craved each one.
The next and last activity of the day was a trip to the Floral Square, which overlooks the Canton Tower. This was the tallest building in China, before it was replaced by the Shanghai Tower (woot woot) in August 2013. Still, it was pretty tall, and absolutely stunning at night.
The following day was spent visiting Shamian Island, a sandbank island in Guangzhou’s Liwan District. Conceded to France and the United Kingdom during the Qing Dynasty, the island boasts all kinds European architecture, beautiful fountains, and tree-lined pedestrian avenues. For most of the day I felt like I was in Savannah, Georgia, which was weird. The main strip was littered with vendors selling all kinds of stuff from handmade handbags to postcards. One young Tibetan woman was selling wooden bead bracelets. I tried some of my bargaining techniques but could only knock five kuai off of the bracelet I wanted. Better than nothing, I thought.