305 km/h on the way to Shendong
Beijing is all we saw of China until the trip to Shendong province. Both the Bloomsburg and the Stony Brook groups were going on the trip. All of us got together on campus as planned to get on the bus to the train station.
The bus ride to the train station was a long and boring one but once we got to the station ebullience was all I felt. This was going to be my first bullet train ride. The inside of the train almost looked like the business class section of a plane.
Our car was right behind the canteen car that had a speed indicator which said that we were travelling at over 300 km/h. This was the fastest terrestrial transportation in the world and it felt as smooth as a plane ride with no turbulence.
Four hours after the bullet train departed Beijing we reached Shendong. My first look at Shendong planted a very peaceful impression of it in my mind. It was a beautiful landscape decorated in hills, mountains, rural cities and the fresh smell of a rural and mountainous adventure.
A bus took the two tired groups to the hotel, which was a moderate one located far from the town. I was really tired and excited about what the program had for us on the following morning; we were going to climb Mount Tai, the most culturally significant mountain in China.
Conquering the Great Mt. Tai
The next morning after breakfast the groups got together in the lobby and got on the bus that took us to Mount Tai. As we reached Tai the excited groups were taken to a shuttle that we took to the base of the mountain. The tourist infested steps to the top started close to where the bus dropped us off and were.
We started climbing the tallest flight of stairs we have ever climbed on a very exciting note which did not survive half the flight, it was very tiring to climb over 3000 steep steps early in the morning. The tiring climb up did have shopping and picture breaks that ended in “I don’t want to have to get back to climbing those steps.” After a few tiring hours of climbing, the groups finally got to the top which by the way was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in my life.
After a debatably delicious meal in a restaurant on the top of the mountain we got back down to the base of the mountain with some of us using the stairs and the rest using on cable cars. We got back on the bus and were taken to the hotel.
Back to Beijing
The next day we were going to Confucius’s temple and tomb to which having been sour from the climb from the day before, no one was too excited about. Confucius’s temple was a big area with a lot of buildings resembling the ones from the Forbidden City with a big courtyard in the middle; it almost looked like a university campus.
His tomb was in a cemetery with a handful of graves belonging to his son, grandson and himself. From Confucius’s tomb we got back on the bus and were taken to a deferent hotel. The next day we took the bullet train back to Beijing.
End of the program
The two weeks after the Shendong trip flew by very fast, during which I made some Chinese friends from the University, got some shopping done and enjoyed Beijing night life. By the end of the program I felt like I can speak enough Chinese to get by in Beijing, every time I have a successful conversation in Chinese, it feels like I’ve had a successful month here in Beijing.
Over the month I spent here I came to love Beijing enough to perhaps live here one day. I am currently in the process of applying for an internship in China for the summer of next year. At the end of the program, our group was heading back to the US, whilst I was staying back for an extra week to get some more travelling and sightseeing done here in China.
Coming to China was probably one of the most significant decisions I made since getting into college, and this trip was one that I most definitely will never forget.
— Salman Haque, international business major