Beijing: Day 5

Day 5 – The End of Our Adventure

We could hardly believe that it was the last day of our amazing trip to Beijing. After our final buffet breakfast, we participated in morning exercises and games at the park surrounding the Temple of Heaven. There we rotated through traditional Chinese activities: taiji, devil sticks, yoyo, Kungfu, and silk dance. Afterward, we walked through the park amongst the pink budding trees, passing by many people socializing with card games, knitting, and dancing.  We stopped to admire the vibrantly colored Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. This structure, built on three levels of marble stone base, is completely wooden but with no nails! We took advantage of the colorful backdrop by taking some final group photos there.

Our last day in Beijing was soon coming to an end. We spent an hour bargaining for souvenirs in the Pearl Market, then enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch before heading back to the airport. On the buses, we had time to reflect on all of our experiences of the last week, the fun we had together, and our strengthened friendships. Thankfully, our airport check-in and flight were uneventful. We were very happy to land back in Hong Kong to be reunited with our families and share stories, photos, and gifts.

Thank you, everyone, for a great Beijing PEAK trip! Remember to look  back for more photos later! We’ll post more as we gather photos from all the leader’s cameras.

Beijing: Day 4

Day 4 – The Great Wall

Today was the day we’d been waiting for – our chance to hike the Great Wall! After another delicious breakfast buffet (waffles!), we hopped on our buses for the long journey.  Our first stop was a traditional village, near the Great Wall. We visited the home of “Big Mama,” who was very thankful for the produce we brought from the market. She had dough and filling already prepared for us to try our hand at dumpling making. First she cut the lumps of dough into small pieces, then rolled the pieces into flat circles. We held the flattened dough in the palm of our hands, placed a spoonful of vegetable filling in the center, folded the dough over, and neatly pleated it closed. For lunch, our hosts boiled our homemade dumplings, and served them along with a variety of typical village dishes. We enjoyed our lunch in the open air of the family’s courtyard.

Next up: the famed and well-preserved Jingshanling (Golden Mountain) section of the Great Wall! Full of energy after our lunch, we hiked up and down steep stone stairs, explored at least six watchtowers, and marveled at the green mountains, blooming trees, and stunning views along the way. The Wall undulates so far into the distance that it seems endless. We took advantage of many amazing photo opportunities; it was very special to share this experience together. After a big group photo at one of the towers, we hiked back down along a picturesque path. On the way to the buses, students again practiced their Mandarin to drive some hard bargains on souvenirs.

Back on the buses, we were entertained by Tai Tam Idol and sing-alongs over the microphone.  We stopped for dinner at a restaurant in Beijing, then headed back to our hotel. After a refreshing evening stroll along the river, we met in small groups to reflect on the day’s activities, and make phone calls home. After such an eventful day, everyone was ready for a good night’s rest.

Beijing: Day 3

Day 3 – “Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it.” – Confucius


After breakfast, our buses took us to the lovely Houhai lake area for fun pedicab rides through the hutongs (alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences). We stopped at a siheyuan to participate in activities taught by the residents. We played shuttlecock, and learned the Chinese art of paper cutting, mask painting, calligraphy, and dough sculptures. Afterward, we walked to the local market. Each small group was tasked with purchasing produce and tea to bring to our Hexi Village hosts tomorrow. The students used their Mandarin and respectful bargaining skills to collect apples, garlic, corn, spring onions, Chinese figs, and lotus seeds. They all did a fantastic job, and we had a great time learning more about Chinese culture.

After lunch, we visited the Yonghe Temple (“Lama Temple”), a monastery for Tibetan Buddhism. As we strolled the grounds with our knowledgeable Wild China guides, we noticed the vivid colors on the ornately painted details of each main hall, the peaceful courtyards with budding trees, and the scent of sandalwood incense in the air. The students’ favorite attraction was the amazing 26m tall statue of Buddha, carved from a single piece of white sandalwood! From there we walked to the Temple of Confucius, with its gnarled and twisting cypress trees. In order to compete in a game of Two Truths and One Lie, each small group became an expert on one section of the compound. Here we saw the halls where Confucian scholars studied, and the giant stone tablets carved with the names of those who passed the Imperial Exam.

Finally, back at the hotel, we grabbed our pillows and slippers to enjoy a pizza dinner and “Karate Kid” movie night amongst friends, old and new. Tai Tam dyad has grown closer over the few days we’ve been together in Beijing; we’re lucky to have such a kind, clever, and especially FUN group of students!

Beijing: Day 2

Day 2 – Thousands of Years of History

This morning the students looked bright and well-rested as we enjoyed a buffet breakfast featuring dozens of choices: from congee and omelets, to croissants and fresh fruit. The biggest hit was the hot cocoa machine!

On the morning bus ride, our wonderful Wild China guide gave us background information about the morning’s activities: traveling Beijing’s Ring Roads, and exploring Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Students who had been assigned to research these locations grabbed the bus microphone to add their knowledge. Great job!

The first things we noticed about Tiananmen Square were its flat enormity, and the crowds of tourists! Some of the Square’s impressive features include the Monument to the People’s Heroes, guarded by unmoving green-uniformed men, the Great Hall of the People, and Tiananmen Gate, which features a giant oil painting of Mao Zedong. This gate is an entrance to the Forbidden City, the world’s largest existing palace complex. Here we participated in a team challenge to read a map of the 7,800,000 square foot palace complex, and find various sites within. We wound our way around the many striking red buildings with yellow glazed tile roofs, to see stately bronze lions, a large sandstone frieze featuring nine dragons, and a golden throne. We all found it hard to resist rubbing the brass knobs along every entrance – it is said that they bring good fortune!

After a filling lunch, we arrived at Beijing’s Huiling Center, which provides services to developmentally disabled adults. They were delighted to share their talents with us, including singing, dancing, and magic tricks. The Mandarin speakers in our group had a test of their skills trying to repeat a tongue-twister about the history of Beijing. After we performed a few songs and dances for them – including our choreographed version of “Happy” – we joined together to craft bracelets, charms, and greeting cards. Parents should be proud of their child’s fantastic attitude and the interest each child took in enjoying the afternoon with our new friends. There were smiles all around.

Afterward, we strolled narrow alleys to end the day with an amazing Peking Duck dinner. Back at our hotel, students made quick phone calls home, and settled into their rooms for another good night’s rest.

Beijing Day 1

Ni hao from Beijing! From Hong Kong to Beijing, Tai Tam students and teachers had a smooth check-in, flight, and arrival today. Students played cards, watched a Disney movie, chatted, or quietly read their books on the plane. Blue skies had everyone in a good mood for adventure.

After collecting our luggage, we met our friendly Wild China guides and hopped on buses for our first look at Beijing. We headed directly to dinner at Nanjing Impressions. Sitting at big round tables in our small groups, we feasted on vegetable dumplings, stewed meat with rice, lotus root slices in sticky sweet syrup, and seven other delicious dishes of various green vegetables, tofu, and noodles.

Our bellies full, we boarded the buses again for a quick ride to the bright lights of Chaoyang Theatre. We settled into our seats for an amazing acrobatic show that had students on the edge of their seats and ooh-ing and aaah-ing throughout. A flexible young woman balanced on just one hand atop a stack of chairs as high as the ceiling. Male gymnasts flipped through impossibly high hoops, then juggled giant stacks of hats to thumping music and a light show. At one point, we counted thirteen women posed on one bicycle tracing rings around the stage. There were strong men hopping stairs on one hand, beautiful ladies spinning paper umbrellas with their feet, and even a tricky clown. The highlight of the show, though, was eight roaring motorbikes making death-defying loops in a round metal cage.

After the show, we headed to our hotel to check-in and spend a few moments reviewing some logistics, and then reflecting on the day with our small groups. The students are very happy with the hotel arrangements; by 10 o’clock, all rooms were dark and quiet in preparation for a good night’s sleep.