This is an old evernote jot from when I was planning to make my first international trip, to China. I went by myself, and the experience, stories, and perspective I got were magical and fantastic. I spent 2008-2012 studying Chinese, not having enough money to travel, but always thinking it would be cool if I could speak another language. I chose Chinese because of the usefulness of it and because of the musicality of it. At the time, I was very intrigued by what “tonal language” meant.
In the winter of 2012, I stepped off a plane with myself and a backpack in Beijing, barely being able to intelligibly say, “Where’s the bathroom.” I almost fell for a classic 5 minutes off the plane: I reluctantly gave my luggage to an insistent guy. I didn’t want to be rude. Well it turned out I need to be rude shortly after as he had no intentions of helping me with my luggage. Helping me donate my luggage more like :). As a solo traveler with zero foreign experience, I was the target of number of scam attempts, but most were pretty obvious and only financial trickery. One dangerous scam situation occurred later in the trip, but overall, it was a positive and rewarding trip with a plethora of diverse experiences packed into 1.5 months. Rock climbing above the great wall on nearby limestone pinnacles, running 8 miles by myself on the great wall, and climbing the legendary Buddhist mountain 峨眉 were thrill highlights of the trip. The real highlight of the trip was constantly feeling lost and chewing off pieces of the challenge that is the Chinese language, meeting amazing people, understanding a glimpse of select people in another culture through their thoughts and experiences, and experiencing a different way of living life.
Well that’s enough English background, I’m going to tell the specific stories in Chinese then post the old evernote below.
This Winter break, I am planning a trip to China with the goal of intensive language and culture immersion. And by intense, all I really mean is that I want to feel uncomfortable, but in a good way you know? A good learning environment. I am favoring northern China for the trip because of the Harbin winter culture, Beijing Capital, and of course the sexy Beijing accent.
- 學習地道口語 （練習很多普通話！）
- Learn authentic oral Chinese and practice my Beijing accent.
- Experience daily Chinese life and culture
- Make lifelong friends
- Classical Chinese music
- Play Pipa
- Play GuZheng
- Go to concert
- Tourist Attractions
- Ice and Snow Festival (哈尔滨冰雪大世界）
- Manchurian Tiger Garden (东北虎园)
- Yabuli Ski Field (雅布力滑雪场)
- Sun Island (太阳岛)
- Russian-Built Saint Sophia Cathedral (中央大街)
- Great Wall(长城)
- Forbidden City(紫禁城 or 故宫)
- Summer Palace(颐和园)
- Imperial Palace(圆明园)
- Temple of Heaven(天坛)
- Tian’anmen Square(天安门广场)
- Hutong (less modern, small streets, lots of classical shops)
http://www.beijingholiday.com/bus-tour/2-days-classic-beijing-bus-tour.html has some bus tours.
Where to Sleep?
http://www.couchsurfing.org and http://www.hostelworld.com/hostels/Beijing are awesome for finding sleeping arrangements. I have also emailed universities and made some contacts. After all, the goal of the trip is to experience Chinese, and there is no better way than to stay with locals and learn from them.
For studying, I am most likely going to get a tutor(s) (家教）. I am still waiting to see if there are short term programs available. I can google image search, skype chat, and look up words in a dictionary without stepping foot outside of my bedroom after all.
Orbitz.com and http://www.hipmunk.com for flight tickets. The best tickets seem to be leave on the weekend and come back Monday or Wednesday.
I have been trying to leave out the budget as I figure out what things cost and not letting the price deter me from what I want to experience, but alas, it is about time to calculate costs.
- $1050 round trip ticket to Beijing
- $400 tutoring
- $400 lodging
- $400 tours and entertainment
- $300 food
- $160 Beijing visa
- $100 miscellaneous
- $70 round trip train ticket to Harbin
- $50 airport taxi service (hopefully can find a friend)
Timeline (Rough – to be thought out later — prereq is finding tutoring / language program information)
Official school break is from December 15th to January 9th. I am working with my professors to take finals early and return a week later. I want to stretch the time from December 8 to January 14 +/- for the cheapest flights. This gives me 4 to 5 weeks.
- Weeks 1: Beijing
- Weeks 2-4: Harbin?
- Week 5: Back to Beijing and fly out