The North Star Project, 2013 Summer Report Number Thirty — Tianjin, China, Traveling to Guilin and Zhangjiajie
By Erin Monroe, Update 10: Traveling to Guilin and Zhangjiajie
As I mentioned in my update last week, I took a ten-day trip with my two friends for our vacation from school in the middle of July. We traveled south to Guilin and Zhangjiajie. My vacation was packed full—full of traveling on buses, trains, planes, taxis, and subways along with walking, climbing, and hiking through rice terraces, mountains, national parks and cities. It felt like the theme of the week was to see how tired we could make ourselves by the end of every day and to see and do as much as we could. I didn’t want to leave China with regrets thinking “I wish I would’ve done. . .” so I tried to take advantage of this opportunity as much as possible. The first stop was to the city of Guilin.
When I received a scholarship in the spring and found I was able to go on the study abroad trip, one of my Chinese discussion section teachers immediately told me to go to Guilin if I ever got the chance. I have to say, it was a marvelous recommendation. Guilin is famous for its beautiful karsts peaks just outside of the city and around the nearby villages such as Yang Shou. On Saturday, the first day of our vacation, we rode a bamboo raft down the Li River which is surrounded by these peaks. In fact, the picture on the 20 Yuan bill is a scene taken from these mountains. This area is a big draw for tourists, both domestic and international, and the locals definitely play off of this fact. I was lured into a tourist trap where I dressed up in traditional clothing and had my picture taken in front of the mountains. The view really is a gorgeous sight and many wedding photos are taken here as well. My favorite day was spent in the rice terraces, which is a three hour bus ride outside of Guilin. This was the hardest and most exhausting day of all with the hiking, heat, humidity, and getting lost, but the most worthwhile experience of my trip and requires its own space to be described in further detail next week.
After touring Guilin and the surrounding areas, we took a sleeper train to Zhangjiajie. This city is most known for Tianmen Mountain. It was such a gradually rising mountain and when it did steepen it was too steep to free climb, so it was necessary to take a cable car up. There’s a walkway high up on the side of the mountain with different paths to follow and different sights for tourists to visit. The sides are so steep they could fairly be described as cliffs. Although there was a railing on the walkway, I didn’t dare lean over it and I felt a nervous buzz in my veins at being so high up. Whenever I took a picture I had a silly suspicion that gravity would betray me and the atmosphere would suck my camera out of my hand and over the cliff.
As we walked around, we saw various tourist attractions. For one section of the path, red strips of plastic ribbon were being sold for 2 Yuan. Tourists buy a ribbon and write their hopes and wishes on the ribbon, then tie it to a tree branch somewhere on the mountain. I bought one and wrote some good wishes for my family back home. On another section of the path, the walkway was thick glass so one could look down and see only the forest hundreds or possibly thousands of feet below. This part of the path is known as “the Walk of Faith.” It was slightly nerve-wracking and many were giddy with excitement at being able to see open space below with the illusion of walking on air. My friend Marissa had chosen this as a destination because she’s working on breaking her fear of heights. She successfully completed the walk of faith and is one step close to conquering her fear.
As we walked further and further along the pathway, the grand mass of tourists thinned out considerably. The path was fairly flat and easy to walk, and then steepened slightly to climb higher up the mountain. At one of the peaks, we reached a temple. Although this temple is rarely used for religious practice anymore and is now more of a tourist attraction, there is still a certain atmosphere that comes along with being in a place of worship. I’ve felt the same sense of tranquility in mosques, churches, and temples alike; it was lovely to be in a place away from all the cameras and crowds. It was a quiet place comprised of multiple buildings filled with tall statues of Buddha. Between the buildings were courtyards with wooden raised holders filled with sand with sticks of incense burning to remember loved ones who have passed.
After we headed back Tianmen Mountain and returned to our hotel, I felt like the vacation was over. The mountain seemed to be the grand finale and the end to a great trip. I still had another full day, and then on Saturday night I flew out of Zhangjiajie to Beijing. On Sunday, through a series of subway and train rides, I was back in Tianjin, and it was good to be back at my home-away-from-home.
The North Star Project: Collaboration between The Middle Ground Journal Student Interns, The College of St. Scholastica, and North Star Academy 8th Grade Global Studies Classes, 2013-2014 School Year Summer Reports.
Under the leadership of our North Star host teachers and student interns, The North Star Project has flourished for two years. For a brief summary, please see a recent article in the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, at:
This summer we will re-tool and re-design the collaborative program, drawing on the experience of our veteran student interns, ideas from our host teachers, and new projects provided by our incoming student interns. This summer The Middle Ground Journal will share brief dispatches from our North Star Project student interns, particularly from those who are currently stationed, or will soon be stationed abroad. As of the time of this report we have confirmed student interns who will be reporting from Mongolia, Southern China, Shanghai, northeastern China, The Netherlands, Tanzania, Ireland, England, Finland, Russia, and Haiti. We also have students developing presentations on theatrical representations of historical trauma, historical memory, the price individuals pay during tragic global conflicts, and different perceptions of current events from around the world. We will post their brief dispatches here throughout the summer, and report on their interactions with the North Star students and teachers throughout the school year.
Hong-Ming Liang, Chief Editor, The Middle Ground Journal, The College of St. Scholastica, Duluth, MN, USA, June, 2013
(c) 2013 The Middle Ground Journal, Number 6, Spring, 2013. See Submission Guidelines page for the journal’s not-for-profit educational open-access policy.