Study and Go Abroad Prize Winner – Trip to Hong Kong and China (January – February 2017) – by Natalie Osowski
I am usually a routine kind of person. I wake up, go to school, go back home and study, sleep and then start my next day. It does sound boring, but I am happy and comfortable with it. When I got an email that I won a free round trip flight to anywhere in the world on Air Canada, after I attended the Study and Go Abroad Fair in Toronto in the Spring 2016, I could not believe my eyes! This prize could not have come at a perfect time!
Earlier that year, my boyfriend was currently teaching English in China for a year. I thought the free round trip ticket would be the perfect opportunity to see him and experience the other side of the world! I used the free round trip ticket for Hong Kong, and then paid for my flights to Beijing and Chengdu.
The routine person in me broke while I was on my way to Hong Kong as my first destination, because it was my first time being on a plane by myself and crossing over the Pacific Ocean. I got a bit nervous at first, but I met some friendly people on the plane which made the journey to Hong Kong a bit easier for me.
When I finally arrived in Hong Kong, I met with my boyfriend and I was excited to begin the trip of a lifetime!
On our first day in Hong Kong, we met with one of my boyfriend’s friends from high school! He was also visiting Hong Kong for a few days! We hiked the Dragon’s Back, had delicious mangos at its peak and hiked back down to Big Wave Bay. With an area so fully populated, you would not expect such a beautiful view!
My boyfriend and I also ran into our other friend, who was currently doing a student exchange in Hong Kong. She took us to see the Symphony of Lights, which was absolutely amazing to see!
The rest of our time spent in Hong Kong was at the markets. We went to the Temple Street Night Market, Ladies’ Market, Jade Market, Antique Market, Fruit Market and Flower Market. I really enjoyed walking through the markets and doing a bit of shopping for myself, friends and family members.
Our next destination was at Beijing, China. I really wanted to visit China’s capital city, especially during Chinese New Year. My time in Beijing was absolutely incredible. We stayed in an international hostel, where we met people from all over the world, such as Australia, Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria, and we all got together to see what Beijing has to offer!
At Beijing, we visited the Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, the Olympic Park, the Temple of Heaven and of course the Great Wall. We went on the Great Wall at a perfect time because the weather was nice (even at -5 oC), the sky was blue, and there weren’t that many people there.
Not only did we do some site seeing, but we also tried some street food. My mind was blown away with all the different types of food they had which ranged from duck to different insects on a stick to delicious granola bars, just to name a few. I had a bite of a scorpion on a stick and it did not taste bad at all! A bit salty though.
Being in Beijing for Chinese New Year was absolutely incredible and I got to spend it with some of the best people from all over the world. At New Year’s Eve, a group of us spent our night watching all the beautiful fireworks from our hostel.
Our next and final destination was to Chengdu, China. A lot of people might not know of Chengdu, but it is home to the largest mall in the world, known as the New Century Global Center, and to the adorable Giant Pandas.
The largest mall in the world was absolutely breathtaking to see! It has several floors, and includes an indoor skating rink and water park!
In Chengdu, I really enjoyed seeing the Giant and Red Pandas at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. We arrived a few minutes after opening, which was the perfect time to go as we got to watch the pandas being fed, walking and playing with one another.
This trip was a dream come true, and I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to get outside my comfort zone, take risks and meet amazing people along the way.
Here are a few tips if you are planning on travelling to either Hong Kong or China:
- Facebook, Snapchat, Google and Instagram are blocked in China. Get VPN to access these types of social media
- Purchase a travel adaptor
- Make sure you apply for a travel visa in China, even if you are only staying there for a few days
- Travel lightly as you bring a lot of souvenirs back home
- Pack a lot of layers. During my trip, I had to pack for 20oC in Hong Kong, -5 oC in Beijing, and 10 oC in Chengdu
- Stay in hostels as it is the best way to meet different people
- The Octopus card (similar to a Presto Card) in Hong Kong is very handy
- Tipping is not allowed in both Hong Kong and China
- Body language is important for getting by in Hong Kong and China if you do not speak their language
- Get out of your comfort zone and experience something new every day
- Be spontaneous