17 July: Dujiangyan irrigation project
We travelled by the high-speed train to the Dujiangyan region. To get the high-speed train, we first had to take the underground metro to reach the station from where we boarded the high-speed train, travelling at a speed of 190km/h to reach Dujiangyan in just under 40-minutes. We then took taxis to the main shopping street next to the Dujiangyan irrigation. Here we managed to get a quick bite for lunch in the shopping street. It was filled with different restaurants, vendors selling cold drinks and quirky souvenirs. Many of us went around the street looking at several different places and then forgot to eat! Therefore, in the last 10-minutes, we all went to one of the vendors and got some ice-cold milkshake and fruit juices before the next part of exploring the irrigation project further. At the entrance, we decided a meeting time and then all split into smaller groups and so walked around the project at different paces.
The whole walk is a giant circle that encompasses the amazing rivers, streams and mountains that formed part of the irrigation project. We walked around the project and along the way we crossed bridges that span across the rivers, sighting beautiful temples on the way and reaching the highest point where Yulei tower resides. The last stretch is called the Ancient Songmao Road, which has one of the best views we saw on this trip. The weather complimented the day being hot and sunny which made the walk challenging but the view more stunning. We all came back to the entrance at the arranged time and moved on to walk to our hotel for the night, which was a newly built Holiday Inn. Once we reached there, we had a short break and settled into our rooms before heading out in the evening for a group dinner that included all the Bradford and University of Connecticut students, all the professors and student guides. We had another lovely hot pot meal, and as a bonus, we even had some evening entertainment of traditional Chinese fast mask changing.
18 July: Qingcheng Mountain
In our temporary hotel, we met in the morning for a breakfast buffet and were greeted with the amazing view of Yulei tower on top of the Dujiangyan irrigation project. Breakfast was a mixture of both Chinese and English food. After breakfast we made our way towards the Qingcheng Mountain by bus. We hiked one of the many areas of Qingcheng Mountain. The majority of us went for the highest peak, which was visible from afar due to the intriguing temple situated at the very top, Laojun Temple. The elevation of the peak is over 1260 meters. To begin this journey, and reach the foot of the mountain in time, we took a mini guide bus. As with many mountains in China, the steps are very narrow and steep, rising higher and higher. The views along the way made the journey ever more interesting; we saw parts of Dujiangyan River, acres of trees and forests, inconspicuous temples and strange but wonderful creatures. The mountain has an extensive religious and cultural history, forming an important part of Taoism.
At the steepest point, there was a cable-car option, which part of the group chose, whilst others put their legs to the test. Once the nearly 2-hour journey reached Laojun temple, it was mesmerising. The architecture involved, with the natural beauty around the temple, set it apart. Although the trek itself was physically exhausting, it was also mentally stimulating. It was an eventful and deeply informative day; learning about the cultural relics and famous historic sites in such a beautiful, peaceful setting. The majority of us walked down to the car park and waited for the whole group to be together before setting off on a bus towards the train station for the high-speed train back to our hotel.
19 July: Wide and Narrow Valley / Farewell Party
In the morning we travelled via public transport to the wide and narrow valley. Travelling in this way provided us with the chance to find out what normal Chengdu City life may entail. Jason was our student guide for the day and he gave us free time to explore the wide and narrow valley when we arrived.
We split into groups and explored the area. There was a huge array of interesting shops and stalls. Items of clothes, jewelry, souvenirs, food etc. were on offer for us to sample. We enjoyed having this time to do some shopping in the local area. It was a very interesting place to visit full of twists and turns each leading to a new shopping opportunity.
We all arrived back happy with our new buys from Chinese traditional tea sets, souvenirs and clothes. All will act as a reminder of our wonderful time spent in China.
In the afternoon we reluctantly prepared to say goodbye to our wonderful Chinese hosts and UCCON comrades. As we walked to the party venue, some of us had an opportunity to sample a unique method of transport upon one of the university rickshaws. The teacher assistants, also known as the student guides, beautifully arranged the farewell party table where we all sat down together.
Bruce was our host for the party and announced the presentations. Alex, one of our student guides, did the first presentation. It was a comical highlight reel of the whole experience we have been through. We followed with our highlight reel presentation and a gift for Prof. Sun. Then UCONN presented gifts to the professors and delivered a short speech about their experience too. Thereafter, both Prof. Yang and Dr. Shang gave a speech to us all. Lastly, there was a heartfelt speech by Jason on our time in China.
We then gave our individual gifts to the teacher assistants who helped us through our whole trip and said our farewells to the students who made this trip possible.
20 July: Sichuan Airport to Bradford Airport
We all had an amazing experience and the day started with a normal China day routine with breakfast but with a twist. In reality, it was about two weeks since we met our American friends that were joining our group, but it felt like we knew them much longer. They had an earlier flight so we all came down for breakfast slightly earlier to say our goodbyes and wish them well for the next chapter of their travels.
After breakfast it was a quick last sweep of our rooms, handing in our room cards and weight check of the bags before our transport takes us back the same way to the airport.
At the airport, we had a couple of our teacher assistants, Bruce and Rainny, with us. They were joining us in photos and then said our goodbyes, knowing we will see them again one day. We were at the airport three hours before the flight, so we had time to wander the duty free of Sichuan airport. The girls looked at the large array of perfumes available in the store. Some of us still had some Yuan left which we had to spend hastily in the airport because the buyback rate is poor. We walked throughout the shops and some of us even brought a coffee from the Starbucks.
We headed the same way we came from Chengdu to Amsterdam, and then eventually landed at Leeds and Bradford where we as a team for this whole adventure disbanded and went back to our next destinations.