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Friday, January 18, 2013

The Final Stretch

At the end of the semester, some friends and I decided to go a little travel crazy. In the course of about 10 days I went from Beijing south to Shanghai, west to Lijiang, and then all the way to the northern most part of the country to Harbin, the land of snow and ice. Seeing all of these radically different places so quickly gave me a steady sense of contrasting perspectives between the many faces of China. China houses people and places on every end of the development and geological spectrum, making it a whole world of its own. There's so much history to explore, I look forward to my next opportunity to learn more about it. First stop, the hyper-city Shanghai.

I have less pictures than I would like of Shanghai. At some point, I rode the elevator to the top of the Pearl Oriental Tower (the far left tower with the orbs), however the day I went up it the weather was very overcast, and didn't really provide a photographical situation. I'll be back though. Until next time, this is all I have of the great city. It's huge, with a lot of modern architectural influences as well as old european. I feel that this reflects the city's development in many cases, drawing from both older international influences as well as the ever converging modernity of rich societies.

From here it was the tourist and local favorite place to unwind, Lijiang. We spent an equal amount of time hanging out in the old town and on a multiple day hike through the Tiger Leaping Gorge. Both places were beautiful in their own way. Going from a hub of commerce and technology like Shanghai to the rural rice terraces of Tiger Leaping Gorge was quite amazing, and it served as an ample reminder that even though China has a public face of a quickly rising economic world power, it still has much left from its ancient past. 

Rice terraced farm land and dramatic mountain peaks, Tiger Leaping Gorge

View of Lijian Old Town

The narrow alleyways of Old Town

From Lijiang we went to the City of Ice, Harbin. Needless to say, it was cold. Really cold. In Lijiang we enjoyed temperatures at a comfortable 60 degrees Fahrenheit, while in Harbin we walked the ice festival in -13 Fahrenheit. The city is smoggy and cold, heavily influenced by local Russian culture, and all the while festive. The ice festival was all I had hoped to be. The full scale castles and constructs were completely made of snow and ice. The place as a whole was impressive and beautiful. 

A blatant example of the Russian influence in the area,  The Saint Sophia Cathedral

Digital thermometer inlaid in an ice sculpture in the ice festival. This was
at the beginning of the night, and the temperature dropped even lower towards the end.

Giant Buddha sculpture made of snow.

This festival gave the most incredible fire works display I've ever seen.
It was essentially a twenty minute finale.  

The Harbin Annual Ice Festival 

Closing Thoughts

The first leg of my trip through China which has taken its course over the last four months. I will be returning for another semester, and even as I write this last entry from America I look forward to returning in a few short weeks. Hopefully, for the people who view these posts, they inspire some desire to travel to this country or really any other country. Some say travel is the best form of education. While I haven't lived it out long enough to say whether its true or not, I can say that travel is, for me, the best form of exposure. The cultures that so radical contradict our own are out there, full of people that at the core are human beings just like the rest of the world. There's still much to see, and there are some people in the U.S. that wouldn't appreciate if I discontinued the publishing of these entries, so expect to see more in the future. Until then, 以后见。

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