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2013/14 China Tour

Check out the China Tour Photos

Day 14 & 15

Well, it’s the last day and what a trip it has been! Yesterday proved to be the worst of the weather for the whole trip as it was raining and windy and just that little bit colder. It goes to show how lucky we have been with the weather if that was the worst of it! We headed out to a local boutique market which was a short walk away and it was quite a surprise. Lots of lovely little alley ways with a huge variety of boutique shops selling all sorts of goods. Although it really was boutique, there was still bargaining to be had and the kids did a mighty fine job of getting those prices down. A number of girls and I have been on the hunt for a decent shoe shop – we finally found one and I don’t think the little man who owned it knew what had hit him when we landed! His shop is the size of a small ensuite and I reckon there were about 10 of us squeezed in there at one point all trying on shoes (whilst standing up of course!). Most of us got what we wanted at a good price and left there (like clowns out of a mini!) very happy J.

Back to the hotel after a good couple of hours shopping and to a familiar local restaurant for a quick lunch and then on the train back to the cloth market for a last shop there and for some of us to collect our lovely made-to-measure items. Very exciting and some very happy faces! From there we made our way back to the train station and headed for the Park Hyatt. That was an adventure in itself as we found our way to Pudong but sorting out which sky scraper was the Hyatt was another story altogether!! After a few false starts and some frantic texting between the adults we got there and boy was it worth it! We headed straight to the 86th floor to waiting staff, beautiful hot coffee and juices and the view of a lifetime!!!! We were then taken to the 85th floor to see a typical luxury suite – luxury does not describe it – outrageous opulence is probably closer. The swimming pool, spa and gym just capped it off. You will see a photo of 3 dogs on fake grass. These are models of the owner’s dogs and are situated in the middle of the suite we viewed on their little patch of grass – quite bizarre really! The public toilets were a real feature as well with various buttons which if you look closely at the photos you will note the options are self-explanatory – the kids soon worked it all out! It so happened that it was the manager’s birthday so he received a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday” as only the ACC seniors can do – on the 87th floor of a sky scraper in Shanghai J!

Many thankyous and then downstairs to a very posh food court where we all bought some dinner from a lovely choice of little restaurants, including Subway!

We headed from there to the train again and off to the Bund to check out the lights. We walked via Nanjing East Road which is famous for its exclusive shops such as Gap, Zara, Forever 21, Swatch, Coogee, Omega, Rolex and Cartier. Many oohs and aahs from the kids then we arrived at the viewing point for the famous lights on the Bund. Basically, we were looking at the lights of all the buildings where we had just been and it really was spectacular. Lots of photos and then back to the train station to head back to the hotel. Well, almost…

We caught our first train and when we went to change lines we found that the trains had all stopped for the night as it was very late. So, out to the street and into lots of taxis. We all got back to the hotel pleasantly exhausted after our fabulously adventurous day.

We have enjoyed our last breakfast in China and everyone is packing and getting ready to check out of our last hotel before heading to the airport. It has truly been a fantastic tour with many interesting challenges along the way. The kids have proven to be great travellers with such a positive outlook and a wonderful ability to adapt to whatever circumstance is thrown at them. They are each to be congratulated for making this trip such a great and fun adventure with their beautiful performances in between. Well done ACC Seniors!

Finally, thank you to everyone at home for your support and faith in us, and for allowing us to share such a great experience with your children.

Signing off… Amanda, Larni, Mandy, Carmel, Ruby & Andrew

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Day 13

So, another buffet breakfast after a good sleep and a leisurely start to the day. We experienced the first inclement weather since we took off from Australia so we decided to head back to the Bazaar as many of us had unfinished business! Although it was wet, the rain was light and intermittent so walking around the bazaar and buying the last of our bargains was not marred by the weather and still a fun experience. After a couple of hours, the kids had bargained themselves to a standstill so we regrouped and made the decision to head back to the hotel for a well-earned rest. In the meantime, Alice’s parents, Phillip and Jane, joined us and kindly offered to take a group of us to the Jade Temple. There were 10 of us who chose to do this so we headed off on the train and found our way to the most interesting temple in the midst of what appeared to be quite a poverty-stricken area of town. The temple had a number of Buddha’s in different rooms, including one the marble reclining Buddha given to China by Singapore. I have to say, we revelled in this peaceful oasis after the hustle and bustle of downtown Shanghai.

In the meantime, the remainder of the choir stood in the middle of the bazaar and sang a number of pieces whilst Carmel worked the crowd into a frenzy of paparazzi type filming and photographing. Apparently it was a fabulous moment and quite a spectacle!

We all met back at the hotel and headed off to Pizza Hut for dinner! That was an interesting experience in China. Luckily we were working with pictorial menus and the kids quickly sorted their orders and money and enjoyed a meal which didn’t involve rice or noodles!!

Then it was back to the hotel for a quiet evening chatting with friends, then bed.

Not too much planned for tomorrow as we are all tired and winding down, getting ready for our big trip home on Thursday. We will take our time in the morning and head down to the cloth market for some of us to collect our made-to-measure items, then to the Park Hyatt to watch the sunset from the top floor (thanks to Ashley W’s dad), then the Bund for dinner and to see the evening lights which are apparently pretty spectacular.

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Day 12

What an adventurous day! After a lovely breakfast with some different types of food to what we have seen so far, we headed off with Andrew leading the way to the nearest train station. Whilst we were sorting out the tickets and working out which lines to use, the choristers burst into song and the commuters loved it. They were filming them and applauded enthusiastically – especially when the kids sang one of the Chinese songs, Mo Li Hua. We caught the very efficient underground train with some line changes along the way and then walked to the Yu Yuan Gardens and Bazaar. It was simply fabulous. As it was a contained area we were able to set the kids free in small groups to explore the stalls and gardens and try out their bargaining skills! We all had a ball and any number of interesting and curious items were purchased at bargain prices. The kids just loved the haggling and bragging about their conquests!!

The bazaar was bright and colourful and very exciting and the crowds loved our children. The local people just loved taking selfies with our kids and were so curious about where we were from etc. After a good few hours of shopping frenzy we headed of for a brisk and rather long trek via local streets where we saw some typical sights as we walked. Arriving at another train station we took the underground to the station nearest the “Knock Off City Clothing” and Gift Market. It was an indoor type of market full of shops selling the most wonderful array of clothing including suits, coats, scarves, ties etc. More bargaining and purchasing was done and lots of great stories about haggling the cost of prized purchases down to an acceptable amount were told and retold!

With tired legs and rumbling tummies we headed for a nearby restaurant and were served another simple but tasty dinner. It was lovely to be joined by Alice’s family for the last part of the day and dinner. During dinner we received the most wonderful news – Sonia has a brand new baby sister! We celebrated that with much cheering and of course the obligatory photo and then it was back to the station and hotel.

A good sleep ahead of what will undoubtedly be another day of fun and  adventure…

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Day 11

Wow! Day 11 and we have come full circle. We left our beautiful luxurious hotel in Dezhou, boarded the bus and headed for yet another train station. The kids were wonderfully organised and were packed and breakfasted with plenty of time to spare. They are a true inspiration to any travelling group and have impressed the orchestra and many others along the way with the way they present in public and get themselves where they are meant to be with everything they need. One to the ACC!

We have also been blessed with the weather. Each outside excursion we have enjoyed has been a day of blue skies and sunshine, so although it has been pretty cold for the most part, it has been the type of weather which has only served to enhance the experience.

So, another bullet train ride – the fastest one yet at 307 kmh!! 4 hours later we were stopping in Shanghai, then another bus ride to our hotel. It’s not quite as fancy as the last one, but that was an extreme case. We are near the Bund where the night lights are apparently spectacular and we are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow night.

Once we had located our rooms and unloaded our bags we headed off to a local restaurant for a pretty simple but tasty dinner. Then it was back to the hotel to settle down for the evening and catch up on the blog.

No firm plans for tomorrow but we will definitely be exploring this city and locating some markets to spend some of our Chinese cash. Until tomorrow night…

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Day 10

What a fabulous and relaxing start to the day! A sleep-in in a ridiculously comfortable bed and gorgeous room, with no pressure to get up and jump on a mode of transport J  Many of us slept well past breakfast and the extra sleep did wonders. The dining room is something to behold! It is enormous with every type of food – Chinese and Western – one can imagine – including ice-cream!!! Once everyone was up and about and feeling ever so refreshed we were just about ready for lunch. Many of us took advantage of the leisurely morning to catch up on correspondence, washing, relaxing with friends and exploring this amazing hotel. Lunch was another stupendous affair and then Andrew led another exploratory walk around this very attractive satellite city. Most of the children chose to participate in this and loved getting out in the fresh air and seeing some different sights such as a beautiful park and some typical Chinese bridges and statues. We even came across a Chinese totem pole! After the walk it was time to get ready for the evening’s performance at the local theatre, which was yet another magnificent structure, all lit up with colourful lights. Travelling through city streets in the early morning or late at night, it has become evident to us that the Chinese love their colourful bright lights. Many buildings, structures, trees and shrubbery are lit up to the nth degree. It’s absolutely fabulous! The concert itself was amazing. It was wonderful to have almost a full complement of choristers for their final performance and they were wonderful. The audience loved every minute of it, particularly when they sang the Chinese songs and clapped along to Radetsky. The audience were on their feet any number of times, hooting, whistling and shouting “MORE!” as well as the traditional applauding. We returned to the hotel and a fabulous dinner as per previous descriptions and got ourselves ready for another lovely night’s sleep before another bullet train ride in the morning to Shanghai.

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Day 9

The Great Wall of China!!!! WOW! WHAT A DAY. There was a bit of drama getting there – language issues with the bus drivers – but got there we did! And boy was it worth it! Sorry about all the exclamation marks, but it truly was an amazing experience. It had 7 towers and the aim for each person was to get to a particular tower – many of us made it to the 7th tower which is the highest point and the views are incredible. It was certainly a great work out, no matter which tower you reached as it was all steep inclines and declines. Of course many fabulous photos were taken and we all thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience including bartering with the stall owners for various fabulous souvenirs – a must for any tourist! At this juncture, I must emphasize just how fantastic each of the choristers has been as each day has had its challenges and unexpected issues which we have overcome with some great negotiating etc. They have been patient and co-operative and ultimately given us absolute faith in their ability to adopt and adapt, which is essential when traveling in a country with such a different culture. Back on the bus and into Beijing for an unplanned and unexpected meal at a genuine Chinese restaurant. We were given an entire room plus another small room to ourselves – seating 120 of us {RMP included}. The food just kept on coming and was fabulous! We even had the chance to enjoy the original Peking Duck which Ruby kindly instructed us in how to assemble the little pancakes. Our bellies full of good food, it was back on the bus and onward to Denzhou. As it was another 4 hours’ drive, we stopped at a roadside shop which was a great experience for us all. Almost all 120 of us piled into what was akin to a mini supermarket and between us purchased half the stock! Some very interesting food products were bought including many packets of mystery food with only Chinese writing to give us any clue as to the nature of what was inside the packets! Arriving at our hotel was a wonderful surprise and we soon forgot about the fact that it was 1:15 in the morning as it is by far the nicest accommodation we have had the pleasure of staying in. We would recommend the Feng Guan Holiday Hotel to anyone considering visiting this region. Beautifully appointed rooms, soft beds, warm fluffy doonas and fancy furniture – Luxury ++++ Aaahh….sleeeeep zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

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Day 8

After an exciting and rapid bullet train ride, reaching a top speed of 301 kmh, we arrived in Shiajhuan, checked in to the hotel, had lunch and the kids then rested for the afternoon before their first concert in this city. The tour guide had organised for two of our choristers and Andrew to travel to a local school and meet the children and families, many of whom were music students. Kasy and Jordan had this honour and did the ACC proud! That evening’s concert, which was held in the theatre next door, was fabulous with a very enthusiastic audience which included many young children who were music students. They treated our choristers like superstars and were having photographs with them and asking for their autographs! Of course they sang beautifully and received wonderful applause, shouts and whoops! The following day was an earlyish start as straight after breakfast we headed off on a bus to the local zoo. It was a bit of a surprise compared to what we had seen of China to date. It was enormous with a huge range of animals and had clearly been built or reconstructed recently as it had many modern aspects to it and there were parts that were still under construction. There were only two pandas there but at least we got to see pandas in China! The choristers really enjoyed having the freedom to roam around in small groups as they haven’t really had that opportunity so far. It was lovely to breathe some fresh air as well and walk in amongst trees, albeit without leaves! We returned to the hotel after the zoo feeling very refreshed and had some lunch. As was James’ birthday, we all sang “Happy Birthday” to him in the dining room and he was given his present from his family earlier that morning. The afternoon proved to be an adventure for a large group of the kids when they went out for a street walk with Andrew and Mandy and came across a local market where they bought any number of interesting items, such as big, fluffy ear muffs! After the walk, a local radio station was keen to have an interview with two of our choristers and Andrew. Luke and Rachel S were chosen and spent a good half hour speaking eloquently about the choir and life in Australia. They did a wonderful job of representing their fellow choristers. Then it was time to get ready for another concert at the same venue. It was very convenient not having to load the choristers and all their gear onto a bus to get there. It was another fantastic performance with the audience bringing picnics with them and enjoying their food as they watched. When the ACC came on and performed in the second half to a packed theatre, all the iPhones came out and almost every adult in the place was either recording or photographing our choir!! The kids returned to eat a late dinner at the hotel and pack for another early start.

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Day 7 (part two)

The New Year’s Eve concert turned out to be a huge one with Andrew bringing out the Chinese flag during the orchestra’s performance of “Ode to the Red Flag” which was a massive crowd pleaser! Andrew was then mobbed by adoring Chinese fans, when he came out into the foyer to sign some ACC CDs which all sold within minutes! Mandy and Carmel did a fabulous job of body guarding Andrew as well as selling our CDs to the enthusiastic fans. We returned to the hotel for a very late dinner and allowed the kids to stay up for the midnight countdown if they wanted. We sang “Happy Birthday” to Ashleigh whose birthday was on the 31st and he was given his present earlier that morning. We then sang “Happy Birthday” to Georgia S whose birthday was on the 1st! It was avery rowdy but fun and exciting time in the dining room that night! We all scuttled off to bed for a few hour’s sleep before getting up at 4:30 to catch the bullet train to Shijiazhuang. Although we had little sleep, it had the excitement factor similar to heading for an early flight at the airport, so nobody was grumpy!

Day 7

Today started with a very early morning to the train station to catch the high speed train to Shijiazhuang.  The choristers were very excited and looking forward to this experience.  The train cruised at 300km/hr for the most part from Xi’an to Shijiazhuang, with a few stops along the way.  It was hard to believe that we were travelling that fast as it was so smooth. After arriving in Shijiazhuang just after 12 midday, we checked into the hotel for a buffet lunch and a bit of a well-earned rest before a concert tonight. Unfortunately, this hotel does not have WiFi, and internet is very slow.  We will update the website with photos when we can, somewhere with better internet access. More to come!

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Day 6

We all woke up in the lap of luxury! A great sleep in a comfy bed in lovely surroundings is a marvellous thing! We all enjoyed a really tasty buffet breakfast which included a huge variety of foods. We then headed off in the buses with the orchestra to the Terracotta Warriors. It was about an hour’s drive so we were able to see some of the countryside. The Terracotta Warriors was a fabulous sight and well worth the effort. It is a massive area with any number of stalls selling every souvenir available. The sites with the warriors themselves were amazing. The choristers were thrilled to see them first hand and to read some of the history behind their discovery. We were a little behind schedule so when we headed off to the Xi’an city wall we enjoyed a view of it from the outside but did not have enough time to walk or ride on it. It was worth the look, however, as it was an impressive sight. It was back to the hotel for a late lunch and some time to get ourselves ready for the evening’s concert at the extremely impressive Xi’an Concert Hall. The concert itself was a huge success and our children sang beautifully. The audience clapped and cheered and hooted their way through 6 encores finishing with mobbing Andrew in the foyer and purchasing all our choir’s CD’s with Andrew’s precious autograph on them!! On a total high, we headed back to the hotel for a late dinner, birthday celebration for Ashleigh Fun, welcoming in the New Year, China time, and celebrating Georgia Sev’s birthday. It was a wonderful night and we are now heading off to pack and be ready for 4:30 wake up call. Look out bullet train – HERE WE COME!!!! HAPPY NEW YEAR to all our friends and family!

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Day 5

We were off to an early start rugged up in our winter thermals to make the trip back to Xi’ning airport, heading to Xi’an.  The flight was just over an hour, across mountainous and hilly terrain.  We were pleasantly surprised to experience much milder weather in Xi’an being a warm 8 degrees! On the bus trip to the hotel, the Choristers were wildly excited to spot McDonalds for the first time in China!  The bus trip took just over an hour, with very dense traffic as it was peak hour in a busier city. Our arrival at the hotel was very exciting, as we were greeted with multiple friendly staff who made us feel very welcome.  The Choristers were very impressed with the opulence and magnificence of the hotel (see pictures) and took many photos.  After they were allocated their rooms, the Choristers had a brief settling in period, before heading to a fabulous buffet dinner consisting of both Chinese and Western cuisine. An earlier night was had by all, in preparation for a busy and exciting day tomorrow.  We expect to visit the museum of terracotta warriors, followed by a quick tour of the city.  The Choristers will be performing at a New Years Eve concert in Xi’an with the Orchestra, prior to New Years Eve celebrations. As it was a traveling day today, we have uploaded more of yesterday’s adventure with the Choristers, hope you enjoy them!

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Day 4

It was an earlier start this morning as we had a fabulous day out to visit the Kumbum Monastery. It was about an hour’s drive in the bus heading to an even higher altitude so we saw plenty of snow and ice! After the excitement of getting off the bus on to snow covered ground and the inevitable snow fights, we enjoyed an interesting tour of the monastery which was actually several temples set out a bit like a small village. The locals certainly made us welcome and took every opportunity to have their photos taken with our gorgeous choristers. We even had a couple of group shots “photo bombed” by very keen ones! It was incredibly cold so the thermal gear and good footwear proved its worth.

After our return and another sumptuous lunch at the hotel, many of the choristers enjoyed a walk through a local market with Andrew as their guide and on to a genuine frozen lake. They had an absolute ball zipping around on the rented sleighs – and this was all on our back doorstep!

Then it was off to the theatre again. The concert repertoire was a repeat of the first evening, but Carmel, Ruby and Amanda were lucky enough to enjoy it from the audience perspective. It was BRILLIANT! Once we educated the audience in when to clap, they were right into to it and clapped and cheered and whistled to their hearts’ delight! Andrew put on a fabulous show as only he can do, and the choir responded in kind. It was truly an awesome night and the choristers loved every minute of it!

Back to the hotel for a late dinner and packing before a good night’s sleep as it is an early start in the morning. We will be heading on a short flight to Xi’an where we will have a quieter day before enjoying an evening meal in a local restaurant.  

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Day 3

We arrived to Xi’ning around 10:30pm last night (1:30am Melbourne time) to an extremely brisk temperature of -15 degrees.  Andrew and a couple of tour guides greeted us at the airport.  All choristers had full winter outfit (thank you to Jennifer for her wonderful uniform organisation) and enjoyed the ride to the hotel. We are planning for a rehearsal later this morning, and our first performance tonight.  Stay tuned for more!   After an interesting drive through downtown Xi’ning traffic, we arrived at the Qinghai Grand Theatre where the choir rehearsed with the Orchestra.  The rehearsal went well with the choristers enjoying the warmth and the impressive layout of the modern building.  We all returned to the hotel for another tasty Chinese style meal. On the night, to a packed audience, both the Philharmonic Orchestra and the Children’s Choir performed at their best, to thunderous applause.  Typically, the audience clapped and cheered all the way through the concert and really enjoyed the Chinese pieces of the repertoire.  The choristers were really excited after the performance, returned to the hotel buzzing. Tomorrow, we are looking forward to spending the morning at a temple, with another performance at the Qinghai Grand Theatre in the evening.

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Day 2

We woke up to a fine buffet breakfast with plenty of new and familiar food consumed.  The choristers all had plenty to eat and enjoyed a nice walk in a crisp morning air with the sun shining with Carmel leading the way. After checking out of the hotel around mid-day, we headed to the airport.  Lunch was a self-selected affair after the choristers were issued their first yuan. We are about to board on a flight to Xi’ning and looking forward meeting up with the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra and Andrew. The kids have been absolutely fantastic, proving to be excellent ambassadors for their family, the ACC and Australia. Catch you soon with the next update, meanwhile enjoy the photos.

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Day 1

After an exciting send off of 48 chorister with their happy and sad parents, we finally took off for an approximately 10 hour flight to Shanghai.  It was a relatively uneventful flight, with surprising well behaved kids. All choristers have now checked into the Shanghai airport hotel, in their rooms and asleep. Tomorrow morning will see the chorister enjoying a full buffet breakfast and will be back to the airport in the afternoon to catch a 6pm flight to Xi’ning. Photos to come in the next couple of stays depending WiFi availability and speed!

 

In December 2013 50 members of The Australian Children’s Choir will participate in a concert tour of The People’s Republic of China, departing Melbourne on December 26. They will be accompanying the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra in a series of New Year’s Concerts in major concert halls in China. Further details will be posted  in coming weeks .