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Back From Our Trip To Xi'an!

October 17, 2012   

Last Tuesday at 6 pm we boarded a train at the Beijing train station. Twenty hours later, after a very uncomfortable night's sleep on train bunk-beds, we arrived in Xi'an! What followed were two whirlwind days of ACC's hired tour guides shuttling us around to the Terracotta soldiers, Huanqing Hot Springs, a Buddhist temple and the Jing Emperor's tomb.

Then comes my favorite part of the trip, and possibly the best experience I've had in China so far. ACC gave students a day and a half of free time to do our own sightseeing.  A few friends and I chose to spend this time hiking one of the China's Sacred Mountains, also known as one of the Five Great Mountains - Mt. Huashan.
 
The short version is that we hiked it from the very bottom to the highest of the four peaks, at an elevation of 2082.6 meters, roughly 7000 feet. We spent the night at another peak, woke up early the next morning to see the sunrise, and then took the cable car back down.
 
What that version does not include is having to wake up at 6 am in order to get a train out to Mount Hua (my first experience on a bullet train!), clinging to a metal chain to keep from falling to my death on steep stairs that would definitely not fulfill American safety regulations, dealing with the worst of China's squat toilets, and sleeping ten to a room in a hotel with no heat and only one running faucet for guests in the whole place. But it was all so unbelievably worth it.
 
The view in itself was spectacular, but what was just as fun was the sheer number of people that we met and spoke with. Mt. Hua had a lot of tourists, but almost all were Chinese. So the sight of three foreign girls speaking Chinese to each other shocked a lot of people!  Other hikers were so friendly and willing to talk with us. People there asked if they could take a picture of us instead of trying to do it behind our back, like in some parts of Beijing. And even if our Chinese wasn't great, we got credit from people just for the amount that we did know, which was a great feeling.
 
I've already gone on too long, but in short, if you are ever in Shaanxi, China, hike Mt. Huashan :) Now back to schoolwork...sigh.