We woke up bright and early this morning to check out of our hotel rooms and head to the train station. We got a great cultural lesson while checking out. Once we turned in our room keys, a hotel staffer went to every room to check it thoroughly. If anything was missing or if there were any damages, we are required to pay the penalty. One room had a wooden hangar missing and we were charged $3 as a penalty. Our students were very surprised to say the least. We loaded our bus and headed to Beijing South Station, one of five train stations in Beijing. Some of the train stations in China are as big as American airports. Public transportation is widely used – buses, subway, trains. China is extensively connected by an excellent rail network and Beijing to Hangzhou was a 6-hour, 700-mile journey.
We checked in quickly and took our seats on the bullet train. We had heard of the super-fast bullet train and now it was our time to experience it. It was clean and spacious with comfortable reclining seats. The train left the station exactly on time and as soon as we reached the outskirts of Beijing, the bullet train turned on its blazing speed. Our cruising speed was 305 kmph (190 mph). Looking outside the window, it was hard to believe that our train was traveling that fast. It was very smooth, stable, and quite. Although it was cloudy all day, we got good views of the countryside and many other cities. High rise buildings are everywhere in China. Despite ours being one of the richest and most advanced countries in the world, it was surprising to learn that the fastest trains in the U.S. are significantly slower and noisier. More people in America would probably use long distance trains if they were as good as the bullet trains in China.
In Hangzhou, students from the Wanxiang Polytechnic University gave us a warm reception at the train station. Several students came to accompany us to the university. After an hour drive, we arrived at the university. We quickly changed into something a bit more formal for our welcome reception and dinner. We were welcomed by the university delegation which included several students. The students performed several dances and sang both Chinese and English songs to keep us entertained. It is amazing how people can sing songs perfectly, despite not being able to speak much English. Pretty soon, they were coaxing us onto the stage to join them. After we were done dancing to Chinese songs, we decided to play American songs. Chinese students, like young people all around the world, look up to American pop culture. We were teaching them dance steps to certain group songs and before we knew it, we had 40 people dancing and having a blast on stage. Many of our Chinses hosts also joined in the fun.
We danced, ate dinner, socialized, took many pictures and finally it was time to call it a night. We had the best welcome reception that was completely unexpected. The students and hosts were extremely hospitable and welcoming. Tonight, we will be able to get a good night’s sleep as we will need to be fully rejuvenated for tomorrow’s day-long tour of Hangzhou.