Friday, October 3, 2014

Chinese National Day Camping Adventure

HNC students are currently on a one-week break for China's National Day.  Many are spending this time traveling or exploring their new home of Nanjing.  HNC Certificate/SAIS MA student Tyler Makepeace reflects on the camping trip he and several of his Chinese and international classmates took during the National Day holiday in 2013:

This week last year, China celebrated its National Day (specifically on Oct 1), and so the HNC students had the week off. I had planned to travel to Hangzhou, one of the prettiest cities in China, for guoqing jie, but Constantine, a student from Chongqing, noted that if we were actually able to find train tickets and a hostel in Hangzhou within three days of guoqing jie it would be akin to winning the lottery. So we settled on camping in Laoshan National Park, on the far western side of Nanjing. As for camping supplies, Constantine had found a man online who could give us tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads to rent for the trip.

Tuesday morning, the day before we were to go camping, Constantine, Laurel, Shuiyue, and I traveled to the outskirts of Nanjing to check out the camping supplies. In my head I envisioned an outdoor supplies store like back in the US, but that was naive. The directions that Constantine was given led us to a set of residential apartment complexes. This “camping emporium” turned out to be this guy’s living room, with camping supplies filling the entire room, but the supplies themselves were of decent quality and super cheap, so after testing out a tent we returned to the metro, stopping on our way to see the Xianlin campus of Nanjing University (the HNC is situated in the Gulou campus).

The four of us became the key camping unit, and before the day was done we had recruited eight other HNC students to come along with us, about half international and half Chinese. That night we planned out the rather complicated trip to Laoshan (two metro transfers and two bus transfers). Early next morning, Constantine, Laurel, Shuiyue, Joey, and I headed back to Xianlin to pick up the camp supplies while the rest of the group picked up food. After a small taxi fiasco, we met up with the rest of our group, and had a quick group lunch at McDonalds before setting off on the first bus. After taking the wrong bus in the wrong direction, the HNC campers finally made it to the bus depot, where we took another bus to Laoshan.

After a lengthy bus ride, we finally arrived at Laoshan National Park. After some snacks, we decided to put our gear in a roundabout on a switchback halfway up the mountain. We hung out in the woods for a little while until the sun went down, and then proceeded to set up camp on the cement roundabout. We had a strange dinner of Chinese dried meats, PB&J sandwiches, and baijiu. From our roundabout we had a great view of the city in the distance, made even better when fireworks started going off somewhere in the distance.

Eventually we started telling ghost stories and classic campfire stories, and after a night stroll around the park, went into our tents for the night.

The next day we made it down the mountain, took a few group photos, and then proceeded out of the park. After squishing ourselves into the bus to the depot, we made our way into taxis and back to the city center.

This was not the only trip I managed to make during my time at the HNC. For fall break I spent a week in Xiamen to enjoy the beach, during Spring Festival did a marathon trip around Korea, Vietnam, and Cambodia, and during Spring Break took a weeklong stay in Yangshuo. The academic calendar of the HNC affords many opportunities to trips within and outside of China, but be sure to plan out your trip ahead of time!