Penn Alumni Travel: China 2013

Author: Emilie C. K. LaRosa

This fall I hosted a Penn Alumni Travel trip to China. 21 Penn alumni and friends made the long trek to Beijing where we were greeted by our tour director extraordinaire, Chen. Chen would be our tour director and guide for the next 13 days, and he did an outstanding job. He managed our itinerary, provided historical and cultural tidbits, and even got us in to see giant pandas after the Chongqing Zoo had closed.

Everyone loves a good panda picture! At the Chongqing Zoo.

Everyone loves a good panda picture! At the Chongqing Zoo.

Chen with two Penn alumni (and proud Penn Parents!) in Shanghai: Daniel Behrend, WG’71 and Susan Behrend, Nu’80, GNu’86

Chen with two Penn alumni (and proud Penn Parents!) in Shanghai: Daniel Behrend, WG’71 and Susan Behrend, Nu’80, GNu’86

I had never been to China before, and, during that first shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, I was immediately struck by two things: the seemingly endless construction and the insane traffic. Did you know that over 21 MILLION people live in Beijing? Between 2000 and 2010, the population in Beijing rose by 44%, and, judging by the amount of half-finished high rises and construction cranes in the city, it will continue to grow.  A lot. (Chen joked that the national bird of China is the crane.)

During our two weeks in China we visited the Great Wall, walked along the corridor of the Summer Palace, bumped along in rickshaws in the hutongs of Beijing, marveled at the Terra Cotta Warriors, floated down the Yangtze River through the Three Gorges, ate Chongqing hotpot, and walked along the cosmopolitan Bund in Shanghai. China is so vast, so foreign, and so culturally and historically rich that it is impossible to properly chronicle this tour in just one blog. And so I won’t! Instead, find a visual synopsis of this Penn Alumni Travel trip below.

As is always the case on our educational tours, the guides were superb, the itinerary rich (and busy!), and the company engaging and fun. Thanks to all the Penn alumni and friends who made this tour so exceptional through your conversation and company. I hope we meet again. And now a visual tour with Penn Alumni Travel:

A joint dinner with the Penn Beijing Club. Some of our travelers had Penn Beijing friends who joined us that night.

A joint dinner with the Penn Beijing Club. Some of our travelers had Penn Beijing friends who joined us that night.

A visit to China is not complete without a visit to the Great Wall. The Quaker scales the wall.

A visit to China is not complete without a visit to the Great Wall. The Quaker scales the wall.

An unusually clear day in Beijing provides the perfect photo-op at the Temple of Heaven.

An unusually clear day in Beijing provides the perfect photo-op at the Temple of Heaven.

Just a small sampling of the estimated 8,000 Terra Cotta Warriors underground- each with a face uniquely his own.

Just a small sampling of the estimated 8,000 Terra Cotta Warriors underground- each with a face uniquely his own.

A visit to the medieval wall in Xian.

A visit to the medieval wall in Xian.

Unbelievably beautiful gorges on the Yangtze River.

Unbelievably beautiful gorges on the Yangtze River.

Our alumni brave the sampan for a closer look at one of the Lesser Gorges.

Our alumni brave the sampan for a closer look at one of the Lesser Gorges.

Cool cosmopolitan Shanghai. 20 years ago, these skyscrapers were nothing more than desolate swampland.

Cool cosmopolitan Shanghai. 20 years ago, these skyscrapers were nothing more than desolate swampland.

Our group at the Great Wall. What a fun bunch!

Our group at the Great Wall. What a fun bunch!

In closing, I should also mention that Penn not only has incredible resources here on campus for the study of China and the Chinese language (see the Penn Center for the Study of Contemporary China) but also recognizes the importance of on-the-ground relations with the People’s Republic of China. In fact, Wharton is moving forward with the Penn China Center in Beijing: a physical space that will allow our students and professors to build relationships with the local community, continue in-depth research, and bring together alumni, business leaders, students, and other partners. If you’re an alum looking to connect with fellow alumni in China, don’t forget we have robust alumni clubs in both Beijing and Shanghai.

If you’re interested in travel to Asia or would like more information about Penn Alumni Travel, visit our website here.

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Filed under Emilie, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

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