China – Qingdao to Qufu, 14 October 2005

We had to make our way back to Nanjing after our little trip to Qingdao, but decided against the direct route back, as there is an interesting spot on the way back – Qufu. Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius, and now has the origin home of Confucius, and a Temple of Confucius. Due to it being such a prominent spot in Chinese culture, they don’t have a train station, as Confucius’ predecessors did not want a train station that would mess with the fengshui of Confucius’ birthplace.

Getting in by a bus from Qingdao, we were mobbed by various touts, who wanted to show us this place called the Confucius theme park, which they advertise as some sort of nationally rated 4A feature. We ignored them, and hired a taxi, which brought us to the ancient home and temple of Confucius. We decided to grab a bite before continuing on our sight-seeing. While we were having our lunch, a young chap chatted us up, and started strongly advertising the Confucius theme park. As he seemed nice, we went along with it. Baaaadddd idea!

That place is a complete joke. When we entered, it is obvious it is a complete scam. They have five halls. One of them is some sort of discotheque with a Chinese restaurant, and the guy who brought us there justified that it’s because Confucius liked music, that’s why there’s a discotheque. There is also another hall with fake toy horses and targets with arrows, whereby they charge money for rides and arrows. The guy’s justification was that Confucius encouraged the physical activities. Incredible.

After that fiasco, we decided to make our way back to Nanjing directly. Unfortunately for us, they no longer had seats left on the train. Despite our horrible experience the last time standing on the train for 14 hours, we decided to do this journey standing again. The long train ride from Zoucheng to Nanjing was pretty painful, but 6 hours of standing is really easy peasy compared to 14 hours, and it was no where close to how crowded it was compared to the last train ride.



The miniature land in Confucius Theme Park


China – Qingdao, 13 October 2005

Second day on Qingdao, we decided to make a day trip out to Laoshan/劳山. We took a bus which took about 60 mins to get us to Laoshan. The trip along the way was pretty interesting – we actually saw the Tsingtao beer factory. Apparently, you can get a tour factory if you book in advance. Another interesting factoid about Tsingtao beer. Apparently, it was started by the Germans when they colonised Qingdao a century ago. Consequently, Tsingtao beer is actually made using German brewing techniques using the water from Laoshan.

The trek on Laoshan wasn’t particularly hard, and it was pretty scenic. There was a dam with beautiful turquoise waters, and there were some great views of the coast from the top of Laoshan. While there were some stairs, most of it was lateral, so it was an easy trek. I do highly recommend this day trip out to Laoshan. It’s a nice change from the cityscape, and it wasn’t too crowded either.


Dam in Laoshan


Turquoise waters



View from Laoshan

China – Qingdao, 12 October 2005

After getting off the bus, our morning started with the hunt for accommodations. It was a pretty rough start. The winds were howling, and we were chilled to the bone. The accommodation hunt was also fun … not. We did a little bit of reading up on Lonely Planet, but the places recommended were out of our budget range, so we pretty much had to just wander around, and hope for the best. The first place we went to tried to charge us 300 yuan, and it was crummy as hell. There were bugs all over, and you had to shower standing over a squat toilet. Meh! The cheek of the guy. We did eventually wind up at a place with a proper bathroom, and a decent-sized room for 200 yuan, but man, Chinese hotels really suck. There was probably a mix-up at the check-in, because 5 mins after we settled into the room, a prostitute knocked on our door. She only fled after realizing we are all girls.

Here’s an interesting little thing about Chinese hotels that I learnt from personal experience. Pretty much all self-declared three-star hotels double as places for prostitutes to hunt for customers. If the reception registers you as a male, or as a pair of guys, just be prepared for phone calls asking if you’d like sexy massages, or for a knock on the door. The receptionist gets kickbacks for supplying the information. I don’t think there’s much you can do about that. My friend once disconnected the phone after getting one too many phone calls offering sexy massages. Five minutes later, someone started knocking on his door. Guess it helps to be a female in this situation?

After a short rest, we started walking around a little. YM really wanted to eat this bao thingy, but after we got a few, apparently, food in her memory tastes a lot better than reality. Sigh.

There are two things I’d recommend about Qingdao – beach, and architecture. It has miles of beach, and probably because we were there in October, it was empty. It was also clean, though somewhat overcrowded with vendors trying to sell seashell wind chimes. There are some hardy folks out there in Qingdao. There was an old guy probably around 70, who kept diving into those frigid waters. Maybe he’s training for a polar bear swim or something. I steered clear of the cold waters.

Architecturally, Qingdao is very unique due to its recent history, and serves as an interesting comparison to Shanghai. While China was not colonized in the nineteenth century by Western powers, it did fall into a semi-colonial state. This is reflected in the architecture of several coastal cities, where the effects of Western imperialism was most keenly felt. A fine example would be The Bund in Shanghai. Qingdao presents a unique case, as the imperialist power involved was Germany. Consequently, this is reflected in the architectural heritage in Qingdao. There were churches that I thought looked like the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel. In any case, walking around in Qingdao is a feast for the eyes. The walk was actually pretty fun.

In the evening, there was some sort of night market set up by the beach, so we ended up having dinner there. I was stupid enough to eat a fried chili, and ended up crying. Fun times!

Qingdao beach

Qingdao Beach

Qingdao Architecture

Qingdao Architecture – I think this is now a police station

Qingdao architecture


Qingdao Protestant Church, first built in 1910

China – Nanjing to Qingdao, 11 October 2005

We definitely lucked out this year. After the 01 October holiday, we weren’t expecting any other school vacations, or the opportunity for a getaway. Thankfully, this year, Nanjing is hosting China’s annual sports meet. Consequently, we were given the week off, due to the crazy amount of human traffic expected. We took the opportunity to ask our trusty school travel agent to get us tickets to Qingdao. It has actually never occurred to me to go there, but YM’s parents brought her there once, and she has really fond memories of the place, so we went with her.

This time round, our travel agent booked us onto an overnight bus. It was actually quite an experience. Personally, although I have a deep fondness for trains, I do actually prefer the bus, as there’s nobody walking around. These sleepers are way smaller than the 6-berth sleepers on trains. I’m pretty sure they measured something like 1m by 0.5m. I slept pretty well, but poor YM can’t sleep on moving vehicles. The journey took about 6-8 hours. We ended up at Qingdao at 4 am, and ended up with a very satisfying bowl of wanton soup to combat the cold and groggy.

Overnight bus from Nanjing to Qingdao


Overnight sleeper bus in China

Wanton soup in Qingdao


Very welcome hot soup