Qingdao and Zhangjiagang

청도와장자강편. 영어이야기 밑으로 한국어 나올꺼에요

Forget the images you have of dirty streets and smog, because these two cities bring on the clean.
Actually, we arrived in Weihai, not Qingdao, as planned. The ferry to Qingdao was going to be delayed for 3 days, but we could ride to Weihai for a cheaper price and then take a bus…so that is what we chose to do. I love boat rides. Life takes on the rhythm of the sea, rather than the rhythm of the clock. Mind you, this was no glamorous cruise. The majority of those aboard were product runners between the two countries. Clearly, most of them knew each other, as they shared their ramen, cigarettes, beer, and company.
After watching the lights of Incheon harbor disappear, we retired to the economy sleeping cabin, which I found very comfortable….fulfilling all my childhood dreams of sleeping in a teeny berth on a big boat. Snug as bugs, we were. By 9 o’clock the next morning, we were in Weihai, and they called all the passengers originally bound for Qingdao forward. Turns out there were enough people that the ferry company arranged a free bus for the 3.5 hour ride.
On the bus, we befriended two men, one Chinese and one Korean, who worked for the company. They were so excited for the outset of our trip, they treated us to an expensive lunch once we got to Qingdao! Then, they tucked us into a taxi headed to our CouchSurfing host’s abode.
 After asking directions from a guard and a couple wrong turns, we found Lei. He provided us with a lovely private room in his eyrie, complete with skylight (and towels!). His parents also cooked us a small welcome dinner of veggies and Chinese bread.
That evening, we headed into town, riding in Lei’s Mini, for a coffee meetup with other Qingdao CouchSurfers. Dutch City Coffee is owned by a Korean woman and located in the heart of Qingdao’s shopping district. The meetup had a great turnout, there were students, teachers, writers, engineers, and so on from all over the world. There was bubbly Elena, a Kazakh-Russian nature lover; Ruth, an Ecuadorean world traveling teacher; and Zhen and her husband, the writer and engineer from China who spent a year backpacking Central and South America. Kindred spirits abound.

The next day our first mission was buying our Shanghai train tickets for the following morning. Once we found the correct ticketing hall, we were confronted by a gigantic screen full of flashing numbers and Chinese words. Using one of the automatic ticket machines, my limited Chinese reading skills, and persistence, we figured out the train number and time we wanted. Then we went to the window, where it took a cell phone, an iPod, and much hand gesturing, but we got the job done!

The rest of the day was dedicated to the lovely cityscape of Qingdao. We started with the old German concession, which is next to the train station. St. Michael’s Catholic Church stands atop a hill and looks stoically over the square where many couples were taking wedding photos in dresses that were all shades of the rainbow. In the tangle of alleys behind the church, we found Donghua Road, a jam-packed food street, where we bought ourselves corn, mooncake, and rice cookies.
Carrying on, we also passed the old German Lutheran Church and the TV tower landmark. After being lost in the neighborhoods for a while, we wound our way back towards the sea. We came across the entrance to a park full of deep green pine trees with trunks bleached and twisted by salt winds. Following the path down some stairs, the trees gave way to a stunning vista of blue-green sea turning to lace around the rust colored rocks jutting up from the shore. Breathtaking.
The park continued for about a kilometer along the edge of the water, and led to a small temple and the aquarium. It finally let out onto one of the numerous, well-manicured bathing beaches in the city. With the wind blowing, it was a chilly 6 degrees Celsius, but there were several groups of young a d old men going swimming! In Speedos!
To get away from the unforgiving wind, we delved back into the city streets and found ourselves right in the heart of Badaguan, the gorgeous scenic district of the city. In 2005, it was voted the most beautiful neighborhood in China! Its name denotes the 8 main streets of the district, each one named after one of the 8 major time periods of Chinese history. Each street is lined with a different kind of tree and landscaped parks intertwine with a mix of architecture styles.
That evening, after meeting up with Lei, he drove us out to the Olympic sailing pier, where we took in the lit up skyline and a walk out to the lighthouse.
The next morning, after a couple false starts, we got to our train with 9 minutes to spare…and then spent 6.5 hours sitting. When we got to Shanghai, we spent 45 minutes lost in the station looking for our friend Gei. Hyeongjae, Sangbyeong’s childhood friend, has lived in China for 5 years and Gei is his fantastic girlfriend. Eventually we fou d each other and then it was another 1.5 hours on a bus to Zhangjiagang.
The following day, I explored a small corner of that city with Gei…we were quite the sight. Imagine little old me, linked arm in arm with Gei, a 25 year old model, walking down the street chattering in rapid fire Korean. Zhangjiagang is supposed to be one of the cleanest cities in the whole country, and I can certainly see why. Thick-foliaged, robust looking trees line many of the streets and the river is populated with healthy looking fish. We went to the bakery, coffee shp, and the local mallatang joint, where you place your choice of veggies, soy, and so on in a basket…and they bring it to you as soup a couple minutes later. I also went to the salon. Shampoo, massage, rinse, cut, and eyebrow service…all for 30yuan, which is about $5!
The rest of the time spent in Zhangjiagang was mostly relaxing with friends, taking walks, and eating.
Next up, a weekend in Shanghai, then 10 days in Huangshan area…
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