China Trip, day 14 (15.09.2015)

We got up around 8:30 am and struggled to finally book a business hotel in Yichang since most of the options in the affordable range were full. There wasn’t much on offer. Then we went out to eat breakfast after having packed and checked out. The flat bread stuffed with diverse fillings that we ate wasn’t very good and the deep-fried fat taste did not make us happy. especially in the morning. We got on the metro and went to the Lu Xun park and museum which was really nice even though it was raining. There were many original books from Lu Xun as exhibits for us to see. After we left the museum, the rain was even heavier than before and we stopped at a bakery where we bought some sweet things to make up for the unsatisfying breakfast. We got back to the Hostel by metro then and ate the sweet stuff on the roofed part of the terrace. Since we were still a bit hungry we went to the same restaurant as the evening before and had some zhejiao (similar to Jiaozi), one steamed and one fried. After this we made our way to Shanghai Nan Zhan. Arrived at the station, we were a bit puzzled because we hoped for a coffee shop but there was none – the station was served by Z and D trains only. Those are cheaper trains which are almost exclusively used by the lower strata of society. One can be pretty sure that there will be no “upper-class” Chinese people so this station lacks the customers which can afford a coffee at 30 kuai. Luckily, we were prepared: I took out our tumblers and the tea leaves and I went to get boiled water at the hot water dispenser – in all train stations and trains in China there is a public one available to make tea and heat food or prepare instant noodle soup. The social class using those are easy to tell apart from the Shanghainese upper class people: they wear cheap clothes in weird combinations, they carry loads of baggage including buckets, big plastic bags, agricultural products and bedding with them. Many of them are not very clean, some of them even smelly and they bring along their own fruit and drink bought outside the station where there is a much cheaper supply of the latter. While most of the upper-class Chinese carry paper bags with nice presents for their relatives (such as expensive cookies and alcohol, sweets for the kids etc.), the lower-class people carry around their sleeping kids. They don’t have buggies or the like, children are carried on the arm and whatever is not fixed to the upper body of the mum/dad/grandma just hangs down towards the floor. The kids do have the ability to sleep everywhere and in any position, no matter how uncomfortable it looks. Some are just placed on top of a huge stack of baggage. At shortly before 5 pm we got on the train and I climbed to the upper bunk to store away our baggage. While Markus studied the guidebook to know more about Sichuan, I wrote two postcards and wrote into the diary for the first time in a week. I’ve always been too busy or too tired to take care of writing matters.
The next station, a guy who presumably did not shower in weeks got on the train with his wife and started putting his baggage into our compartment. I felt a bit unhappy about that, but as we were really lucky it turned out that he did not carefully read what his ticket states – he actually had to stay in the neighbouring compartment.

The luxury you have being a European traveler:

In China, the upper and lower social strata are very far apart. Most rich people even hate the rude, loud and dirty peasants and workers. They are just that, it’s a fact. The question of hatred is a different one, though. As a European, you can experience both since you have the choice. One learns after some time where to meet which, since they are separated by money and place. There are very cheap trains and very expensive ones, departing from different stations. There are different housing quarters to be found in similar places in each cities’ layout. The question about where to look for food is the decision about whom you want to eat with. One can eat decent food for one euro and for a hundred euros. There are places so exclusive that they are out of reach for any regular middle european person. An unimaginable amount of service is on offer. They wait for guests, park their car while they go inside the restaurant, they guard the car and wash the guests’ hands before he gets to the table. Everything seems to be available for money. This is what I watched lingering outside a luxury restaurant with huge windows. I wasn’t chased away loitering there because of being White.

In cheap restaurants, one is adressed in Chinese right after entering the place. One has to say right away what is to be cooked for one’s meal. For locals it’s entirely clear what they have and what they don’t. There’s usually just one waiter/cashier who carries a money bag around their waist. It’s often a family business: either the man or the woman are cooking (or both), one of them or their child/ren do/es the dishes and service. It’s not usual to drink along with food because many dishes contain soup. Beer is to be shared on the table with the people you came with. They offer beer warm or cold, either is normal.

So you have the choice, as White person you’ll be admitted anywhere as long as you can pay, even if you’re not dressed appropriately.

Our favourite Beijing Hutong noodle restaurant.

Our favourite Beijing Hutong noodle restaurant. It says ShanXi (a region) Mian (noodle) Shi Guan (Food store).

The Hutong street.

The Hutong street.

The Hutong street.

The Hutong street.

China trip, day 13 (14.09.2015)

In the morning, we went to the ticket bureau opposite the hostel to buy train tickets to Yichang. After this we took the metro and express bus to Zhu Jia Jiao which is a canal town. We had a water bottle and bananas with us. The ticket was half price because of the Shanghai Tourism festival (30 kuai instead of 60) and so we started out discovering the place. There was a huge, modern shopping area built at the entrance to a part of town which consists of houses which are hundreds of years old. Within the old part, there were restaurants and tourist souvenir shops one by one. The speciality of the place seems to be green soy beans which were dried over the fire, and also huge pieces of grilled pork meat. Those things were expensive and looked gross so we passed on them. We saw many nice things which were included in the entry ticket: a watercolour art exhibition, a traditional garden where we took a long rest in a pavillon and ate the bananas, an exhibition on folk art which was unexpectedly a collection of wonderfully created contemporary porcelain imitating the old forms. We also saw an old Chinese pharmacy as well as a post office from Qing times. Some of the exhibits were covered in dust and some were even very rusty and hard to identify.

rice and meat cooked in a wrap of leaf with herbs

rice and meat cooked in a wrap of leaf with herbs

a street kitchen with typical food.

a street kitchen with typical food.

City God Temple

City God Temple

The general atmosphere of the places was good though, with one exception: the city god temple. There, we were invited to give an incense stick to the buddha. Then, we were separated from each other and men did a short, strange prayer with us and told us that we will have a lot of luck in the future. I did not question this at first since we payed for the ticket, but then they handed us a list with names and how much money the people gave for “good luck”. I was alarmed, just gave the guy ten kuai telling him that I don’t have more money on me and tried to get back to Markus who only gave 2 kuai to the guy. We quickly escaped from the place. After we had seen all the interesting spots and walked over a number of very nice bridges, we decided to take a coffee and a break. We went into one of the local places by the canal only to find ourselves being the only guests and being pushed to order by the waitress, having a menu with a simple coffee for 50 kuai in front of us. She wouldn’t walk away, having us cornered on a table in the top floor right at the window. This was a tourist trap, especially since the coffee machine downstairs was of a cheap and crappy type and did not look like “high quality” at all. I wasn’t ready to pay about 7 Euros for a coffee and therefore I acted really surprised and asked them for the location of the nearest cash machine or bank since we don’t have enough money on us. They reluctantly explained the way to get there and we left the place. They even tried to keep us back with saying that they accept card payment – but for Chinese cards only as always. Since we don’t have any, we always had to pay in cash in general and in this case we were happy that we did not have to tell another lie. I was really relieved that I had the idea with the lack of cash and the bank, because I really felt under pressure to order and I do not want to be treated this way. I want to be left with the free decision about whether to buy/order or not.
We made our way to Starbucks where we shared a big Vanilla latte – since it’s more than half a liter of milk coffee, it’s cheaper than two coffees and more than enough for two people. We enjoyed the view over the canal on the terrace and a super-fast wifi which allowed the use of VPN even. The employees were very nice and did not make a fuss out of just selling one drink. The toilet was perfectly clean and we felt so much at home there that we stayed and surfed and planned and relaxed until the darkness came and we felt that we should return back to Central Shanghai. We took the bus and as we were tired, looked forward to come back to the hostel and sleep. We were very happy with this day.

China trip, day 12 (13.09.2015)

Since we were out late the day before, we slept a bit longer and then went to Pudong, the most modern district of Shanghai which is home to the tallest buildings of the city (and the world). We decided to get up the “bottle opener” even though we had to queue for about an hour. It was a rather hot and very sunny day.

Shanghai - Pudong district and river

Shanghai – Pudong district and river

While Markus was waiting in the queue, I went back to the mall to buy something to drink – our water supply was too small for our project. There was a luxury supermarket at the lowest level of the mall which housed shops such as Chanel, Bally and the like. The cheapest bottle of water was for 20 kuai – Japanese spring water. I also bought a can of Taiwanese mango juice. The people in the supermarket stared at me because I was wearing a plain H&M T-shirt and a skirt wrapped around my hips using a huge scarf from India – I was out of clean laundry and decided to wear that for the day along with a big handbag and trekking sandals. Probably I looked a bit like a hobo having the contrast of incredibly expensive designer clothes around me. There was a big variety of looks I got on my way through the quite big supermarket: from pitiful to surprised to thinking that I was somehow displaced or inappropriate. It was a bit weird. Since I had to hurry up a bit to get back to my partner, I quickly forgot about the strange situation. Total time spent in the queue was one hour. Since most Chinese women don’t want to tan, they carry umbrellas at all times (sunshine and rain) – within a queue they were a danger for our eyes as we are just a bit taller than anyone else. After having bought the tickets, we saw a model of the area which changed its electric lights from day to night to day every minute. After a short wait we took the elevator to the sky bridge which has a floor partly made of glass. We had a very good view not only over the Pudong district but also over greater Shanghai. Just like anyone else, we took a lot of photos and selfies. After quite a long stay in the clouds, we went down again. Arrived at the ground floor, we went to the place in which the first Peoples’ Congress took place in the former French concession. Since political meetings were illegal at that time, it was interrupted by the French police and had to be completed on  leisure boat on a lake. On this occasion, the Chinese Communist Party was founded. It took one week in total. Before we went into the exhibition, we had some huntun (wantan soup).

Hun tun soup

Hun tun soup

Two types of Hun tun being handmade right in the front part of the restaurant - simple ones on the left, mixed filling to the right.

Two types of Hun tun being handmade right in the front part of the restaurant – simple ones on the left, mixed filling to the right.

One “normal” with just pork filling, the second one with pork, mushroom and shrimps filling. The museum of the first Peoples Congress was in Chinese only and they were about to close which wasn’t too great. In China, nearly all museums close at 4 pm.
After this, we went to a nearby shopping mall to use the toilet and take a rest. Then we went back to the hostel where we got on the roof terrace with some snacks to plan our ongoing trip. It was really tiring because the wifi was overloaded with people and very slow and we did not get into the VPN either. We were very exhausted soon because there was no hostel in Yichang, the Chinese booking site was hard to handle and everything took so long. We got so annoyed that we decided to just go to sleep.

China trip, day 11 (12.09.2015)

In the morning we got up and went out for breakfast – we bought some Bao zi dumplings and sat down on the floor in front of a nearby convenience store (there aren’t many benches in public space in general). Only after some minutes we noticed that we kept triggering the “Welcome bell” which rang and said “ni hao,…” whenever a person entered the store or a movement was detected. We thought that the shopkeeper must be a person who is very resistant to enormously annoying experiences. After having eaten we walked to the Renmin Square and therefore saw more of Nanjing Dong Lu, the probably most important, big shopping street in central Shanghai. At Renmin square, we circled around to find the big museum – Renmin square is huge and full of diverse buildings. Once, we stopped to check on the map again and stay out of the rain under the roof of a bus station. There was a young man running around with a black club randomly hitting people or their umbrellas. He was screaming in a triumphing tone and rambled around everywhere in the place. Some people he hit were surprised and annoyed, others were hurt for a bit and therefore scared. He seemed to target us too, for a moment, but then just hit on the umbrella of the man standing next to us who was staring at him in a puzzled expression. That guy was seriously insane and we were very happy when he finally disappeared in a small lane. After we finally found the museum, we had to pass the security check (as usual in public buildings in China) but this time the latter was performed by army personnel and was much more thoroughly. Once we arrived inside the entrance hall, we found out why: there was a special exhibition with armory from the Russian Tsars borrowed from the Kremlin museum in Moscow. The exhibits were encrusted with diamonds, bearing gold and mother-of-pearl decorations and many more such precious materials. They were very interesting to see and we enjoyed the surprise of finding such a collection of exclusive things to be looked at. After this, we only quickly went through the collection of ancient bronze items, because the Nanjing museum had a way better collection of this type of artifact. We spent much more time in the ancient seals exhibition hall and in the one showing ancient paintings – there were some very interesting ones which featured rare motifs. After some time we became tired so we took a rest and ate a Manner Schnitte to improve the level of our blood sugar. Upstairs, in the exhibition on traditional folk clothing, we met the Canadians and M-Jay who were just quickly rushing through the rooms without really looking at the exhibits. After leaving the museum we also had a look at the old cinema which seems to be from colonial times but is still in operation.
Then, we went to eat something. We took the metro to Monganshan Art district which is said to have many artsy cafés and the like. We found only one small restaurant which looked clean enough and while I ate rice with fried aubergine, Markus had chao mian with egg and green vegetable. The owners were very nice and had their fun with my Chinese pronounciation. Since I did not understand all of their questions, they made some fun of me in Chinese (which I did understand, but was non-offensive). After having arrived in the Art District, we looked at modern contemporary Chinese art of very differing quality in a number of galeries. There were just two cafés which were much more expensive than even Starbucks. On our way back to our hostel we shared a bubble tea. After this we had dimsum an “Yang’s dumplings” in Ningobo road which is famous and seriously over-expensive. We just had a small thing for tasting and then satisfied our hunger in a good, simple huntun (wantan soup) restaurant at the opposite side of the street.
Arrived at the hostel, we met Jay (a study colleague of mine from Vienna) who stayed at the same hostel by chance. The Canadians and M-Jay from our dorm went to celebrate the birthday of the latter so he was invited to a top club in the city by a promoter. They promised us free entry and free drinks all night (behind a raised hand and in a low voice, they said that they do that to get white people into their club because this attracts the Chinese upper class). We were a group of around 15 white people who followed the invitation to celebrate his birthday with him. So we took cabs to get to Modu, which is said to be one of the top clubs in Shanghai. We got in and the music was quite good and loud, there was a DJane in the middle on stage that moved by itself, including two huge robot arms which rocked and moved around along with a huge laser show. We had a table in the front row and drinks for free – the Vodka and Whiskey bottles kept coming to the table as well as some fresh fruit and mixers (coke, juice). We were careful about not getting too drunk and danced the night away – it was wonderful. The Chinese meanwhile sat at their table in front of a load of champagne bottles cooled with ice. They hardly touched them and watched us partying while playing around with their smartphones or looking really bored. Some of our white colleagues told us that they were actually paying some hundreds of euros/dollars for a table while not enjoying the night at all. I found that really strange. After some time, I stopped caring about their presence. I just kept near to my partner and danced as much as I could – it’s been a long time that I was free and happy enough to just dance the night away until I could feel my whole body and its muscles moving and becoming softer and more relaxed. I had a lot of fun and we enjoyed being with people from different countries who seemed to be somehow familiar even though we just met the previous day. After midnight there was even a birthday cake coming. It looked awesome but the cream-and-spongcake combination was actually lacking taste. When it was about 2 am we left the club in order to avoid any trouble or bad late-night experiences and took a cab home. The taxi driver was very nice and I had a short conversation with him in Chinese which was fun. We showered and went to bed.

baozi filled with garlic stalks and egg - a typical Chinese breakfast

baozi filled with garlic stalks and egg – a typical Chinese breakfast

IMG_20150928_105917

pork meat bao zi - a typical Chinese breakfast

pork meat bao zi – a typical Chinese breakfast

Bao zi

Bao zi

China Trip, day 10 (11.09.2015)

We got up shortly after 7 am and then packed our things, checked out of the hotel and went to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial. It was a very interesting but also shocking and depressing place. There was a very modern museum ground build of black stone. At the same time, the depressing feeling of the statues and statements was well transmitted to its visitors. There were tens of thousands of people who became victims of the Japanese aggression in 1937. We saw skeletons in the mass grave, photos and names of the victims and some history-explanation charts as well as many photos from that time.

300 000 victims

300 000 victims

the head of a man, half dug into the ground

the head of a man, half dug into the ground

statue of a woman with her dead child

statue of a woman with her dead child

After one and a half hour, we had to leave for the train station and Shanghai. Even though we had 1,5 hours to get to the train and buy breakfast and coffee, it was a rather risky timing. In China, one can count 2 to 5 minutes for one metro station, another 15-20 minutes for security checks at the entrance of the metro and the railway station respectively and another 10 minutes extra for the sheer distance inside of the railway station which is a huge building in most big Chinese cities. Luckily we already knew how to get to the station and there weren’t too many people in front of the ticket and security check. Arrived near our check-in/waiting area we quickly went to Starbucks to get coffee – there was no time to go shopping for food so we just took some hopelessly overpriced and tiny snacks. In total, we payed over 90 yuan for two coffees and two small snacks. I was extremely annoyed because my coffee was extremely bitter – they were just too lazy to add hot water to the expresso and let everything run through the ground coffee. It tasted like sh*, and for that price? Disappointing. Markus took an extra-big coffee “to get more water” – which annoyed me because 1) for this money we could have got 1,5l bottled water and 2) this would have be sufficient for the BOTH of us. While he enjoyed his huge coffee we had to board the train. I got rid of mine in the sink after he tasted it as well and admitted that it wasn’t drinkable. I got unnerved even more because on my seat there was a chewing gum sticked into the surface. I was so angry that I wanted to throw the goddamn tiny muffin away (for the price of which I could have a nice and sufficient Chinese lunch twice). The accounts of atrocities at the museum weren’t really triggering an improvement of my mood either. I tried to calm down and ate the muffin, still. After a train ride of a bit over 2 hours, we arrived in Shanghai in the afternoon. By then, I nearly had been sick on the train because of the muffin – something was not right with it. My face got pale. We went to the Blue Mountain Bund Youth hostel and left our baggage there – we were in dorm 605 with two nice Canadians and a black guy from the US who’s called “M-Jay”. Then we went for a walk on the Bund and experience the wonderful skyline of Shanghai. We took quite some photos, then we went back towards the hostel. I was very bored because there were only things to see which I already saw. Also, Shanghai is the least interesting city in China I saw so far. We ate noodles at the “noodle place” just downstairs from the hostel which I got to know the last time when I was in Shanghai. I had noodle soup with tomato and egg, Markus had soup with green vegetable and pork. Back at the hostel, we had a nice chat with the Canadians and the American and then went to sleep.

China Trip day 9 (10.09.2105)

The next day we started out eating some bao zi and then went to the Nanjing museum which is an awesome place – there are many interesting exhibits in a totally new building of well-made modern architecture. We saw magnificient examples of traditional Chinese painting, but also sculptures from ancient times and from a contemporary artist. There were pieces of art and also objects for everyday – use from the neolithic ages to the present day – a rich collection showcasing each dynasty throughout Chinese history. In the underground floor there was a life-sized model of Nanjings’ streets around 1900 complete with actual shops and a woman who was working on a picture made out of fine silk-embroidery. Since we had only one day in Nanjing, which proofed to be too little time to see this big city, we had to leave around noon. We ate in a food court next to a metro station. My travel partner took some noodle soup and I tried a mix of meats in a hot iron pot along with sauce, kimchi, half a boiled egg and rice. Since some Chinese people think that Europeans in general cannot eat with chopsticks, they gave me a small metal spoon. I tried to use it, but it was hopeless, so I had to go back and ask for chopsticks in Chinese 🙂

The food was very hot and spicy but also very good. After having eaten, we went to the Taiping Heavely Kingdom museum which is in a traditional Chinese garden. The garden was very nice and we took many photos. Unfortunately, the buildings housing the exhibition halls were under revision and a new exhibition was in preparation. Some were locked so we only saw some comic-like history pictures which seemed to be destined at school classes. At least we enjoyed the garden. In the late afternoon, we went to see the main gate and city wall of Nanjing in the South of the city which was pretty impressive by sheer size. The small exhibition inside is not at all interesting and there are (once again) only comic pictures showing the story of the wall-building process in a simplistic and fairytale – like manner. There was no actual information given. After we went out of the city wall grounds, we started walking to the south towards the Yuhuatai Park where the Memorial ground is located. We did not pay the entry fee as it was shortly before closing time and no-one cared. The monument is a famous example for communist aesthetics in sculptural art and it really is an impressive piece of work. The park was very nice and well-kept. There was also a big building housing the museum of tea which was closed already at this time. We left the park just before the gates were closed. At this side of the park there was no metro and there were many buses which stopped running at around 7 pm. Luckily we found people who spoke some English and got us on the right bus who brought us to the next metro station. We went to Goluo station because we wanted to find a good restaurant for dinner and my travel guide suggested the area as being rich in choice when it comes to eating possibilities. When we arrived there, the guidebook was proofed wrong: there were big western-style hotels and bars and hardly anything else. We walked for a bit, then gave up and eventually went into a smaller street to the side. There, we found a restaurant which looked okay and entered the place. We ordered food and then opened the plastic-wrapped, pre-cleaned porcelain plates and glasses. They had a very bad smell of a cloth which wasn’t dried properly after having been wet. This was disgusting. The food was kind of okay but the chicken was in chunks which were half bones half meat/fat. We weren’t too happy. The owner of the restaurant was really noisy and talkative and tried her best to give us food which we might like (no intestines, that is) and tried to help us with the menu since I can’t read everything in Chinese. My travel partner got annoyed because the ordering process took too long for his taste, but it just took some time for me to understand the characters for the dishes offered. I couldn’t help it. After this not very positive dinner experience we went to a western style bar and had a fruit mochito each because they had a happy hour for those. We had a nice chat and then went back to the hotel. Since we were listening to music and our mood got a bit better, we walked too far and missed out to take a turn at the street corner, therefore we had to walk some blocks which is quite a distance in Nanjing. There aren’t many metro lines so taking the metro would have taken too long as well – the interchange station was quite far from where we were and from where we wanted to go to. After we finally arrived back at the hotel (we had to walk a long time in a dark alley) we took a shower, sent some messages using the wifi and then went to sleep.

China Trip, day 8 (09.09.2015)

I woke up shortly before 7 am and wrote into my diary – my travel partner was still sleeping and would go on like that all day if he could. We already packed our things in the evening before so there wasn’t much left that we could do. I pulled off the sheets and removed the sand we brought in from the beach so our host won’t have too much work after we’ll have left the place. Then he woke up (wasn’t me, noooo) and we looked up some things in the travel guide. We had some time left before we had to leave for the train station so we had a chat at the kitchen table while drinking more cocoafee (coffe-cocoa mixture). After this, we went to the station, buying water and food on the way. We bought small round dough things filled with pork meat as a meal after Mia recommended them to us. Arrived at the station, we picked up our tickets from the counter and then spent the rest of the time eating in front of the building until we went to the waiting hall. We got on the train, put our stuff on the baggage rack and made ourselves comfortable. Some time later we arrived in Nanjing. Since no-one had checked how to get to the hotel from the station previously we still had to find that out – and we had to buy railway tickets to Shanghai. I was exhausted and hungry when we finally arrived at the hotel. Since we had no time to eat before, we left our bags at the hotel which was in a different location than the one shown on Google maps, and tried to find a place to eat. There was a BBQ restaurant in the same street with a guy who spoke some English so we stayed there to eat. We had garlic stalks, aubergine in garlic and some meat which was mostly bones and nothing special but okay. With that we took a beer together and 2 bowls of rice each. We got more or less filled up and finally it was pretty expensive – 80 yuan for the two of us! In Beijing we mostly ate for 30-40 yuan for both and got more to eat between our teeth. I was a bit annoyed. Back at the hotel we went to shower and then to sleep as soon as possible.

China Trip, day 7 (08.09.2015) – Qingdao’s churches and funny food

Today, Mia went out of the house and to work early in the morning once again. She works for a Chinese company with many Japanese co-workers. Unfortunately, she does not get the weekend off which is the case for most office jobs in Europe. Here in China, people work ten days through and then get one day off, which comes to 4 days of free time per month. Sounds like a hard life to me, huh? Also, they have a short lunch break for which they bring the food along because there is probably no time to go and get some. Mia says that the Japanese employees send work emails as late as 11 pm or even midnight. Being in China, one totally loses the feeling for the weekdays because there is no visible difference between them: stores are open and people work and go on working, no matter which day of the week. The people whose jobs aren’t as good as an office job do not get any day off work except for public holidays. This applies to people who own small shops and restaurants, practically all of which are open for business from 7 or 8 am until 11 pm. Some people who own small shops can’t afford a house or apartment and so they live in the shop. They usually have a corner in the back where they sleep, often covered with a curtain. Most of them have a TV in their shop. If one goes outside in the early morning, one can see people in pyjamas who come out of a closed shop and brush their teeth next to the shopwindow where water taps can be sometimes found.
I feel lucky to be European which means that I’ll get two days off every week in pretty much every job I can imagine. And that I won’t have to sleep in my workplace at any time either.
Once again, we stayed at Mia’s place a bit longer in the morning because we had to look some things up on the internet, write diaries, emails and other communication messages; and also because we felt so comfortable and at home that we didn’t want to leave. Shortly before noon, we went to the bakery and got a coconut sweet bun and a peanut butter one, then we made our way to the bus station. I asked the bus driver in Chinese whether or not he goes to Qingdao city center and he told us to take the bus in the other direction. I was grateful that he understood me and we got the crucial information. Arrived in Qingdao (my travel partner was still hallucinating about getting a seat on the bus this or next time, hahaha), we went for a walk and looked for postcards and a post office.

Since we did not find either, we went to the catholic church which was really nicely restored and painted in lively colours with pictures of Jesus Christ and many Saints on the walls. In front of the church there were many couples, bride and groom, in a variety of wedding outfits. Photographers were taking lots of photos in different positions. It was fun to watch the whole process and how the people tried to smile even though it was really hot and they had to change clothes over and over again. Mia later told us that those were couples who intend to get married a year from now or so, and that some of them do the photo-shooting together but actually never get married. If they do, the pictures are given to the people invited to the marriage ceremony as a token of remembrance which is a bit strange because they are about a year old at this time.

Married-couple photo-shooting at Qingdao catholic church.

Married-couple photo-shooting at Qingdao catholic church. photo©Markus Fischer

After the visit of the church, we went through the market in order to look for some food, but a lot of things looked very disgusting and the restaurants were mostly filled up with men drinking too much of the local beer. We finally found a woman selling baozi (steamed dumplings) with garlic stalks, egg and fishstuff or alternatively with Chinese cabbage and egg. The latter were really good. We also bought a Xi’An style handmade something which was a steamed rice starch pancake cut to noodle shape with cucumber, sesame sauce, some funny light-brown liquid and some spicy sesame-chilli-oil. It was good but not the best thing we ate so far since it was a cold noodle dish. We sat down to eat it with chopsticks out of the thin plastic bag on the big stone stairway leading up to the Kaiyue youth hostel which was a church in older times.

Xi'An style pancake noodle cucumber cold dish

Xi’An style pancake noodle cucumber cold dish. photo©Markus Fischer

After some more walking, we got a beer and then finally found the Gospel church where someone practiced the organ. We sat down there for some time after he had climbed the bell tower.The gospel church is opposite the hospital but is hard to find, because it’s so easy to walk past it. It’s on a hill being seperated from the street by a high wall and a bunch of trees. Being 10m away from the church you can’t see it from street level.

Gospel church, Qingdao

Gospel church, Qingdao

In the market, we had bought some strange moon cakes and with those we went back down the hill to the beach. Some of them were good but some of them were seriously disgusting.

Moon cakes ©Missmariko

Moon cakes. photo©MissMariko

We gave some of the bakery stuff that we did not like to an old beggar who came to annoy us. I was really, really annoyed by him because he touched me and wouldn’t leave even as I told him to. I really get mad at people in the street touching my skin. It’s horror to me, I really don’t want that. It makes me aggressive if they go on touching me no matter what I say. Mia taught me how to say them to leave in Chinese, maybe that will prove helpful in the future. As it was getting late already, we got on a bus back to Huangdao.
Mia came home a bit later than usual and the three of us weren’t that hungry, but we still went out to eat some BBQ sticks and a soup of tofu and oyster-like clams. Along with that we had some fresh jiao zi dumplings and some ocra fried with garlic which was really good. Frying it makes it turn out less slimy than just cooking it. My travel partner hadn’t tried it before and he said that it tasted like popcorn. When we got home, we watched some funny videos and chatted away – it was so much fun with Mia. We were laughing a lot. Around midnight we got so tired that we had to go to sleep, especially her because she had to get up for work. We said goodbye since we will be leaving for the train the next day at lunchtime.

Housing in urban China

Having no experience with rural places in China, I can only speak about housing in urban areas.There is a sort of ladder on which social strata and housing type often coincide.

  1. There are some homeless people, usually old ones because there is no retirement system in China.
  2. There are also Chinese people who live in their own shop, store or restaurant because they cannot afford the rent for an apartment.
  3. Then there are ugly concrete blocks with 5 to 7 storeys and often in a bad state of repair or beyond repair. It’s normal that they don’t have an elevator so the apartments on the 7th floor are cheaper to rent.
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    photo©MissMariko

    Housing in Chongqing. photo©MissMariko

    Housing in Chongqing. photo©MissMariko

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    House next to the railway tracks between Qingdao and Nanjing. photo©MissMariko

  4. The richer people live in apartment buildings built by big real estate development companies. They are usually located in a park having gates and doorman/watchmen around. They keep poor and/or unwanted people such as vendors outside. The buildings are 20-30 storeys high each and look exactly the same so one has to remember the number of the building and the staircase – the park is as uniform as the buildings themselves. Most of them are property of the tenants and not rented out. Some of them are sublet though.
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    Housing blocks in Huangdao.

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    photo©MissMariko

    photo©MissMariko

    What all types of Chinese buildings have in common is poor plumbing. I think that everything is done by the building workers and there is no such profession as a painter or a plumber. Since there are no trained professionals to do the job, most bathrooms don’t have an odour closure device – and therefore stink of canal. All Asian bathrooms are devoid of a shower tray so everything is flooded (sink, toilet, the entire floor, the washing machine) as soon as someone takes a shower. There is a drain in one corner, but in many cases the tiles are set in a way that guarantees that the drain is not the place occupying the lowest level on the floor. Many times, there are sinks and toilets leaking but this is not seen as a problem since there is a drain in the floor.

    Houses in Chongqing. photo©MissMariko

    Houses in Chongqing. photo©MissMariko

China trip day 6 (07.09.2015) – Huangdao

Being at Mia’s place, we slept very well. We had our own room in which there was a wooden elevated platform with many soft blankets on top of it. It wasn’t as soft as a mattress but very cosy. We prepared some cocoa-instant coffee mixture (which I brought with me from Austria) in the morning. Since she had to go to work, she got up pretty early. We stayed in the apartment a bit longer because we had a lot of communication and emails to be answered and it’s convenient to do this on a comfortable sofa in a clean and nice place. Also, her internet connection worked really well, which is not a natural thing in many places in China. Only at half past eleven we were ready to leave for the beach. Since we had no idea which bus to take we walked to the Golden Sandy Beach which is about 4 km from Mia’s house. It was hot and sunny, but we bought snacks and water at the supermarket and the bakery so we were well prepared. We mostly walked in artificially arranged, park-like green space along the road. We also had to ask a person for the way to the beach at a street crossing. Many people just shook their heads and walked on and therefore avoided talking to us. We spoke English because I had no idea how to ask in Chinese. I still tried it with Chinese finally, and surprisingly the man whom I asked actually answered in English. I felt a bit funny about the situation. Arrived at the beach, we saw a map of the latter in which there were about 8 different spots marked in red, reading “your current location”. This was not of much help, seriously…
We sat down on a bench in a shady pergola and decided to eat breakfast first: we had sweet buns from the bakery, one with cream filling and flakes of dried pork meat on top and one with coconut flavoured cream. We also had butter toast to eat with a pack of spicy see-you-tomorrow-mushrooms. After our appetite and curiosity was satisfied, we went on to the sandy part of the place.
On Golden Sandy Beach there were many people so we decided to stay at the rear end of the first shark net where we had enough space for ourselves. Mia lend us a beach tent which we quickly set up and then we put our things inside. We left all our valuables at home except for one phone and some small money for the bus etc. Bathing in the sea was really nice. The water was pretty warm and there wasn’t much waste or strange things floating in there. Huangdao is much cleaner and newer than Qingdao and for everyone who likes beaches, it’s a good place to stay. We enjoyed our time there a lot. The only disadvantage was that the showers next to the beach promenade did not work so we had to make our way back in a salty-sticky state. We found out that bus number 4 runs from Zerun place (a central place in Huangdao) to the Golden Sandy beach.
When we were reading the bus schedule, a man in an unofficial taxi was screaming at us in order to get us into his car. He was annoying as hell and we really wanted to take the bus since he wasn’t trustworthy at all. No matter how often I told him in Chinese and in English that we do not want to come and that he should leave, he would continue screaming “where you going” and „teksi teksi“ at our face. As we had to cross to the other side of the street to get the right direction of the bus, we finally got rid of him.

Qingdao Beach with the famous, pavillon-shaped Zanqiao Pier.

Qingdao Beach with the famous, pavillon-shaped Zanqiao Pier.

Back to Mia’s place we took a shower and soon she came home from work. We went to eat dinner at a restaurant she chose where we had really good and soft pork meat, some aubergines and green beans and also little pieces of octopus. Along with that, we ate rice, which was the first time on our trip. Before, we only had dim sum, noodles and dumplings of all kinds. It felt funny to eat in China for a week and not getting any rice without consciously avoiding it. Markus and I also drank a cold, good Qingdao beer. Mia taught me some new words and phrases in Chinese which was a lot of fun for me and very helpful. We enjoyed dinner and as we arrived back in her home we fell into our beds.