China is full of surprises. I will start from an unusual experience. After checking out the food prices in a restaurant, which were reasonable by our standards, we went to eat, drink and make merry close to the Beer Street near Tsingtao Beer Brewery in Qingdao, Shandong Province.
The food was reasonably good. The beer wasn't anything extraordinary. Uno, my friend from Mongolia, can vouch for it. A pitcher cost us ¥220 (approx. $32) and another cost us ¥78 (approx. $11). Food was ¥198 (approx. $29) for three of us. Our fault was that we had taken for granted that the beer wouldn't cost us much and hadn't asked for the price. But when the bill came Yin was taken by surprise and proceeded to argue with the waitress, but in her shocked state of mind totally forgot to interpret the conversation to Uno and myself, and eventually proceeded to pay the bill. It was only after walking out into the streets that Yin's head cleared a bit. We felt we were virtually robbed. Uno ran amok looking for a police station. Two pitchers of beer running into his veins, he was unstoppable. Finally we went to collect the bill for an evidence which we had forgotten to take after paying. A 'lively' and loud 'discussion' ensued. The pretty girl in the counter, turning red, talked with Yin in Chinese. Uno would talk in English but the girl wouldn't understand what he was saying and Uno wouldn't understand what she was saying. Amidst such uncertainties a deal was reached. The girl returned us ¥150 and we came back to hotel with the half triumph to sleep in peace.
Until this moment I had thought China was a very safe country. In my eight months of stay I hadn't felt being cheated nor my things had been stolen or misused. This incident made me suspicious in dealing with people China. I had begun to think that China's thousands of years of civilization, its culture and sophistication was ripe for the world to see. Even though I had heard of being cheated in China and with Chinese goods I hadn't experienced them. I had begun to believe it was a lie. Chinese couldn't be other than what I had seen.
China is indeed a great place. This time we made our way to Qingdao, Lao Shan Mountains and Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius. Yin, Uno, U., Jill and I left for yet another travel after being a little restless in Shanghai after our classes were over and theses were submitted. We needed a break. There is no other way of being stress-free than by traveling. This time we took a flight to Qingdao. It took us one hour and forty minutes and cost us ¥310 ( approx. $45) each.
All of us had backpack. Without heavy luggage, none of us was in a hurry to look for a hotel. After we took a bus to the beach, we aimed for Beach No.1. On our way we stopped by Naval Museum, where three ships and a submarine can be explored. Uno and I decided to stay by the seashore. We hail from landlocked countries. Our love for seas are unconditional. U., Yin and Jill paid the price to have a look at the ships. Because the visit to nuclear submarine would cost ¥100 (approx $14.5) only U. and Yin went. The secrets of nuclear submarine are with them.
Having walked for long hours around late afternoon we reached Beach No.1. Beach No.1 did meet our expectations. The beach was full of life with people. Uno and I did parasailing. After paying ¥200 (approx. $29) we expected the parasailing time to last for ten minutes as promised but the flight time was about half of it. Nonetheless it was enough for our adrenaline rush. We crashed that night at 798 Youth Hostel. The amount was a modest ¥63 (approx. $9) each for the three of us and something around that for the girls.
Next destination for us was Lao Shan mountains. Jill's ancestors came from Lao Shan mountains and it was a pilgrimage for her. For us it was an opportunity to be a witness and to do some hiking. U. and Jill hiked around the loop which took them about four and half hours. Though it was a famous hiking destination I was surprised to see not many eateries there. Famished and tired all of us needed rest. While U. and Jill still went out for adventure, Yin, Uno and I came back to the Beer Street close to Tsingtao Beer Museum.
Tsingtao Beer Museum is worth a visit for those whose religion is drinking beer and being entertained and entertaining others. The beer was indeed thought of as a 'God's drink' in some ancient times, because of its quality to elate spirits. The history of brewing is six thousand years old and Tsingtao was born in the year 1903 A.D.
Unfortunately duty called and Uno had to leave for Shanghai earlier than expected. Yin and I continued the journey on the third day to Qufu. Jill and U. having finished exploring fishing village met us in Qufu the next afternoon. Because our preferences weren't the same I must admit that we had to pursue our own destinations.
Qufu is the city of Confucius. We had to pay respect to the sage by visiting the city. A stopover would also break the journey back to Shanghai. We focused on three things in Qufu - Confucius Temple, Confucius Mansion and The Confucian Forest which has Confucius's Cemetery. We just had one day to spend in Qufu.
The layout of the Confucius Temple reminded me of Forbidden City in Beijing. It's similar and is the Chinese way. At a cursory glance the relics look really old. They in fact gave me an impression that they were dusty. Renovation of some main structures were underway too. I missed the audio tour guide as there was no facility of it in English. Some of the tour guides offered their services but we didn't engage them.
The Confucius Mansion was where the Confucius's descendants lived. They were supported by the government as a way to pay respect to the sage and to his descendants. Kong family clan, descendants of Confucius lived there for several centuries.
The Confucian Forest is where Confucius' and his descendants' tombs are situated. We paid our last respect to the sage by visiting his tomb. We walked around the forest. A forest which has lots of tombs and no wildlife is something unusual. The chirping of the birds and the swaying trees bring the forest to life though.
Having concluded our trip, Yin and I were on board the high-speed train to Shanghai. We were expected to reach Shanghai in about three and half hours' time. Jill and U. were on board another high speed train to Shanghai.
Photo used in this page is taken by Y