Monday, May 16, 2005

Day 4: Ramble On

Pillar at Confucious Temple
Originally uploaded by billmcgonigle.
(To view all the pictures from my journey, please visit

Leaving QingDao was a little sad, as I had really enjoyed myself there. The experience was just so different from what I had been seeing up in Harbin, what with the ocean and the weather and the food, I wanted a little more time. Plus I wasn't looking forward to a day spent on a crowded bus. But I had made a plan, and to diverge from that plan would be a failure in my Clark Griswold-esque mind, so it was time to move on.

The bus station was a scene. THe buses are all government run, and supposedly scheduled, but the individual drivers and ticket takers seem to fight over passengers and fares. Combine this with my confusion: According to my schedule, a bus ran from QuFu (my next destination) to QingDao almost hourly. As such, I assumed that the return route would exist as well. Not the case. Turns out I had to first bus to JiNan, then jump another down to QuFu. This added about 2 hours to my expected travel plans, and a little bit more cash, but it was still much cheaper than the train, which was still only one hour faster.

Getting on the bus, I grabbed a seat by a window and settled in for a long haul. Soon enough all the real seats were taken and so we set off. But even though all the proper seats were gone, we apparently were not full. I couldn't decipher any rhyme or reason to it, but occasionally we'd stop and pick up people along the side of the road. Then a plank would be lain across the aisle of the bus, and voila! Another seat, another 45 RMB.

Nothing special happened between QingDao and JiNan. The scenery was boring... I was quite disappointed. I wanted mountains, all I got was endless planes with the same tree lining the road as a wind break. Occasionally a little hutong might pop up (a small, clustered village where all the buildings are cramped together and alleyed), odd amongst the seemingly endless space.

JiNan, well, my first impression at least, was a humid, dirty, dust-ridden city. I bought a ticket for QuFu, got out of the heat and into a bus ASAP, and again settled in for a ride.

This second bus was equipped with a TV, so I was able to take in a movie called "Forbidden City Cop" that was pretty funny. Its an earlier work by the same guy behind the recent "KungFu Hustle," which you might want to check out. We also watched "Top Dog," the Chuck Norris/Dog opus, where Chuck, reluctantly paired with a canine partner, takes on a white power syndicate. Watching a movie on a cramped bus where the characters are screaming "White Power!" and "Death to the Chinks!" was... unnerving.

I also met another new friend on this ride. This girl, without reason, bought me a Pepsi (warm, ugh) and later plunked down in the seat next to me. After a while she started talking to me, in English, and I replied in Chinese, and then she wouldn't shut up. Turns out she was a college student going to QuFu to visit her boyfriend's friends but she was also an English major and wanted to practice with a native speaker.

Oh, yeah, her name was Bobo.

Once we got to QuFu, Bobo insisted that I let her help me find lodging. We went to the hotel I had planned on staying at, but they had jacked their prices up by triple the regular rate due to the holiday. So then Bobo found a touter who was hawking her family owned spot right inside the old city walls, so we checked it out, and it was fine enough for the price. At that point I said goodbye to Bobo and hello to a short nap.

After the rest, I took a stroll through the old city of QuFu, which was surrounded by an ancient wall. The enclosure gave a coziness to the city, and with the spring weather it was very relaxing. Walking down the peddler street, each stall called out their own deals on exotic crap which wasn't too exotic but certainly was crap. I just wanted food, so I grabbed a seat, pointed to some tiny lobsters, asked for some dumplings and beer, and I was good to go.

While eating I attracted the attention of some little local girls. They were amazed that I could speak Chinese (again), but more amazed by my China travel guide and pictures from QingDao. Turns out their mother was the chef who had been cooking my food, so I got a free desert (a donut thing) out of the chat. Also had a chat with a roided-out shop owner who wanted me to admit that Americans were troublesome (tough luck, dude) and an Amway saleswoman.

I hate Amway. Even moreso in China.

Also, each and every person I had met in QuFu claimed to be the decendent of Confucious. I'm the grandson of Milton Berle. I'm also 1/8 Filipino.

Anyways, after dinner it was bedtime. I was exhausted. And with a couple hundred miles under my belt for the day, I think I deserved it.


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