WOW it has been a long time since my last post!!! Good golly!! Lots to update on, but we’ll start with a monster post about my vacation to China….back in August. Gosh I’m so bad at this blogging thing…
ALRIGHT!! CHINA TRIP!!! Gather round everyone, its story time!!
So back in August, after we finished our schools’ English camps, Kati and I packed up, and headed to China for about 13 days! And….what an experience it was! It was an enjoyable, crazy, interesting and stress-filled trip! So, lets just recount the trip, shall we!? After a few weeks of stress prior to our trip, getting lodging and visas all lined up (and cutting it really close, time wise!) we set off for Beijing. We arrived in Beijing in the early afternoon, and took a deep breath before venturing out of the airport. I was rather terrified of China, simply because I knew like 3 words in Chinese (Hello, thank you, and I love you), and I don’t have the slightest clue how to read Chinese! So we headed to the taxi stand at the airport, being rather nervous that we would get scammed (we did), since we’d been warned about sketchy taxi drivers, but we got to our AirBnB host’s place after a little confusion and over-paying the taxi driver. 😡 Our host lived in a suburb of Beijing, that was relatively close to the airport, but about an hour out of the “downtown” area, by subway. Our host Blaire, spoke English very well, and was extremely helpful, and helped us figure out the subway, and gave us advice on how to shop, or where to shop, and how not to get scammed in market places etc. So we just chilled at her place the first evening and visited a convenience store to test out some Chinese snacks!
The next day, we went into the downtown area, and visited the outside of the Forbidden City. You had to pay to go in, and we’d heard that it’s not actually that exciting, so we just sort of stood outside, and took a few pictures, haha!
We then pushed through about 394,027 groups of tourists, and decided to find a place to eat, because it was around lunch time, and it was SUPER HOT and humid, and we did not want to be outside anymore. So we walked a bit, found a little restaurant, got a plate of noodles to share, which seemed a lot more expensive than we expected, and we realized something rather horrid. We didn’t bring enough money with us. Before we left, we asked friends who had lived in/been to China, how much things will cost, so we could figure out how much money to take with us. People were like “Oh yeah, things are really cheap! You can get a meal for like three dollars!” Well…even though they said dollars, we often use “dollars” interchangeably with whatever the native currency is. Like sometimes instead of saying “korean won” we’ll say “dollars” instead, simply because it makes more sense in our head. Well…we sort of assumed (maybe stupidly) that people were meaning three Chinese dollars per meal. They weren’t. They literally were giving us American currency prices, instead of Chinese currency prices. We did not realize this. A meal that was around $5 USD, was more like 25-30 RNB.
(Some Chinese money)
So basically, we did not bring near as much money as we should have. Soooo, we sat in this little restaurant, trying to figure out what to do. We calculated how much we could spend per day to last the whole trip, and it was going to require us to live rather sparingly, not doing much shopping/souvenir hunting, and reserving our money mostly for food/transportation/entrance tickets to things, if we could afford it. Not how we would have liked to spend a vacation! So we headed out, walked a little bit more, trying to not worry too much, and made it like 5 minutes before deciding it was too hot again, and walked into a tourist information center (that was air-conditioned). There we ended up scheduling a tour to the Great Wall, and getting an English map of the city, and deciding to give ourselves a little more wiggle room by deciding to use my American debit card and get some more cash out near the end of our trip. When we went to Japan, we were able to wander mostly on our own. We liked the idea of staying away from tours, which only show you the touristy things, and do our own exploring, and actually see the country. But after only half a day in Beijing, we realized it was beyond our desires to try navigate ourselves to the Great Wall alone, and thus, booked a day-trip tour. But we’ll get to that. After the tourist information center, we walked a bit, down to a well-known shopping district known as Wangfujing, where we mostly just window shopped, and walked into stores simply because they had air conditioning!
A few pics of Wangfujing, a snake charm I bought (Which I later lost), and a Chinese Subway. For kicks!
Unfortunately, we didn’t stay in Wangfujing super long, because Kati started feeling sick, probably from a combination of the heat, humidity, air pollution, new food, and stress of money issues, and we headed back home early so she could rest. The next day, (she felt much better) we decided to try find the Summer Palace. We were told that it is beautiful, and would be a great place to go have a picnic. We thought that sounded like a great idea, so we started the long trek across Beijing to see the Summer Palace. By the time we got there—it was raining. We came out of the subway station and couldn’t quite figure out where to go… so we wandered a little bit in a few different directions, and decided to follow some other touristy looking people, who turned out to not be tourists. Ha! We got ourselves a little lost in the backstreets of Beijing, but after back tracking a little bit, we eventually found our way back the main road. By this point we were wet (despite the ponchos we bought), and irritated at everything. We asked a girl on the street, hoping she knew English. Luckily she did, and pointed us in the right direction. We finally made it to the entrance, but couldn’t figure out where to buy tickets…and we wandered around some more, getting even more irritated. “Go to the Summer Palace,” they said. ‘It will be fun,” they said!!! Raaagghh. FINALLY, we just decided to go in one gate, which took ended up taking us to the correct place, and we bought the cheapest ticket and went in, amongst the other crowds of tourists. We got stopped a few times by other Chinese tourists, and were asked for a picture. Probably because a lot of the tourists were families from the country side, and had never seen a foreigner before. We got stopped probably 5 times at the Summer Palace alone, and I also noticed a guy trying to discretely take a picture of us, haha! It had stopped raining while we were there, so we ditched our ponchos, and walked round the grounds. Despite our trouble finding it, I do recommend going there, should you ever go to Beijing. It was really beautiful, and I wish we had about 3 more hours to explore and walk around the huge lake behind the palace.
Here are some pictures of the palace:
We spend maybe two hours there, and then started to get hungry, so we left to go find a certain restaurant my cousin had told us about. Long story short, we had vague information as to the whereabouts of this place, and we got lost, gave up on our hunt, and begrudgingly went to a KFC, before going home after a rather frustrating day! Bluh. The last full day in Beijing, was our Great Wall tour. We got up early, made our way to the meeting spot where the tour bus was theoretically supposed to pick us up, and waited. It neared the time when they were supposed to pick us up…didn’t see a bus. We had already put a down payment on the tour when we made our reservation, and we were praying that we didn’t get scammed, when a chipper sort of man walked up to us, asked if we were the two Americans that were taking the tour, we said yes after confirming our names, and he said to follow him. So we did, and he led us around the corner and down to a bus/van thing sitting by the road near an overpass. Haha Kati and I were looking at each other like …what martial arts do you know? You know self defense right?… He opened the van door and we saw an older American couple, and another younger couple who turned out to be Italian, already in the van. Turns out it was a completely legit tour, just…rather low key haha. The tour included the Ming Tombs, a Jade museum, the Great Wall and a tea shop. So we took off towards the tombs first, and our chipper tour guide began explaining things, in a very thick accent. If I hadn’t lived in Asia for a year and a half already, and wasn’t accustomed to understanding accented English, I feel like there’s no way I would have been able to understand him! But anyway, he was a very enthusiastic fellow. We arrived at the Ming Tombs, looked around a bit, and learned that the Chinese used to bury their deceased nobility similarly to how the Egyptians did, but rather than all their belongings buried with them inside a pyramid, it was more of a palace-like tomb. Pretty interesting….And here’s a few pictures at the Ming tombs that do not give you a good idea of the tombs at all…
We then went to a the jade museum, where we saw some jade carvings that we didn’t know were remotely possible to carve out of jade, and looked around the show room at all the super expensive, yet beautiful jade carvings, and headed on our way again. We stopped for lunch at a very touristy Chinese restaurant. Here, Kati and I realized how we have changed living in an Asian country for so long. Our tour guide ordered for us, and we were brought a variety of Chinese dishes, most of which Kati and I dug into right away, whereas the other two couples were unsure of it all. They asked for an English menu so they could identify all the foods, and took a few minutes poking at each dish before they tried it. Hahaha! I have long forgotten my foreigner curiosity when it comes to food. Unless I have never seen the substance before, I will usually be pretty content with trying most things. Thank you Korea for making me an adventurous food eater.
After we had stuffed ourselves, we headed up the mountain to the cable car. We went to the section of the Great Wall called Mutianyu. I’m just going to say right now—if you ever go to the Great Wall, GO TO MUTIANYU!!!!! It is far less crowded than Badaling, which is probably the most famous part, but it is packed with people. Also, you get to take a cable car (more like a ski lift) up to the wall, and if you’re not boring, there’s a slide you can take back down. Yes, a slide. You get your own little sled sort of thing, and you can control the speed of it, and you just…ride down the slide and it is AWESOME!!! I would probably go back just so I could ride the slide again, ha!! You can watch a video of the slide >>here<< So we looked around on the Great Wall for a few hours, boggled at its glory, and took a gazillion pictures. Here are some of them!!
Then we headed to the slide to return to the bottom of the mountain….or I guess the bottom of that mountain peak? Anyway, we went back down to the base, where the parking lots/ticket boxes/restaurants were, met up with the rest of our tour group, and headed to our last destination, which was Dr. Tea. Dr Tea is a place the specializes in Chinese teas, and you can go there and taste different teas, and they’ll tell you about them all, and why they are good for you, etc. It was pretty fun, and the teas were all really great, but a little expensive. And since we were on a tight budget, we did not buy any tea. Instead we each just bought a pretty little tea cup. I would recommend going to Dr. Tea just for the experience of tasting properly brewed tea and learning about the healing/health qualities of different kinds of tea, but— don’t buy any of it. I learned after we returned from China, that the teas they sell are kind of a scam I guess. They are super overpriced, and are not as fresh or high quality as they say they are. They stuff they let you taste is the good quality stuff, but the stuff you buy apparently isn’t. So…go try the teas, then go somewhere else to buy them. Haha! After Dr. Tea, the tour bus dropped us all back off where they picked us up, and we head back to our host’s place to start packing up again. That evening, Blaire made some Chinese food for her, her husband, and her sister (all of which lived in the apartment), and they had extra, and they let us join them for dinner. 🙂 Turns out Blaire’s husband also spoke English pretty well, and we chatted with the two of them over homemade dinner.
The next day we left Beijing, but not until the evening, so we fit one more stop in our Beijing trip. We had been told of this 798 Art District, which was supposedly really cool. Blaire’s husband knew where it was, and accompanied us most of the way there, since it was on his way to work. After a short time of wandering, we found it. It was indeed pretty awesome! It was a few blocks filled with galleries, little craft stores, studios and restaurants. There was graffiti on the street walls, sculptures everywhere, and a bunch of whimsical little touches. Kati and I felt right at home! 🙂 We found a map of the area in one of the little shops, and discovered that there was at one point a sort of “gallery hop” or “art walk” thing in the area, and there was a small book you could take around to all the places and get a stamp to show you’ve been there. Kati decided to get one, and that became our guide for the area, and we walked around, seeing how many stamps we could get. After an hour or two of exploring the awesome area, and buying a few little trinkets, we stopped at an American style burger place for lunch before heading back for the last time before our departure. Blaire helped us catch a (reliable) taxi to the airport, and we set off for Zhangjiajie!
Zhangjiajie (pronounced kind of like Jang-jee-uh-jee-eh) was probably the most challenging part of the entire trip! It was definitely an experience! It didn’t start off super smoothly either! The flight to Zhangjiajie was probably the scariest flight I’ve ever been on. It was dark out, there were thunderstorms around us, we could see lightening flashing out the windows, and it didn’t help that there was some sort of scary movie playing on the TV screens in the plane!!! We were seriously like making our peace with the world and hoping our families all knew we loved them! I had to take deep breaths multiple times throughout the flight! We were probably the last flight into this [TINY] airport, around 10 pm. Zhangjiajie is very much a country town. We wanted to go there because of the “floating mountains” that were near by, but we didn’t realize how tricky it would be. Since we got in so late, there were no buses that could take us into the city, so we had to rely on taxis. And of course…late at night, all the scamming taxis were out. They were all refusing to use the meter, and were trying to charge us like three times as much as it should have cost. We also didn’t have working phones, so our only hope was to show the taxi driver our host’s number, and have them call her and negotiate for us, if the agreed to. Basically, it took us probably 45 minutes to find a reliable taxi, and after a lot of stress, we made it into town, met our host, and settled into their lovely little place. They had an 11 year old daughter, who allowed us to take over her room for the duration of our trip, and they also had an adorable little toy poodle, named Coffee, who was made of nothing but energy. The wife, Eileen, had been and English teacher, and spoke good English, her husband and daughter didn’t speak much at all, but were very helpful nonetheless! Eileen wrote down a bunch of Chinese phrases for us to show people if we needed help, and she gave us a phone to use to call her if needed at any point in time, since she had to work during the day. The first day, we slept in, and explored the surrounding area a bit. We were going to try go up a mountain right by the city, but it was rainy and foggy, and wouldn’t have been worth it, so we just bought the tickets (with vast amounts of help from Eileen’s husband, and Eileen on the phone), and explored Zhangjiajie a bit. That evening, Eileen took us to the supermarket, where we bought food to take to the mountain the next day, so we wouldn’t have to buy the overpriced tourist food.
A few pics of Zhangjiajie from our first adventure around the area:
So the next morning, we walked to the cable car entrance, which was a few minutes walk from the house. There, we waited in line for about an hour and a half, to get on the cable car! The cable car ride was maybe 10 minutes long, and took us up into clouds! That day was also rather cloudy/foggy, so…we really couldn’t see the nice views that were supposed to be awesome. 😦 So that was a bummer. But we hiked around the mountain anyway, and found a really cool temple at the top, and walked along a fault line in the earth o_o.
The mountain was called Tianmen Mountain. Here’s some shots of that day:
The red ribbons had prayers or wishes written on them. We each bought one and wrote some messages and tied them somewhere on the mountain too. ^^
Despite being able to see any views really, the mountain itself was pretty cool. After a couple hours of hiking, we decided to start heading back down to the cable car, but tried to take a different trail there…it only sort of worked, and we sort of halfway got lost in the mountain, until we found our way back to the first trail we had taken, and decided to just take that back. We got in the cable car with a group of 4 or 5 other tourists, who we discovered to be Korean! One of the men saw a Kpop pin on my bag that had Korean written on it, and he asked me about it. We talked with them a bit, in Korean, and it was great!!! It was like a little taste of home! Well…not really home, but home enough!! Halfway down the cable car, there was another stop to go see some other part of the mountain, which we didn’t want to see, but they made us get off the cable car anyway. We thought maybe they just made everyone get off and take an alternate way down? So we got off, and saw everyone getting in line for a bus. We tried to ask if it goes down, and they said no, but the other Korean tourists told us to get on anyway, so in a moment of confusion we just got on the bus, which started driving back up the mountain. Kati and I were sitting there laughing just out of tiredness and the hilarity of what was happening. We just came down the mountain, why are we going back up!!!?! *cries* The bus took us to another popular sight-seeing point, which was this big hole right through the mountain. There’s this big staircase that leads up to it, and it’s supposed to be an awesome view, but it was so foggy, you couldn’t see a thing, so we got off the bus, and got right back in the line to get back on! So we went back down to the cable car…and waited in line. Again. For another hour! While in line, we saw some people who stayed on the cable car and didn’t get off at this halfway mark. We could have done that!?!! Then why did they make us get off and add another 2 hours to our trip!?!?! Bah!!! Whatever. We were tired and hungry and irritated, so once we rode the cable car back down, we went home, ate some dinner, and chilled with our host family for the evening. We discovered that in China, they looooove TV shows that involve children. Like talent sort of shows, like “America’s Got Talent” or “The X Factor”, but Chinese versions, and for kids under like 16 years old. Child stars run rampant in China! Ha! Apparently the most popular boy band in China right now has three members, all of which are no older than 14 years old. But people love them!!They’re called the TFBoys, and their biggest fan base was not teenage girls, but middle aged women! Apparently one of the reasons they were loved so much is because I guess the boys are the ideal image of good Chinese kids. They were apparently top in their classes in school, they’re talented, famous and successful… the ideal child every mother wants. And a lot of the younger crowd (but older than the boys) also like them because they’re cute, and they’re seen as younger siblings that everyone wants to care for. We were sort of mind-blown as to how young these boys are and that they are so very famous already! O_O
Anyway…The next day, we went to go see the Floating Mountains. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Avatar” with the big blue alien creatures, the “Hallelujah Mountains” in that movie were based off of the Floating Mountains in Zhangjiajie. These mountains are like tall cylindrical rock formations, that, when the clouds are right, sort of look like they are floating. Cool right?? This is what they’re supposed to look like:
or like this on a clearer day:
Well we were determined to try see these mysterious mountains, so we got on a bus, (and were only about 75% sure it was the correct bus, we had to ask an innocent bystander for help identifying the bus we were supposed to take) and rode it for maybe 45 minutes-1 hour, and got off. It turned out to be the correct bus. We took a short taxi ride to the base of the mountain, where we bought cable car tickets, and hopped on a free bus that took us to the cable car. At this point, we weren’t too hopeful…it was foggy and cloudy. Yet again. But, we were already there, so we kept on going. We waited in line for this cable car for at least an hour again.
They happily let you know that this is where part of Avatar was taken from ^^
We were the only foreigners in sight, which drew lots of attention from some of the natives surrounding us. We could tell they were talking about us, a couple times someone said something, and people would laugh. We were getting irritated that these people were talking about us when we clearly didn’t understand what they were talking about. One man who seemed to be enjoying the situation spoke to us in Chinese at one point. Out of irritation, I just said “English!!” And his posse sort of laughed at him then. They then started attempting to talk to us in broken English. Turns out they were actually pretty friendly, but just didn’t know much English. There was a middle school aged girl next to us, who had been studying English a decent amount and she sort of translated for us and the surrounding people as much as she could. Of course, they all wanted pictures with us, since we were rare foreigners. By the time we got to the cable car, the young girl who was translating seemed to want to stay with us, so she stayed back and let her family go first, so she could get in the same car we were in! This was another 10 minute-ish cable car ride, hiiigh in the mountains. We still couldn’t very far, but the car took us right past some of these tall rock formations, and it was pretty cool to see them appearing out of the mist right next to us!
We got to the top, and wandered around some little touristy village places where you can get pictures taken with the mountains in the background, or buy little Chinese trinkets. We shopped around a little bit, and a young woman who could speak English, came to us and made sure we knew we could bargain, so we wouldn’t get ripped off. I got a necklace for half the original price, and Kati bought a hand carved hair comb for 1/3 of the original price! Ha! Neither of us are familiar with bargaining for things, and our methods of bargaining basically consisted of the merchant telling us a price, and then us walking away slowly saying its too expensive, then the merchant yelling for us to come back, telling us a discounted price. Haha! I think the proper way to do it is like..actually bargaining back and forth, but…hey whatever works, right?!?!
Eileen had told us a good way to go once on the mountain, but we didn’t have a map of the mountain trails. We figured (wrongly) that maybe the trails would all eventually lead to the same place, cuz, ya know, it’s a mountain out in the middle of nowhere right? Wrong. We stupidly decided to take a trail off to the side of the main one, for whatever reason, just to see if it happened to be nicer or something. It wasn’t. We started going down a bunch of stairs, thinking they would go back up again or at least flatten out or something. They didn’t. Stairs, stairs and more stiars, going down down doowwwnnnn. There were a few signs along the way showing us our location, but they were all in Chinese, and we couldn’t figure out what they meant. So we kept going down, thinking “SURELY we won’t be going down the whole time right!?!? These have to flatten out at some point!? What kind of trail is this?!” We stopped after maybe an hour at a little area that seemed to be a resting point, and we snacked a bit and gave our knees a rest. We met the same girl who told us to bargain, at this resting area. We talked to her a little more, and she informed us that we were about 3/4 of the way down the mountain. After just being happy we were almost through with these forsaken stairs, we went on our way again, and after maybe 20 more minutes, we made it to the bottom!!! There were some food stands, and artists selling little hand-made things, and a cage of a few monkeys! I got a sweet corn-flavored ice cream bar (it wasn’t good), and we went over to see the monkeys. There were about 5 of them in this metal/cement cage, with no plants or trees in it…just a few bars and cement blocks. It was actually rather sad, and the poor monkeys looked rather depressed too…it didn’t help that people in China and Korea seem to not know zoo etiquette. Like, you know if you go to the zoo, you’re not supposed to try feed the animals, no sticking your hands or fingers in the cages, don’t provoke the animals…Well people were doing all those things. Especially kids. People would throw left over food into the cage. Kids were screaming at the monkeys to try get a reaction. Kids were also sticking their hands in the cage (and their parents were letting them!!) and one of the monkeys actually tried to bite the kid’s hand, and they jumped back all surprised. What did you expect?!?! Ugh. We didn’t stay long, we were getting too sad and irritated at people. So we went to try find our way out of the mountains, and couldn’t figure it out (surprise, surprise!!). Luckily, we ran into our friend yet again, who figured out that we have to take this little rail train out to the parking lot where the free busses we. So she helped us get tickets for this little train, and we got on, and after a 15 minute, very slow ride through the mountains, we got off at the parking lot, where we would have jumped up and down, had our legs allowed us. So basically, we took the cable car up the mountain, and then walked down. For about 2 1/2-3 hours. Stairs. We were rather disappointed that we didn’t see a lot of what we could have, had we been smart and taken the main path, and also bummed that it was cloudy and we couldn’t see anything anyway, but we were tired and just ready to head home! So we did just that. I’m not sure how we figured out how to get back exactly, with little to no English anywhere, but we did, thank the Lord!
Some pictures of our disappointing Floating Mountains visit…
“Oh yeah, look at this awesome view!!”
That evening, Eileen asked if there were any foods we wanted to try while in China. We had heard about “hot pot” and wanted to try it, so Eileen and her husband actually drove us to a hot pot restaurant in town, helped us order, then waited outside for us until we were finished eating!! They were so nice. The hot pot (soup with a variety of vegetables and meat in it) was DELICIOUS. Korea has their own version of it, but its not as good in my opinion. I want to try find a Chinese place that has hot pot cuz oh my goodness, soo good!! Here’s a picture of the hot pot broth before we put the meat and veggies in…I forgot to take any pictures of the finished product, probably since we were too busy consuming it…
Anyway, we spend the rest of the evening packing up our things, and getting ready to head to our last destination..the one we were looking forward to the most!!! Qingdao!!!
We got up early in the morning, since our flight left soon after 6 a.m. Eileen got us a cab to the airport. There were only two counters open, I think ours was the only flight going out at that point in time haha. There were only 6 boarding gates in the whole place, and ours was the only occupied one. Security consisted of putting your bags through the detector, then walking through one, shoes and all; I even forgot to take out my bag of liquids, and they didn’t even check it. Haha. So we got on the little plane, and flew 30 minutes to Changsha, where we had a stop-over, and then got back on the plane for 2 more hours to Qingdao! Changsha is the hometown of one of my favorite members of EXO, so I took a picture of a picture of him in the Changsha airport 😀
dont mind me, i’m a dork
We were looking forward to Qingdao (like Cheeng-dow, like “ow!!”) the most, because it is a coast-city, and we didn’t have many solid plans for our time there. We were hoping to just sort of relax and go to the beach and go shopping and spend the last few days of vacation as an actual vacation, rather than an adventure through wild mountains, like the last place! Ha! (Don’t get me wrong, I like adventures, but after a lot of stressful experiences, we were ready to just chill!) We arrived at the airport, I got out some more money for both of us to use for the next few days, and once we connected to the Wi-Fi, we found out that our next host had not arrived at the airport yet, so we sat down at a KFC, and waited. I expected to be picked up by the woman who seemed to run the AirBnB page for the guest house we were staying at, but instead we were picked up by two college-aged girls and an older man. The man we discovered was the co-owner of the guest house, referred to as “Uncle”, but he spoke very little English, so he brought these two girls along, who could speak English a bit better. We originally thought that these girls worked at the guesthouse, but we later found out they were actually just guests who agreed to come pick us up!! Haha!!! I’m really glad they came though! They became our friends/tour guides for most of our time in Qingdao. They went by Olivia and Lucy, and they took us all over the place. We expected to go straight to the guest house from the airport, but instead they took us on a little drive through Qingdao, and then to the bay to look around a bit, and also to get some food. THEN we went to the guesthouse. Here are a few pics of our first impressions of Qingdao-
Our room was lovely and spacious, and right down the hall from Olivia and Lucy’s room. 🙂 We rested for an hour or two, then the four of us took a taxi to the beach! We had a lovely time building sand castles, and writing messages in the sand, and just chatting with Olivia and Lucy and learning about them….There were sooooo many people on the beach!!
Olivia and Lucy writing messages in the sand..
After we’d had enough of the beach, Olivia called back to the guesthouse, and a young fellow who was the son or nephew or something of the owners came and picked us up and took us back home. The owner woman (who we called Aunt) was a lovely lady who didn’t speak English, but was very hospitable, and wanted to cook homemade Chinese food for us all the time, so she made us dinner. It was….a lot of sea food, which I don’t like that much, but it was still pretty good! I just appreciated that she was so willing to cook entire meals for us! Multiple times! After we were full of lovely food, Olivia, Lucy and “big brother” (the young guy who picked us up from the beach) went out to norebang! Or whatever they call it in China. I had lyrics to a Chinese song on my phone, written in pinyin (romanized Chinese), so I sang that song, reading the lyrics off my phone instead of off the screen haha. It was a good time, but I got tired real fast! After a good amount of time singing all kinds of stuff, we headed back home and crashed. Good first day in Qingdao!!
Streets of Qingdao at night…
The next day, Olivia and Lucy were going to meet up with some friends who lived in Qingdao and go to a beer festival on the beach. I don’t like beer, but the rest of the crew did, and we had no other plans, so heck! We decided to tag along. But we arrived at the festival, walked around a bit and realized that it was going to be rather lame, so we all went into town, did a bit of shopping, and then headed to lunch. We originally thought we were going to Olivia’s friend’s house for lunch, but somewhere along the line, plans changed and we ended up at this fancy restaurant, where we each got our own little hot pot dish. It was a glorious meal, and gloriously expensive, but the friends of Olivia and Lucy paid for the whole meal!!! They said we were guests to their country so they wanted to treat us. We didn’t realize how expensive the meal was until later that evening, after we had said goodbye them. These guys were college students, and they paid for a fancy meal for six people, and didn’t even flinch about it. QINGDAO PEOPLE ARE SO NICE!!!!
Lunch with Oliva, Lucy, and their two friends:
After lunch, we said goodbye to the wonderful gentlemen who bought our lunch, and us four girls went shopping around a bit more before heading back home to rest a bit. That evening, Uncle drove the four of us to a sort of boardwalk place by the ocean, where we meandered a while, enjoying the night air and chatting, then he dropped us off at an outdoor Chinese barbecue place for dinner, and Olivia and Lucy showed us a nice time there too. 🙂 We went shopping a bit more after dinner, then headed home, since Olivia and Lucy were leaving the next day and had to pack up their things.
Kati and Lucy at the board walk place…
Qingdao at night:
The next morning, we sadly said goodbye to Olivia and Lucy, and they went on their way. This was our last day in Qingdao and we only had one mission. There was a certain beach we wanted to find, cuz we’d seen pictures of it and it looked nice, so with the help of Uncle, we found the beach, hung out for a bit, but not super long, since it took so long to find it haha! (There’s only about 30,924,832 beaches in Qingdao.) We grew accustomed to communication problems in China, and we encountered another one yet again that day. Ha. We thought that we were going to go home after the beach, but Uncle kept taking us to a bunch of random other places along the coast, like nice look-out points with views of the city and stuff, which was all nice and all but…not what we wanted to do! We had a bit of trouble communicating that we just wanted to go home!! We actually just wanted time to go shopping again before we left the next day, but by the time we ended up getting home, we were tired and ended up just chilling for a while before deciding to go try find dinner somewhere. We didn’t really want to try figure out a Chinese place by ourselves, and wanted something familiar, (we were more than ready to go back to Korea, as much as we loved Qingdao…). So we managed to ask Aunt if there was a pizza hut around, and she ended up accompanying us there! I thought we were going to have to try find it ourselves (again…wasn’t in the mood), but Aunt is lovely and took us there, just to be nice. 🙂 We spent the meal going through our little Chinese-English dictionary, and she taught us how to properly pronounce some of the phrases (yes, the last day of vacation), and it was a good time with her.
Adventures from that day:
We went back to the guest house after dinner, packed up our things, and prepared for our vacation to end the next day!
The next morning, after breakfast made by Aunt, she took us to a hotel where there was a bus that was supposed to go to the airport that we were going to catch. We left with plenty of time, and thought it would be a smooth transition, and we’d make it back to Korea and it would all be grand. HAHAHA!!!. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy, right?!? This is China! This is a vacation! You can’t get out that easily!! Ha! Ok so….We got to the hotel, the bus was there, there were empty seats but….we couldn’t buy tickets. I don’t know why, and I don’t think Aunt knew why either. There was a small crowd of other people also wanting tickets, who also did not get them, and there was a lot of arguing and whatnot in Chinese. Kati and I stood there like “….I have no idea what you all are saying, but can we get this figured out so we can catch our flight please??…” At this point, all we wanted in life was to be back in Korea!!! I still don’t know how it happened, but we ended up in the car with Aunt and Uncle and some other random dude, and they drove us to the airport. We got there, checked in, we had enough time, it was all going to be good…Then we couldn’t find the correct security check point. There was a checkpoint for domestic flights, so we were like, Ok that’s not it. We found another security check that wasn’t really labeled, so we got in that line, waited for 15-20 minutes, only to be told that this also was not the correct line for us. NOW I started to panic a bit. Time was getting short, and we had still not found the correct security checkpoint for international flights! We tried asking for help, but the lady just like gestured over the way we came and said something about the check in counters. We were already checked in, and we told her that, but she just looked like she wanted to get rid of us and again said “check in counters.” We were like What the crap!?! So we walked over there and looked around for any clues (this airport was really poorly marked, I might add), I walked to the check in desk to ask them, and Kati found another person to ask, and discovered that the international security check was off to the side behind a little wall of sorts. So we went through the first little check point, went to customs, where we had to fill out a little customs form, and go through security again. By this point, the boarding time had started about ten minutes ago and no one was left at our gate, so we just ran straight there and got on the plane, and sat down in bad moods due to all the confusion, and lack of time to stock up on Chinese snacks and make use of our Chinese money before we left BUT WHATEVER!! We landed in Korea, and nearly jumped up and down at the fact that we could use our phones again, as well as Facebook, Youtube and Google, all of which are banned in China. Let me tell you, I had never been happier to be in Korea! I could understand people again! I knew this culture! I knew the language (more or less)! I could communicate! I could use my bank card again! Everything was a million times easier to do in Korea, and I was so happy to hear Korean being spoken everywhere!!! It was wonderful. 🙂 I love Korea.
For a while after we got back, if I would hear Chinese being spoken anywhere, I was like “No stop! I don’t want to hear it!!” Haha. So basically…China was a good experience, but it was really stressful! If I ever go back, I want to go back to Qingdao. If I go anywhere else, I will not go unless I have a tour guide or someone who can navigate for me! When we went to Japan, we were able to navigate around on our own fairly easily, and it was a lot of fun, and an enjoyable adventure. But I don’t know what it was about China that made it SO much harder to travel as foreigners. It was hard! Thus I would be willing to go back to China on a tour or something, but not on my own, no way!
So there you have it. We went there, had many adventures, and came back again. There and back again, China edition. Didn’t see any real dragons though…