Thursday, 16 June 2011

Qingdao (22nd of September)

Priority No. 1 in Qingdao was of course getting our ticket out of here and into South Korea, with a glimmer of hope that we might be able to catch our freighter. An American popping into our room the night before had got his ticket, which meant that at least there had been a few spaces left. Ignoring his warning that the ticket office would be closed and buoyed slightly by the fact that all the shops were open, although not the banks, we set off to walk there. In the Swatch shop Jenny managed to get the free bit for her watch that she needed. It looks like the people of Qingdao actually repair their watches whereas Shanghai folk just buy another strap or watch. We took a look down an alley lined with tourist stalls selling starfish, cooked fish, more dried fish, crabs, sea urchins with some white gunk inside them and a bucket of huge lugworms all squirming around, which made me feel rather itchy. Alongside this loads of shells could be purchased and there was a man making the grass creatures we’d seen in Fenghuang, only his were cheaper.

Walking on we found ourselves in the middle of another road building site, where houses had been torn down to make way for it and there was the kind of traffic mayhem that is considered the norm in Ulanbataar. There were plenty of German looking buildings, German names and Weihnhandels as we reached ‘Guanto Strasse’. It was all very clean and it came as a bit of a shock to walk the rest of the way through the dirty streets just below with dust blowing into our eyes. Thinking we needed to walk towards the sea we tried to get past an official looking man and a barrier, but he wouldn’t let us through and produced no response when we repeated the name of the ferry company. The Chinese were streaming through the barrier, yet he didn’t seem to care. Further up the road there was another barrier leading to the port that we couldn’t get to without a pass, where once more lots of people were just passing through. Two westerners are easier to stop, so we had no choice but to head back along the road. We’d realised that we’d got carried away anyway and had walked far too far.

We did find the ticket office looking rather deserted except for the security guard sitting by the door and two weary looking Koreans sprawled on one of the benches. Just in case someone was actually working we walked towards the desks and in a moment of ingenuity Jenny decided that we should see if there was anything on the computer screens at the desks. One computer was on, but I was too ready to accept that this was just the Chinese wasting more energy. However the security guard came over, called someone from the back room and we actually got tickets for Friday (no ferry before that due to the festival)!

Our real work in Qingdao was done and now we could leisurely munch on hawthorn sticks and walk back to the hostel. The people seemed far more relaxed than those in Shanghai and everyone seemed happy, perhaps it was because of the moon festival or maybe it’s just being in Qingdao. From the hostel we caught the bus to the Carrefour supermarket, despite it being even worse than Tescos, but sometimes it just nice to have some ‘normal’ food. Looked like the day off work was the day to shop and we were far from alone. It definitely wasn’t peaceful in there though, with quite a scrum around the moon cakes, alcoholic beverages, bananas and apples.

Glad to be outside we walked along the coast for quite a stretch. The holiday was obviously the occasion for a walk along the seafront for the Chinese too. There were a great many cartoon characters or warriors trying to get people to take pictures with them. But Mickey Mouse was so hot and tired in his costume that all he could do was drag his feet along the ground and look glum. Crowds would gather round men who were fishing for swordfish with nets, which they would throw into the sea upon seeing some movement. Although we found ourselves thinking at times that we weren’t in China anymore (due to the slightly European feel to the place and blue skies) we were bumped back down to earth when we got requests for more pictures with Chinese people.

It was really nice to walk next to and just see the sea, something we hadn’t been able to do for almost two months since we left Estonia behind. The sun took a long time setting and there was a beautiful glow. We happened across what looked like a photo shoot or possibly wedding photos, although there were quite a lot of teams taking pictures that it didn’t seem like it was for a wedding. Out on the sea we could see a lot of freighters waiting to come in to Qingdao port and we would quite liked to have been able to just get on a freighter here.

Our tickets purchased, the full moon was looking very pretty in the pink evening sky and I was at last ready to appreciate the moon again and let the Chinese celebrate it too. The evening definitely had that exciting Christmas Eve feeling to it with the streets emptying, people getting on to buses clutching bags of mooncakes or alcohol and a few people going out to eat.

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