On our second visit to China, we stuck more to the big cities of the north: Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Beijing. These were very different than our stay in the more rugged, rural south. Of course, there is plenty to see in the north of China, including some of the most iconic and historic places the country has to offer. Here are some closing thoughts on the second half of our jaunt through China.
Top three experiences?
- Visiting the Great Wall. One of the best parts of our entire trip.
- Relaxing in the city of Qingdao, my favorite city in China.
Walking along the Bund in Shanghai.
- Walking on the Great Wall
- Qingdao. With the ridiculously cheap beer, good food, and relaxed atmosphere, this was my favorite city in China.
- Olympic Park in Beijing. The Bird’s Nest is an amazing sight, and just seeing it brought back memories of the 2008 Olympics, which was a really good one. It’s getting me excited for this year’s Olympics, which we’ll be in Italy for.
Bottom three experiences?
- Getting stuck in traffic on a crowded bus in Hangzhou.
- Dealing with Chinese cab drivers. I’ve decided that, as a whole, they are terrible people.
- The usual “China annoyances,” e.g., spitting, staring, pushing, smoking, etc.
- Our first day in Hangzhou. I was excited to see West Lake, but after an hour bus ride to the west bus station, another hour standing on a city bus to get to the train station, stuck in traffic, then waiting 30 minutes at the train station to buy tickets, I was in a very bad mood. The weather was hazy and cloudy, and then it was a couple hours back to Lin’an, where the taxi drivers refused to take us across town so we had to walk.
- The big Chinese cities. They’re very noisy, crowded, and dirty. The people didn’t seem especially nice either, especially compared to the people in Yunnan.
- Public buses in cities. (See #1 above.) Knowing where the buses go is difficult, especially since there’s no English on the announcements or signs. Plus the bus stops are very far apart, sometimes about a kilometer, so it’s hard to know where the bus even stops or what route it’s taking without having taken it before.
Nikki: The donkey burgers we ate in Beijing.
Brad: At a small market in Qingdao: a tortilla-like thing with an egg, which is wrapped around chicken, spicy sauce, and lettuce. With a bag of Tsingtao beer for 25 cents. Then a pastry pocket filled with spicy chicken. And finished with a couple bite-sized cream puffs for dessert. All that for under five US dollars, both of us.
Nikki: Our chicken gristle dinner on Tai Shan.
Brad: Dinner up on Taishan. There was barely any edible meat in the chicken bones and it was very expensive. We also think the overpriced beer didn’t have any alcohol in it.
Favorite person we met?
Nikki: Once again we were lucky to meet so many nice people through Couchsurfing. I’ll say Sofie because she showed us the donkey burgers.
Brad: We met some really cool people in China. Since Julie was my answer for Southern China, I’d have to say Sofie and Leo who took us out to donkey burgers in Beijing.
Nikki: None that I can think of.
Brad: Nothing disastrous this time around, fortunately.
Favorite place we stayed?
Nikki: Our hostel in Qingdao. It was older and didn’t have the nicest facilities, but it was a fun place to hang out.
Brad: Kiyuae in Qingdao. It has a good bar/restaurant, and the prices weren’t outrageous. It’s also in a perfect location.
Worst place we stayed?
Nikki: The hotel on the summit of Tai Shan.
Brad: Our room up on Taishan. The bathroom was disgusting. Honorable mention to the hostel in Tai’an, which was overrun by hoards of mosquitoes.
Best thing we didn’t blog about?
Nikki: Seeing the Bird’s Nest and the Cube from the 2008 Olympics! I loved watching the Beijing Olympics and visiting the stadiums was really cool. It was one of my favorite parts of Beijing–I can’t believe I forgot to mention it in my blog post!
Brad: Huixin took us swimming in a pond in Lin’an. The water was so fresh and clear, and the surroundings were rugged and beautiful. After Shanghai it felt great to get back to a bit of nature again.
Nikki: On one of the overnight trains, the sound of a camera woke me up. When I opened my eyes, some Chinese girl had her camera phone shoved right in my face. I gave her a “WTF?” look and she pulled the camera away, but she kept on staring at me. I’m just wondering what on earth she’s going to do with that picture. Put it in a scrapbook? “And here’s me in front of West Lake, oh and here’s a blonde girl sleeping on a train…”
Brad: The creatures on sticks in Beijing. We saw crickets, silk worms, giant spiders, scorpions still kicking, sheep penis, baby sharks, sea urchins, centipedes, and even sea horses. I didn’t see anyone actually eating this stuff, so maybe it’s just there for the tourists’ shock and spectacle.
Statistics for China, Part 2
Statistics for the Trip