Mountain Lao Shan in Qingdao – Secret messages in the bamboo forrest

After a weekend tour in Qingdao city, the last weekend of my first stay in China was about to end in a visit of Mountain Lao Shan.

The mountain is located a few miles north-east of Qingdao and can be reached via bus. You can also take a taxi, which will cost you around 100RMB (Insist on metering!). The ride takes about an hour and brings you to a small town beneath the mountain. From there you can either take another bus up to the main gate, or you can walk the way.

 

 

I was there with a colleague and two of her friends and we decided not to take the bus and walk up the mountain instead. I later found out, that the bus would have cost us something around 1-2$ per person, but then it was too late. Also, there is a cable car that will take you to the mountaintop almost all year round.

Mount Lao is embedded into the Laoshan mountain range and reaches only about 1200m high. The mountain range itself seems massive though and if you stand on top of the mountain, the rocks seem to stretch forever in sight. The whole range consists mainly of granite and has a yellowish color.

The walk up to the top of the mountain starts on solid roads and stays that way, if you like it to. If you want to, you can move away from the streets though and find alternate paths up.  Most visitors take the bus anyways and I would suggest to do that too.

Mountain Lao is a magical place and here is where some of the Taoist theories have been created, like Quanzhen – the school of complete perfection – and the area has been home to hundreds of monks at some time in the past. There are various temples around, like the temple of supreme purity, Yakou temple and the temple of great purity.

The chinese tourist board has created a list of scenic spots around mountain Lao.

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Qingdao

Qingdao – That beery little city on China’s east coast, Prost!

The city is located in the north-east of China, in Shandong province, about 600km south of Beijing. It’s inhabited by some 8 million people and is one of the major cities of the province. In the early 1900s, during the first world war, the Germans occupied the city and we did what we do best: Bring regularity to things, sweet sweet Struktur!

So what the Hanses and Brunhildes of that time did, was to bring concrete housing, a sewer system and electrification to the town of Tsingtao. That is how Qingdao was called back then. And because they wanted it – didn’t need it! – they also built a brewery. Prost!

Tsingtao Brewery Co.,Ltd. today is the second largest brewery in all of China and exports to over 50 countries, including Germany! The initial funding was 400.000 mexican silver dollars, by the way…

All in all, Qingdao is probably a good way to ease into the chinese culture. It is quite open and it’s culture is international but you can also see all the typical chinese things that you’d expect from a journey halfway around the world.

Things to do in Qingdao

When in town, there are plenty of things to do. I was able to spend one weekend exploring the city together with two locals and  here is what we did…

Walking along the coast

Qingdao is located at the yellow sea, on the south-east corner of the Jiaozhou bay. You can follow the coastline from the city centre, marked with the red Wind of May sculpture, towards the west. After some miles we reached some of the beaches, where you can swim and surf in the summer. The beaches are beautiful in autumn and winter too though, given some clouds and good lighting the scenery can be pretty amazing.

Beethoven sculpture in Qingdao Beach Qingdao

Beach Qingdao Beach Qingdao

Located nearby is a small island which is home to a lighthouse, called Xiaoqing Dao. The scenerey is beautiful and you can see parts of the city as well as the ocean and the other side of the bay to the south. Next to the island, there is a junkyard for old military airplanes, boats, weapons and a submarine.

Huashi villa

Half way between the lighthouse and Qingdao city centre, you can find a small little castle, located directly in front of the ocean. The Huashi villa was built in the 1930s by a russian aristocrat, aiming to resemble a German castle. Later it was owned by a british business man and after that by the government. Today it is open for tourists to visit and enjoy the 360°C view around the tower.

Huashi Villa

Zhongshan Park, -Zoo and the Zhanshan Temple

About two km west of Wusi square, you will find  Zhongshan park, the main park of Qingao. The park is bigger than it looks on the map, you can easily walk in it for hours without actually seeing a spot twice. There are sculptures of Chinese leaders like Sun Yat-sen, who is reknown to be the founder of modern China. Within the park you can find many small places that sell street food, but unlike on my trip to Brazil there were no coconuts to be purchased. Since Qingdao is located at the sea, the snacks are ocean-inspired: Squid-on-a-stick!

 

On the western corner of the park you can find the Qingdao zoo. Although it is a small zoo, they have over a hundred species to display and among them many typical chinese animals. You can find bears, red pandas, tigers and lions. You can see the chinese badger and milus. There is a house for primates and a small terrarium. It is worth to visit the zoo, I assume, because the conditions are far from perfect. It seemed to my like every cent they can earn helps.

On the other side of the park you will find Zhanshan temple. Although it may look ancient on the pictures, the temple was built in 1945 and is until today a buddhist sanctuary. You can find several buildings, among them buddhist scripture shops for Buddhist supplies. Other buildings include heavenly king hall, the hall of Sakyamuni which is an active place of prayer, the hall of three saints and the main preaching hall. In the hall of the recumbent buddha you can find a huge statue behind an altar. No pictures inside the halls please!

 

The monks welcomed us in a friendly way and we were allowed to walk freely inside their premises. We were able to witness morning prayers, school for young buddhists and ringin of the bells.

Dancing Walzer at the sailing center

In 2008 the olympics took place in China and Qingdao was the main spot for all sailing competitions. The port is quite big and the promenade is filled with small restaurants and shopping venues. We were there in the evening to witness something that seems to be quite popular in China: People dancing Walzer on the street. There were about 8-10 couples in the sailing center, a ghettoblaster and a guide to coordinate the dancers. Some couples came in evening dresses and some just in plain street clothes. Some couples were same-sex, one couple had been married for nearly 50 years.

The mountain and the temple

…will be the content of the next article about China.

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That one time I didn’t say no to travel to China

I always rejected even the thought of going to China. When I was young enough for it to be a distant future prospect of travelling, yet old enough to know that – from what I heard – their political structure is incompatible with too many of my beliefs.

Only one month after my trip to Brazil, the chance to fly to China emerged and not one doubt crossed my mind to take it! Here’s the beginning of that journey…

Spitting old men and soup turtles

My real first impression of China was a can of Coke at Beijing airport with mandarin letters on it. Everything else was nearly the same as in many other airports.

Beijing airport dragon sculpture

Beijing airport dragon sculpture

My personal first impressions, those that lasted, where the following:

When I came to Qingdao, a city located around 600km south-east of Beijing, I took a Taxi from the airport to my hotel. We were traveling some 50-60 minutes and it cost me less then the taxi from start to end of Torstraße in Berlin. Since it was late at night, I just checked into my – given, very stereotypical – hotel with a small room but large mirrors everywhere. The next morning I went into my companies‘ building, where all the floors where marble in the reception. In front of me, an old Chinese man walked into the building and after snuffling passionately he spat on the floor like there was no tomorrow. A cannonball of yuck, fired onto the ground.

No problem though. A cleaning guy came out of the corner, wiped it away and there… good as new!

Qingdao, China

Qingdao, China

5 blinks of an eye later I found myself in front of the elevators and although everybody was already eagerly waiting for those vehicles, all hell broke loose only when they actually arrived. It took me three attempts that morning to fight my way into an elevator only to not be able to push the right button and ride it twice.

The rest of my working day was remarkably uneventful. Besides lunch, nothing unusual and even that was pretty normal Chinese food. In a mall. That smelled.

In the late evening, I took a walk around the hotel and came by a Jusco supermarket (Yeah, Jusco, not Tesco 😉 ). When I walked through the entry door I noticed fish tanks right around the corner and buckets that were filled with turtles. ‚How nice‘, I thought to myself:’They sell pets in supermarkets here!‘. I took me a few seconds to realise, that those were meant for soup, not for kids.

China Qingdao Turtles

China Qingdao Turtles

Chinese dinner

Chinese dinner

When I fell into my clinically clean sheets that evening, I couldn’t help thinking about how dirty and smelly and strange everything else around me was that day. And what the next days would have in stock for me…

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