Saturday, 8 October 2011

78. The slow boat to China

China emerged out of the morning fog yesterday after crossing from Incheon on the Korean penninsula and arriving in Qingdao eighteen hours later. The majority of the passengers were traders involved in bringing an eclectic array of items from cartons of Yakult to machined steel pieces across the Yellow Sea. Boarding took a couple of hours and at both ends I was told I couldn't cycle the couple of hundred metres to the boat but would instead have to squeeze onto the overloaded bus with the loaded bicycle. People helped out though and found enough space to part for the bike. Once aboard, most people broke up into small groups playing cards and by ten o'clock lights were out and most drifted off to sleep. Arrival in China was relatively painless. I think I had enough stereotypes of officialdom built up that I fully anticipated a laborious and thorough grilling but instead an almost smiling lady stamped my passport after carefully reviewing it and then I was waved through customs and exempted from having to xray all the gear once again. Marvellous. The first foray around Qingdao proved that alas while people were very friendly and eager to help, like many previous places, they don't like to admit defeat with my alien pronounciations and gesticulations so I was sent on several wild goose chases around the city before I narrowed down the area I was looking for.

Qingdao, an old Germanic concession, whose chief legacy is the internationally famous Tsingtao brewery, is a popular spot for both domestic and foreign tourism with its promenades and sandy beaches. I caught the tail end of Golden week, an important holiday period, when one of the largest annual human migrations takes place as many of the 1.35 billion head on holiday or home to visit family and friends. The first two days have been taken pretty easy, exploring the streets and pots of Qingdao and enjoying the friendly people as well as their impressive ability to overcharge. The variety of food reflects the size and diversity of the country although my appetite was tempered somewhat by an article I read on the boat yesterday about the recycling cooking oil industry in China whereby an estimated ten per cent of all used and discarded cooking oil in the country is rescued from sewers, reprocessed (which I am not sure what that means), and then sold back at bargain prices to restaurants and food stalls. The Great Fire Wall also seems to be blocking access to my regular blog site so updates have to be sent unedited and pictureless via email for the moment. Thanks for perservering.

Qingdao, China
Pedalled: 50,786 km

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