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Soundtrack: 'Girl On The Phone' - The Jam

The timetable had suggested that the train from Qingdao to Jinan was due to take six hours.  By checking the names of stations we stopped at en route against the map in my book, it seemed to me that we were going to get there a lot earlier than that, but we then sat for an hour on the outskirts of town before finally rolling into Jinan station.  Not ideal when the crowded second-class carriages on Chinese trains have been designed to be so uncomfortable. 

The hotel I opted for was built into the same building as the station, as you might expect from the Jinan Railway Hotel.  More by luck than judgement, I managed to get the half-price discount that the guidebook suggested was possible, leaving just enough time to head out to find some dinner before bedtime. 

Every time I book a private hotel room in China, my nights are livened up by telephone calls from ladies offering personal services.  This night, the call came didn't come until around 3am.  "No, no, no, it's OK thanks" I replied and ended the call.  After I put the receiver back on the handset and my head on the pillow, I considered what I had just said.  Specifically, I considered that about the last word I had spoken, and possibly the only bit she heard clearly, was "OK".  Sure enough, two minutes later there came a knocking at my door.  Ignoring it didn't make it go away so I had to get up, put on some clothes, open the door, stop the girl rushing straight in and explain that I really didn't was whatever it was that she had to offer. 

In the morning I... actually, I'll start that again.  After a long lie in, in the afternoon, I went for a walk towards the centre of town where I had a look around and was able to procure a new battery for my camera.  The existing one still works, but struggles to make it through a busy day so a backup will double the amount of time I can go without recharging them. 

The only reason to stay in Jinan was to visit the village of Zhujaiyu, which is where I went on Saturday.  A bus for an hour and a half took me to a smaller town from where another bus bounced along rough country roads for forty minutes before getting to the village itself.  On the way, some students started chatting to me.  One of them, a girl who lived in the village called Xiao Ting, offered to guide me around when we arrived. 

The village is partly a Ming-dynasty trip down memory lane (not my memory, obviously) which also gained fame when a well-known Chinese movie was filmed there a few years ago.  The other part of the village is a standard poor farming location.  There is an entrance fee to get into the old bit although the immediate benefit of being with a local guide was that she was able to have a quiet word with the gate staff who let me in for free.  I bought her lunch inside to repay the favour but, over-priced though it was, the saving was still large. 

The village is best described by looking through the photos.  I often notice in China that traditional sights are regularly blighted by modern signs or fire-safety equipment to ruin the photo opportunity and this was true here as well. 

We walked through the streets, passed the houses and up the hill to the small temple overlooking the village.  I had to pay to get in here, but at just Y2, I could hardly complain.  It was a further yuan to swing a log into the large iron bell or to take pictures, which I didn't want to do on the principle of having to pay lots of extras.  Again, Xiao Ting helped out; the woman on duty was a friend of her mother so they chatted for a while, chatted to me and then I was invited to ring the bell for free, which I did with gusto. 

Walking back out, Xiao Ting took me into her home opposite the bus stop to meet her family before the bus arrived.  The only one at home though was the family dog.  It ran towards me giving mixed messages of a wagging tail and vicious growling.  I chose to pay more attention to the growling and made a swift backwards exit while it shadowed me all the way. 

I retraced my route on the buses but was disappointed when the bus to Jinan didn't go all the way to the bus station but instead terminated at some anonymous bus-stop somewhere in the city off the edge of my map.  Having no idea where I was, it took two hours of random walking and getting on buses on the advice of strangers until I finally got home. 


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China - 2nd visit

Qingdao, Jinan, Qufu, Tai'An, Beijing, Pingao, Handan, Zhengzhou, Hangzhou, Nanjing, China