Laizhou - Real China Immersion

Trip Start Mar 11, 2008
Trip End Mar 22, 2008

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Welcome to Laizhou - a real China immersion experience.  We drove to Laizhou on Sunday afternoon.  It was a beautiful drive.  Coming out of Qingdao was an experience as you saw the massive amounts of construction projects that are underway.  In a five minute stretch on the highway outside of Qingdao I counted 70 construction cranes.  I am not sure I even counted them all.  I have included some pictures of some of the construction sites.  The countryside was picturesque.  The smog ever present, visibility is limited to maybe five miles then everything is covered in muck.  There were farm fields of all kinds of vegetables, greenhouses everywhere.  Real quite impressive.  The toll road we were on was one of the bet roads I have ever been on, new modern, and smooth!  If we wonder in America why commodity prices have skyrocketed, this road was evidence, along the road the entire way was a steel guardrail, on both sides, going both directions.  In other words for every mile of road, there was four miles of guardrail.  Now we know why steel prices have gone crazy the last few years.  The law of supply and demand is evident. 

Side road - we then got off of the toll road and headed toward Laizhou (Population about 100,000)  It lies almost directly north of Qingdao close to the Bo Hai Gulf.  Interestingly this city of 100K people is not readily seen on most maps.  I had to really search to find its location.  The area is famous for its granite and marble industry.  There are granite shops everywhere.  Large granite boulders cut from quarries line the road for miles.  There are over 2500 granite processors (Internet info).  I believe it, they are little shed operations to larger crane run operations.  Slabs of marble and granite are everywhere.  There are also thousands of granite statues, again the pictures really tell the tale.

Playing Pool on the street - Laizhou is certainly not the tourist destination of some of the other Chinese cities, not as much history as say Nanjing, or Beijing.  It is apparent when you arrive that westerners are not a common site.  After checking in to the hotel (that is another story) I decided to see some of Laizhou.  So I walked the streets, I was an attraction.  Particularly when I started playing pool on the street.  There were 3 pool tables, games were 15 cents a piece, I stated paying and then invited a young man to play.  He beat me three times.  My excuse was that the pitted balls, the unleveled table, and the crooked pool cue were to blame!  Needless to say we drew a crowd.  After some pool I walked down and bought a Pepsi and some chips.  The pricing disparity is interesting here.  The bottle of Pepsi cost me 4 RMB (60 cents).  Same bottle would have cost 6 (about 90 cents) in a similar shop in Shanghai.  At the Shanghai hotel the had the audacity to charge 28 RMB (4 bucks!) 

Street Shopping - There are many street vendors on the streets, mostly selling food, (scary octopus on a stick), pineapple on a stick, show shiners everywhere, and sun glass vendors.  I decided to buy a few pair.  I selected three pair (Amy I bought two colorful stylish pair for you).  The Chinese language barrier then came into play.  i had no idea how much she wanted for them.  I kind of understood 15 RMB ($2.10/pair).  She made some sign with her fingers about the total.  So I am pulling bills out of my pocket trying to come to an agreement on price, not understanding one word she is saying to me.  About 5 other people get involved and they are saying this and pointing and I am very confused.  Finally we get to an understanding that they are normally 15 a pair, but we settle on 10 RMB a pair ($1.45).  Wow I negotiated a 33% discount on my first street purchase and have no idea how!!

My instant friend - There was a guy on a motorcycle who said "hi".  So I approached him and he wanted to shake my hand.  So I shook his hand, and took a picture of him.  I then waved him into a small shop ( basically a small cramped space with 8 tables, that would make you cringe if you bought food to eat, not exactly a clean place!)and bought him a beer.  He talked to me for ten minutes in Chinese, I have no idea what he said,  we did connect on the two names, Yao Ming (NBA Houston Rockets - He is a hero here his face is on many billboards), and Yi Jing Lin (Milwaukee Buck Player and Chinese National).  He nodded his head and  gave me the thumbs up when I said the Olympics, he demonstrated shot put, discus, and rifle shooting.  Or else he was in the military and was demonstrating rifle shooting, grenade throwing, and bazooka aiming, not sure which!

Food - The food experience has been fun.  I like Chinese food, and it is nothing like what we have in the states, some similarities, but definitely a cultural experience.  I have eaten goose feet (which were translated to us as Goose palms), whole fish, mushrooms of every shape size, texture, and flavor.  More types of green leafy stuff then I ever thought existed, warm lettuce, warm endive lettuce, warm cabbage, seaweed salad, etc. you name it we have had it.  The goose feet in Nanjing were not bad, spicy red pepper broth.  The only issue I had were the small toe bones you had to spit out.  There are 26 bones in the human foot, not sure how many in a goose foot, but there were a lot of bones to spit out!  Last night we had dinner with a supplier here in Laizhou in the hotel restaurant.  They ordered a wide variety of things.  Some cold salads of seaweed and peppers (Didn't care for that one)  There was also a salad of peanuts, peppers, and onions in a sweet type vinegar.  I though they were like garbanzo beans until I bit into one and realized it was a peanut.  That was good.  There were also fried and boiled dumplings with vegetables and meat in them.  They were also very good.  The best two things were the eggplant and the sardines.  The egg pant was fried in a dough with some meat, it was awesome.  The supplier could tell I liked it so I ate my share, they see us as big Americans and do not want us to go hungry!  The sardine was an entire fish (head and tail included) about 8 inches long that had been lightly breaded and fried, they were then set on our plates.  One of the suppliers showed us how to break off the head, and pull out the spine, they had been gutted, then you ate the thing bite by bite.  It was great tasty flaky fish.  I am getting really good with chopsticks.  Most of the Chinese are amazed this is my first trip to China and that I am as adept as I am.  Sushi eating experience!  My goal is to pick up three peanuts with my chopsticks sitting side by side.  That is the sign of true chopstick expertise.  I was trying it last night and they were laughing.

Bathrooms - Hotel bathrooms in the rooms are western.  Bathrooms elsewhere are not.  basically a hole in the floor that you have to aim at.  It didn't help that the restaurant bathroom last night also had been the recipient of a very drunk person who left his mark (puke) all over the bathroom.  My shoes will never be the same!

Cell Phones - Everyone has one, the rings are loud, and extremely obnoxious,  that and the Chinese seem to think that because it is wireless you need to yell into your phone for the other person to hear you.  We were on a very small elevator and a woman on the elevator answered her ringing wonder (some kind of marching band Chinese singer music).  Then she started talking, I guess the oater person was hard of hearing, as I too am now after that experience!

Well enough of the fun.  Hope you enjoyed this in depth summary of my day in Laizhou.  Definitely the most interesting day
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Soheil Soleimani on

Thanks for the text and pix
Good luck
Soheil Soleimani

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