Jinan - some (hopefully useful) information
Trip Start Oct 19, 2007
104Trip End Jan 23, 2011
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Yes, Jinan is called the City of Springs. The most famous is Baotuquan. It was named by emperor somebodyerother "the first spring under heaven". It even has a beer named after it, which for a pleb like me who is much more interested in Chinese pop culture and modern history than 5000 years of mostly imperial stuff (unless there are fortifications involved because fortifications make anything lovely), is a significant point
If you go far enough along the river thing you will make it to the Jiefang Liberation Pavillion, also free. It is an impressive-looking walled tower thing to remember the day when the PLA defeated the KMT in the Battle of Jinan (1948). Over the years, Jinan has seen a lot of fighting, from the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, Japanese invasion to civil war. The memorial, plus the springs and willows which lean over the water make this one of the prettier spots in Jinan on the right day
OK, so this isn't a sight, it's a restaurant, but it is in between Black Tiger Spring and Daming Lake, so... on the east side of Quancheng Road and Heihuquan Road there is a bridge over the river. On the south-east corner of the bridge is a little monument and behind it is an excellent fish restaurant. I grew up eating sea fish, so I am not a big fan of river fish, but this restaurant serves the best fish I've had in China. Ask for "kaoyu" or just point at the great metallic cooking things on other tables. Beware, like anywhere else in China, the fish comes complete with head (including eyes, blah), tail and bones, but it is definitely worth the trouble. It costs around 40 RMB which is a bit pricy but it is enormous and delicious so worth the price. They have lots of other dishes too and are well-known for their rice porridge (zhou). For vegetables I like their wawacai (like long baby cabbage).
I'm ashamed to say I haven't actually been to Thousand Buddha Mountain. I have been to Hero Mountain though, which is south of the old stadium (on Jingshi Road) and close to the cultural markets that are big on Saturdays. Again, it is free. There is a museum (free, but you aren't allowed in with slippers, thongs or grubby clothes and there isn't any English information inside, although there are a lot of guns) and a cemetery on the west side of the park, as well as lots of paths up to a column on one of the hills and a couple of pagodas
Jinan's airport is a LONG way from the city. It should take you about 120RMB to get to the city by cab, unless you arrive at night, in which case you are at the mercy of the cab drivers and could pay anything. Seriously, I knew one unsuspecting foreigner who paid 600 RMB for a lovely trip around the countryside. If you can speak Chinese, it would be better to talk with some other passengers (hopefully locals) and share a cab to the city together. Otherwise take the airport express.
During the day, the airport bus will deposit you at the train station (which also has a long distance bus station). At night it will drop you off at the Yuquan Simpson Hotel, 68 Luoyuan Dajie west of the Sofitel and Silver Plaza, near the south-east corner of Quancheng Square
In my opinion, Jinan's train station is not a nice one to arrive at. The exit is chaotic, people often don't bother to line up at the taxi stand which can make getting a cab a complete nightmare unless there is an attendant around. At night time some of the taxis will refuse to take you if you are going somewhere close by, or they will try to negotiate a price instead of going by the meter. Demand that the meter is put on and ask for a receipt. If it turns out you get ripped off badly and a nice Chinese person is willing to help you out, there is a government number that can be called to report it (the taxi number is on the receipt) and if you are lucky, you will get a refund
If you want to buy train tickets, you can do it at the train station itself at the ticket entrance, which is to the left of the entrance for the trains or (if you are in the area, or just want to avoid the lines) go to Yuquan Simpson Hotel (68 Luoyuan Dajie). On the first floor at the back of the lobby there is a travel agent that sells airplane tickets (both domestic and international) and train tickets. You must pay cash for train tickets. They also have quite nice toilets which is nothing to scoff at.
A note on deciphering train tickets which (except for the departure and destination points) are entirely in Chinese and might be confusing to some. In the middle up the top is the train number which is what you are going to have to look at to find out (on the overhead information boards) which waiting room in the train station you will leave from. The next line has the year, month and day of departure, the time it leaves (note for most trains you can get on the train 15-30 minutes before it leaves, but they will lock the doors about 5 minutes before departure), then the car number, followed by the seat number (or bed number if it is a sleeper)
Local buses are usually 1 or 2 RMB depending on whether or not they are air conditioned. They are cheap and go all over the place but are slow because the traffic in Jinan is really bad. They are also usually really crowded.
There are long distance bus stations in different places around the city for reasons which elude me, but for most places you can probably just go to the station across the road from the train station or the main bus station (changtu qiche zongzhan) on Jiluo Road (north of the train tracks)
Jinan is big on dumplings of the boiled variety (jiaozi or shuijiao). They have all kinds of fillings, both meat and vegetarian. BBQ is also huge, especially when the weather is stinking hot. Locals gather at street-side BBQ joints which have little tables and stools. You can order what you want or just wait because the waiters will generally just dump stuff on the metal tray on your table. If you don't want something they try to dump on you object vigorously and they won't give you any. Given that BBQ joints serve all kinds of internal organs, gristle and icky stuff like sheep eyes (seriously, a bunch of sheep eyes on a skewer), it is worth paying close attention to what is on offer! The bill is worked out by counting the skewers left over from the stuff that you actually ate (don't ask what happens to the other skewers that don't get eaten!) and each skewer is about 3-5 jiao (10 jiao = 1 RMB) or more if they are bigger or twisty skewers. As well as meat they have yummy flat bread, baked mantou (a kind of steamed bread which is skewered, sprinkled with seasoning then barbecued), steamed peanuts and peas
The last important detail about BBQ is you can try the local zhapi, dodgy beer which is poured out of a green carton into a big glass. It is cheap and good for washing down BBQ but gives a nasty headache if you drink too much of it. The green carton contains about 10 big glasses of beer for about 13-15 RMB, although you can buy by the glass. Make sure your glass is clean and free of lip prints from previous drinkers. If you are worried about the glasses you can buy other beers by the bottle (usually Qingdao, Laoshan, or Baotuquan). If you are worried about getting a headache, some places have silver coloured barrel/carton things which are more expensive. If you happen to be in the very south of the city, there is a good (not to mention huge) BBQ joint east of the University of Jinan (west campus) called Xin Wang Shaokao (red sign on Langmaoshan Rd, on the K94 bus route about 20 minutes south-west of the old stadium, past the southern branch of RT-Mart). But really, in summer there are BBQ joints everywhere. In winter they tend to turn into hotpot restaurants.
There are lots of noodle joints (about 4-10 RMB depending on what is in the dish, Lanzhou-style lamian shops or mixian (rice noodle) stalls are probably the most common) and snack stalls around (Shandong's jianbing, or fried pancakes, are particularly good), but if you want to sit down and have a proper meal, most Chinese restaurants are cheap and will have the following standards
Fried egg and tomato (xihongshi chaojidan)
Sour spicy potato strips (suan la toudousi)
Spicy fried eggplant (fengwei qiezi)
Bokchoy and mushroom (xianggu youcai)
** Garlic oat leaves (suanrong youmaicai) AKA the amazingly delicious mysterious green vegetable, don't be put off by the odd name
Sweet and sour pork (tangcu liji)
Deep fried pork (ganzha liji)
Eggplant, potato and capsicum in oyster sauce (di san xian)
Sizzling beef (tieban niurou)
Stir fried spicy clams (lachao huaga)
Cabbage and pork (laochu baicai)
Spicy chicken pieces (gongbao jiding)
Potato and beef stew (tudou shao niurou), yummy in winter
Beans (ganbian yundou)
The list is endless
Special recommendation - For something different, try the Xinjiang restaurant, 34 Jingshiyi Road to the west of the old stadium. They have all kinds of hearty goodies like flat bread with mutton (nang bao rou), spicy stewed chicken served with belt (really broad) noodles (da pan ji) and good noodles (try la tiaozi for a Xinjiang classic, or the cute iddy biddy noodles that look like hole-less macaroni - dingding chao mian). The restaurant has won awards. They also sell Xinjiang beer (although I like the Harbin beer they sell a lot better)
Jenny's (on Lishan Rd near the south-west corner of the intersection of Lishan Road and Wenhua Road) serves pizza, pasta, burgers and the like. They also have a little shop next door called U-mart selling lots of Western groceries and alcohol. Personally, I think Pine Cone (Songguo) at 103 Wenhua Dong (East) Road (almost opposite Shandong Normal University) is better food-wise. They don't do burgers, but they have stuff like pasta, risotto, pizza, steaks, salad, soups (pumpkin!) and a good atmosphere. They have an excellent lunch special.
For those who love to have wine with their meal if at all possible, Jenny's, Pine Cone and Pizza Hut (old Stadium has a branch) all serve wine, both red and white (Jenny's has many kinds, Pine Cone has French and Chilean, Pizza Hut has just Chilean but in my opinion was the tastiest for the price at 118 RMB per bottle), but for a bottle you are probably looking at between 90 and 160 RMB
There is a nice Thai Restaurant on Foshan Street. It's a bit pricy, but the toilets are beautiful. The toothpick holders look like little pink condoms, which is a bit disconcerting. There is an excellent Korean restaurant called Keliya at 46 Chaoshan Street (actually it is slightly off down an alleyway on the left, not on the main street) very close to the Yuquan Simpson Hotel. There are lots of Korean restaurants in the area, but I think Keliya is the best. Their kimchi soup is delicious. All mains come with 4 side dishes, 8 side dishes if there is more than one person.
OK, there are more than this, these are just a few that I actually don't loathe. Oscar's (Yanshan Lijiaoqiao, dongbei jiao, in the park on the north east corner under the mess of overpasses at the intersection of Erhuan Dong Road and Jingshi Road) is good because you can sit at trestle tables outside. They have big screens for sport. Happy hour is before 9pm
While there are actually quite a few cafes around Jinan, most are over-priced and the coffee isn't too crash hot either. Frankly, the cheapest drinkable coffee is at either Macdonald's or KFC. KFC also does a fairly nice iced coffee. Rosemary Caffé is excellent for atmosphere. It is north of Quancheng Road, on Xianxi Lane in Quanlefang (a ritzy looking cool mall thing around the corner from KFC on Quancheng Road). The Chinese address is 历下区县西巷9号泉乐坊123A商铺(近泉城路). The coffee at Yame (Yuquan Simpson Hotel) is cheap, but weak.
U-mart has lots of Western goodies (Lishan Road, on the south-west corner of Lishan and Wenhua Roads)
The nearby RT-mart also has lots of imported goods (Western and Korean stuff rivals Jenny's) as well as some foreign wines, beers, cheese, salami and cheap baguettes (don't worry, no sugar).
Cakes and stuff
Yame Bakery (Yuquan Simpson Hotel, first floor) has baguettes, snack things, cakes, coffee and teas.
On Luoyan Dajie, one block west of Yame there is a little shop selling egg custard tarts of various kinds which are both cheap and delish.
You will find most things you need at Watsons. For women looking for tampons, you can buy OB at Watsons and RT-Mart.
The information listed above is by no means complete, just an attempt to be helpful. If anybody reads this and wants to add some advice about Jinan, go ahead and leave a comment.