Chicken Busin' on the Yellow River + Beijing
Trip Start Aug 19, 2012
19Trip End Ongoing
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Despite the large amount of people buying cars these days, Chinese still don't seem to do road trips in the sense that we would in the Midwest. If a journey is more than an hour or so, they hop on the train. Now that doesn't mean it's always convenient, and over this holiday, and pretty much every other major holiday, if you don't get your tickets in advance there's a good chance you're not going anywhere. When I say packed I'm talking like sardines. The trains, the stations, the airports, it's even hard to get a cab on both weekends surrounding the 'off' week
I met her at the fast train station in Jinan, where we stayed for a day. Then we headed out to visit her "aunt & uncle" who are actually the aunt & uncle of one of her students, but she teaches grad school kids in their early to middle twenties, so the ages are appropriate for them to host us as we're only a few years older than her students. Anyhow, these people live in a tiny little town called Gaoqing, to the northeast of Jinan, but only about 50 miles. Despite the closeness of the destination, it took us half the day to get there and we had to take two different buses. The second bus was reminiscent of Ye Ole Chicken Buses of Guatemala, dirty & slow and not somewhere you'd expect to find a foreigner. In any case, we arrived in time, and promptly bought return tickets, to avoid being trapped by Aunt & Uncle and pressured into extending our stay.
It ended up being great, after a few odd hours sitting in their new "house" or apartment as we call it in the west, while every one else bustled around us getting the place set up, we were whisked away to a fantastic dinner which combined the giant lazy susan style dinner table with individual little hot pots
The next day we ended up being driven all the way back to Jinan, to get us back in time for our imaginary train to Beijing. But it was great; they took a scenic road that doubled as a dike to keep back the ever flooding Yellow River. So the trip back was very nice, and I ended up napping part of it.
One extra day in Jinan and then we were indeed on our way to Beijing. Nearly missed the train, but what fun trip doesn't start with running headlong through a train station some where in the world.
Beijing was nuts, and I'm supremely glad I'm not in one of the big three cities. You've got to budget at least an hour to get anywhere even though they have a large modern subway and bus system
On our second day, instead of tempting fate and ludicrous crowds at the Great Wall, we toured a bit more of Beijing, stopping off at Tienanmen Square and then going to some other neat places my friend recommended including another "traditional" food street and dinner at a famous Peking Duck restaurant. That was a great meal, and it was really cool to have the guy come out in his chef whites and carve up the duck right at our table side. I took video of him doing it. It took less than 2 minutes to slice and dice the whole thing.
The journey back was mercifully uneventful, and I'm really starting to like the availability of trains here in China, even on crazy travel weekends. On my return to Jinan I elected to just take the bus to the central train station which is about 2 miles from my school and walk back; the perfect decompression time before starting work again on Monday, mischief managed. I was spent.