Frustrating ferry stories

Trip Start Aug 09, 2010
Trip End Feb 01, 2012

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Flag of China  , Shandong,
Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hiya everyone

We're still on the boat to China and clearly we're feeling a lot more productive than we have been in the past 4 weeks. So we're likely to inundate you with updates about our travels. 

Our next destination after Xian was Qingdao (pronounced Ching Dao) which was a 24hour train ride away. I was looking forward to the journey as over the past 3 months I've fallen in love with train travel, especially long distance journeys like the one we were about to take.
I love the feeling of being in a small compartment with not much to do except look out of the window, read books or chat. Especially for someone like me who suffers from the 'need-to-be-constantly-doing-something-itus'. A long train journey forces us to slow down whether we like it or not. And once I'd slowed down I realised I liked it quite a fair bit! 

Mind you after the morning I'd had in Xian I could definitely do with a little R&R. We had heard through the grapevine that there was this special ticket we could buy to travel from Korea to Japan that combined boat and train travel in both countries for a fraction of the price. I was determined to get it even though my search so far had not been too promising. After many hours on the web I came across a page on a website that actually gave instructions on how to book the ticket. The process clearly made you work for the money you would be saving. I spent the morning calling various places in Korea and Japan to try and book various trains and the main boat, communicating with people whose language I did not speak. I was calling through Skype and to add to the challenge the internet kept going down and cutting me off mid-conversation. I'd then have to call back and try to explain what I was looking for once more. By the end of it I was ready to screaaaaaaaammmmmmm but at least I'd made some progress.

I was quite excited about Qingdao. Our guide book described it as a lovely port town with loads of restaurants lining the roads between beaches and ice-cream parlours a plenty. I imagined lunching on freshly caught bar-b-q'd fish whilst looking out at the open sea. Sometimes the guide book gets it wrong, sometimes the reality is far removed from our imagination.

Our arrival in Qingdao was probably the most challenging we've had so far. Our first task as always was to get to our hostel. We tried to get a taxi but none of them would take us. We couldn't understand why, no one really bothered to explain, they just waved us off and attended to the next person waiting in the queue. As we got more and more frustrated one taxi actually rammed into Paul and hit his backpack! Luckily he didn't get hurt but MY. OH. MY. My protective instinct kicked in in full force. I slammed on the car's bonnet and was ready to throttle the driver. Even though he couldn't understand a single word I was saying I'm sure the mad look in my eyes told him to beware. He got out of the car but one look at this mad western woman made him decide to get back in and drive off, quickly! Full of adrenalin we decided to walk to our hostel - a thirty minute uphill walk carrying our backpacks that had us huffing and puffing and ready to collapse. At least we were pleasantly surprised when we got to our hostel. It was a lovely clean place that had once been a church, with a great common room and beds going for 2.50 a night! What a bargain.
We recovered for a while and then made our way to the port to buy our boat tickets to Korea as we were heading there in 2 days time. You'd think it would be quite easy to find the port - just head towards the sea - but it took us forever to find the bloody thing. Once we got there we found out that their machines had crashed and they weren't even able to tell us if there were 
tickets available let alone sell us some. They gave us a number to call and as we were trying to figure out how much money to put into the pay phone a lovely guy come up to us and offered us his phone. How nice is that?! Unfortunately the actual call didn't get us anywhere as their pc's were also out of service.

By this point P and I decided that the day was clearly not working out in our favour and that we'd best spend the rest of it chilling out on the beach so we tried to catch a cab there. Armed with our Chinese word for beach 'haitan' we flagged down a taxi and confidently told him where to take us. Alas once again our request was met with a shrug and the driver setting off without us. Three attempts later we managed to get someone to understand us, and off we went to the beach woo hoo!! 

As soon as we got there we went in search of the lovely restaurants we'd read about, but all we found were a couple of dingy dirty shacks that put us off eating even in our hungry state. It seemed that the beach season was over and everywhere was  closed down. We eventually did find a place that didn't look like it could permanently damage our health and stopped there for a bite to eat. We tried to decifer the Chinese menu but eventually gave up and asked for pork and chicken and waited in anticipation to see what part of the animals we'd get. The waiter was so engrossed in the TV programme  he was watching that he forgot half of our order. At least when the food arrived it was pretty good and normal, with no legs or brain in sight. 

We spent the rest of the day lying on the beach watching the tide come in. A perfect respite from a tough day. 

Later that night we made a second attempt to find the glorious restaurants that had been recommended. Our second attempt produced results that were just as dismal and we ended up going into what looked like a Chinese fast food chain. The food was so bad that we couldn't eat it so we cut our losses, left it there and walked to the Mac D's round the corner. There are
times when a Big Mac with fries can taste just like heaven. This was one of them, and we weren't even drunk!!

The next day we woke up to the news that we could not get tickets from Qingdao to South Korea as they had sold out. We were determined to leave that Friday and after a bit of research we found out that another boat left on the same day from a different town Yantai which is about four hours away from Qingdao With the help of the staff in our hostel we managed to get through to Yantai port who assured us that there were loads of tickets available for the ferry the following day and all we had to do was turn up and buy the tickets. We were not guaranteed a ticket but it was the best option we had. We were so knackered too as there was another guy in our dorm snoring his head off. What is it with the world? There are so many snorers! The rest  of the day was spent at the 2.5km beach which was lovely. It is just a shame that we missed the season in Qingdao as I can imagine that it would be good fun. Oh well, we have plenty of beaches to come in South East Asia.  

The next day we were at the train station in Qingdao at 05:20 A.M.! That is not a misprint. We got the 4 hour train journey to Yantai and were planning to walk to the port as it looked very close to the train station according to our map. Of course it was not go plain sailing. (No pun intented) As soon as we got out of the train station the usual leeches were  there offering us all kinds of services. One guy in particular was a mare and would not take no for an answer. It took the kindness of a stranger (yet again) to help us. He drove us to the ferry terminal free of charge. It was so so nice of him to do. I waited outside while Karen went in to get the tickets. She came out really frustrated. For a second i thought that they had sold out of the tickets but it turned out to be a problem with Karen's Maltese passport. I fear this problem will come up again. So we had to wait hours at the terminal before we knew we even had tickets. Luckily with perseverance and patience we managed to purchase two tickets to South Korea. Woo hoo! The boat had been quite plush in her time but these had long gone and she was now a bit rough around the edges, still she did us proud. It was great to be sailing and to just sit on deck and look at the yellow sea as it is known as. The last stretch of ocean we crossed was the English channel on the Eurostar back on 9th August. We feel quite chuffed that we have reached South Korea without using a plane. 

South Korea. A country that was not on our original itinerary but proved to be a revelation but more on that in our next installment!

Bye bye,

Karen & Paul xxx
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Tukkie on

Another wonderful update :)
Looking forward to the next instalment...
Be safe and have fun guys! XXX

mom on

Once again fab reading,so happy you are with that mad western woman love you both

Dean on

Hi to you both... bit worried about you Paul and this train thing! watch out you don't get a mack and flask for Crimbo. Love the photo with "poop deck" must smell horendous, still no flies round you two!!

Keep them coming, be safe love from us all XXX

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