Less folk at Qingdao train station means less queuing through ticket and security checks this morning. We follow our train number through huge corridors to the cavenous south waiting room. I don’t know when china started to build their rail infrastructure but it is impressive. With English signs it’s easy to understand and simple to use. The facilities are first class with water dispensers, cleaned toilets and a host of food and drink outlets. Despite the tempting photo, I forgo the opportunity to enjoy the pleasures of Doner King.
The train seems more high tech than the last one and we peak at 303 kph. The experience seems more Asian though. The guy sat in front slurps his tea at a volume I wouldn’t have thought possible. People scream down their mobiles. The lady across from us spends the four hour journey stood in the aisle rotating her arms and shouting at her two friends who are sat behind us. At a stop someone gets on and says I’m in his seat, I explain how numbers work and he apologises. I realise I’m in a bad mood and it isn’t the noisy tea or train aisle aerobics that’s the problem, it’s my mood. I focus on the view out of the window and witness miles and miles of polytunnels. I’m amazed. How do they even manage planting, weeding, harvesting so many giant greenhouses? While I ponder this we pass miles and miles more. Last night I read that only 15% of China’s landmass can be cultivated so this view makes me realise what a huge country this is.
We arrive at Qufudong or Qufu East which is a huge new shiny station 12k out of the city. Al persuades me to catch the bus so we pay 12p and sit and wait. We don’t know where we are going except the final destination is a bus station nearer the city on the west side. My smartphone gps won’t kick in and our lonely planet map only has the city centre. We pass a lot of new construction and out of town business facilities. The roads get busier with taxis, then tuktuks, then cyclists and we realise we must be fairly central. I spot the city walls then a sign for the Confucius temple so we get off. The lonely planet map has the temple and our hostel so 20 mins later we’re checking in.
It’s 3pm now so ‘lunea’ or whatever the meal between lunch and tea is called is required. The local lonely planet recommendation is no longer there so with bellies rumbling we eat at the hostel. They have a local food page on the menu so we order Qufu smoked tofu, spicy pork and noodles and doenjang with veg. The tofu is really tasty with the intense smokey flavour, noodles are rice vermicelli which are sweet and chewy and the veg is crudités with a miso paste dip.
We take advantage of stable wifi to blog, backup photos and apply for the Wolves managers job.
After dark we venture out again to see what’s happening. It’s much easier to spot and assess restaurants after dark and unlike the UK, life continues. We pass a park where a load of pensioners are line dancing to very loud music. ‘Turn it down Grandma!’ Nearby more pensioners practice ballroom dancing. Teenagers shop for fashion, night market food sellers shout at us. After being spoilt in Qingdao, there are fewer food options here but we choose a place and point at pictures and wait. A plate of spicy tofu arrives, the smokey variety with chilli and the flower pepper we had yesterday. The smokey flavour with the hot chilli and numbing pepper is really very delicious, we can’t wait to visit Sichuan. The dumplings arrive and there are two huge plate loads which we won’t be able to finish. It is green and protein flavour, our favourite. The huge meal costs only 44 yuan or 5 English pounds, a bargain.