A Travellerspoint blog

July 2008

Around Jinan

rain 15 °C

Barbara, Rebecca and I decided that we would base ourselves at Jinan for a few days to check out the sights around Jinan.

Barbara didn't want to be bothered with with hotel dramas so I did some research on the internet and we decided to stay at Jinan Minghu Hotel. It had everything we could possible want - great geographical position, one of the most-acclaimed luxurious hotels in Jinan, 4 Chinese restaurants, 1 international restaurant, coffee shop, bar, sauna, beauty clinic, shopping arcade, karaoke, KTV Room and even bowling. I went online and booked it.

We had decided to go on the 08 July. When we woke that morning it was bucketing down with rain. You can't let this natural event stop you from seeing the world. So off we went to the bus stop. By the time we got there Rebecca was saturated as was her luggage in a cloth bag. She decided to go back to the campus to get changed and get dry clothes. I gave her a water proof bag to put her luggage in. Barbara and I waited at the Bus station for her return. I was not at all amused by the lack of thought.

We eventually got on the bus and our journey began. We took our standard back row seats. We noticed 2 Chinese boys that kept swapping seats. We assumed they must have been cold from being directly under the ac. Well you should never assume because they were working up the courage to come and speak to the foreigners.

One of the boys asked if he could speak with us to which we said that he could. After a few moments I realized this was going to be hard work as his English was not so good so put my face back into my book. Every now and then I would have to interpret for Barbara who was being ever so patient. The next thing was the photos. I got out of this and took the photos for him!

When we arrived in Jinan we checked into the hotel. The hotel in my opinion should not be a four star hotel. The service was woeful, the hotel looked dingy and any of the advertised facilities we never found.

It was still pouring with rain when we arrived so we decided after checking into our hotel to go shopping. I thought I had a money tree and was spending money like there was no tomorrow. Normally I over budget for my trips and come home with extra cash, not this time. I was at the ATM on the first day!

After our first day of drama we decided that we would enjoy a drink at the lobby bar. We couldn't find the Lobby Bar for the life of us. So we asked and we were told it was across 6 lanes of traffic and behind the building. Check out the photo.

When we arrived at the Lobby bar some 15 minutes later we were escorted into a restaurant. The Chinese really do not understand the concept of bars. We were offered tea or milk tea or soft drinks. Not quite what we had in mind. So we headed to Jenny's cafe for hopefully some advice on where we might find a bar.

We were given directions to a Bar. We located the bar - Bandjo Bar. It was OK. Had a live band. Played possibly the worst rendition of "Hotel California" I have ever heard. One thing I have found is that whenever the foreigner walks in they wheel out "Hotel California" Have thought that I might start my own collection of every rendition.

The following day we went for breakfast in the hotel as it was included in the price. I walked in and thought I was going to throw up. It stunk. How do you eat vinegar soaked vegetable for breakfast. I like lotus root but I couldn't possible stomach it for breakfast. Off to Jenny's it was! Jenny's Cafe has become a ritual every time we go to Jinan. We go there for breakfast and dinner.

The rain never relented and of the 3 sights we had hoped to see we only got to see one - Simen Pagoda.

The Bus trip home was completely uneventful which is unheard of for us

Posted by Bettinamc 08:13 Archived in China Comments (0)

Simen Pagoda

rain 24 °C

Barbara, Rebecca and I decided to base ourselves in Jinan to look at the sights around Jinan. Simen Pagoda was on our list.

We had been told we needed to catch bus 67. So we made our way down to the long distance bus station. I asked a lady with a red sash on for assistance, as they are meant to speak English. With a bit of translation we were told we had to go to the bus station across the road. Off we head.

I do the same an approach a lady with a red sash. Well her English is as good as my Chinese, (no I still do not speak fluent Chinese and I think I'm lucky if I know 5 words!) She tried to escape me, But when I am determined there is no escaping me. She finally gave in and called someone else over.

We found out to catch bus 67 that we needed to catch bus 4 one stop. We found this amusing because in Tai'an we are always told to "Catch No 2 Bus to the train station and then catch No 4 Bus".) Anyway we did this. At this Bus stop there was no bus 67. I see a younger Chinese girl and figure she probably knows 'a little English'. That she does. But she can't help me.

Bus 67 comes around the corner. I try to wave it down. No luck. Having seen the bus she tells us that we need to go around the corner.

We head around the corner and find the bus stop. But we are unsure of which way to go. I see a young Chinese boy and ask him. He tells us we are on the wrong side of the road. We thank him and wait on the other side of the road. After waiting for about 15 minutes the Chinese boy comes over and says that I think I am wrong you need to be back on the other side. We thank him again and walk across the road.

He leaves in his bus. Our bus arrives. I show the Bus Driver were we want to go and he nods. Finally we are heading in the right direction. PHEW!! The cost of the bus is Y3 ie 50c for 1.5 hours.

We are on the bus and knowing it takes about 1.5 hours I sit back and relax as it is getting closer to the 1.5 hours I ask the Chinese man sitting next to me and he tells me its 5 stops away. Happy with this information. I start to count the stops. We've come to the fourth stop and I ask him if I get off at the next stop. He tells me that I don't, I have another 4 stops to go. Either I can't count or some stops are not counted as stops????

My navigator says good bye and gets of the bus. I decide I need to ask the driver. He nods at me and points for me to sit. Good sign, he hasn't forgotten about the dumb foreigners who can't speak Chinese! We arrive at our stop and he points us in the direction.

Well it was well worth the effort in getting there.

Shentong Monastery holds the Simen Pagoda. It is near the village of Liubu which is 33 KM SE of Jinan. This has some of the oldest Buddhist structures in Shandong.

Liubu in Lincheng of Jinan City is an ancient town. The monastery was first built in the first year of the Early Qin Dynasty (351 AD). As the first Buddhist temple in Shandong it had been the Buddhist center of Shandong since the East Jin Dynasty by the Sui and Tang Dynasties.

The monastery was established by the famous monk Langgong in the early years of the East Jin Dynasty. Therefore it is also called Langgong Temple. In 538 AD Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty Yangjian renamed it Shentong Temple (Magic Power Temple). Shentong Temple went through ups and downs in more than 1600 years. There are many renowned relics left today, such as the Four Gate Pagoda, the Dragon and Tiger Pagoda, Buddhist figures on the Qianfo Cliff, Tang Base, tomb pagodas and carving steles of different dynasties. Among them, the Four-gate Pagoda was announced as the State Key Protected Relics (series 1) by the State Council in 1961. In 1988 the Buddhist Figures on the Qianfo cliff (including the Dragon and Tiger Pagoda, the 9-floor Pagoda) also entered the list of State Key Protected Relics (series 3).

The surrounding hills are old burial grounds for the monks of the monastery.

Standing close to the Shentong Monastery and surrounded by Stupas is Longhu Pagoda. It is the Pagoda of the Dragon and the Tiger. it dates back to the Tang Dynasty. Higher up is Thousand Buddha Cliff with carved grottoes containing Buddhas.

I can't remember the entrance price but it was well worth the $$

Posted by Bettinamc 07:14 Archived in China Comments (1)

Becoming a Local

sunny 37 °C

You realize that you will always be a foreigner but you can become a local. It dawned on me one morning as I was walking to the gym that I was now someone you didn't stare at but someone whom you spoke with.

When I first arrived here everyone would just stare. After they passed you if you were lucky they would have the courage to say 'hello'. I started to stop and talk with these people. This was always difficult because hello was the extent of their vocabulary and 'nihao' is the extent of my vocab.

Anyway I would stop and teach them 'Good Morning. How are you?' Having done all of this practice with the locals I found myself walking to the gym and stopping for 'Good Morning, How are you?' I then had to go on to teach them more conversational vocab. I guess this is when I was accepted as a local.

During this same week I went to the Ramada for a western fix and was on my way to the buffet when I heard my name being called. I stopped and said Hi to Kelly - a Chinese Teacher. On my way back I heard my name called, this time it was a Chinese woman who I had met at the gym. I never imagined that I would go anywhere in China and have my name called.

Posted by Bettinamc 01:51 Archived in China Comments (4)

I'm addicted to Cupping

sunny 27 °C

Every one has an addiction, mine is cupping. A fairly healthy addiction really because it is good for your body. But what is cupping?

Cupping is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is a three thousand year old therapy. It aims to remove blockage or stagnation in the flow of Qi in our body. Cupping can stimulate the flow of Qi, blood and lymph. It can be used to relieve pain in the muscles, and clearing congestion in the chest, which can occur with colds and flu.

Cupping involves creating vacuum suction in a cup, and then applying that cup to an area of the body. Traditionally, glass cups are heated with alcohol and flame on the inside to create the suction in the glass cup, the glass cup is then placed over the skin, the skin gets sucked up and drawn a few millimeters into the cup. The cups are then left on your body for up to 20 minutes.

Doctors of traditional Chinese medicine place the cups at various positions along the meridian lines. These are the same lines used in acupuncture. There are five meridians on the back and these are usually targeted, particularly the bladder meridian.

It is possible to cup the hands, legs and ankles too. By cupping these meridian lines, specific organs in the body can be targeted. I have had my feet cupped whilst having a foot massage. This was my first experiment with cupping.

Cupping is generally used by practitioners if there is cold energy in the patient's meridians. The warm air from the cupping stimulates the skin, and the suction coaxes blood to the area which promotes localized healing. The chi is warmed and starts to flow freely down the meridians.

Many diseases and disorders can benefit from cupping. The earliest writings found on the therapy from ancient China recommend its use in the treatment of TB.

Today, cupping is still used for respiratory disease, as well as digestive and gynecological disorders, headaches and dizziness, and lymphatic blockages. The common cold can be tackled with cupping, as can insomnia and, of course, soft tissue injuries.

Cupping causes blood to be drawn to the surface of the skin, red marks, swelling, and circular bruising can appear. These marks last for a few days.

Posted by Bettinamc 00:55 Archived in China Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (1)

Urban Redevelopment

sunny 31 °C

It happens everywhere. Even in developing countries like China. Little Old Tai'an is growing up.

I sense this all has something to do with the up and coming arrival of the Olympic torch but this little city is changing rapidly.

The old Campus where I live is in the west of town. This area is less attractive than other areas. Well it used to be. They've moved the street vendors along, the bung bung drivers are gone, buildings have had coats of paint, the foot path has been paved, there is curbing, murals have been painted and just today I noticed mature trees being planted to cover ugly walls. Will this all change after the flame? I don't know. I think it might and I hope it will. This end of town has really lost it's village feel.

One day whilst I was walking to the gym with Barbara, (no Barbara was going shopping not to work out) we noticed that a street we walk up and refer to as 'the dust bowl' didn't appear to be overly dusty on this day. As we got closer we realized the street had been closed off.

The locals take no notice of any authority. Whilst the street had been closed off with concrete blocks they just moved them so they could continue to drive through. Were people would normally walk they moved those too so you could get through. Who was I to do anything different.? I just followed the paths of others.

As the days went on 'the dust bowl' was leveled, tar was poured and rolled. We know have a bitumen street. Yippee. Although now everyone uses this street to drive on. So it is very busy and has become increasingly difficult for me to cross.

On return trips from the gym I would take the long way. Just the other day I thought I was in the wrong street as a familiar rail was gone. This was always my safety point for crossing this street. Once I got to this point I could take a breath, recollect my nerves to cross to the other side. Now I was going to have to negotiate the journey across the street in one movement.

I managed to do this as a local. I couldn't quite work out why it appeared easier and then it dawned on me. The roundabout that is at this intersection has shrunk. There is no room to widen the ride so take the roundabout concrete out. Hey it works!

Then I noticed something else. Traffic lights. OMG they have put traffic lights in on the roundabout. Now we know that this just doesn't work. Just look at the one at the Ipswich Rd end of the Centenary Highway. The Chinese take no notice of traffic signals anyway. I am going to enjoy watching how they police this.

The next thing I noticed was they have lollipop ladies. They are now trying to teach the Chinese how to use a Zebra Crossing. This is not going down to well at the moment with Chinese yelling at each other and just crossing wherever they want and the lollipop ladies blowing their whistles to they are blue in the face. It is quite entertaining to watch.

Walking back from the gym today. I noticed all the street vendors at the bus station roundabout have also been moved on. People are busy cleaning the outside of their shops. Others are sweeping the streets. Others are picking up the rubbish.

The street now is not the bustling little village it was but a grown up city. Let's see what happens after the torch has been. Hope they teach them between now and then not to spit! That I would like.

Posted by Bettinamc 03:24 Archived in China Comments (1)

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