Xingang our port of call for Beijing and the Great Wall turned out to be an old port, but the surrounding area was definitely modern. Our driver and guide picked us up at 6:30 am and we left immediately for the great wall. Dave and I were amazed by the modern roads, the brand new factories (including names such as Motorola, Hershey’s, Toyota and Volkswagen), and the brand new construction that was taking place in the area, including modern bridges with cloverleaf’s. We never made it to Beijing, although the tourist information claimed the port to be Beijing. Huangyaguan is located in Ji County (one of three counties and 15 providences that make up Tianjin City. It was a 2-1/2 hour drive without major traffic, in what they call a National 4A Tourism Scenery Area. The wall was initially built in Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577) and later renovated and lengthened in Sui Dynasty (581-618) and again during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The ancient Great Wall of this section had a length of 42 kilometers (about 26 miles), but suffered extensive damage throughout its long history. In 1987, this section was repaired and began to receive tourists.
HuangyaGuan Great Wall: Well, since first boarding ship 16 days ago, I have taken the elevator only once, the first day to find our room. I would have thought with all that walking that I would have been prepared for the Wall. Well, guess what? I wasn’t. Our guide and I started our walk, small steps, large steps, a good 9 inches high, and ramps made up our journey. We left Dave to find his own way and do his own thing. We were gone about 2 to 2-1/2 hours, and I came within about 25 steps of the top when I decided that I couldn’t go any further. The steps got the best of me. The scenery was magnificent, and the feeling of walking the wall was unbelievable. I’m so glad I had this opportunity,
another of the Greatest Wonders of the World challenged and visited. Dave enjoyed his time alone and he did what he could do.
On the way down, a Chinese police officer asked to have his picture taken with me, which I agreed to. In exchange, we also invited his three children to join the fun, and then, Dave and the man had his picture taken together. What fun, and who would have thought that this could have occurred. Our guide was going to count steps on the way down, but forgot in lieu of making sure that I didn’t slip and fall. We arrived about an hour before the tour buses, and you should have seen some of those people beat the challenge. I’m sure there were some who made it to the top. While I didn’t, I feel good about what I accomplished, (I missed the top by about 25 steps, but felt that going farther might have been too dangerous) and so does Dave. Yes, it was worth the money for the memories.
After our climb, we were taken to a hotel for lunch. We were the only two being fed at this time, and I couldn’t believe the food. The tour company arranged for our lunch, which included a huge bowl of rice (enough to feed six or eight people), Ku Pao Chicken, a strange sausage, broccoli (imagine that), American French fries (another strange mix on our table), green tea, and pork on a stick. It was wonderful, and oh my, so much. After lunch, since we were ahead of schedule, the driver suggested taking us to the Eco Park in one of the communities of Tianjin. It was truly unique and a fun way to end the day. Dave had his picture taken with four school children who love to have their pictures taken with Americans, I shot a couple of pictures of children, and we got to see a little bit of water DaChinese. It was truly a day to remember. Despite all the modernization taking place, the roads were being swept by a street sweeper with a broom and vegetables were being sold by roadside vendors, and a lot of transportation was being done by bicycle,
Dalian our second to the last port in China is located on the Liaodong Peninsula of China. It was once and still is an industrial city, producing ships, motors, textiles and chemicals, but it is also a very modern city with skyscrapers and beautiful tree lined streets. Our guide and driver, both girls, were somewhat limited in their English since Dalian was once a city fought over by the Russians and then the Japanese and finally turned back over to China. Because Dalian is a Communist City, much of their lives are controlled by the government. Marriage is allowed, but young people today don’t just go and get married. They need to be able to support themselves before taking the step into a lifelong relationship. The one child per family rule still applies. Travel is severely limited. Grace, as she is known by her American name, has been to Shanghai and Beijing, but never to Hong Kong and travelling out of China to the United States is not presently possible. In order to travel outside of China, she has to have a set amount of money in the bank, which belongs to the Chinese government if she chooses not to return to China.
Dalian is a favorite tourist attraction for its blue waters, if you can see the color, and dazzling beaches. We drove along Coastal Highway, a route which is lined with trees and beaches, and takes about ten hours (42.5 km long) to walk from beginning to end, all along the water, with parks, playgrounds for the kids, and developed for family entertainment. It was wonderful to see this area so well used by families. This area was once known as Manchuria, in a whole different time period. Lecturer for the cruise highly recommended the movie, The Last Emperor, which I watched, but didn’t totally understand or appreciate until I heard the lecture on Dalian and saw the area. Now, I have a greater understanding of the movie and its beauty.
We went to Tiger Bay, which I thought was just a big inlet with a fake tiger display, but actually proved to be a Polar Aquarium, home to polar bears, dolphins and many other exotic fishes (many of which I never heard of such as the Paddle Fish). We enjoyed a dolphin show, just like being at Sea World. People, people, people. Wow. So many people in one building at one time. Dalian boosts a population of 6 million people, so no wonder there would
be many families attending this exhibit and performance.
Do you see Dave in this picture from the monitor screen in the Aquarium? Well, I’m behind the camera, and our guide is sitting next to me. What fun!
We did a tour of Russian Street, which still boosts beautiful Russian architecture, but is now tourist’s flea market selling poor quality Russian dolls and other crazy objects. This was the first avenue of the city, constructed 100 years ago. Our meal today, again ordered by the guide, was wonderful, seven courses, including a local beer. When you order draft beer in China, it comes in a bottle and is labeled as such. It is not draft from the tap like we share in the United States. An interesting dish which I’m going to have to try at home included cooked shrimp, corn, green beans and carrots in a light sauce, probably a vinegar and oil with perhaps a little butter. Vinegar is used extensively in this region.
The coastal highway in Dalian is beautiful. We drove across the Beida Bridge, which was a joint adventure between Osaka, Japan and Dalian, to emphasize peace.
We went to the TV tower here which is considerably shorter in height than the Pearl TV tower in Shanghai, but it is something the residents of Dalian are proud of. While the tower looked slightly run down, the views were spectacular. The highlight of the day, which most people didn’t even know about, was going to the stables and event center of the Dalian Mounted Police, a totally female Police Corp. All of the women are required to be at least 6 feet tall. Dave looked like a shrimp next to one of the riders, who he had to have his picture taken with. We got to walk through the stables and pet some of the horses, which I immediately fell in love with. They even had a shorter, white, Mongolian horse and rider (this was a male rider) who rode fast and shot the bow and arrow at targets as they rode, in true Mongolian form. Quite impressive!!
The final stop was Xinghai Square, a very popular area in Dalian. The Square was built in 1997. It sits in the center of the Xinghai business district, and may be roughly as big as two Tiananmen Squares in Beijing. The design of the square combines Chinese tradition and modern concepts as can be seen by the many pictures I took. A tall, straight and pure-white marble column stands at the pivot of the square. The beauty of the area cannot be denied. Children were enjoying kite flying. I missed my opportunity to buy the perfect kite from China while in Tiger Bay, so will have to look for one at our next and last Chinese port. Yes, I could have bought one at Xinghai Park, but they looked very American, and that was not what I wanted. Opened only ten years for tourism, this port has a lot to offer. Yes, I could visit it again, if I could have another tour guide or could speak Chinese. English language has definitely not taken hold in this area.
Dalian was first brought to international attention as a result of Japan’s victory in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. Having decisively routed the poorly armed and led troops of the Qing dynasty; Japan demanded economic concessions in Korea, cession of Taiwan, a substantial indemnity and occupation of the Liaodong peninsula, most specifically Lu-Da, of which Dalian was the price. Six days after the signing of the peace treaty, Imperial Russia, aided by Germany and France, forced the Japanese to relinquish possession of the peninsula. The area was subjected to several wars because of its strategic location and valuable resources. It became a commercial link between the interior of Manchuria and the outside world. Many of the buildings which the Russians built are still visible in Dalian today, especially along Russian Street.
In 1904 Imperial Japan destroyed Russia’s Pacific Fleet which was anchored at Dalian. Once again, Japan had the spoils of war. The development of Dalian as a port continued under Japanese influence from 1904 to 1945. It served as a jumping off point for Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931. At the conclusion of World War II, Russian troops again occupied Dalian under terms of the Yalta Conference of 1945. In 1953, the last of the Russians left.
One thing about China is for sure, there are people everywhere. And the drivers have the right of way so its pedestrians beware. Jeremy would love driving in these cities or maybe he wouldn’t. It definitely takes a gutsy person, and one who is not faint of heart. In other words, Dave would be riding a bus or taking a taxi as this is not his kind of driving. The other thing about China is the food. Americans do not know how to cook true Chinese food. They say they are a Chinese restaurant, and they are good, but they do not hold a candle to the food that we have experienced the past few days, especially these last two days. And, what is the deal with
fortune cookies? We have yet to be served one or to see one. Is that something Americans concocted to be different?
Qingdao, China: Located on the south shore of Shandong peninsula, Qingdao guards the anchorage known as Jiaozhou Bay, and the entrance to the sailing lanes to Beijing City. This settlement of over 8,000,000 people was settled at least 6000 years ago as a modest fishing village. It was not until near the end of the Qing dynasty that a minor naval base was established here, and the rest is history. The Germans had a hand in the development and history of this town as did the Russians and the Japanese, and now, of course, the Chinese and the Communist Government. Imperial Germany had a foothold in Asia from 1898 to 1914. Trade flourishes in this area, which is a sign of the western cultural influence. Our guide, Sunny’s, knowledge of the American language was somewhat limited, but she did her best to answer our questions and to show us a good time. And that is what travelling is all about. Sunny commented that the Diamond Princess came here in October of 2009, which would have been her repositioning cruise from Alaska to the Asian waters. I asked if she ever travelled to America, and she said no, she is unable to. She, too, can only look at the luck that we take for granted, much like our guide in Viet Nam and also from Dalian and the Great Wall. When we start to think that we have it bad in the United States, I only need to look back at this experience and to know that we are truly blessed, We have homes, freedom of travel, and an abundance of everything that these people can only dream of, but when you talk with them, they are happy. A lesson to be learned. Going to a restaurant is a thing the Chinese now enjoy. In fact it has become so popular that you have to take a number and wait like we do for the more popular restaurants. When our guides were little children, this is something the Chinese could not do, only dream of.
People, people, people. Cars, cars, cars. Qingdao is a city of people and cars. I’m not sure which ones prevail. After immigration cleared us, which was nearly an hour later than we were supposed to be cleared, our first stop was the famous Tsingtao Brewery, which was founded by the Germans in 1903. We had a tour of the museum and saw how the Brewery changed hands from Germans, to Japanese, to Russians to finally Chinese
ownership. We got to taste the pre-filtered beer and then the final draft beer later in our tour. Instead of bringing back beer glasses like we did so many years ago from Germany, we are bringing home a bottle of the beer with our pictures on the label. Talk about something fun and unique, well, this is it. The equipment used in the first brewery has been preserved, and the motors to run this equipment look just like a Kluge printing press motor. It was a fascinating tour, but basically nothing different than what we did in Germany, except this was done in China. After our tour, it was time for lunch. Lunch was held in a beautiful five star restaurant, with private rooms for larger parties as well as the main restaurant. We again had a seven course meal, everything coming at one time. Today’s lunch included clams on the half shell cooked in a vinegar sauce. Eaten with Bok Choy, they were delicious. We had a different version of Egg Drop Soup in that it was served in a tomato base. What we thought was fried chicken fingers with pepper dip, actually was pork. And, of course, rice and tea were also plentiful. The featured dish was two prawns served on what must have been a bed of cabbage or lettuce in a hot water base, and their traditional round loaves of bread, which we believe is their form of a dessert. Again, food, overpowered the eater. We asked why so much food, and Sunny’s answer was that Chinese traditionally have three items for lunch, plus the tea and bread, but when they are ordering for Westerners the Chinese like to include other tastes as well.
Today was the Chinese Labor Day holiday weekend, so weddings were very popular. Along the beach and also the Badaguan area (eight road area of Qingdao), brides were everywhere. It was very amusing to see the brides out for pictures, lift up their dresses, only to find that they had on jeans or black tights underneath. Also, most gowns had to have been rented as safety pins up the back were prevalent on all the gowns. While we saw brides in red in Viet Nam, Sunny and I also saw a bride dressed in yellow, along with the groom. This area is composed of wide boulevards and beautiful large trees. Large villas, now hotels, abound in the area. While Sunny and I were out walking, Dave was entertained by two drunken Russians who were trying to figure out where
he was from. Once they realized America, they wanted him to share their vodka. Well, he declined and they moved on.
The beaches in Qingdao were plentiful and filled with people. At Zhanqiao Pier, a popular area for residents, you could hardly walk out to the pier. All along the shoreline, people were digging for clams. While Sunny and I made the journey to the end of the pier, Dave sat and had fun trying to talk to Chinese children and had his picture taken with several of them. He enjoyed his time, and Sunny and I enjoyed ours and got more walking in, despite it being in baby steps.
One additional stop was at Xiaoqingdao Isle, whose shape is like a violin. The isle in the east and Zhanqiao pier in the west face each other across the sea. This island is very peaceful. The lighthouse built on the island was built by the Germans at the beginning of the century. Dalian is more interesting that Qingdao, unless you are a swimmer and like to enjoy the beaches.
Qingdao is a very modern city and one of China’s gems, clean and efficient and alluringly exotic. Qingdao passed a short period as a German enclave and treaty port. The actual government and administration of the city was in the hands of the German officials, who took their orders from Berlin. It was the murder of two missionaries in Shandong in 1897 which gave Kaiser Wilhelm II the pretext he needed. Aggressive negotiations demanded and received a large indemnity, a 99 year lease on the city of Qingdao, with a zone of 117 square miles, including access to Jiaozhou Bay. Chinese law could not prevail without German consent. A free port was established in 1899 and the city became a German military and naval support base for all of East Asia. This area survived wars and handoffs from Germans to Japanese and back to the Chinese over the years. By 1984 Qingdao was considered an open investment city for foreign enterprises. With the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Qingdao was the venue for all sailing adventures. It is a friendly and modern city, and a joy to visit.
Our trip to China has ended and we now look forward to the final leg of our adventure, Korea, Japan and Vladivostok, Russia. China was an amazing experience as was Viet Nam. The strides these people have made once you get beyond the big cities of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Shanghai, are amazing. It is everything and more than I expected.