This post continues with my account of last year’s motorbike road trip; Beijing – Yantai – Qingdao – Beijing, during the national holiday. (For those newly joining the ride, start with October, October and the posts following that, it will make a lot more sense.)
The next day it was time to move on to Qingdao. At 200 km to the south-west of Yantai it wasn’t too strenuous a journey. The only thing that complicated things a bit was the fact that the whole area seemed to be constantly developing and updating it’s roads, resulting in us getting lost several times as our GPS couldn’t figure out where we were. At one point we ended up on a brand new highway and started to see the all too familiar sight of cars coming towards us in the opposite direction, in our lane. Turns out many of the exits were not yet completed and so once people figured this out they were doing u-turns in their lanes, which was unnecessary, as we managed to reach the end of the road and simply turn around into the correct lane to drive back down again… but hey, why waste time doing things safely, when you can do them recklessly fast instead?
We reached Qingdao by late afternoon and had a few hours of daylight left to explore the city. By this point Buck was starting to fall ill and it soon became very clear that he had caught some form of
man flu, and was forced to rest up in the hotel for the remainder of the night. In all seriousness, the stressful few days of driving, plus a dip in dodgy sea water the day before probably had a lot to answer for.
On a lighter note, Qingdao really is quite an interesting city. Granted, I think the beach at Yantai is a little prettier, but the city itself, sharing the same historical fate as Yantai, features a nice blend of colonial German and contemporary Chinese architecture. The pockets of wide streets and German style government buildings, as well as St Michael’s Cathedral and square are reminiscent of any northern European town you might have come across. But like any city of import in China, there’s no denying the machine that is Chinese urban development, which was hard at work all around us. Another pleasant reminder that you are, in fact, in China was that once we arrived at the St Michael’s Cathedral there must have been around 5 or 6 wedding shoots going on at the same time in the square.
I’ve mentioned before about these wedding shoots and how much I love watching them (see the post Let’s go to the seaside!). These couples had obviously hired their suits and dresses from the photography company and were all taking pictures – or waiting their turn for the best spot, the brides sitting on their dresses on the floor – so that they could have a wedding album with Western wedding pictures and a typical Western backdrop. I think it’s really nice to see how Chinese people have taken a very Western concept and are molding and changing it in order to fit it into their own existing traditions. It makes for a uniquely Chinese wedding custom (or maybe it’s the same for places like Japan, Korea and South East Asia, I don’t know) which I feel reflects the adaptive nature of the people with regards to their social outlooks and traditions.