It’s good to be home.

It’s good to realize that I’ve started to refer to Qufu as “home.”

That said, I had a wonderful time this past weekend.  After a nine-hour overnight train ride (which I spent curled comfortably on a top bunk, watching Running with Scissors on my ipod) I arrived in Yantai.  Allie was there to meet me– seeing her  walk towards me at 7:30 in the morning was easily the best way to start my day.  After a long-overdue hug session, she took me back to the hotel where she, Lisa, and Lauren had been staying.  Because of my latest Beijing excursion, I hadn’t seen the girls in over a week, so it was really nice to see them again and catch up.

Originally, the plan was for everyone to meet up in Yantai, but after spending a couple days there, Allie, Lisa, and Lauren were inclined to find somewhere else to go for the rest of break.  So we talked to the kids in Jinan (Charlee, Dana, and Steven) and decided on Weihai.  The bus from Yantai to Weihai took about 2.5 hours, but the group coming in from Jinan had a seven hour bus ride to look forward to.  Given that we were going to arrive well before they did, we were tasked with finding a place for seven people to stay for the next few days.  At the bus station we managed to find a cab driver willing to drive us around– for a more than reasonable fee– until we found something suitable.  The first option was an absolute no– overpriced, filthy, and suspiciously rank.  Our refusal seemed to confuse the driver at first.  He kept insisting that this would be the cheapest available lodging, which left us questioning his motives.  However, when we said we’d head out on foot and try to find somewhere on our own he panicked, insisting we wait a moment while he made some phone calls.  After a few hurried conversations, he motioned for us to get back in the cab.  Still unsure, we climbed in.  Now, I should admit that when he first pulled up to the second place we were, again, highly skeptical.

Photo by Lauren O.

Photo by Lauren O.

Location-wise, it felt like we’d wound up somewhere inconvenient and out of the way.  And, truthfully, it kind of looked like he’d brought us to his Uncle’s apartment… It wasn’t glamorous.  But the rooms were clean, there was space for seven, and it was only 30 kuai a night.  Besides, it was own and run by a very sweet Chinese couple (whom we would later affectionately refer to as “Mom and Dad”). We were sold.  And– in a stroke of good luck– it turned out that we were less than a five minute walk from the downtown area.

It was close to lunch time once we got settled, and Charlee, Dana, and Steven were still a good five hours away.  So Allie, Lauren, Lisa, and I decided to walk downtown to explore and find food.  Dad was kind enough to show us the way to a street lined with vendors that lead straight into the center of the city.  Now, before I continue I need to provide some backstory:  earlier that morning, when we were still in Yantai, the girls were talking about someone they referred to as, “The Egg Man.”  Apparently, they had seen him on a street corner near the hotel they were staying in.  He was your basic street vendor– cooking station on wheels, grease, grime.  But what he had to offer was something entirely new.  The best way they could describe his nosh was as a Chinese Egg McMuffin (doughy bread fried around an egg and a thin layer of pork and scallions).  The girls were fixated.  However, every time they came across him they’d already eaten and couldn’t justify more food.  And every time they looked for him– well, he just wasn’t there.  Before the four of us got on the bus to Weihai we searched, once again, for The Egg Man.  But, as anyone might have expected, he was nowhere to be found.  So we boarded the bus disappointed and hungry.  So, now, here we were in Weihai.  We still hadn’t had anything to eat yet, and we were all starving.  We headed down the street that Dad showed us, and then further into the center of Weihai, when all of a sudden Lauren gasped– or maybe it was Lisa… it really doesn’t matter, because there– right beside us– was an Egg Woman!  I cannot adequately express the groups elation at this discovery.  We had given up on The Egg Man in Yantai, and never even hoped to find an Egg Lady in Weihai.  But there she was.  And those Egg Sandwiches she made were every bit as good as we’d hoped they’d be.  I wish I had a photo to document that momentous discovery, but hunger made me forget to take out my camera.  Later we actually made explicit plans to return the next morning for more sandwiches and a picture with The Egg Lady.  But– and we should have seen this coming– no matter how hard we looked, we never found her again.  Poetic, really.  The Chinese Egg People: there when you least expect them, gone when you try to find them.  My mouth still waters thinking about it…

After devouring those elusive, steaming, delicacies, we continued to wander through Weihai.  It was a gorgeous day (one of many, the weather could not have been any more perfect for our stay), sunny, breezy.  And because we were by the sea, the air was refreshingly clean.

We stopped for a bit in a square where a little girl was performing acrobatics on a ladder.  She was adorable, incredibly nimble, and impossible to walk away from– a fact she was fully aware of and ready to exploit.  It made me uncomfortable, but when that sweet, dirt smeared face and hand bee-lined for us I couldn’t avoid reaching into my purse.  I felt completely suckered.  What’s worse, I didn’t have many small bills on me, so I only gave her 1 kuai– I’m positive she was more than a little unhappy with me for being so cheap.

Thankfully we got out of there quickly.  And there was plenty more of Weihai to serve as distraction: bizarrely oversized bags of snack-food, odd little shell critters in the middle of the sidewalk, a man pounding dough with a large metal mallet (and no, that’s not a euphemism), cars buried in giant stuffed animals, and delicious korean noodles.

Photo by Lauren O.

Photo by Lauren O.

After taking far too many pictures, and fighting the urge to buy useless tchotchkes, we took a walk through a small park and then found our way to a large bookstore.  Despite its size, the bookstore was a disappointment in its selection of foreign texts.  So we headed back to Mom and Dad’s for a much needed nap.  It wasn’t a complete waste though.  We did find this lovely sign in the foreign section:

Because it happened to be Mid-Autumn Festival, and because Mom and Dad had been so sweet to us, we picked up some moon cakes on the way back as a little thank you.  Once we’d delivered the little treats all four of us crashed.  By the time we woke up from our naps, Charlee, Dana, and Stephen were arriving.  We let them get settled and then decided we should all go get some dinner.  Before coming to Weihai I’d read some things about a bar/nightclub called 2046.  I was intrigued because of the obvious connection to the Wong Kar Wai film of the same name.  Plus I’d read somewhere that there were goldfish in the urinal.  Everyone was curious to see what this place was all about.  The only problem was that Weihai is a pretty big city, and I didn’t have a clue where to find the bar.  So when we’d first arrived at our hotel that morning, I asked Dad if he knew of it.  He didn’t.  But, in true “Dad” form, he made some phone calls, figured it out, and promised to walk us part way there whenever we wanted to go.  Since we were all set on heading to dinner, I figured I should let Dad know.  But I didn’t get any more than a few steps down the hall before Mom came around the corner, hands covered in flour, bearing a freshly-made tray of dumplings…!

We gorged ourselves.  And if any of us weren’t already completely in love with Mom and Dad, we were now.  Dumplings devoured, we followed Dad downtown.  He left us a few blocks from the bar.  After wandering about and asking around, we found our way into the hidden hutong where 2046 was located.  I’m sorry to say there weren’t any goldfish.  But it was an experience…

The next morning Mom and Dad asked us what we were going to do.  We told them that we were set on having a beach day.  So, of course, Mom said she and Zouyu (their 9 year old, obviously we referred to her as our little sister) would take us.  We assumed this meant that, like Dad had been doing, they’d walk us part of the way– most likely to where we needed to catch the bus.

We weren’t entirely wrong.  They did walk us to the bus, but then they got on the bus with us to make sure we got off at the right stop.  Mom kept insisting that she and Zouyu were coming along so that Little Sis could play on the beach, but it was pretty clear that this was yet another instance of our amazing hosts rearranging their day, and going well out of their way to make sure we had a fantastic time.  I think it’s safe to say that all of our hearts were melting.

The beach was stunning.  I don’t know if it’s because we’ve been living in the dust, coal, and smog of Qufu (though don’t get me wrong, Qufu still has a very special place in my heart), but it was a dream.  It almost seemed like a joke– it was too perfect: clear blue skies, soft yellow sand (that almost seemed like it had been shipped in from some bizarre factory), and clean, calm water.  We couldn’t kick our shoes off fast enough.  Zouyu was thrilled to see everyone go barefoot, and quickly followed suit.  Poor Mom looked like she was going to keel over from worry when Charlee, Dana, Allie, and Lauren took to the water.  As they waded out, she asked in frantic Chinese, “Do they all know how to swim?”  I reassured her that, yes, they did.  But Mom sighed and kept saying “Fang xin bu xia…”  Which is a Chinese idiom used to express that you’re feeling anxious.  Could she be any sweeter?  After a half-hour of this, Mom said that she would take Zouyu home.  She explained where to get the bus back and made me promise not to let anyone swim out too far before she left.  We spent the rest of the day in and out of the water, writing, reading, and dozing on the beach.

Shoes full of sand, Salty, and happy, we headed back to downtown Weihai to find some dinner.  It only seemed right that we get seafood since we were in a seaside city.  The street near our hotel was twice as lively as the first night.  We figured this was because most of the vendors had been home with their families for Mid-Autumn Festival.  Lucky for our seafood cravings, the new vendors were offering endless varieties of fresh catches.  We ended up stall hopping– scallops and oysters at one stand, pot-stickers at the next, candied-coated haw fruits at the next, and so it continued…

Photo by Lauren O.

Photo by Lauren O.

Photo by Lauren O.

Photo by Lauren O.

For our last day in Weihai we decided to head back to the beach.  On our way we looked (foolishly) once again for The Egg Lady.  Because she obviously was nowhere to be found, we ended up grabbing some barbecued chicken legs to take on the bus– breakfast of true champions.

At the beach, we were greeted by some useful information:

Jellyfish is danger.  Duly noted.  Thanks, China. With newly acquired knowledge, we proceeded to enjoy yet another perfect beach day.

It’s suddenly occurring to me how absurdly long this post is.  I’ll wrap it up with a few key closing points:
* Street vendors making glass roses

*Best photo I’ve taken in China so far

*Said goodbye to Mom, Dad, and Little Sis
Photo by Charlee B.
Photo by Charlee B.
Photo by Charlee B.
*Seven hour bus ride back to Jinan. Bus kept stopping to pick up people on the side of the road.  This, despite there being no more seats.  We were tired, grimey, and ready to get home.

And that pretty much brings us back to Qufu.

~ by Jess on October 8, 2009.

One Response to “Weihai”

  1. So what did you think of the sleeper trains? pretty swanky eh?

    What is the weather like there? Is it getting cold yet? MISS YOU! Talk soon.

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