Bai Hua Park

Bai Hua Park Qingdao (2)

joylani 130pxWe went to another park today, where Matt promptly fell asleep (keeping in accordance with our long tradition of sleeping in parks in Qingdao). While Matt napped I watched the action over at this pool with giant beach balls. An older kid was in one of them, and it was fun to watch him try to stand up and walk in the sphere. But this poor little guy looked so miserable in his ball, despite how enthusiastically his mom tried to cheer him on.

Bai Hua Park Qingdao

The Beach in Qingdao


joylani 130pxWe tried to go to the beach today. I mean, we made it there, but the whole “beaching it up” part didn’t exactly happen as the entire stretch of shoreline was covered and saturated with an endless pile of green algae. The Chinese knew how to do it though. From seaweed fights, to burying friends, to splashing in the waves, to lounging on the shore, everyone seemed to be having a good time.


As I watched, I wished I wasn’t so freaked out about have bits of green algae stuck all over my skin, but I couldn’t overcome my hesitation. Rather than playing in the waves, Matt and I huddled under our little umbrella, eating cherries, and watching everyone else enjoy themselves.

qingdao (2)

this little kid was only wearing his floaty ring

This was entertaining enough, but only for an hour or so, after which we decided we’d had enough of the beach for one day. We hopped on a bus headed towards the main downtown area and went to a grassy park where I promptly laid down and fell asleep in the cool shade. (Sleeping in parks…a reoccurring theme in Qingdao.)

qingdao (3)

Qingdao with Friends


matt 120pxQingdao has been great not only because it’s a pleasant coastal city, but we’re getting to see friends too. Staying and hanging with Jeff is great and last night we got to see Matt, another old friend. He took us out to the only Indian restaurant in town, followed by some hot drinks at a small café. He’s returning home soon (after a year in Qingdao), so we all shared about our past years and plans/emotions regarding the return home. I won’t go into all that we talked about or anything, but it’s always great to see friends. Thinking about it, Matt is the sixth person we’ve met up on this trip. So even though we’ve been away and isolated to some extend, its been cool to visit our friends living abroad who are also away and isolated. Friends always make travelling and locations that much better, and Qingdao is no exception.

Open Mic


joylani 130pxToday we met Sam and Sha Zhou, along with several other friends, coworkers, and students from Jeff’s school. After another tasty dinner and many clams, we headed out to the East West bar to watch the guys perform at an Open Mic. Matt covered the night well in his post, but I just wanted to give an extra shout out to Jeff who’s finishing up a new album. Jeff is just as great as a musician as he has been as a host—here’s one of his performances to give you a small taste of how engaging it is to watch him perform. Jeff’s returning to LA at the end of the summer, so if you live around there look him up on-line and go check out one of his shows. Also, props to Sha Zhou too who’s also a great performer and has some good music out too. Here’s an old video I found on-line to “introduce” you to Sha Zhou and show you a little bit of downtown Qingdao.

Hanging with Locals


matt 120pxMeeting and hanging with locals is one of the best experiences one can have when traveling. They know the good food, the interesting places to go, and the fun stuff to do. But most of all, by hanging out, they invite you into their world. Such was the case yesterday. After exploring a bit more of Qingdao in the afternoon, we went out with Jeff. First, we walked over to the school he teaches at to meet some of his colleagues and eat dinner together. It was cool to meet both the foreign teachers and Chinese admin staff. Then we all headed to a new bar, called East West, where Jeff, Sam (another English teacher), and Sha Zhou (Qingdao’s most famous hip-hop artist) were performing. We met a bunch of the schools students at the bar and all drank as we watched the open-mic night unfold. The highlight was definitely Jeff, Sam, and Sha Zhou, for both me and everyone in the bar. Even at 21, Sha Zhou is a known and popular guy. He even gave me a complimentary copy of his second album which he was promoting. At around 12:30, we headed back to Jeff’s apartment, but stopped to eat some roadside BBQ with Jeff, Sha Zhou, and Guanhua (a local photographer). As we sat out there on the deserted street corner eating skewers of BBQ’d pork and drinking cheap Chinese beer, we talked about things you’d expect in such a situation. Joylani asked about their thoughts/opinions on the one child policy and we discussed US-Sino relations in the media and our respective countries often negative portrayal of one another (especially in the media). The funniest quote of the night came from Sha Zhou as he was standing up to go take a piss around the corner, “American’s think that Chinese people have no freedom. We are free. We can take a dump or piss anywhere we want, even here on the street like I’m gonna do right now.”

It was a good day


matt 120pxJoylani pretty much summed up our first day in Qingdao. Our homelessness, the nice city, and the incomparable experience of meeting up with friends after a long time. Seafood is always good too :)

A Feast with a Friend


joylani 130pxWe’ve been experiencing food trouble lately.  Fear (of what we may get) and inability (menus in Chinese with no pictures) to order at many places has led us to eating a limited variety of cuisine since we left Hong Kong.  Bakeries, corner stores, street vendors (noodles and buns), and, yes, western fast food, had sadly become our daily fare.  It’s not that things are necessarily bad, we’ve had some really great bread and stuffed buns (baozi) from little places here and there, but this is China—there is so much more out there to be eaten!  Well, tonight we tapped into the gold mine.  Actually, it was more like my friend, Jeff, tapped the mine.  Matt and I just got to enjoy the results.  Jeff’s an old friend from college who’s been living in Qingdao for the past year teaching English and making music (LINK).  He graciously came out to meet us at our hostel, and from here we walked just down the hill to a BBQ restaurant.  Qingdao, being right on the coast, is known for its seafood.  Wonderfully fresh seafood as in so fresh that at the market today the clams were still so feisty they were squirting water out of their bins.  And, apparently, in the summer many places set up a grill outside.  BBQ and seafood: the best of the best.  After picking a restaurant, we took our seats and Jeff began to order for us.  The only things I knew he ordered were grilled pork and beer.  He and the waiter exchanged a quite a few words though, so I assumed a few other things were coming as well.

What ended up coming was a feast.  First a plateful of little clams arrived.  Delicious.  Then came a tray piled with pork kebabs.  Nice and juicy.  Another tray of larger clams.  Steamed cabbage with pork.  Grilled peppers.  Two pitchers of beer…oh wait, the guy was getting ready to pour another one.  Jeff rushed outside to tell him two was plenty, realizing that “three big cups” meant three pitchers.  Grilled green onions arrived.  “Be sure you chew them well,” Jeff warned.  We were busy enjoying the hot, juicy, and perfectly seasoned food when we saw the waiter walking towards our table with a large BBQ squid.  More food, and we’d hardly made a dent in what we already had.  The squid was a tasty addition, though, and we kept on eating.  One more squid (maybe two?  It was hard to tell because it was cut up) arrived.  We pushed on.  After our day of snacking, such an excellent meal was a great finish to the day.  Even now I can’t really describe the food very well, except to say that it was very good and there was a lot of it.  Replayed memory does a better job of envisioning the feast, so I guess you’ll just have to come to Qingdao to see for yourself how good the BBQ can be.

Early Morning in Qingdao


the grinch was here.

joylani 130pxThis morning we arrived in Qingdao. We arrived a lot earlier than we thought, about 5:00am. It was a quick cab ride from the bus stop to the hostel where we had a reservation. Upon arrival we communicated with the night staff via his phrase sheet and our phrase book and found that our room was currently occupied; we’d have to return later, around noon. After stashing our bags in behind the desk, we went out to find something to do for the next six or seven hours. Happily, waiting for our room wasn’t so bad, and we got a glimpse at early morning Qingdao, something we probably wouldn’t have risen early enough to do any other day.

From our hostel, we walked towards the beach. I enjoyed seeing our first real blue sky in several days. Between rain clouds and smoggy haze, it had been a while, and I thought it was just the most beautiful thing, looking all bright and fresh. Matt and I marveled how some people born and raised in China’s big cities may have hardly ever seen a blue sky. Even though it was completely light out, all the shops were still closed up and the streets were pretty empty as it was still early in the day. Those who were up and going that early all seemed to be at the beach exercising. Well, not exactly at the beach, seeing as the shores were covered in mounds of green seaweed, but right next to it on the paved walkway and parks.


Feeling very health conscious ourselves, we popped into a 24-hour McDonalds for a leisurely breakfast sandwich.

The exercisers were doing a variety of activities: slow-motion aerobics group (the presumed leader was the guy with weight that looked like rolls of duct tape on his wrists), tai chi, a pair of ladies playing with a hackysack-like birdie, jogging, walking, and other forms of slow, controlled martial arts using long swords and another with big sticks.


As we walked further down the path following the curvature of the sea, music filled the air. Looking to our right we saw a section of road filled not with cars but with ballroom dancers.


To our left was a metal handrail being used for stretching. We came to a small park. Here was a doubles tennis match going on, as well as a few solo players hitting a ball attached to the racket with a long string of elastic. Grown-up paddleball. With very few exceptions, none of the exercisers appeared to be under the age of 65. Some of my favorite exercisers, though, were individuals who had each come up with his or her own morning routine. This ranged from yoga-like (but not quite) poses, arm swinging, a variety of stretching techniques, jumping up and down the curb, and one guy who was doing a sort of standing push-up if you will, using the railing bar to push-up from.

Sleepy from watching all that exercise and a bad night bus experience (some guy sat on me, and the bus man kept shouting all night, not to mention kept picking up passengers even though the only place they could sit/sleep was the floor), Matt and I sat down on a bench/curb and proceeded to fall asleep. In the meantime, the sun got higher and started to heat things up. I groggily awoke to the feeling of my knees burning from the hot sun beating down on my black pants. Slowly I sat up, fixed my greasy ponytail (thinking, “must shower soon”), and scooted over a little so that the shade from my umbrella covered me and Matt’s face. As I waited for Matt to wake up I watched three men fishing across the way.


They caught a couple, but nothing to write home about. Two ladies dressed in flowered blouses and slacks passed by, then turned around and passed again, chatting during their morning walk. They passed by in that manner two more times, and then Matt woke up.

By this time, almost all the exercisers where gone, replaced by those fishing and a handful of old men flying kites. I thought, what a great thing to do if you are retired. Go fly a kite on a Wednesday morning with all your kite enthusiast buddies. Some were really large, there was a medium one doing dives, and a small kite in the shape of a raven whose flyer was so skilled that he could swoop it gracefully through the air making it seem as though it were real. The highlight was when he swooped the bird dead-on into his friend who was kneeling on the pavement preparing his own kite for takeoff. The two shared a chuckled and the friend gave the raven a push up into the air again.

Matt and I walked on, mission: food. We saw a small shop with pictures of green beans everywhere and a long line of customers waiting to buy something. We saw that it was some sort of biscuit or bun. And so, since there were so many other people waiting, we got in line and waited too. “Ba ge,” I said. Eight. Eight flaky pastries were swiftly placed in a plastic bag. I handed over some kuai and walked away, prize in hand. They were delicious. Still hot from the oven, this little shop’s one delicacy seemed to have been cooked to perfection. The lightly browned crust flaked away as I bit into it, giving way to a sweet green bean filling. It was a nice way to start our mid-morning.

We continued down the street, passing by several shops selling all kinds of crazy dried seafood (so far we’ve seen scallops, oysters, squid, sea cucumbers, even whole barracuda fish). I was happy to be eating my bean-filled bun instead of the things we saw. Shortly we made it to our next destination, an internet café. It was a pretty classy place. Instead of sitting in the regular desk chair, we saw in wicker seats, hung from the ceiling in front of the monitor. Computer swings. It was great.

Finally, it was time to return to our hostel and at last have a place to call home. For tonight anyways. :)

Things we have seen and things we haven’t


nightly game of checkers outside of our hotel

joylani 130pxShanghai is possibly the smoggiest place I have been so far. I don’t really know what we did for the last few days besides marvel at the futuristic looking buildings and variety of shopping malls. And we walked a lot. It was like being in the Jetsons with Flintstone transportation.

We checked out a couple museums while in Shanghai, the Shanghai Art Museum and the Shanghai Museum. The art museum had a couple exhibits that were somewhat memorable; overall, though, I found the place unremarkable. One of the exhibits that I did enjoy, however, was a collection of photographs taken over a few decades of the photographer’s wife and her three sisters. The only stipulation for the annual photo was that the sisters be positioned in the same order. Hair style, location, clothing, and expression changed from year to year, and it was interesting to see the progression of the family through time. The Shanghai Museum, in contrast, showcased a stunning overall collection including: ancient landscape paintings, ancient Chinese pottery, and minority arts and crafts. Not to mention that admission was free. There was, however (or perhaps consequently) a long line to get in. A highlight at this museum for me was the pottery section. I have seen Chinese pottery displays at museums throughout this past year, and almost wanted to skip it but since Matt was going, I followed him into the wing. After viewing a few cases of artifacts I quickly realized the obvious: pottery inside of China is way better than what is shown outside the country. The collection at the Shanghai Museum stood out from others in the quality of the pieces—beautiful colors, playful hand-painted patterns, and some (notably the figure) were just impressive by their size. One type of piece that I found particularly curious were the pillows in shape similar to this one:


Matt recently commented, “It doesn’t seem that China has a whole lot to see (relative to its size),” I must disagree and agree. China does have a lot to see, I think we just don’t know about a lot of it because 1.) It’s our first time here and we didn’t do a whole lot of research before coming, therefore we are reliant on our guidebook to tell us about the country. I truly believe that our Lonely Planet book is a piece of junk, and even if it were written better, it would be hard to adequately cover such a large country in a limited number of pages. 2.) There are some regions we cannot go to due to government (and time) restrictions. But my main point is, 3.) It’s not that there is not “a whole lot to see,” just not a whole lot that we care to see. We don’t want to go to every pagoda, museum or mausoleum. We don’t really care to go to every “ancient city” along a lake or all the scenic parks. Terra cotta warriors? I plan to see them in Santa Ana when I go home, hopefully for a closer view than I would get in Xi’an. So there are plenty of things to see, but due to personal preferences and where we’re at in the trip, we chose not to. We’ve seen some pretty cool stuff, and I feel satisfied with it. Even though I think it’s beautiful, I don’t really want to go see another exhibit of Chinese pottery. And Matt has had his fill of karsts, limestone cliffs and caves (best locations: Khao Sok (Thailand), Nong Kiaw (Laos), and Southern China (as seen by train—the landscape is amazing)…Ha Long bay is seriously overrated and that’s not just because we had a bad experience on our boat). My point is, if a sight doesn’t sound particularly interesting, we don’t feel compelled to go. Instead, we’ve been spending more time walking around, just wandering and (my favorite) people watching. I’m just a traveler. I’m not “touring” every place I visit. I feel satisfied with our travels.

Shanghai Recap


matt 120pxWe’ve spent the past couple days sightseeing and exploring Shanghai. We’ve spent the last two nights at The Bund, the riverfront promenade where taking in Pudong’s skyline is trumped only by people watching the throngs of domestic and tourists. Yesterday we checked out the Shanghai Gallery of Art, before heading back to our hotel as Joylani was feeling sick. This morning, we visited the excellent Shanghai Museum. It was a really really nice museum, which has recently been made free (for the Olympics) as well as housing a temporary exhibit, from The British Museum, on the Ancient Greek games. Of course, being in financial center, I also had to visit the stock exchange. While in Pudong, we also visited Shanghai’s largest mall and saw the iconic Pearl Tower up close. Overall, Shanghai is about what I expected: modern, huge, polluted, without too many sights.


Despite the lack of sights, its been a good place to chill out for more than 2 days (for the first time since we were in Lige at Lugu Lake). Joylani and I had a lot of time to talk and stuff and seeing Shanghai really got me thinking about China’s development and where it stands in the world. On a final note, although it doesn’t seem that China has a whole lot to see (relative to its size), I’m really glad that we’re visiting here. So many of my preconceptions have been proven incorrect. The American media is pretty anti-Chinese for a range of justifiable and unjustifiable reasons, but seeing a place firsthand is an irreplaceable experience. Additionally, China is changing so quickly and is becoming more and more relevant in the world. More than anywhere else we have or will visit on this trip, China is relevant to the US. I’m glad to be here.