Yeah, I’m gonna have to move on. Qingdao has been amazing but the road is calling and I have to go. I already booked my ticket to southwest China and I have a return ticket for the 18th but I think I might just backpack around the country for the remaining four months. I have to be in Taiwan at the end of December so it might be nice to travel along the southern part of China until Taiwan and then travel back up the east coast afterwards.
If I am going to backpack around then I need to get down to one backpack. So I left some clothes and my nice black shoes at the hostel; Huge said something about donating them and I kept on nodding. My favorite books I gave to friends; The Power of One to Huge, and Richard II to my Chinese friend who took me around Qingdao the past few days. He was very moved which made me emotional and I needed to take a picture. He chose Richard II to practice his English, good luck buddy. Just incase I get reallllllly homesick I’m keeping Ender’s Game.
I left Monday morning at 7am but my trip to Korea got me so excited about traveling that I booked a train ticket to Qufu for one day. I came across Qufu while reading about towns in Shandong province. Who knows, maybe I’m attracted to cities that start with Q, the letter does kind of look like the female symbol. The trip was far longer than I had hoped for – in trying to save money I booked the slower train to Jinan and then took a local bus another four hours to Qufu. I got off the bus in the middle of nowhere in a smog filled town and a young man convinced me to take his taxi. The trip took so long and I had to piss so bad that I could barely throw my bag on my back without pissing my pants. Rather than try to piss on the side of the highway I opted to wait until I got to the hostel but the cab driver was so pumped to have a foreigner that he made me promise to take a photo with him before I paid. Every single red light he would pull out his camera to make sure I understood; we had already agreed on the subject in his native language but I guess he didn’t want me to be mistaken. About the third red light that had already turned green he said he was so excited to have a real American in his cab and I just shouted in English, “Yeah great! Amazing! Take me to the fucking hostel!”, which I guess he translated into more enthusiasm for our new friendship because he got really excited.
But I made it, and after the seven hour journey I walked into the only hostel in town on Halloween night greeted by 15 Russian men studying at the nearby Kung Fu temple, dressed in traditional Kung Fu clothes, drunk as hell, drinking at the hostel bar. Wow. I was so hungry that I ran to the nearest restaurant and got a hotpot all to myself with all meat even though I had sworn to myself earlier in the day that I would try and go meatless for a while.
By the time I made it back to the hostel all the drunk Kung Fu men had left and now there was a group of Canadian intercultural communications masters students with their program directors, also very drunk, sitting in the common area. I chatted with them a bit and found myself in the same position I always find myself in during drunk conversations in hostels – “Wow, you’re, like, breaking all the stereotypes of Americans that we have right now.” I’ve never met this stereotypical American, but man, he sounds terrible. I thought about starting in on my usual response and mentioning that there are more than 300,000,000 people living in the U.S. and they shouldn’t throw a blanket stereotype on all of us, but that’s a line for one to two drinks in, and these Canadians were at least eight to nine.
I woke up early the next morning and went to buy my train ticket back to Qingdao for that night; I splurged and spent the extra $10 to shorten the trip by four hours on a direct high speed train. Then I made my way to the temples. Qufu is the birthplace and burial ground of Confucius so the city is extremely old and filled with architecture from the previous dynasties. A lot of the relics were destroyed during the cultural revolution but some, including all Confucian tombs, still remain. I arrived at the entrance to the Confucian temples, and could not for the life of me find where to purchase tickets, until a nice young Chinese woman came up to me and started speaking English. She brought me to the ticket counter and then started laying into me hard to buy her as an English tour guide. I had read that a guide is needed because the temples are so extensive but I had just spent A LOT of money to get to Qufu and the entrance fee itself was $23 so I said no and started walking away which then prompted her to keep lowering her price drastically until I got her down to about $8 for a tour of the temples and the mansion. I must warn you, she constantly wanted to take my photo and when I said, eh maybe not right now, she got very flustered and made it seem like I would regret it for the rest of my life.
I arrived at the tombs late in the day when most tourist groups had left. For a little while it seemed like some kind of mecca for Chinese. I was surrounded by people all day but other than seeing the people in the hostel, I was the only non-Chinese there. After studying Chinese calligraphy everyday for the past month it was a humbling experience to be in the presence of carvings going back to the time of Confucius. Most of the emperors of the dynasties traveled to Qufu to pay homage, which accounts for the massive amounts of temples.
The mansion was cool, but after walking around the temples for two hours it didn’t seem like much. The tombs though, oh man, the tombs. It’s called Kong Lin, which means Confucian Forest. I walked in as most Chinese were walking out and immediately got emotional. Perhaps it was because Qufu, and the trip to get there, is smoggy and devoid of all green, and here was a beautiful forest that goes on for miles covered in the tombs of Confucian disciples, or, maybe, it was the first real silence I’ve encountered in a month, all I can say is that it was a peaceful, holy place that exhumes a natural beauty much needed in Northeast China.
I took the late train back to Qingdao and slept for four hours before I had to get up for the flight to Kunming, where I am now. I imagined staying here for a few days and then maybe making my way to Dali, then Lijiang, before retracing my steps and seeing friends further east, but I got to the hostel and an Italian girl asked me if I wanted to go to Lijiang tomorrow instead to hang out with friends of hers, so that’s what I’m doing now.