October 4th, 1999
The ex Panama canal cruise liner with only a dozen passengers arrived from Shimonoseki at Qingdao harbour amid a full naval procession – more like the arrival of the QEII at Southampton than our undistinguished party of first time explorers to the Orient. Once we passed the navy area, the docks were pretty grimy and industrial with lots of rusty steel awaiting export.
The immigration was very slow and not used to dealing with foreign looking passports. I had an old school British blue cloth passport, and the smart uniformed clerk couldn’t work out my nationality. I had written England, or Britain on the immigration form and it seemed there was no corresponding code in their little black book. But it was charming, or quaint as the Americans call the British, how everything was done by hand and in triplicate. But was I really the first British person to enter China at this port? I think they ended up putting me down as German – disgraceful. Perhaps I should have written UK on the immigration form instead? Year’s later, knowing that Yīngguó is England or Britain, perhaps I was the first Brit the immigration woman had seen. No problem in the end and neither were customs.
Rob and Umiko were waiting. The three of us took a bright yellow little taxi with a tiny boot to the Huiyuan Hotel. No room at the inn but they offered us the conference room for RMB40. Qingdao is nice and not at all as I expected China to be like, not that I had many preconceptions. I was surprised about the number of German cars on the road which I later found out was because Qingdao was a German concession 100 odd years before and the cars were made in the old Audi factory. The local Tsingtao beer is also a German recipe. It was very peaceful with lots of parks – the city, not the beer. I can not imagine the whole of China looking like this. Walked on the beach (didn’t eat all the peaches) which was a little peculiar, people weren’t really here to relax, despite it being quite busy. The water didn’t look at all inviting, compared to the beauty of South Japan. Nice pavilions on the hill.
I went back to the hotel and slept. How can I be so tired, especially after so much sleep on the ferry? Perhaps I just need a decent meal. Later went into town and found a fun food market with lots of fresh seafood in the buckets. A jostling area mostly based around selling, cooking and eating food. Nice, cheap kebabs on the street stalls. Ate shrimp for dinner.
Wow, welcome to China. Somehow it is more accessible than Japan, in that everything is out in the open and people are willing for you to buy. I think that is it, people are commercial, that removes all barriers, or at least the polite barriers the Japanese first present to foreigners.