Qufu & Ji’nan

This is an old blog post from my travel blog for my China trip in 2006.

So, last week-end I spent some time sightseeing on my own. I started my trip at 7 am by going to the bus station in Caoxian. The system of long distance buses in China is a bit anarchic, to say the least. As far as I’ve understood the system works like this: The bus stations are independently owned and provides a service of giving managers of buses access to the bus stations facilities.

The stations sell tickets (to most of the buses that depart from the station – though not all, there always seem to be exceptions)
and allows the owners of buses to park their buses in their garages. This is of course done for a fee, which requires a system of at least two or more inspectors to see how many people are on the bus, first before the bus leaves and then at the bus station enterance/exit.

So, which destinations that are actually serviced depends not on the “station” as such, but rather on the managers of the buses that traffic this station. Initially when I arrived they simply said “no sorry, this is just a bus that passes Caoxian and you cannot buy any tickets to Qufu from here” (even though I’d been there explicitly asking for buses the other day). 

Anyhow, a few minutes later we did actually find a bus that went to Qufu in the very same station, though the tickets for this bus could not be bought through the station’s ticket service but were bought directly on the bus (and thus, “there is no bus to Qufu”).

Once I’d finally found a bus a 5 hour trip to Qufu was in front of me. During the trip I met a nice Fujianese girl who was out traveling for business, she told me that Shandong wasn’t at all as beautiful as Fujian and that Qingdao didn’t have any weather to talk about in comparison to Ximen. I found myself almost starting to defend my “home province” :).

We got dropped off maybe 5-10 km outside of Qufu and (surprisingly enough!) the bus manager of the bus from Caoxian actually made sure not only that we had a connecting bus, but he also paid for it! I was stunned…

Generally, if you travel with a long distance bus in China you can (if your destination is not the end destination) to be dropped off just about anywhere around your destination (since the manager of the bus usually doesn’t want to pay fees for low-traffic bus stations). It’s also quite acceptable to request to be dropped off somewhere along the way, just say where you think would be a good place to be dropped off in town (as long as it doesn’t require a detour) and the bus driver will be more than happy to let you off there.

Right, enough about buses!

Qufu was very pleasant.. I basically saw the three main sites 1) Confuscius’ temple 2) The Kong family home 3) Kong Lin, the burial site of the Kong family. The temple was magnificent, murky and old with gnarled trees growing inbetween the  many temples dotted around the site. Many parts actually felt really old, a feeling I don’t always get with Chinese sights. The Kong family home wasn’t quite worth the money, most of the houses you could only peak in to and they weren’t in very good shape. Even the garden, which the guidebook touted as the high point of the visit, wasn’t really much to brag about. Much better was Kong Lin, Kong Lin is a forrest of about 100,000 trees with about an equal amount of graves, dating back from Confuscius and his son’s mounds in 500 BC up to the very day I was there (one of the Kong family distant, deceased, relations arrived in a white car as I was heading up to the cemetary).

Everywhere you went through the great, lush forrest surrounded by tall walls you found graves of varying age, it was great. I spent probably about 4 hours walking around the forrest.

The interesting part about all these sights was that the Chinese tourists who came, they only went directly for the main attraction, be it Confuscius’ mound or the main temple at Confuscius’ temple. These places were crowded and generally uncomfortable, but as soon as you went a bit off to the sides of the main attraction and looked at other things you were practically alone! I saw about 10 ppl in Kong Lin after having left the Confuscius mound!

From Qufu I went onwards to Ji’nan (Shandong provincial capital), and arrvied Saturday night. Ji’nan seemed to be a pretty standard urban chinese city. It didn’t have that many sky scrapers though and most of it’s architecture was based on low sprawling buildings. It’s crammed in between the Yellow river and the Tai Shan mountain range and therefore it’s not especially compact but laid out very far on a horizontal axis.

The area where my hotel was (somehow a central “old” area) at night mostly hosted an impressive array of weird entrances providing some kind of unnamed service as well as hotels you rented by the hour. Nedless to say I wasn’t really interested in any of this. Sadly though, I was getting a bit tired after the long walks I had done in Qufu the other day so I took it easy and strolled around looking at the beautiful chinese mosque in the Huizu (muslim) area, the springs that now doesn’t do much “springing”, the 1000 Buddha mountain as well as Daminghu (a lake in the city centre). On my way up to 1000 Buddha mountain I met a nice guy from Hunan and we spent most of the day strolling around in Ji’nan and Daminghu.

So, after another 5 hour bus trip I finally returned, tired as I don’t know what, to Caoxian late Sunday evening.

One thing that is a bit tiring about not travelling with a Chinese companion is that you always have to think wheter or not the things you buy, or the taxi driver, or the hotel or anyone else is trying to charge that little extra just for, well, being a foreigner :). Good thing is I have a sufficient amount of Chinese vocabulary to be able to convince the person that I will not pay this or that much. For example, in Ji’nan one of the taxi drivers insisted on not putting the taxameter on (eventually I paid the minimum start 3km fee + 2 yuan, not cheap but at least not a blatnat rip-off), in Caoxian the taxi driver from the station tried to charge me 12 yuan for a trip form the bus station to home – a trip that should maximum cost 4 yuan. Eventually I paid him 5 yuan, and so on…

This was all from me now 🙂 Next week-end is my last in China and I’ll be going to Henan province to see Kaifeng and Shaolin temple with Jianglei.

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