After several days in Qingdao checked out of the [Shangri-La hotel](/2007/09/02/shangri-la-qingdao/) and traveled to our next destination, Beijing. However, we would do so by train to see a little of the countryside. Since it’s quite a distance from Qingdao to Beijing, we made a stopover in Jinan. My host had gone to university there, and wanted to show me the city, and also had some business to attend to, so it was a very good and practical thing to do. But more about Jinan itself in a later post.
Qingdao has a central station that hails from colonial times; it was built by the Germans. However, the station is being renovated in anticipation of the Olympic games 2008, where Qingdao will host a number of maritime events. So it was closed, and all the trains departed and arrived at another station – in the bad part of town. It’s as bad as you get in Qingdao – There’s some factories there, but mostly it’s just simply rundown buildings, poor people, and dirt everywhere. The traffic is atrocious too; mostly because the area wasn’t designed to handle the traffic it has to while it serves as the main train station. Within second of arriving, an old shriveled up female beggar had spotted us and wanted money. Since she didn’t speak English she resorted to a lot of prodding. Unpleasant. I was warned to take care of my wallet and my pouch and my luggage, as there would be pick-pockets about. I had already surmised so much.
The station itself was crowded. I am not sure whether this was because it was early morning, or a normal condition. Reaching the platforms involved a lot of shoving and pushing. Interestingly, the platforms themselves were quiet and deserted, so I am not entirely sure where all the people were actually going.
The high-speed trains in China do deserve some notice for any travel geek. The Chinese seem to be employing a combination of technologies for their rail system, a [hodgepodge of foreign and domestic products](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-speed_rail_in_China). The train we used was reminiscent of the [Shinkansen](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinkansen). I’ll have to use the original some time, as the whole experience was decidedly anticlimactic. I had imagined something a little less basic. If you’ve ever been on one of the newer high speed trains, you’ll know they’re usually fairly comfortable. Not that our first class seats were really bad, but, it really didn’t feel “special” either. Of course we only paid something like 15 Euro per person for a 2.5h journey.
One fascinating thing I noticed was that the seats got turned around to face in the other direction after the train had arrived in Jinan. Most people prefer to face in the direction of travel, and I guess this reduces “unpopular” seats.
Sights of the Country
Out beyond the city limits were a lot of tiny settlements in a large wide open landscape. It didn’t really look all that different. But the settlements were different. Some were downright ugly. There was a lot of construction, and many rundown buildings, especially in smaller towns we passed through. However, I do have to note that, like Qingdao, the country seems to be lacking garbage. In Indonesia, people would just illegally dump their waste wherever they felt like it. In China, this doesn’t seem to be the case – or at least not within sight of the train tracks. I am guessing China’s pollution is simply more industrial in nature.
There isn’t really much to see on the way from Qingdao to Jinan (nor to Beijing, for that matter). I guess if you don’t really care to take a train ride for the experience (the train stations are an experience different from what we have here in Europe!) or you’re going somewhere you got to take the train… well, you might as well fly.