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All roads lead to Beijing

CHINA | Monday, 8 September 2014 | Views [226]

In the west we have a saying - "All roads lead to Rome".  The Chinese these days have the same saying, but I have been told that in older times, the Chinese equivalent was "All roads lead to Beijing".  For me on this day, that seemed apt.  The first road was a bus taking me back to Qingdao railway station, then the train would whisk me off to Beijing itself.

From Shanghai to Beijing via Qingdao I covered about 860 out of over seven thousand miles of my journey.  More than ten percent of the distance, but at only 11 out of 186 hours of travel, proportionally much less of my journey has been completed in time.  The fact that the distance covered is much greater than the number of hours ticked off is a testament to the fact that China's new high speed rail network is much faster than others internationally through Mongolia, Russia and Europe.  Sit on a modern Chinese high speed train and the miles will be gobbled up in a deceptively speedy blur.

Dispite not taking an early train, I slept again on the way out of Qingdao.  I attribute this fact to the free breakfast beer I enjoyed in the morning tour of the TsingTao beer factory.  The factory itself was a reasonably interesting insight into the age old craft of brewing.  The modern bottling and canning operations were a whizz of hypnotically automated mechanisation, as bottle after bottle, can after can, sped to and fro, hither and tither, in the process of being filled, labelled, capped and finally boxed.  The only disapointment was the laxidasical way in which the free beer was doled out.  I have also enjoyed alcholic beverages free of charge at the guiness factory in Dublin.  And while the people at Guiness pour every pint to perfection, in what can only be seen as an atempt to show their product in the best possible light, the TsingTao beers were practically thrown into glasses with narry a care in the world.  Two thirds full, three quarters full, four fifths full; a centimeter, two centimeters an inch of head - any combination was possible, and in ten glasses, no two would be the same.  The lack of desire to present their own, award winning product in a positive and compelling way was curious to say the least.  Having said that, it was delicious.  Free beer is always the best, and in terms of taste, this was the best of the best.

With the after effects of that free beer slept off, I awoke to the flat plains of what must hae been Hebei province.  Passeners came and went, terrible buns were eaten.  Dreadful food on trains seems to be universal.  The other reason to rouse me from my slumber was ironically that I had no place to sleep that night in Beijing.  I had settled on Leo's hostel, had emailed my requirements ahead (a private room, not a dorm) and been asked to phone to confirm.  It was a strange conversation, alternating between Chinese and English, and complicated by the buzz on the train - however the phrase "no dorm" seemed to be understood.  In the end, the booking was confirmed at eighty yuan per night.  Cheap!  Strangely cheap...  Upon arriving in Beijing and tracking down the hostel - great location, just by Qianmen - I discoverd why the price was so cheap - I was in a dorm!  In Chinese "Four person" and "Private" sound almost identical.  It was late and I decided to run with it because I was too tired to do anything else.  I could change rooms the next day.  Anyway, every cloud has a silver lining, my companions in the four person dorm were three delightful Swedish ladies!  I decided to stick with the dorm afterall.  With hindsight, I couldn't recommend Leo's Hostel highly enough.  Cheap, clean and welcoming.  Ironically enough, the staff speak great English, better than you would find at most hostels or even hotel anywhere in China, truely impressive.  The cause of the mix up was my own shabby Chinese.  Anyway, with my new Swedish friends for company I settled in, giving them tips for their backpacking adventures around South East Asia and offering my now questionable Chinese speaking assistance if required.  Of course they checked out early the next day, but I slept well that night!

Tags: beijing qingdao train beer tsingtao


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