A Travellerspoint blog

Quancheng Square, Baotu Spring and the Five Dragon Pool!

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For our next adventure in Jinan we decided to visit Quancheng Square, Baotu springs and the Five Dragon Pool, three of Jinan's main landmarks.

To get there, we decided to take the bus again and it was an easy ride straight into the city centre where the landmarks are located. I know we mentioned that we would be posting a video of our journey on here but after a closer look Traveller's Point require you to upload videos through either YouTube or Vimeo, both of which are blocked in China. So, it looks like we won't be sharing it with you, sorry!

Quancheng Square is the central square of the city and is immediately recognisable by its large blue statue and fountains. As we arrived, the fountains had come to life, putting on a pretty impressive show. They were accompanied by opera and then the Titanic theme, which did make it all seem a little overblown. Still, it made for quite the sight! Wandering through the square towards the statue, we were suddenly stopped by a group of what looked like university students with microphones and a television camera. One of the guys leapt straight into his interview full of confidence, until he realised he couldn't speak English! It took an awkward few minutes of him looking desperately to his friends and trying to translate what he wanted to say on his phone before, luckily, one of the girls in his group came to the rescue. She managed to explain that they wanted to find out if we knew of any 'big news or hot events'. Sadly we didn't, so they instead asked us to repeat some phrase in Chinese with them to the camera and we were on our way. It was all a little surreal and no doubt the first guys going to struggle to live it all down! We made our way to the statue next, which isn't as big as it looks in any pictures you see of it. Still, I thought it looked pretty cool. Kathy, however, wasn't impressed.

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Jinan is known as the city of springs, having over seventy of them. Baotu spring is probably the most famous and was really easy to find, it just across the road from the square. The main spring is well hidden in what feels like a labyrinth of paths, pavilions and pools. It was an extremely hot day and the whole place was filled with parents and children. Most of the children had water pistols but they were surprisingly well behaved though, and we avoided getting wet. We came across a number of areas that had been deliberately flooded, with stepping stones through the water. It was here where most of the crowds were and a lot of families were enjoying the water and the shade. After a wander, we finally found the main spring. It looks like a large pool, with an ornate pavilion and we couldn't see anything that gave it away to be a spring. It was still pretty impressive though and well worth a visit.

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As usual, we spent most of the time being stared at and we had barely stepped past the entrance before a girl was asking to have her picture taken with us. That was fine, but we did notice a few people trying to take sneaky shots of us. One guy even walked ahead of his wife to try and get a picture of us in the background with her! Still, since we've been here we've only seen a couple of other westerners so its understandable that people are going to be curious.

To round off our trip, we visited the Five Dragon Pool which, again, isn't far from the Quancheng Square. It only cost 50p to get in and as soon as you enter you come across the five dragons standing over a large pool. The rest of the area is similar to Baotu Spring, but on a smaller scale, with pools and pavilions.

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Well, that;s it for today's post. Our next adventure is to Jinan Zoo tomorrow in search of giant pandas so check back soon for that. Also, take a look at our new instagram page https://instagram.com/whtkathyandgavin/ for more pictures of our travels. Be sure to follow us on there and subscribe to our blog!

Posted by Gavin_w207 04:58 Archived in China Tagged china jinan quancheng_square baotu_spring five_dragon_pool Comments (0)

Daming Lake

sunny 36 °C

Our first big adventure in Jinan was visiting one of the city's many famous landmarks, Daming Lake. It's the biggest lake in the city and is fed by the its many springs.

At first we thought the journey into the city centre to visit the lake was going to be a challenge but, after a bit of help from our new boss, we were able to find the correct bus stop and we were off. The bus was fairly clean and made quick progress through the city, even if it was lacking in suspension which is something we could both forgive considering the fare was 10p! We got a great look at the city and it became quickly apparent that the area we are staying is very different to much of the rest of the city. We'll get a video of our next journey so you can see what we mean!

The bus journey went without a hitch and we soon found ourselves at the lake. It's a beautiful place, with an excellent view of the city's skyline as a backdrop. We spent a pleasant few hours walking around the lake's perimeter, visiting the many pavilions and halls. It was our first taste of Chinese architecture and we were both really impressed with what we saw. After a while, the more cultural side of the lake gave way to a few fairground attractions but luckily they didn't last long and we quickly passed them and back into more tranquil surroundings.

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Two highlights of our visit were Quiliu House and Chaoran Tower.

Quiliu house once belonged to a local doctor and is well worth a visit to see its traditional rooms and courtyard. The real star was Chaoran Tower however. which was first built in the Yuan Dynasty then rebuilt in 2009. The tower can be seen from several points around the lake and is home to many interesting cultural artifacts such as some stunning paintings and wood carvings. The real reason for visiting though is the view it provides from the top. From there we were able to get a great view of the entire city as you'll see from the pictures below.

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All in all, our trip to Daming Lake was real success. We made it there and back in one piece without getting lost and were able to enjoy some beautiful surroundings. As usual, we were stared at by almost everyone we encountered. Kathy is a real novelty to pretty much everyone who sees her (we're blaming the blonde hair in particular) and this time a little boy even brought her flowers!

Our next trip is to Boatu Springs, the most famous of Jinan's seventy springs so check back soon for our next post!

Posted by Gavin_w207 05:29 Archived in China Tagged china jinan daming_lake chaoran_tower Comments (0)

We're in China!

Arrival and settling in.

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After 3 plane journeys we arrived in Jinan, China, on Saturday. Today is our 6th day here and so far everyday has been an adventure!

On our very first evening we looked out of our apartment window to see some very strange (at the time!) things going on:

1) Crossing the road
Like in England there are lights at the pedestrian crossings, with a red person and a green person to help you know when to cross. Don't be fooled though - cars will still drive at you even when it tells you to walk, people on motorized scooters will drive over then across the crossing (often going the wrong way) amongst other things. We have soon learnt that you need to walk quickly, have a 360 degree swivel on your head, walk with purpose and just keep going!

2) Moving market stalls
Looking out of the window we noticed some rickshaws full of goods at the side of the road. Then we looked closer - there was a mini-market going on in the middle of the road! People had blocked the road in four directions selling various goods from fruit and vegetables to balloons and clothing on racks! It turns out that this is a daily occurrence and that the 'stalls' must move around the local area.
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3) Food stalls
Below our apartment there is a paved area that during the day is filled with parked cars. As the evening comes in however, tables and chairs are set up and little pop-up food stalls appear. There are fresh selections of ingredients to choose from and your dish will be cooked there and then right in front of you! We then noticed, over the road, a huge long row of permanent stalls that were serving up a variety of dishes.
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4) Places to sit
Anywhere can be a seat. Even the kerb on a busy road. With a baby on your lap!

After seeing all this, we were undeniably excited.
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Since then we have spent most of the last few days setting up our new apartment and orientating ourselves around the local area. Around us we have many supermarkets and convenience stores in which you can buy pretty much everything you could want. About 15 minutes or so walk away there are two large shopping centres, both of which have department store-style supermarkets in the basement so getting anything we need isn't a problem. We have also been brave and have used the local buses into the city (10p a journey!) and have got a taxi back from the supermarket with all of our shopping (90p!).

We are settling into life in China so far, like I said before, everyday is an adventure! Plus, they have Rilakkuma in China! :)

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Kathy

Posted by kathy_w 02:30 Archived in China Tagged china moving jinan Comments (1)

The Journey Begins!

China here we come!

So, this is it, we're finally on our way to our new life in China! The adventure begins tomorrow as we leave England and our old lives behind. We're currently sitting in a hotel near Heathrow and just wanted to put up one more post before we go dark for a week or more. We've got an apartment all sorted, but we're unsure on how long it'll be until we get an internet connection up and running. We will be putting up new posts as soon as possible though, so subscribe or check back regularly to see how we're settling in! Also, we'll be posting the last post on our trip to Japan once we're out in China. It's all ready to go, we just haven't had time to add photos!

Finally, we just want to say a big thank you to friends and family for all their support and wishes over the last few weeks, we'll miss you all!

So long for now!

Gavin and Kathy

Posted by Gavin_w207 12:47 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (2)

Tokyo 2015: Day 5: Shrines, Towers and Pokemon!

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View Tokyo on Gavin_w207's travel map.

Day five of our trip saw the weather swing back to being rainy and overcast, but as usual we didn't let it stop us.

Our first stop was Yasukuni shrine, one of Japan's most controversial shrines. Founded by Emperor Meiji, it honours all who died in the service of Japan between 1868 and 1947. This means that many war criminals are enshrined too and the shrine is a constant source of controversy amongst Japan's neighbours who suffered as a result of Japan's actions during World War Two. Any visit by a Japanese official is sure to spark anger and protests, especially as many believe that Japan has not done enough to demonstrate their remorse at their actions. During our first trip to Japan in 2010, we were made aware that nationalists often parked outside the shrine in black vans that blared nationalist messages. Whilst we did see it in 2010, and a mild police presence, we've never noticed it again in either of our last two trips.

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Regardless of your views on Japan's actions during the war years, or their later behaviour, it is undeniable that Yasukuni shrine is one of Tokyo's most beautiful and tranquil spots. The shrine itself is quietly beautiful, with a stunning garden and pond around the back where you can feed a countless amount of Koi carp for 100yen. We've always enjoyed visiting the shrine and this time was no exception, especially as it is a prime location for viewing cherry blossoms. The bloom was coming to an end and the blossoms were dropping from the trees, blanketing the ground like snow. Despite the rain, it all made for a truly special sight. Our advice is that even if you can't look past the controversy of the shrine, visit and enjoy it for its beauty and history if nothing else.

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Next up was a trip to Tokyo's Mega Pokémon store. We're both unashamed in our love for Pokémon, one of Japan's biggest franchises. It made its way to the UK in 1995, hitting the country in a big way, and I've never truly grown out of it. Me and a good friend made it our mission to introduce Kathy to it and it didn't take long before she too was hooked on it too! The store was brand new this year, it having moved to a far larger location in the Sunshine City complex in Higashi-Ikebukuro. Its by no means easy to find, yet after some perseverance we made our way to the shop. Its certainly not the best of the many Pokémon stores across Japan (I think Yokohama has that honour) but it's well worth a visit for any Pokémon fan and we definitely had a blast. Just about any form of merchandise is available, as well as some great photo opportunities!

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The afternoon saw us visit Zozo-ji, a Buddhist temple set behind Tokyo tower, one of Tokyo's most famous landmarks. Its a fantastic temple with plenty of character but is particularly worth a visit for the great contrast between the temple and the tower behind it. Also of note are its hundreds of jizo statues. These are statues dedicated to unborn children and the grounds of the temple are filled with rows of them, many dressed in hats or accompanied by children's toys. They are a poignant sight and stand sentry to the right of the temple. Film buffs might recognise the temple too, as it featured in The Wolverine. Remember the funeral at the beginning that degenerates into a gunfight? That's Zozo-ji!

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Tokyo Tower is literally five minutes walk from the temple and a popular attraction in Tokyo. I must admit, the first time we saw the tower we found it to be a little garish in its famed red and white colours. Since then though, the tower has grown on us both. We'd never been to the top and had planned a visit, but the low cloud meant we would have seen very little so we gave it a miss again. On a side note, many people feel that the tower gives a better view than Tokyo Skytree. We've only ever been up the Mori Tower in Roppongi which gives absolutely spectacular views of Tokyo, particularly at night!

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After dinner, we made our way to Senso-ji to get a look at the temple at night. As we mentioned in a past blog, its well worth visiting at night due to the lack of crowds and how beautifully lit the whole area is. If you get a chance, we would wholeheartedly recommend it!

So that's day five done, only one more to go! Next time we'll be covering the geek heaven that is Akihabara, a mighty donut store and the neon delights of Shibuya!

Posted by Gavin_w207 09:00 Archived in Japan Tagged japan tokyo_tower pokemon mega_pokemon_store sunshine_city higashi_ikebukuro yasukun_shrine zozo_ji toky Comments (0)

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