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Yin Yang Music Festival, dancing on the great wall

Yin Yang electronic music festival

Dancing people in front and behind the DJ on the wall
Dancing right on top of the wall thanks to this DJ-desk which was the smallest of the 3 stages but by far the best of the festival in my opinion.

Yin Yang electronic music festival

I am sure you have all seen a festival after movie. While you watch them, shivers are going down your spine. You see these beautiful girls with hot pants, glitter in the face and sunglasses in nighttime. Topless six-pack guys dancing, everything filmed in slow motion. All along with crazy costumes lights and colors with fancy background and stages. Picture it like the open-air version of “Cirque du Soleil”.

People obviously enjoying their time and life. And while you watch this, picture yourself sitting alone on your couch or in the hallway of the university. Suddenly think of how your life sucks because you were not there…this applies to every of these after movies. Be it an electro-, pop-, or metal-festival (of course the colors and background may vary).

Surprise and excitement

If you know this feeling you maybe understand the excitement me and my fellow student went through. We were watching the after movie of last years “yin-yang” festival on the great wall in China. It was all there, face-glitter-girls dancing, sunglasses-guy topless dancing, everyone smiling and being happy and some cool Chinese dude smoking a cigarette, all in slow motion. All accompanied by a powerful beat that seemed to be made only for this video.

 

One of the patios with the camping tents so rounded by small cabins. On the pathway a game of the famous “flunky-ball” is being prepared.

As China is known for its amazing electronic music festivals (this was ironic) we were surprised. But on the spot, we decided to attend this years “yin-yang” festival. After showing the after movie to several other fellow students, many of them joined the quest and the fellowship of “yin-yang” festival. We rent a bus including a driver to get to the location near Beijing approx. 700 km away from Qingdao.

 

The yin-yang sign in the middle of the main stage
The place in front of the main stage. A yin-yang sign in the middle

The journey and arrival

The 8-hour drive was exhausting but forgotten once we were greeted by pounding music. The weather was good and warm and it looked all as it did in the video. Beautiful landscape, round red doors and Grey brick walls classical Chinese roofs and the great wall meandering across the valley. A lot of western people were there but also a bunch of Chinese. We had a hard time to find a free space in one of the many patios to set up our tents. After setting up our “accommodation” we went to the main stage for the opening act. I was looking forward to the crowd of people, slow motion dancing, girls in fancy dresses and sunglasses accompanied by the typical festival guy with baseball hat and tank top. The reality was not at all alike. It was a little disappointing. It seemed not to be that cool, the people were just standing around holding themselves tight on their drinks. But later the evening the better it got and by nighttime everyone was in the “slow-motion mood”. Lights colors a laser show on the castle wall of the great wall all together with us in the middle. And suddenly it changed to be like these after movies.

People in front of the wall and a laceshow dancing
People enjoying the music in the nighttime and front of the wall on the main stage

The festival

When you are in the festival mode you stop caring too much about certain things like sleep, accommodation, weather and hygiene. But you will also have instant comradeship with all the fellow visitors and play “flunkyball” with strangers. As always on festivals, it started raining. But let me tell you the feeling of dancing on the great wall, let me forget even the rain. On the second day it rained like in a shower. After minutes, we were wet to the bone, but all carried on dancing. The girl with glitter and hot pants, the guy with sunglasses, his tiny backpack and tank top and the whole crowd continued until all were dry again. Only from the heat of their bodies. You get the feeling of belonging together for these three days of a festival, sharing the same spirit.

Amazingly all of it in China. I cannot stress enough to you how it was a once in a lifetime experience dancing on the wall in front of this ancient Chinese background. A background that would have been a suitable one for movies like “The house of flying daggers” or “Red Cliff”. After all, and once again China showed its vast number of different facets. And left me back with loads of new impressions.

Near the end of the festival, the wall slowly emptied
After two days of festival a portrait of a cannon and me on the great wall

Leaving

On the last day I walked out the entrance past a couple of older Chinese, guards in security uniforms, they were sitting and smoking, like a link in to the past, observing the visitors leaving. The valley would soon sink back into quietness and peace, until next year when electronic music will peal once again from the valleys hillsides like drums did once. In the after movie a crowd in slow motion with good weather and lighting will convey the feeling of festivals. While we were driving back to Qingdao in nighttime, exhausted from the festival full with memories. I could not help thinking that soon somewhere someone will be sitting and watching a magical after-movie.

 

Learn about China, Travel, Weekend Trips

The Great Wall: From Badaling to Zhuangdaokou

Hey travel addicts! Let me show you the Great wall as you would have never have imagined it!
You might think you know quite a lot about China, but this massive country has plenty of secrets. If you’ve already been, you’ve probably visited the Forbidden City in Beijing, and the Bund in Shanghai. I bet you’ve seen the Terracotta Army in Xi’an, the lovely pandas in Chengdu, and the “Avatar Mountains” in Zhangjiajie…

If you have managed to see all these things, it seems like you might be half Chinese now- congratulations! But what if I told you there is way more to China than these popular tourist spots? The Great Wall of China is probably one of the most famous tourist spots in the world, but I’m sure you’ve not seen all yet!

The Great Wall: Tourist Destination

If you’re in Beijing, well of course you should go to the Great Wall, otherwise you’ll never be a brave man – 不到长城非好汉, as the Chinese proverb said.

For a first experience in China, Badaling 八达岭 and Mutianyu 慕田峪 are nice spots of the Wall, and are very well renovated- this therefore means they are the most visited parts of the Great wall, so don’t expect to be the only tourist there!

Quiet Spot

But if like me you’re not really into tourist traps, and crowded places, let me show you another piece of the Great Wall called HuangHuacheng 黄花城. This is the only lakeside piece of the Great Wall, and some parts of it are not renovated, which means there is the perfect balance of tranquility and adventure- you definitely should try it!

Athletic Spot

If you feel ready for a hike, I have another piece of the Great Wall for you! Zhuangdaokou is one of the unrestored sections of the Great wall in Beijing, and you should definitely visit here if you feel like an adventure. Don’t be scared if you see some signs which won’t allow you to climb there, they are most likely like the “no smoking” signs all over China … not really significant.

Unknown Spot

Did you know that the Great Wall isn’t the same everywhere in China? For example, in Inner Mongolia the Great wall is totally different, and it’s of course way harder to imagine how they could defend their country with this kind of wall, made of soil and sand. In every hostel in Hohhot you can book a tour to see those amazing landscapes, and since Inner Mongolia isn’t that far from Beijing, you definitely should go and take a look there!

Do you feel like exploring the Great Wall of China? Then you should apply now!

Comparisons, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Things To Do in Qingdao

Basketball in China

Why does it have to be Basketball?

Did you ever want to do some extraordinary stuff that feels a little bit like being a celebrity without being one?  Or to see and go through cool and wonderful situations? Then China is the place to be! Today I am going to speak about one of these activities. We got free tickets for a basketball match between two University Teams. Actually a friend got them, and not only two, he got a lot, so we went there with a bunch of fellow students. I was really happy on one side getting the opportunity to see my first basketball match but on the other hand I would have preferred watching a football match instead. But basketball is much more popular in China.

Basketball match at Qingdao University

Why? If you ask a Chinese person this question they also don’t know. Football is also popular in China, and most people know at least one name of a German player, although they will use the Chinese name for him so you might not understand who it is they mean. For example you will have a Chinese guy smiling at you and say. “my favourite players are Kelinsiman or Shiweiyinshitaige!” Ok, so these examples are quite easy, but you will sometimes have a hard time I guarantee it.

Before the Match

But back to business! As a Student of Qingdao University, I was cheering for the Qingdao Team. I cheered so much that I even forgot the name of the other university, but is that information needed? I mean, who wants to know about the loser anyway?

Everything was new for me; first of all they were playing the national anthem before the game. Which is quite strange for a German to see, as we don’t play national anthems that often on sports events. Actually the only occasion on which we would play the German national anthem would be a match between national teams. Then they had two stadium speakers that were giving information about the teams and the game. The were announcing every single player by name.

After the introduction another, for me, strange thing happened. A group of cheerleaders came and performed on the field. Which was strange, because in Germany this is quite a seldom thing to happen too.  Actually, I only know about cheerleaders from American movies.

For me the idea of cheerleading is, using diplomatic terms now, quite a strange one. Why would you need a bunch of girls performing expressive dancing, to cheer up a crowd that came to see their team competing against another one anyway? And why are there no male cheerleaders? Or are there some at women’s sport events? And if so, what kind of clothes do they wear? Hot pants, with muscle shirts? What would they swing around?

During the Game

Anyway after the performance and a long time of people running around without any system visible, on and by the sides of the field the actual game begun. We had the best seats directly on the line of the field. The anticipation was killing me already, when the game started.

And I saw from what I can tell about basketball (which is not too much, because I never saw the need to gather knowledge about this game anyway) it was a good game. The players were dedicated and they really played with tactics. During half time, two of my fellow students had to perform a streetball game against two Chinese guys. In the end the Qingdao Team won with smashing 52:38 Points.

After all I was really happy with the whole experience and can strongly recommend this to everyone that gets the opportunity- go and get a grasp of Chinese basketball, with everything belonging to it, including the loud drums Chinese people seem to carry around with them like the vuvuzelas brought to a football match!

My friends and I at the Qingdao University basketball game

 

Discover Chinese culture, Events in Qingdao, Qingdao Blogs, Qingdao Nightlife

Electronic Underground: UNITT in Qingdao

Picture yourself sitting in a restaurant and overhearing a conversation of two random people sitting next to you. You are bored and alone and so you can’t help but listen. They are right now talking about an underground club they were in yesterday until 3 o´clock in the morning. They are talking about the music they heard, the people they saw, and about the cool location.
You will ask yourself: “why does he mention that?” Two people having a conversation about a night out in an underground club. Nothing remarkable about this!

But as I am describing you this image, I just showed you a small part of it. Like a zoomed-in shot in a movie. Let’s zoom out a little, and suddenly we realise the two people speaking, are Chinese. You will once again say: “Ok, but still why is he telling us this?” There is nothing special about it. So we zoom out a little more and notice we are in a Chinese restaurant in a Chinese city, Qingdao. Suddenly you notice that it is kind of special in any imaginable way.

Music in China

Let us be gentle and say that the underground scene in China is kind of underdeveloped. At least in comparison to the underground subculture in Europe or USA. And regarding electronic music, you don’t usually find a location playing EDM in China. And I don’t mean the type of club where the “DJ” is just some random guy fading one song out and the other in, while hopping around as if he has hurt his foot. You know the kind of guy, wearing his headphone only over one ear, and one hand is constantly waving as if he wants to scare away an imaginary fly that only he can see.

We are talking right now about the real deal. I mean a location where the guy or girl behind the turntables is actually mixing music. A club where you just go to dance and have a good time, and not for showing around the nice outfit you bought yesterday. A club where you’ll find like-minded people all there for the same purpose, gaining mental energy by getting lost of the physical one. All of that, in Qingdao? Of course in Qingdao!

UNITT Qingdao

The location I am talking about is literally an underground club, called: “UNITT”. As far as you can already tell by my plaidoyer for EDM you may not be surprised that I am an electronic music enthusiast. If the location is underground I prefer it even more. I got to know about it and the location from a fellow student.

I went there with her on a Saturday night to check it out. The first encounter is always the most important one. In this case it was magical. You arrive at the given address and first you see… nothing! The club is located in the suburbs of Qingdao, so you will find yourself in front of some closed shops and an entrance to an underground car park near a stadium.

My Experience

My fellow student was pointing at the entrance of the underground car park and told me to listen closely. I heard, very softly, the beat of a rhythm coming from beneath the surface. So, we went into the car park. The sound grew louder and suddenly we were standing in front of the characteristic UNITT sign, a stylized Chinese socket.

Standing in front of the UNITT Qingdao nightclub sign

The sound and the beat was even louder, and I suddenly noticed I was craving the beat. We went through the door, made from a cargo container -door, and suddenly we were inside the music. On that night, I had several “first-times”. First time seeing Chinese people dancing in this particular way, first time seeing people being there only for fun and first time seeing a real DJ in China. The whole location with its painted black walls, the small room with the big DJ-desk and the small lights on the table.

All together with the compatible soundtrack, it was a wonderful experience. I was so happy with that whole night and once again with the decision to come to Qingdao. When I left the club, with all my clothes fully sweated and the beat still inside my body I knew I would return. Qingdao has always the ability to surprise you.

The crowd in UNITT nightclub in Qingdao

Internship Experience, Qingdao Blogs, Things To Do in Qingdao

Alfred’s New Experiences in Qingdao

Do you know these moments in your life, when you are leaning against a railing in a harbour, looking at the waves without really looking? Smelling the salty sea scent and listening to the seagulls screeching, but you don’t listen and smell actively?
In these kind of moments, you will have a talk with yourself and ask in your head with a tremulous voice: “what the heck am I doing here?” At least it was like this in my case.

About Me

I am a 29-year-old German. I worked as a bank clerk for 6 years in Germany. And now after studying two and a half years I landed in Qingdao. How come?

Am I a romantic enthusiast that practiced traditional “fan-tai-chi”? Am I a lover of Chinese poetry? Did I watch too much Kung Fu Panda? Or do I just like to castigate myself learning all the Chinese characters?

Chinese women practicing fan tai chi

No, is the answer to all these questions, it was a reason wedding. But as history shows this can have quite good outcome (not that I recommend this style of marriage). In my case it pumped up the numbers quite high. While I used to ask myself the “what the heck?” question in quite unromantic places, now I can do this on the breath-taking coast of Qingdao.

Qingdao Weather

I am here now since February this year. So, I could witness the change in weather and environment in Qingdao. I was freezing my “lower area of the back” off due to the famous “Qingdao-wind” in winter time. In summer time “Mediterranean” heat let me sweat Niagara Falls out of my body. A big thanks to the inventors of heaters and air conditioners!

Experiences in Qingdao

Although this may sound like advertisement for Air-con, Heaters and Qingdao, it is my utmost honest view of Qingdao. I am now looking forward on all the cool things that I will see and experience here. Why am I telling you this? The reason why is, that from now on, I will try to keep you guys updated and informed about these experiences. Don’t worry, I will not share the hilarious story of how I bought a bus ticket or the tremendously fascinating day when I was doing absolutely nothing.

Alfred standing on a boat in the Qingdao sea

The goal of my articles, blogging and scribbling will be to give you interesting insights in daily life here in Qingdao. As well as providing you with interesting news and hidden highlights.

I hope that the reading will give you an image of China, maybe inspire you or at least will make you sit in front of the screen smirking.

Cultural, Dalian Blogs, Things To Do in Dalian, Travel, Weekend Trips

Weekend Escapes from Dalian City

Dalian is a fantastic place for you not only for internship, but it is also a great place to enjoy yourself and explore other destinations nearby. You have been in Dalian for a while now and are already familiar with places around you and want to go somewhere you have never been before? If you want to experience something different then why not have a look outside the city’s borders and go for a weekend or day-trip in the surrounding area?

Dalian location on the map
Dalian location on the map, showing other surrounding cities and countries

 

Map of Dalian
Map of Dalian

There are many choices for you to have fun in or near Dalian instead of staying in the city centre. Since Dalian has an excellent geographic location, which is close to many national parks, resorts and many other attractions and scenic areas. You can easily discover new places and have fun outside of the city centre of Dalian during the weekend. Here are some recommendations for sightseeing and outdoor attractions, which are close Dalian.

1. Lushun (旅顺)

Map of Lushun
Map of Lushun

Actually, Lushun is a district and it belongs to Dalian city. However, since it is not really close to the downtown (about 30 kilometres), it’s becoming one of the best choices for local people to enjoy themselves during the vacation. Lushun has a very special history background as well, it was a colony of Japan and Russia several decades ago. Therefore, there are lots of museums, old battleships (close to the West Harbor) in Lushun. There are also lots of resorts and scenic areas for you to visit as well.

2. Golden Pebble Beach (金石滩 Jinshitan)

Map of the Golden Pebble Beach
Map of the Golden Pebble Beach

This is another area that attracts many visitors, especially during summertime. The Golden Pebble Beach is well-developed and it has an amusement park, a golf club, and of course beaches. There are also lots of nice hotels there as well. You can enjoy the nature and beautiful seaside scenery here. You can conveniently reach it via monorail from downtown Dalian – the monorail station is located right behind Dalian train station, the ride to Jinshitan takes around 1 hour.

3. Changshan Islands

Changshan Islands on a sunny day before sunset
Changshan Islands

Want to enjoy the life on islands? Fishing enthusiast? Then you should consider a trip here. You can go out fishing with native people on a boat in the morning, and enjoy seafood in the afternoon. This is also one of the best places to experience life like a native. Highly recommend visiting islands during the summer since the sea water is warm enough to swim. You can easily go there by ship from Dalian Port and it usually takes about two to three hours to get there.

 

4. Dandong

Map of Dandong, border of China and North Korea
Map of Dandong, border of China and North Korea

Dandong is a small city located on the border of China. It is about 300 kilometres away from Dalian. Even though it is a little bit farther away, thanks to the newly built high-speed train link it only takes two hours to get there. There are many places for you to visit there, like Yalu river, which separates the two countries, the famous Broken Bridge, Phoenix Mountain for a hike, or even a section of the Great Wall from which you can oversee North Korean territories. If you want, there are also lots of agencies which can take you to North Korea and have a unique experience, either enjoy North Korean traditional food, or discover what life is like under Kim Jong-Un’s control.

5. Seoul, South Korea

Map of city of Seoul, the capital of South Korea
Map of city of Seoul, the capital of South Korea

You might be surprised if it is possible to go abroad in this short period of time, because you never realise that it only takes 55 minutes by plane to Seoul from Dalian. You can enjoy Korean barbecue, beer, or if you like K-pop, superstars, this should be your first destination because famous companies like SM Entertainment, JYP and so on are located in Seoul as well. A visit to the imperial palace, ancient temples and famous Gangnam district also should be included in a trip there. Here is a cool site which gives you some tips on where to stay in Seoul: https://triphappy.com/seoul/where-to-stay/84746.

(Attention: if you plan a trip outside of China, make sure about that your visa for the People’s Republic of China is a double entry or multiple entry visa, otherwise you won’t be able to re-enter the country!)

Credit to: 曲天昊 (Danny Qu)

Pretty attractive? Want to start your internship in Dalian? Apply now!

 

Cultural, Dalian Blogs, Things To Do in Dalian, Travel

A Day in Jinshitan – Things to Do

I have been living in Dalian for about 4 years, but most of the time, I stayed at a small northern part of Dalian, called Jinshitan. I know the area very well and know all the places to go to have some fun. As I know Jinshitan so well, I can take advantage of its beautiful scenery, great restaurants and other locations, where everyone can have a good time.

Dalian's Golden Pebble Beach Jinshitan
Golden Pebble Beach Jinshitan

When I think of this place, I think of the beach and the endless shoreline along it. It is a truly beautiful and a relaxing place to be around. When I have free time, I just go to the beach with my friends to play volleyball or frisbee. After enjoying the sunny day with my friends, it is good to just relax and lay on the sand at the beach, feel the breeze from the tides and get a tan. The beach in Jinshitan is big and lets everyone to enjoy the summer while playing games, sports or relaxing outside, which is one of the main reasons I love this place.

Things to do:

Another way to spend time in this area, by just walking around Jinshitan. Jinshitan is not a big place, but offers a lot of things that, downtown Dalian does not have. However, there is no doubt about that, walking along the beach is my favourite thing to do in Jinshitan. There are many other great attractions and activities for visitors and locals in Jinshitan, such as a hunting club, which is located near the end of the shoreline, where you can shoot clay pigeons or do paint ball with friends. The prices of these activities are affordable and it is definitely a place where I would go with my friends. There is a huge amusement park in Jinshitan, called Discoveryland and it is always filled with people during the summer. It is a very popular attraction both for locals and the visitors of Dalian.

There is also the Jinwan golf course and a soccer field in Jinshitan as well as many other activities and attractions, which can be enjoyed both by locals and tourists. There is also a hiking trail along the coast, which takes around two hours to walk. It is great for people who enjoy being outdoors and there is a beautiful sight along the way. Due to the low population of Jinshitan it is easy to get around and find the way to all attractions and restaurants. Anyone, who is looking for a place to have a have a getaway near Dalian, should visit Jinshitan as it is definitely the right place.

Dalian Hunting Club and Jinwan Private Golf Course
Hunting Club and Jinwan Golf Course

Some other popular activities and attractions in Jinshitan include the hot spring resort, which is wonderful, but the prices are also higher than other resorts in the area. However, it is located at an amazing area with good and clean environment and the hot spring resort is also very clean and worth a visit. There are some restaurants and street food markets nearby, which is very convenient, if the visitors of the hot spring resort would like to go for a tasty dinner after their relaxing time at the resort.

Clubbing / Dinning:

There is a newly opened club in Jinshitan, Soho916. It is a popular spot for young people from the local colleges and universities. The club has large parties on Thursdays and Fridays. There is great music provided by two DJs, one is from America and another from Peru. The club is located at the very northern part of Jinshitan, so people who would like to go to this club will need to take taxi or some other type of transportation.

Jinshitan is worth visiting just to try some of the food it offers. As I mentioned before Jinshitan is a small area, with not too many people and most of the local people live in the area near the Jinshitan hospital. However, the number of tourists increase during the main holiday season, making Jinshitan a popular holiday destination for domestic tourists as well as for some international visitors. In this area, there are many great and tasty food, my favourites, include some western restaurants and barbecue places. Toni Kocht is a very good German restaurant with very reasonable prices. The street at the jīn shí tān yī yuàn 金石滩医院 area, which has many barbecue places, is amazing and worth the visit. The food in Jinshitan is definitely worth trying.

To discover some of these attractions and many more, Apply Now!

Credit to 陈有健 (Jack Chen)

Chengdu Blogs, Cultural, Dalian Blogs, Learn about China, Qingdao Blogs, Travel, Weekend Trips, Zhuhai Blogs

Adventures in Shanghai Disneyland

Last weekend I decided to treat myself to a little weekend trip away. I hadn’t been out of Zhuhai in a while and when a fellow intern asked if I would be interested in checking out the new Shanghai Disneyland with her, I didn’t hesitate to say yes. Before I knew it, we had arrived in Shanghai and were as giddy as little children on the night before Christmas as we tried to get some sleep before going to the park the next day. The next morning we got up bright and early to catch the subway and make the journey out to Disneyland. The park just opened this past summer and they extended the subway line to extend all the way to the park, so it is really convenient to get there by public transportation. By the time we arrived at the Disney subway station the cars were absolutely packed and we started to get worried that we were going to spend the whole day packed into the park like sardines. But once we made it out of the subway and through the entrance to the park, the crowd started to disperse. We had finally made it to the “happiest place on Earth!”

Shanghai Disneyland Castle

Our first destination was the souvenir shop so that we could pick our some very important accessories – our Mickey Mouse ears for the day. The shop had a huge selection of different ears, and we probably tried on more than ten pairs each until we finally found the ones we wanted. So with our ears all set, we were ready to go hit the rides.

Chinese Mickey Ears

Ever since the park opened over the summer, there had been a lot of hype over the TRON Lightcycle Power Run – the new rollercoaster that made its debut at the park over the summer, and we made that our first destination. The line was still manageable at that time, and before we knew it we had mounted our TRON Lightcycles and shot off into the sky. When we got off, we both had grins as big as the Cheshire Cat on our faces, and agreed this was the best rollercoaster we had ever been on. So for anyone who is into rollercoasters, this one is not to be missed.

TRON Rollercoaster

We continued to make our way through the park, doing all the things one does in Disneyland. We got a picture with Mickey Mouse, ate corndogs and Mickey Mouse pretzels, watched little girls getting their princess makeovers and ended up riding almost every ride in the park. Another highlight was the new Pirates of the Caribbean ride. They added some elements from the new movies and updated the graphics along the whole ride. We had so much fun on that ride that when we got off we saw that the line was really short, we hopped right back in the line and rode it again.

The day ended with the classic Disney light show and firework display, and before we knew it we were on our way back to our hostel with very tired feet, but smiles on our faces. We had just enough energy to grab some street barbecue by our hostel before jumping into bed and getting some hard-earned rest.

Overall we had a really amazing time at Shanghai Disneyland. The park is so big that the crowds are pretty well dispersed, and with a combination of fast track tickets and single rider lines we rarely had to wait very long to get on any rides. All of the classic Disney elements are there, with some Chinese flair thrown in so everyone who goes is sure to have a good time. I would definitely recommend a trip out to Shanghai Disneyland to all Disney fans out there who want to check out the newest park the franchise has to offer.

Park Ticket
Chinese Traditions, Cultural, Discover Chinese culture, Eating Out in Chengdu, Eating out in Zhuhai, Food, Qingdao Eating Out Guide

Using Chopsticks – why I’m a convert!

An estimated 33% of the world’s population (give or take) use chopsticks on a daily basis. For the hungry first time user, guzzling down your meal with two small wooden sticks can be a real challenge. Chopsticks might seem tricky to master and somewhat unnecessary for those of us that grew up with a plastic knife and fork in hand, so why have they come to dominate the culinary habits of much of Asia?
Chopsticks are over 5000 years old, long sticks of bamboo were first used to retrieve morsels of food from cooking pots on the fire. Later on, evidence of chopsticks used as table utensils emerged as far back as 500-400 AD. It’s said the spread of popular chopstick use across China was down to population boom and fuel shortages; food was chopped into smaller pieces in an attempt to make the meagre rations go further (thus eliminating the need for knives at the table). Whatever the reason, people in Japan and Korea soon followed the trend not far behind!

The ultimate legend of Chinese culture Confucius (or debatably perhaps his disciple Mengzi) added his own two cents on the matter too, which always helps. Apparently a firm believer that “the honourable and upright man keeps well away from both slaughterhouse and kitchen, and allows no knives on his table.” 有名望的和正直的人要远离屠场和厨房。

FUN FACT: Did you know that Confucius was a vegetarian?

I’m not ashamed to admit that after 3 years in China, I am a total convert. Using chopsticks makes me appreciate my food more. Whatsmore, the sociable side to Chinese dinning, sharing and array of mouth-watering dishes, picking out tasty tit-bits from any dish at will, never gets old.

So here goes, top facts you should know about different types of chopsticks:

THE CHINESE CHOPSTICK
InternChina - Chinese Chopsticks
Typically unfinished wood, slightly rectangular top with a cylindrical blunt end. Doesn’t roll off the table so easily and more surface area means you’ve got a higher chance or transferring those tasty morsels all the way from the middle of the table right to your bowl!
FUN FACT: It’s a faux-pas to tap your chopsticks on the edge of your bowl, as this is what beggars do to attract attention.

THE JAPANESE CHOPSTICK
InternChina - Japanese Chopsticks
Traditionally lacquered wood or bamboo, with a rounded top and a pointy end that’s perfect for de-boning fish. They’re a little bit smaller than the Chinese equivalent and you often find red pairs for the ladies and black ones for the gents.
FUN FACT: Never stick your chopsticks vertically into your rice bowl, it’s reminiscent of incense sticks at a funeral.

THE KOREAN CHOPSTICK
InternChina - Korean Chopsticks
The shortest model of the three, Korean chopsticks are usually stainless steel and flat or rectangular shaped. Potentially more hygienic but it definitely makes it harder to get a grip on your food!
FUN FACT: The king used pure silver chopsticks which would change colour if they came in contact with certain poisons. The people started using metal chopsticks to emulate him.

InternChina - chopstick inventions

Anyway, hope this can inspire you to pick up a pair of chopsticks and come to China yourself. Even if you struggle to start with new chopstick inventions are coming up every day, so keep your eyes peeled for the latest ‘Chork’ on the market!

Cultural, Qingdao Blogs, Weekend Trips

Wandering Seoul

If you’re lucky enough to be interning in Qingdao, and you have a multiple entry visa or are looking to renew your current visa, you can take a short vacay to South Korea and explore the incredible city of Seoul.
With the journey only lasting just over an hour and 16 flights every day at reasonable prices, there is no excuse not to visit! I marked the half waypoint of my internship by heading to the Land of the Morning Calm for a weekend of shopping, sightseeing and eating all the delicious Korean food in sight!

This blog post outlines some of the main attractions in Seoul, and also personal opinions from my visit to the city in July.

A wide variety of accommodation is available in Seoul, from quirky hostels to Gangnam style luxury hotels! Personally I always prefer to stay in hostels, especially when I am solo travelling, as it gives you a greater chance to meet new people to explore with. I checked into a clean and tidy 4-bed dorm in a cute little hostel in the university district of Hongdae. It cost less than $10 a night and was a great base to explore the city and experience Seoul’s crazy nightlife! Here is a cool site which gives you some tips on where to stay in Seoul: https://triphappy.com/seoul/where-to-stay/84746.

There are tonnes of sights to see in Seoul and the surrounding area, including Gyeongbok Palace, Insadong, Itaewon, War Memorial and the Blue Palace. For me, the key attraction was a tour to the DMZ; to see the border of North Korea with my own eyes, and hear the stories of war from local people.

My visit to the DMZ included visits to the Imjingak Park, where the Freedom Bridge to the North is located. It is hoped that one day the bridge will be opened and people will be able to travel freely between the North and South. It is quite a surreal environment, as you are constantly aware that the world’s last isolated nation is so close, yet it is also very commercialised with a range of shops, restaurants and fairground rides in the area. Other major sights include the 3rd Infiltration Tunnel, where North Korean soldiers tried to invade the South by using explosives to create a direct route to Seoul. A number of these tunnels have been found, but the 3rd is the most popular one to visit, as it is the longest and deepest. The North have previously claimed that they are natural formations…

InternChina- Imjingak Park
InternChina- Imjingak Park

The tour concluded with a visit to the Dorasan Observatory, on a hilltop looking toward the North. There are a series of binoculars allowing you to view the nearest village in the North, Kijŏng-Dong or Peace Village. During my visit, it was quite surreal to see normal people in the street going about their daily business through the binoculars. Dorasan Station is nearby with the tracks already in place for trains to start travelling to Pyongyang.

InternChina- Dorasan StationInternChina- Dorasan Station
InternChina- Dorasan Station

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

InternChina- Dorasan Station
InternChina- Dorasan Station

You can do the DMZ tour comfortably in half a day (with an early start), so once you arrive back in Seoul you have the whole afternoon to explore the city. The sobering Korean War Memorial should be next on your to do list. More of an extensive museum than memorial, with huge military displays of tanks, planes and guns. Given the high tensions on the Korean peninsula, and that a peace agreement has never actually been signed, the Korean War Memorial is a very relevant attraction to visit.

The city is also to home to Gyeongbok Palace, which is probably the most famous in Korea. It’s located at the end of Sejongro, and is also nearby the Blue House (President’s residence) and Bukchon Village. The palace was built in the late 1300s, and has been destroyed and rebuilt many times since. It is a beautiful spot, and you can spend a few hours wandering around the grounds admiring the traditional Korean architecture.

InternChina- Gyeongbok Palace
InternChina- Gyeongbok Palace

No trip to Seoul would be complete without a spot of shopping. Three major department stores dominate the shopping scene: Lotte, Shingsegae and Hyundai. You can purchase a variety of goods within these stores, from clothing to make up to Korea’s beloved kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage). Wide, straight boulevards dominate the city, but a quick wander into the little laneways in their shadows and you will find plentiful quirky Korean stores, selling all kinds of merchandise. Aside from the department stores, expat-friendly Itaewon and Insadong are also very worthy of a visit to pick up more authentic Korean goods.

InternChina- Bukchon Village Shopping
InternChina- Bukchon Village Shopping

Seoul is frequently regarded as a world leader in cosmetics: it is often referred to as the Silicon Valley of skincare, due to the high tech ingredients and futuristic formulations. Therefore if cosmetics are on your to purchase list, your first stop should be Myeong-dong to explore the hundreds of beauty boutiques that occupy the narrow streets. Popular K-beauty brands like Innisfree, Face Shop and Etude House are in their abundance, with enthusiastic staff welcoming you in store with offers of free facemasks and samples galore.

One last of the last things I would recommend tourists do in the city is visit the four main animal cafes. You can go to dog, cat, sheep and raccoon cafés in Seoul! As a massive dog lover, I went to Bau Hause where you can cuddle over 20 different dogs ranging from Chihuahuas to Golden Retrievers. The café is divided in to small and large sections so you can spend time with whatever dogs you are most comfortable with, all whilst enjoying a coffee!

InternChina- Dog Cafe
InternChina- Dog Cafe

Finally, Seoul is an amazing city with plenty to do, tasty food and incredibly kind people. If you’re interning in Qingdao, with a multiple entry visa or looking to renew your current visa, and fancy a short break away you should definitely consider a visit to the city with soul!

InternChina- Insadong Tea Cafe
InternChina- Insadong Tea Cafe