Day 1 in Qingdao: unconscious train rides, Italianese pizza, and that time I caught the Chinese Plague.

So after barely getting 3 hours of shut-eye in, we were up and packing by 5:30am, having to catch our train by 7:00am! We checked out of our hostel and took the Beijing subway to the Train station. The subways in Beijing are surprisingly clean! I didn’t notice any rats, garbage or general debris that you may find in other subway stations, such as Toronto’s. They also have glass or plastic walls along the edge of the station platforms. This is for safety reasons, naturally. During rush hour, the Beijing subways are absolutely packed and it would be very easy for dozens of people to be pushed off the platform and on to the track and into an oncoming train. Luckily, hardly anyone was on the train that early so we didn’t have to worry about being trampled on our way to the train station.

Once at the train station, we found our gateway and went straight for the train. I didn’t worry about getting many snacks because I knew I’d pass out once the train started rolling. And sure enough, I was right! I thought the trains were quite nice, more comfortable than a plane anyway. Enough leg room and the seats leaned back to a satisfactory level. We put our luggage away and sat in our seats and soon after the train started moving I was out. I remember waking up once in a while and taking a mental note of my surroundings. The train moved VERY fast, I could tell when I looked out the window. Once or twice I was woken up because there were 3 children sitting in front of me (just my luck) and their screaming or crying would cause my eyes to flutter open on occasion. But for the most part I slept on and we arrived in Qingao around 12pm and I remember thinking “Wow, what a short train ride!” but anything seems short when you’re unconscious for most of it.

The Qingdao train station is very nice and I could feel the difference in Qingdao’s air as soon as we were outside. It was humid (because of the ocean, obvs) and felt less polluted and smoggy than Beijing had. We got our tickets right away to return back to Beijing three days later, so we wouldn’t have to worry about not getting seats later. There were only first class tickets back to Beijing left, so we thought “why not!” and bought them. A very good idea, we found out later on. We got into a cab and headed to our hostel called The Observatory.

You guessed it. Our hostel was an observatory at the top of a long hill that seemed to take up half the city. When you viewed Qingdao from the lookout of The Observatory, you could see the expanse of the city, the large impressive buildings further away and the weaving pattern of quaint houses, markets and apartment buildings leading up to our hostel. Qingdao had a very European feeling to it, I thought. The architectural design of the buildings and streets in Qingdao reminded me of a little French or German village, not a Chinese village. It’s no village, however. There are around 8 million people living in Qingdao and it was named the best city to live in China a few years ago, based on it’s appealing look, cleanliness, and the many popular and beautiful beaches which are the main tourist attraction. Well, the beaches and the beer. Qingdao is well known for producing the best beer in China! There is a whole section of the city dedicated to the 2 things Qindao does best: beer and seafood. More on that to come!

We arrived at the hostel and went up to put our bags in our rooms. We had pre-booked 3 rooms with 2 double beds in each. The 2 boys shared their own room and the girls alternated: each girl got the single room to herself for one night while the other two shared. I opted for the single room on the first night, which ended up being a blessing because I got very sick on our first day in Qingdao. After we put our things in our rooms, we went up to the roof where there was a lovely patio with lush couches, large pillows, comfy chairs, an all-day restaurant/bar, jazz music and free bbq at night. This hostel was perfect for us, as we just wanted to relax for a few days after our hectic (but exciting) Beijing tour! We ate lunch up there and were enjoying our surroundings. But then I started to cough… and never stopped.I eventually excused myself and went to my room and pretty much died for the next 6 hours.

I didn’t mention it before, but by day 2 in Beijing I had lost my voice, which became raspy and feeble, and I was coughing up God-knows-what out of my lungs every 5 minutes. Basically my throat had turned into a 90 year old Chinese man overnight. I believe it was the pollution and rubbish flying around in Beijing’s very polluted air that attacked my throat, combined with lack of sleep and malnutrition, and for some reason it attacked with a vengeance after we arrived in Qingdao. Maybe it was because of another drastic change in ventilation, I don’t know! So alone in my room I think I coughed for 2 hours straight. At one point my throat was so dry I was coughing up blood! I managed to fall asleep for about 2 hours and when I woke up my coughing fit was over, but I was feeling weak and under the weather, with the occasional cough here and there. My comrades came to check on me soon after, and I opted to go out to dinner with them but I would come back to the hostel if they decided to go out after dinner.

Dinner that night was to be an Italian restaurant we had heard about. It was a bit of hassle to get to the right place because the taxi drivers in Qingdao were all retarded (fact) but we got there in the end. I also had some Starbucks before dinner (something hot for my throat), which has been bitterly missed since Hohhot doesn’t have one! I deeply regret that I wasn’t feeling well during this meal. I only got a nice vegetable soup due to my queasiness, but I soooo wanted to get a pizza or pasta! It looked so delicious and it’s always fun to try foreign food that’s been made by Chinese people! It was a really nice night out so after dinner we walked around the area for a bit, before grabbing a cab and driving back to our hostel. My friends decided against going out that night because they were tired from the craziness that was Beijing and we had been up so early that morning. The girls and I played a few games of UNO on the roof patio while the boys played cribbage beside us, and soon after I headed to bed. We were all looking forward to a good nights sleep and sleeping in the next day! I was prepping to feel 100% better the next day so that I could join the others in exploring Qingdao on Day 2!

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