Qingzhou is a sleepy little (for China) town halfway in between Zibo and Weifang in the Shandong province. I’ll start by giving the disclaimer- I don’t think any foreigner would visit this city as a tourist. There are many industrial plants around the outskirts of the city, so foreigners may visit for business. I’m writing this more to give my dear readers a glimpse of what life is like when we’re not in a famous or sought-after travel destination. In Qingzhou, there were not very many western-style restaurants and just little markets vs. a supermarket. Just as we were getting settled in, we decided, with most of Austin’s co-workers, to switch hotels to stay in Zibo. Our hotel in Qingzhou was refusing to turn the AC on more than 2 hours per day, and it was over 80 degrees in our room during the day. This is not such a big deal for people who work and are only at the hotel in the evening, but for the boys and I, it was getting to be unbearable. On top of that, Austin’s clients were arranging transportation to Qingzhou and keeping them at work longer, and so even though Zibo was further away, with their own transportation they actually get home sooner each day! Our situation is Zibo is much better, but it’s different.
In Qingzhou, we had two large adjoining rooms, so Owen and Landon had a room to themselves with a twin-sized bed each. In Zibo, Landon is sleeping on a full-length couch and Owen is in a crib. In Qingzhou, I had to fend for dinner, and so the boys and I would walk around picking up food for dinner, eat it, and the boys would be in the bath when Austin walked in the door. In Zibo, Austin gets home earlier and we get to eat for free in the business lounge in the Sheraton. There is also a new mall next door with tons of food options, not to mention several McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut, and KFC within close walking distance. It is so much more convenient dinner-wise! In Qingzhou, our room overlooked Fangongting park, with beautiful trees and flowers and a river walking path that spread out quite a ways in either direction. Although we had not found a kid’s play area, there were beautiful, shady places to play along the river, and it was so therapeutic to have nature so close to us. In Zibo, it’s a 15-30 minute walk to a park. There are usually a ton of other people at the park, most of the kids have toys that my boys want to steal, and our time there is more of a necessary evil than a break for me. The boys need places to play, but it’s not as accessible, convenient, or pleasant as it was in Qingzhou. Ultimately, I’m glad we’re here in Zibo, but I miss the beautiful scenery of Qingzhou! On either side of the river that runs through the middle of Qingzhou, walking/jogging/scooter/small vehicle paths provide easy access to the river and parks along the way. We did not find kid’s play equipment during our explorations, but there were plenty of exercise machines, and the boys have fun climbing on those as well (as long as no one wants to use them). In the mornings and late afternoons, groups of older people gather to practice Tai Chi and other movement practices, including sword and fan dancing. It was always very entertaining and interesting to watch. I admire the retired people in China. Parks are their rec centers and they are always out and about playing mah jong, exercising, singing karaoke or just talking. Many are the primary caregivers of their grandchildren during the day. They certainly stay active!
Most people at the park were very surprised to see us. Unlike in Ningbo, people actually tried to talk to me, and did not give up when I smiled and shook my head and tried to explain to them that I don’t speak Chinese. One sweet woman even tried writing the Chinese characters on the paving tiles with spit on her finger. Yeah, writing it out was NOT going to help! Qingzhou is fairly small and surrounded by watermelon farms, so I’m sure we were quite the novelty, especially the boys with such light hair!
In Fangongting park proper (across the river from our hotel and near the Qingzhou museum) there are bridges over to a small island, and on the south side of the river, large statues of different zoo animals. Owen loved them, and took off running towards the animals whenever we let him out of the stroller. Qingzhou museum is just up the bank from the river, and a colorful gate marks the entrance from the museum to the park.
The riverside park linked our hotel with an “old town” part of Qingzhou, with traditional Chinese looking facades and trendy shops inside. There was a really cheap, yummy dumpling place there that we frequented during our time in there. It was a really nice, relaxing walk to go from our hotel along the river to old town. The pace of life was certainly slower, and people lived more simply. I find myself drawn to smaller towns on our travels, even if it means that things are a little harder for me. I wish our hotel would have turned on the AC, but I guess that’s a common problem, because we westerners like our rooms cool, while the Chinese seem to think my kids are cold if there is air conditioning on and they are in shorts. I wish we had more time to explore this beautiful little city, and socialize with the friendly people before moving hotels!