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Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro

From Qingdao to the End of the World:
Bicycling China’s Shandong Peninsula


Copyright © Stephen Shapiro, 2002.


Part 2


The next morning we loaded up our panniers with all our gear and headed east, out of town, through the new city. We rode for several miles along a wide boulevard, with beautiful beaches and parks on our right and dozens of gleaming new glass and steel office and apartment buildings on our left. It was one of the most scenic waterfront cities we’d ever visited. It was the first Saturday in June and we encountered numerous weddings in the park, with the wedding parties arriving in caravans of brightly decorated taxis. The brides all wore traditional western white wedding dresses. but with red shoes.

For more than twenty miles we rode along a succession of summer beach resorts. These were clearly set up for thousands of tourists, who would begin arriving in a few weeks when the water got warm enough to swim in. Interspersed with the resorts, some of them quite upscale, were little fishing villages, with men working on ancient looking boats and woman mending miles of fishing nets. They left these nets, and many small shrimp, on the road to dry, presenting a rather unique biking hazard.

As often seems the case on bike trips, our first day was the hardest, but most spectacular ride. Thirty miles east of Qingdao we came to Lao Shan, a sacred Taoist mountain. The ride up mountain was spectacular, although we did have to share the road with dozens of tour buses. The sacred mountain has been turned into something of a tourist destination with cable cars, bus parking lots, and souvenir stands. It was nice to know that we Americans are not the only ones who could profane a sacred site in the name of tourism (ever been to Gettysburg?).

On the other side of the mountain, everything changed. The tour buses disappeared and we rode down through beautiful, unspoiled terraced farms and picturesque villages. With the sun slowly setting behind the mountain, we could really feel the sacredness of the place, as we glided quietly into our hotel, actually a corporate resort training center for the Haier corporation (one of the largest electronics and appliance manufacturers in China). It was a large modern complex, nestled underneath a towering granite cliff, with a view of the ocean.

The next day we rode through really rural farming areas. It seemed to us that every inch of  arable land on the Shandong peninsula was planted, with peanuts, wheat, and vegetables and fruit of all kinds, all growing neatly in rows, with not a single weed in sight. All the farming was done by hand, including farmers carrying water in huge buckets hung on a stick across the shoulders. In the apple orchards, each apple was individually wrapped and growing inside its own paper bag to protect it from insects (the apples were to be sold to the Japanese, who do not allow the use of pesticides). There were even vegetables planted between the rows of apple trees.

After thirty miles of riding, we came to a dusty little town, with unpaved, practically deserted streets. We found a restaurant, where we were the only customers and from the looks of things, could have been the only customers for some time. In our own private dining room on the second floor, we were served a feast of local vegetables and seafood. It was one of the best of many good meals we had on the trip. After lunch, the owner brought out a camera and had our guides take pictures of us with her in front of the restaurant. Donna had not been feeling well all morning and the rest of us were stuffed to the gills. Since the nearest hotel was still forty miles away, we asked the owners to try to find a truck big enough to carry the four of us and our bicycles to our destination for the night. After some searching around town, they found a truck just barely big enough, and Mike and Chen and the owners spent the next half hour getting the bikes tied securely in the back. Gradually, people began appearing in doorways and windows and on the streets to watch what might have been the most exciting thing to happen in town in quite a while. By the time we left, we were cheered on our way by a sizable crowd.

Next: Part 3

From Qingdao to the End of the World: Bicycling China’s Shandong Peninsula Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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