Sunday, July 23, 2006
According to one of my classmates from UIR, Dalian is the "Singapore of the North". I'm not sure if he was joking or not, but I was curious to find out for myself.
In addition to normal taxicabs, in China you'll find smaller trikes where you negotiate the price with the driver before getting in. They're quite ugly and old in Beijing and Tianjin, but in Dalian they're spiffy little blue deals like you see in the picture.
There are lots of bilingual Russian and Chinese signs in Dalian.
Getting off the bus in Dalian, I was rather impressed by all the glitzy skyscrapers and bilingual signs in Chinese and Russian. Not quite Singapore, but it was rather modern and clean for Mainland China standards. It was only about 10 minutes after arriving that I realized I'd left my bag of wet clothing on the bus. The bus was gone, so I figured it was pretty much a lost cause.
Our first destination in Dalian was the train station. There were plenty of trains to Beijing tomorrow, even ones with soft seat and soft sleeper! The only problem was that the ones with good seating/sleeper left in the morning, and I wanted to have more time to see Dalian tomorrow, since it was already evening. Our guidebook had mentioned that boat transportation from Dalian is good, so we left the train station and secured tickets on a boat to Tianjin leaving tomorrow evening.
We spent the rest of the evening walking around the city center, looking for a good seafood restaurant(Dalian is a port, so it has great seafood). When looking for restaurants, we usually look for crowded places - obviously, if a lot of people are eating there, you know it's good. The restaurant we settled on was really cheap, with great food and a nice atmosphere. You can't beat three dishes for about 25kuai per person(3 dollars).
Drying out my hard-earned RMB(wet from the border crossing).
Looking at our Lonely Planet guidebook, there didn't seem to be a whole lot to do in Dalian, despite our UIR teachers' insistence that it would be more fun than Dandong. There were a couple aquariums and beaches, which didn't really interest me, and beyond that, lots of places to go shopping.
The next day, we took a cab out to a local aquarium. It was pretty modern, and had this cool part where you could walk through a glass tunnel and see fish swimming around above you. There was a dolphin show, which we were late for, and a bunch of tacky stuff. But I didn't really think it was worth the 100kuai(12 dollars) entrance fee - the aquarium wasn't bad, but it's just too expensive for China.
Next to the aquarium was a rocky beach, but it was rainy and we didn't have swimming clothes anyway. I think there are some sandy beaches near Dalian, but we didn't bother visiting them due to the weather and time constraints.
Coming back from the aquarium, we visited Dalian's Russian street, which wasn't even mentioned in the Lonely Planet guidebook. It was pretty touristy, but I think it's worth a visit. As far as I could tell, no Russians actually lived there, but I did run into a few Russian tourists who I got to practice my Russian with. They gave us directions to the only Russian restaurant on the entire street, which, unfortunately, didn't open for lunch until 2PM. However, we had someplace to be at 2PM.
That morning I'd called the bus company in Dandong and asked about my lost stuff. Surprisingly, they still had it, and were willing to put it on the next bus to Dalian(they have several buses every day) and have me meet them to pick it up. I didn't really understand where I was supposed to meet them, so we just went to where the bus had dropped us off last time. Spotting a Dandong-Dalian bus, I jumped on and explained the situation. The drivers, taking a lunch break, told me it was the wrong bus, but really wanted to help - calling the driver of the other bus, confirming the meeting place, and even jumping out of the bus to yell at a taxi driver to take us to the right place.
In addition to cute little blue three-wheeled cabs, Dalian also has charming trolleybuses.
The taxi ride took a long time. He came to a stop in a fairly deserted street 10 minutes after I was supposed to meet the bus. Was I really supposed to wait for them here? After asking around, he drove into an empty lot with a few buses. Suddenly, a guy in a white tank top walked out holding a black bag - it was my wet clothes! What a coup!
By the time we got back it was around 2:30, and we had to be at the boat around 4:30. Rebecca got some money out of an ATM, and I followed suit, only to run into a screen saying "YOUR CARD BEEN CAPTURED." I've used ATMs plenty of times in China, including those of this particular bank(Industrial and Commercial), so I don't know what the problem was. I was expecting a long and agonizing process of getting my card back, but actually, all I had to do was walk in and show my passport and I had it back in 5 minutes.
We spent the rest of the time drinking bubble tea and buying Rebecca some new shoes, since her old ones broke. Women buying shoes is a long and difficult process, but even more so in China, since Rebecca wears the very biggest women's size available in China(40). What's more, since she's more obviously foreign than I am, all the shops kept giving her ridiculous prices(160kuai or around 20 dollars) and refused to bargain with us, even when we pulled the time-honoured trick of walking out of the store. At this point I had a good idea of what type of shoe she liked wearing and I was curious what prices I could get if I went alone, so Rebecca handed me a 100kuai bill and I was off to do some women's shoe shopping. The storekeepers were much more agressive when it was just me, pulling me back multiple times when I tried to walk out and offering lower prices. I managed to get a fairly nice pair for 50kuai(6 dollars), but we forgot that men are traditionally clueless when it comes to buying women's clothing. It just didn't occur to me at the time that bright yellow wouldn't match with any of the clothes she wore.
Off to the docks! As the boat blasted romantic music and pulled away from Dalian, I wondered what new adventures would await us onboard and in Tianjin.
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