Dalian was the last stop on our brief vacation before heading back to Beijing and finals at Tsinghua. The trip began with an overnight boat from Yantai that left at 10pm and arrived in Dalian at 5am. We paid a little extra to reserve some beds so we wouldn’t be tired the next day and could enjoy the only day in Dalian that we had. Once we were on the boat, we found our room, which had eight beds in total, three of which were for us. We went to the kitchen/dining area and got some food, and met some local Chinese men who invited us to play cards with them. It took a few rounds to understand the rules of the new game because they couldn’t speak English. Once we had finally figured out how to play, the kitchen/dining area closed and everyone went back to their rooms to sleep.
When we got back to our rooms, it appeared that a small Chinese village had moved into room including two of our three beds. We had to turn on the lights, and figure the best way to resolve the situation. I pointed to our beds and said “wo de chuáng,” or “my bed,” and hoped for the best. I guess they understood and knew that they were not supposed to be there, so without saying much at all, some packed up and moved. Easy enough…
After a few hours of sleep, we arrived in Dalian. We had a plan to visit a scenic overlook above Laodong Park, which was about a half hour walk from the train station, and try to find some other cool stops in between.
We walked for a few minutes and came across an area where five major roads all converged in a large round-about, which surrounded a small public area called Zhongshan Square. Within the Square, there was an elderly Chinese man practicing Tai Qi (more formally know as Taijiquan). I was a little hesitant at first, but just decided to jump in and see if they would let me join or yell and chase me away. Sure enough they let me stay and even gave me a few pointers.
Afterwards, I was pretty happy I didn’t offend the Tai Qi instructor by inviting myself in because after we finished, he went to pick up his stuff which included a sword bigger than Mel Gibson’s in Braveheart. He casually picked it up and walked out of the square. In case anyone was wondering, it is apparently acceptable to walk down the street in China with a gigantic sword, at least if you are casual Tai Qi instructor.
After Zhongshan Square, we made our way to Laodong Park. Laodong Park was far bigger than we had expected. Within the park, there were several small gardens, a farmer’s market, several lakes, statues, and even some roller coasters.
It was still a little hazy in the morning, so we tried to give the weather some time to clear up before going to the overlook. We walked into the central government area called People’s Square and took a look around. By this time it was getting close to lunch and we were all pretty hungry from the long night and all the walking up to this point, so we camped out in a Korean BBQ restaurant to rest and refuel.
Unfortunately, the weather was still not cooperating when we had finished, but we were running out of time so we headed back to Laodong Park and made the trek up the steep hill to the observation tower. The first picture below shows how big Laodong Park really is and the scale of Dalian. It also shows the climb that we endured to take the picture! From the top, the city really started to remind me of San Francisco with how the city integrated itself with the rolling hills and surrounding landscape.
With a long day coming to a close, we made our way back to the train station. We would take an overnight train back to Beijing which took close to twelve hours. At this point, I had basically reached the half way point in the trip: Three months at Tsinghua University in Beijing, with a little bit of traveling to Tsingtao, Yantai, and Dalian. The second half of the trip would will include one month Beijing, and then two months in Shanghai.