Category Archives: Weifang

Stories from sight seeing in Weifang, Shandong Province, China.

Pull up a seat photo challenge-Week 1

Welcome to the first post of a new weekly photo challenge. An invitation to take a load off and share a favorite perch by linking your post to this one, either with a comment or pingback. I am new to this, but will do my best to be a good hostess.

Pull Up a Seat is the theme: specifically the places one sits, might sit, or art about seats or sitting.

As I get older I find myself more and more often looking for a place to perch when I am out and about. This might be a chair, a bench, a wall, a pew…maybe even a log or a rock. These spots can be artfully designed, quirky or very plain, sometimes they have a view, sometimes you meet someone else who needs a rest.

 

Park benches with a butterfly motif in People’s Square, Weifang, Shandong Province, China. This area was a favorite of mine when my son lived in Weifang. After walking kilometers on stone pavement these are a welcome sight. During the week, when I took these photos, it is a quiet place. On the weekends it is pretty busy, especially when the wind is up: it is a popular place to fly kites. The butterfly motif is the symbol of Weifang, it comes from the traditional bamboo butterfly kites popular in this region.

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Over to you. Add a link to your post in the comment section.

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I’ll meet you at the giant bok choi.

This past Sunday we went to the International High-Tech Vegetable Exposition in Shouguang, a city within Weifang.

Weifang is kind of like Los Angeles in administrative structure: it is both a city and a county. The county area is fairly large so it is important to realize when making plans that when something is advertised as being “in Weifang” it might actually take a good long time to get to it (another example of this was my outing to the Kite Festival).

That was certainly the case for the Vegetable Fair. We, my son and I, were fortunate to be invited to attend with a family. It took about three hours to get there from the downtown area where we were staying, that included picking up another family member along the way, traffic tie ups, parking and getting from the parking lot to the fair itself.

The fair was not a thing I can just say “it was like …” because it was like some things I am familiar with but also had some uniquely Chinese elements that are outside my experience.

First of all it was sort of like the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle; there were display type gardens, information booths and a marketplace. The Shouguang High-Tech Vegetable Exposition dwarfs the show in Seattle. The area covered has to be at least four times that of the Seattle show. It happens in a specially built venue that includes several very large green houses. The “high-tech” in the name is deserved: there is an elaborate system of irrigation, piping and structural support of the plants. The display areas were of several different climate types. Like the Seattle show there were vendors only marginally related to the topic of vegetable gardening. Some of the things being sold were, to my mind anyway, uniquely Chinese: a woman selling large radishes along with bottled water and other drinks; booths where they made and sold paintings and calligraphy; a booth of leaves and flowers with which to make tea…

On the grounds there were a large number of stalls selling food, drink and festival type souvenirs for the young and young at heart. We had lunch in a tented area with low tables and geezer stools (not sure what the real name is my son and I named them that because you so often see older men sitting on them in parks or on the street, playing Chinese Chess, selling birds, fixing bicycles or just passing the time of day). It was fun to watch noodles being made fresh and some of the barbeque-ers danced as they worked.

Many of the displays consisted of pipes that had holes in them for growing vegetables, formed to look like various buildings or other items; some examples: the Eiffel tower, a windmill, the Great Wall, a ship, a helicopter. In other places they had made frameworks to support pots and made landscape elements out of things like pepper plants, kale or cabbages. The walkways were arbors supporting vining plants like squash, melons, cucumbers…in one area they even used sweet potatoes. Some of the overhead vegetables were so large that they had ties on them for extra support.

All-in-all a very interesting and impressive event. The event was well attended, we were definitely not there alone! It was fun to see so many Chinese families out for the day enjoying the displays and the general festival atmosphere. It was an experience unique to this area of China, where people often bring a bag of vegetables or fruit when they go somewhere.

Folk Culture

Today I went to a “Folk Culture Village”. It was interesting, in a low key way.

I have been to some pretty elaborate folk village type places, for example Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts. Yang Jia Bu Folk Culture Village wasn’t like that. They had some artisans doing work: kite makers, New Year’s print making and there was a calligrapher, although he wasn’t doing calligraphy at the time.

There seemed to be a genuinely old hamlet inside the boundaries of the park and there were two religious spots.

I am not clear enough about what is what to discuss them intelligently. One building had the figure with more than two arms, on the other side of that area there were anthropomorphized animals (I think the Chinese zodiac animals), however both sides had what appeared to be lots of tiny golden Buddha figurines in a rotating cone shaped thing (it made me think of a Christmas tree until I got close enough to see the Buddha’s).

The second reminded me of folk shrines in Qingdao and on Tai Shan.

The neatest part, however, was just walking around the hamlet. In many ways it reminded me of the home of a friend that we visited in the outskirts of Weifang.

There was a large compound that had many traditional garden elements, some reminiscent of Shi Hu Garden but more down to earth and less polished. For example, they were growing vegetables around the classic rock formations. I think that may have been the Yang family home (“Yang Jia” means “Yang home”).

Yang Jia Bu was not crowded when I was there and it was easy to imagine people sitting and playing Chinese chess in the alleys, working in the gardens, going to the shrine…the culture of the folks.

Kites and Kids

It seemed like someone flipped a switch Saturday night, turning off the shower, and the sky cleared. Sunday was beautiful, sunny and in the 60s with some wind.

It was the perfect day for the kite flying field day at the kindergarten where my son works. Families came with their kites.They did some dancing and some kite flying, everyone had a great time. Me included, even though all I did was watch.

Kites and Umbrellas

I am in Weifang, Shandong Province of China, the “Kite Capital of the World” and the International Kite Festival was last weekend. I decided to go.

I had a heck of a time figuring out where it was (one might reasonably argue that I still don’t know) and how to get there. The internet was no help, since “the beach of Happy Sea of Binhai development zone in Weifang city” doesn’t show up on any maps as such. It is over 40 miles from the center of Weifang, as near as I can tell.

I wanted to take a bus and nothing I could find said how to do that. I had assumed, incorrectly, that the hotel I was staying at could get the information for me.

By map study I figured that the No. 78 bus that had a stop by my hotel was a good candidate. The concierge said yes to the 78 bus, then he got vague about what to do next, checked on his computer and finally he said “we do not recommend taking the bus”. He suggested that I hire a car for the day at 300 yuan(I assume, but, am not sure, that would have included a driver).

I couldn’t get back to sleep after I woke up at 3:45 am. My son had to work so I was flying solo on this excursion, meaning that my inability to communicate (or even know) where I was going to a driver had some serious potential for winding up somewhere else. I was debating whether I should go or not, bus it, try to take a taxi, see if it was too late to hire a car for the day…

We conferred via text message with our friend, Emily. She said it wasn’t a good idea, it was raining and it would take three hours to get there by bus. However, she also sent the number of the bus, 83, to switch to after 78. I have had great experiences with the Weifang bus system, so I bravely (or foolishly, sometimes there isn’t much difference) set out.

A 78 came along just a few minutes after I got to the bus stop. Standing room only, cost was 5 RMB. The ride was pretty uneventful. Most everyone on the bus was going to the same place I was, although I didn’t know it then. The result of that is that the bus got fuller and fuller as it traveled, no chance of grabbing an empty seat. The ride on the 78 took about an hour and a half.

At the end of the line everyone piled out, joining a bunch of folks already waiting for the No. 83 bus. One No. 83, stuffed to the gills, left as our bus arrived but there were still many people waiting. A fresh No. 83 arrived, it stopped with its door near me, the crowd I was in headed for its door. In situations like that my Boston experience kicks in. I tried to put myself in the midst of the mob so that I would get pushed onto the bus. But the experienced Chinese bus riders (mostly older men with geezer stools) actively push people out of the way. As I felt this happening I was close enough to grab the handle on the bus door and managed to get pivoted in by the crowd. I had a few moments of wondering if I was going to have to let go, but in the end I was propelled into the midst of the bus.

The 83 ride was about a half an hour, so my total travel time was just over 2 hours when I stepped off of the No. 83, trying to note where it was so I could retrace my steps.

It was raining, and windy (it was a kite festival) at the beach.

I wandered about. I assume (there’s that word again) that if I could read in Chinese I would not have been so clueless, and would, for example, have figured out how to watch the opening ceremony instead of realizing that it was going on when I walked behind it, then nearly getting myself blown up by the fireworks (policemen kept the crowd from getting within about 10 feet of them so I was about 15 feet away when they went off).

The kites were beautiful and interesting. I really wanted to stay longer but after about 2 hours I was starting to feel hypothermia set in.

You know you are miserable when a squatty potty stall seems like a pleasant respite.

I finally gave up and went to search out a No. 83 bus (ba shi san ba shi). The bus line up was confusing. I found a group of younger folks, college students, and a lovely young woman conversed with me a bit then said “do you have some money?” I said “a little”, she then said that, based on where I wanted to go, if I had 10 yuan I could take any of the buses in the line-up. She went with me and found one that had a seat, they even wiped it off for me, although I was so wet that it probably didn’t make much difference. It felt good to sit down out of the rain for a bit. The buses ooched up one by one to the turn around and headed south. The bus I was on went directly to my stop, no bus change. Just being able to sit felt like a luxury.

So for 15 yuan (less than $2.50) I had an adventure. Everyone who warned me off was right. Traveling up by bus was not comfortable or for the faint of heart. It was cold and wet and, by then end, miserable.

On the other hand I saw some neat things, and a hot shower followed by dumplings and a glass of red wine had me as good as new (asleep as well). I don’t think I would have lasted much longer if I had gone by another mode of transportation.

The following day was sunny and would have been a totally different experience but there was a kite flying field day at the school where my son teaches, Smart Vision International Kindergarten, that we had said we would attend. Another story for another day…

If he is still living in Weifang next year I may try again. Now I know what buses to take.