Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lovely Dalian

Dalian –wow, where do I start?! It was soooooo incredibly nice to get away from Suzhou (no offence, but…) and get a change of scene!! I loved every bit of Dalian: the shopping, the cheap food, the fact that they have a lot of beautiful beaches and some nature, the fact that the city isn’t just flat like a pancake, the old Russian buildings, and, most importantly: the friendly people! Like I said in my previous post, it was also an excellent opportunity to practice my Chinese skills as no one (expect for some shop assistants and the Starbuck’s staff) seemed to be able to speak English. Ahhhh.. HEAVEN!

We had about 3 days to explore the city and its surrounding and I think we managed to use our time quite well: doing a little bit of ‘sightseeing’ (I am normally not a fan of looking at old famous ‘must-be-seen-things’), a fair deal of shopping, a great deal of eating, and an even greater deal of just walking around, looking, taking photos of the every day life and talking to people that we met. A great combination (in the ‘Jonna world of travelling’), in other words.

I travelled with my classmate Willing, who’s from Indonesia and who looks quite Chinese. Therefore, everyone thought she was my guide/translator and more than once did I have to listen to them saying things like:

-Oh, so you are stuck with a lao wai are you?! Haha, well, can you translate when I try to sell her some stuff?!

At my first:

-Hey, I can understand what you are saying! They just laughed and patted me supportively on my shoulder, saying something sarcastic like: ‘Oh… you’re Chinese is soooo good!!’ But when I followed up with a:

-And you know what, she is not my guide or my translator, she’s from Indonesian and she speaks as much Chinese as I do.

…they got kind of long-faced and started. We had some great laughs because of the whole guide/translator situation however, and I also believe we got a better price in many stores, simply because Willing played along that she was Chinese, keeping her mouth fairly shut and just nodding, laughing and adding some minor comments here and there in during the price negotiation part.

As for shopping, I have to say that Dalian was pretty fantastic. I fell in love with the Victory Square underground market (next to the Victory square 胜利广场) and we spent all Sunday afternoon there, getting insanely cheap stuff. I might have to bore some of the male readers by actually showing u some of my shopping treasures in a later post, because it is simply too good not to be mentioned/showed (any shopping loving girl should go there to shop!).

Underground mall

Girl's heaven

When we didn’t shop we enjoyed the fact that Dalian is close to the ocean: talking long walks along the fishing/swim beaches. It was so nice to be in a city where u can just jump on a bus and get to the beach. Overall, the bus system is great in Dalian, much easier/clearer than Suzhou’s bus system. Some bus time tables even have pinyin?! Yeah, imagine that?! For one kuai u can travel pretty much everywhere, and the buses are clean and fairly new. I loved it.

Fishing beach

Walking along the beach

The first beach we visited wasn’t a swimming beach (but a fishing beach, so not so clean) but it was still nice to be so close to the water. When we were walking on this beach a fisherman came up to us and wanted to know where we were from, what we were doing in Dalian, and so on. He spoke with the most local dialect, there was so much ‘rrrrr’ going on that we could barely understand him, but he was so… cute! I don’t think he had ever heard of neither Sweden nor Indonesia, and when he saw my Nikon digital camera he wanted to know if I could still get my photos printed with ‘that kind of thing.’ We spent a good half an hour chatting to him, and he told us a lot of things that we couldn’t understand, and some things we could, about his life as a fisherman in Dalian. When we later took his picture he looked really happy and shone like a sun when we later waved goodbye and walked on.

Local fish market

Our new fisherman friend

One of the nicer beaches that we visited was called Golden Stone Beach (金石滩), and it was on Binhai Xi Lu (滨海西路), which was like a park along the water which had a beautiful road that sort of weaved though the surrounding hillside. We walked along this road for a while, and it was quite tiring, as it’s so hilly. A pure paradise for the sporty type, however, and we saw plenty of joggers/power walkers who tackled those hills. Looked hard but fun, and I missed my jogging shoes. I’d love to live at a place like that, and kept fantasizing about what a Sunday long-run could be like in Dalian.

Golden Stone Beach

How do u guys like my new hat? (It was love at first sight for me)

As for the Golden Stone Beach, it was kind of empty and deserted due to the season (only us and a few fishermen) but I think it would be really nice to visit during the summer. The sand was clean and the water was clear. I just wonder how packed it gets during the high-season…

We also passed by Fujia Zhuang (another beach), Xinghai Gong Yuan (a beach/park that also has a bungee), and the Dalian forrest ZOO, although we didn’t enter since I’m not a fan of animals in cages.

When it came to city sights we spent some time on the Russian street, which was a bit of a disappointment. I had imagined old buildings, small shops and cosy little cafés, but it was in fact just a long street packed with street vendors, selling everything from fake fur to Russian chocolate, cigarettes and dolls. I bought myself about 5 different kinds of hats there (for 15-20 kuai each), so I think I have enough for the next three winter seasons now.

Russian street by night

Willing wearing a fake fur hat (that didn't fit my large Scandinavian head... boooh!)

Russian street by day


As for Russian architecture I think the end of the street had some nice, old buildings, but the actual Russian street was just a renovated re-make of what I believe once was a Russian street. Things were too new and shiny to look real. What was funny, however, was that when we walked on this street during the night a lot of older Chinese people (men who were out walking dogs, not vendors) started speaking Russian to me. Although I don’t know how I should take that… I look Russian?! Hm…

Dalian also had a lot of squares that we checked out: People’s Square (nothing like the Shanghai one), Victory Square (my favourite: a lot of shops, and night markets at night!), and Olympic Square (surrounded by a lot of sport shop outlets, as well as an electronic market) just to mention some. Nothing too impressive, but still worth a visit.

Evening food market around Victory Square

When it came to food, Dalian food was like people had told me, quite ‘dan’ (淡) when it came to taste (we asked for at least one spicy dish at every restaurant we visited but what they considered to be spicy in Dalian we regarded was a lame attempt). The local culinary delicacies are of course seafood dishes. A lot of restaurant still had large crayfishes, even though it’s November. YUM! The best restaurant we visited during our stay was on You Hao Lu (友好路) and its name was “Lai Lai Wang Wang.” Overall I have to say that the food was so cheap it was almost too good to be true. Not once did we eat for more than 30 kuai each! Even our breakfast, (which we had at a western-like café), that consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, two toast and a coffee was a mere 18 kuai!! Insane! U cannot even get a coffee for 18 kuai in Suzhou. I loved the low prices. Korean bibimbap that we had for lunch one day was 20 kuai… Bring it on! And even though the food was so cheap the servings were really huge. We couldn’t finish even one whole dish at any of the restaurants we went to. The waiters were also really friendly and more than delighted to chit-chat and recommend dishes. Me like.

Convenient with the menu on the wall

Ma la tofu pot -18 kuai and huge!

Hm.. this post is becoming too long and I haven’t even told you everything yet. I better stop writing now… I’ll have to write a second post later today and tell u more. I am also waiting for some more photos as I’ll get all the photos Willing took (which includes some photos of me… wiiiii!!!) tomorrow.


Unknown said...

Factory Square? Come on, never heard about this name! Victory Square would be the correct.

Dalian is part of my life grew up. However, you may find an excellent shopping mall if come over to Zhuhai, south China, cheap but good.

Jonna Wibelius said...

sorry sorry, typo. We kept calling it 'factory square' when we talked about it (me and my friend -don't ask me why) so I got it all mixed up in this post. F course it should be victory square.

Anonymous said...

Is it true Dalian girls are hot?

Jonna Wibelius said...

Hm... I actually don't check out girls on a regular basis... I cannot say that I noticed the girls to be outstanding when it came to being beautiful.. some girls were gorgeous, some were not.. just like everywhere. There were some really tall girls and guys, however, but I'd say the average person was still shorter than me... People in Dalian dressed really well though. Guys and girls.

Rambler said...

This makes me want to explore Xi'an more. And you should definitely post what you purchased. Guys like shopping just as much as girls. We just enjoy buying different things.

Anonymous said...

When I was in China I went to many places, and enjoyed most of them.. I wonder why DaLian never came up to my mind as a place to visit ... now I kind of regret it that I've never been there, dank.
泼水难收 (poshui nan shou: it is not use to cry over spilt milk)

Anonymous said...

I just know one girl from Dalian, and she is cute and tall, like 177.

I imagine Dalian to be pretty influenced by Korea?

Do you know why your blog gets blocked all the time? I almost always have to enter it through a proxy server

Unknown said...

I had a trip 10 years ago in Dalian and visited Bingyu with my child. I still remember how big foods they provided! I ordered three dishes for whole family. (I think it is enough for three people), unfortunately, they present dozens fishes and very very big dish vegetables and meats. Oh, dear! And told them I can help them to save the money and also feel happy with the nice foods. I had been there on 2007, stayed with my classmates in a restaurant again. The price is Okay compare with the quantity.
The appearances of dalianese are okay but not inside of people, they still need energy to drive their life more active. Comparelly, they don’t have so much motivation like south Chinese in doing business, however, they like sporting and making friends.

Anonymous said...

Golden stone beach ? Is that in Kai Fa Qu ? If so, I think it is called Golden Pebble beach. :-)

Jonna Wibelius said...

tripfriend -OK, as u wish.

Kabul Tan -I've always had a desire to visit Dalian, don't ask me why.. I just heard (from somewhere) that it was a sort of slow-paced and friendly city with a lot of beaches and I felt like 'wow, I wanna go'. When I told some of my Chi friends I was going they were all like... 'oh, why u wanna visit Dalian, it is nothing special?' but I really don't agree. I think it was a lovely place! Maybe next time u r here u can visit? China has so many interesting places worth visiting though, it's impossible not to miss out on some things!

Emil -I know it gets blocked.. I can't do anything about it unfortunately.

As for Dalian being inspired by Korea -yes, that's true. A lot of street names/signs are written in both Chi, Russian and Korean. The city also has a fair deal of Korean restos and clothes shops.. Maybe that's why people look so good there? Korean fashion rocks.

Sam - I hear you! The dishes WERE indeed huge! And we ordered 3 dishes every time.. no wonder we couldn't finish anything.

"The appearances of dalianese are okay but not inside of people, they still need energy to drive their life more active. Comparelly, they don’t have so much motivation like south Chinese in doing business, however, they like sporting and making friends." -I actually hope that they stay like they are! Why does everyone in China have to be so business driven? What's wrong with being friendly and liking sports?! Sound like a perfect place to me.

anonymous -Golden stone beach/golden pebble beach... well.. potato/ potatoe :) When I read about that beach online it was called the Golden Stone beach.
"石" can be translated as both stone and pebble.

Unknown said...

Jonna, I am a Dongbei ren. So what I criticized must have more emotional feeling to that place in my mind. This is just what I view to the local people. I do agree with you that not all the people do the same things.
I came from that place, and easy to find the weakness of these people.
When I strolled in Dalian street and felt different from other cities, you can’t compare with Suzhou as staying in Dalian. Suzhou is much more typical Chinese due to the modern city mixed up with ancient Chinese construction, Dalian mixed with Japanese and Russian and Korean.
Hope you would have time explore Zhuhai, I can give you more recommendation for your sightseeing. There is a smimilar place like "Factory Square" of Dalian in Zhuhai, which is connected the border of Macau. you can buy a lot of stuffs with good brand such as LV, Gucci, the price will make you crying!!!However, I will not promise that its the reall one. :)

Anonymous said...

maybe a winter trip to Harbin哈尔滨 will make you know Dongbei better? for the ice carving. there is notbale russian and korean influence in dongbei, there's even one korean autonomous county there.
actually there are lots of differences between ppl from north and south china, and the culture, which is an interesting topic for the chinese too..

Jonna Wibelius said...

Sam & Zhou -I'd love to visit both Zhuhai and Harbin, although when it comes to Harbin, I'd prefer to go there during the summer rather than the winter. I'm from Scandinavia and I have also lived in Finland, so I have seen enough snow for a lifetime... :) I have heard that the summers in Harbin are quite cool and comfortable (temperature wise) and that sounds like a haven compared to a summer in humid Suzhou/Shanghai. Are u from Harbin Zhou?

Anonymous said...

love that hat on you :)

everyone here in sweden are wearing those, i tried one but didnt fit me :(

Anonymous said...

not yet actually..i am a southern chinese (so is my father, my father's father, my father's father's father)who have never been to north of Beijing but out of no reason developed a strong obsession with life beyond the great wall: wild nomads,big nose russians, deadly coldness..

e...that's just my childhood fantasy..i think i just love the frank and warm hearted and masculine characters of ppl from the north.

Jonna Wibelius said...

Thanks shopgirl! :) I bought one pink and one black one too... I'll live in those this winter. I thought the 'fake fur hat' was the shit in Sweden?! But maybe that was last year... wow.. I haven't been home during Xmas time/winter time for 3 years now?! I can't say I have missed it... ehhh

Zhou -I hear u... the north is somehow exotic until u experience a reaaaaaaally long winter up there.. then u will ask yourself: 'what on earth was I thinking'... although I do agree with you, the friendliness of the ppl up north (in China) is really appealing.

Anonymous said...

hi,jonna,I am a dalian girl and I am living in london now,but I missed my home too much then I find ur blog when I am googled dalian,very impressive with your photos and infos,maybe I will move back to there any time soon,thank u soo much for ur lovely blog,I need sumthing like this,I will keep coming back and visit ur blog:) so~~ jia you jia you!!!