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Celebrating China’s Marine Tourism Year: Part One

Published in the Spring 2013 Issue of Canadian World Traveller
By Michael Morcos

The sheer girth of China’s endless natural landscapes and larger-than-life cities can be overwhelming to the average traveler. However, the upside is that China’s expansive offerings present a chance to take in countless aspects of such a rich and colorful destination. I journeyed from province to province, stopping along the way to savor cuisine, be amused and get wrapped up in China’s natural beauty around every corner.

Bejing’s size and stature

It’s easy to spend a whole trip just in this city. Full of exotic sights and sounds, the never-sleeping urban sprawl is always illuminated by flashy advertisements juxtaposed by grand traditional temples and buildings. You can get lost in all the grandeur and swept away by the mesmerizing culture. To fully immerse in Beijing’s vibrant atmosphere, it’s important to spend time in both the Forbidden City area that’s historically prominent, as well as weaving through the more modern district with towering skyscrapers.

Liaoning Province

Tucked in a northeastern corner of China lies the Liaoning Province, known best for its natural landscapes and breathtaking coastline. The weather is often pleasant but constantly changes, including short spring and fall seasons and a warm, long summer. I was happy to spend time exploring a few of the regions along the coast and the mountainous inland areas too.

Golden Pebble Beach 

Beauty is on another level at the Golden Pebble Beach national Resort, full of things to see and do year-round. I took in the spectacular environment of the Liaodong Peninsula with pretty waterfront views. The area is only a few kilometers outside of Dalian, making it ideal for a day trip or weekend away from the city. Not only is the natural wonders of Gold Pebble worth the visit, but there is also a few museums, places to try sporting activities, bath houses and gardens, to name a few.

Like a kid again at Ocean Amusement Park 

Inside Xinghai Park is a cute space just for little ones on their families. Known as Ocean Park, this attractions features accommodations and live shows, among other areas of fun. It is home to some marine life as well, such as seals and turtles, travellers can see during performances alongside expert handlers. A nice stroll was appreciated through this spot that might not boast a deep history, but provides a great break from the bustle of touring.

Indulging in top Chinese cuisine 

I never went hungry the entire time I was in China, as there is fantastic culinary delights to indulge everywhere, from high end restaurants to small shacks along the streets. While meals varies greatly from country to country, most staple ingredients include dried vegetables, fish, rice and plenty of flavorings. A memorable way to sample several contrasting tastes is to have a dim sum lunch or dinner. These little pockets of light, fluffy dough are filled with combinations of vegetables, beef, chicken and more, molded into small bite-sized pieces.

Enjoying the Lushun Museum 

Never was there a dull moment inside the Lushun Museum, home to more than 30,000 relics from Chinese history. It can be a thrill to be so close to artifacts that have withstood the test of time and date back a few millennia. An impressive exhibit is the mummies found in Western China. More than 1,300 years old, the people’s hair and features can be seen from perfect preservation conditions. To mark the entrance to the building is a massive 22-meter tower guarding the front door.

Time spent in Zhongshan Square 

This area allows travellers to see old and new sides of Dailan side-by-side. Created in 1899 by Russians, the Zhongshan Square is a central spot for main traffic as well as pedestrians. One of its unique features is the speaker systems set up around its perimeter, making the spot one of the first of its kind in the country. It is a charming spot to enjoy when the weather is pleasant to admire the surrounding architecture and a pretty city landscape.

Scenic views from the Dalian Port

Although slightly industrial, the excitement is almost palpable at the Pot of Dalian. Popular among commercial sailors and cruise ships, it serves a purpose of directing nautical traffic with style. Near the main port area are several tasty restaurants and a aesthetically pleasing round-a-bout with white statues seemingly directing cars passing by.

Journeying to the Shandong Province 

From the port I made my way south of Laioning to the Shandong Province, where life along the ocean is also respected and celebrated. Confucius was born in this region about two hours from the capital city of Jinan and there are mountain peaks well-loved by climbers across the planet. There is a long winter, but this coasts offers and excellent alternative for a beach holiday, as it rarely gets uncomfortably hot and stays as an active touring center throughout the year.

A grand Olympic Sailing Centre 

In 2008 the Olympics were a thrilling spectacle that provinces throughout the country participated in according to their geography. Due to the wide bay in Qingdao, many sailing events took place here and many still enjoy keeping their boats on the docks. Tourists walk the boards to peer at the sailing ships, and some will take a chartered trip in the bay by a local, professional captain.

Strolling through Little Fish Hill Park 

To gaze at some of the loveliest views of Huiquan Bay, head up the hill and be rewarded with an overview of the sea and land below. Little Fish Hill’s Park ideal location blends together perfectly manicured vegetation and ocean waves. Pavilions provide shade, which can be reached by walking along the trails lined with blooming flowers. Children were seen throughout the park expending their energy and getting close with their natural surroundings.

Tasty eats at the Huiquan Dynasty Hotel 

The views from this stylish establishment are memorable, as is the delectable and traditional cuisine. I dined on some delicacies such as minced pork with braised cucumber. The highlight was shark fin soup, with just enough spice to be bold, yet satisfying. The crowd here was eclectic and welcoming, offering an exotic feel that was also relaxing to myself and fellow travellers. Many choose to stay after dinner and sip on a cocktail for a relaxing, tranquil evening.

Impressive Qingdao Site Museum

So much of this amazing museum is not to be missed, especially for those who love the past and Chinese history. It almost looks a little out of place, due to it being the residence of a former German governor. But the interior is what gives away its Asian influence, as much of the décor blends together both European and Chinese design. Everything has been carefully preserved so visitors feel as if they are in the presence of historical greatness. Qingdao also has other honorable museums that are a nod to things like music, art and science. Travellers can spend a whole holiday enjoying the historic offering of this region.

An interesting visit to the Qingdao Beer Museum

All of these fascinating tours and museums where making me very thirsty. Luckily, libations were not too far away and I was able to visit the famous Qingdao brewery. Known in North America and Tsingtao, this delicious beer is sold all over the world as one of the country’s premiere brews. It has been around for more than a century and has expanded to more than 50 factories nationwide. German influence can be found here as well, due to much of the factory’s architecture and décor being donated by the country for the beer’s anniversary. This is the perfect place to learn about the past manufacturing techniques and even take part in a workshop or tasting tour.

Dinner at Pichai Yuan

The Chinese truly respect their mealtimes and it shows within their take on fresh ingredients and stylish presentation. Nestled in old Qingdao is Firewood Court, lined with vendors serving up unforgettable treats and savory snacks. I grabbed some grilled seafood and wandered around the cherry side streets and weaved through the crowds. During busy season, guests can often hear live opera performances while they eat. Snacks are perfectly washed down with a local Qingdao beer too, of course. Or, some hot tea made with special blends in a long-beaked water kettle is always the traditional and tasty choice. Although there is a crowd around some of the vendors, it might only be for the photo opt- for instance, the family selling fried beetles, scorpions and roaches is worth taking a peek at through the lens. The mix of German and Chinese style is also seen here like at the governor’s house and brewery.

My time in the northeast provinces of Liaoning and Shandong was delightfully pleasant and an interesting look into China’s diverse culture – as these regions are much different than others in the South or West. I wish I had more days to truly immerse into the seaside lifestyle, but I was happy to have a taste of the sunny atmosphere and welcoming people of China.