Afield in China

Steam

Greetings to those of you who still follow this blog. I apologize for the lack of posts but, like a Jedi, I have been working to master my crafts in seclusion near my home in the southern US since last April. While there have been a few adventures worth writing about since April I have resisted either because I am lazy or, well, I just wasn’t in the mood to share. However, that is about to change folks because last month my wife, Blondie, and I sold most of our belongings, put the rest in storage, and packed our bags for China. As I write this I am sitting at a desk with a view on an upper floor of a residential hotel in the northeastern city of Dalian. The reason we are here is because my wife is smart and hardworking and willing to take on positions that sit way outside of her comfort level, and, luckily for me, she brought me along for the ride. In short, I married well. I know you may be asking yourself at this point what I am going to do while in country; I am going to explore and write and take pictures of cool stuff and give Blondie all the support she needs on her new endeavor. Also, I am going to fill this here blog with interesting stories so that you can read it while you are avoiding responsibilities of your own.

Let me tell you a little about our new home. Dalian is a city of about 6.7 million people on the Liaodong Peninsula in Liaoning Province in northeast China. It is the northernmost warm-water port (and sixth largest port) in China and from my window I can see that they indeed do a ship-ton of business. To our west is the Bohai Sea and the Chinese mainland while to our east lies the Yellow Sea and North Korea. People often cringe when they hear how close we are to the North Korean border (about a 3.5 hour drive), but I can assure you that if NK showed any aggression towards the Chinese they would be in cinders by the next morning.

Location of Dalian in China

Location of Dalian in China

Google Earth Screenshot of Dalian

Google Earth Screenshot of Dalian – We live nearest to the “an” in Dalian

Dalian is a popular tourist spot for the Chinese people and during the summer the area provides a beautiful backdrop for festivals and vacations while its seaside location means that the air quality is pretty good compared to that of other large mainland cities. In the winter, however, it is a cold dry beast of a town that is often shrouded in a haze of pollution due to the city’s dependence on a coal-oriented electrical-generating infrastructure. The massive industrial complexes and refineries lining the shores of the port along with a recent surge in automobile ownership have also led to higher levels of pollution. We, along with our 6.7 million neighbors, do our best to stay indoors during the bad days and don masks when we need to go outside, but for the most part a stiff wind blowing down from Siberia cleans it up and sends it downstream so only a few days a week are really bad.

this would be a bad air day. Good for staying in and watching movies and writing blog posts

This would be a bad air day. Good for staying in and watching movies and writing blog posts.

This is a good air day. On days like this you grab your camera and explore.

This is a good air day. On days like this you grab your camera and explore. What is not conveyed by this photo is that it is booger-freezing cold. A stiff Siberian wind feels exactly how it sounds – brutal and unforgiving.

Despite the pollution and the urban sprawl Dalian is a beautiful city with huge public squares in which people gather on the weekends to socialize, get exercise, and most importantly, line dance. Seriously, folks here and in most other large cities dance in huge synchronized groups – not to Hank Williams or Garth Brooks, but to more traditional Chinese music as well as to pop songs. I haven’t gotten any good pictures of this phenomenon yet, but I love the idea of living amongst people who aren’t afraid to get funky in public – they are my kind of people.

One of the more sane stretches of road.

One of the more sane stretches of road.

Even though Dalian is highly developed there are also gorgeous outdoor spots and on my first full day alone our driver, Lv (pronounced Lu but he spells it this way and we think that’s badass), took me for a grand tour. Before you judge us for having a driver I must first explain to you why that is – it would be far too dangerous and expensive for us to drive, buy a car, or get insured so the company furnishes us with a dedicated driver. This is fine by us because driving rules are a little different here – the biggest difference is that it seems there are no rules. The amount of motorists in Dalian has grown faster than the infrastructure so some of the busiest intersections have no signals, but yet the drivers manage to navigate them with only few accidents. On many occasions during the last few weeks I have butt-clenched and pressed on the phantom brakes from the passenger side as Lv made left turns into oncoming traffic, but, knock on wood, we always make it through without incident. Back to my original point of there being more than cityscapes on this peninsula. I mentioned above that Dalian is a summer town with amusement parks and beaches and all the tourist trap accouterments that you would expect, but they also have mountain parks, scenic roads, and ridiculous views of the sea and the city – instead of me droning on and on about their beauty I will just show you a few photos from our first week, and then later in future posts I will go into more detail about everything the city has to offer.

Xinghai Square is the largest city square in the world. On the sea edge of the square lies a sculpture with 1,000 footprints representing       the people's history of Dalian since its founding. Some of the prints show that of bound feet, which must have just been hell for the owners. Xinghai Bay Cross-Sea Bridge in the background.

Xinghai Square is the largest city square in the world. On the sea edge of the square lies a sculpture of a gigantic open book with 1,000 footprints representing the people’s history of Dalian running down the middle. Some of the prints show those of bound feet, which must have been hell for their owners. Xinghai Bay Cross-Sea Bridge is under construction in the background. As a side note, there is no law against skateboarding on the transitions of the open book – I will let you know how that goes once my deck arrives from home.

Xinghai Bay from the Binhai Road. I posted a similar photo on Instagram.

Xinghai Bay from the Binhai Road. I posted a similar photo on Instagram. The sea here is always a stunning shade of blue.

Heishi Reef Bay with moody vignetting for added effect.

Heishi Reef Bay with a moody vignette for added effect.

A few of the rocky islands in Heishi Reef Bay. Forgive me for not knowing their names yet.

A few of the rocky islands in Heishi Reef Bay. Forgive me for not knowing their names yet.

One of the stops we made on our tour was at a wedding park along the Binhai road, a scenic byway around the peninsula. The park, known as Yanwoling Wedding Celebration Park, consists of a number of scenic areas at which to get married along with other spots covered in cartoonish statuary that range from cute to the downright creepy – I assume people take pictures in front of these things, but I am not sure as Lv couldn’t really articulate what purpose they served. I will definitely go back during the summer when more people are using it and report back.

I expected these little guys to spring to life and knee-cap me with their little hitting sticks.

I expected these little guys to spring forth and knee-cap me with their little hitting sticks.

This is a fertility shrine that people make offerings to in order to become...fertile. Most people still only have one child here so they make offerings to make it count.

This is a fertility shrine that people make offerings to in order to become…fertile. Most people still only have one child here so they make offerings to make it count.

They do the love padlock thing here too but with a hint of chinese flair.

They do the love padlock thing here too but with a hint of Chinese flair.

Lv couldn't really explain to me what this was but I think we can all agree that it is spooky.

Lv couldn’t really explain to me what this was but I think we can all agree that it is spooky as hell. Jesus, look at that thing. It stands about seven feet tall too. Doesn’t the nose look lifelike? I can’t stop looking at it.

Ok, there you have it – A quick and dirty overview of some of what we have seen on our first few weeks in China. We have already traveled to Dandong and the North Korean border as well as to Hong Kong so check back again soon for posts about those trips as well as for others about the weirdness of everyday life – there is certainly no shortage of that for us. Also, keep up with us on Instagram, Tumblr, and VSCO if you are into that sort of thing. Thanks for reading.

© Peter Molgaard and Afield Book, 2012-2015. All Rights Reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of photographs and original content without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used provided that permission is granted and that full and clear credit is given to Peter Molgaard and Afield Book with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. If you would like to use any of the imagery displayed you may send your requests to molgaardpmo@gmail.com

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