Dalian: Zip-wires, Weddings and a Pair of Handcuffs…


Today we decided that we would walk around the south coast of Dalian to try to find a more secluded beach. The travel guide had indicated that there were one or two beaches that not many people new about and were hence virtually empty. We took the bus (all buses in Dalian seem to be 1 Yuan/7p per person for however long you wish to travel for) to the start of the trail and walked past some of the tourists. We found the retired navy ship which was now a youth hostel, the other one we had looked at, but thought it would be too difficult to find in a taxi). As we walked further along, we saw a zip-wire stretching across the bay, and so I just had to do it. For 50 Yuan (£3.50) I got a speed-boat to the other side of the bay (perhaps 1 kilometre away), ran half way up a mountain to be strapped into a quite worn safety harness, and then got pushed off the edge. It didn’t go too fast, but it was a little scary looking down and just seeing the ground about 100 metres away, and myself moving towards it rather rapidly. The ride itself must have lasted about 1 minute, and there were some really good views from half way over the bay of the surrounding mountains. I should have taken my camera and taken a video or some pictures, but i was a little worried that I would end up in the water, because the zip wire was designed for Chinese people and I had seen someone get their feet a bit wet already.

Just as we were walking along the slightly less touristy bit, I heard a voice call out ‘Mar-k!’ and turned to see Mr Nie, the businessman in charge of ISEC running towards me with a big grin on his face. I had no idea that he would be in Dalian of all places, especially given he lives in Shenzhen, about 2000 miles away, next to Hong Kong. We also met Francis and several other people that we knew, who seemed to be on holiday with him. China seems rather a small place after all. After chatting to them for a few minutes, we went and started walking along the winding hill road. We met several Chinese people along the way and talked (very briefly) to them. Briefly, mostly because they spoke no English and the only Chinese that I know how to say is ‘we are students from Cambridge university). We walked past some glorious sea and mountain views, which explains why so many hotels and restaurants in this area are called ‘sea mountain’ or something very similar.

After about 3 miles we came across this building which had a big Christian cross on top and stained glass windows. It was quite obviously a church, but looked rather like someone had made a list of five important features of a traditional western church building and then given it to an architect who had never seen one before. As we got closer, we saw that there was a white carriage outside it, and attached to it was the ‘century sweetheart wedding store and hotel’. Walking further along the road, we saw that there were several more wedding shops and various hotels which seemed to exclusively cater for weddings. To be honest it was a pretty nice place, and I could understand people wanting to get married there, but it seemed kind of ironic that there were so many wedding places along the road.

Walking further along, we stopped to have some elevenses on a bench on top of a cliff, overlooking the sea – such a picturesque view! A random Chinese man came up to us and started chatting, which was quite nice although again we didn’t really know enough Chinese nor he English to have much of a conversation. Eventually, we came to a rather interesting ‘wedding park’. This was basically a piece of land which you paid 10 Yuan (70p) to go into (half-price for students) and there were various cheesy shots and love-hearts etc. We went in because we saw that it had a private bathing area, and after going down a rickety, overgrown path for about 250 meters, we finally arrived on the beach. It was indeed lovely, and we had it to ourselves save for two other people who left after a while. There were rocks on one end and then a beautiful stretch of small rocks in the middle, with some more boulders at the other end and some caves beyond that which I tried to get to but couldn’t quite manage safely. There was also a small stream which had trickled down the hill and a small hut owned by the person in charge of the beach. We spent a good few hours there before heading up to the top of the hill.

As we were going out of the entrance, we saw a car full of policemen driving rather quickly into the park, with lights flashing but couldn’t really understand why, because we couldn’t hear or see any disturbance. Having left the wedding park, we tried to get a taxi ride back to our hotel, which usually wouldn’t be much of a problem, but as this was quite a remote place, there weren’t too many taxis going by. Anyway, a guy came up to us offering his taxi services (there are many people in China who are just private taxi drivers, but do so illegally without a license). We negotiated a reasonable price with him and then he took us to his car, which was right next to where the policemen had sat down to have lunch. We had a brief chat with the policemen, teaching them to count in English, and then got into this guy’s car. We were also illegal in the sense of having 5 passengers in the car, but the police who were sat there didn’t seem to mind in the slightest, in fact they seemed rather jolly. As we were driving off in the car, I had a look at the front windowsill and saw sat there a police badge, several radios, an electric baton and a pair of handcuffs! On the back windowsill there was also a full police uniform, which would have been a really good buy if we’d had enough courage at the time. It turns out that the driver was in fact an undercover policeman who was on his lunch break and decided to make a little extra money. Such is China!

In the afternoon, we had a bit of a rest and a nap as it is usually too hot to do anything apart from lie on a beach, and we didn’t want to get too sunburnt or face the crowds of fat Russian sunbathers again. In the evening, we got the bus into central Dalian and found a nice noodle restaurant to eat in. We then went on search of Karaoke, but instead ended up at a night market where we bought various souvineers. In the end, we found some KTV but the good ones were full, and the bad ones had no English songs, so we went to bed instead.

More Adventures in China!

Well, ISEC is now over (I’ll write about some of it later, don’t worry) so I’ll finally be able to start updating my blog. I’m currently travelling around northern China with several friends from ISEC, Ellie, Kate, Peter and Ally and we’ll be heading up to the North Korean border area and perhaps further north to near Russia. Having done debriefing at Qingdao, by the sea, we travelled north by coach for 4 hours to Yantai (60 Yuan/£4), on the north coast of the peninsular. We then spent several hours there having a nice meal (60 Yuan/£4 for 5 people) and then finding the port so we could get an overnight boat to Dalian (8 hours with beds, 190 Yuan/£13). The journey was rather uneventful and very smooth, the boat didn’t even rock. There weren’t too many people on the boat either so we had a cabin of 8 beds all to the five of us (after several of the other people put with us had left to find a cabin to themselves).


We arrived in Dalian on the morning of the 21st at about 7am and found several buses waiting outside the boat. We seemed expected to get onto one of them, but didn’t know which so after about 10 minutes of pointing at the guidebook and trying to translate addresses of youth hostels into Chinese, they directed us to one bus which in fact took us for an hour’s journey into the centre of Dalian, to the railway station, where we were expected to get a taxi. As it was, we wanted to do some email and book train tickets for the next leg of our journey, towards North Korea, so we did some research on the internet and found the train that we wanted to take. In the event, the train in the railway station was slightly different from the one that was on the internet, but not significantly. Trying to book the tickets was fun, because there was a queue of about 50 people behind myself and Ally, and neither of us knew any Chinese. I’d looked up the word for ‘hard sleeper’ and some other useful phrases beforehand but it was still quite difficult. We tried asking for the train on the 22nd, but (I think) the woman said that there were no beds free on that. Having had a seat overnight from Beijing to Qingdao, I didn’t really want that again, so asked her about the 21st or 23rd. She said that there were none on any of those, but then said (again, I think) that there were 3 beds on the train on the 23rd for 200 Yuan (£14) each. I said that we’d take those and two seats, and then she gave me five tickets for the 23rd, all of which appear to be beds, but only cost 134 Yuan (£9) each. I’m looking forward to seeing what actually happens when we leave, because according to the tickets, we have beds but I’m really still not sure exactly what happened at the train station!

Having found the others still at the internet café, we then tried to track down one of the youth hostels that we found both on the internet, and in the guide book. We spent about 30 minutes trying to find the bus stop for the bus which it suggested you should take, and eventually haggled with some ladies to get us a map of the city so we could find out exactly where we were meant to be going (2 Yuan/15pence). Fortunately, I knew enough Chinese to be able to guess which district the name was in, although I wish guide books would put the addresses in Chinese because no-one in China can really read English let alone understand English people trying to pronounce Chinese names. The map was also useful when we found taxi drivers, to point them to where we wanted to go, because that is about the only way to get a taxi to go to the right place in China – Chinese taxi drivers seem even less aware of where things are than normal people.

We finally got some taxis to take us to the area in which the youth hostel was meant to be, and were dumped in a dusty parking lot next to the zoo. We wandered around for about 10 minutes and eventually found the street that the hostel was on, however the ‘youth hostel’ itself is now called the ‘international business hotel’. After trying to book rooms in Chinese, with a travel agent helping us who spoke marginally more English than my Chinese, we managed to get them for about 100 Yuan/person/night (£7). The rooms themselves are very nice with TV’s, air conditioning and really nice beds, although there don’t seem to be many people at the hotel so I’m sure we could have got the price down a little bit. For lunch, we went out to a local restaurant (90 Yuan/£6) which served quite nice food, including giant prawns, one of my favourite Chinese dishes. In the afternoon, we headed towards a beach which the travel agent had recommended to us. Arriving there, it seemed that the travel agent had recommended it to about half of Russia and China too, because it was jam packed with tourists. Every sign was bilingual, in Russian and Chinese, and Russian pop and traditional music was blaring from everywhere. We had some ice creams (3 Yuan/20p) and then walked up a hill nearby to look at the beautiful scenery. We then went and lay on a less densely populated part of the beach for a few hours, although rather randomly there was a photo-shoot going on at the same time as we were on the beach with a man and woman modelling wedding attire.

At about 6 O’clock, we headed back to the hotel but stopped off at a Chinese food market on the way to get some take-away dinner (about 25 Yuan/£1.70 for 5 people). We ate this in our 3-person bedroom and then we went out to explore the local area and stayed up chatting until about 11.