Jinan - some (hopefully useful) information

Trip Start Oct 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 23, 2011


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Flag of China  , Shandong,
Saturday, July 10, 2010

It occurs to me that I have not really written about Jinan in this travelpod, despite having lived here for two years. Yes, there are Jinan entries, but mostly they were written to say that I was about to leave or had just come back (which is probably what my next one is going to say). So, this entry will be dedicated to Jinan. I've listed a couple of things to see, some transport information, a few places to eat or get groceries and a couple of bars.

Sights

Yes, Jinan is called the City of Springs. The most famous is Baotuquan. It was named by emperor somebodyerother "the first spring under heaven". It even has a beer named after it, which for a pleb like me who is much more interested in Chinese pop culture and modern history than 5000 years of mostly imperial stuff (unless there are fortifications involved because fortifications make anything lovely), is a significant point. The beer, that is. As such (the best spring under heaven thing, not the beer) it is usually rather high up on the hit lists of tour groups. Baotu Spring is nice enough with its gardens and such, but as far as springs go, I far prefer the free ones (including Black Tiger Spring) east of Quancheng Square. You have to pay for Baotu Spring. You can't miss Quancheng Square, it is in the centre of the city and has a big blue fork thing in the middle of it (actually, I think it probably supposed to be a spring, but that is part of the fun of modern art, is it not?). From the square, go to the north-east corner, cross the road (if you dare) and follow the water along until you get to the springs. You will see tonnes of locals collecting water from the springs. If you go at night in summer (which would be a wise choice as it is a couple of degrees cooler down there by the water than it is anywhere else) you will see a bunch of old guys swimming there. Not sure why you'd want to, but the point is you can.

If you go far enough along the river thing you will make it to the Jiefang Liberation Pavillion, also free. It is an impressive-looking walled tower thing to remember the day when the PLA defeated the KMT in the Battle of Jinan (1948). Over the years, Jinan has seen a lot of fighting, from the overthrow of the Qing dynasty, Japanese invasion to civil war. The memorial, plus the springs and willows which lean over the water make this one of the prettier spots in Jinan on the right day. If you keep going up along the river (on the east side of Heihuquan Road) you will make it to the free half (the east side) of Daming Lake. I'd recommend going to the free part at night when a bunch of cool lights make the pagodas and bridges sparkle, while the black sky renders the haze invisible. The paid side of Daming Lake is quite nice too. You can wander into old buildings, take a boat ride, or buy souvenirs if you are into that kind of thing.

OK, so this isn't a sight, it's a restaurant, but it is in between Black Tiger Spring and Daming Lake, so... on the east side of Quancheng Road and Heihuquan Road there is a bridge over the river. On the south-east corner of the bridge is a little monument and behind it is an excellent fish restaurant. I grew up eating sea fish, so I am not a big fan of river fish, but this restaurant serves the best fish I've had in China. Ask for "kaoyu" or just point at the great metallic cooking things on other tables. Beware, like anywhere else in China, the fish comes complete with head (including eyes, blah), tail and bones, but it is definitely worth the trouble. It costs around 40 RMB which is a bit pricy but it is enormous and delicious so worth the price. They have lots of other dishes too and are well-known for their rice porridge (zhou). For vegetables I like their wawacai (like long baby cabbage).

I'm ashamed to say I haven't actually been to Thousand Buddha Mountain. I have been to Hero Mountain though, which is south of the old stadium (on Jingshi Road) and close to the cultural markets that are big on Saturdays. Again, it is free. There is a museum (free, but you aren't allowed in with slippers, thongs or grubby clothes and there isn't any English information inside, although there are a lot of guns) and a cemetery on the west side of the park, as well as lots of paths up to a column on one of the hills and a couple of pagodas. The view from the top can be quite good if the smog allows. Again, this part of the city featured heavily in the fighting during the liberation of Jinan. I am still not sure which revolution or liberation this was since there are references around the place to both fighting between the PLA and the KMT as well as the Chinese and the Japanese, but if it is about the Battle of Jinan I guess the emphasis is 1948's PLA victory over the KMT in the Battle of Jinan.


Airport

Jinan's airport is a LONG way from the city. It should take you about 120RMB to get to the city by cab, unless you arrive at night, in which case you are at the mercy of the cab drivers and could pay anything. Seriously, I knew one unsuspecting foreigner who paid 600 RMB for a lovely trip around the countryside. If you can speak Chinese, it would be better to talk with some other passengers (hopefully locals) and share a cab to the city together. Otherwise take the airport express.

During the day, the airport bus will deposit you at the train station (which also has a long distance bus station). At night it will drop you off at the Yuquan Simpson Hotel, 68 Luoyuan Dajie west of the Sofitel and Silver Plaza, near the south-east corner of Quancheng Square. The bus costs 20 RMB. If you are at the airport you pay for the ticket at a booth outside, put your luggage under the bus then show your ticket to the person standing at the door. If you want to take the airport express from the city, go to the Yuquan Simpson Hotel. It leaves just to the right of Yame bakery. You buy your ticket on the bus just before it leaves. The bus from Yuquan Simpson leaves every hour on the hour between 6am and 6pm. I can't remember when the first bus leaves the airport but I think the last one is about 11:30pm. It takes anywhere between 40 minutes and 1 hour depending on the traffic.


Train

In my opinion, Jinan's train station is not a nice one to arrive at. The exit is chaotic, people often don't bother to line up at the taxi stand which can make getting a cab a complete nightmare unless there is an attendant around. At night time some of the taxis will refuse to take you if you are going somewhere close by, or they will try to negotiate a price instead of going by the meter. Demand that the meter is put on and ask for a receipt. If it turns out you get ripped off badly and a nice Chinese person is willing to help you out, there is a government number that can be called to report it (the taxi number is on the receipt) and if you are lucky, you will get a refund. If you are busting to go to the toilet when you get off the train, or in severe need of caffeine, there is a KFC across from the train station. There is also a long distance bus station across from the train station.

If you want to buy train tickets, you can do it at the train station itself at the ticket entrance, which is to the left of the entrance for the trains or (if you are in the area, or just want to avoid the lines) go to Yuquan Simpson Hotel (68 Luoyuan Dajie). On the first floor at the back of the lobby there is a travel agent that sells airplane tickets (both domestic and international) and train tickets. You must pay cash for train tickets. They also have quite nice toilets which is nothing to scoff at.

A note on deciphering train tickets which (except for the departure and destination points) are entirely in Chinese and might be confusing to some. In the middle up the top is the train number which is what you are going to have to look at to find out (on the overhead information boards) which waiting room in the train station you will leave from. The next line has the year, month and day of departure, the time it leaves (note for most trains you can get on the train 15-30 minutes before it leaves, but they will lock the doors about 5 minutes before departure), then the car number, followed by the seat number (or bed number if it is a sleeper). If you have a sleeper it will have 上 (top bunk),中 (middle bunk) or下(bottom bunk) for the hard sleepers, but no middle for the soft sleepers. The top bunk is the cheapest, the bottom bunk is the most expensive. The bottom bunk is the most convenient in that you don't have to do a kamikaze mission every time you go to the toilet and it has enough space to sit up. The nuisance is, when people in the other bunks are not sleeping they will often sit on your bunk for this very reason. If you have a sleeper, the attendant will take your ticket and give you a pass, then they will wake you up and give you back your ticket when the train is about to get to your stop. Make sure you keep your ticket handy because you will need it to get out of the train station!!!

Bus

Local buses are usually 1 or 2 RMB depending on whether or not they are air conditioned. They are cheap and go all over the place but are slow because the traffic in Jinan is really bad. They are also usually really crowded.

There are long distance bus stations in different places around the city for reasons which elude me, but for most places you can probably just go to the station across the road from the train station or the main bus station (changtu qiche zongzhan) on Jiluo Road (north of the train tracks). The main bus station is probably a nicer place to wait. If you are a woman and are having a hard time getting a ticket, go to the pink window which is especially for women.

Chinese Food

Jinan is big on dumplings of the boiled variety (jiaozi or shuijiao). They have all kinds of fillings, both meat and vegetarian. BBQ is also huge, especially when the weather is stinking hot. Locals gather at street-side BBQ joints which have little tables and stools. You can order what you want or just wait because the waiters will generally just dump stuff on the metal tray on your table. If you don't want something they try to dump on you object vigorously and they won't give you any. Given that BBQ joints serve all kinds of internal organs, gristle and icky stuff like sheep eyes (seriously, a bunch of sheep eyes on a skewer), it is worth paying close attention to what is on offer! The bill is worked out by counting the skewers left over from the stuff that you actually ate (don't ask what happens to the other skewers that don't get eaten!) and each skewer is about 3-5 jiao (10 jiao = 1 RMB) or more if they are bigger or twisty skewers. As well as meat they have yummy flat bread, baked mantou (a kind of steamed bread which is skewered, sprinkled with seasoning then barbecued), steamed peanuts and peas. They are usually willing to fry up some veggies for you as well. 

The last important detail about BBQ is you can try the local zhapi, dodgy beer which is poured out of a green carton into a big glass. It is cheap and good for washing down BBQ but gives a nasty headache if you drink too much of it. The green carton contains about 10 big glasses of beer for about 13-15 RMB, although you can buy by the glass. Make sure your glass is clean and free of lip prints from previous drinkers. If you are worried about the glasses you can buy other beers by the bottle (usually Qingdao, Laoshan,  or Baotuquan). If you are worried about getting a headache, some places have silver coloured barrel/carton things which are more expensive. If you happen to be in the very south of the city, there is a good (not to mention huge) BBQ joint east of the University of Jinan (west campus) called Xin Wang Shaokao (red sign on Langmaoshan Rd, on the K94 bus route about 20 minutes south-west of the old stadium, past the southern branch of RT-Mart). But really, in summer there are BBQ joints everywhere. In winter they tend to turn into hotpot restaurants.

There are lots of noodle joints (about 4-10 RMB depending on what is in the dish, Lanzhou-style lamian shops or mixian (rice noodle) stalls are probably the most common) and snack stalls around (Shandong's jianbing, or fried pancakes, are particularly good), but if you want to sit down and have a proper meal, most Chinese restaurants are cheap and will have the following standards

Fried egg and tomato (xihongshi chaojidan)

Sour spicy potato strips (suan la toudousi)

Spicy fried eggplant (fengwei qiezi)

Bokchoy and mushroom (xianggu youcai)

** Garlic oat leaves (suanrong youmaicai) AKA the amazingly delicious mysterious green vegetable, don't be put off by the odd name.

Sweet and sour pork (tangcu liji)

Deep fried pork (ganzha liji)

Eggplant, potato and capsicum in oyster sauce (di san xian)

Sizzling beef (tieban niurou)

Stir fried spicy clams (lachao huaga)

Cabbage and pork (laochu baicai)

Spicy chicken pieces (gongbao jiding)

Potato and beef stew (tudou shao niurou), yummy in winter

Beans (ganbian yundou)

The list is endless. You can have rice (mifan), steamed bread (mantou), noodles (mian) or dumplings (jiaozi) with your meal, but unless you ask for it to be served immediately, it will come at the very end of the meal, according to custom. Your bowl, spoon, plate, glass and teacup will probably come wrapped up in plastic which means they have been disinfected. You may pay an extra 1 RMB for this. I'm paranoid, so I still rinse them and my chopsticks in the scaldingly hot tea that comes free at most restaurants. If it isn't a meat dish, most will cost between 8 and 15 RMB depending on the place. Meat dishes could cost between 15 and 30 RMB. Most servings are really big. It costs 1 RMB for a bowl of rice, 1 RMB for a couple of steamed buns, around 3 for a bowl of noodles, dumplings depend on how many you buy and what the filling is. Beer is around 4 RMB per bottle. In winter it is hard to get cold beer.

Special recommendation - For something different, try the Xinjiang restaurant, 34 Jingshiyi Road to the west of the old stadium. They have all kinds of hearty goodies like flat bread with mutton (nang bao rou), spicy stewed chicken served with belt (really broad) noodles (da pan ji) and good noodles (try la tiaozi for a Xinjiang classic, or the cute iddy biddy noodles that look like hole-less macaroni - dingding chao mian). The restaurant has won awards. They also sell Xinjiang beer (although I like the Harbin beer they sell a lot better). The address in Chinese is 市中区经十一路34号中华名优小吃城(近英雄山). They actually have 3 or 4 outlets in Jinan, the one near the stadium is just the one I've been to. The food is authentic. It is slightly spicy.

Western Food

Jenny's (on Lishan Rd near the south-west corner of the intersection of Lishan Road and Wenhua Road) serves pizza, pasta, burgers and the like. They also have a little shop next door called U-mart selling lots of Western groceries and alcohol. Personally, I think Pine Cone (Songguo) at 103 Wenhua Dong (East) Road (almost opposite Shandong Normal University) is better food-wise. They don't do burgers, but they have stuff like pasta, risotto, pizza, steaks, salad, soups (pumpkin!) and a good atmosphere. They have an excellent lunch special.

For those who love to have wine with their meal if at all possible, Jenny's, Pine Cone and Pizza Hut (old Stadium has a branch) all serve wine, both red and white (Jenny's has many kinds, Pine Cone has French and Chilean, Pizza Hut has just Chilean but in my opinion was the tastiest for the price at 118 RMB per bottle), but for a bottle you are probably looking at between 90 and 160 RMB. You may well have to line up for Pizza Hut. It is ridiculously popular in Jinan.

Other food

There is a nice Thai Restaurant on Foshan Street. It's a bit pricy, but the toilets are beautiful. The toothpick holders look like little pink condoms, which is a bit disconcerting. There is an excellent Korean restaurant called Keliya at 46 Chaoshan Street (actually it is slightly off down an alleyway on the left, not on the main street) very close to the Yuquan Simpson Hotel. There are lots of Korean restaurants in the area, but I think Keliya is the best. Their kimchi soup is delicious. All mains come with 4 side dishes, 8 side dishes if there is more than one person.

Pubs

OK, there are more than this, these are just a few that I actually don't loathe. Oscar's (Yanshan Lijiaoqiao, dongbei jiao, in the park on the north east corner under the mess of overpasses at the intersection of Erhuan Dong Road and Jingshi Road) is good because you can sit at trestle tables outside. They have big screens for sport. Happy hour is before 9pm. It is a bit tricky to find and even harder to explain to cab drivers. The Chinese address is 燕山立交东北角 燕山公园内. If you have a Chinese cell phone, I advise calling 88500531 and asking the staff to direct the cab driver. Banjo Bar and English Corner are more central on opposite ends of Foshan Street. The Banjo Bar has live music every night.

Cafes

While there are actually quite a few cafes around Jinan, most are over-priced and the coffee isn't too crash hot either. Frankly, the cheapest drinkable coffee is at either Macdonald's or KFC. KFC also does a fairly nice iced coffee. Rosemary Caffé is excellent for atmosphere. It is north of Quancheng Road, on Xianxi Lane in Quanlefang (a ritzy looking cool mall thing around the corner from KFC on Quancheng Road). The Chinese address is 历下区县西巷9号泉乐坊123A商铺(近泉城路). The coffee at Yame (Yuquan Simpson Hotel) is cheap, but weak.

Groceries

U-mart has lots of Western goodies (Lishan Road, on the south-west corner of Lishan and Wenhua Roads). They even have VB, not that I think that's a good thing!

The nearby RT-mart also has lots of imported goods (Western and Korean stuff rivals Jenny's) as well as some foreign wines, beers, cheese, salami and cheap baguettes (don't worry, no sugar).

Cakes and stuff

Yame Bakery (Yuquan Simpson Hotel, first floor) has baguettes, snack things, cakes, coffee and teas.

On Luoyan Dajie, one block west of Yame there is a little shop selling egg custard tarts of various kinds which are both cheap and delish.

Toiletries

You will find most things you need at Watsons. For women looking for tampons, you can buy OB at Watsons and RT-Mart.

The information listed above is by no means complete, just an attempt to be helpful. If anybody reads this and wants to add some advice about Jinan, go ahead and leave a comment.
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Comments

Ariel Ky on

This was amazing, thank you for sharing all of this information. I also live in Jinan. Maybe we can meet up sometime... You can send me an email at libertyferall@gmail.com

iolair
iolair on

The old Box Bar has moved (down an alleyway that starts across Luoyuan Dajie from the Sofitel) and become Phoenix Bar 凤凰酒吧. The address is 8 Dongqinglong St in Lixia District (under minsheng bank) 历下区东青龙街8号楼民生银行下(lixia qu dong qing long jie ba hao lou). The phone number is 86963063. They have live music.

iolair
iolair on

Oops, I put the address in Chinese characters, but it turned into something very very odd! If in doubt and in possession of a cell phone, call the bar and ask them to tell a cab driver how to get there.

H110 on

Hi iolair. it is great what you have done here. the huoguo place under the 1000 B mountain? not a bad place!The phoenix also was closed but it is open now. this ad in piyin may help qing lon qiao shi mu yuan xiao qu fenghuang jiu ba.

veromarcos
veromarcos on

Fantastic entry, thank you so much for all tis useful information!

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