I arrived in Jinan after a pretty awful 13 hour overnight train ride from Datong. I boarded at 4pm in Datong, and pulled into Jinan just after 5am. It was a painful ride as most of sleeper beds were sold out, so I grabbed one of the last “hard” seats that they had. Not pictured is my seat, but it wasn’t very comfortable. They sit 6 on one side of the train and 4 on the other, with half the people seated facing each other in these little booths. A very small table no longer than 14″ sticks out from the side of the train, which all 6 people share. Thankfully I had a seat near the window, but, so I could rest my head on the table, or lean up again the window.
I already had a pounding headache, and dinner and ensuing train smell did not help either. The couple in front of me decided to have dinner about 3 hours into the ride which was fine, but their cuisine choice could have been better. They each had a huge bowl of ramen which was fine, but the next course I could have done without. They pulled out a bag of 7-8 so called Century or 1,000 year old eggs. Basically they eggs have been soaked in all sorts stuff and basically been preserved for many weeks before they can be eaten. They look disgusting, and they smell heavily of sulfur and ammonia. They devoured these quickly and tossed the shells on the floor, so they smell lingered around for the next couple of hours. This smell combined with about 10-15 Chinese men smoking at the front of the car (right next to the transit cop & the no smoking signs) made for a pretty undesirable overnight ride. Every hour and a half or so we would lurch to a stop and people would get off and more would clamber aboard dragging huge boxes and luggage with them.
We finally arrived and I met up with a couch-surfer who had some free time and offered to show me the city. Jinan is called the city of springs, as there are close to 70 natural springs scattered throughout the city. We climbed the local mountain and temple, saw a freaking enormous giant golden buddha, and then he helped me grab a train to Taian, where I would be climbing the mountain later than night.
Once in Taian, I grabbed a hostel which turned out to be sort of a waste as I didn’t actually sleep at all, save for about 30 minutes on the couch in the lobby. I met a group of Chinese kids from Beijing who were climbing that same night so I joined them. They only spoke about 5 words in English, and combined with the 2 Chinese phrases, we had a blast. We hiked for about 4 hours, slept about an hour on the top, and then woke up for the sunrise which was actually pretty amazing.
After the hike down, a quick shower and some lunch with the group, we toured the city, and they got me 2 train tickets and a bus ticket to get back to Jinan and then to the airport where I caught a late, but very cheap flight to my next stop, Xi’an. Home of the Terra-cotta Warriors.
A long and very tiring hike back down.