Fear and Loathing in Eastern China

Hello. This is Kevin’s sister Katrina. Since I am running his blog for the next couple months, I thought I’d have a bit of fun. Don’t worry Kev, I’ll try not to embarrass you too much. I am typing a quick addition to his latest entry because today, May 24, is Kev’s birthday. So Kev, HAPPY BIRTHDAY…..and I hope you are doing well. May you have a not-so-mysterious birthday meal without organs or appendages. And if the desserts there are anything like some in Japan, get yourself a birthday treat–something marzipan-ish stuffed with red bean paste and coated in sugar. Yum!

Good Luck and I love you!


Here is Kev….

My last night in Qingdao Sebastian, Sophia and I had a nice dinner above the city in a restaurant in this tower. I liked the design and colors at night.

Leaving Qingdao was a nightmare of blaring horns, bicycles, motor scooters, and pedestrians. People have no respect for signals and stop signs. It is total madness. I almost got bumped twice in the first hour. It was as chaotic as any South American city, but even more so in its own way. It borders on anarchy: people drive on the wrong side of road, turn in front of you, stop in the middle of the street to chat with someone. Insane.

As I pedaled through the suburbs I noticed what looked like beehives on the sidewalk. As I approached, bees started buzzing around me. Would you believe that within one of the largest cities in China there are hundreds of beehives right on the street? The beekeepers apparently live next to them in tents. I wanted to get a close up photo but was a bit unnerved by the thousands of bees all around me so I didn’t stop.

I had to cross this 4 mile long bridge on the way out of Qingdao, Shandong province.

Street sweeper, Chinese style.

My second day out it rained. There’s a lot of dirt by the roads, so this quickly becomes mud when it rains. Within minutes I was a muddy mess and stayed that way all day.

People are fascinated by me. First, because I travel in more remote areas, I think many people have never seen a non-Chinese person in the flesh. And one on a touring bike is even more bizarre. Many people are probably not even aware of the concept of long distance bike touring. So they are extremely curious. When I stop my bike, within seconds a crowd has gathered. Some people just stare, others jabber away in Chinese. I pick up about 1%. In shops everyone stops and stares and people begin to whisper among themselves. Some younger kids say ‘hello’ but that seems to be the extent of their vocabulary. The sales clerks follow me around the store, watching me.

In internet cafes people walk by and look over my shoulder to see what I am doing. In fact, as I write this the guy net to me is peering over every now and then to see what I am writing. Which is OK except he is smoking, like several others in the place, making it a hazy den of burnt tobacco. At least he was generous enough to offer me one.

I feel like one of those celebrities who are hounded by fans all the time. I am beginning to really dislike it.

Anyway, here are a couple kids who wanted a photo with me one day where I stopped for lunch.

One of the biggest contrasts between Japan and China has to be their approach to hygiene. If the Japanese are fastidiously clean the Chinese are the opposite. Everything is pretty filthy here. Even compared to South America, the garbage, sewage, dirt and filth are pervasive. Creeks and pools of water reek of sewage and chemicals. And the public restrooms must be as close to hell as I have ever been. If you have the stomach for it take a look at this gas station restroom. Warning–it is graphic. The troughs drain directly outside to an open culvert and the waste gets washed away somewhere. I shudder to think where. The stench was overwhelming.

As far as roads, the main ones have wide shoulders but are very noisy sometimes. Other times they are almost empty. There didn’t seem to be much thought into constructing them. Here is a shoulder on one road that is actually wider than the road itself. But it is used by lots of motos, tractors, etc.

I got off the main roads a few times and got on some nice ones,

But that road later disappeared and became this single track path for a while.

Some people working the fields, Shandong province. You think you got a dull job?

7 thoughts on “Fear and Loathing in Eastern China

  1. Capt. Don Kilpela Sr. May 24, 2008 / 2:41 pm

    May 24, 2008

    Happy Birthday, Kev. It seems like only yesterday.

    Your account of the conditions in China is wonderfully interesting. From the looks of it, when those empty roads are filled with cars, we’ll be lucky to get oil over here at any price. Meantime. see if you can find out what the Chinese pay for a gallon of gas. We are well over $4.00 here. Diesel fuel for the boat (without road taxes) is 4.47 per gallon; ouch!

    You and Katrina have made me want to take a trip to the Orient. I would like some of that “rock star” treatment.

    Finally, yes there may be dirt and filth but the countryside panorama is spectacular. Keep it coming and take care of yourself.

    Uncle Don

  2. alix May 24, 2008 / 8:37 pm

    Happy Birthday, Kevin!

    Have a great rest of your trip, I’m looking forward to the “slide show” on Dogwood Drive when you get back. Be careful in Syria, those people are crazy. The bathroom pix was truly disgusting. Namaste! Alix

  3. Kevin Koski May 26, 2008 / 12:51 pm

    I checked a gas pump today and it was selling for 5.07 yuan per liter. At 6.92 yuan per dollar and 1 liter at 0.26 gallons, this makes it $2.82 per gallon. A lot considering the monthly income here is barely $200.

    Most vehicles are trucks of varying sizes. Very few personal vehicles. But the roads are being built to accomodate them. 300,000 km of new roads have been built here in the past few years, more than the previous 50 years. Expect demand for gas here to increase as more Chinese buy personal cars. The price of gas globally must surely increase. My solution: ride a bike!

  4. DAD June 2, 2008 / 10:19 pm


  5. JoJo November 2, 2008 / 6:06 pm

    Happy 48th Kev. Just behind me. Inching towards 50. Hard to believe.

    You think that’s graphic? Stare down the hole of an outhouse! Ha.
    Gas today, 11/2/08, is 2.33 a gallon at Walmart….

  6. Eric August 14, 2013 / 6:17 am

    Hi Kevin,
    Came and saw your blog occasionally.
    I’m living in Qingdao, which you have been 5 years ago.
    It seems you started your journey in China from the Airport and head for the northwest. I was shamed to see your photo and the words.
    Qingdao is better now, hope you can have a back tour if possible.
    I will be happy to receive you here.

  7. Kevin Koski September 8, 2015 / 4:26 am

    I would be happy to return to Qingdao.

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