Jinan #1: Baotu Spring

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April 18th 2019
Published: December 9th 2019
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The train from Beijing to Jinan was quick, only about 90 minutes. Jinan West Station, where the high speed rail stops is quite far out of the city. The local bus stops in the small bus station just across from the train station. There were a few signs and I just followed some people, who I hoped were heading in the right direction. Jinan is famous for Its mineral springs that are all over the city. I had decided to head to Baotu Springs, which is the most famous. The K109 bus goes there from the west train station. The bus journey took about 40-50 minutes and as the bus progressed it filled up with people. It was also really hot and sunny, and I felt like I was being roasted alive in my seat.

The bus stops just around the corner from Baotu Springs, so I retraced the route and headed to the ticket office. The entrance fee was 40 RMB, which isn't too bad compared to other entrance fees in China. Baotu Springs is the best known of the 72 springs in Jinan. The actual springs omly covers a small area, but the park around it has grown. The park wasn't too busy and I enjoyed looking at the trees with their long hanging branches and the small rivers and ponds. I decided to park my bum on a bench and read for a bit. I spent about 15 minutes chilling and then decided to move as it was quite windy. I headed to the pavilion that was only a few steps away. As I was admiring the architecture of the pavilion, I heard a loud crack and heard soemthing fall. The wind, I think, had broken one of the branches off the tree and it had fell where I had been sitting moments earlier. Talk about a lucky escape! The building was very beautiful, lots of ornate details but there was no English sign, so I don't know what it was called. I passed a few small pools and I liked how the walkway tiles were raised and the cracks were unfilled so that the water could run through them.

I came to what must be the main part of the Baotu Springs as there were a lot more people here. I had a quick look at the spring and the surrounding pavilions before heading off to a quieter part of the park. I came to what I presume was a house for one of the nobles or merchants back in the day. The outer garden was nice and I relaxed there for a bit before venturing further in. The first courtyard I came to was 'The Courtyard of the Flower of Apricot'. It got its name due to the apricot tree in it and was used to receive guests and visitors daily. From there, I crossed a walkway over water. I loved the mix of old and new as I wandered thrpeugh this Qing Dynasty building, I coud see the skycscrapers of modern day Jinan in the distance. I wandered through to the 'Courtyard of the Flowering Crabapple', which was used by the owner to deal with daily government affairs, receive very close relatives, and entertain guests. The courtyard was very peaceful, it must have been nice in the past, when it was private property. I went across a small bridge over what I presume was a spring, there was a pavilion in the middle, which lookedile a nice place to relax and a few people were doing that. Some of the buildings surrounding the courtyards hsd stuff on display in them, but it wasn't very interesting. I love all the care and attention that has been put into the restoration and upkeep of the buildings. 'The Pomegranate Courtyard' is named after the four pomegranate trees that in it and was used by the owner for their day to day life. It was so quiet and the trees shaded the courtyard giving it a really peaceful feel. To me, it felt like a real sanctuary.

I left the housing area and came to a small lake at the far side of the complex. This part seemed a bit neglected as it was quieter and there was a large more odern building at the other edge of the lake. The building was probably fairly new but was rundown so that made it look older. I don't know if it was some kind of restaurant, hotel or staff dormitory, but it wasn't very inviting. It.was roped off too, so I couldn't get any closer to explore more. I took a side trail back to the entrance and came across a big pile of abandoned bikes. I think the park must have had their own scheme, to me It seems a bit stupid as it isn't too big and easily walkable. I headed back to the centre and main area of Baotu Spring as I had only seen it briefly. It was a lot busier now. There were quite a few tour groups and while it might not be a 'people mountain', which is how the Chinese describe a place/tourist site filled with people. It was still pretty busy for a random Thursday afternoon in April in a random provinical capital city. I mean I've never heard a Chinese person say, 'Ooh I really want to go to Jinan for my next trip'.

The main spring is called Wu You (carefree) Spring and was restored in 1989. It is claimed that the spring can free your mind from worries and that is how it got its name. Quite a cute story, the Spring was really beautiful and nice to look at there is some truth in it. My feet took me to the Cang Garden next. This garden had been turned into a memorial museum for Wang Xuetao, who was an artist and educator, who had been the president of the Beijing Fine Art Academy. Before wandering into the garden, I took a walk around the outside and came to Feng Brook and the Isle of Yue. This was stunningly beautiful and really traditional. The brook carries the water around the city, too. The Cang Garden was nice, but I preferred the exterior. I wandered back through the park and came to another set of buildings that I hadn't had a look around yet. These buildings were dedicated to Li Qingzhao, who was a famous poet. I'm not sure if she lived in these buildings or if they had just been selected to show her life story. The gardens surrounding the buildings contained quite a few old people palying mahjong. I do love how old folk in China spend a lot of time outdoors and are very social. An interesting thing about the buildings was that the roof beams were all painted in shades of pink. It looked really pretty and was a nice change from the traditional colours used, yet I did wonder if it was a little sexist as this set of buildings was dedicated to a woman. I guess I will never know. The final place I checked out was the 'Famous Springs Gathering', which is where some of the most famous of Jinan's 72 springs meet, it sounds more impressive than it looked.

My hotel was only a short walk away from Baotu Springs, maybe about ten minutes. The neighbourhood it was in was a traditional one, like a hutong. It took me a little while to locate the building the hotel was in as there was no English sign outside, so I had to check some pictures online to make sure it was the right place. I didn't want to look like an idiot by walking into the wrong place. The staff at the hotel were nice and friendly, although they didn't speak much English. They really wanted me to check that the room was okay, before paying, which was nice, but totally unnecessary in my case as I am not a very demanding customer. The hotel is in an old converted church, so has lovely high ceilings and there was a nice common area. I was feeling a little tired so it was nice to flop on the bed and relax for a while.

It was time for dinner, so I decided to head to the famous snack street I had read about online. It was a short walk from my hotel, shorter than I had anticipated as before I knew it I was in the middle of the snack street. Furong Ancient Street was still quite quiet when I arrived. I had seen pictures online of it at the weekends, when it is just a sea of bodies. I'm so pleased I got to visit when it is quieter. The street has a rich history, which can be traced back 2,000 years. Now it is a snack street, but it has been the administrative, financial, commercial and cultural centre of the city. The springs from the city run under the street and some paving stones had been removed so that visitors can see the water running by. There were so many choices of things to eat, I wandered from stall to stall until I came to a stall selling shengjian bao, which is one of my favourite kinds of dumplings. The dumpling is steamed and cooked on a kind of hot plate at the same time, so the top is soft and doughy and thre bottom is crispy. There were three different kinds, bu I didn't really know which one was which or even really cared. The girl serving me was really nice and was pointing out what each one was on the board above her head. I ended up getting the pork and prawn ones, which were tasty and very hot. I burnt mouth on them. The food on Furong Ancient Street was definitely overpriced. The shengjian bao were 24 or 25 RMB, and definitely not worth that much eventhough they had prawns in them.

I was still a bit hungry so after wandering up and down the stalls some more and venturing off down a side street that was filled with stalls, I ended up at one of the many takoyaki stalls. There was a bit of miscommunication as I wanted the stall holder to coat my takoyaki balls in all the different sauces, but I only ended up with ketchup on them, so not my favourite, however they were still edible. The street was really starting to fill up compared to earlier, so I took that as my cue to leave. I needed to get some water so I headed to the Walmart that was located not far from the ancient street. Then I headed back to my hotel to relax for the rest of the evening.

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9th December 2019
Baotu Spring

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