When you have a day off together as a couple it is a perfect time for a getaway. For us, hospitality enthusiasts, getting the same days off is rare therefore we are trying our best to get the most of it. Therefore, we decided that a mini break from Beijing would be a great idea. We considered Shenyang, Qingdao and Jinan. The first two were out of options pretty soon as they were both too far (around 4-5 hours by train), expensive (RMB300-400 one way) and also not offering attractive rates for accommodation.
Jinan it was, a city of springs in Shandong (East Mountain) province. The city seemed like it had a lot to offer, Hilton Jinan had amazing rate, the tickets were affordable. The journey started.
Getting to Jinan and first impressions.
First of all, I have to say we were late. I have been stressing out for a day before the trip as it seemed like there was so much to see. I didn’t want to miss anything so yep, I did stress out. But AH is always pretty chilled out and he wanted to travel later. As we came to the train station by 10am, the tickets were only available for 12.05, so we had to wait.
Two hours of wait and two hours of train ride and Jinan welcomed us with a cloudy weather and fresh breathe. The first impression was actually great – mountains, quite relaxed temp of life and a veeeery slow taxi.
We got to the hotel (we stayed at Hilton Jinan) changed and headed back to the city center to start exploring city springs.
We have started from Baotu spring, which is considered to be the largest and the main spring there. Amazingly located in the city center huge courtyard, it made us feel like we were sent back in the days. A lot of nice roofs, doors and other traditional design elements were incredibly beautiful.
After Beijing Baitu Spring did not seem to be crowded at all, but as a local attraction it was a little busy. One of the Chinese emperors once tasted a tea made of Baotu spring water and decided to build a courtyard around it. The tea had a very pleasant sweet taste and felt healthy.
You might be spending 3-4 hours easily in this place as it is really nice to walk around, take pictures and explore. Do not get lost!
Ancient Furong Street.
Another Ancient street, this time in Jinan. Well, I guess every city has one, and it is actually a key code for “Food Street”. It felt like it was longer than Wangfujing food street, with just as many people.
The food selection resembled Beijing street food but there were some amazing choices like steamed-fried dumplings, squid balls and mango crepes. I am thinking about writing a post fully dedicating attention to our picks to try.
Note: If you go there and you are just like me – you don’t like thyme – watch out! They put it on everything so be in time to stop them. I was too late and some of the food experiences were not that great as they could have been.
After a very late street food lunch, we headed to Daming lake, we even found Mobikes and decided to go through the local hutongs, which were very charming.
Before you get there from the food street, you manage to see a tea house place with a few choices of teas. But we decided to skip it to take a boat ride. Unfortunately, the last boat ride is at around 4:30pm so we were too late, but it is never too late to walk around and enjoy the view.
Spring water tea.
We have decided to try the tea at the river-spring-lake area with the spring water. The tea houses surround a very tiny river but that creates certain charm and atmosphere.
You can choose green tea, white tea, oolong and some flower/herbal teas but they will all have quite a sweet aroma.
They are normally served with the sunflower seeds and perfect for a nice chat.
TIP: If you are a sweet junkie, feel free to get a mango crepe from Furong Ancient Street and have it with your tea.
Evening walk and the Central Jinan.
After the tea we have decided to just walk around and explore the surroundings. I think that was one of great decisions we took. Small Hutong streets lead us to a pretty modern style Chinese village. Food and drink shops, mini restaurants and bakeries and also souvenir shops – that place was amazing to finish our day.
Qianfoshan Thousand Buddha Mountain.
After a heavy breakfast, two hour wait for a ticket reservation, we finally went to QianFoShan. One of Jinan mountains where you can find Thousand Buddhas and a cave with Ten Thousand Buddhas.
It is quite a walk if you want to reach the top, but we decided to save up our energy and took a cable car to go up. The ride takes around 10-15 minutes but as it doesn’t seem very safe, it felt like ages. However, you get a great view of the city and mountain.
When you are finally there, you can enjoy the local architecture, city panorama and a toboggan ride back. For the ones who are up for some exploring – take a walk down on foot.
We walked down, finding more and more Buddhas, small temples of Taoists. We also found a Taoist temple of the God of Marriage. Whenever you decide to walk around and enter temples, be prepared that you might be tricked (which I honestly don’t understand as it is supposed to be a “saint” place.
The Ten Thousand Buddha Cave that we were very excited about turned out to be closed… and we were so upset as there was no information about closing anywhere. After reaching that and finding out that it did not work we just decided to leave.
Black Tiger and White Stone Springs.
As we checked the maps, we decided to Mobike to the springs area. Riding a bicycle from South to North direction is a pleasure as it goes down the hill.
Fifteen minutes after we have finally reached the springs area and just decided to walk around. There are four main springs there – Black Tiger, White Stone, Pipa and Five Lotus. The water from all of them feeds the river and makes it really cold.
I found Five Lotus spring to be the most attractive and I really wished we could swim there.
Unfortunately, the spring water pool was closed and used as a playground, but maybe some time in the future it will be reopen again.
Finding food other that on the streets seems to be challenging in Jinan, especially talking about Western choices. As we had a huge breakfast, we wanted to eat at around 4. Turns out most of the places only served food as of 5pm.
In the end we just ended up going to fast food quarters to have Xiabu Xiabu. We finished up our trip just walking around the central area with shops.
Cost of trip and Tips to Jinan travel.
Tickets (RMB 369 return trip Beijing-Jinan)
One night stay in a 5 star hotel (RMB 500-1000)
Taxi (return Station-hotel-station RMB 100)
Entrance to Baotu RMB 30 pp (cash only)
Street food (each try RMB 15-20)
Lunch / Dinner for 2 pax (RMB 120)
Entrance to QianFoShan (RMB 30 pp)
Cable car one way (RMB 20pp)
Toboggan one way (RMB 25pp)
Misc RMB 150
Total expense for 2 pax: approximately RMB1700.
Make sure you book train tickets in advance…
Check before you go that you have enough money in cash…
Both Beijing Nan (Beijing South Train Station) and Jinan Xi (Jinan West Train Station) have fast food chains and snack places, do not bring your with you as it might be taken away…
Make sure you do your research on food as it might be tricky for picky ones…
Check your shoes before you go – you really need comfy ones…
Visiting Jinan is a great experience, you will find yourself in a relaxing place with a lot to see for two days. You will also feel like you are the only foreigner there, as in two days we have only seen maybe 5 people maximum. For everyone who likes exploring, but doesn’t have a lot of time Jinan is a great spot.
Previously we went to Tianjin and Shilinxia in the surroundings of Beijing. I will later follow with the Jinan Street Food post and a review of Hilton South Jinan. Next weekend we are planning to explore the Summer Palace and National Museum of Beijing. And the weekend after the travel begins – Hong Kong and Macau is waiting for us!