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Taian City and Tai Shan
Taian City is the perfect introduction to China. It's considered a
small town, only five million inhabitants, but it has all the modern
conveniences - a MacDonalds, a KFC outlet (both priced beyond the reach of most
Chinese), a department store and a modern shopping mall. But Taian retains
enough texture to make a westerner feel like he is tasting China. You can still see
carts on the street pulled by horses and donkeys. For that matter you can see the
charcoal carts being pulled by men. Sheep are slaughtered on the sidewalk beside the
outdoor barbeque. The motorcycle taxis, called tuktuks in Thailand but here
called "boom boom che" provide a thrilling ride through the traffic. Taian has
no airport, but it is an hour and a half from Jinan, a truly modern city,
by bus or an hour by train.
Tai Shan, China's most famous mountain, makes Tainan City a major tourist destination. As a result, foreigners are not rare enough to be considered freaks, and many of the store clerks speak a bit of English. It's still China, and a city where starting a new business is celebrated by an hour of snapping popping fire crackers.
|Market Street alive by day....
or by night.
|The "boom boom che", 2 yuan (25 cents U.S.) from the Shandong Electric Power International School to downtown.|
Taian is a city under construction, a vibrant mixture of old and new.
Tai Shan is one of China's five famous mountains, and the most famed of the five. Since the Qin Dynasty (221B.C. to 206 B.C.) this has been where emperors came to worship heaven and earth.
So many tourists have climbed Tai Shan (Mount Tai) for so many centuries, that stairs have been built almost to the top. It's a strenous hike. The bottom portion of the climb is lined with souvenir sellers and ancient temples. The tradition is to start at midnight, so that you reach the top in time to watch the sunrise.
-all photos on this page by Ruth Anderson