"He says you are lucky because you've brought rain to Yantai."
Wenbo was generous enough to basically translate everything to us for free while we were in China, and our driver in Yantai didn't more than a few phrases of English. And he had a point - it seemed like rain was following us everywhere like a loyal dog the whole trip (we didn't mind - we love rain). It kind of felt like we crash landed in this "small" seaside city of six million.
Yantai is an incredible city on the shores of the Yellow Sea, and is where half of China's wine is brewed.
HALF. That's a lot of wine.
When we arrived late at night, motion sickness and a stomach bug had gotten the better of me, and I forwent dinner in favor of a toilet. But when we got to our hotel, we were politely informed that they had run out of water.
Like, there wasn't any running water, because they were out.
Apparently there had been a small drought which had depleted some of the city's supply of rainwater, on which they relied for things like sinks and toilets. We ended up switching hotels for one that was on a different, still working system, but it was pretty fascinating to figure out how folks dealt with this apparently common mishap (they just use a bucket for washing and pour water into the back of the toilet manually to flush).
The next day, though, we found ourselves borrowing umbrellas from our driver as the skies opened up and rain pummeled our car.
Much of our time was spent wandering the city with a friend of Wenbo's family showing us around. We headed first to the Muping District (牟平区) of Yantai, where we found some of the most beautiful resort locations and parks! We were even lucky enough to walk through some lovely sculpted vineyard areas with a surprise field of lavender buzzing with some seriously happy bees.
Yantai University Winery
From there we headed over to Yantai University, where we got to tour their winery and find out all about their brewing processes for everything from whiskey to rice beer.
Fun Fact: They distill brandy in a still (or whatever?) that is shaped like a very popular gourd native to China. These gourds are literally everywhere, and their special cinched shape is imitated in tons of products throughout the country.
Exploring the city
Yantai is gorgeous and is designed to be walked in. They've got streets full of shopping, food, and gorgeous seaside views. The city is also full of statues of all kinds - dolphins, marriage moons, ancient Chinese etched onto rocks... it never ends!
We had tons of fun looking through the local farmer's market, full of farm-fresh food and some kind of steamed bread things that were really really good.
In the evening, we had a really unique opportunity to eat in the home of Wenbo's father's friend, who had been showing us around all day. We were absolutely honored, and the tea was, of course, spectacular.
Fun Fact(s): Ok, so in China many meals are shared table-wide. Our host's wife prepared ten dishes (!) plus rice and laid them all out on the table before us. We did not get our own plate - everyone ate straight from dish to mouth one bite at a time, sharing the plates and using our chopsticks. We got a small disposable bowl to throw things like bones and pea shells into. If you are ever invited to someone's home to eat, it is very disrespectful to leave food on the table - you need to eat everything there is. We managed it somehow, though there was really so much I couldn't believe the five of us got through it all.
Afterward, we had tea and fruit. And with our meal, we drank warm papaya juice which had to have been nectar from the literal gods.
The Yellow Sea
Something I was really excited about seeing was the Yellow Sea. I like the idea of "collecting" oceans that I've seen as we travel, and this one was pretty unique. We saw some interesting things here, too. Folks were wandering the beach hunting for what I later found out were razor fish by spraying salt water into holes in the sand and waiting for them to rise to the surface. Anyway, the ocean was lovely, and we found a moon statue that, if a couple sits on it, is said to bless marriages with good luck. Ribbons, locks, and love letters are tied to the fence surrounding the statue, leaving the mark of countless couples who've come seeking good fortunes and happy memories - just like us.
Then to the plane we went! Our adventure continued on from here to the Shanghai leg of our trip. Thanks for coming along with me!