First thing I did in China was going to Qingdao to a school to study Mandarin. I had booked 3 weeks of intensive classes, the objective being to have enough basis of Mandarin to be able to survive in China and continue studying by myself later. The school itself was surprising... I was expecting to arrive with tenths of other foreigners willing to learn Mandarin, and I ended up with only two other non-Asian people, both having studied Mandarin for a long time. Therefore the studies were hard, intensive... and when I was still struggling with the pronunciation and the tones, they were learning vocabulary. After one very difficult first week I started to feel I would be able to survive there and learn something. And I guess I made good use of the last two weeks there, learning hard. Outside school I did not do much, just visited a little bit Qingdao. The school was not really far from the town center but going there and coming back was taking easily 2 hours... and I had to study hard. Still I was surprised by Qingdao. This town is really modern and really clean compared to the other Chinese towns I had seen. Then a lot of people speak english or at least a few words, this does not mean that communication is always easy but basically it helped a lot. And then there are really a lot of foreigners there... either studying or working there. Overall Qingdao is really a nice town to go for studies, really welcoming. This is probably linked to the fact that they made a lot of efforts for the Olympic Games as all the Sailing competitions took place there.
Otherwise I also spent one week-end in Guangzhou, in southern China. Flight tickets were cheap and that sounded like a good idea... except that I had forgotten I was in China. Plane going to Shenzhen was very late, then going from Shenzhen to the hotel in Guangzhou proved quite complicated as Guangzhou is not as modern as Qingdao... and finding a taxi proved quite difficult. Then online hotel booking proved to be not working properly... and so on. Whatever I just ended up staying one afternoon in Guangzhou and just went to see the circus there, which was definitely impressive. Competely different from the european circus I had seen so far, with maybe 100 performers on stage (lots of foreigners, strangely). I guess this kind of "saved" my week-end there. All in all... I finally left Qingdao happy but tired end of October and ended for Hong Kong where I would renew my Chinese visa.