Qingdao was a great place to slow down and chill out. October is certainly the off season in this beach town, so we had all the space we needed to sit back, reflect and absorb. And while there was no map English, Qingdao is a tourist city so a lot of the menus had pictures (!!!!) and it was super easy to get around by cab. What a relief!
Qingdao was a German concession town so all the architecture in the old city is strikingly European. Like all good Chinese cities, Qingdao is undergoing mega-construction, but unlike other cities we’ve been to this one is preserving the existing architecture. Instead of bulldozing, Qingdao is actually building a completely different business district where a lot of the new businesses, bars and nightlife are located. Walking along the beach is visual treat – gleaming new skyscrapers at one end and at the other end, rolling hills dotted with idyllic bavarian-style and a pagoda in the distance.
Being a good German colony, Qingdao is known for it’s famous beer – Tsingtao. (Tsingtao is the old school romanization of the city, both the beer and the city are pronounced Ching-Dao). We headed off to the Tsingtao Brewery to check out what was on tap.
This may be the only brewery in the world to have more pictures of politicians than of how the beer is made. We saw hundreds of photos of politicians auditing the brewery and a lot of descriptions about the profits, revenue and brand management. It was hysterical abut maybe not worth the cost of the tour. But hey! They gave out free samples, so we were happy.
We also discovered something that had previously caused us such pain – the Chinese drink at restaurants, not bars. After leaving the brewery we wanted a full pint of beer and figured there must be a bar close by. Well, we were wrong and there is no bar close to the brewery. This caused a minor tantrum from both of us and we stormed away in a cab. We’ve come to realize that bars are a pretty western concept, and thinking about even more, perhaps even in hite-heaven, the ROK, we drank at restaurants.
Before storming away in a cab, I snapped this pic of the street outside of the Tsingtao brewery. Notice all the restaurant tables lining the street. We were in too big of a cultural huff to want to spend time eating but it turns out these were the “bars” that we have been hunting for since Shanghai.
(Internet painfully slow, will upload later. FEEL MY PAIN)
Beaches and Brides
The beach stretches from one end of the city all the way to the other. Some beaches are super touristy with tons of vendors, street food and people. Other beaches seem quiet, more natural and better preserved. No matter which beach you choose, I’m sure they’re all crazy in the summer. Even in 45 degree cold, we noticed dozens of speedo wearing chinese men playing hacky sack on the sand.
Between the two distinct downtowns is a gorgeous area called Ba Da Guan, which is where we stayed. Ba Da Guan is made up of eight boulevards, and each boulevard has a different tree lining the street. It’s gorgeous. It turns out that we’re not the only people who thought so…
Everywhere you turn in Qingdao there is a bridal photo shoot, with tons of gorgeous brides lining up for their photos. There were so many brides in Ba Da Guan that I thought there must have been a fashion shoot going down. What bride has her wedding photos taken while other brides stand around waiting for their turn? This may have been the first bet with Vinnie that I have ever lost.
In China the photographer provides the white wedding dresses used for the photos, which are taken well before the wedding. The brides have a more traditional dress for the actual ceremony. What’s crazy is that these white wedding dresses for the photos don’t necessarily fit. We saw women pinned into their gowns, we saw women who couldn’t zip the back of the dress, we saw photographers lying on the dresses in the street to get the perfect shot. It reminded me the old timey pictures that you have taken at Cedar Point.
Qingdao was a great place for us to grab some fresh sea air and see a softer, friendlier side of China. We were, however, sternly scolded by an American living in China. He was disappointed in our current itinerary (and the fact that we were paying $7 a beer) and told us that Qingdao isn’t “real” China. By his reasoning we have been catching all the bright and shiny “new” China and needed to get out ass out of the eastern seaboard and down to the real deal in Yunnan. He slurred, “You haven’t even SEEN China yet. Just wait until your shitting on your ankles after eating the food in Sichuan.”
With that word of warning, which I am prone to believe, we continue our trip northwards to Beijing. From there, who knows.