We found a magical city on the coast where the beer is cheaper than water and the streets are filled with delicious, cheap food. Qingdao is definitely my favorite place in China. It’s very quiet and relaxed. Drivers don’t even honk at each other all the time. Fresh draft beer from the brewery is available everywhere. There are kegs just out on the sidewalks and you can get a mug of beer or you can get it poured into a plastic bag to go. They’ll even give you a straw to drink it.
Our first two nights we couchsurfed with Sunshine, an alternative-type roller derby chick with blue hair and facial piercings. She has lived in tons of different places, including, oddly enough, Wausau, so we had fun chatting about the Midwest. There was a big market and lots of yummy little food shops very close to her apartment and she showed us her favorite spots. I’m not sure what they’re called, but Brad and I both loved these wraps where they put an egg right inside the tortilla when they make it.
Qingdao was a German colony for a short period of time, so there’s lots of interesting architecture and historic buildings to check out. The Badaguan historic neighborhood is almost all German buildings and is a very nice place to walk around. Many couples have their wedding pictures taken there. The large Catholic church with its twin red towers was under renovation, but we did go see the Protestant church. It’s pretty plain and boring on the inside, except the bell tower. We climbed up there and saw the mechanism used for running the clocks and ringing the bell.
Another part of Qingdao’s German heritage is the Tsingtao Brewery. Tsingtao is China’s most popular beer, so we decided to take a tour. They have a large museum about the history of the company and they have old photos and documents from way back when the Germans started it. There were also many old beer advertisements, which I love, and some pretty hilarious captions and explanations for the displays. They had exhibits of the old machinery and then we got to see the current machinery at work. We couldn’t believe how fast the labeling and capping machines move! There are thousands of bottles and most of the time they’re moving so fast, you can’t even see them. Crazy to think of how much beer they produce each day. It was very cool to see.
We also walked along the coast and saw some of the swimming beaches. I guess they’re pretty good for China, but nothing compared to Southeast Asia. There’s a German lighthouse out on Little Qingdao Island and a Navy museum that looks more like a junkyard for abandoned guns and ships. It was just nice to be by the ocean and get some fresh air. We ended up liking Qingdao so much that we stayed there a few days longer than we had planned. I was really starting to dread our next stop: Beijing.