Charming Qingdao

If you think Qingdao offers nothing else but Tsingtao beer, think again.

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Qingdao is a breath of fresh air compared to many of northern China’s urban industrial zones. This you’ll surely agree as you see old couples walking at Qingdao’s three-lined avenues, a grandmother playing with her grandson at the seashore, a bride-to-be daunting her immaculate wedding gown for photographs outside a European-styled building. If you think Qingdao offers nothing else but Tsingtao beer, think again.

Called China’s Switzerland, Qingdao’s checkered past with Germany and Japan’s colonization, turned this once fishing village into what it is now a charming city outfitted with distinctive European architectures and three-lined avenues made of cobblestones. To add is the city’s natural charm of lush trees and breezy seaside.

IMG_1957Qingdao is divided into three major parts – the old town in the west side of the city is dotted with historical architectures and budget accommodations, while the city center is where the upscale residential areas and old villas are found. In the east side of the city is the central business district, thriving with new and fancy buildings, trendy bars, cafes and shopping malls.

Attractions

In here, the colours of the sea and its surrounding trees, plus the fresh breeze of the sea, create a relaxing environment that  lovingly imbibes a kind of charm to its visitors.

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Qingdao is known for its beaches where throngs of people go, especially during summer. This is no Bali so don’t keep your expectations high. Its beaches have coarse-grained sand and stones covered with seaweeds but nonetheless, fresh sea breeze attracts tourists to flock these beaches. On the seashore are many vendors with colourful trinkets up for buying – balloons, bracelets, toys, and souvenirs.

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Beach number 1 is the longest and often busiest since it’s just a stone’s throw away from restaurants, bus stops and hotels. Also close by are Zhongshan Park, Huiquan Cinema and the Small Fish Hill overlooking views of beaches and parks.

From Beach number 1, a walk towards the more attractive Beach number 2 becomes pleasant through the seaside boardwalk. Beach number 2 is tucked away in Badaguan where the remains of Germans and Japanese architectures are still found. In here, the colours of the sea and its surrounding trees, plus the fresh breeze of the sea, create a relaxing environment that  lovingly imbibes a kind of charm to its visitors. Huashi Lou adds a spell in visiting Badaguan. Huashi Lou is a granite castle with a turret in sight, which used to be a Russian aristocrat’s residence.

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To name a few other Qingdao attractions are the Qingdao Museum that houses huge stone Buddhas relics and statues that are believed to be dated back from AD 500; the Ying Binguan Guesthouse (also called The Governor’s Mansion) which, at a glance, will have you figure right away that it’s another fine example of the city’s colourful history.

At night, Qingdao offers its share of nightscape options. For one, the Qingdao skyline reminds you of Shanghai Pudong area where travelers enjoy a relaxing evening gazing at vibrant modern buildings. The classic Zhanqiao Pier, which is very close to the railway station, is a favorite of many visitors as its colourful lights paint a wonderful reflection of the surrounding seawater. And for those who want to notch the night up a bit, there’s always…beer.

A trivia for beerophiles

Swim, eat, drink and climb…do these and you could never go wrong.

DSC05783Did you know that Tsingtao Beer was first brewed by homesick Germans during their colonization of Qingdao? For a history lesson, and a pitcher of China’s popular draft, head down to Tsingtao Brewery Museum in the south of Taidong Pedestrian Street (where all the shopping is going on). Beer Street is just outside the brewery and here is where one could even get the hard-to-find Yuanjiang brew. The city also celebrates beer wonder every August as it holds the Qingdao International Beer Festival.

Environs

Laoshan. Once done with city attractions, a must-visit is Mount Laoshan. Twenty miles outside Qingdao, Laoshan houses temples, huge rock formations, waterfalls and hiking trails. Many people come to Laoshan for their elixir of life, since there used to be many Daoist temples here, though only a few of them survived today. The Great Purity Palace of the Song dynasty is found on the way up. From the palace are paths toward the summit of the mountain, travelers either climb the summit through the stairs or choose the more dramatic view by taking the cablecar.

IMG_2108Huangdao. The crowd in Beaches 1 and 2 could be too much for some travelers so an escape from the hordes is going to Huangdao. Huangdao is just 30 minutes by ferry from the ferry terminal at the west of the train station and is indeed quieter and cleaner than the other beaches.

With many adventures awaiting you in Qingdao, a dependable Chinese saying offers an advice – swim in the sea, eat fried clams, drink Tsingtao Beer and climb Mount Laoshan. Swim, eat, drink and climb…do these and you could never go wrong.

Published: Tianjin Plus Magazine, January 2011

Photography: Cathy Perez

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