Wednesday, August 17, 2005

tsingtao_bottleI spent the past few days in Qingdao with Angela, Silvia (Angela's former schoolmate from Italy) and Lisa (one of my new coworkers). You may know the city by its old name, Tsingtao, where the famous Chinese beer is made. Tsingtao is the former spelling of the city and was changed when the English representation of Chinese language was standardized and finally adopted in 1979. We had gone to Qingdao to spend a few days relaxing at the seaside. Qingdao, obviously famous for the beer, is also well-known for its beautiful European feel and mellow seaside atmosphere and we weren't disappointed.

Sleeper Bus to QingdaoWe left in the evening, the only foreigners on the trip, catching an overnight sleeper bus, which would have us arriving in Qingdao at about 5:30 AM the next morning. None of us had ever taken a bus of this kind and we were excited to travel in such a way. There were three rows of beds inside, two along each wall of the bus and one in the center, with four bunk beds in each row. It was quite cozy as you can see here. There was a bathroom in the back of the bus, but I was afraid to use it as the floor was quite dirty.

We arrived on time, and were tired but happy to be off the bus, which was a rough night of interrupted sleep at the mercy of an overzealous driver, honking and applying the brakes incessantly while we jostled in our beds. We found a hotel easily, dropped off our things, and went in search of coffee. Almost nothing was open so early in the morning and we weren't that confident about finding a coffee shop, so we went to one of the best hotels in town, The Shangri-La, and sat down to enjoy their breakfast buffet. We'd eaten a late lunch before we left, but didn't really have any dinner before boarding our bus, and were quite hungry.

beer_roosterAfter nearly three hours at the Shangri-La slurping coffee and waking up, we went back to our hotel to rest a bit and clean up. We reconvened in the lobby in the afternoon, took a walk along the beach, and eventually made our way to The 15th Annual Qingdao International Beer Festival, which was unimpressive. After paying our 25 RMB entrance fees and receiving nothing for it besides admittance to the festival, we looked for a place to sit down and drink a beer. Everything was expensive and there was lots of loud music blaring everywhere we went. There was also a carnival inside the festival grounds with rides to ride and games to play, but it wasn't exactly the kind of entertainment we desired. After drinking a few warm beers and riding the "Ranger," a ride in which we made a number of high-speed loops, we exited the festival and went back into the city center. We took a nice walk along the water in the evening, relaxing on the grass in a nice park to watch the lights of the city across the water before stopping to eat some seafood and finally returning to our rooms for the night.

The next day, we strolled along the beach and took in too much sun, all four of us red with the effects of the day. Despite the sun, we had a pleasant time walking around and admiring the beautiful city, stopping often in shady places to enjoy the cool sea breeze and cold beer. We finished the day by bowling a couple games together before retiring for the evening.

Qingdao PosseOn my final day, we did more of the same, walking along the beach and through the nice parks of Qingdao. We visited a European-style villa near the beach, which has become a typical Chinese tourist trap complete with surprise vendors on the top floor of the villa, and slowly made our way back to our hotel. Lisa had taken sick, unfortunately, and needed to rest. After only a few weeks in China, Chinese food may have finally caught up with her. She returned to the hotel room while Angela, Silvia and me went out to look for something to eat. We lucked into a great seafood restaurant with tables on the sidewalk and ravaged a fine meal of fresh crab and mussels, easily our best meal of the trip.

Angela and Silvia were staying an extra day, and so Lisa and I would ride the bus back together without them. The ride home was relatively gentle and I made it back to my apartment by about 6:00 AM this morning with the whole day ahead of me. As always, check out additional pictures from this trip by clicking the My Photos link in the menu at your left.

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