My beach weekend to Qingdao, China, was anything but expected and nothing but awesome. It started out by catching the train out of Beijing after class where I was in a different car than Jordan and Staci. I was seated in the aisle seat next two Chinese men, one of whom asked me if I wanted him to put my bag on the overhead rack to which I awkwardly replied a nonsensical string of Chinese words instead of a simple no thank you. For the rest of the train ride, I was entertained by The Lincoln Lawyer, the man next to me reading aloud (he looked 30 but he could actually have been 14), the man behind me who was dressed like the Hoff (please just button one more button), Ice Age in Chinese playing on the TV in front of me, and this adorable little boy who was persistently thwarted by the sliding glass door (http://www.tudou.com/programs/view/cItWkSupxVA/). Upon arrival, we first noticed the smell. I mean it seems kind of obvious that a city on the coast would smell like the water but after being in the smog-ridden, central Beijing for 2 months, the fresh air was shocking. We took a cab to a yummy Italian restaurant for dinner before heading to our hostel, Kaiyue.
To preface the remainder of our decisions for the trip, let me just say that we had been checking weather.com religiously since the 10-Day forecast was available and we pretty much succumbed to the fact that it was going to rain…during the “beach weekend.” Well the next morning, it wasn’t rainy and sort of bright-ish, albeit still overcast. So we packed up our beach bags and started walking to the beach, specifically Beach #6 (they’re all numbered. From west to east, it goes 6, 1, 2, and then 3, so in order). On the way, we came across a snack street where we made friends with the lady working one stand in particular who made the most delicious scallion, egg, pancake-like thing that we proceeded to eat for breakfast every morning. We walked along one of the more bustling streets filled with modern skyscrapers, classic German architecture (Germany colonized Qingdao in the early 1900s), and of course, a McDonalds. Once we hit the beach, we decided to continue walking along the coastal pedestrian street to see the sights before finding a spot on the beach. We ran into Tigger who convinced us to take a picture with him on my camera, but then proceeded to tell us we had to pay for it. So I deleted one of the copies and walked away feeling victorious with this one still on my camera. We ended up walking to Beach #1 where a lifeguard in a Speedo tried to hit on us so Staci pretended to only speak Spanish (I don’t speak any Spanish, unless you count when Calle Oche comes on. If anything, I could have replied to Staci in French but I probably would have still slipped into Chinese and ruined the scheme). A layer of SPF 50, more lifeguards looking at us through their binoculars (safety first), and 10 minutes later, we started to feel sprinkles and hear thunder. So we packed up and decided to go to the Tsingtao Beer Museum (most famous brand of Chinese beer was founded in Qingdao by the Germans, naturally). Solely using the paper map we bought at the train station, we managed to find a bus stop, get on the right bus, and get off in front of the museum. The museum was very interesting, and most importantly, dry. We got to see the old equipment used when the brewery was first established (embellished with some creepy wax workers) as well as some of the new production processes. With our ticket, we also got to sample a glass of raw beer, draft beer, and beer peanuts; the two former both tasted the same and the latter, well, tasted like peanuts. Nevertheless, we were satisfied and decided to walk a few minutes up the road to Taidong San Lu, another pedestrian street, not unlike Wangfujing in Beijing and Nanjing Lu in Shanghai. Here, we ate waffles and ice cream (really healthy day), sufficiently kicked up more mud on our legs from our flip flops than ever before, and walked around a bit before once again using our handy map skills to catch a bus back to the hostel. Approximately 30 minutes after we got back and showered, a monsoon must have hit shore because the thunder rattled the building and the lightening seemed to strike only a few feet from our window. During this thunderstorm, we relaxed a bit and studied (we studied more in Qingdao than in Beijing…we obviously didn’t bring our laptops. I went through slight TV withdrawals) before heading down to Kaiyue’s lounge for dinner. Between dinner and bed, we played Chinese Ring of Fire (meaning you have to speak in Chinese for certain cards…studying), started a game of foosball with a group of Germans also staying at the hostel, briefly drowned in the torrential rain outside before forgoing actually going out, experienced freshly brewed Tsingtao beer out of a bag (they pour the beer straight from the keg into plastic bags; stick a straw in and you’re good), met two Brits who had to sleep in the lounge because the hostel ran out of rooms, and finally, got kicked out after closing. The beauty of “going out” to your hostel bar is that you can just walk upstairs to go to sleep.
The next day, it was still drizzling, but we didn’t come all the way out to Qingdao to sit in our rooms. So after visiting our friend on Snack Street, we walked with the intention of reaching another shopping street, allegedly the designer goods black market. Well this time I listened to Google Maps and it led us astray once again. We literally walked in a circle in the rain before deciding to go into a shop that looked like the Dollar Store. Well that store fed into another store, which led to another store, which led to a huge multistory underground shopping complex. I didn’t end up buying anything, but I did aid in Jordan’s and Staci’s indecision regarding some vases and elephants. Feeling sufficiently dirty, once again due to the flip flop situation, we headed back to the hostel anticipating a nice warm shower. Little did we know, the hurricane from yesterday damaged the pipes so there wasn’t any hot water. I went to the front desk to see if there was water at all for a cold shower (I’m surprisingly used to those now) but the man didn’t understand so he gave me a free beer coupon instead (because I could wash my hair with beer? I took it anyways). I ended up washing my hair beauty salon style in the sink. For never being allowed to go camping as a child (although, my mother was right; I would have hated it) I am fantastic at roughing it. Later that evening was “Ladies Night” at the hostel’s lounge which gave us even more incentive to “go out” by staying in. A side note about the lounge: They absolutely LOVE to play late nineties pop songs, specifically Backstreet Boys. Oh, and Akon. Either way, we were jamming all night long until we decided to head across the street with the Brits and Germans to eat yummy snacks and play some cards. Regardless of never having experienced true Qingdao nightlife, we had a smashing good time each night.
The following morning was our last day in Qingdao and it was actually sunny! Wanting to take pictures that didn’t look so dreary we forwent chilling at the beach for photo shoots, but not before saying goodbye to our friend at Snack Street for the last time. It was quite sad, actually. Anyways, after taking numerous pictures of the exact same shot and while planning out what to do next, a very persistent lady walked over accosting us to take a sightseeing boat tour, toting 12 famous attractions. 20 minutes later, Jordan and I succumbed (Staci wasn’t onboard…punny) and were lead to the ticket counter where the lady was congratulated on getting two blond girls. And we were the only white people on the tour; as Jordan called it, “We are the 13th Attraction.” We had to get on a bus (disconcerting at first, we signed up for boat tour) which took us to the dock. The boat ride was really nice and even though my camera died (on a sightseeing tour. iPhone came back out) I enjoyed it quite a bit; but, after three sites we seemed to be heading back to port. Apparently we got on the shorted boat tour, but we didn’t even know that was an option. Regardless, we got back on the bus (I sat next to a family who wanted a picture of me with their baby…I wish I had someone use my camera too!) fully expecting it to take us back to the spot we first boarded it. After passing that street we figured the bus just had to turn around; then it kept going and going and going. Finally the tour guide (who had been rattling facts off in Chinese. I briefly heard something about food) started walking along the aisle collecting money. Jordan and I asked our neighbors what it was for but they just kept telling us to pay 15 kaui for tickets. By the time she reached us we told her we didn’t want to go where ever they were going (we just signed up for a boat tour!) and she told us to get off the bus. So dropped off in the middle of a very German looking street with no name, we started looking for a cab to take us back to the hostel (map couldn’t have saved us from this). Luckily, we arrived just 10 minutes before check out. So we packed up our stuff, checked out, and hung out at the lounge one last time before walking to the train station and heading back to Beijing. Window seats are wasted on those who sleep.
Until next time,