Qingdao is apparently one of the cleanest, most livable cities in China. It was definitely our favourite city on our first trip through China. You may have seen it in the news recently for its new controversial one-dog policy. It’s by the coast and to its east is a huge national forest park and protected area. It’s also famous for the Tsingtao beer, named after the city. The beer arrived with the Germans in the early 20th century and despite the city changing ownership many times (Chinese, German, Japanese, Chinese, Japanese and now, Chinese) the beer has survived and they’re very proud of it. Kegs of fresh beer stand on street corners, outside restaurants and non-beer shops selling beer in bags. Yes, in plastic bags! Comes with a straw.
Family trip to Laoshan
It is the home city of my friend Ning and his family welcomed us with open arms. Our first home-cooked Chinese family lunch – local seafood and beer! Being a coastal town, seafood is high on the menu and we tried Qingdao shrimp, clams and an unknown creature obtained by twisting it out of its fist size shell with a single chopstick. My favourite dish however was the garlic sprouts, something you can’t find in the UK much to the disappointment of his parents who had recently visited.
After lunch was a trip to Laoshan (Mount Lao) in the national park. It contains Taiqing Palace, known as the birthplace of Taoism, complete with a giant statue of Dao and a bamboo forest. Situated at the bottom of the mountain with the sea close by, it was very picturesque and serene. As we drove further around the mountain it felt like we were on another Pacific Highway style road. Reaching a small village in a valley we stopped near a dam to try the local Laoshan tea, grown right here in the valley. Delicious!
Tsingtao Brewery Museum
The brewery museum itself was really entertaining and much better than the average Chinese museum. Lots of information in both chinese and english with history about Qingdao and the beer, and details of how the beer is made using water from a spring on Laoshan. Just before the end of the museum, the path goes through the packaging area where you can watch the many cans and bottles fly past. However, my favourite part was the Drunken House, designed to show kids what it’s like to be drunk. We walked through it ourselves much to the amusement of the Chinese parents! However, this child already knows it seems…
The ticket price was a good deal too, for 90 RMB each there is a glass (200ml) of unfiltered beer with beer peanuts halfway round in a small bar, and in the main bar at the end of the brewery three more glasses of beer: lager, IPA and a stout. For 10 RMB less there was a ticket with unlimited lager for one hour. We decided to be classy tasters but most of the museum goers seemed to go for the unlimited beer option – really entertaining. The bavarian style bar contained long benches and served sausages too of course. The staff encouraged beer lovers to join in with “Beer Play” – a game where each participant is given a flight of four different beers and the winner (of more beer) is the one who downs them all the quickest. Soon after this, loud music came on and all the bar staff jump up and do a dance routine in a line. Fun place!
Food glorious food
Throughout China, the food has been amazing and no less so here. Our hostel was in the street food area, with many people BBQing anything on a stick on street corners. We found some tasty aubergine, green peppers and tofu slices marinated in spices.
My favourite street food has to be the eggy pancakes containing crispy cracker-like things, salad and spicy sauces. It’s usually women selling them out of a… well a stall on the back of a motorbike. I don’t know the proper name. One evening we were about to walk up and ask for one each but suddenly the woman stopped what she was doing, pulled the shutter down and drove off up the road. There goes our dinner. Then we realised the other sellers on the same street were doing the same. They did this while laughing embarrassingly to each other. Then we saw a police car drive by and the sellers must have done too as after it had gone on they started to return. I think it might be illegal on that street. Well, we got our pancakes in the end.
Ferry to South Korea
Sad to leave and deciding we hadn’t spent enough time in Qingdao, we headed to the ferry port on the afternoon of Wednesday 7th June for the overnight trip. A little anxious after having booked the cheapest economy option in a 32 bed room, it was a nice surprise when the woman at the desk said we had been upgraded to business class. This was probably because there were less than 100 people on the boat… but still, business class was a five bed room to ourselves!
Yea we take a lot of photos 🙂