This past weekend, I went off on my first solo trip in China. I decided to go to Qingdao, a coastal city in Shandong province. I only had a three day weekend, so I wanted to go somewhere that was relatively close and easy to get to, and Qingdao is only an hour long train ride from Weifang. Before I left, I made sure to prepare by researching the different parts of the city to see where I would want to stay and maximize the most of the tourist sites.
After talking to people who had been there, I decided to stay a hostel in Old Town. Interestingly enough, Qingdao was actually occupied by Germans in the early 1900’s and old town is defined by its unique European and German architecture. Within Old Town are two beautifully built Catholic and Protestant Churches.
On my first night, I decided to walk around and explore for a bit. I came across the Catholic Church. It was gorgeous and it made me feel like I took a wrong turn and actually ended up in Europe. A little while later, I went back to my hostel for dinner where I spent 90CNY ($15 USD) on an imported steak. Now, beef is extremely hard to come by in China and incredibly expensive, so it had been a long time since I have had beef of any kind. I swear, that steak tasted like heaven on a plate and totally worth the splurge.
The next day, I woke up early and walked around some more. I found the Protestant Church (which was equally impressive) and then made my way up to Xin Hao Shan Park. It is on top of a hill and from here you can see the entire view of the city. The park also has a lookout point with revolving floors. It was really interesting seeing the juxtaposition of the architecture of Old Town against the backdrop of the modern, high rise buildings.
Next, I walked down to the Zhan Qiao Pier and looked out at the beaches. It was a bit unimpressive as far as beaches go (but, really, who can compete with the beautiful beaches of the Pacific Northwest?) There, I met up with a friend I had met at my hostel and we decided to go down to the beer museum.
Tsingtao Beer (though it is still pronounced Qingdao) is probably the biggest draw of the city for foreigners and tourists. When the Germans occupied the city, they introduced beer and started China’s first brewery. In 2014, Tsingtao was ranked the #6 best beer worldwide, which is pretty impressive. When my friend and I went, we decided to pay for an English tour and it was definitely worth the money. It was interesting to hear the history of the company and the process that goes into making beer. Now I finally know what it means when a beer is described as “hoppy”.
Along the tour they gave us a glass of complimentary “raw” beer, which is only served at that brewery as it only lasts for a day. After the tour, we decided to get something to eat from the street market and walked along “beer street” where vendors pour the beer from a keg into a plastic bag and give you a straw so you can drink from the bag.
Overall, it was a really nice weekend. Qingdao is probably my favorite Chinese city that I’ve been t,o so far, and I definitely plan to go back. It is really laid back and great for a weekend of relaxation. Additionally, the trip only put me back by about $120 USD, including a private room in the hostel for two nights, roundtrip train tickets, meals, entry into the different sites, and a couple of souvenirs.