After two weeks in Beijing, with language classes in the morning and sight-seeing in the afternoon, we were ready to move on. Beijing was a great place for settling into China, a thriving, bustling city with some beautiful places (highlights including the lake and bridges of the Summer Palace, the Lama temple, renting a boat in Beihai park, and the 798 art district) and much delicious food (including the legendary Beijing roast duck which we sampled on out last night) – but we were excited to take our first sleeper train on Friday night to Qingdao to stay for a weekend with my friend Max who lives there, teaching English.
Qingdao is on the coast, sort of south-east of Beijing. It’s a popular holiday destination for Chinese tourists, as it has some of China’s best beaches, but we didn’t see that many other western tourists as it’s not so directly on the Beijing/Xi’an/Shanghai tourist trail. The beaches were very crowded (and not that clean) and the weather wasn’t that great while we were there so our weekend didn’t really revolve around the beach, though we did have a nice stroll along the seafront on our first day. Instead, we spent some time wandering in the city’s old town which was quite bizarre as it had been a German colony so a lot of the architecture was faux-German in a sort of Disney-ish way. There were even a couple of German churches, complete with 7 or 8 wedding couples outside with brides in slightly grubby white wedding dresses posing for “picturesque” wedding photos.
The district Max lived in, Chengyang, had a completely different feel, partly due to it having one of the largest Korean populations outside of Korea (Qingdao is one of the ports where ships go between China and Korea). The city of Qingdao is enormous – it took over an hour to get between Chengyang and the centre even on a motorway, and Chengyang wasn’t even right on the edge. What puts this into perspective is that Qingdao isn’t even considered one of China’s top tier cities!
On our second day (after a bizarre night out in a half-empty Chinese club) we had the chance to explore both an abandoned shopping centre complete with a disused indoor theme park (very creepy), and a local mountain made into a tourist attraction because one of the rocks looked like Mao. We weren’t much impressed by the Mao rock but the views from the top were stunning and all in all it was a lovely weekend in a slightly less visited city of China!