A Travellerspoint blog

East Asian Immersion: Qingdao part II

View China/Japan 2019 on zzlangerhans's travel map.


The kids weren't too happy about having been so close to the beach without getting to set foot on it, so on our second morning in Qingdao we started out at No.1 Bathing Beach on Huiquan Bay. The sand was much lighter and finer than what we'd seen by the Zhanqiao Pier the previous day. To the east we could see pagodas atop Xiaoyu Hill, a well-known scenic outlook.

We followed the shoreline southward, eventually ending up at a shallow wading spot where the kids could pick snails out from between the rocks. There were some large rocks to climb on and the decrepit remains of concrete piers that faded away into the sea.

We were now at the entrance to the Badaguan Scenic Area, a neighborhood dating back to the German concession of the early twentieth century where Westerners of many nationalities constructed mansions in different styles. The ten roads in the area are named after important strategic passes from Chinese history and each is planted with a different species of tree. Some of the more famous mansions have been converted into tourist attractions while others remain residential. Although the neighborhood is unusual for China, it doesn't seem much different from any upscale area of an average American city.

We still had most of the day ahead so we took a long metro ride to May 4th Square, the most remote on my list of things to see in Qingdao. The square is named for a popular protest against a clause of the Treaty of Versailles which transferred German concessions in Shandong to Japan rather than returning them to China. The protest culminated in the Chinese government's refusal to sign the treaty. The most recognizable feature of the square is the blood-red May Wind sculpture that symbolizes the movement.

Aside from the ubiquitous soap bubble vendors there was a surprising lack of commercial activity around the square. We found a seafood restaurant where king crabs were practically crawling out of their tanks but the prices were exorbitant and clearly targeted for tourists.

For lack of better options we headed towards a mall located within a cluster of gleaming skyscrapers. The interior design seemed to have been heavily influenced by MC Escher. We tried an indoor playground but the prices they quoted us seemed insane. Was this really China? The place seemed fairly crowded so clearly there was a decent slice of the population willing to pay the exorbitant admission. Instead we let the kids try a virtual reality ride and browse a toy store until it was time for dinner.

We started our last day at Qingdao at a restaurant where they steamed live shellfish at the table. Mei Ling didn't have her camera ready for ours so she took some video at a neighboring table. The shellfish are steamed in broth that is boiled by a gas-powered furnace built into the table. Watching the shrimp trying to flip themselves out of the pan as shells slam shut with loud clacks is a little disturbing but it's an integral part of the Chinese emphasis on food freshness.

Mei Ling had heard about another daily market in the northern reaches of the city and we took another long bus ride. I'll never say no to a market but this one hardly justified the journey. It was a particularly hot day and there wasn't anything we hadn't seen at the previous market, with the exception of the vendor selling stir-fried chicken embryos.

One of the obligatory activities for visitors to Qingdao is a trip to Laoshan Mountain. The problem for us was that without our own car there was no easy way to see the most interesting sights, which were widely dispersed in the area. Our only option would have been to take a ninety minute bus ride to see just one or two temples and some scenery while taking the risk of missing the last bus back into town. After debating it for a few minutes we decided we'd be better off visiting Qingdao's largest city park instead. Zhongshan Park is supposed to have one of the best cherry blossom displays in China but we were a couple of months late for that. We were still able to entertain ourselves by strolling the beautifully landscaped paths and eventually found the lake where we rented a paddleboat. Afterwards we followed a very strange mechanical sound to an astroturf field where an elderly man was adeptly spinning a device on a string. I'd seen street performers with these before but never one that emitted sound. Some research later informed me that it's called a whistling diabolo.

As we left we saw a multicolored display of runner cutouts across the street. One of the things I love about modern China is that these whimsical installations pop up where they are least expected, without the slightest context or explanation. It's a good reminder that sometimes the best art isn't in museums or on pedestals, but integrated into the urban environment instead.

We ended our visit to Qingdao where it had begun, at Taidong night market. It was just too good to visit only once. We had enjoyed our stay in Qingdao but the city didn't have the same magical quality as Dalian. I wasn't disappointed though, because I've traveled enough to know that an experience like Dalian comes along very rarely. Now it was time to return to Beijing for a few days before our highly-anticipated stop in Japan.

Posted by zzlangerhans 08:08 Archived in China

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comment with:

Comments left using a name and email address are moderated by the blog owner before showing.

Not published. Required
Leave this field empty

Characters remaining: