This weekend, Shanghaiist Editor Elaine Chow is off in Qingdao for the world famous Qingdao International Beer Festival. She plans on drowning herself in fish and beef and beer and find some way to still manage to remember enough of what’s going on to blog about it. Sponsored by the lovely folks over at Ctrip, the easiest way to find the best fares in China.
Hi all! Looks like I arrived here in one piece and in a decent time too! Though the actual flight from Shanghai to Qingdao is barely anything (around an hour, all said and done), transportation between China’s busy airports seems fraught with delays these days. Friends reported sitting in Pudong for two hours. One waited three, only to have their flight canceled （Yeesh!). I got away with only leaving an hour later than originally planned, so I consider myself lucky.
Under Chinese stereotypes, Shandong people are supposed to be super friendly and outgoing. If my taxi driver from the airport was any indication, the generalization’s not too far off. “Where are you from, little maiden?” he chirped as soon as I got situated in the cab. “Is this your first time in Qingdao?”
When I nodded affirmative, he immediately began to list off what he thought of as the best of the city. He became even more chatty when I offered that my mother’s family was from the city. “Do you still have relatives here? You should visit them! They can show you this beautiful city… and isn’t it beautiful? All the sea and mountains and lovely weather? Haha, enjoy it – it’s your hometown!”
Haha. He dropped me off at my hotel, Sunshine Seacoast Hotel & Resort (日光海岸别墅酒店), and since I was Qingdao ren, he knocked off the toll for the highway. Original price: 90 RMB, which makes the Qingdao Airport surprisingly far from the city. There were airport buses to various parts in town (15RMB) that I will probably take next time, when I’m a little more sure of where I’m going.
By the time I got to my room at the Sunshine, it was almost 5pm. The hotel is not the Shangri-la, but it’s spacious enough for one person, with free wifi and complimentary breakfast. Plus, my budget room cost just 676 RMB for two nights. Not bad considering it’s Beerfest season. It’s also located close to one of the best beaches in Qingdao, 石老人浴场 (Laoshiren Yuchang), which I hope to check out if the weather stays as beautiful as it has been so far.
Since it was already too late to check out museums, I called up some friends for dinner. We decided to eat at a Korean restaurants along Xianggang Zhong Lu (Hong Kong Middle Road), one of the main thoroughfares in the city. The largest foreigner population in Qingdao are the Koreans – roughly 100,000 by last count (though a chunk of them may have moved away recently because of the financial crisis). Transport between the two countries is so easy that some people recommend you plan a trip to Incheon into your Qingdao vacation (just go to the ferry and heave ho!).
Mostly, what this means that the Korean food here is supposed to be superb, on par with the best of Hongqiao and at least similar to what you’d get from the peninsula.
We chose 土大力 (Tudari), located on 65 XiangGang Zhong Lu, which is supposedly famous. Famous or not, it was pretty damn cheap and incredibly filling. Banchan was limited to gogumasun namul (potato shoots), kimchee and japchae (a translucent noodle), but it flowed freely. The restaurant was out of a lot of cuts of meat (apparently they serve a big lunch crowd), but we still managed to order a decent amount, and everything that arrived on the table was well cooked. A bill for seven people came up to a measly 280RMB. And look at how much food we over-ordered.
We decided to walk off our new beef bellies by heading to a nearby pub. Turns out the nearby pub was Club New York (41 Xianggang Zhong Lu), a place decorated to be eerily reminiscent Shanghai’s own Bulldog Pub – lots of dark wood, LCD tvs and framed pictures of rock musicians plastered all over the ceiling.
Thankfully, the waitresses weren’t forced to dress like Hot Topic teenagers – but that’s a recent change for the Bulldog. Unfortunately, it was actually pricier than our hometown haunt. No two-for-one every day here. A Tsingtao mug was around 45RMB while cocktails cost 53RMB (there was a 10% service charge on everything). No, it’s not the most expensive bar we’ve ever been to – but this is Qingdao! You’d think at least the Tsingtao would’ve been a bargain!
The Filipino band on stage began playing Leona Lewis and we decided to high tail it out to my friends’ hotel, where they said the bar was decent. It was Q Bar in the Shangri-La and lo and behold, there was another Filipino band on stage, this one singing to a medley that included Rihanna, Flo Rida, and some early 90s house.
Still, the atmosphere was classier, the couches were comfy, and the drinks were surprisingly cheaper depending on what you ordered.. A standard set of cocktails were 35RMB each, while their specialty drinks ranged from 48RMB to 55RMB. They also had a list of snacks, with a big portion of popcorn costing 18RMB.
Yes, so it wasn’t perhaps the most local first night in Qingdao, but what are ya gonna do? Today I ease into beer day – hopefully with a walk around the German part of town, a visit to the Tsingtao factory, the actual Beer Fest and some beach fun.