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.
Oh boy. Yesterday I got completely soaked, lost my phone, and was inappropriately goosed by a really drunk Chinese guy, but it was still one of the best days I’ve had recently. I’m thoroughly impressed by how nice people are in this city – coming from Shanghai to here is like heading from New York City to Cleveland. But with beaches.
Yes, but anyway. The weather unfortunately didn’t hold up yesterday. While it was still clear during breakfast time, by around 11am, the skies opened up and started to pour. It didn’t stop raining completely until late into the afternoon. Despite this, I still managed to get most of what I’d been hoping for done.
My first location of the day was the Tsingtao Brewery, located on Dengzhou Lu (aka Beer Street). I’d mostly chosen it as a way to wait out the downpour, but it turns out that there’s a little bit of walking outdoors over there too. Entrance was 50RMB and they only take bank cards if you’re buying two or more tickets, so with this and the cab rides I found myself pretty depleted of cash. I’ll go into greater detail about my Tsingtao Brewery visit once I get back, but the short story: it shows you how beer is made with wax mannequins, Chinglish and some bizarre propaganda.
After I left the brewery, I was desperate to find a bank for some badly needed cash withdrawal. That’s when I met my first Good Samaritan of the day: one lady, moved to pity by my drowned kitten look – as is always the case, I hadn’t thought to bring an umbrella – offered me refuge under hers. She then walked me to just outside where the closest ATM was and gave me detailed instructions on how to find it. Why would I need more instructions on how to find it? Because this is the area I entered:
Qingdao Tianmu City: An incredibly strange covered food/shopping street replete with a ridiculous painted sky, numerous interactive projections and performers pretending to be statues. I was pretty psyched.
By this point in time though, people were calling me to join them at the International Beer Fest, and since that’s ostensibly what I came here for, I started heading over there. Determined to not use a taxi this time (not that there were any free ones thanks to the rain) I wandered around looking for a bus that would take me to the 青岛国际啤酒城 (Qingdao International Beer City).
Qingdao’s buses are actually pretty easy to navigate, and I only realized while riding on one that my tourist map (a slightly pricey 8RMB) gave me bus routes. Assuming you can get a local to point you to the right station – and every single one I met yesterday was more than willing to help – there’s really no reason to rely on taxis only in this city. Unlike Shanghai buses, these ones have tiered prices, so a trip from the Brewery to Beer City, about halfway across Qingdao, cost 2RMB. Going the full route of the bus line would have cost 3.50RMB.
Thanks to the crappy weather, the Beer Fest was kind of empty. I sloshed through the wet, bare streets to find the tent my friends had parked themselves, and we sampled a couple varieties of their beer. To tell the truth, there’s not much in terms of delightful surprises here. Most of the beer tents were of established importers already – the kind of stuff you’d find at any Kedi or decently stocked Chinese bar anyway. It seems Beer Fest over here is more about drinking a lot and less about discovering new brews.
Next up was the beach, despite the rain. Heading out of the fest, my friends and I met Good Samaritan No.2: A Shandong man who willingly lent our party of eight his minivan and driver… because we asked nicely. And it was by no means a short trip – we were going from Beer City to Number One Beach, a car ride that took over half an hour. We tried to give a tip, but the driver refused, saying it wasn’t about the money. What? My Shanghai-wired brain did not compute.
Somebody up there was probably dismayed at my doubting mind and chose to punish me by making me lose my phone. Calls went unanswered, so I sent out a pleading text from a friend’s phone and left it at that. Thanks most likely to the beer and the sand, I found it hard to worry.
Man in Speedo exercises
Number One Bathing Beach (青岛第一海水浴场) is the longest and most popular beach in Qingdao, with 580 meters of fine yellow sand. It is surrounded on three sides by mountains, making it especially picturesque. Usually on Saturdays, the place – with its free entry and numerous equipment rental kiosks – is crowded beyond belief. Yesterday, it was all ours. Occasionally, Chinese men in Speedos would jog by, curious about what the commotion was about, but for the most part, we commanded the strip.
By the time we left, it had stopped raining, so we decided to try our hand at going to the Beer Fest once again. Good idea: the atmosphere was completely different. Now that the skies were clear, people flocked to the numerous food stalls for 肉串 (rou chuan, or meat sticks) and 豆腐干 (dou fu gan, dried tofu). There were also a couple places selling KFC. After choosing our dinners, we headed to the main building, the Tsingtao tent, where people were clamoring to karaoke in front of a crowd of at least a couple hundred people.
My new paramour at the Tsingtao Pavilion
After two of those, my memories admittedly get a little hazy. We tent hopped until the venue closed at around 10:30pm.
Somehow, we ended up at 88 Bar (88酒吧, 33 Shanghang Lu, 上杭路33号), where chandeliers turned on and off to live Mandopop techno remixes. It was, in short, as crazy and weird and ridiculous as 88 Bar in Shanghai… though maybe roomier. It also made me wonder whether Qingdao has a version of all the bars in Shanghai or if I just have an uncanny knack of wandering into familiar-looking venues.
I’m personally surprised I was actually able to write this morning.
Today, I’m taking a Shanghaiist reader recommendation to go to Diner on May 4 Square for some good ol’ fashioned hangover food. Afterwards, I’m hoping to hit up 八大关 (Ba Da Guan) to check out some European architecture and maybe, if there’s time before my flight back, I’ll head to the beach again.
It’s my last day and the weather has decided to be beautiful again.
Oh, and Good Samaritan No. 3 has now shown up. Somebody called my friend and is planning on delivering my lost phone to him before my flight. Man, I love this city.