Sep 19, 2012

Summer vacation: Going continental

A different flavor of foreign

Welcome to Qingdao
In the park
Qingdao also has a Zhongshan Park, one that’s much bigger than ours. The TV tower sits at the top of a large hill. You can take a ropeway up there, but it looked pretty rickety, so we didn’t.
Top: Qingdao, looking Chinese
Bottom: There was an outdoor market around the corner from our hostel — which was a popular destination even in the rain.

Due to the historic German presence in Qingdao, the city today has a sort of European flair. Lonely Planet says that locals refer to it as “China’s Switzerland” (though they don’t explain the geographic transposition). The old town is a network of narrow winding streets, and the architecture is definitely “not from here.” The business district conforms more to the Communist concrete block standard, but it still hosts restaurants and cultural outposts from France, Italy, America (not Europe – but from China, it might as well be), and, of course, Germany.

In addition to being a tourist destination, Qingdao is also a very active international port. Which meant that there were tons of westerners in town for both work and play. There was the unhappy French family, arguing on their way to the beach; the Dutch man from cargo company Maersk, dining with his new Chinese colleagues; the German couple, checking out how the Chinese do schnitzel at the German restaurant; etc.

Which is not to say that we were ever confused about where we were. Qingdao is still very much Chinese. It’s just a way more international flavor of Chinese than we have out west.


Are you ready for a little history lesson? Because it’s coming …

Sep 18, 2012

Summer vacation: At the Old Church

Qingdao: Kaiyue International Youth Hostel

Our room
The Kaiyue International Youth HostelA delicious western dinner
The hallways were quite eerie
In the hallways we could hear: Redrum, redrum …

Kaiyue is located in the heart of Qingdao’s old town, and occupies a structure that used to be a church. In fact, its well-appointed bar/cafe is named The Old Church Lounge in the building’s honor.

Our room was spacious and cute. We especially liked the bathroom, which looked like it came out of a luxury cruise ship. But our favorite aspect of Kaiyue, by far, was the lounge. We went down there for breakfast, pre-dinner drinks, sometimes dinner, post-revelry nightcaps … The waitstaff saw a lot of us. Jason, one of the servers (who was actually from Chengdu!), laughed every time he saw us. “You’re here again!” he would say.

Part of the appeal was their western menu. Also, in a land where good bartending just isn’t a thing, our favorite bartender at the Old Church had gone to school for his trade. (Which meant real dirty martinis for us!) But we just really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of the place. There aren’t a lot of places where you can just sit back an sip a beer in China — people who drink here tend to pursue it as a contact sport. At the Old Church, however, low key was the order of the day … or night.

Let’s go see the city …

Sep 17, 2012

Summer vacation: A week at the beach

Qingdao: The Hamptons of Northeast China?

To Qingdao

In guidebooks aimed at western travelers, the suggested time to “do” Qingdao is about 2-3 days, but this small coastal city is a popular beach retreat for Chinese tourists. Taking a more Chinese approach, our plan was to laze about the city for a week.

  • Qingdao was part of the German concession in the late 1800s. While they were here, the Germans set up the Tsingtao Brewery.
  • Tsingtao still brews today, and beer is a huge deal in the city. Tsingtao is also the most popular beer in China.
  • The city is spread out along the coast of the Yellow Sea, with the old town (and all the historical sites) in the west, and the modern business district (and all the trendy restaurants and clubs) in the east.
  • The sailing events in the 2008 Olympics took place in Qingdao.

Next, getting some rest, and a dirty martini …

Sep 14, 2012

Summer vacation: En route to cool breezes

Chongqing: Home of a big airport

Here's Chongqing

All summer, people had been warning us that Luzhou is as hot as Hades in August. Like, busting 100 degrees daily hot. So our plan for August: leave the city.

Our ultimate destination was Qingdao, on the northeast coast of the country, but we had a brief stopover in Chongqing — because the airport there serves more destinations that Luzhou Lantian Airport.

Some basic information:

  • Chongqing is about 2 and a half hours from Luzhou by bus.
  • It used to be a part of Sichuan Province, but in 1997 the municipality struck out on its own as a separate governmental entity.
  • There’s still a very Sichuan flavor about the place, specifically the spicy flavor of hot pot!
  • The city population is about 5 million.

Some non-basic information coming up …