A Weekend In Qingdao

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End Jun 25, 2008

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Where I stayed
Old Observatory Youth Hostel

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Saturday, April 5, 2008

This weekend was Qing Ming Jie, which meant that we had a three day weekend (yay!), so Till and I decided to go to Qingdao for a relaxing weekend away (yay!).
We caught a train Friday morning at the crack of dawn, and arrived in Qingdao around 1pm. When we got there we discovered that all of the train tickets home were already sold out... so we went to our hostel and managed to buy a pair of tickets for a bus back to Beijing, which was scheduled to take 8 hours- only two hours more than the train... well... more on the bus trip later...

The first afternoon we mainly spent wandering around the old area of Qingdao, where our hostel was located. At the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century Qingdao was a German colony for about 20 years, before it was taken over by the Japanese, so there is a lot of old German-style architecture and buildings, which were really neat to see in China. It's also a much smaller city than Beijing (about 1.6million people... huge for Canada, tiny for China!), and I thought it really had a sort of small-city vibe to it, with a much slower pace of life, and possibly a bit more artistic than Beijing, since we saw a bunch of art students painting around the city. Although, like Beijing, there are renovations and construction sites all over the city, as they prepare to host the sailing events during the Olympics this summer.

On Saturday, we did a ton of sightseeing and even more walking! It was really nice :) Qingdao has several old German-architectured churches which we went to visit- and were pleasantly surprised to find that they are actually still being used today, which isn't hugely common in China. Maybe some of the culture has stayed over? Till and I also visited some nice parks with great views of the city, the house of the old German Governor (where Mao also stayed for a holiday in the 50's!), Tianhou Temple, an old German prison (which was used afterwards by the Japanese as well), Tsingtao brewery, an underground fort built by the Germans inside a mountain (very cool), etc... It felt like we got a really good feel for the old part of the city, and the history and rhythm of Qingdao. That night we had a little expat evening in the commercial district of town- which actually felt like a completely different city to the old bit, as it had none of the older architecture, and seemed a lot more like Beijing. We had Starbucks, a nice dinner at a French restaurant, Haagen-Dazs for dessert and then went to the Lennon Bar (yes, John Lennon-themed) for a drink afterwards. (I love being able to afford this stuff in China!!) Overall it was a really nice day!

On the morning of our last day, we went to one of the beaches further out, called Shilaoren, where there weren't quite so many people as the ones near town, and just wandered along by the ocean. This trip was the first time I'd been to the ocean since grade 10, so it was quite nice! Afterwards, we went back to our hostel to get the bus... which was an experience...

At 1pm we were picked up at the hostel by a guy in a private car, who drove us very slooowly to the other side of town to catch the bus. Along the way, he kept mentioning he wanted to find a Canadian wife and move to Canada... awkward. Then, we passed the bus station, and he pulled on to the shoulder next to the entrance to the highway to wait for the bus... because if we had gone to the bus station we would have missed the bus? It was mildly sketchy. For the next half hour we made awkward smalltalk with him, including him reading our palms (apparently I'm going to have lots of lovers and make more money than my husband. Cool.). The bus did actually pull over for us, to my relief. (Till was much more relaxed about it) Once we were on the bus, I proceeded to accidentally get stuck/locked inside a bathroom with no light...and had to kind of scream my head off until Till came and let me out... mildly embarrassing you might say... (Mom and Jenny, you've heard the bat scream... it was something like that... haha) But anyways, all was going fine after that, and the bus was relatively comfortable, since it was a sleeper bus (with three rows of lines of bunkbeds). However, although we were told that the bus would take 8 hours and arrive in Beijing at 10pm, I think the bus driver got us extremely lost, and we didn't end up getting in until 4am on monday morning. At least we got to skip class the next day, lol!

But all in all it was a really good weekend, and at the end I actually felt like I'd had a mini-vacation, even though it was only three days long (it felt longer :), and came back to Beijing very relaxed and refreshed!

Now I just have to get myself out of relax mode to study for my upcoming midterms!

Anyways, hope all is well at home and miss you all,
xox Katie
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