Off to the beach!

Trip Start May 05, 2012
Trip End Mar 01, 2013

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Where I stayed
The Old Observatory Hostel
What I did
Qingdao Old Town
Shi Lao Ren Beach

Flag of China  , Shandong Sheng,
Monday, September 17, 2012

Four months is a long time to go without seeing a beach (especially for a Kiwi!), and so this week we headed to Qingdao to see some of China's beaches.  We got a bullet train on Monday morning with another foreign teacher, and 4.5 hours later we arrived in the beach city.  We were met by Susan's friend (a foreign teacher at the Qingdao school) and taken to our hostel. 

Qingdao is pretty amazing.  We were staying in part of the "old town", which was great as this meant the area had character - it wasn't just utilitarian low/high rise apartment buildings as most modern Chinese cities are.  We even enjoyed walking up and down hills - another thing we hadn't encountered in our 4 months in China.   Finding the hostel took some time, giving us a great opportunity to appreciate the character of the city, glimpses of the ocean and mountains and accustom our legs to the new action of walking up a hill. Our hostel however was amazing.  It is located inside an old observatory and is therefore on top of a hill, in the middle of a park, giving a fantastic view over Qingdao and out to the ocean.  The top floor/roof has been made into a bar/restaurant with lots of pot plants, cushions, and a deck on which to sit and watch the sun set.  There was also copious amounts of beer (the famous Tsingdao [Qing-dao] beer of course hails from this city!) that you could pour yourself from kegs sitting in front of the bar. Check out the pics of the sunset and bar - it was a really beautiful/relaxing setting!

After a beer on the roof, we headed down the hill and found a restaurant for dinner.  Being a port city, seafood is abundant in Qingdao.  We all shared quite a few dishes (including a kind of fried bread made into balls which you dip into a sauce that tasted like condensed milk - hen hao chi [hen how chur - very delicious!], and drank some more Tsingdao and got to know some of the locals.  We met up with some other foreign teachers whose Mandarin was really good - they were helpful in translating what was being said to us ("you are so white!" Gambei! - Cheers!).  We learnt some interesting Chines drinking customs such as when you 'clink' glasses in a toast, if you are toasting someone who has a higher social standing, or that you respect, you position your glass lower than theirs. 

After dinner we all headed back to the hostel bar where we met with other travellers (both Chinese and wai guo ren [why guoh ren- outside people/foreigners]) and spent the evening talking about China, customs and drinking a bit more Tsingdao!

The next morning we met up with Susan for breakfast in the rooftop restaurant/cafe/bar.  They did an excellent western style cooked breakfasts - Evan indulged in bacon and eggs and I had French toast - also a first for us in China!  It was a delicious way to begin the day and prepared us well for the beach!

We decided to go to Shilaoren beach, which is popular with tourists.  Luckily tourist season is well over, so we didn't have to share the beach with too many others. It was really great to just see a beach! By NZ standards it wasn't that impressive, but it was so nice to sit in sand and go for a swim. The weather was still nice and hot (we both caught a little sun) and we spent most of the day lounging around there. 

About 4pm we decided to have a late lunch/early dinner and had Korean BBQ near the university where Susan's friend was studying.  After this we went for a walk around the area.  I'm sure you have heard that China and Japan are currently having major diplomatic issues over some uninhabited (resource rich) islands.  This has raised quite a bit of anti-Japanese sentiment in China and there have been large protests and some violence directed at Japanese owned businesses and people. Qingdao had hosted some big protests the weekend before we arrived, and it was interesting to see all of the Japanese restaurants closed down with big Chinese flags out the front and one restaurant had a big sign saying "the islands belong to China". Seems like a smart move to me if it protects their business!  In Tianjin nothing much has happened, although we have noticed Japanese cars flying small Chinese flags.

We then decided to head to a lovely restaurant/cafe on the beach where we had hot-chocolates and wedges, looking over the water back towards the city.  By about 9pm we were feeling a bit peckish again so we headed back to the old town to find some of Qingdao's specialty: seafood.  The restaurant had the fresh seafood displayed out the front so you can choose what you want to eat. Not being a seafood connoisseur, I left the choosing up to those who knew what they were doing,  however, I did voice that I didn't particularly want to eat the long sea slug looking things in the middle.  We ended up with two different types of shellfish (one was delicious and the other was less so), and two crabs.  Crab meat is delicious, if not a little disconcerting having to pull them apart to get the meat. Check out the pics.

We then headed back to bed, having to catch an early train in the morning to get back to Tianjin before work.  We did learn from this trip to buy train tickets in advance - we couldn't get second class tickets home so had to get first class (which was nice, but probably not worth the extra 80 kuai, 2nd class is pretty comfortable).  The trip was a great success. It was so nice to get out of Tianjin and see another city - especially because this city had beaches!
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Pammy on

My god it almost made me feel sick on that tuktuk!!! But that beach sure was nice but as you said not as good as the ones at home eh. Sounds like you had a great adventure there.Love you and take care xxxxx

Lou and mike on

Love the cool beach photo. We have just got back from muriwai's starting to feel a lot like summer! Lots of love to you both, from us both xx

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