Things to do and not to do. Nicholas Buckland describes what's on offer, apart from the sailing, in Qingdao
Nicholas Buckland, a self-confessed sailing fanatic, lives in Qingdao and provides his guide to what else may tempt you while you’re in town plus a list of handy phrases and tips from a local.
Qingdao boasts seven bathing beaches, with the most popular being No’s 1, 2 and 3. Clean and sandy, with an azure sea that’s definitely worth a dip, no trip to Qingdao would be complete without spending some time joining the locals and catching some rays. Watch out for the remarkably fit and toned 60-year olds jogging and exercising along the beach; enough to make anyone question their own fitness regime. If time allows, head to Shilaoren (Old Stone Man) beach, just outside the city, for more space.
Tsingtao Beer Factory
56 DengZhou Road
Open Daily 9am-4.30pm, entrance 50 RMB (3.30 GBP)
Tel: (0086) 532 8382-1169
In a city where ‘drink beer’ is pronounced in the local dialect as ‘ha pi’, it’s no surprise to find the frothy brown stuff gushing from every available pore; the fact that it’s cheaper to buy a can of lager in the local supermarkets than a bottle of water is testament to the amount the locals quaff on a daily basis. Coming to Qingdao and not trying the local ale is akin to travelling to Dublin and not tasting the black stuff, so give in and spend a few hours on a tour of the Tsingtao Brewery seeing how the delicious beer is made. The brewery is surrounded by bars and restaurants where you can enjoy this world-renowned lager at its source.
The Qingdao metropolitan area has approximately 40 kilometres of coastline, and the government has ploughed millions into transforming the areas closest to the sea, so that visitors can view the best of Qingdao while enjoying the serenity of the ocean. If you don’t fancy (or don’t have time for) the whole 40km, start at No. 1 beach and walk east, to see the beaches and rock formations, as well as century-old colonial buildings standing shoulder-to-shoulder with ultra-modern skyscrapers, a microcosm of what contemporary China is all about.
Parks – Badaguan, Xiaoyushan, Zhongshan, Luxun
These parks allow you to take a breather from the busy downtown and beach areas, and enjoy some quiet solitude, as well as witness some traditional Chinese pagodas, temples and gardens. Although at their most colourful in spring, these parks they are still a welcome break from city life at any time of the year.
Admission 50 RMB (3.30 GBP)
For those with a more adventurous streak, Qingdao is in close proximity to two mountains, with Laoshan by far the more favourable choice. Situated 40km from the city centre, the site of the Loashan spring features waterfalls, temples and secluded walkways. Accessible by bus from Hong Kong Road or around 50 RMB in a taxi, this is very much worth exploring, but be warned; to make the most of the experience the majority of a day is needed. Buses and taxis stop returning from the mountain at 5 pm, so start out early.
The vast majority of shops in Qingdao fall into two main categories – Large Western-style shopping complexes, and local markets. Both offer varying shopping experiences.
Jusco, 72 Hong Kong Middle Road
Open 8.30 am-11.00 pm
Tel.: ( 0086) 532 8571-9630
One of the largest shopping centres in the province, and possibly the most popular – a Saturday afternoon spent here is strangely reminiscent of a bustling January sale. However, anything that you can possibly need for your trip can be found, with a supermarket, clothes shops and electronics stores. There’s even a Starbucks and a McDonald’s – if it wasn’t for the vast swathes of local Chinese milling around, you could be forgiven for thinking you were back home
Jimo Road Market, Jimo Lu
Open 9.00 am-5.30 pm
For those who are after some authentic Chinese souvenirs, who have an eye for a bargain, or simply wish to experience how the majority of Chinese people shop – this is the place for you. The local shopping mecca is four floors of hundreds of shops, selling absolutely everything. They won’t speak English, there are no money back guarantees and they certainly won’t take Mastercard – but that’s what shopping in a different country’s all about, isn’t it?
10 DO’S AND DON’TS FOR YOUR TIME IN QINGDAO
Do pick up a copy of the local English speaking magazine, MyRedstar, from your hotel or any Western restaurant/bar – For complete restaurant and entertainment listings, as well as local news and topics of interest for foreigners in Qingdao.
Don’t tip in restaurants – It is not part of the culture here. If the restaurant feel that you should be paying for their service, they will charge you a surcharge.
Do get a local map in Engish and Chinese – Essential for getting around, one with both is preferable, so that you can point to the Chinese when in a taxi. Ask for one at your hotel.
Don’t ever pay the asking price at the markets – When you buy anything from any market stall, whether it’s a pair of sunglasses or a pair of batteries, never pay the first amount. The local market traders are looking forward to the Olympics more than most, and expect prices to be hiked. A general rule is, if you pay much more than half the asking price, you’ve paid too much. Remember, there’s always someone else selling the exact same thing ten yards away.
Do pay a visit to Culture Street (Wenhua Jie) – Although not somewhere that will demand a great deal of time, this small pedestrianised street is full of little shops selling Chinese trinkets, and many a bargain can be found. You can also buy pre-paid international phone cards, both for landlines and mobiles, here.
Don’t forget the time difference – Chinese time is seven hours ahead of British Summertime, so if you want to tell all back home about Ainslie, Morrison et al.’s exploits, then don’t phone at 10 am every day or you may not be the most popular person in your household upon your return.
Do look out for the ‘Maomorabilia’ to be found everywhere – The former Chairman and founder of modern China not only has his face on the nation’s currency, but it also adorns almost every product imaginable, from plates to playing cards, and makes up a substantial part of many a market seller’s revenue.
Don’t forget to check out the local Ultimate Frisbee team – Until recently a relatively unknown phenomenon outside the US, the sport has taken this city by storm due to the plentiful beach space, and the local team’s training sessions attract quite a crowd. If you’re on No. 1 beach on a Sunday afternoon then it’s worth a look, and you may even get to join in.
Do keep your wits about you – Although in general an extremely safe country, while walking around markets such as the one on Jimo Rd, be careful to keep your valuables safe; the local poor view the Olympics as a potential pay-day, and this is arguably the only way in which the least well-off in society will share in the rich financial benefits of hosting the Games, so keep your valuables safe.
Don’t forget to pack mosquito spray – They can be a menace at this time of year, and a serious impediment to a day’s sailing enjoyment.
USEFUL CHINESE PHRASES
Ni hao! Hello
Zai jian! Goodbye
Duo shao qian? How much?
Zhe ge This one
Na ge That one
Tai gui le! That’s too expensive
Qu Go to/towards
Wo/women yao I/we would like
Xie xie! Thank you
For assistance with Chinese pronunciation, click here .
Changing money – All featured hotels offer money changing services from all major currencies into Chinese renminbi (RMB also known as yuan), and all banks will offer a similar service, with all major branches open from 9.00 am until 5.00 pm every day.
ATMs – There are plenty of ATMs that will accept international credit and debit cards, especially around the main business district. Check with your hotel to find out which one is nearest.
Medical centres – If you need urgent medical assistance, then the People’s Hospital near Zhongshan Road (Tel. 1680-6222) is the largest around, however for anything less than serious, simply pop into a pharmacy (Jusco has one), but don’t expect perfect English. (wo su zui le, [“I have a hangover”] may prove useful.)
Tourist info – The best bet for any tourism information is to ask the concierge at your hotel. Their local knowledge is unparalleled, and they will be able to organise transport.
Internet access – Is available in all up-market international hotels, and internet cafes are plentiful, with many and are on most streets. Just look for the sign; (pron. wang ba)