Veronica Ann Lee provides an insider guide to the trading port of Qingdao in China’s Shandong province, which is known for its scenery and the beer
Qingdao is bordered by the Yellow Sea and a must-do here is a drive along its coastline, starting from Shilaoren (literally translated as “Old Stone Man”) in the east to Tuandao Bay in the west. This 40km stretch features four beaches punctuated with landscaped areas and rocky capes, showcasing a kaleidoscope of the old and new parts of the picturesque city. A boardwalk, when completed, will allow for leisurely walks. The beaches are great for people watching, if water sport or sunbathing is not your cup of tea.
GRANITE MANSION AND BADAGUAN
While you’re driving along the coastline from east to west, there are a few attractions worth stopping by. No. 2 Bathing Beach at Taiping Bay will lead you to the imposing gothic-style Huashilou or Granite Mansion, which was built in 1903 as a villa for German governors (Qingdao was a German colony from 1897 until 1914). Badaguan (Eight Great Passes), nestled cosily between Taiping and Huiquan capes, boasts pretty European-style villas along the criss-crossed roads fringed by many varieties of trees. Eight of the 10 roads encompassing the Badaguan are named after strategic passes of the Great Wall. Great for photo opportunities, so ensure you have a camera on hand.
At the west end, look out over Qingdao Bay to see the 440m-long Zhanqiao Pier, at the end of which is Huilan Pavilion, the iconic two-tiered pagoda on the Tsingtao Beer label. Built in 1891, the pier is a popular hangout on the weekends. A little farther out into the bay is a miniscule island affectionately known as Little Qingdao, whose main attraction is a white lighthouse built by the Germans in 1900. Situated between Zhanqiao Pier and Little Qingdao is the Naval Museum, said to be China’s largest of its kind. Accessible from 8 Laiyang Road, the museum is a refreshing insight into the country’s naval history.
The older part of the city lies in the west, between Qingdao and Taiping Bays. Those interested in architectural history, dating back from 1897 when the Germans were originally given a 99-year lease to develop an outpost, can explore the winding and sloping streets, cobble-stoned paths and steep narrow stairways leading through a well-planned labyrinth of what started out as commercial, residential and industrial areas.
For a visual treat, the Jiao Ao Government Building is a handsome gothic structure on 11 Yishui Road. Built in 1906 as the Governor’s office building, it now houses the Qingdao People’s Congress and is flanked by the former British Consulate (14 Yishui Road) and the Empire Courthouse (2 Dexian Road). At 15 Jiangsu Road, the chunky-walled Lutheran Church that dates back to 1910 stands proud with its green domed pinnacle, partly hidden by lush greenery that surrounds it. Its cool interiors reveal original chandeliers, tiles and other architectural adornments. The gothic-style twin-spired Saint Michael’s Cathedral, a Catholic church built in 1934 complete with stained glass windows, holds its own at 15 Zhejiang Road. High on Qingdao Municipality’s list of preserved sites is the Governor’s Mansion (or Guest House), which is the pride of German architecture completed in 1907. Now a museum, it presides over the city, atop Xinhao Hill at 26 Longshan Road.
TSINGTAO BEER MUSEUM
One mustn’t leave Qingdao without a sip of the internationally recognised, locally brewed drink. Visit the Tsingtao Beer Museum on Dengzhou Road, commonly known as “Beer Street”. The original brewery was founded in 1903 by the Germans (well, of course) and now houses the museum, which is an excellent source of information on the history of the brewing process. A tour of the brewery entitles you to a glass of beer. If you haven’t had your fill, Tsingtao beer is also famously sold by the weight in takeaway plastic bags along Beer Street as well as the old town and food streets. (Tip: the locals’ favourite, spicy clams or gala complements the drink perfectly.) 56 Dengzhou Road, Shibei District. Open 8.30am-4.30pm; admission fee: CNY50 (US$7).
In Qingdao, there is something to buy for everyone – and markets always hold more surprises to tease one’s retail appetite. It is wise to have a Mandarin speaker tag along.
Jimo Road Market is located within a courtyard of buildings with an entrance marked by a Chinese-style archway. Here, bargaining is the order of the day, but keep a watch on the time as well. The place is perfect for buying clothes, accessories, jewellery and souvenirs and you might even fit in a manicure. Shops generally open till about 5.30pm.
A short distance away, past the Tsingtao Beer Museum, Taidong Pedestrian Street and Night Market, a T-shaped shopping and entertainment area, has the likes of WalMart, fashion, home appliances, telephones, pets, restaurants and cinemas. By teatime, dozens of red-tented stalls mushroom to fill one of the street sections. It can get very crowded here, so watch your belongings. Alternatively, if you fancy an underground adventure, head for LongShan Underground Shopping Mall at 14 Longshan Road, located next to Xinhaoshan Park. A colourful time is to be expected when bargaining is in full swing.