Qing Dao Day 1
We arrived in Qing Dao sometime in the morning. I left the house around 4 in the morning and met up with the folk that I was going to travel with. The folk that I was traveling with are part of a traveling group that I met through a website called "Meetup". It's actually quite a good website and I've been to a lot of cool places through Meetup.
The flight was supposed to fly around 9-ish but there was a delay so we took off around 10-ish, but the good thing was we gained an hour as we travelled to China. Yay!. As soon as we arrived we signed into our hotel and then we went out to visit the city. Now generally most people, when they travel, are excited because they are about to experience something new. Well! We were sure in for a surprise because we definitely experienced something very new. We visited China for the Chinese new year holiday and that was actually a really bad idea, because in China, during the Chinese new year holiday, every freaking Chinese person travels somewhere away from where ever they are located to visit their hometown. This meant that during our trip, every freaking store was closed! I mean god damn it everything was closed from the touristy areas to the markets and restaurants. I lived in Hong Kong and Hong Kong is a part of China now but even freaking Hong Kong does not shut down everything for Chinese new year. Okay, maybe they do for a day but Qing Dao was really taking it to the limit. Our cab driver said that most Chinese people will take seven days off. Holy freaking seven days and here we are, a bunch of travelers who took their lunar new year holiday to visit China only to find out that nobody was going to greet them!!! To be frank I was prepared for this because my friends from China and my father, who has a lot of experience with China, told me that it was not the best idea to travel to China during the Chinese new year. By the time I heard this it was a bit too late because I had already purchased the tickets and I was not about to back down and ask for a refund. Even as I rant about the bad timing I still had a great time traveling because nothing beats the experience of going somewhere where the language, culture and atmosphere is completely different from what you are used to. Having this experience with friends makes it so much more interesting.
So, after getting on our cab we decided to stop by a random store to buy some nourishment. This store was somewhat of a ghetto store and right beside the ghetto store was a ghetto food stand. This was definitely far from the place that I would have liked to eat at but there were a variety of choices that had me somewhat interested, at least until I saw they cooking everything in a microwave oven! One thing that they didn't hold back on were their dumplings. Apparently the Chinese eat a lot of dumplings for their new years and oh my god there were an endless supply of dumplings. They were good but god damn! I was so tired of them by the end of the trip. By the way dumplings were nothing new to me because in all of the countries that I have stayed in dumplings were one of their food staples, especially in Asian countries where dumplings are very common foods.
These eggs looked really interesting to me because I have tried a variety of it in Hong Kong. They are called tea eggs where they boil the egg in some kind of tea/soup thing, which may explain its black color. I was expecting a more 'Chinese' flavor, but it was not very far off from what I had already tried before.
Our trip organizer is the guy in the far left of this photo. He just kind of joined in on this family dinner and somehow got invited to try out their food and as a bonus he got a free beer.
After we finished eating we went over to the Jimo Lu market, notorious for its counterfeit products, but guess what? All of the stores were either closed or were closing!
In China each year is symbolized by a Chinese zodiac symbol and this year it was symbolized by the horse, so this year it is the year of the horse.
We were not satisfied, or full from our previous meal so we stopped by a food trolley, which was conveniently located in front of the market. They had your usual fried food variety and they had a sweet potato vendor, which you could find in Korea as well.
One of the most interesting item that we did eat were the chicken hearts. We were traveling during the time when there was a strand of the avian flu outbreak yet we still ignorantly gobbled up the chicken innards. But i've got to say the chicken hearts were pretty damn spectacular.
While we were munching away on our nom noms our senses were sent to Russia and back because some random person decided to blow up some fire crackers right behind us. I swear I thought the world was coming to an end because I was so surprised. During my trip in Qing Dao, I swear, every damn night there were fire works and fire crackers being fired away at any random moment. Six in the morning, you wake up and see the morning sky and then suddenly "BANG BANG CRACK CRACK BAM". You are taking a stroll around the city only to be abruptly interrupted by a "BANG BANG BANG". Night time. You are chilling on your hotel bed watching TV and then next thing you know "FWEEEEEEE WIZZZZZZ BANG BANG BANG". The streets were literally covered in red firecracker packaging and ash. I did enjoy the fire works at night thought because i had never seen fire works blow up so close to me before. After a day of assimilation I was unaffected by even the loudest popping sound.
Most of the stores that sold the counterfeit products were closed but the craft stores were still open. One thing that I do appreciate about China is that they are crafty, so crafty in fact that they can pretty much copy everything. If they could use this craftiness and implement it with some creativity then I believe they can give birth to some interesting creative content.
The location in the above photo is one of the oldest markets in Qing Dao. I tried to look for the name of this place in the internet but for some reason I couldn't find it. Shame on me because the internet is supposed to be able to answer all of your questions.
A gesture that cold be mistaken under the wrong context.
They had starfish on their menu, and I was really curious about the taste of the starfish. Apparently the skin around the starfish is pretty hard and inedible so you would have to break the skin and pick out the meat within.
A lot of the restaurants, at least the ones that were open, had food displays so you would not mistaken the item that you had ordered. It's kind of similar to the Japanese plastic food displays but the Chinese food displays were not plastic and a lot of the food that they had displayed were fresh, so you would have to use your imagination for the cooked product.
This heavily decorated area seemed like there was going to be a huge party, or at least there WAS a huge party. Felt like we missed out on everything.
Zan Qiao is supposedly one of the most famous piers in Qing Dao but guess what? It was closed because it was under construction... Just our luck. If something is closed for the holidays another place is closed for construction. Dang Nab it.
There were seagulls flocking around this pier area because there were people selling fried dough, and the fried dough were not for us humans. They were meticulously torn by a merchant and his family. It was pretty humbling to see this family because all of them looked so shabby because their clothe seemed to have been unwashed for decades and I saw more dirt than skin. The father and his older son were tearing up the dough and placing them into little plastic bags while the older girl was selling the dough in the plastic bags. She was also selling starfish but I had no idea what the starfish were going to be used for. I was guessing it was probably for food, because we saw the starfish being grilled at the market. The mother of the family has a new born baby strapped onto her back and she was strolling around the pier area selling the plastic bags of dough. Most of the tourists around were Chinese and they did not look that well off but I mean when you compared the tourists with this dough selling family there was a huge gap of difference. They do say the rich only get richer and the poor only get poorer.
We stopped by this protestant church for some cheap thrills. Pretty looking architecture isn't it? Not very Chinese at all.
After visiting the church we had come to our last destination for the day. When you climb us this hill there is an observatory on the top of the hill. It's not really high up so you don't get to see very far off into the distance but the observatory floor had a rotating floor so you could lazily sit back and view the city on your bum.
Here I was in the observatory reminiscing about how everything was closed and under construction and how the fireworks made your surroundings sound like a battlefield, but oh no! That is not the end of the Qing Dao experience. For all four days we were in Qing Dao it was foggy as hell! At some moments in the day you could literally see only 100 meters ahead of you or less. I thought I was in a set for a zombie apocalypse movie. The next 28 days later series should pick Qing Dao as their filming location, especially when it is Chinese new year.
Even though I complain about the foggy weather the observatory offered a nice view of the city. Apparently Qing Dao is known for its red roofs and they sure like their red roofs. Traits of the German occupation definitely show through in their architecture.
Guess where we had dinner. This succulent steak may make you wonder 'why are you eating western food in China?'. well if any of the restaurants were open we would not have to settle with this! By the way this steak was served in a Pizza hut. Pizza hut and KFC were literally everywhere in Qing Dao. I saw maybe one McDonalds. One thing that I did realize though was the fact that not many foreign brands had made their way into the streets of Qing Dao. A city street in Tokyo, Korea and Hong Kong would offer very recognizable staples from food to fashion, but in Qing Dao everything was very, very local. I couldn't tell if a place was a restaurant or just a store selling something. You can argue that Qing Dao isn't exactly a metropolitan city so I had to presume that cities like Shanghai and Beijing would probably be more recognizable as a city compared to cute little Qing Dao.