From Qingdao Tsingtao – Gloria recounts a recent road trip from Beijing to Qingdao.

From a Finnish sauna to a Roman steam bath, that’s how I felt in the ridiculous summer heat from Beijing to Qingdao. Don’t get me wrong, I love the humidity because I’m from Singapore but anything above 35°C is just crazy. Clouds. I miss seeing clouds after ten months of cloudless days (and starless nights) in Beijing. German architectural influences is strewn all over the hilly landscape in Qingdao which reminded me of Florence. The town is old and pretty much intact but you can see footprints where tourism has sneakily left and continues to take over the world.

It was a nice walk from the train station to Kaiyue International Hostel: small grubby restaurants with styrofoam boxes of seafood laid outside, watermelon sellers, retired shirt-less men playing chess. There was a small, Japanese-inspired shop selling little potted plants where I wanted to get something but the boss told me it’d be cheaper in Beijing, minus the hassle of bringing it back. He lived in Beijing for a while but settled down in this little outfit that his missus wanted.

The beer festival was a letdown, almost as disappointing as the one I attended back in Singapore a couple of years ago. Bad music, expensive beer and there’s something about space-to-people ratio that I take into consideration when gauging the success of an event; no excuses that it was a weekday evening. Some stupid mascot wanted to charge us 10RMB after we’d taken photos with it! I wasn’t going to pay and we all walked away thinking fuck that. Please understand that this may be a completely biased opinion because I’m not a beer person but I still enjoyed Qingdao thoroughly. Who needs beer fests when you could get smashed at the hostel bar or buy a 2RMB Tsingtao beer-in-a-bag off the street?

I haven’t been to the Great Wall since I’ve came to Beijing and usually not one who does touristy stuff but the Tsingtao museum was really interesting. Jess got a bottle of Tsingtao with her own label (you can put your face on in) and I just couldn’t get enough of the beer peanuts. Factory visits are always brilliant!

I’d visit the safaris in Africa and scuba dive in the Great Barrier Reef if I were a jet setter but I am just a poor ESL teacher so I still visit the menageries even though the aquariums and zoos in Asia have been rather depressing so far. The Qingdao aquarium was no exception with what looked like a dead turtle segregated from three others in a miserably small enclosure to penguins with clipped wings that made felt like I was in a taxidermy museum.

Wore my swimmers under my clothes and we headed to No. 2 beach at the end of the day which was supposedly less crowded than No.1 beach. It was relatively clean to my standards because Singapore’s aren’t any better. And Mark taught me what rock pooling was, a shame it wasn’t part of my urban childhood because it’s one of the simple pleasures in life where it doesn’t cost anything to have fun. By the way, the public showers cost quite a bit at the beach and there are no toilets. Yes, I had to do it in the sea.

We only managed to get standing tickets for the train back to Beijing because they were sold out. We all agreed that we wouldn’t have minded six hours without a seat if it were much cheaper but they were the same price! In the end, we each found a cosy spot for ourselves that is the luggage compartment and some empty space behind the back seats as I made myself comfortable by ripping off pages from the in-train magazine to sit on. Tip from a Chinese man who kindly offered hungry Gloria some buns and bananas: tickets from Qingdao to Beijing may be fully booked but you might be able to get tickets from Qingdao to other stations then top-up or upgrade to a standing ticket for the rest of your journey. Good to know!

Next stop, South Korea!

Relevant Links:
Kaiyue Youth Hostel (Old Church Lounge)
Qingdao Tsingtao on

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