I am twenty-six years old and living in my parents house in southern California. This is because nobody wants to hire a brand new lawyer, and because I spent my savings on a Bar trip to China. Therefore, out of boredom and fear of losing my travel journal to a conflagration, I am typing out my journal entries and including the best pictures I took on each day. China is first. Should I remain unemployed when the time comes, Europe and Central America will be quick to follow. My Welcome post has more info about this project.
Today is right at about the half-way point of the trip. (Crap, we’re gonna be leaving so soon!)
After the twenty-six hour train to Tibet, the trip to Qingdao (think: Ching-dow) is just a quick jaunt. To me at least. It might be a different story for Kristy, who’s had a little tubster of a child kicking the back of her seat the whole way.
Before leaving for Qingdao we spend some time in the main Beijing train station, and it is phenomenal. It is beautiful and clean and wiiide open – really kind of inspiring when you see so much open space under a dizzyingly tall ceiling. Not a popular hangout for all those Beijing agoraphobes, I suspect. And this is just one of four Beijing train stations.
We eat McDonalds here, our first American fast food meal of the trip, and find out that they have these easy, illustrated menus for fat Americans to silently point at. So smart. Now nothing can come between us and our MSG; language barrier be damned!!!
Qingdao is on the Pacific coast (SO weird to be at the coast on the other side of the ocean) so it is supposed to have more beachy feel than, saaaaay, Tibet. We have heard that you can find “beer and barbecue” restaurants, and nothing sounds better to us at this stage of the trip than relaxing, drinking beer, and eating barbecue. So we’re excited.
Qingdao is the home to the Tsingtao brewery. There is a Tsingtao museum here, as well a street dedicated to the beer. And we’ve just happened to get here right during the International Beer Festival. So it would seem there is a bit of a theme for this leg of the trip: empty calories and intoxication!
Once in Qingdao we find a cabby to take us to our hotel (“The Oceanwide Elite” – sounds pretty fancy) and this guy is immediately enthralled with Sam. She is sitting in the front seat to give him directions, and at first it seems like he is just a weird, friendly guy who laughs and flirts with his female patrons. But as his exposure to Sam increases, his eyes glaze over and he steadily turns into an awkward, twelve year-old boy. Blushing, giggling, sweating. He’s murmuring sweet nothings to Sam and she is in embarrassed hysterics. And the guy looks from Sam back to Kristy and keeps telling me (via Sam’s translations) how lucky I am. He laughs this uncontrolled, infatuation-induced hyena cackle that has us quickly following suit. It is the kind of laughing where you can feel the endorphins oozing out of your pituitary, feeding those excited squirmies in your stomach, and lubricating the happiness that is flowing right through you. We were in Tibet for so long that coming Qingdao is like starting a whole new trip. Fun!
Man, that guy’s laugh . . . it was like listening to an insane teenager falling in love while on ecstasy. (Not that I’d know . . . .)
The hotel is awesome – it has what feels like the nicest bathroom we’ve ever seen in our lives after Tibet. I mean, rose petals in the toilet?! Come on! – and we walk outside to find dinner. Outside the hotel is a street, then the water. The Yellow Sea, maybe? Anyway, we’re on a boardwalk of sorts, and it does have much more of a Socal, San Diego beach vibe than I ever thought we would find in China.
Ten feet later, what do we see but a beer and barbecue place! Magic. Sit, drink beer, ocean breeze wandering around, eat chuanr. Chuanr (pronounced chwar) is barbecued kebabs (the meat on a stick kind, not the gyro kind), usually dusted with intoxicating spices. My unsophisticated palette recognizes the cumin and chili power. I kind of want to make up more flavors, just to sound impressive, but that would be lying, wouldn’t it?
Sated and drunkened up, we stroll along the street on the ocean side and watch people light up their candles-turned-paper-lanterns-turned-hot-air-balloons on the water and let them float away into the dark night. They glow red like hot coals and hang in the air like so many Marses moments away from entering our atmosphere. Except these terrestrial orbs are rising, shrinking, making their way up to try and reach the real deal.
We walk along a wide pier with kneeling locals on either side tempting us with absurdities: small, liquid filled gelatinous balls with a pig noses that splat on the ground and slowly shrinks back into its original shape? Yes, gotta have one! (I will give it to my nephew, we will name it JellyPig, and I will smile and shake my head in wonder when I hear his tiny, excited voice ask “Uncle Steve, can we take JellyPig to the park with us?!?!” And I will laugh out loud at my brother’s texted picture of a large wet mark on the carpet with the caption: JellyPig broke.) Strings of shells painted in unnatural colors to act as wind chimes? Yes, one for everyone! However, I draw the line at the dragon made out of tiny shells. Even through the inebriation I can see that’s just gaudy. On the way back we grab some freshly roasted corn on the cob from a charismatic vendor. Meander back to the hotel. Melikes Qingdao so far.
Battered Leather Journal