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China Insider's Look At Qingdao

Mar 2, 2008
Mention Qingdao, and many people will recount rather hazy nights spent consuming lukewarm longnecks of China's most famous beer. Indeed, Qingdao - the capital of China's northeastern Shandong Province - is home to the most famous brewery in the country. But there's a lot more to the city of nine million people than beer, bubbles and brewing.

Boasting the largest fishing and trade port in northern China, the beautiful coastal city is one of extremes. Located in Jiaozhou Bay, the former German treaty port boasts an expansive German concession district, replete with unique colonial architecture dating back hundreds of years, beautiful old villas, and wide, tree-lined avenues. Qingdao also has notable Japanese and Korean communities, thanks to their close proximity to the city, and important trade relationships as a result.

Aside from China's southern Hainan Island, Qingdao has arguably the best beaches in the country. Further out of town, the magnificent Laoshan Mountains are a starkly beautiful conglomerate of granite steeps and peaks, overflowing with natural springs, and offering spectacular vistas of the ocean and city below.

But perhaps Qingdao's biggest claim to fame is its designation as an official Olympic city. Come August 8, 2008, it will host the sailing events for the 2008 Beijing summer Olympic Games - one of only five cities home to Olympic events outside of the capital. In preparation, a 45-hectare (111-acre) dockyard in Qingdao's Fushan Bay has been transformed into a world-class sailing facility, garnering rave reviews from sports enthusiasts during Olympic test events. After the Games, the marina will be remodeled into an exclusive resort featuring a five-star international hotel, an Olympic museum, spa, fitness and health clubs, a shopping mall and office space. Qingdao's going for gold indeed.

Located to the southeast of the city in Jimo, Qingdao's numerous natural hot springs vary widely in terms of size and temperature. Generally heated to between 30 and 60 Celsius, although sometimes reaching a scorching 93 Celsius, the waters are laden with minerals that will heal even the weariest limbs.

Island Hopping - Also known as Lute Island for the fact that it resembles the ancient musical instrument when viewed from the air, Xiaoqingdao Island is a pleasant little peninsula, connected to the mainland by a thin thread of land. Dotted with black pines, flowers and trees laden with fruit when the season permits, it's extremely popular with young lovers who converge to stroll through the parks and enjoy views of nearby Yellow Island (Huangdao).

Beach Baby - Qingdao has six beaches, and doesn't let you forget the fact. The sensibly named Number 1 Beach is also the most popular. If you visit in the winter you'll see that it's lined with fine yellow sand, overhung with giant pine and cypress trees. If you visit in summer, all you'll see is a 580-meter (1,903-foot) stretch of beach umbrellas. The Number 6 Beach is also very popular, especially with tai chi practitioners and fishermen.

Art And Culture
Qingdao is hugely famous for its intricate shell carvings, and the Qingdao Shell Carving Museum is the place in town to get up to speed with the latest trends in the art. Aside from checking out carvings from China's greatest masters, the museum is a good place to pick up shell souvenirs.

History Of Hops - Tired of checking out hundred-year-old ceramics and bones that have seen better days? The Tsingtao Brewery Museum might just be your pint of ale, then. Built in 1903, the museum is located on the premises of the original Tsingtao Brewery, and it's an interesting place to learn not only about the history of the city, but also about the history of everyone's favorite beverage, beer.

Underwater Love - Opened in 1932, China's first public aquarium, Qingdao Underwater World, sprawls across both sides of the street, just opposite the bustling Number 1 Beach. An underground tunnel connects the various chambers of the sea world, with conveyer belts ferrying you about, permitting almost 360 degree underwater vistas.

Just Cruising - If you're not in a hurry to get to your next destination, cruise there in style aboard one of the many cruise liners docking in Qingdao. From the Qingdao Passenger Transport Center, ships depart for Shanghai, Yellow Island, Xuejia Island, as well as Inchon, Korea and Shimonoseki, Japan.

Wining And Dining
Take To The Streets - Some of the most authentic cuisine to be had in Qingdao can be found in the dozens of quaint restaurants lining Yunxiao Road Gourmet Street, Minjiang Road Gourmet Street and Maidao Seafood Street. The latter is particularly famous for fried spicy clams, seafood wonton, and roasted squid. For barbeque, head to the stalls of Taishan Road - you'll be able to smell the sweet aroma of roasting meat and seafood well before you see it.

Beery Good - A small street annexed from the Qingdao Brewery, Beer Street is pretty much just that - a street dedicated to beer. Located in the Dengzhou Road area, the street features dozens of small bars serving up many local brews, as well as liquid gold from all over the world.

Retail Therapy
Mass Market - Attracting almost as many visitors as the Great Wall of China, Jimo Lu sees an average 200,000 daily shoppers hit its aisles for a bit of friendly bargaining. This is the place in Qingdao to visit if you're after, well, just about anything really - from purses to second hand bicycles, furniture and even obscure Chinese medicine.

Night Shopping - if you still have some energy left, head to the Tai Dong night market. Opening around 5 p.m. every day, Tai Dong is a cheap and fun place to pick up Chinese souvenirs. It's also a great place to try out local snacks, including smelly tofu, meat skewers and local pork hamburgers.

Hot Events
Clamming Up - Paying homage to its fishing village roots, Qingdao throws out the nets every May for the annual Clam Festival. The festival, which also marks the onset of warmer weather, is basically just an excuse to consume fresh seafood and local beer in the sun, but who's complaining? If you tire of all the consumption, there are organized activities, including tours of local fishermen's homes, fishing competitions, and military simulations.

Qingdaofest - Established in 1991, the Qingdao International Beer Festival is one of the most highly anticipated annual events in China. Kicking off on the second weekend of August and lasting 16 days, the festival pays tribute to liquid gold with beer drinking competitions, parties, entertainment, trade exhibitions, and dozens of food and beer stalls representing countries from all around the world. Last year, over 930 tons of beer were consumed across town.
About the Author
Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts currently owns and manages 54 hotels under Shangri-La and Traders brands with a rooms inventory of over 27,000. Shangri-La hotels are five-star deluxe properties featuring extensive luxury facilities and services.
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