I love Qingdao! I have been there four times in the past three years and it still remains one of my favourite places in China. I grew up beside the sea so maybe that is the attraction of Qingdao, maybe it's the old and new in one place, maybe it's the people, or maybe it's the memories. My first trip to Qingdao was with my German flatmate way back in November 2010. It was cold and grey but we were both so happy to have a few days off work that it didn't matter. We explored the old town, found a cathedral, saw actual houses rather than apartment blocks, walked up a mountain, drank good beer, befriended the locals, ate sausages and found some baked beans.
My second trip was very brief, Jordan and I were there for about five hours waiting on a flight. We had beef noodles in a small run down restaurant, smelt the sea and then left.
Our third trip was eventful, trying to get visas sorted but I'll not go into that. The weather was wonderful. We had been living in inland China for three months and I was so happy to see the sea, smell the sea and breathe some fresh air. We wandered along the sea front, watched the sunset and picked up some western food before taking a 24 hour train back to Xian with a standing ticket, but that's another story.
Our last trip was by far the best. The stifling heat of Beijing was beginning to get to us so we took a weekend trip to the seaside. Five hours on the bullet train we rocked up in Qingdao and we were welcomed by the smell of fish! We explored the harbour, greatly impressed by the submarines and ships. We walked through the old streets that reminded us of Europe and home. We drank good Tsingdao beer and played pool. We ate dinner in the same restaurant I ate in two years previously with the same crazy owner with the most amazing hair. I had my picture taken with her again! We walked along the crowded beach, marveled at the Chinese in their weird swimwear, got told off for taking photos at the 'wedding' settings and went paddling like five year old's. We met old friends and their new baby and chatted like we hadn't seen each other for almost two years.
Before I leave China I want to go back one more time as Qingdao is the closest place that has felt like home in China and it holds some wonderful memories.