On my way to my current location, the best option for flying was to fly via China. I was landing in Qingdao, which is located in Shandong Province, on the Eastern coastline. To be honest, prior to seeing the flight option, I had never heard of the place. Of course, I researched before landing, and decided that it could be an interesting place to explore for a week prior to moving on. From an environmentalist perspective, this city is ultimately the antithesis of ‘sustainable’. Nonetheless, I tried to explore the city with an open mind, accepting its thick smoggy skies and instead focussing on the positives. This is important, I think – because whether or not I like it, there are parts of the world that are (sadly) experienced in such a way.
A large port city, Qingdao is known for being a large, economic hub with a focus on shopping, trading, and economics. Like many Chinese citites has a rather colourful history; more recently due to the German occupation in the late 1800s, which caused deleterious societal implications for the Chinese. Later, the Japanese occupied the city – meaning that Qingdao (like many areas of the world) has been the unfortunate recipient of darker times. Today, the German occupation in particular, has influenced the infrastructure and architecture of Qingdao, as well as creating Tsingtao beer, which has given an ‘Oktoberfest’ feel to parts of the city.
Wide, cobble-stone streets feature heavily in the German area, which I noted was less populated than other areas of the city; e.g. the ‘down-town’ shopping areas and the beach. As a vegan, I had a lot of trouble here in Qingdao. I know that there are a number of vegan restaurants in Qingdao, but I was feeling rather tired and had access to a kitchen, so instead opted to mostly buy Chinese vegetables and cook my own Chinese-inspired vegan food. I did visit a night market, and ate some fried tofu there on a number of occasions. It was delicious, but I certainly cannot guarantee that it was free of fish-sauce; and it was covered in preservatives, oil, and sugar (for sure)!
I went for many long walks in Qingdao, including long walks along the beach. Compared to my home, Qingdao is polluted and crowded; the beach is no exception to this rule. As captured in the below photographs, one is held within certain boundaries whilst swimming in the bay. Due to the algae and other floating pieces of trash, I opted to avoid swimming. I was also shocked to see bulldozers on the beach. Why? I am unsure. My first feeling when seeing the beach, was dismay.
But then, I looked more closely. As you’ll see if you carefully examine these photos, there is an outdoor gym on the beach. There were many people doing various activities, martial arts, reading, laughing, playing sports. I actually ended up spending quite some time playing volleyball with a group of elderly; communicating only through dig, sets and spikes. It was really fun. So, despite the initial despair, I have accepted the state of Qingdao beaches and decided instead to focus on the way in which the space was being used. It was a community hub, people were smiling, having fun, and generally enjoying themselves. As for the fish in the sea…well, I am sure the experience is different… Nonetheless, I recommend doing some people watching at one of the beaches in Qingdao.
In addition to many meandering along the beach, I wandered through alleyways, getting lost, and then found again, and saw many interesting things (cats, markets, hospitals, trees, etc). A great view of the city can be located at Signal Hill Park. It is also a nice place to chill in summer by the fountain; bring along some berries found fresh at one of the street stalls or markets.