Qingdao, China (pronounced Chingdow) is famous for beer and German architecture in the city center due to a German occupation from 1898-1914. This port city in the Shandong province has beaches and skyscrapers, a beer museum, and a beer festival. Besides operating a major seaport, Qingdao has a naval base, industrial center, and the world’s longest sea bridge.
Qingdao has a temperate four-season climate with windy dry winters and warm humid summers. Public transport includes busses, trolleys, trains, ferry service to Japan, and an international airport. Qingdao’s main tourist attractions include beaches and Mt. Laoshan. Other attractions include a former German prison complete with torture equipment, parks, shops, street vendors, a night market, and of course authentic Chinese food. It’s a popular vacation spot for people living in China.
Qingdao Cruise Terminal
The pier is about 2 miles north of town, but free shuttles are often provided by the port. The shuttles for our ship, the Holland America Westerdam, dropped people at the Arts & Crafts store on Zhongshan Road. The terminal’s design requires a long walk from the ship to the exit/entrance of the terminal building. The long hallway contains a few moving sidewalks like those found in some airports.
The terminal has a duty-free shop, and during our visit it had a couple tables set up near the exit offering free beer samples and some merchandise. Restrooms at the terminal are of the squat toilet variety. Outside the port building the sidewalk leading toward town is dotted with a row of miniature fire hydrants.
There are some shops, restaurants, and a mall within walking distance of the port. We saw a variety of miniature trucks and other little vehicles along the way.
At the mall we saw a group of employees from a restaurant out having their daily morning pre-work meeting.
Just like you can find Americanized versions of Chinese food in the USA, you can also find Chinese versions of American food in China. One shop had some pretty crazy pizza options labeled as American style food in a freezer.
Other odd food found in Asian countries like China includes Durian, a giant and very smelly fruit.
There’s more to be found farther away from the port. The Qingdao International Sailing Center was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics on the site of the former Beihai Shipyard. It hosted sailing events for the Olympic and Paralympic games. Qingdao’s May Fourth monument sits at the opposite end of the bay looking like a statue of the Olympic torch, but it is actually much older. It is part of May Fourth Square which commemorates protests to the 1919 Treaty of Versailles which China did not sign as it gave control of German interests in Qingdao to Japan rather than returning sovereign authority to China. They later signed a separate treaty in 1921.
While in Qingdao we visited the seaside walkway area of May 4th Square near the monument. From there we could see parts of the former Olympic sailing center across the bay. The seaside area where we went has a large beach, which in spite of the cold and windy (but sunny) day had people beachcombing for shells and playing on the beach. The far end of the pier has a row of flags, giant rings, and other mementos of the Olympics. The land view on the side of the beach we went to was dominated by the large red May 4th sculpture that so closely resembles the Olympic flame.
Lots of signs in China are in English as well as Chinese, but the translation isn’t always quite there.
Even the boat we took a harbor tour on had a funny sign.
A row of little booths leads to a small boat dock where people can take harbor tours. We took the shortest tour, which was quite inexpensive and provided great views of the shoreline. The area is developing quickly. There were 3 highrise buildings under construction during our visit. From the boat we could see a small green tree-covered area nearly void of buildings, a rarity in the city. A pathway ran through this parklike area, and we could see people on the path.
From the boat we also saw a skate park near the pier. While walking down the pier we saw several people with skateboards and a group on roller blades passing through the pier on their way from the skate park. We saw lots of great city views from the boat tour as well as closer views of the Olympic Sailing Center.
The little booths mainly had jewelry for sale, but many also had smelly dried sea things that the people there eat and some had different merchandise like small wire sculptures.
Parking can be quite hard to find if you travel the area by car. Even the tour busses parked quite a distance away.
We had lunch in an authentic Chinese restaurant mainly frequented by locals. Chicken is not a good choice in that sort of restaurant as they chop it up randomly and the pieces contain little bits of bones. Locals use a social media/messaging, and payment app called WeChat for everything from making reservations to ordering their food and paying for it among many other uses.
Tours offered from our ship in Quingdao included a best of tour with a visit to the city’s oldest pier, a temple, scenic drive, lunch and the beer museum, and a panoramic tour with a visit to the governor’s mansion, the TV tower which has a rotating restaurant and observation deck, and the protestant church. Other tours went to Mount Laoshan and a temple, one to the German area, protestant church, and beer museum, and one to old and new areas of the city.
We had a private tour around Qingdao provided by a business associate who came from several hours away to meet with us there. He gave us a great tour and a lot of information about the area, but we were glad that we kept with our usual plan of considering all aboard time to be an hour earlier than it actually is. We made it back to the port a bit later than that hour early time we had told him was when we needed to be there. A train crossing the road slowed things down even more. Then we took a road to the port that turned out to go directly to the ship. We could have gotten out of the car and walked up to the ship and touched it. What we could not do from there was get on board as there was no access to the terminal. Driving back around to the correct access road we came across the same train and had to wait for it to go by again at a different crossing, which does not help when you haven’t got much time. When we finally got there we had that long walk back through the terminal. We made it to the ship on time, without much to spare. That’s not the first time aiming for an hour before the actual all aboard time has saved us from missing our ship.