What in heavens name would bring you to Qing Dao you ask? Honestly, I would have never in my Simply Fabulicious years have ever visited this slightly remote sea-side satellite city in China except for the fact that my dear husband had a work trip there during my daughter’s school holidays so we decided to tag along and visit a city where (about 30 years ago) only farmland existed.
Indeed Tsing Tao (does the name ring a bell now?) or Qing Dao (as they call it in Hanyu pinyin) has evolved into one of China’s many modern cosmopolitan cities, a home to shiny new malls and swanky branded hotels and eateries that stand as testimony of the power of the Chinese dollar and its unrelenting spirit of progress. So if you ever find yourself headed this way to Qing Dao, you can say that you read it here first … 3 leisurely and lovely things to do with kids in tow whilst in this Chinese city where you guessed it – the famous bottle of Tsing Tao beer (another way to pronounce Qing Dao) was born, brewed and bottled.
And so what do you do and eat if you have 3 DAYS IN QING DAO:
#1 BRING YOUR BELLY DOWN TO BEER STREET!
Get ready to guzzle I say … and bring hubby, kids and all who are game down to Qing Dao’s world-famous Beer Street, the most famous beer street in all of China and also where the Qing Dao’s backstreet ‘boy-bands’ are a dime a dozen on the street and you can rent a rousing song for a couple of yuan whilst the Beer ‘Aunties’ will ply you with their bottles of green gold.
How did Qing Dao get its name? Well, one of its early immigrants were the Germans who lent the locals their brewery skills. This has in the last 20 to 30 years resulted in the city’s selling product, the world famous Qing Dao (spelt Tsingtao) beer which tastes pretty good actually as its slightly sweet, a little bit like Singapore’s Tiger!
This restaurant had no sexy or sleezy beer aunties but it claims to be the “birthplace of beer couture”
What you can enjoy if you want to try some ala carte and cooked to your preferred style
We tried a couple of things.
If Starfish and BBQ is not your thing then how about some Donkey Meat?
Yes you read correctly! If you are into local ‘delicacies’, this is a very popular dish in Qing Dao. Look out for this local specialty with restaurants like this with the neon sigh all around town. Apologies, I did not have the stomach to try this!
#2 THE KIDS WILL LOVE POLAR OCEAN WORLD
If you are staying in the heart of Qing Dao then a 20 minute cab ride takes you out to Polar Ocean World, Qing Dao’s version of Ocean Park. This place is pretty big with two large zones – an outdoor arena where there are several shows happening at different times of the day and an indoor main area where you see all the exhibits, aquariums and also has a separate arena for shows. The people at the Ticket Booth will advise you which arena to head to first, depending on what time you arrive at the park. I headed with my 7 year old to a 45 minute outdoor performance (completely in Mandarin, of course) with clowns and a walrus doing sit ups and several performing seals diving in and out of the water.
After the show wander inside to the amazing indoor floor to ceiling aquariums and also petting and feeding zones.
The highlight of my visit, my 7 year old daughter got the chance to pet and feed a very tame and friendly white dolphin for only 50 RMB which is about S$10. Only in China!!!
There are also seal feeding enclosures, a chance to see artic wolves, a polar bear along with many other amazing varieties of fish with another show to watch just before you leave the arena!
Truly a great aquarium to visit and probably 4 to 5 hours is about all you need to see and do everything. The tricky part is getting a cab to take you back to town. I learnt and experienced something in China that would be unheard of in other parts of the world – the concept of cab sharing! This seems absolutely normal and part and parcel of daily life in China’s satellite cities. I have not seen this happen in Shenzhen or Shanghai but here it seems to be an everyday occurance here. Expect the driver to stop and pick another passenger along the way as long as your cab is not full. We had to share a cab back to the hotel area with another mother and her son who were unfazed by having total strangers (us) in the cab with us.
#3 PARASAIL OR CHILL AT THE LOCAL WAIKIKI – BEACH #1 OR BEACH #2
I know what you are thinking – does this Beach have a name? Well the answer is NO! Its known by the number and Beach Number One is the better of the two.
In Summer, the sea is littered with people, standing room only! Sharing some shots of the beach babes and costumes that I have not seen since the passing of the 80s.
Para sail, a wonderful experience if you have a child about 6 years and up. Prices are reasonable and you can bargain with the boatman to come along to take photos. I paid another RMB20 to go on the boat with my daughter to take some snaps of her virgin ride.
Other beach activities (below)!
#4 CLIMB LAO SHAN AND HAVE A SCORPION LUNCH
One of Qing Dao’s famous tourist attractions is Lao Shan, its ‘old mountain’ (direct translation) and this is accessible by the many tour buses that you can book a day trip to via your Hotel Concierge or better still if you get the chance to rent a car and driver up, make sure that its to the top most summit.
There are several stops along the way (much like what you see in the picture below) but you want to be as close to the top as possible or else its a long walk up from the other points along the mountainous terrain.
We were lucky to have a friend who used to live in Qing Dao and was familiar with the place. He drove us to the very last stop on the highest part of the mountain and together we took a 2 hour hike by foot to the summit and source of the spring that runs through the Lao Shan mountain.
From here it is long walk up but the scenery is wonderful and the weather is cool especially on a morning hike.
Two plus hours later – we are at to the top of the mountain where the spring water is at its purest and straight from the source
The descent is more pleasant and we head for lunch at this restaurant in the picture below.
And on the menu was this local delicacy – an entree of KFC style Scorpions and Bugs along with some cold delicious beer and other local dishes.
What do bugs taste like? Pretty ok actually! And a bit like prawn if I had to find an appropriate description. GO TRY!!!