Xinhao Shan Park, August 2009. The coastal city of Qingdao is my favorite place in Shandong Province. There are cobbled streets and European-style squares with churches and German architecture. Away from the insanity of the central strip, there are secluded beaches and peaceful parks. And you shouldn’t skip the craziness of Beer Street and the Tsingtao Brewery, while there are also stunning beauty spots like this hillside park and its splendid three hundred and sixty degree views across Qingdao.
Old Observatory Youth Hostel, August 2009. Qingdao is also home to some of the finest hostels I’ve seen in China. During the first of my two spells here I setup camp at The Old Observatory Hostel, literally converted from a former observatory and perched at the summit of Guanxiangshan Park, a winding, lush green hill. The hostel offers dorms and private rooms, while a rooftop restaurant with amazing views of the city provides an unforgettable breakfast to kick off your day. This old man and his pet bird was a regular sight outside the reception area each day as we headed out to explore.
Zhejiang Road, August 2009. It was wedding season during my stay in Qingdao; with literally dozens of brides and grooms out and about doing their photo shoots. In China this is typically done before the big day and is a highly choreographed affair. This shot was taken near Qingdao Catholic Church, on the large European square just off Zhejiang Road. They’d just finished their shoot and were resting on the square’s stone steps where they gamely posed for one more photo.
Beach Number 6, August 2009. Qingdao’s central beaches are admittedly a bit of a nightmare. And yet it’s here that the multitudes of Chinese tourists flock! Arriving in air conditioned coaches, they file out, battle each other for the right to plank two feet down on the sand, take their photographs and pile back onto the bus. Beach Number 6 even has the added value of barely being a beach, but rather a narrow section of sand-sludge that quickly dissolves into the dirty water. Meanwhile, just fifteen minutes or so down the coast, there’s a beautiful, expansive stretch of sand with just a quarter of the foot traffic.
Lennon Bar, August 2009. Quite simply one of the best bars I’ve ever been to, the ramshackle rawness of Qingdao’s Lennon Bar will long live in the memory. I enjoyed several drunken nights here with Fergal (pictured) from Ireland and Sam from Australia, while the Chinese owner Steven was a local yacht fanatic who’d travelled all over Europe. The house band was a Filipino outfit that played The Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Stones and Ramones. Going up on stage with them to sing Don’t Let Me Down is the closest I’ve ever come to fulfilling my rock star fantasies. To read more about my time in Qingdao, check out my short story Don’t Let Me Down.