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Recent trip to Qingdao filled with beer, buddies and beauty

By Jamal Branford | (China Daily) | 2020-09-11

As a person who loves to travel from country to country, the COVID-19 pandemic has been heartbreaking.

I had planned various trips abroad this year that have all been ruined by the villainous virus. I'm hoping next year, with the impending release of a vaccine, that things may improve a bit, at least in Asia.

In the meantime, I've chosen to turn this oppressive period into opportunity. Since the virus has been put under control in China, and since leaving China is ill-advised due to the difficulties I would face trying to get back in, I figured, why not take the time to see more of China?

I've already written about my lovely trip to Tianjin back in June. I have since taken a second domestic trip, this time to Qingdao, Shandong province.

My cousin gave me the idea. During a video call a few weeks ago, he asked me if I had been to the beach in China. Admittedly, I had not. I had not even seen the sea since I arrived here last year.

After doing some internet research, I discovered that Qingdao was a popular seaside destination, so I decided to check it out.

I booked a three-day stay at the Jinjiang Metropolo Hotel near Qingdao University and contacted one of my colleagues who is based there to see if I could meet with her. This turned out to be a great decision, as she really went the extra mile to help make my stay enjoyable.

When I arrived by high-speed train at Qingdao North Station, I discovered that she had sent a friend to pick me up. He brought me to a restaurant, and once she arrived with another colleague, we all had dinner together. The next day, they picked me up at my hotel and took me to the Qingdao Beer Museum, where I learned a lot about the history of what is arguably the most popular beer in China. The highlight of that visit was that I got a few beer bottles with my face on the labels!

They took me to lunch, and then we did a bit of sightseeing. It was during this time that I saw the sea and just how beautiful the city is. The beaches we saw were not sparsely crowded; indeed, there were plenty of people out on the sand and in the water.

On my last day, I traveled alone to Laoshan. It was a bit chaotic for me at first, as the crowd was very large, and because my Chinese isn't very good, I didn't know exactly what to do at first. With advice from my new friends and some ingenuity, I figured out what to do and decided to get a ticket for the shuttle bus that would take me from the ticket center to the Taiqing Temple.

What a ride! The views from the bus were absolutely breathtaking, with the mountains on one side of me and the sea on the other. I don't know why, but there's something about the combination of mountains and sea that give me a great sense of peace. The temple grounds were lovely, and I enjoyed them, but the stunning beauty of the environment around Laoshan was the best part of my visit there.

Three days is not a long time, but I certainly enjoyed the time I had in Qingdao. The food was very good, especially the seafood (which shouldn't be surprising for a coastal town), the beer museum and Laoshan were great, but the best part was the companionship.

I'm very thankful to my colleagues there who befriended me and showed me a great time. I will certainly be back!