Qingdao: These are a few of my favorite things

What could be better than magic, mountains, and seafood all in one place? I had so much fun researching and writing “Near Qingdao, Hiking a Magical Mountain” for the New York Times. The province of Shandong is one of my favorite places on the planet.

There were so many amazing things that didn’t make it into the story. Here are a just few:

The Huangdao steps, the bane of porters who lugged stone, iron, grain--everything that built the city--up from  the wharf. Today, food vendors set up shop there day and night.

The Huangdao steps in Old Town were the bane of the thousands of porters who lugged shipments up from the wharf into town. Their sweat wore the steps smooth and built Qingdao. Today, street vendors of all sorts set up shop here.

The pressed glass in the churches, mansions, and old apartment buildings scattered around town date back to the German occupation.

The pressed glass in the churches, mansions, and old apartment buildings scattered around town date back to the German occupation. The grandparents playing cards on the street told me stories about building these now architectural treasures.

I tore through a platter of scallops like these pretty much every night. These were raised on the shore near the Laoshan Scenic District, sold live in aerated trays on the street, and then cooked to order by streetside vendors (look for the words '加功' (jiagong)) armed with just a few propane burners and woks and an enterprising spirit. This feast set me back three bucks.

I tore through a platter of seafood pretty much every night. These scallops grew up on the shore near the Laoshan Scenic District and were cooked to order streetside in Old Town. (Look for the words ‘加功’ (jiagong) on the signs for places that will cook whatever you drag over.) This feast set me back $3.

This sculpture, "May Wind" (五月风), stands in 五四广场 (May 4 Square)  in central Qingdao. It's a memorial to the first May Fourth movement, a large-scale student protest against the treachery of the Treaty of Versailles and the Japanese occupation.

This sculpture, “May Wind” (五月风), stands in 五四广场 (May 4 Square) in central Qingdao. It’s a memorial to the first May Fourth movement, a large-scale student protest against the treachery of the Treaty of Versailles and the violence of the Japanese occupation.

Rubbings like these are from the thousands of Han Dynasty tomb carvings that one collector dedicated his life to salvaging from around the countryside. (He had stories of farmers breaking up these ancient works of art to make benches and bricks for their stoves.) Zhang Xinkuan's private collection is now a museum just a couple miles west of Laoshan.

This is a rubbing of a Han dynasty tomb carving. Zhang Xinkuang made it his life’s work to salvage the carvings from around the countryside. He has stories of buying them off farmers who were using them as benches or, worse, grinding them up for cement. His private collection is now a museum just a couple miles west of Laoshan.

Giant 满头 (mantou) are a Laoshan specialty.

Giant 满头 (mantou) are a Laoshan specialty.

So is green tea.

We stayed at my friend AJ Wang’s hostel at Yangkou, which overlooks the sea and these fishing boats.

Not pictured: The part of the adventure where I ate a live octopus and threw it up 15 minutes later. The view of the ocean was gorgeous at least.

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