Spent last week in Qingdao (Tsingtao), China for work. It was a pretty short and busy trip but it was nice to get to travel again, especially in a place where I’m mostly illiterate and unable to communicate without pointing at pictures or making Hadouken-like motions with my arms. That’s always kind of fun.

On Monday afternoon I arrived at Narita a little bit later than planned, but it didn’t matter since my flight was delayed over 2 hours. I got a 1000 yen food voucher that I used at Subway to get a foot-long smoked turkey and avocado sub, which was way too much food but it was free so no foul. Finally got to Beijing where of course I had missed my connecting flight due to the delay, but it was easy enough for Air China to put me on another flight to Qingdao. This was unfortunately also the very last flight out of the Beijing airport, meaning I had a few more hours to kill in an airport. It was pretty late at night so most of the shops were closed but they had a KFC open where I got a sandwich and “9 Lives Juice” which was a fruit juice blend and not a magical potion. There was snow on the ground in Beijing.

From the Qingdao airport I took a taxi to my hotel, which was like a 40 minute ride but since it’s China and not Japan the fare was less than USD $12. Slept and spent the week attending a conference for work which was fairly uneventful except for one night where I was taken out by a client to a really nice dinner with about 12 people, only 1 of whom spoke English. Chinese dinner parties are awesome because the theme always seems to be “let’s order more food than we could ever possibly eat.” Probably because food and things are so cheap, this is a good way to throw a good party and kind of show off to your guests. There was all kinds of different dishes including tons of good seafood since Qingdao is a coastal city. Got to try conch and sea cucumber for the first time. The restaurant we went to was also a few doors down from the Tsingtao beer brewery, so we had pitchers of fresh beer all over the table. I actually don’t really even like Tsingtao beer in bottles, but the 2 varieties they had at the dinner must have been different from what’s in the bottles. Had a wheat ale-tasting one and a dark lager that tasted a lot like chocolate. Both were some of the best beers I’ve had ever.

Everyday I’d be at the conference until the late afternoon, come back to the hotel to get changed, then walk around and explore the area. There was a Carrefour across the street and a Jusco down the road, plus some smaller shops and a lot of restaurants in the area near my hotel. Walked through a few market streets but nothing big like in Hong Kong. They did the sailing events or something for the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Qingdao so they city was pretty cleaned up – maybe getting rid of or at least relocating street markets was part of that. I saw 2 street markets that were more like flea markets, with hawkers setting up their stuff on tarps on the street. Probably so they can all pack up and run if the cops come to shut them down? Speaking of the Olympics, on my last night in town I walked to the pier area where the sailing events all took place and it was pretty nice. They had a huge boardwalk area with really modern architecture, and this sweet “Olympics” pier that took about 15 minutes to walk to the end of. The bottom level of this pier had restaurants and bars, but the top part was just a giant elevated walkway with the flags of the world, each with its own spotlight. It’s hard to explain but it was pretty awesome looking especially walking down at night.

No other big stories from Qingdao but my second night in town I walked into some random restaurant that had pictures of their menu on the wall. I chose a dish that looked like huge plate of beef and vegetables with some chili peppers. When it came out, I realized that the amount of beef and vegetables was almost equal to the amount of garlic and hot red and green chilies. This thing was ultra mouth-searing spicy, but it was amazing and I ate almost all of it. I’m glad I ordered a bowl of white rice to go with it. Also tried a kaiten-sushi in China for the first time ever, which wasn’t bad but was closer to American sushi than real Japanese. They had a lot of crazy rolls with random ingredients in them. Not as good as Kappa.

Coming back into Narita on Friday night I got an extra long inspection at customs. The officer even commented something like “so you’ve been to China quite a few times, huh?” I wonder if this was just a coincidence or if having the super thick passport has something to do with it. I don’t think I’ve ever had to even open my bag up at customs. Oh well.