Qingdao Part 1, China

For most people living in China, their only holidays are the official government holidays. As a result, there are holidays in almost every month. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a foreign company or a local company that operates internationally, you will often get additional flexible annual leave days. The month of May means that Labour Day is here, a time to celebrate the workers’ contributions to building the country. 

Qingdao shoreline and beach
GFX100S 48.2mm ISO-100 1/550sec f/4
People hanging out at sunset at the beach in Qingdao
GFX100S 80mm ISO-200 1/150sec f/8

Labour Day, or May Day as it’s called around the world, is always May 1st, and this year, Youth Day fell on May 4th. To make it easier for labourers to visit their families in far away places, the government often gives additional days off around Labour Day, but then makes up for those days by making people work the preceding Saturday and following Sunday. For 2021, we got May 1st to 5th off, but had to work two weekend days to make up for the extra time off. 

As with any national holiday in China, you need to carefully select your destination, or you’ll soon discover why people use the phrase “people mountain, people sea”, which means millions of people flooding the main tourist sites like sacred mountains or popular seaside destinations. For this year, I decided to visit Qingdao, on the east coast of China, in Shandong Province. 

Plan B Cafe in Qingdao
Super cool Plan B Coffee Shop in a residential compound; GFX100S 32mm ISO-200 1/250sec f/8
Cute dog refusing food in Qingdao
A picky eater that would have none of the dumping we provided him; GFX100S 52.7mm ISO-100 1/220sec f/4

While it may seem that a seaside city would be a poor choice, I actually hedged my bets because the weather is still on the cool side in this part of China, hardly ideal for being near the sea. The reality is that the vacation could have gone either way, cold, wet weather, or beautiful blue skies and enough warmth to make the trip worthwhile. As you’ll soon find out, we had a bit of both.

I got quite a bit of good feedback from people on the recent Lijiang series that they preferred the posts to be split so that more images can be shared and that it was easier to follow the storylines. I’ll therefore split trip into two posts.

Sunset in Qingdao
Sunset; GFX100S 80mm ISO-200 1/200sec f/5
Qingdao buildings light up at night
Synchronized building lights at night; GFX100S 80mm ISO-1600 1/58sec f/1.7
Fireworks at night in Qingdao
Random fireworks along the sea; GFX100S 80mm ISO-1600 1/10sec f/1.7

Qingdao is a port city and is perhaps best known for its beer, Tsingdao Beer, made famous by the German’s during the concession era from 1898 to 1914. The German concession era is also another reason why people love to travel to Qingdao because it provides for very unique German architecture in a very Chinese city. After the Germans left, the Japanese also had a period of time where they were present in the city and added to the architectural dynamic. 

Qingdao has around 11 million people so while not a small city, it’s also not one of China’s Tier-1 cities, which typically have 20 million or more people. Qingdao is a very important city in China’s One Belt One Road initiative as it provides a sea link to the north-eastern part of China. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Qingdao is also famous for its excellent universities, which provides for a very dynamic and youthful population, who get to enjoy the city’s beautiful sandy beaches, beer, and incredible selection of seafood.

Haitian Hotel hallway in Qingdao
Haitian Hotel Floor GFX100S 80mm ISO-800 1/58sec f/1.7
Light fixture at Haitian Hotel Qingdao
Lobby light fixture at Haitian Hotel; GFX100S 80mm ISO-200 1/320sec f/1.7
Haitian Hotel suite in Qingdao
Suite at Haitian Hotel; GFX100S 32mm ISO-400 1/25sec f/8
View from Haitian Hotel executive lounge of Qingdao buildings
View of Qingdao from the Haitian Hotel club lounge; GFX100S 33.2mm ISO-100 1/450sec f/4

We stayed at the Haitian Hotel, a local luxury brand that recently opened a new location at a redeveloped seafront location right in the middle of everything that a tourist would want to see. The hotel was very new so the facilities were not fully finished, but overall it was a good choice. The hardware certainly is top grade, and the software will eventually reach luxury standards once the staff get up to speed. If you decide to stay at this hotel, please note that the suite has a very large pole in the room which blocks 2/3rds of the view. It’s a poor design choice, but they need to keep the higher floor from falling down, so it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

Caught a couple kissing at the beach in Qingdao
Chinese couples from all over the country come to Qingdao for its scenic background; GFX100S 80mm ISO-100 1/1400sec f/1.7
Wedding portraits near the sea in Qingdao
Now you know why bokeh is so popular in China, it’s the only way to hide the other couples! GFX100S 80mm ISO-160 1/58sec f/2.8
Crazy tree in Qingdao
How does a tree grow like this?! GFX100S 32mm ISO-200 1/180sec f/8
German architecture in Badaguan Area Qingdao
Typical architecture in Badaguan; GFX100S 32mm ISO-200 1/340sec f/8
Coffee shop in German and Japanese building in Qingdao
Wonderful mix of German, Japanese and Chinese influence in the buildings; GFX100S 32mm ISO-200 1/85sec f/8
Qingdao Radio Tower
Qingdao Signal Tower; GFX100S 161.6mm ISO-100 1/300sec f/8
Governor's mansion in Qingdao
German Governor’s residence; GFX100S 100mm ISO-100 1/140sec f/8
Tsingdao beer
The German legacy of Tsingdao Beer! GFX100S 80mm ISO-200 1/70sec f/1.7

In Part 2, we will go a bit deeper into the Badaguan area and explore the wonderful and well-preserved architecture.

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