China Diary

12: A Change Of Scenery

Leaving on a recce trip to Qingdao

I’ve now been in Beijing for two full weeks, but this morning we had to wake up and make our way to the train station, where the bullet train would take us on a five hour trip to Qingdao, a smaller (only about 13 million people) city on the southern coast for China, for four days of recceing. I mean, looking for shooting locations.

The first thing I realized stepping out of the train into the hammering rain was the salty smell of ocean in the air. The history of Qingdao dates back 6000 years, but recently the most interesting fact is that the city used to be occupied by the Germans until the break of the First World War, which can still be seen in the architecture and business of the city. The Germans brought also their beer brewing traditions to Qingdao, and the city is nowadays known as the Beer City of China, or as I call it, Belgium of East Asia.

Colorcoded umbrellas are the source of fun and enjoyment.

The first day was cleverly dedicated merely to getting to know the local traditions: that is, drinking beer. We were taken for a dinner almost immediately after arriving to the hotel to a small, very local restaurant which served a table full of meat and seafood so delicious I suggested to Mika that maybe we actually died on the way here and ended up in heaven.

Qingdao-style feast. Probably one of the best dinners I’ve had in my entire life!
A bag of beer

And then came the revered, appraised beer. And there was a lot of it. There are two styles of local beers in the area, the other one is the typical Tsingtao beer, which itself is delicious, but the other one is something that’s only available in this area and only for a short perioid of time until it goes sour – seven days I believe they told me. What’s even more interesting, it’s served from plastic bags. And the taste is amazing: it’s full like Irish beers, creamy like Belgian beers yet fresh and tasty like I don’t even know what. And there’s a lot of it!

We were served enamel Mao Zedong –cups and the cups were refilled the second we emptied them – and we emptied them often! We discussed politics and film and gan bei’d away with the crew, having a wonderful time with Mika, and getting a nice buzz on.

Having a beer under the watchful eye of The Chairman, with the location manager (on the left) and producer Max Wang.

Then, as it is very often typical in China, the dinner ended abruptly as everyone stood up. Max wanted to stay talking a bit longer with the Chinese crew, so me and Mika were to be transported back to the hotel. But of course, we also wanted to have few more drinks and suggested we could go to a local bar somewhere. This wasn’t such a good idea, we heard, since the westeners would be cleared of whatever little money they had on them, so instead, they thought they’ll give us some beer to be taken to the hotel.

By “some” beer, they meant a 40 liter keg. Two men brought the huge thing into my room as me and Mika were giggling like two schoolgirls. How the hell were we ever to finish it?

We did our best on the night that followed, but Mika being jetlaggy wasn’t much help, so I called Annika and we chatted for almost two hours while I did my best to chug as many mugs of beer as possible, but truth be told, when I finally decided to call it a night (after mandatory few songs of Manowar), the barrel had barely been touched.

A barrel of beer in my hotel room.

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