Qingdao Historical Town
Qingdao Historical Town is quite unique in the landscape of Chinese towns. If features some remarkable example of German architecture of early XX Century as well as a pleasant promenade along the Bay.
The most remarkable legacy of German days is the Christian Church, located on the top of a hill, featuring with the two red-colored bell towers each one topped by a big cross. The Church Square is surrounded by few historical buildings in Continental Europe style. Few other historical buildings may be found in the nearby Zhongshan Road, supposedly a major shopping street but in the essence nothing special. There is also a Protestant Church nearby, that I missed.
The Bay is the most attractive part of the Historical Town and features a boardwalk and the landmark of Qingdao, the Zhan Bridge, the pier built the Germans in the early 1900 with at its end a Chinese style octagon pavilion. The Zhan Bridge, a favorite of Qingdao evening strolling, is especially lively at night, when it gets crowded with people and souvenir vendors. I read that locals say that you can not know the real Qingdao if you have not gone to the Zhan Bridge.
City by The Sea
My trip to Qingdao was one of the best trips I took in China. Since I was studying in Beijing, we decided a good trip for our "Thanksgiving" break would be Qingdao as it was highly recommended by both Chinese and other friends. I went with a friend, we took a train down there (overnight trip, not too bad - I love taking trains in China). When we got there we were mobbed by offers of cheap hotels; we were a little wary at first but decided to follow one of the people who led us up the road from the train station and took us to see a couple places. Qingdao is a major vacation spot for the Chinese, but in November there's not much going on there. So we ended up at a fairly nice hotel; a room for two with no windows for about 80RMB a night ($10). We were a little hestitant that the price might double or something but we ended up with absolutely no problems there. The locals were really, genuinely friendly and it took some getting used to because we were used to being scammed in Beijing and elsewhere.
On the second day we walked down by the ocean and through the hilly streets and took in the sights. Qingdao was a German concession so a lot of the architecture is very German and it has a beautiful Gothic cathedral overlooking the city. We tried to tour the Tsingtao factory, which resulted in a lot of miscommunications (apparently in the summer there is an Tsingtao amusement park open - something akin to the Duff's park in the Simpsons)and when we finally got to the right Tsingtao place we discovered it was some kind of holiday so they weren't doing tours, but we found someone nice enough to give us a brief little tour.
After that we decided to have our pictures done and play dress-up at one of the many "bridal picture" shops there. If you've been to China you know what kind of pictures I'm talking about - big southern bell type and other formal dresses with tons of makeup and strange hairdos and then one in traditional Chinese dress. It was a blast and the people had a great time making us look Chinese.
Everywhere we went in Qingdao the people went out of their way to talk to us and make sure we didn't need anything. When my friend's ATM card got eaten by the machine there we met a nice businessman who took us out for dinner and then took us to the bank the next day to help us out. Yeah, we were suspicious but it seems like his intentions were just to help.
We wanted to take a tour of Laoshan mountain and a Taoist temple nearby but we knew our Chinese wasn't good enough for a Chinese tour, so our hotel manager called a friend of his who was a university student who volunteered her entire day to help us out and accompany us on the tour. The tour was a bit different, to say the least. We had checked and re-checked the price of it to make sure there weren't going to be any hidden prices or surprises, and we were assured it was just 20 RMB a person. Of course, after we got out there there were suddenly "insurance" and other tour fees that we were basically extorted out of, along with the Chinese passengers who didn't seem to mind so much. We hadn't brought enough money for all the hidden fees so they kindly offered to accompany us to the ATM when we got back so we could pay up. Our manager's friend called him back at the hotel and he managed to arrange a fabulous lunch for us along the way, which we think he paid for, because he felt so bad about us being scammed. We ended up hanging out with his student friend the rest of the trip.
The whole experience there was great. Even the Chinese tour was just what the Chinese themselves experience; we just weren't prepared for it because we hadn't done it before. So if you're going to take a Chinese tour be sure to bring some extra cash but argue about it anyway. Also be prepared for a lot of stops along the way to various shops where the tour guides get kickbacks.
Qingdao really is a fabulous city, full of really friendly people anxious to talk to foreigners and help them out if you are respectful of them. Go there during the off-season for the best experience.