Tuesday, 31 August 2010

China - The first beer festival

Day 18

Hello everyone!

A 75 minute morning flight took me to my final port of call on the wonderful and enlightening adventure. The flight was short - the bus from the airport to town was longer - but I was a world away from the glitz of Shanghai.

Qingdao is a popular tourist spot for the Chinese, particularly people from Beijing wanting to spend some time at the beach. Internationally, it holds a different allure - it is the home of Tsingtao, China's national beer. Those who know me understand which of the two aspects I held in higher regard.

When planning the trip, Qingdao was always in my mind - mainly because you can get the ferry back to Korea - but I struck gold whilst researching. In the final two weeks of August, Qingdao plays host to a massive beer festival. Jackpot.

I had one day in Qingdao, and my one day was going to be spent drinking beer. I persuaded three other people from my hostel - a Finnish guy who spoke Chinese, and two Germany girls - to join the party. After I briefly fell asleep in the common room, we got lunch and were soon on our way.

Well, we tried. There are not enough taxis in China, but the problem was especially bad here. We tried to flag down a taxi outside a hospital. The German girls pushed their way into a taxi at the expense of a tired-looking young woman...holding a tiny baby. British manners took over, and we eventually found another cab. Beer festival HO!!!!!

It is a strange sight. It resembles a fairground. The German girls were instantly disappointed - it was no Oktoberfest, after all. The idea of festivals like this is that there are various tents, each sponsored by a different brewery, and you sit down and...drink. Our first port of call was the Krombacher tent. Another thing I didn't expect was the volume - each tent had a stage, and each stage had very loud shows on throughout the day and night.

The Krombacher tent had some interesting shows. Initially, a group of Chinese girls singing a random Chinese song...before breaking out into 'Wannabe' of Spice Girls fame. They were followed by a random guy, who we didn't think was anything special. That was until we saw the screens behind him blowing his trumpet. He seemed to be on a familiar television show. It looked awfully like the set to...Pop Idol?! Naturally, we then assumed this guy won ChinaIdol sometime. Bit of a crossroads in his career, this festival.

We moved on to the big one - the Tsingtao tent. It was packed, so we were ushered to a table to sit next to a group of Chinese guys. There were very few foreigners visible, but we had expected this, and were keen to make some Chinese friends. To do this, you share your drinks. However, before we had even got halfway through our first beer at this tent, the Chinese guys next to us were pouring us beer. Not out of a glass. Not even out of a pitcher. Out of a PLASTIC BAG. It's how they do out here - locals buy Tsingtao in bags that you get in a supermarket. There were hooks on the underside of the tables to hold the bags. You can drink directly out of the bag - using a straw. Remarkable.

Also remarkable was the method of drinking adopted by the Chinese. They love to hit cups together, like many countries. Unlike many countries, doing this obliges you to finish your drink. This happened every two or three minutes, and was ultimately too much for the German girls to handle, so they left, citing the fact that they hadn't slept the night before. But me and my Finnish friend continued to drink at this rather rapid pace.

The sharing extends beyond drinking. On the other side of us were some university students, who gave us lots of beer and...ostrich meat. Really tasty stuff, albeit with too many herbs on it. We were in another tent for a bit before leaving - something I don't remember doing. The next day was spent being hungover and trying to find my boat.

Love you all


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