Day 22: Beer, Beer, and yes, Beer!

In China, you can always tell how nice your lodgings are by asking two simple questions:

1) Does it have a buffet?  If yes, proceed to 2); if no, check the bedsheets because there’s no guarantee that you’re not sleeping in a bloody crime scene.

2) Is there someone behind the counter to fry up fresh eggs?  If yes, it is a very nice hotel; if no, the place isn’t outstanding but you will still be safe and comfortable;.

The Oceanwide Elite has a buffet with a guy frying eggs.  So we’re pretty happy.

Qingdao has a rich colonial history involving both Germany and Japan, but it’s the noticeable influence from Germany’s occupation in the early 1900s that is really interesting.  There are areas that really look like Europe: the streets are constructed and planned differently than the rest of the city and the buildings evoke turn of the century Bavaria.  It is weird.  We make our way to an old German church to experience this wild collision of worlds.  There is a definite Twilight Zone creep factor in all of it.

German church (with some silly processing because 1) it is a very boring photo otherwise, and 2) I wanted to make it look more creepy after calling it creepy)

After spending all morning talking about the deutschland, it isn’t hard not to have beer on the brain.  So what better place to go than Beer Street?  There is an entire area of the city near the Tsingtao brewery that is dedicated to the bubbly beverage.  Buildings with neon beer bottles pouring “light” beer down the facade, wide sidewalks crowded with beer and barbecue joints under awnings.  Just like the biergartens in Munchen.  But before we stop for chuanr we cross the street to the brewery (noticing the amazing manhole covers with cute little animals getting drunk – a funny monkey in a yellow t-shirt skipping with a beer barrel in his arms, a happy cow in a waistcoat with a foamy mug, etc.).  And we enter the brewery under the giant neon sign with the slender dancing ladies and a globe splashing into a stein proclaiming “Tsingtao Beer Can Give you passion and Happiness.”

We do the typical brewery museum things: learn the history, see the cans, drink the samples.  Take the picture in front of the huge beer bottle fountain.  Then back across the street for more beer and chuanr.  This is such a relaxing change of pace after Tibet.

I’ve adopted the Asian peace sign as my own.

On the cab ride to the International Beer Festival it is my turn to get all the attention of the driver.  This guy is chatting “with” me in Mandarin like I’m not a tall, blonde, white guy shaking my head at him.  The way I stick out, my thumbs are almost physically sore.  But this guy hardly stops – and when he does it’s to give me a chance to respond.  Man, get a clue!  Then he sees an Amway building and points at it as if to say “All your friends work there!  We should stop and say hi!”  In the end it’s much better than having a rude guy who hates Americans drive us around, but it is still awkward to have this guy expect answers to the questions that I’m assuming he is asking me.

The Beer Festival is fairly astounding, for so many reasons.  My immediate reaction is to the sheer magnitude of the event, all dedicated to drinking beer – it is the biggest beer festival in Asia.  And I’ve never been to Oktoberfest, which must be the only thing that compares, so this is a revelation for me.  There are huge pavilions from breweries around the world (“No way, Hofbrauhaus!?  We’ve been to that brewery in Munich!”) enticing you with benches and tables to sit and drink and stages offering a wide variety of performing acts all day long.  We watch singers and dancers; beauty pageant bathing suit competitions; fire breathers; belly dancers; the Asian Destiny’s Child, complete with multiple matching wardrobe changes; a wailing alto sax player; and, in an odd change of pace for how late into the night and how drunk everyone is, a guy playing a very traditional Chinese stringed instrument.

Outside the pavilions there is a all-out carnival.  We venture onto the dragon swing ride (that one ride at every carnival that is some sort of dragon or big boat that swings back and forth like a pendulum) and, maaaaybe a little drunk by now, enjoy ourselves and laugh and scream.  While the ride operator can hardly stand in his little booth because he’s laughing so hard at us, a little boy with his siblings can hardly sit still in the ride because he is crying so hard from fear.

Sunset from inside the pavilion


For us, the main attraction outside the tents is the Ali Baba chuanr and grill.  (Get it?  Chuanr and grill?  Like bar and grill??  GET IT?!?!)  They are two Muslim men grilling kebabs of lamb, spiced with that magic combination of I-don’t-know-what.  They have masterfully cut their meat to avoid my one occasional problem with chuanr, which is that sometimes entire chunks of meat get wasted because I cannot stand the texture of chewing on fatty gristle while trying to get the good stuff.  But these guys, these geniuses, offer thick, beautiful, tender, lean, juicy meat that simply detaches itself from the inch of fat on the end of each one.  So it cooks in the fat, stays moist and flavorful, but when you pull the meat off the stick, the fat stays and can easily be chucked in the trash.  A combination of very high quality meat and brilliant butchering, I think.  These wonderful men serve us, by far, the best chuanr in China.  Every hour or so one of us stumbles back to their stand, gets six more heavenly sticks for the group, and returns to the beer.  Heavenly, indeed.

Toothy Salewoman

New Look

The other astounding thing about the festival is how much attention we are getting.  Even though we are used to it from the first three weeks, this day has brought it to a new level.  As the sun grows weary from the day of drinking and goes to sleep it off, we are really just getting going in the tents; and as the night wears on, and the tents are serving beer in plastic cups because they’ve run out of steins, we just get awesomer and awesomer in the eyes of our imbibing Chinese counterparts.  Performers come over to sing, dance, and guzzle glasses of beer on our table.  Huge groups of teens join us for stranger photo-shoots.  A man gives me his hat for gan bei-ing with him.  (Gan bei [gon-bay] verb -bei-ed, bei-ing 1. to make random eye contact with an intoxicated Chinese person, clink your classes together, and down your entire drink: A man got mad at me when I didn’t finish my whole drink after gan bei-ing with him.)  We get up on stage and dance with the performers.  There may or may not be a situation where someone from our group goes to make friends with some drunk men in the hopes of getting us free beer.  I play a ring-toss game outside and before I’m done there are about thirty people who have stopped to watch me fail miserably.

None of those people where there when I started.

By the end of the night, the Phenomeblonde phenomenon creates another twenty photo-shoot strangers, and I think Kristy probably gets even more.  (My total is now at forty!)

Peace.  I’m telling you I cannot stop doing the peace sign.

PEACE.  I really love this picture.

During the craziness, each of us loses something: I lose my lens cap; Sam loses her . . . contacts case?; and Kristy loses her . . . camera battery or something?

We make our way back to the hotel after seeing a guy sitting down and passed out, with his arm holding the back of the bench supporting all of his weight to keep him from falling forward into his own vomit on the ground.

Too much information?

Not looking too bad after drinking all day and all night.


7 Responses to “Day 22: Beer, Beer, and yes, Beer!”

  1. 1 Should Be Working
    May 25, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    1. The guy also made WAFFLES. which makes it a super nice place.
    2. You forgot to mention the Chinese blades of glory duo.
    3. I lost China sim card number 1. I think. Or was it a sd card with pics? pretty sure it was the first, just realizing the possibility of the latter…
    4. I know I said we were going to not eat out when you were here to save money, but we HAVE to go to this Chinese restaurant that serves chuanr. Its heavenly.
    5. This day resulted in marriage proposal number 3 for me.
    6. We were the only foreigners there except for one group that looked suspiciously like european frat guys, and that made moves to steal chuanr from me on one of the sojourns to the Alibaba stand. Luckily, I know kung fu.

  2. May 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Where do I start! This one day/night is an entire adventure in itself! Now, I don’t like beer but I definitely could go for some Chuanr! LOVE the photos – all of them! You all look so happy and free (I’m sure it’s all simply a result of mass quantities of beer, but, still). How’d you all feel the NEXT day?

    Peace, man. 😉

    • May 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      god. that chuanr. UN-believable.

      no doubt, the beer helped us relax and be free. but i think most of it was just finally relaxing after months of tension with studying for and taking the bar. up til now the trip had been pretty busy, and this was the first chance to do anything like sit and drink beer all day, finally releasing that tension.

      we were up for so long i don’t think we really went to sleep drunk, so i think we were feeling good the next day. or i just blocked out the pain.

      peace, tracy! thanks!

  3. 5 Kristy
    May 31, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    I have an addition to the t-shirt list courtesy of Jesse: “Let trend in the Eastern camel flu and cost effective advance in the forefront of peer.” You’re welcome!

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