China Beach

Susan Spano reports in the Baltimore Sun, from :

I had been trying to learn Mandarin at Beijing Language and Culture University and still had about 3,500 Chinese characters to memorize with two months left in the semester. It was going slowly and, often, not well. So, taking a note from American college students, I packed my bathing suit, flip-flops and a mystery novel and came to Qingdao for spring break.

Millions of Chinese sun-seekers annually visit Qingdao, the beach capital of northern China. It occupies a hilly peninsula on the eastern coast of the mainland that meets the Yellow Sea in a series of stunning bays. Olympic yachting events will take place here this summer, but that’s not the only thing that makes Qingdao famous. Formerly known as Tsingtao, the city gave its name to the beer that is still bottled at a historic brewery here.

Beer and beach. That’s about all I knew about Qingdao. But maybe that’s not so bad. When you start with no preconceptions, everything surprises.

The first one was my guide, Mr. Yang, who picked me up at the airport and give me a daylong city tour. He had the pink face of a cherub and was a devout Christian in a country with an atheistic government.

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