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Really Real Life

Qingdao is about halfway up the coast of China, south east of Beijing. It is sprawling and chaotic but, like other big Chinese cities, it is in the process of rapid “improvement”, “modernization” and “beautification”, with varying degrees of success.

Maybe, one day, it will be a generally clean, modern and quiet place but for now, also like other big Chinese cities, it is still noisy, lively, full of cooking and… um… other smells; it is anarchic, chaotic and very, very human. For every few feet of evenly laid pavement there is an equal amount of cracked and sunken paving slabs, electrical wiring is a crazy bird’s nest, shops in side streets are mucky and full of random goods spilling out of the doors, street sellers are everywhere, all kinds of foods are displayed out in the open in the markets, impromptu games of cards and checkers attract onlookers who block the way, rubbish is piled up in random heaps, grubby shops signs and neon add to the visual cacophony and the ambient racket is bracketed by the sound of car horns. The antithesis of what most of us are trying to achieve as designers. It’s all madness.

But if it ever goes, I’ll miss it.

Qingdao is also the beer capital of China, maybe Asia. Forget the standard, forgettable Tsingdao lager in green bottles; local people drink fresh, cloudy, unfiltered, unpasteurized lager, weissen, pale ale and stout, in a range of flavours and alcoholic content depending on which of the different Tsingdao breweries they are sourced from. Every street market has a beer stall where local people buy their lunchtime or dinnertime beer, decanted into PET containers or even plastic bags. I have never come across a town that loves its local beverage the way Qingdao does; I wish there were more.

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