Escaping Coronavirus Pt. 1 Adventure & solo female travel blog

Escaping Coronavirus pt. 1: Lunar New Year in Qingdao

2022 Update: Still locked out of China. When will this chaos ever end? *sigh*

I arrived at Pudong Airport and headed towards my airline’s section in the departure hall, just to find out that all the counters were closed. Calmly, an airline employee told me that all of the airline’s domestic flights had been canceled and booked me onto the next China Eastern flight to Qingdao, departing just an hour later than my original flight. This must be all because of that new virus that surfaced in Wuhan, I thought. Before the Lunar New Year break started, many of my Chinese classmates had told me they were canceling their trips to their hometowns because of the new virus. How ridiculous, I thought. Our school is far from Wuhan and besides, I am a healthy young person with a strong immune system. Perhaps the local media talked a lot about the virus, but since most of us international students hardly knew enough Chinese to understand Chinese news, we were unaware of the severity of the situation and did not take the threat seriously. I had booked my trip to Qingdao just a week ago. It was the only destination that was affordable to travel to over Lunar New Year and not for a minute I had thought about canceling my trip.

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Many domestic flights were canceled due to low demand. As the novel coronavirus began to spread outside of Hubei Province, many Chinese decided to stay at home instead of traveling across the country to visit their families.

While I was waiting to check-in for my new flight, I received an email from my university. I opened it and was in shock: Upon request by the local government, our school would lock its gates within the next hour and anybody off-campus after that time could no longer return to campus. In addition, our university would provide funds of up to $1000 to each international student to return to their home countries for the next three weeks. After about two hours of shock and confusion, I decided to go ahead with my trip to Qingdao and later visit my family in Peru.

My trip to Qingdao turned out to be way different from what I had expected: Almost all shops and restaurants were closed, the entrances covered by thick plastic shades, giving little incentive to go out at all, and the streets were emptier than they had ever been, accentuating the freezing cold that made it very uncomfortable to be outside. Whichever public buildings were still open were guarded by men completely covered in plastic suits who would take your temperature upon entering. If you had even a slight fever, you would be told to isolate yourself. With such cold weather and uninviting atmosphere, I was just counting the days until Peru, and in order to avoid possibly missing my flight because of being quarantined for a slight fever, I avoided leaving my small Airbnb altogether and had even my meals and groceries delivered to my door.

My last day in Qingdao was the only day the bright sun rays were able to pull me out of the apartment and make me explore one of the city’s main attractions: The German Old Town, a remainder of the German occupation of Qingdao during the late Qing Dynasty. As someone who has lived in Germany for over fifteen years, I was beyond impressed by the authenticity of this little European island in China. With streets much, much emptier than usual, I made my way across the main square in the freezing cold into a small, quaint souvenir shop selling German-style hawthorn tea, beer cake, and lots of small gifts. I spent almost a whole hour in this shop, selecting gifts for my family, recovering from the cold, but most importantly, seeking human contact by talking to the shop assistant, a rarity in these strange times. Then, I set my feet back into the cold desert of loneliness and walked towards a nearby pier in the sea, the only place where there were a few more people, passing lots of pretty, colorful, but closed shops and cafes on the way. Despite the pain from the icy breeze in my face, I was rewarded by one of the most beautiful sunsets one could imagine that day.

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A quick tour through the German Old Town of Qingdao
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I spent over an hour in this cute little souvenir shop
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Sunset by the pier
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Me in my thick N95 mask. Our university distributed these for free when there were no shortages yet.

After having my flight back to Shanghai canceled for the second time, I decided to go by train instead. The journey took over seven hours but seemed much shorter in this empty train where the few passengers on board were as widely as possible scattered throughout the wagons. It was the exact opposite of what anyone would imagine about Chinese New Year travel. I arrived in Shanghai at midnight, about eight hours before my flight to Peru. Although it was significantly milder than in Qingdao, it was no less eerie in Shanghai. As the only person around, I made my way through numerous temperature checks, across the normally crowded south square of Shanghai Railway Station, where police cars blasted fear-inducing public health announcements through the night. I spent the next couple of hours in perhaps the worst hostel I had ever been to, on a hard bench-like bed in a freezing room, barely able to sleep for more than a minute at a time. My last few hours in this once-bustling city of 24 million were like a harbinger of what would face the rest of the world just a month later…

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My home for my last night in China. Looks not too bad, right? Well, I thought I was going to freeze to death that night!

Summary: Qingdao How-Tos

Location: Shandong Province, China

How to get there: Airplane, (high-speed) train, ferry, bus, any way you can imagine

How to get around: Metro, bus, taxi/didi, by foot

How to dress: Temperate climate zone, wear thick coats in winter, light clothes in summer, in spring and fall wear something in-between. Be prepared for rain.

How to spend your time: Roam around the old town, watch the sunset by the pier or Huangdao (Golden Beach), climb Laoshan (Mt. Lao), enjoy local cuisine and a good glass of Tsingtao Beer

How to communicate: Everybody speaks Mandarin and you can occasionally find people who speak decent English


  1. Comment. There is no place to add my email address at your Subscribe link below. I’d love to follow your blog adventures. I already follow you on Instagram. Please send me your new posts by email.

    1. Hi, thanks for pointing this out!
      I just looked over the subscribe function again and gave it a try and it worked. Try entering your email address again and confirm through the link in your mailbox. Check your spam folder as well.
      Please let me know if this works 🙂

  2. It’s definitely a weird time to travel but at least you can travel without the crowds and explore new places that would usually be very touristy! =) Hope everything is slowly turning a corner and travel will get a little bit back to normal soon.

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