I finally had the chance to explore the city on Thursday, my last day on the shores of the Yellow Sea. The city isn’t anything like I imagined. It’s spread out, metropolitan (1.3 million residents) and not walkable. Bike-able, yes. I was hoping to drink Tsingtao on the beach, eat seafood in a restaurant overlooking the pier and pretty much lounge outside all day underneath blue sky. Not of that was accomplished during my four-day stay. It didn’t help that I spent most of the time catching up on sleep in a hotel 20 minutes from the city center.

But the time I did spend in the city was mostly enjoyable. I feasted on seafood, consumed my fill on Tsingtao and jumped into the Yellow Sea. I’d say that was a successful trip.

The negatives, however: the city is pretty filthy, especially the water in downtown. Construction is happening on every block, as cranes dotting the city erect mammoth, gaudy skyscrapers. The crucial question: who’s going to fill all these buildings? And even though the sky was cleaner that Beijing’s, there seemed to be a haziness to the blue skies. Probably from all the factories that I saw emitting who-knows-what when I rode the train from Beijing. I guess the Olympics are over, so it’s OK to turn on the smokestacks again. Who cares about the Paralympians.

The weirdest sight of the trip though must have been when I walked around the pier and saw this:

Mickey? In Qingdao?

What the … ? That was my reaction. I wasn’t expecting Mickey Mouse in the middle of Qingdao. But there he was, sitting at the end of the pier, waving at kids and creeping me out. My friend and I stood there for a couple minutes just watching him. My friend, Yi, said he might be a crazy guy dressing up for attention. Or a performance artist.

But when a kid posed for a picture with the ersatz Mickey, another guy — his colleague — came up and asked his father for money (10 or 20 RMB … not sure). It was all a business ploy. Disney should get on the case and file a copyright infringement. There’s a man loose in Qingdao with a Mickey Mouse costume.