… we have been a little lazy. But it has been a while and, you know us, we have been on one or two adventures in between. So I’ll try to squash a few weeks into one blog… hopefully we have been idle enough for it not to be too long.
Our journey starts at our home from home, World Beer. Sat in here on a Sunday night, a friend of ours mentioned that he was going away the next day with his girlfriend and a few of her mates to a local beach (the one we had tried to get to before and failed by forgetting passports) and would we like to come?
So the next morning, we dragged our hungover butts out of bed at 11am, packed for a nights stay and hailed a cab. This time, we had remembered our passports, so we managed to buy a ticket each and jump on a bus. The bus journey was 2 hours, and at the other end we traded bus for taxi to try and friend our friends-girlfriends-friends.
Instead, we landed on a beach. As yet, no one had eaten (apart from the two Chinese girls who were with us, who hadn’t infact been at World Beer and and had, therefore, awoken with plenty of time to eat. There wasn’t much choice on the beach, just a couple of marquis selling smelly fish, smelly fish, and more smelly fish. Oh wait, and of course eels, shrimp, and all manner of sea food. But mostly fish.
We ip-dip-doo-ed and sat down in a forecourt/inside of the restaurant. We tried to stay as normal as possible with the menu (our hungover stomachs had just done a 2 hour rickety bus journey…. there’s no National Express here, the long distance busses are all the old # 410 when it’s failed a service and has a rickety tyre) and even though we we were with two Chinese girls (who couldn’t empathise having never been hungover themselves) we ended up with a whole, unfilleted ribbon fish, head and all, a plate full of warm mussels, fried noodles with shrimp, and a good old-fashioned staple LiZhuRou (sweet and sour pork).
Now, it wasn’t as bad as one would expect; on first bite they were all quite delicious, even if the fish was trying to kill you with it’s tiny tiny bones. Yet after first bite, the flies had smelt it – fresh food! – and they swarmed around the table, divebombing the food at ever opportunity. With us trying to guard the food it was a little like a Jackie Chan movie – you know, the drunken boxing ones.
So after an Okay meal, we headed off again to find her friends/sit on the beach. And sit on the beach we did. After a bit of a sunbathe we jumped in the water. Feeling a little guilty (as neither of the Chinese girls could swim) we climbed on a few rocks before returning back to the water. It was cool and not very smelly on the super hot day, and we enjoyed the vast expanse of water ahead of us.
A few hours swimming and we noticed something a little strange. Just down the beach was a crowd of people, all around 8 older Chinese folk As tourists we had to take a look. The older folk were pulling in a fishing net, by hand, from the sea. They would clip themselves the the bulky, slippery rope, walk backwards in time (although there was no one keeping time) until they were far enough back that they would unclip themselves, walk to the front of the line, the waters edge, the fresh rope, and do it all again.
They were incredible to watch, how strong they must have been! And how synchronised without a “manager” keeping time or telling them what to do. As the fish came closer and closer, they would start to shake the rope in order to shuffle all the fish to the bottom of the net. And when the net full of fish was finally out, they acted as body guards to stop the locals stealing their catch (as one did – he tried to keep it alive by digging it a hole in the sand deep enough to fill with water by its self, even though we were right next to the sea. The poor thing died of course, but he tried).
They did this a few times when we were there, maybe once every two or three hours.
We fianlly found our friends-girlfreinds-friends on another, private, beach and were invited to join. And join we did. It was beautiful. The beach was a small cove in between two jutted piles of rock (the same ones we had climbed on earlier) and was almost inaccessible. Stopping here, we swam in the sea again, met friends-of-friends, and whittled away the afternoon on a beach.
Supper came and above the beach sat a shack and five Chinese men (who I guess own it). We expected food akin to our earlier beach meal, and to be honest, it was much of the same with the addition of a sea-water soup which was exactly as it sounds. However, barbecue was mentioned. Oh wow, barbecue!? YES PLEASE.
The barbecue menu was limited and everything came on a kebab stick. After ordering chicken wings (on a stick), green beans (on a stick) and your regular beef and lamb (on sticks) we were pretty done. With the addition of everyone, English and Chinese alike, taking care of the RATHER LOUD karaoke right next to us, we thought we’d be happier on the beach. And we weren’t wrong.
The tide had gone right out and was lapping calmly on the shore. We taught our Chinese friend, who had never been to the beach before, how to jump over the waves, and we stood like children in the surf, calling to each other, squeaking and squealing, and having a whale of a time. Even Callum joined in with the jumping, less with the squeaking and squealing. Night had drawn in and the only light was from the floodlights by the shack. Where there was little light, the stars were wonderful. They were the best stars we had seen in China. Sitting on the sand we watched them for a good couple of hours. How wonderful it was to be away from the hustle and bustle of city life, without worries of money or having to work in the morning, without kids to look after or others to entertain. We were full, happy, and sober, and it was sheer and utter peace.
We took a shower and headed to bed, our Chinese friend and I, which was a first for her as the showers were communal and she was a little worried. After a long time of turning round we were finally dressed and we headed to our tents on the beach. As we had no idea what to expect, and with little time to pack, no one had actually packed anything in the way of blankets/groundsheets/sleeping bags/pajamas and so we slept in our clothes on the bottom of the tent. It was surprisingly comfy, with a little beating the sand gives and you can make a little dimple for you to sleep in, rather like a memory foam mattress.
Callum and I awoke at around 3:30 needing the bathroom (which was just a trough in the ground with walls and a door) and took a walk along the beach. The flood lights were still on but the stars were still glorious, and were reflected in the water. Or so we thought. On closer inspection the calm, encroaching waves were lit blue at the tips with hundreds of what seemed like fairy lights. They were magical, these blue lights, because you couldn’t see the creature it was attached to, even though it was light enough. They would stick to your feet if you walked on them, and stick to the sand or the rocks where they landed. It was as if we had been treated to a secret, one that no one else here was privvy to, this three thirty walk along the beach, catching the blue lights on our feet.
(NB: once googled they lose their magic, so I’ll let Callum tell you about them)
We slept lightly until 4.30 when we awoke to watch the sunrise. It came up over the rocks and then over the tents in front of us, but seemed to take forever; it wasn’t fully over the horizon until 6am. Deciding that we fancied more than fish soup for breakfast we attempted to find a Taiwanese market that I had read about. Jumping in a taxi the driver took us three AND another family (who were a little flustered to be sharing their cab with two foreigners – and one of them ginger!) before kicking us out at the market and continuing on to the families destination. The market turned out to be closed, and actually not a market at all. I had read that the Taiwanese come here to sell crafts, hand made things, things that you could only get in Taiwan. On closer inspection, it was a duty free mall, with large wholesale stores. Still without breakfast, and it nearing 10 am, we caught a bus to a local market made in the old Chinese style. And, wow, it was beautiful. We found breakfast of cookies and cake (what more could a girl ask for) and topped it off with a Mister Whippy icecream. We wandered around the unfinished mall with other Chinese tourists, taking in the architecture, the bazaars, the cafes. We sat to drink tea and charge our phones in a cafe before heading out to the city centre to try and find a western restaurant or make our way home.
After wandering around city streets, in the hottest part of the day, to no avail, we jumped back on a bus and found ourselves back home at around 6pm. What a wonderful weekend it was, camping on the beach!
Unfortunately we couldn’t beat that the weekend after, but we did go to a place called JinNiuShan – or Golden Cow Mountain. This is another large hill, much like JinJiShan – Golden Chicken Mountain, but instead of the regular stairs and stone paths, this hill has a large walkway up and over the mountain. The way I would describe it is as a large wheelchair ramp on stilts, not too steep, not too bumpy, with large rails either side, all the way up to the top of the mountain and back down. It was a lovely walk in the sun, with green all around, even under the walkway! At the top there’s also a small glass floor area over the edge of the hill, however we didn’t walk in that too long after we realised that it was only being held up by the spindly tree next to it!
From here we ventured to our old favourite SanFangQiXiang – Old town – to partake in a bit of pottery making! After a few hilarious hours and a hell-of-a-lot of clay later, we all had left our pots to dry.
I still haven’t got mine, it needs to be kilned, but I will be sure to upload a photo in due course 😀
And so, after a lazy weekend this weekend, we are back to work, full of beans and raring to go….. after a lay in or two.