Where the Sun sets across the Sea

Written by Jul 2, 2007 02:07
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The large orange fiery ball slips into the sea. The sun is setting and her golden rays paint the beach in myriad shades of gold. I’ve stood watching the sunset over Golden Beach many times before but seldom have I seen the sun set into the sea like this. Today I am standing on Yantai’s Golden Beach, the namesake of one of my favourite sailing spots back home. This is a rare experience for me having lived all my life on the eastern seaboard where the sun always rises from the sea and sets over the land. Back on my beach I’d be watching the sun slip for cover behind a group of volcanic plugs that the British explorer Captain Cook nostalgically named the ‘Glasshouse Mountains’.

Today’s late afternoon sunlight is reflecting off another mountain of glass – the green mirror glazed façade of the only high-rise building on this beach – right on the waters edge to the east. Empty and unfinished, it contrasts sharply with the traditional style brick and tile building a few hundred meters away. The setting sun casts long shadows down the beach. A stiff offshore breeze is whipping up white caps on the small sloppy swell rolling in. Buoyed safety ropes, encrusted with barnacles, are snapping in and out with the ebb and flow of every wave threatening to knock the unwary off their feet.

Just a few brave the water even on this warm afternoon, bobbing in bright plastic safety rings over the broken crests of waves. It’s relatively quiet for summertime, much quieter than the inner city beaches. Children play in the sand a safe distance from the waters edge. Adults sit watching them, soaking up the last warmth of the day’s sun. Couples stroll, cameras at the ready, skipping sideways now and then to avoid getting wet. The sudden rogue waves catch those slow to move – water slaps on bare skin and splashes rolled up trousers.

In this well laid out district of Kai Fa Qu (New Economic Zone) all the streets are broad and straight and lined with subtropical flowering trees and palms. Three wheel ‘san lun che’ the little pedicabs, with open sides and canvas roof, ply the streets, bells ringing, from the main thoroughfare to the beach for just a few kuai each way. I arrive just after lunch both hot and tired not having slept well on the night train. After a short rest I take a stroll down to the beach to catch the sunset and wade at the waters edge for the first time in months. The sea and sky are still a fuzzy blur on the horizon, obscured by low cloud and fog that will not clear for another day but the breeze blowing in off the sea is refreshingly cool and familiar.

I am staying at the only youth hostel in Yantai, barely two hundred meters from the beach. While not your average youth hostel it is however clean, comfortable and cheap. During my stay I have my three-bed ensuited dorm room to myself much of time. Although more than 30 minutes by bus from downtown, Golden Beach is an ideal retreat. It’s quiet here with few other guests. After a hot summer teaching and traveling around China, I’ve come to Shandong to enjoy the slower pace and ocean breezes of her seaside cities.

If you’re looking for long romantic walks on the beach? You can take them here! If you’re looking for peace and solitude? You can find it here! If you’re looking for great wining and dining? You’ll experience it here! If you’re looking for fun in the sun? You can have that too! You can do almost anything or absolutely nothing, as I am to find out in the days that follow.

Golden Beach is the ultimate amusement park, with something for everyone. If you forget your swimsuit you’ll not likely find what you like, but you will find something suitable to wear. Kiosks with changing booths sell not only swimwear for men and women; but they hire out swimming floats, deckchairs, umbrellas and tent like huts. If sun baking, swimming, and surfing are not your pleasure then don’t despair. There’s volleyball, soccer, dune buggies, kite flying, dodgem cars, a waterslide, and even an outdoor cinema with a wading pool. And if that’s not enough there’s a dirge of seafood dining options all along the beachside boulevard.

As the sun sinks in the late afternoons, barbeques are fired up, kegs of cold local beer are tapped and tables are set in anticipation of the arrival of hordes of hungry tourists in search of tasty seafood delicacies. At the end of a warm day, dining outdoors in the balmy night air is popular with locals and visitors alike. Parallel to the beach runs a broad boulevard dividing these commercial properties from the salty, sandy, seaside variety. With a wide green belt buffering this coastal strip for several kilometers separating Kai Fa Qu (New Economic District) from the beach you can easily forget where you are.

While Yantai’s beaches are definitely not in the same class as those of Hainan they manage to attract their share of both domestic and overseas tourists. Soviet ‘snowbirds’ find the empty beaches, warm water, mild climate, sumptuous seafood, exotic shopping and low prices very appealing and account for the bulk of the non-oriental tourists in town. The recently upgraded Golden Beach Hotel across the street from the hostel is a popular haunt with the Russians. A variety of restaurants both on and near the beach offer visitors a brief taste of China’s vast gastronomic delights with dishes from around the country all washed down with a great choice of local, national or international beers.

With Korea just across the Huang Hai it’s not surprising to find Korean nationals doing business or working here too. Bilingual signs in Korean, not English are testimony of the size and importance of this large community throughout the Shandong peninsular. Many have been here for generations and appear to blend seamlessly into the local community. In my search for food I discover a little bakery near the hostel where I get a great cup of coffee, delicious pastries and wonderful French bread sticks. The proprietor is Korean and speaks surprisingly good English too. Business is brisk with most of her customers buying much more than one piece of a delicious range of pastries and breads.

Finally the air clears revealing the sky, clear blue, clean and fresh. The horizon splits the sea and sky, the colour of the sea a deep reflection of the blue sky above. Small islands and headlands now give definition to this picturesque and sometimes rugged coastline. The sea breeze is cool and refreshing, the beer cold and drinkable, and the seafood bountiful. But the sea remains mostly uninviting and I surprise myself by not swimming even once. Where I can I don’t want to and when I want to I cannot. However I do enjoy just being at the beach with its mild weather and beautiful clear skies and I can’t get enough of just looking at the water.

Each day I get up a little late. I’m on a holiday after all. Each day I make day trips to explore downtown Yantai or to other nearby attractions returning each evening often after dark. Each evening I take a small table in the hostel’s beer garden. Each evening I sit alone at my table with my one yuan mug of cold local draft beer and a snack watching the big screen TV. The hostel is showing repeat episodes of a soap opera. I am getting hooked. Each evening the volume is too loud but I stay and listen anyway. Each evening construction workers on a nearby site, living in the shell of the building next door relax on the stairs along the driveway enjoying this free outdoor cinema. Each evening one or two of them buy a beer and something simple from the barbeque.

Each evening the sun sets across the sea. Each evening I am eaten alive by mosquitoes but I linger in the company of strangers in the cool night air. While the sun sets on my last evening here and my thoughts turn to work, I wonder when I will see another sunset like these - a blaze of orange across the sea.

Golden Beach and Kai Fa Qu

To Yantai West Bus Station Y10 by taxi or Y1 by bus
Bus to Penglai Y13
Bus to Weihai, transfer in Yantai Y26
Taxi to Airport Y40 plus
Taxi to downtown Y35/Y40

Local buses to downtown, railway station, ferry terminal and bus station
Chateau Chengyu- Castel all Y1 catch outside or block from hostel

Yantai International Youth Hostel (Hostelling International)
Ph 86 535 6936988 www.yhayantai.com
Three bed dorm room with bathroom Y60
Five bed dorm room with bathroom Y40
Family suites with kitchen also available

Panemei Coffee Shop and Bakery (Not sure of spelling)
on ground floor of Shopping Mall on Chang Jiang Lu Turn right off Taishan Lu

 More Yantai Travel Reviews
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2. Recycling - the Art of Arts JABAROOTOO from CN May 12, 2007 05:05
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