Written by Aug 31, 2005 08:08
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The boats of Beihai

On Guangxi’s short southern coastline, Beihai is famous for its beaches but it is a fishing port first and foremost. Although it now attracts many visitors and offers a variety of attractions and services, fishing has been its mainstay. And like many Chinese coastal villages and towns, very little has changed and life carries on in much the same way as it has for centuries. Wandering around the waterfront in Beihai is like taking a walk in the past. You do notice some subtle changes like boats no longer powered by wind and sail, and the catch is quickly iced down and packed in styrofoam ready for shipping to some far-flung market.

The family home

But the style of the boats has changed little and it’s easy to spot the now famous but mysterious lines of the ‘junk’ that is still built in the same traditional style in ship yards around Beihai. Many families still call these larger vessels home, living aboard and working them these days with some modern equipment like sonar and halogen deck lights. And the wives and families still come down to meet the safely returning fishermen to help unload his catch, kept fresh in seawater holding tanks built neatly into the deck of the boats. These fish are quickly scooped out with a net into buckets of seawater and delivered to small eateries on nearby streets. How much fresher can it get?

This case in marked large?

And with this abundance of fresh seafood there must be a few seafood restaurants dishing up some delicacies. You’ll find hundreds of them on boardwalks around the waterfront, in hotels, on the beaches, in back streets, built on stilts over the water in the beachside harbour and concrete mammoths designed to look like ships on the bay? They cater to every ones budget and surely every ones style.

Shady old streets

Beihai like most cities in China has not escaped the move to modernize but there is enough of old Beihai left to intrigue the traveler. The large old trees lining the main street offer an almost unbroken shaded avenue in the sultry heat of summer adding to the character still remaining in the older buildings and narrow streets near the waterfront. New Beihai is clean and neat with wide tree lined streets and medium strips stretching for miles. It has many large public parks and farmlands on its outskirts are not far away. Beware of bicycles and motorbikes as these are the most popular form of transport.

Silver Beach

Beihai’s, Yin Tan (silver beach) is just one of many along the bay to the north and south of the peninsular. But Yin Tan has been singled out for fame and fortune, set apart for commercialism and today attracts hordes of Chinese nationals wanting to experience the novelty of ‘going to the beach’. Yin Tan stretches several kilometers from the headland in the west to a spit on the eastern end of the Beihai peninsular broken only by the entrance of two small harbours. Neatly packaged tours descend on the famous beach late in the afternoon when the heat of the sun is waning.

On the approach Yin Tan you may be forgiven for thinking you have arrived at a deserted and derelict beach resort as you pass through a stretch of unfinished rotting concrete hulks of someone's dream resorts that line both sides of the beach road for several hundred meters. These eventually give way to finished resorts, hotels, restaurants and shops on one side and the well developed and beautifully landscaped beach side park on the other.

Beachside bar

This expansive beachside park with boardwalk, coconut and palm trees sheltering shops, kiosks, and change rooms extends almost half the length of the beach. Hundreds of matching umbrellas are set up in two neat rows in groups near the waters edge on sections of the beach. Under each umbrella are a table and four chairs for hire. Also for hire for the more adventurous are jet skis, paddleboats and small local fishing boats complete with fisherman. A safe swimming area is roped off to seaward and several lifeguard towers stand watch along the beach.

Intrepid tourists arrive by the busload, cameras in hand; and follow their flag holding guides down to the kiosks where the brave and the bold can purchase one size fits all swimsuits and take the plunge. For the not so adventurous, a sand massage for the feet and an ankle deep dip will suffice. Many just take a seat under their umbrellas and wait for the sun to go down.

As darkness falls

After a swim in the not so clear, tepid water under bright blue skies it’s pleasant to sit under an umbrella at a beach side kiosk, enjoying the cool sea breeze and a long cool drink after a long hot day in this tiny tropical paradise. The sunset is pretty and pink and cameras flash well into the night as tourists try to catch the last of this special day at the beach.

As night descends there is a steady exodus of tourists from the beach to the many seafood restaurants that line the road nestled under palm trees, open to balmy sea breeze. Several hours before dusk you watch from the beach, hundreds of fishing craft head out to sea as they do most every night to bring in a bountiful catch of fish, prawns, crabs and shellfish that is served fresh daily from the sea in restaurants all over the peninsular. At dusk another exodus occurs as the beach staff pack up the umbrellas, tables and chairs and carry them to safer ground near their kiosk.

A new morning at the beach dawns hot and humid with a few showers throughout the morning and the process begins all over again. A curiosity to me was the many women who wandered the beach clad from head to toe in long sleeves and trousers and conical bamboo hats with netting over their faces who approached men as they changed or headed for the water. These same women were often seen returning form the beach in the company of men and now dressed in modest swimwear and very wet? I leave it to your imagination too.

The best beach

On the tip of the peninsular is a small headland called Guan Tou Ling Forest Park. A local bus services the small fishing village out here making it easy to venture out for a look. A boat-building yard and slipway sit side by side with numerous restaurants built over the water of yet another small harbour. Nestled next to the western break wall is a small but clear water beach and an exploration of the headland reveals several more small coves with crystal clear water and silver beaches of far better quality than Yin Tan’s. It’s a popular, beautiful and quiet location for those all-important wedding photos and if you’re lucky you might just witness one of these 'once in a lifetime' photo shoots.

Sandbars, handlebars and brides

I didn’t really go looking for bars in Beihai but there’s a few to be found. My choice was relaxing and enjoying a drink at dusk in a Yin Tan beach kiosk, watching all the other tourist coming and going. Another option if you’re staying in Beihai is head out onto the island, which is full of hotels and waterside restaurants. Once across the bridge head towards the water’s edge and to the left you’ll find Tommy’s. An ex pat by the same name runs this small café bar where you should be able to get a nice cold beer and something to eat.

More photos

Want to see more of Beihai?
Why not view my photo collection of Beihai

 More Beihai Travel Reviews
Comments (3)


Aug 9, 2008 04:58 Reply

ROOSTERS2005 said:

There is a new bar called Silver Coast , close to the old street. The owner , Cy, is canadian. Nice bar with many tv screens with all kind of sports.

The Way Inn changed its website into : www.thewayinn.biz


Feb 8, 2008 05:49 Reply

ROOSTERS2005 said:

There are some nice bars in Beihai.
Close to the centre is a bar restaurant called THE WAY INN , also known as the Holland bar. Busy every night. It is run by the dutch owner and his chinese wife, The atmosphere is great, feels like going to a party. Famous because its mexican burritos. The dutch owner Tony sings english songs almost every night.
You can see pictures of the bar on their website www.lujincanba.cn .
Then in the 'Old Street' there is a wine bar called MEDOC. a fine selection of foreign and chinese wines. The interior design is already worth a visit.


Nov 23, 2007 13:05 Reply

BEIHAI said:

I think you have made the most of Beihai beatiful beaches and its changes during a day! you made me homesick, but thanks for sharing the story of your tarvelling.

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