A Cruise through Daya Bay

Written by May 18, 2006 07:05
Add Friends:
Email 1 Email 2 Email 3

No more than 10 friends at a time, please.


There was a time when thousands of sailing craft graced the inland waterways and coastal bays of China. With dark horizontally battened sails blending with the timber of their hulls these unusual craft were often referred to as ‘junks” by the heathen from the ‘west’. They were often both home and workplace for fisherman, traders and merchants around the country. While boats today have changed in style, colours and use, they’ve lost little of what attracts men to go down to the sea in ships. Daya Bay is one of a few places in China where the sight of many sails can be seen once more.

Shenzhen’s Longcheer Yacht Club, located at Judiaosha beach in east Shenzhen opposite Daya Bay, has hosted the Sinolink Mangrove West Hong Kong Shenzhen International Regatta otherwise known as the Pre-Mayor’s Cup over recent years. In 2005 the regatta, held in early July attracted over 40 yachts, the majority of entrants from Hong Kong, with the lure of first class amenities, accommodation and a beautiful backdrop for the race series. We cruised into Daya Bay after a flying visit to Huizhou.

Daya Bay and nearby Huizhou are just two more Chinese cities that very few people have heard of much less visited unless you happen to live or work nearby. What brought my friend and I to Huizhou and Daya Bay was a little business on behalf of a friend at home. Huizhou, a small city is also a place of water, caught between five lakes and the confluence of the Dong and Xizhi rivers. Huizhou was settled over two thousand years ago and later became capital of the Southern Han court. It boasts a West Lake or Xi Hu first built by Song Dynasty engineers similar to its name sake in Hangzhou. While not built on as grand a scale it is none the less an historic piece in the city and a pleasant place to spend time relaxing and watching the locals doing the same.

Our mission was to meet with a kitchen cabinet maker and assess the quality and colour range of materials and products, and collect some samples to take home. After storing our excess luggage at the airport in Shenzhen we made our way to the bus station to catch a coach for what we anticipated being a quick two hour trip. After more than two hours on the road and several phone calls later we finally stood on the plaza outside the Huizhou bus terminus looking for our contact. Both well dressed and well spoken, he was waiting with a small van to transport us to his place of business - a huge home decorating plaza.

This six story building housed countless small showrooms promoting floor and wall tiles, interior and exterior doors, glass shower doors and screen, timber and bamboo flooring surfaces, kitchen cabinet displays, bathroom products, light fittings and window dressings. An escalator whisked us to the third floor and our hosts display room. With assistance from a couple of translators when my limited vocabulary failed me and his limited English failed him, we managed to communicate effectively. Both the girls were engaged in other translation assignments at the time but made themselves available to us over the phone translating more specific industry details allowing us to quickly complete our mission.

With our business concluded, we solicited some local advice about where to spend the night and what there was to see in the district. Having done an online search it looked practical to make our way to the coast for the night returning to Shenzhen on the morrow. The local advice was to visit Daya Bay. With a Holiday Inn right on the water overlooking the bay this sounded like the perfect beach resort to spend out last evening together. We wrote some details in hanzi (characters) and the phone number of the translator who was also working in Daya Bay - she would be available to help us should we need any further assistance.

As we left the building our host insisted once again on carrying our luggage. Having no success in finding an empty taxi on the street outside he escorted us another two blocks to the main road out to Daya Bay where we waited unsuccessfully for an empty taxi. It had been raining lightly throughout the afternoon. While we contemplated what our next step would be, the express coach to Daya came by and stopped to pick us up us. With much sincere handshaking and ‘xie xie ni’s we were finally on our way again. The road was narrow and not well maintained over the distance to the coast. Much of the eastern delta area is flat, fertile flood prone plains. Paddocks and fields left us in no doubt that the rivers had burst their banks recently, leaving the tell-tale muddy film on all that had been submerged.

The bus dropped us in the main street – an area surrounded by a good choice of hotels but still some distance from the Holiday Inn. We were looking forward to indulging ourselves in some four star international comfort. Taxi drivers, like sharks came at us with non-negotiable offers to convey us to our paradise. We had little choice but to pay the price. After checking in and settling into our luxury room – compared to some of our previous accommodations – we were able to take stock of Daya Bay from the window of our sixteenth floor waterfront room.

We had a magnificent view across the bay to several of the 100 odd islands in the distance. Water taxis transporting workers and tourists sped like insects to points around the bay. Directly below us to our right was a small container shipping terminal – a dusty car park half-full of containers and trucks that would come and go at all hours of the day or night. To the left beyond the hotels tennis courts and playground, a few smaller resorts lined the sweep of the bay for a kilometre or two eventually giving way to the unmistakable silos of an oil refinery and chemical processing plants as far as the eye could see. Out of sight a nuclear power station lurked in the distant haze.

The beaches were somewhere up the coast to the north and on the outer islands of the bay but it was too late for us to take a look. We would restrict our exploration to the proximity of the Holiday Inn. Daya is home to a large and cosmopolitan crew of foreigners working in and around the bay area in consultation, management and engineering roles. The Holiday Inn meets the needs of these ‘cash cows’ as it does in many other Chinese cities, providing serviced apartments, western restaurants and facilities for these men and sometimes their families. For a small city with little on the surface ‘going for it’ there was a surprising variety of bars and restaurants offering a choice of Mexican, Indian and Italian cuisine.

Our choice for dinner was the Indian restaurant and bar which seemed to be the most popular ‘watering hole’ for the local ex-pats. The great décor, atmosphere and music were supported by a ‘two for the price of one happy hour’ every evening. Another surprise in this somewhat uninspiring location is the often well kept secret of Holiday Inns - the ‘in-house’ deli. This one was really well stocked with international ‘goodies’ all of which may help ward off bouts of home-sickness for the many foreign souls who find themselves in places such as this. We stocked up on chocolates and ice cream before retiring to our room with a cheap bottle of Great Wall red and a selection of nibbles to celebrate the last night of our holiday together.

After a good nights sleep and a short sleep-in we were lured downstairs by the promise of an ‘all you can eat’ continental buffet breakfast. It was almost mid-morning as we enjoyed our final cup of coffee and were joined by a very late comer for breakfast. This Irishman had just arrived back in Daya to resume his work as a chemical engineer for one of the Petro-Chemical Companies across the bay. Two fair skinned, fair-haired young children also enjoyed a late breakfast, their parents nowhere to be seen. One of the drawbacks of staying in luxury hotels is not actually spending enough time in them to fully appreciate all the amenities. Our plans included a morning swim in the recreation and gymnasium facilities across the street.

Standing at the window in our room, my mind drifting back to a different era I could imagine the sails of those elusive ‘junks’ as they plied the waters of the bay. But today’s weather interrupted my day dream. While we finished packing our bags prior to checking out, low clouds that had only threatened yesterday, unleased one of the heaviest downpours I’ve experienced here. Under a dark sky, strong winds and blowing rain – almost horizontal – our hotel windows rattled with each squall that scudded across the bay. Putting the idea of a swim aside we managed to check out and find a taxi to the bus without getting totally drenched by which time is was all over and the sun burst through again. The weather was a little more conducive to sailing – the squalls would have been a challenge – but sadly we had missed the Pre - Mayor’s Regatta.

 More Guangdong Travel Reviews
1. St Francis Xavier KEVINWARDCFC from IE Apr 25, 2006 10:04
2. Hui Lai KEVINWARDCFC from IE Apr 24, 2006 03:04
3. A blog about Shantou - it's worth a visit! MIGGYAD Nov 10, 2005 05:11
Comments (0)

Write Your Comment

You can post as a member (Login first) or a guest!

*Name: Country:

No more than 2,000 characters, please.

Send me an Email if anyone replies.

Your Reply to

You can post as a member (Login first) or a guest!

*Name: Country:

No more than 2,000 characters, please.