Out of Towner is a regular column that aims to help people get the most out of their PRD experience by proposing fun excursions that can be made over the course of one weekend to explore the local culture and nature of the region.
Tucked away in the southernmost part of Guangxi, Beihai began as a fishing village built by the Tanka people. Formerly part of neighboring Guangdong, the city is home to a population of roughly 2 million, most of whom speak Cantonese and lianzhouhua (local dialect), as well as Hakka.
As a coastal city facing the Gulf of Tonkin, the air here is exceptional when compared to many other cities in the PRC. In 2016, Beihai became one of the 127 ‘characteristic towns’ of China, joining a list of places with ‘unique appeal’ that the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development agreed to further develop. While Beihai, meaning ‘north of the sea,’ has its undeniable charms, we’re far more enamored with its neighboring island of Weizhou. Here, we give you the sights and tastes of this lesser-known island (for Guangdongren, anyway).
Weizhou Island. Image via Mafengwo
To the south of Beihai and east of Vietnam lies the volcanic island of Weizhou. Reputedly the youngest island of its type in China, it boasts a unique volcanic landscape and is home to a diverse collection of bird species. On the island you can visit Eryushan National Geopark, which showcases a beautiful array of volcanic rock, coral and sea creatures, among other exhibits.
A display at Beihai National Volcanic Geopark Museum. Image via Mafengwo
Another popular spot, for amateur and professional photographers alike, is ‘five color’ beach, which beckons tourists with its aesthetically pleasing rock formations that hug the shoreline. On the west of the island, visitors can catch one of China’s most sublime sunsets. Before leaving, be sure to pay a visit to one of Weizhou’s historic landmarks: Shengtang Catholic Church, which was built by French worshippers in the mid-1800s.
Shengtang Catholic Church. Image via Mafengwo
Riding the ferry to the island costs between RMB120-180, while entrance tickets are priced at RMB110.
A girl drives a scooter on the island. Image via Mafengwo
On Weizhou, biking or riding an electric scooter (RMB60-80 per day) appeals to many tourists, us included. It’s a practical, fun and convenient way to get around on the island.
If you don’t like seafood, Weizhou probably isn’t your dream destination. Here, seafood items, most notably sea cucumbers and giant prawns, are available throughout the year and are a mainstay at restaurants and hotels across the island.
South Bay Seafood Market. Image via Mafengwo
To get in on the action, we recommend checking out the South Bay seafood market, where you can peruse the daily catch and purchase fish or crustaceans to cook up yourself. Prices vary, and are dependent on the ‘rarity’ of the aquatic item that catches your eye.
If cooking while on vacation isn’t your thing, cheap seafood barbecue joints can be found after dark near the seafood market, or at Shiluokou.
A guest room at the Beihai Aegean Sea Resort Hotel. Image via Mafengwo
For those looking to fully embrace the island vibes, we recommend setting up shop at one of the island’s few hostels. Otherwise, chill out on the mainland at Beihai Aegean Sea Resort Hotel.
As with elsewhere in China, be sure that you book in advance if you’re planning on coming during the holidays, as the island is a popular tourist destination during the high season.
How to get there:
From Shenzhen: Take a fast train from Shenzhen North Railway Station to Nanning East Station (RMB243, second class; RMB368, first class). From there, transfer to Beihai Station (RMB52, second class; RMB82, first class).
From Guangzhou: Take a fast train from Guangzhou South Railway Station to Beihai Station (RMB226, second class; RMB362, first class).
For more Out of Towner, click here.
[Cover image via Mafengwo]