A Birthday Trip to the Beach

I’ve been pretty lucky to be only 24 and to have had birthdays in so many different places. 16 in San Francisco , 19 in London , 22 in Shanghai , 23 in Laos , 24 in Shanghai again. I’m pretty sure there have been some other birthdays around places in the U.S.A but its been lost to the mists of time.

This year in Shanghai I wanted a beach. And a beach I would get! Hardily scouring the internet for clues, I decided on Changxing island. Jinshan beach was last week. I wanted a new adventure. There is quite a dearth of English language information available on Shanghai’s northern islands but I found a site that was promoting some good beaches with pictures of smiley happy people enjoying the sun. Sounds good, right? I ignored the more commonly gone to island (Chongming Island) that actually has some articles (in English *gasp*) on it, and a developed infrastructure in favor of the wildcard Changxing.

Let’s Go!

Maybe the first warning indicator was waiting for the island suburban bus line outside of the Science and Technology Museum in Pudong. Pretty much everyone was staring at the two white people waiting for the bus. I imagine much of the conversation involved “What the hell are these two idiots thinking?!?” “What could they possibly be doing in this line?” It’s gotta be a mistake , I tell ya!”

I was pretty excited at this point. I’ve been meaning to visit the islands for a long time now. It’s the only district of Shanghai I haven’t been to yet. I’m a nerd like that. Gotta collect em’ all!

Before October 31st , 2009 , the islands were only accessible via ferry. Now a 25.5 km (15.8 mi) tunnel bridge complex exists. Take the 8.9 kilometer (5.5 mi) tunnel from Shanghai’s Pudong district to Southern Changxing island and then bridge over to Chongming. Eventually the city plans to connect the islands into the metro system. As one can imagine , the opening of the tunnel and bridge have jump started developments on the islands. This all fit into my imaginings of the new beach resorts I had seen on the internet.

Emerging from the tunnel onto land, we were greeted by towering apartment construction zones and other signs of development. As the bus pulled into the station we greeted by another beast -touts. Holy Guacamole! The bus hadn’t even opened the doors yet and people were slamming into the sides of the bus , trying to shout through the closed windows , offering the “best” price for wherever it was you wanted to go on the island. If you aren’t used to this kind of thing it can be extremely intimidating. Add the fact that we were foreigners and the tout’s excitement level were up tenfold.

We found a guy who said he knew where the beach was and would take us there for 20rmb. We hop in his car and we speed off in search of our destination. By speed , I really do mean speed. This guy was laying on the horn and the gas pedal the entirety of our trip. Seeing as we didn’t crash, I’d say the trip was worth the 20rmb of pure adrenaline we had flowing through our veins.

We passed through a pleasant shaded street lined with large pine trees and people fishing in a street next to the road. We emerged from the wooded zone out into a small street with a stunning vista of … huh The Bridge to Chongming Island?? This was warning sign number 2. Um ok , interesting location of the beach but whatever. Look at the architecture of that bridge! One helluva bridge!

We get dropped and and go over to the wall separating the road from the beach and we are rewarded with a rocky coastline , brown muddy water , and not a speck of sand in sight.

“Driver!” “This can’t be!” “Where is the beach??”

“Trust me , this is it.” “It’s like this all over the island.” “Well ,call me when you want to be picked up!” *speeds away*

“Oh hell guys! , please don’t hate me!” “The net said there were beaches here!”

Off the distance we see a little break wall stretching out into the water and it looks like people are in the water.

“It’s gotta be over there!” Says I , hope pretty much drained out.

We get to the break wall and indeed there are a good 12 or so people playing in the water. This is where the final warning sign comes , in the form of a warning sign.

“Hmm , the Chinese characters here say “Dangerous , do not go swimming in the water”. “Screw it , it looks like they are having fun and we came all this way”.

We hop down the wall and I step onto the muddy surface next to the break wall and immediately feel vindicated , “It’s not mud!” It’s sand!”

After about 10 minutes of wading in the water , being careful not to go past knee deep we decide that perhaps the trip is salveagable if the driver will take us across the bridge to Chongming Island and we can chill out at the national forest park or the wetlands park there.

My girlfriend calls the driver and hearing her response to his price , “What! You want how much just to go over a bridge?!?!” we scrap the plan and hightail it back to the bus station and make a beeline back to the comforts of the city.

Back at home , I re-checked that Changxing Island tourism website and after 15 minutes finally found the info I was looking for – Changxing Island , Dalian (Dalian being a northern Chinese city) – this little nugget of information being conveniently hidden in tiny print in the corner . Great.
To wrap things up for everybody :

1. Don’t go to Changxing Island , just don’t.
2. Aimee and Laura , you gals are awesome! Lesser folk would have murdered me for much less.
3. Chinese internet sites aren’t the best designed. Be careful everyone or you may end up like me!

Next time , follow my misadventures as I searches for fun places!

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