Jun 28, 2008

Coastal carousing

We did a weekend trip recently out to the coast near Beidaihe to a lesser-known beach in Liaoning province called Jieshi (碣石), which is part of Huludao.

The pluses, compared to Beidaihe, are that it's almost completely free of tourists, cheaper, and cleaner. The negatives are that there's not much infrastructure at all in terms of places to stay, places to eat, entertainment, and the beaches aren't maintained for swimming. Since I'm no fan of huge crowds like there are at Beidaihe, I'd come back to this place again.

We joined up with a group of youths on a craiglist-like Chinese web site where people organize activities and look for people to join in. In total, there were three cars of youths. We'd been out with activities posted on this particular site before. The common feature is that the organizers of these events are in love with walkie-talkies. Every car absolutely must take a transceiver with them and constantly give status updates. The drive out and back was filled with non-stop, repetitious drivel. There were times I had to really fight the urge to chuck the walkie-talkie out the window. Apparently it's impossible to drive a hundred miles on an expressway without being in constant contact with people in other cars.

Now for some pictures.

This is the small offshore rock formation from which Jieshi gets its name. From what I could judge in Google Earth, it's about 800 meters offshore.

These two hairless guys thought it would be a neat idea to row out to the rock formation in a $40 blow up raft from Wal-Mart. I'm happy to say they made it out and back in a little over an hour and a half, no injuries or other loss of life. It's not a trip I would have recommended for them, considering: we had no clue as to what currents or rip tides were lurking 800 meters off shore, the water temperature was cold enough that you'd go hypothermic after a while without a wet suit, no one from the shore can see you once you're 500 meters away since there's so much haze, and last but not least, from what I saw, these two guys could swim 100 meters in a calm indoor pool, let alone 800 meters in open water with waves and currents. Let's just say they're fortunate their sturdy toy boat made it there and back without deflating.

Here's a local woman picking up scraps of seaweed from the beach, either to eat or to sell, I'm not sure. Looks like she done got a big bag o' loot there already.

Here's a pissed off crab I scooped out from the water without him pinching me. Notice the defensive posture and aggressive stance. Don't worry, we released him back into the wild after observing his habits.

Some local youths near the hotel we stayed at, loafing on the remains of an old fishing boat.

A rice paddy with a binjo ditch nearby, about one click from the beach.

A Chinese breakfast at our guesthouse. From left to right:
  • mantou
  • cucumber salad
  • hard boiled eggs
  • red fermented tofu (I think)
  • some other kind of cold salad
  • cold tofu
  • soupy rice porridge (xi fan)
Notice the lack of donuts, Frosted Flakes, Honeycomb, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, grapefruit, bacon, toast, or coffee. Actually, note the absence of any type of beverage. I've learned over the years to pack some instant coffee or tea bags for a breakfast beverage when eating outside of the tier-1 cities in China. Forget to bring that stuff and you're left sucking down the cloudy juice on the surface of your rice porridge, or even worse, soy-milk!

Here's one thing I could definitely have eaten more of. It's a Chinese Jonnycake. The only improvement they could have made would have been to provide some warm syrup to douse it with. The Chinese Jonnycake is much preferred over the essentially flavorless mantou.

Some of the event organizers went to a local seafood market in the afternoon to load up on oysters, crabs, and other assorted goodies. Here's someone roasting huge whole oysters over a makeshift grill. These were pretty good. As basic as the recipe is, I can't say I've had oysters cooked this way before. Not bad at all.

Wider view of the makeshift grill:

Here's the whole gang of Chinese craiglist activity buddies at a pit stop somewhere between Beijing and Huludao.

One of the things I saw on this trip that I didn't take a picture of was at one of the toll stations on the outskirts of Beijing. There was a little hut containing a few paramilitary police with submachine guns searching any cars with non-Beijing license plates. They spent time scrutinizing the identity cards of the drivers. The police also boarded incoming passenger buses and collected all the identity cards of the passengers for analysis before letting the bus go. Pretty neat.


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