Relaxation is the key to this ancient city, blessed with perfect weather year round, pristine beaches, fruits of the sea and abundant with natural beauty.
In the evening locals congregate along the beach and set up barbecues, adding to the potpourri of ad hoc stalls and restaurants. Toasts and laughter sing out and there’s a party atmosphere every night.
Beihai is blessed with silver sanded shores and balmy year-round temperatures. Surrounded on three sides by the blue waters of the Beibu Gulf and ensconced in a garden of natural delights, locals have learned to live in the present. It’s an attitude that permeates the tree-lined city and lulls the visitor into an appreciation of the art of taking each day as it comes.
While relaxation is a must, there’s also oodles to see and experience in the port city and its environs, including an adventure to the volcanic island of Wenzhou. A convenient one-hour boat ride from the mainland, the verdant isle is best explored by bicycle or motorbike, which can be hired locally.
The Pilgrim’s Progress
Bear witness to the exotic lava formations that flowed into the sea and were eroded by the tides; discover the island’s Catholic legacy and gothic cathedral in Shengtang village, partly made of coral sedimentary rock in the mid-19th century; or visit Sam Po Temple, originally built in 1732 and still a place of pilgrimage for local fishermen.
Alternatively, just enjoy downtime and serendipitously find a beach with a restaurant where you can select seafood straight from the boats anchored in the bay. The island is a magnet for divers in search of coral forests under the sea and a stunning variety of marine life. Glass bottom boats are available for hire for those who don’t want to get their feet wet.
First Class All The Way
Guests at Shangri-La Hotel, Beihai are provided first-class access to the island. Queries can be made with the Horizon Club purser who will organise the trip to Weizhou and the smaller island of Xieyang, or “Slanting Sun,” which is famed for its sunsets and known as a botanical wonderland that is home to an impressive variety of birdlife.
No visit to Beihai would be complete without a visit to the internationally famed quartz-grain sands of Silver Beach, which dazzles in the afternoon sun and stretches out its welcoming arms for 22km. While the gently shelving beach is not for surfers in search of huge waves, it is perfect for swimming, windsailing, motorboats and other water sports. In the evening locals congregate along the beach and set up barbecues, adding to the potpourri of ad hoc stalls and restaurants. Toasts and laughter sing out and there’s a party atmosphere every night.
Seafood is of course one of the main attractions of Beihai and its clams, baby oysters, sea cucumbers and specialty fish like heijiaola and mannian are must-tries, along with the locally caught king prawns. For the serious epicure, there are sand worms, which are from 5 to 10cm long and are typically cleaned, dried out in the sun, steamed, deep-fried or even prepared sushi style. They’re surprisingly good! The city is also renowned for its free-range roasted chicken, rice noodles and a cornucopia of fruit, including longan from nearby Hepu County and the Jizhu lychee.
Perfect for Pottering Around
Another treat for the adventurous is rowing around in plastic dinghies in Shankou Mangrove nature reserve, which is a UNESCO-protected region. Alternatively, perfect your swing and hone your putting at two international standard 18-hole golf courses, sequestered in either a national forest park or with stunning seascapes.
It’s easy and convenient to potter around in Beihai as the traffic is light and the terrain flat for cycling. One of the favourite destinations for tourists and locals alike is Old Town, a long, broad arcade that features a mix of architecture dating back to the late 19th century when European nations set up a treaty port and established businesses in the area. Another colourful aspect of Beihai life are the “sea gypsies” who live in boats off the coast.
Shangri-La Hotel, Beihai is just a 10 to 15 minute walk from both Old Street and downtown, making it an ideal location to explore the city and its myriad attractions. It overlooks the Beibu Gulf and has a charmingly landscaped swimming pool overlooking the sea, providing a perfect place to languish and ponder the next treat on your itinerary in this ancient city on the Maritime Silk Road.