Fill your heart with peace and tenderness in your encounter with Beihai.
A stroll on Silver Beach will get your feet acquainted with its fine pearl-white sand.
The clean, salty tang of sea breeze, often a familiar scent on your typical seaside holiday, welcomes every visitor who touches ground at the Beihai airport. However, there is nothing typical about this charming vacation town, which made a name for itself when it was selected as one of China’s most liveable cities in 2005.
Guaranteed to make your trip to Beihai an unforgettable journey is none other than Shangri-La Hotel, Beihai. The hotel staff’s warm smiles and impeccable service offer a glimpse into the kindness and dedication on which Beihai prides itself – a fruit platter on the room’s table and a fragrant rose in front of the bathroom mirror are sweet and considerate little things that make guests feel like home. Beihai’s crown jewel, Silver Beach, is but a short distance away. Looking out of the windows of the sea-facing guestrooms, you will cast off the stress of city life and find a deeply peaceful state of mind in this coastal retreat.
Away from Humdrum
Beihai rose to historic importance because of its strategic location. Before it became the vacation paradise we know today, it used to be an important departure port of the “Maritime Silk Road” in ancient China. Fast forward to modern days, the Guangxi city still plays a significant role in China’s export to Southeast Asian countries. Beihai’s titles and location aside, a trip here ensues breathtaking sea views and landscape, and so much more.
While Beihai might not be as modern as other holiday destinations in China, it is a town of rustic charm and within the city limits is ample evidence of its rich history from its colonial days. You can somehow see the city’s past from the colonial-era buildings in the Old Quarter (or Laojie, literally “Old Street”), each being a history book with interesting stories to tell. Today, those streets are mostly filled with quirky souvenir shops, but one can’t help but wonder what gloriously bustling lives the Beihai people used to lead, surely a far cry from the peaceful, slow pace the locals seem to enjoy now.
Of course, a stroll on Silver Beach will get your feet acquainted with its fine pearl-white sand. However, if you’re not the type to spend a whole day at the beach, try to wander off the beaten path and don’t miss the chance to interact with the locals. While visitors find Beihai a powerful antidote to bustling city life, its residents take pride in making their hometown a welcoming place for travellers looking for a relaxing break. Many are friendly enough to show you around and introduce you to the pleasure of finding your way amid the city’s crisscrossing streets and even the hidden gems off the shores of Beihai.
The waters of the Gulf of Beibu are dotted with a few volcanic islands; among them, Xieyang (which means “the setting sun”), formed by the accumulation of solidified lava, is an excellent first foray into Beihai’s offshore offerings. Prolonged erosion over thousands of years gave this isle rugged, steep cliffs and an incredibly beautiful bay where you can swim and enjoy the scenery. Currently, it is home to about 30 permanent inhabitants who get electricity for only five hours a day from a generator, but tourism on this rustic island has just begun to take off and Xieyang’s natural beauty will secure its future as the area’s favourite destination. If you are keen to experience local life, visit with the island’s residents and go fishing with them.
Northwest of Xieyang, another island lies in the horizon and is only half an hour away by boat. Weizhou is China’s biggest volcanic island and its unique formation propelled it to National Geological Park status. The island is bigger and busier than its sister Xieyang in every way, but is nonetheless a dreamy and serene place – with maple trees planted everywhere on the island, autumn turns the summer’s green foliage into a brilliant sea of yellow and red leaves dancing in the wind, contrasting the surrounding turquoise waters. Aside from the geological and natural wonders, the streets of Weizhou, much like Beihai’s Old Quarter, retains its charm from colonial times. Several Catholic churches have stood the test of time and are still very much intact more than a century after they were built.
If you want a real release from busy city life, go and encounter lovely Beihai, not only as a tourist, but also to enjoy the countryside views or romantic island feelings, to talk to locals who aren’t shy about opening their hearts or to swing in a hammock in a famer’s backyard.
- Beihai can get quite hot from as early as 8 o’clock in summer mornings. It usually cools down noticeably in late evening. Be sure to apply sunscreen and carry water wherever you go.
- Dodge the afternoon heat by taking a dip in the hotel’s beautiful seaside pool or enjoying a delightful afternoon tea.
- Hire a driver or a guide to make sightseeing in Beihai a breeze – with some planning, most sights around the city can be seen in a day or two.
- Most taxis are not metered, so cab fare is negotiated based on your destination.
- Island hopping is a great way to get the best out of Beihai, with Weizhou and Xieyang islands easily topping your list.
- A visit to Weizhou requires a ticket and, once you’re on the island, rent some form of vehicle (or hire a driver). It’s too big an island to explore on foot.