Around the middle of May, about halfway into my study abroad program in Shanghai, I started feeling homesick for the sun, sand, and ocean waves of the California coastline. An online search yielded no results for beaches within Shanghai, so I settled on a weekend getaway to the nearby Shengsi Islands （嵊泗岛）. I booked a guesthouse, recruited 3 of my girlfriends, and set out on our island adventure.
But first, we had to find a way to get there. On the day before, I headed to 1588 Waima Road, near the Nanpu Bridge metro station. Here, there is a ticket office where you can purchase bus + boat tickets to the Shengsi Islands. They start selling tickets the day before departure, and during peak season, tickets may be sold out quickly. So, I dragged myself out of bed at 8am on a Friday morning to buy the tickets (did I mention Thursday night is the night we all go party at clubs until 3 in the morning?? Dark circles for days…). Tickets were about CNY 120 per person.
Saturday morning, we arrived at the same ticket office to ride the bus to the port.
The bus doesn’t just drive you to the edge of the mainland. It actually goes to a nearby island via a sea bridge, and from that island, you take a ferry to Shengsi. You can see the map:
We got off the bus and boarded the ferry. We were quite amused because the inside of the ferry resembled the inside of an airplane, with rows and rows of seats.
The ferry ride takes about 1.5 hours. When we landed, we were met with this sight of a huge number of Chinese tourists with matching hats on a tour group.
We were a little confused on where to go from there, but our goal was to eat lunch, so we took a bus to nearby Caiyuan Town. This is where having Chinese-speakers in your group becomes very handy. Shengsi is not a popular destination with foreigners, simply because it is not a very well-known destination at all. The process of finding a bus to take and paying fare for said bus was very confusing (the bus driver refused fare upon entry; instead, a lady walked up and down the aisle and collected money from passengers after the bus started moving).
Anyways, we got to the town, walked around, and found a seafood restaurant to eat at (not hard. There’s like 3 every block. We are on an island after all). How ordering works is like this: You pick the kind of seafood (fish, octopus, shrimp, sea snails, and uh, others), and a method of preparation (fried, boiled in soup, with different flavorings, etc.). Here is what our meal looked like:
We got an octopus dish, some clams, fish, mung beans, and a soup with fish that resembles tofu (as in it’s very soft). This was actually the first seafood meal I have had since coming to China, besides the fish heads I ate in the school cafeteria 😀
Also, we got ice cream!! I loved my watermelon popsicle. I could not find that same brand ever again anywhere else in China. *sigh*
After lunch, we headed to our guesthouse, which I booked directly with the owner, whose contact information I obtained from a friend who visited the last weekend. The guesthouse is called the Mermaid Inn, and it is kind of out in the middle of nowhere. However, the nice thing about it is that there is a free beach right across the road from it:
Unfortunately, we went in mid-May, which was about a month before the peak season. And on that particular day, it was cloudy and sort of chilly. So after frolicking around the beach, taking pictures and pretending to have fun, we headed back to our hotel.
The guesthouse owner suggested that we go on a fishing trip, so she took us to a nearby dock, where we forked over CNY 100 per person to go on a fishing boat. A little bit expensive, but we thought it would be a fun experience. And plus, we could bring home all of the fish!
There were 2 crew members on the boat: The “driver”, and another man who was on the front of the boat with us and taking care of the nets and stuff. They were speaking to each other in the local dialect, which sounds nothing like Mandarin. So we couldn’t understand them at all. But, it sounded like the “driver” was yelling at the other guy the entire time. And I know sometimes Chinese can sound yell-y but I swear this guy was taking it to a whole new level. So we thought maybe the nets guy was new and didn’t really know what to do? Or just incompetent? Who knows.
Once we were out in open waters, the crew members hauled up the huge green nets. There was basically nothing in them except for a few octopus, and like, one fish. There were some crab shells, and the crew man said that the octopus had eaten the crab in the net. DAMN YOU OCTOPUS!! I was in the mood for crab for dinner 😦
Our second haul yielded a few more octopus. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY OCTOPUS?? I ALREADY ATE OCTOPUS FOR LUNCH.
Sadly, that’s pretty much all we caught. I was hoping for more fish and crabs, and less octopus. Also, the octopus kept escaping from our bucket. Those sneaky bastards.
When we got back to the dock, we asked a passerby to take a group picture for us. He was initially like “Hm? Yeah I guess.” But as soon as we handed him the camera, he turned into some pro photographer and proceeded to pose us, take pictures from different angles, and even encouraged us to pick up a fish and hold it out for a photo. Guess who was the only one who was willing to do that.
We took our bucket back to the guesthouse, where our guesthouse owner informed us that the two men we fished with were known to be the worst fisherman in the village because they never catch a lot of fish. WTF GUESTHOUSE OWNER. WHY DID YOU NOT TELL US THAT BEFORE.
We handed our fish/octopus/weird eel to the guesthouse owner, and she offered to cook it for dinner. Meanwhile, she got us a driver to take us to a temple on top of the mountain, which we saw on the way to the guesthouse.
This temple is, aesthetically, my favorite out of all the ones I’ve seen in China! The detail is amazing and the colors are so rich. And, it’s located on top of a mountain with a sweet view of the ocean!
However, I heard that the monks here are “fake”, in the sense that they moved to the island to become a monk, and pretend to be spiritual while living off of the donations of the town residents. Some of the “monks” even have families elsewhere. what.
We headed back to the guesthouse. Dinner was ready, prepared by the owner herself, with our catch from the fishing trip supplemented by produce she already had on -hand. I really like this small guesthouse-style accommodation where we can eat with and get to know the owner 🙂 And it feels good to eat the fruits of our labor from our fishing trip! (LOL jokes. We didn’t even do anything. We just sat on the boat and watched the crew members catch fish for us. But let’s pretend.)
I am so sick of eating octopus though.
After dinner, the guesthouse owner took us to a nearby street where street vendors set up. During peak season (aka summer), all of the stalls are open. But now, only a select few are open for business.
Bonnie and I tried grilled oyster. She had hers plain while mine got drizzled with green onion and some sauce. It was ok. I think I prefer raw oysters 😀
The next morning, we woke up, had breakfast at the guesthouse, and our driver took us to a scenic spot on top of the mountain. HOWEVER, it was super cloudy/foggy that day, and we literally could not see anything. Sad.
We had some time to kill before our boat left, so we asked the driver to take us to a cafe in the town instead, where we enjoyed some coffee for a few hours before heading back to get our stuff and take the ferry back to Shanghai.
Overall, I really enjoyed our “island getaway” to the Shengsi Islands! Here are some tips if you are thinking about coming though:
- We went a few weeks before “peak-season” and there weren’t that many people there. Which was very relaxing! But, it also meant that a lot of stuff was closed.
- This isn’t the kind of place with lots of things to do, and more like the kind of place where you go to relax and take it easy.
- Because of this, I recommend coming for 2+ days. You end up wasting a lot of time on transit with the metro + bus + boat…
- Check the weather before you go dude! There is like nothing to do in bad weather.
- By the way, “Shengsi” is the name of the island chain; I think this is the biggest or most populated island. I forgot what the name of this island was but the boat to “Shengsi” takes you to this island. It is possible to visit other islands, but you’ll have to find your way there yourself.
To end this post, I offer you some BONUS PICS of the dinner we had when we got back to Shanghai! (from a restaurant called Nanjing Impressions in Wujiaochang)