Beside the Seaside

06 Aug

After the rain clouds cleared on Saturday morning, the weather brightened up significantly, and everybody was keen to head to the beach at Beidaihe for a relaxing evening.

Back on the bus again, and we realised that we’d forgotten the camera about 10 seconds after pulling away, so there’s no photos until I get hold of some from other people. There was some discussion about whether we should go for the up-market “Russian” end, or slum it in the Chinese end, so the bus dropped us off half-way between the two… and then everybody decided to go to the Chinese end anyway. Typical.

A brief walk down the main road, through some of the craziest car parking you’ll ever see (some of the cars would need at least a dozen others to be moved to get them out), then we turned down towards the beach along a small street that was a bit like a British seafront on a bad acid trip…

Most of the food places have tanks at the front with all sorts of live seafood, and the first mission of the evening was to introduce the first-timers to some prime specimens of Urechis unicinctus… more commonly known as the “penis fish”, for obvious reasons. Cue much raucous shrieking and laughter, especially when one of the staff fished one out with a net and waved it suggestively.

We headed towards the beach, past groups of locals sporting the latest fashionable swimwear (latest from the 1970s, that is), and the inevitable tucked-up T-shirts to expose their bellies. The beach was packed, mostly with people standing around near the water’s edge watching the swimmers, most of whom had some form of inflatable: not much competition for Ye Shiwen here! I thought someone should show them how to swim properly, and as I was the only one who’d come prepared, it was up me. The Bohai Sea water was quite murky but not too cold (warmer than the North Sea, anyway), and it was fairly easy to get in as the water was quite shallow, just a bit of a fine gravelled ledge before it got to knee-deep. I did a bit of swimming around, trying to swallow as little as possible as I wasn’t sure how clean the water was. I haven’t died yet, so I guess it wasn’t too bad.

We headed back up the street to find somewhere to eat, and ended up where Clare had eaten last year, where there was already a couple of tables of people from our group. Not much space left in the restaurant, but we managed to squeeze in to a table in the corner. Most of the “restaurants” on this street have the same style of food: a selection of raw meat, seafood, and vegetables on skewers; you choose what you want, hand it over and pay for it, then they cook it on a big hot plate, adding some spicy sauce, and you collect it when it’s done. We had some chicken, pork (probably), some type of scallop, bits of squid, courgette, mushrooms, and a big chilli pepper; delicious, if a bit greasy. They were also doing fresh noodles, which a guy at the front of the restaurant was making, showing off by waving the dough around between his hands like a short, thick skipping rope, banging it off the table, then doing some kind of cat’s cradle manoeuvre to split it into thin noodles. We shared a bowl of them, in some kind of vegetable stock; also delicious, and very filling. I don’t think I could have managed a whole bowl by myself, after all the kebab stuff. A large beer each to wash it down with (Shanhaiguan Bull Beer, IIRC), all for a total of about £10, I think; typical inflated seaside prices.

After we’d managed to stand up, then extract ourselves from the restaurant, a group of us headed up the street in the direction of a bar that they’d been in last year, wondering at the bizarre tat that was for sale in the various gift shops. Unfortunately, amongst the 70s-style swimwear and Mr Mong Monkey “daytime pyjamas” were some less funny items: live animals. The mini jellyfish in jars weren’t that much of a concern, but the baby turtles, sold in jars that were barely bigger than them, were very unsettling. Not much we can do about it, I suppose.

The bar we were aiming for was shut, and everywhere else on the street seemed to be full of people eating, so we went back to the main road (negotiating the crazy parking again), and found a hotel/restaurant that seemed happy for us to sit and drink without eating, until it was time to get back on the bus.

As it was a Saturday night and still relatively early, we decided to go for some more drinks back in Qinhuangdao (even though it was technically a school night), and many of the group headed for Tina Turner’s bar (so called because of the proprietor’s outrageous hairstyle). I stayed on the coach back to the hotel, because my shorts were still wet; it was warm enough, but just too humid for them to dry out. Didn’t take long for me to get back to the bar, and catch up before everyone else had finished their first beer.

Along with the several beers, we were pressured into buying a plate of Chinese bar snacks by a young waitress with very good English: peanuts and edemame beans. The peanuts were still in their shells, and not dried out like we’re used to; some of the shells had liquid inside, and the nuts were much softer.

The Chinese obviously have a very different approach to children’s bedtimes: there were still families turning up to eat, with quite young children, at midnight! I’ve no idea what time the bar stayed open until: certainly later than we wanted to stay, as we had to get up for school the next morning.

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Posted by on Monday 6 August 2012 in China


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