Saturday, June 6: This morning, I wake up in Mari’s apartment to the steady drizzle of rain and a foggy view of Beibu Gulf. Mari has a busy day planned for us, and the forecast actually doesn’t call for much rain, so I’m hoping it will clear before we get underway.
We head out of her apartment building to go to the fancy hotel next door (the name of which I’ve now forgotten) for brunch. Just as we step out, we are caught in a deluge and we find ourselves wading through water over our ankles. We walk for a bit, but then we decide we should return to the apartment and wait until the rain eases a bit. We do that and, after having a cup of coffee, we head out again to brave the elements.
The hotel is lovely and the brunch spread is fabulous. As her company has a special deal arranged with the hotel, we get quite a discount on the brunch. We even run into a couple of her colleagues in the restaurant.
After breakfast, her driver takes us to the pearl and dried fish market. The two markets are in one building, the pearls on the top floor and the fish on the bottom.
Beihai City is famous for pearls, especially southern pearls, and it has a nickname, Zhuxiang (the hometown of pearls). Southern pearls, likewise, have many varieties, among which Lian pearls produced in Hepu County are considered to be superb (China Highlights: Beihai Travel Guide).
According to China Travel Guide: Beihai Shopping, the genuine pearls from Beihai are called ‘Nanzhu’ (southern pearl): They are famous for their characteristics of dignity and burliness, roundness and smoothness, and a dazzling crystal luster. It is a must-have regional souvenir in Beihai, and it is often said that ‘the eastern pearl is not as good as the western pearl, and the western pearl is not as good as the southern pearl’.
I end up buying a lot of pearl earrings and a necklace, and Mari buys several pairs of earrings; we have fun trying to talk down the vendors, without much success. That doesn’t stop us from buying, however. 🙂
After our pearl buying, we walk downstairs to the dried fish market, where we wander around and chat with some of the vendors.
After we leave the markets, the driver takes us to Beibuwan Square. It’s an ordinary square, but it’s know for being quite active. Mari tells me that usually people are here dancing, singing, and relaxing, but today it’s quiet, possibly because it’s been raining off and on all morning. We do stop at Beihai’s only McDonald’s for a drink and an ice cream. 🙂
The fountain in the square is quite interesting, with statues of mermaids and a sea god, possibly Neptune, in the pool.
There are also some nice bonsai trees around the perimeter.
Once we leave Beibuwan Square, we head next to the Beihai Golden Bay Mangrove Ecotourism Region.