Weizhou Island

weizhou island: multicolored beach, catholic cathedral, and return to nanning

Sunday, June 7:  After talking with Sam, the English-speaking Chinese guy from the ferry, my driver begrudgingly takes me to the east side of the island to see Multicolored/Colorful Beach (五彩滩景区;WǔCàiTānJǐngQū), a volcanic stone beach.

map of Weizhou Island

map of Weizhou Island

I have to walk down a long paved path lined with food and souvenir vendors, but I finally reach the stone beach. Luckily it isn’t very crowded.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach on Weizhou Island

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Cliffs at Multicolored/Colorful Beach

seaweed at the lava beach

seaweed at the lava beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

looking east at Multicolored Beach

The view is not that interesting until I look to the north, where the beach opens before me like a multi-textured moss-covered carpet of lava.

lava beach

lava beach

I find a young family sitting on the stones under an umbrella.

a day on the lava beach

a day on the lava beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

I love all the moss and lichens, and the shapes and textures of the lava beach.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

It’s very peaceful here, and I wish now I had known about this place from the beginning. I could have spent a lot more time exploring.  As it is, my time is running out, and I can’t stay too long.

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

lava beach on Weizhou Island

lava beach on Weizhou Island

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is by far my favorite place on Weizhou Island, and I can thank Sam for that.  Finally, I’ve discovered a hauntingly surreal landscape that is unexpectedly delightful.

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

moss & lava

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

This is the kind of place I could explore for hours.

lava flow

lava flow

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

Multicolored/Colorful Beach

The minutes are speeding by, so I head back up the long paved path to rejoin my driver.  Sam had earlier told me that the driver wanted to take me to the Catholic Cathedral in Shèngtáng.  We head off through the banana plantations to the village, also on the east side of the island.  The Cathedral is in the center of the village, surrounded by a bustling food and souvenir market. When I get out of the motor tricycle, I head around to the back of the Cathedral, where I run into this beautiful couple having their photos taken by a professional photographer.  They don’t mind me taking a couple of pictures of them.

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

Chinese bride and groom at the Catholic Cathedral

The Catholic Cathedral was built over a decade in 1853 by French missionaries. It is a neo-Gothic style and is made of coral sedimentary rocks from the sea bottom (Wikitravel: Weizhou).  I’m happy to find the grounds are well-maintained.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside, more brides and grooms are having their photos taken. I can’t help but wonder how many, if any of them, are actually Catholic.

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Inside Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Bride and groom at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

altar at Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Finally, I go out into the street and take some pictures of the facade of the Cathedral.  I’m looking all around for my driver, and I find him at a corner restaurant slurping down some noodles.  I guess the poor guy had to eat some lunch since I never wanted to stop for lunch.  I grab myself a small snack of some chips and a drink and we sit and watch the busy life in the village.

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

Catholic Cathedral, Shèngtáng

At last, we’re on our way back to the ferry, where I bid adieu to the driver and immediately board.  The skies are darkening and the wind is picking up, which could delay or even cancel the ferry’s departure.

heading back to the ferry

heading back to the ferry

boats at bay

boats at bay

the ferry under ominous skies

the ferry under ominous skies

The ferry

The ferry

For some reason, our departure is delayed.  I am fretting as the skies are so ominous.  After about 15 minutes of waiting without being able to understand the announcements, I text Sam: “Hi Sam, do you know what is the delay with the ferry?”  He texts back, “The ferry will go after the storm stopped.”  I write back: “Oh no!”  He says: “Maybe in 20 mins.”  Sure enough, in 20 minutes, the ferry blows its horn and we chug out into the sea. Sam writes, “Here we go now!  We will arrive at Beihai around 16:30.”  Strangely enough, the sea is not as rough as it was this morning, and no one seems to be getting sick. I wonder if it’s because I’m now on the bottom level of the ferry, which may be more stable than the top-level, where I sat on the voyage to the island.

Meanwhile, I’ve texted Mari’s driver and let him know of our delay.  Luckily, when I arrive at the ferry terminal in Beihai at around 4:30, he’s waiting for me.  I hop in his car, and he drives me back to Nanning.  It takes us four hours to get back because of heavy traffic in various spots, so it’s after 8:30 pm when I arrive back at my apartment. I feel bad for the poor driver, who now has to drive back to Beihai at this late hour.  After he drops me, I text him, “Thank you for all your hard work driving!  I’m sorry you have to drive back to Beihai tonight!” I know he can read some version of my message because he has a translation app on his phone.  He writes back: “Don’t mention it should be.” Even though we had very little communication between us, I deeply appreciated this kind and dependable man. 🙂

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Categories: Asia, Beihai, Catholic Cathedral, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Mulitcolored/Colorful Beach, Shèngtáng, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

weizhou island: a wild boat ride past crocodile hill, a visit to sanpo temple, and a stop at the sad shiluokou beach

Sunday, June 7:  After we leave the Saint Maria Church, my motor tricycle driver takes me to Nanwan (South Bay), a natural bay formed after a major volcanic eruption.  It opens to the south with cliffs on the sides.   The driver wants me to take a boat ride out into the bay and around Crocodile Hill.  He deposits me at a table under a covered awning beside a derelict abandoned bus.  I think people are living in the bus, or possibly using it as an office, as they are coming in and out of the bus as I’m waiting.

an abandoned bus, used for who knows what

an abandoned bus, used for who knows what

A man wearing an Asian conical hat, called dǒulì (斗笠), literally meaning a “one-dǒu bamboo hat,” is sitting at the table as I wait.  I don’t know exactly what we’re waiting for, possibly for more people to arrive to fill up the boat.  (Wikipedia: Asian Conical Hat)

my boat captain

my boat captain

However, after waiting about 10 minutes, the man, who turns out to be my boat captain, motions for me to follow him out to the beach, where I get into his boat.  There are no other people, it’s just the captain and me.

the disheveled beach

the disheveled beach

the beach near Crocodile Hill

the beach near Crocodile Hill

walking down to the boat

walking down to the boat

following the captain

following the captain

One of the captain’s friends gives us a shove off into the bay.

pushing off

pushing off

As we head into the bay, we pass all sorts of fishing boats anchored in the waters.  To the west, I can see Crocodile Hill and its lighthouse.

first view of Crocodile Hill

first view of Crocodile Hill

boats in the bay

boats in the bay

We pass by a cultured pearl farm in the bay.  China has a long and rich history in pearls coming from saltwater oysters and freshwater mussels. Hepu and Behai regions had active marine pearl fisheries as early as the Han dynasty in the 3rd century AD, according to United Nations University | Our World| China’s Pearl Industry: An Indicator of Ecological Stress.

the Beihai pearl farm

Weizhou pearl farm

home of Beihai pearls

home of Beihai’s famous pearls

After passing the sprawling pearl farm, the driver takes the boat close to where rough waves are pounding against the volcanic lava cliffs of Crocodile Hill (鳄鱼山景区; ÈYúShānJǐngQū).  We can see Chinese people are walking along the edges of Crocodile Hill, which be reached either by walking or by taking a shuttle bus leaving from the Volcanic Geological Museum (¥20/trip).  At first, I’m under the impression that the boat captain is going to drop me off at Crocodile Hill to follow the circular walk,  which is partially on wooden steps and planks and starts and ends at Crocodile Pharos.  However, I soon find I’m mistaken as there is no way to access the rough lava cliffs from the sea that is smashing relentlessly against the rocks.

Apparently the walkway “passes by the Seaview Pavilion, the Statue of Tang Xianzu, a volcanic vent, the Marine Pit, Canggui Cave, the Pirate Cave (Zeilao Cave), the sea arch, the Moon Bay, the Fall-In-Love-On-Weizhou-Island spot, coral sedimentary rocks, the Lover Bridge, the Moon Plaza, and the Sea Pier as well as craters and tree fossils” (WikiTravel: Weizhou).

The only thing I can see is a lighthouse and the walkway on the fringes of the hill, along with some of the lava caves along the shore.

lighthouse at Crocodile Hill

lighthouse at Crocodile Hill

lava cliffs at Crocodile Hill

lava cliffs at Crocodile Hill

While we are bobbing around in the sea near the cliffs, the captain is yelling over the noise of the wind and waves and making arm motions that look like a volcano erupting.  To indicate that I get the general gist of what he’s saying, I nod and smile and mimic a volcanic eruption right back at him!

After being tossed about by the waves for some time, I holler to the captain that I want to go back to the shore.  He can hardly hear me over the sound of the wind and the waves crashing against the rocks.  He keeps doing the volcanic eruption motions.  At this point, I’ve had enough.  I really want to go back to shore, so I point dramatically back toward the beach.  We must look hilarious to passers-by, with him doing his volcanic eruptions and me motioning  frantically toward the shore.

heading back to shore

heading back to shore

Finally, we’re heading back.  We pass by the cultured pearl farm, passenger boats motoring out into the bay, and some pearl divers.

the pearl buoys again

the pearl buoys again

a boat full of hardy souls

a boat full of hardy souls

divers

pearl divers

Now that I know we’re heading back, I can relax a bit.  I jump back and forth on the boat taking pictures from either side.

The captain deposits me on the shore and I walk up to meet my driver.  After hopping into the motor tricycle, the driver takes me to what is obviously a diving center.  I see it costs nearly 400 yuan to go diving.  I don’t want to do this as I don’t have enough time, and even if I did, I wouldn’t want to spend that much money!  I shake my head that no, I don’t want to go diving, and the driver grudgingly continues on his way.  Next, he takes me to the nearby fishing village and tries to drop me at a nice restaurant.  I shake my head, no!  I don’t have time to eat a big lunch at a fancy restaurant.  My time on Weizhou is limited and I’d just like to stop and grab a quick bite somewhere. Obviously, the driver would get some kind of kick-back if I went diving or ate a fancy and expensive lunch, but he’s not going to get it today with me as a passenger!

The driver shakes his head and takes me next to Sanpo Temple.

Sanpo Temple is also known as Tianhou Temple. “After it collapsed due to landslides, it was rebuilt a few years ago. The former temple was built in 1732 to chase away the evil and bring peace to the island. Local fisherman still come to the temple to pray for good luck, a good catch and a safe homecoming from the sea” (WikiTravel: Weizhou).

entrance to Sanpo Temple

entrance to Sanpo Temple

I like the dragons on the pillars and the colorful banners inside the temple.

dragon pillars

dragon pillars

inside Sanpo Temple

inside Sanpo Temple

colorful banners on the ceiling in Sanpo Temple

colorful banners on the ceiling in Sanpo Temple

colorful banners laid out on a table

colorful banners laid out on a table

lantern

lantern

Outside, I find a tree of wishes, or tree of good luck.  People are busily putting their wishes, complete with yin and yang symbols, on the tree.  According to Wikipedia, yin and yang in Chinese philosophy “describes how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, connected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Many tangible dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.”

a tangle of wishes

a tangle of wishes

the good luck tree

the good luck tree

Inside the temple are a lot of wise characters lining the walls.

I meet the driver outside the temple and we’re on our way again.  We stop at a marker for Weizhou Island.

Weizhou Island marker

Weizhou Island marker

After a quick stop at the marker, we take off through the banana plantations, which are found beside roads all over the island. Besides seafood, bananas are the most important goods produced on Weizhou.

Our next stop is at Shiluokou (石螺口景区; ShīLuòKǒuJǐngQū) on the western coast of the island. According to WikiTravel: Weizhou, the beach’s “long sand beach, clear water and its coral reefs make it the most famous beach on Weizhou.  On its managed beach are deck chairs, cold beverages, seafood BBQ and water sports available.”  The beach might be nice on a sunny day, but it seems very sad today.

a sad little beach - looking north

a sad little beach – looking north

looking south at the beach

looking south at the beach

boats and jet skis

boats and jet skis

umbrellas for sunny days

umbrellas for sunny days

I don’t see that there is much to do on this beach, as it’s pretty deserted and the weather isn’t nice.  I feel like I’m missing the highlights of Weizhou, as some of my colleagues told me there were some wonderful beaches here.  I can’t say I’ve seen any truly beautiful beaches.  I don’t know how to communicate what I want to see to my driver, and I feel he has an ulterior motive to take me places where he can get a kickback.  Then I remember the nice Chinese guy from the ferry who helped me so much and whose phone number I have.  I give him a call and try to describe to him that I want to see some of the beautiful beaches here.  He suggests that I might want to see the lava beach, called Multicolored/Colorful Beach, on the east coast of the island.  He tells me many tourists enjoy this beach.  I ask him to explain to my driver that I’d like to go to this beach and that I must be back at the ferry at 2:00 to catch the 3:00 ferry back to Beihai.  He explains all of this to my driver, and then we’re off through the banana plantations to the east side of the island. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beihai, China, Crocodile Hill, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanwan, Sanpo Temple, Shiluokou, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

a foggy morning on beibu gulf, a ferry ride to weizhou island & a visit to saint maria church

Sunday, June 7:  I wake up early to a dreary morning and I worry that the ferry to Weizhou Island will be canceled.  The island is located 21 nautical miles south of Beihai City in the Gulf of Tonkin, an arm of the South China Sea.  The ferry was canceled yesterday because of inclement weather, so I expect it may be the same today.  That would be a disappointment, as I don’t have much time left in China and this is my last opportunity to see it.

Yesterday, Mari and her driver and I dropped by the ferry terminal to check on today’s ferry.  There was a helpful guy working in the terminal who could speak excellent English.  He gave me his phone number, so this morning I call him to check on the status.  He tells me the ferry is still planning to go to the island and he gives me instructions on how to get the ticket he’s reserved for me.

I pack up all my stuff and, after having breakfast at Mari’s apartment, I leave, locking the door behind me.  I head to the garage where her driver is waiting for me, right on time.  I load my stuff into the trunk of his car, as he’ll drive me directly back to Nanning when he picks me up at the ferry terminal later this afternoon.

The driver takes me to the ferry terminal, where I get the ticket the nice guy reserved for me, and line up to board the ferry.  I’m a little worried because I wanted round trip tickets; however, he was unable to get my return ticket from the Beihai end.  I’m told I have to get the return ticket on Weizhou.  This stresses me out as there are so many people going to the island, I’m afraid I won’t be able to get a return ticket.  I have to work tomorrow and Mari’s driver will be waiting for me, so I don’t want to get stuck on the island.

According to China Travel.com: Weizhou Island has an area of 36 square kilometers. It extends for 6.5 kilometers from south to north and is 6 kilometers wide. The circling-island road, which connects scenic spots, villages, and ports is 15.6 kilometers long.  According to WikiTravel: Weizhou is China’s biggest and youngest volcanic island. Formed by volcanic eruptions about 7,000 years ago, it has a unique geological and geomorphological landscape. The sea around Weizhou is rich in corals and other aquatic animals.

The seas are quite rough this morning and the ferry ride is longer than the promised hour.  On this uncomfortable ride, people are vomiting into bags all around me.  Thank goodness I don’t get sick myself.

Once I’m on the island, I climb off the ferry with the hundreds of other passengers and go down a long walkway to look for someone to transport me around the island.  Before I do, I stop at the ticket booth and buy my return ticket to Beihai for 3:00.  They tell me I need to be at the dock by 2:00 to catch the ferry.  That doesn’t give me much time, as it’s nearly 11:00 a.m. now.

the dock at Weizhou Island

the dock at Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

Weizhou Island

the view from Weizhou Island

the view from Weizhou Island

At the end of the walkway, there are scores of people on motor tricycles and taxis trying to drum up business.  One woman follows me all the way from the walkway to the parking lot, gabbing in Chinese the whole time.  I end up taking a ride from another guy just because she is so annoying.  His charge is quite high, 100 yuan for the day (11:00 am-3:00 pm).  I’ve already spent a lot of money, as it costs 180 yuan EACH way for the ferry, plus an entrance fee to get onto the island of 100 yuan. Even though I’ve been lucky enough to stay at Mari’s house for the weekend, and I’ve had her driver readily available, I still am spending a lot on food, pearls ( 🙂 ), and this trip to Weizhou.

Our first stop is Saint Maria Church, a small Gothic-style Catholic Church in Chengzai village. It is less famous than the Catholic Cathedral in the middle of Shengtang Village, but still opens its doors for Sunday Mass.

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

the grounds at Saint Maria Church

the grounds at Saint Maria Church

inside Saint Maria Church

inside Saint Maria Church

Interior of Saint Maria Church

Interior of Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church interior

Saint Maria Church interior

An auxiliary building at Saint Maria

An auxiliary building at Saint Maria

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

I enjoy walking around the grounds and through the church, and chatting with the friendly fruit vendors.  I find it refreshing to find this church in China, only the second I’ve seen since the one I saw in Beihai’s Old City.  I have seen Buddhist temples throughout China, but I’ve never seen churches outside of this part of Guangxi province.

Fruit vendors at Saint Maria Church

Fruit vendors at Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church from the road

Saint Maria Church from the road

looking in through the gate to Saint Maria Church

looking in through the gate to Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

Saint Maria Church

close up from the road of the church

close up from the road of the church

After walking around the church and the grounds, I return to the small parking lot and hop into my motor tricycle, wondering where my driver will take me next. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Beibu Gulf, Beihai, China, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Saint Maria Church, Travel, Weizhou Island | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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