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Our hotel was in Pinghai Bay, to the west of Gangkou Town. It boasts fine facilities for tourists, and the numerous guesthouses and hotels along the shoreline offer a wide range of accommodation that caters to different needs. From our quick survey, hotel rooms along the beach strip are clean and elegantly decorated, and prices are not too high. The beach is just a short stroll away.

We worried about the impact of real estate developments and tourism on the natural beauty of the area. Construction projects continue, and by local accounts, the pace of development is relentless, and secluded beaches are to be exploited. Maybe some day the nature here will be spoiled by human activity. Hopefully not.

But today, Pinghai Bay is still a good choice for backpackers and other independent travelers who want stunning scenery on a limited budget. It 20-kilometer-long, 200-meter-wide beach is pristine, and as we looked out over it, waves rolled onto the white sand and crashed lazily in a gentle rhythm.

We walked along the beach at dusk, where far away trawlers were silhouetted against the crimson sunset. With soft sand under foot and a gentle ocean breeze, we’d found paradise.

The next morning, we got up early to take some photos of sunrise, but our plans were foiled by a thick veil of fog. We left earlier than anticipated for our next stop, Xunliao Bay.

On the way to Xunliao, we passed through Pinghai Town, a charming old city originally built as a military fortress in the last years of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). As the Yuan fell and the Ming Dynasty rose, piracy was rife in the area. The founding Ming emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang, ordered the construction of the fortress to ward off attacks. During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a further six fortifications were built around what had become a bustling town.

Today, remains of the ancient city are hidden among the town’s modern buildings. Its city gate, city wall, streets, residences and temples have been well preserved and make for a fine walking tour.

Onwards from Pinghai, Xunliao Bay was our next port of call. Xunliao is quite developed, but wander away from the center and it’s still possible to find entire coves to oneself. The sand here is white and soft and the absence of any industry nearby means the water is clear and unpolluted.

Locals say that historically there were over 30 beautifully carved calligraphic inscriptions on the cliff faces of Xunliao Bay. Sadly, most of them have been destroyed by wars.

Escaping into a tranquil lagoon, we saw the sea and sky merge into a brilliant blue. A fishermen’s jetty stretched out in front of us to complete the scene, and we forgot for a brief moment the pressures of work and the bustle of city life.

Huizhou Port in the northwest corner of Daya Bay has a stark backdrop of tall mountains. As a natural port with a flat seabed, good protection from the wind and extensive overland transport connections, it has long been an important hub of maritime trade between China and the rest of the world.

The port is teeming with clams and fish. Squid and lobster originating from here are especially famous – their reputation has spread to Hong Kong, Macao and many countries in Southeast Asia.

Continuing west, we arrived at Xiaogui Town – Little Guilin by the Sea.

The scenery here is exquisite. Rocky outcrops dot the watery horizon. Close to shore is a sizable island, on which sits Dongsheng Village. A ferry services the village from the mainland throughout the day, and the ticket is free. Seafood, again, is the highlight here. It’s all fresh catch, and the fishermen themselves settle down to eat in the same places as tourists and locals. The fishermen also offer guided tours of the surrounding sea and islands, and there is accommodation on the island for those wishing to stay the night.

Another notable island in Daya Bay is Sanmen Island. The bay’s biggest, it is located at its center.

In past centuries Sanmen Island has been an important military outpost. Armies were first stationed here in the last decades of the Qing Dynasty, and the island was closed to the public from the 1950s to the 1980s as a military zone. The island’s ecology thus remained relatively untouched, and tropical plants, clean water and unspoilt beaches are starting to attract sun seekers.

Xiaogui Bay is only a few minutes drive from Shenzhen. The Dapeng Peninsular, technically under the jurisdiction of Shenzhen, is the westernmost point of Daya Bay. Tourist attractions here include Baguang Village, Judiaosha Beach, Yangmeikeng Beachfront Village and the Luzui Villa Resort.

We first arrived at Baguang Village, home to trees of rare species – many over 100 years old. Baguang Village is a few kilometers away from the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant. Locals say the water here is as clean and safe for swimming as anywhere in the region.

Because of its proximity to the power plant, Baguang Village hasn’t been developed for tourism. But the area is nonetheless beautiful, and a lush forest extends out and up into the hills behind it. Near the shoreline, lined with flourishing mangrove trees, flocks of egrets inhabit numerous lava rock islands.

Heading further west we arrived at Judiaosha Beach and Yangmeikeng Beachfront Village. The Judiaosha Bathing Beach, Shenzhen Longcheer Yacht Club and Yangmeikeng Seaside Highway are all located here. Renting a bicycle and riding along the highway makes for a pleasant afternoon. The sea nearby has often been a venue for international sailboat competitions, and as we sat in one of the many local restaurants, we felt we could almost make out the arches of billowing spinnakers on the horizon.

Towards the end Yangmeikeng Seaside Highway we reached the Luzui Villa Resort, a vacation village developed by a collective of local fishermen. Perched halfway up a hill on the easternmost point of the Dapeng Peninsular, Luzui Villa Resort is open to the sea on three sides. The name, Luzui, literally means “the deer’s mouth,” and finds its origin in a rock by the sea, which supposedly looks like the mouth of a deer. Developers have built many European-style wooden houses in the resort, the windows of which overlook the ocean. The cliffs here are very steep and environment has been well preserved: it was once ranked as one of the eight most beautiful shorelines in China by Chinese National Geography magazine.

Daya Bay may not be the most famous coastline in China, but it is certainly one of the best. While tourist facilities and public transport in the area could be improved, its natural beauty is sure to attract increasing numbers of domestic and international tourists. Be sure to make it there before the crowds.

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VOL.59 NO.12 December 2010 Advertise on Site Contact Us