China // Hebei and Tianjin //


On the Bohai Gulf, 300km east of Beijing, lies the rather bizarre seaside resort of BEIDAIHE (北戴河, bĕidàihé). The coastline, reminiscent of the Mediterranean – rocky, sparsely vegetated, erratically punctuated by beaches – was originally patronized a hundred years ago by European diplomats, missionaries and businessmen, who can only have chosen it out of homesickness. They built villas and bungalows here, and reclined on verandas sipping cocktails after indulging in the new bathing fad. After the Communist takeover, the village became a pleasure resort for Party bigwigs, reaching its height of popularity in the 1970s when seaside trips were no longer seen as decadent and revisionist. Though you’ll still see serious men in uniforms and sunglasses licking ice creams, and black Audis with tinted windows (the current cadre car of choice) cruising the waterfront, most of Beidaihe’s visitors nowadays are ordinary, fun-loving tourists, usually relatively well-heeled Beijingers. In high season (May–Aug), when the temperature is steady around the mid-20s Celsius and the water warm, it’s a fun place to spend the day.