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.Read More
On Beidaihe’s three beaches, stirring revolutionary statues of lantern-jawed workers and their wives and children stand among the throngs of bathers. Middle Beach (中海滩, zhōnghăi tān), really many small beaches with rocky outcrops in between, is the most convenient and popular. Enter the beach at the popular intersection of Haining Lu and Zhonghaitan Lu and it will cost you ¥8, but wander a hundred metres in either direction and you can get on the sand for free. The promenade at the back is much like any in the world, lined with seafood restaurants and soft-drink and ice-cream vendors. You can also hire bicycles here for up to three people on one machine (a thrandom?) at ¥20/30/40 per hour, depending on the number of saddles, plus ¥200 deposit. West Beach (西海滩, xīhăi tān) is more of the same, but a little quieter. East of the resort, stretching 15km to Qinhuangdao, is East Beach (东海滩, dōnghăi tān), popular with cadres and sanatorium patients for its more sedate atmosphere. The beach is long enough for you to be able to find a spot where you can be alone, though much of the muddy shoreline isn’t very attractive. At low tide its wide expanse is dotted with seaweed collectors in rubber boots.