On the Bohai Gulf, 300km east of Beijing, lies the rather bizarre seaside resort of Beidaihe. 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. Most of Beidaihe’s visitors nowadays are ordinary, fun-loving tourists, usually relatively well-heeled Beijingers; in high season (May–Aug), when the temperature hovers around the mid-20s Celsius and the water is warm, it’s a fun place to spend the day.

Only 25km or so to the northeast, historic attractions at Shanhaiguan have year-round appeal, and include some fine sturdy fortifications within the town and remnants of the Great Wall outside. With little nightlife and frustratingly little accommodation at present, however, Shanhaiguan is perhaps best visited on a day-trip.

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