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The view of an island begins to magnify. Take out your binoculars and focus in on it. The boat sways with the waves and your stomach dances left to right. Look, you're approaching it, you could even swim to it. The careening stops, your feet are on firm land, mountainous and green surrounded gracefully by blue and silver. Ah, yes, a primordial thrill! In Shanghai it's hard to come by these pleasures, and so much in nearby Shengsi reminds one of just that, the elementary and the essential.
This little island, part of Zhejiang province, about 18 nautical miles from Shanghai's Luchuo port, is ideal for swimming, relishing the fruits from its healthy waters, and exploring its sumptuous hills. All within two quick hours from the city by bus and ferry.First on the bus which will take you across Hangzhou Bay Bridge, one of the longest trans-sea bridges in the world, from where you'll see the impressive offshore wind farm, with its mills triumphantly coming out of the ocean, and then by ferry where you can enjoy the view of a lovely archipelago of small green islands sprouting from the surf like ancient turtles with overgrown moss on their backs.
Once docked on the island's port you can jump on the shuttle to Cai Yuan bus station in the central part of the island. From there a beige bus can take you to Donghai Yucun, translating to East Sea Fishing Village, and that's exactly what the place is; a little fisherman's neighborhood right in front of the sea. Here a boardwalk stretches along the coast, on the other side of it is a tightly constructed maze of hostels renovated from old fisherman's houses. They are easily recognizable by the murals depicting local fishing culture on the outer walls. Private room prices vary from 80 to 150 RMB. Reservations can be made with the owner of the hotel for fresh seafood meals; breakfast, lunch and dinner, which the owner will make for you, or, you can even go to the market to buy the ingredients and they'll gladly cook them for you.
Alternatively, you can take advantage of the blue kiosks outside on the boardwalk that has an abundance of fish, clam, crab, squid, octopus and vegetables. These look like barbeque stands, but they can cook everything you see the Chinese way, which is in the pan with vinegar, garlic, pepper, baijiu (rice wine) and soy sauce, or, on the grill. Thexiao huang yu"Little Yellow Croaker" made in the pan is recommended. You will also be delighted by the rich taste of the clams. Rice is available upon request.
The beach in front of Donghai is free and ready to jump in. You can even rent rubber paddle rafts from the guy under the umbrellas for 50 RMB by the hour. Well worth it. There are nicely maintained private beaches to the west of the village, offering more amenities. But avoid solitary beaches with “no swimming” signboards, as these areas are known for rapid currents and sharp reefs.
The rhythm of the island is very relaxed and the locals seem laid-back and cheerful. Coming down the mouth of the hill onto the small road that margins the island, you can see the boats swaying slowly on the ocean, at the turn of a corner, perhaps, a couple driving by on a scooter, their German Shepherd leading the way.
With some more time you could do some snorkeling, rent a bike or motorcycle to explore the island, and see some of the smaller islands that make up the Shengsi County Archipelago.
When the city calls you back, just follow the same route that brought you to the island…
Take line 4 toNanpu Da Qiao station, and look for 1588 Waima Lu under the elevated highway to purchase the bus and ferry ticket combo for 120 RMB. The bus ride is one hour and takes you to Shenjiawan, the port from which the ferry departs to Shengsi. The earliest bus leaves at 8:30am. Try to buy the tickets in advance if you're planning to go there at the weekend.