As long as I can remember our group of friends had a tradition: the girls want to go to the sea and the guys to the mountains. We would normally find a compromise in this kind of situations but not this time- we headed for the ocean!
As it’s been mentioned before, we moved to southern China. Three hours from Meizhou (the city we live in) lies a city called Shantou (汕头 – Shàntóu). A big and noisy city (even by Chinese standards) but adjoins the Southern-Chinese sea ((南海 – Nánhǎi), which is a plus. Deciding to enjoy the ocean breeze and the white beaches farther away from the commotion we journeyed to Nanao Island.
Every day there are a few ferries leaving for Nanao( 南澳岛) , in the past- a small island with few fishing villages, in the future- a huge tourist center, but for now it’s stuck somewhere in-between.
Nanao’s tourist attraction lies in its southern bays where a few hotels and beaches are situated. In the beginning of November you still can find a little summer here although the locals think that it’s too cold to enjoy any water activities. Nevertheless, it’s still pleasant to to enjoy the ocean and have a swim or two. The perfect season to arrive here would be April-May or September-October. In Nanao, in summer it is way too hot and in winter too cold.
The ocean which you encounter on the southern beaches is humongous, with huge waves and colorful water life which you can buy at the beach restaurants. It is cheap to feed yourself and live in this bay but if you compare it to the life expenses in ‘mainland’ China, you can feel that you’re at a tourist spot-to-be.
In bad weather or at times when you feel like discovering, you can always ride a quad or a horse and go to the nearest town to check out the local cuisine. While slowly discovering the island we stumbled upon a yurt in which the only Mongolian family reside, and keeping to their customs have a few horses which they rent to the tourists.
Unfortunately, one thing that you should keep in mind is the fact that ripping off tourists is a routine procedure. So you should never rush into things, find out about the price, look around for other options or you’ll find yourself ridding for 100 yuan (16$) to the nearest city when you could have gone for 10 yuan (1.5$). Even in small noodle shops you should about the prices (although it sounds like comon sense; we still managed to pay 60 yuan (10$) for the worst noodles we’ve ever ate eaten). BUT! To all who love to taste local specialties, in the market alleys not far away from the resort, you will find a special spring roll (春卷 – chūn juǎn) with shrimp and vegetable filling in sweat and sour sauce which melts in your mouth and costs only 1 yuan (15 cents)! It’s a must for everybody anyone staying in Nanao.
A part of Nanao Island’s experience is to visit one of the many mountain Buddhist temples which look over the ocean. We were lucky enough to find our way to one of them near a small town. While entering inside you realize that this place is the real thing. After visiting many shrines and temples which have grown into a tourist attraction and have only one goal- to make money, here you get the feeling, as it’s popular to say nowadays, it hasn’t lost its mojo. The monk inside offers us an incense stick and by the motion of his hand directs us to the top altar. As we climb the stairs a beautiful view upon the ocean opens before us. Standding there we understand that this is one of the places on earth which still hasn’t lost its soul.
Lastly, to fully experience Nanao Island, visit one of the banana plantations, discover the small alleys of the fishing villages and roam the local market place. Since Nanao isn’t only about white beaches and beautiful ocean but it’s also a place still holding on to its forgotten history, although already waiting for the overflow of tourists..