A Pedacito Of Beidaihe, China
Updated: May 19, 2021
While living in China, occasionally, I would choose a town or city close enough to the one in which I was living and take a short trip there without doing any research on the place. As with movie and restaurant reviews, I have found that doing research on a place before I visit sometimes leads to other people’s opinions about the place influencing my own.
So, when a friend of mine invited me to go to Beidaihe on a three-day trip, I jumped at the chance. Neither of us actually knew anything about the place. We knew that it was considered a resort town and that it had a nice beach there. We also knew that this was where the beginning of the Great Wall was located, and that was good enough for us.
When we got off the train in Qinhuangdao City, we had our first inclination that this was no ordinary beach town. Before we could get to the line of taxis outside of the train station, we had to stand in a long line to have our passports checked by several police officers.
While in the taxi on the way to our hotel, the taxi driver pulled into two different police kiosks stationed on the side of the road to have our passports checked yet again. Both of us began to wish that we had done a little more research on our beach vacation.
When we arrived at the hotel, we did just that. We learned that, once a year, the entire leadership of the Chinese Communist Party would travel to Beidaihe to have a week of meetings and enjoy the warm climate. Though none of the leadership was there at the same time we were, the security around town was intense. Along the coast were palatial beachfront mansions hidden behind gated fences and walls. The beach itself was divided into public areas for tourists and private areas for the leadership.
Plane-clothed and uniformed police and military were everywhere. Walking down any street, we were sure to see at least three officers per block and countless men and women with hidden earpieces and walkie-talkies. Often, I noticed that some of them would follow behind us for several blocks to determine if we were a potential threat.
The city itself was clean and beautiful. There were numerous restaurants in which to eat fresh seafood. We also discovered that Beidaihe is a popular destination for Russians and found a few restaurants serving authentic Russian cuisine.
The beaches along Beidaihe were comfortable and clean. On the one sunny day we were there, we spent the entire day lying on the sand and swimming in the cool Bohai Sea. Although enjoyable, we found the inability to take long walks on the beach due to the fences and security a bit annoying. It was also noticeable that the best parts of the beach had been reserved for the leadership and their families. Guarded beach clubs were located up and down the beach, and were only open to the leadership and their guests and families.
Unlike my friend, I had never been to Beijing and had never had a chance to see the Great Wall before. Beidaihe is where the eastern portion of the wall begins. This part of the wall is known as Old Dragon’s Head because it looks like the head of a dragon as it enters the sea. I have heard that the Great Wall in Beijing can often become overwhelmed by tourists. Luckily, we didn’t find this to be true in Beidaihe. There were definitely some areas more crowded than others, but I found it to be a unique experience to walk sections of the wall where no other person was around.
Although I had planned to go to Beidaihe merely to swim, I found the trip there to be much more profound and enlightening. The city itself is beautiful, but I spent most of my time pondering the potential threats that would necessitate such an abundance of security at all times.
Still, I learned a valuable lesson. If you plan to take a trip somewhere, it’s probably a good idea to do a little research about the place before you go.
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