Travel

Fujian's Surfer Paradise: - Pingtan

Updated: 2007-05-31
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Haitan Island, also named Pingtan Island. Being surrounded by sea, as it looks like Altar on the sea, it has been called “ Haitan Island” ( Altar on the Sea Island). It is only 68 nautical miles away from Xinzhu Port of Taiwan, the closest county to Taiwan on the Mainland. The main island covers an area of 251 square kms, making itself the fifth biggest island in China, and the biggest island in Fujian. As the state key scenic spot, it enjoys the reputation as “ The number one sea beach in China” “ The number one wave erosion landform in the world”

 

 

It is located about 120 kilometres east of Fuzhou city. Pingtan was the site of an early Neolithic community; the Keqiutou (壳丘头) site is home to the discovery of tools, jades, ceramics, and spinning wheels from that era. Pingtan consists of 126 islets, the main islet being Haitan - an official tourist attraction. There are four bays and 28 beaches on Haitan alone.

 

Surfers in search of wind (and fun) at Pingtan Island


 

Pingtan Island (平谭岛) is Fujian province's easternmost destination, and about a four-hour drive from Xiamen. A couple of friends and I went there to check out this place we'd heard so much about, and to see if it was as good for windsurfing as its reputation claimed. This is our story.

 

I was a guest at Xiamen's biggest (and hottest) Thanksgiving feast, and while the other (inebriated) guests were ready to head home or hit the clubs and bars for more merry-making, I was picked up, along with a few turkey drumsticks, by Ben and Jeff, who were taking me on my first real road trip in China. After rocking along to Ben's car stereo, we reached, and passed, Fuzhou, and arrived at the ferry terminal that would take us to Pingtan Island.

 

 

Why Pingtan Island?

 

For Ben, Jeff, and I, it was all about the wind. Us three had met on Makong Island, the largest of the Penghu Islands (just off the coast of Taiwan, and very close to Xiamen). Penghu is a popular summer spot for Taiwanese adventurous enough to try out the three national hobbies watching television, sleeping, and shopping somewhere off the island of Formosa.

 

As winter approaches, however, the island is blasted clean of these tourist groups in search of idyll by the Siberian trade winds being funneled through the strait. It is this often more than 30 knot wind that attracts serious and/or completely masochistic windsurfers to Penghu each winter. We were searching for a comparable force wind, which we'd heard was glorious on Pingtan Island, as well asa suitable beach where we could make proper use (and abuse) of the windsurfing gear strapped to the top of Ben's jeep.

 

Although three hours on the road had brought us to the ferry terminal, we were still nowhere near Pingtan. It would take another hour to cross over on the ferry and enter the wasteland known as downtown Pingtan.

 

All right, 'wasteland' sounds a bit harsh, how about the 'acid wash denim playground'?

 

Excluding some factory cities in Canton province I've visited during my time in China, this was to be my first serious look at relatively untouched rural China, and Pingtan is a very basic and peaceful place.Being Mainland China's closest outpost to Taiwan, there is a fairly strong military presence there, although it seems very well hidden, as we saw very little direct evidence of any military personnel. Spending from the young soldiers however, helps fuel a nightlife scene; though small, it is somewhat well known among Fujian province locals.

 

The three of us were completely charmed by the non-jaded and positive attitude, forthcoming hospitality, and friendliness of the warm people of Pingtan, all of who seemed quite pleased that we had showed up. This is not to confuse the word hospitality with good service. The local establishments are not quite used to the demanding needs of foreign friends.It was in a local outlet of UBC coffee where we had stopped in to fuel up for what was promising to be a windy day at our newfound beach / launch spot.

 

After waiting over 45 minutes for three club sandwiches and three coffees ordered brought us to the ferry terminal, we were still nowhere near Pingtan. It would take another hour to cross over on the ferry and enter the wasteland known as downtown Pingtan.

 

All right, 'wasteland' sounds a bit harsh, how about the 'acid wash denim playground'?

 

Excluding some factory cities in Canton province I've visited during my time in China, this was to be my first serious look at relatively untouched rural China, and Pingtan is a very basic and peaceful place. Being Mainland China's closest outpost to Taiwan, there is a fairly strong military presence there, although it seems very well hidden, as we saw very little direct evidence of any military personnel. Spending from the young soldiers however, helps fuel a nightlife scene; though small, it is somewhat well known among Fujian

province locals.

 

The three of us were completely charmed by the non-jaded and positive attitude, forthcoming hospitality, and friendliness of the warm people of Pingtan, all of who seemed quite pleased that we had showed up. This is not to confuse the word hospitality with good service. The local establishments are not quite used to the demanding needs of foreign friends. It was in a local outlet of UBC coffee where we had stopped in to fuel up for what was promising to be a windy day at our newfound beach / launch spot.

 

After waiting over 45 minutes for three club sandwiches and three coffees ordered off of the menu, we could only laugh when one of the at least four giggling girls on staff brought out one coffee and explained that they were short on kitchen supplies that day. All giggling came to an abrupt halt when Jeff, deprived of his morning java, began to systematically destroy the establishment. Just kidding! We knew better than to tempt such a disaster; the sole cup went to Jeff.

 

Later that evening, when an intoxicated, unnamed member of our trio accidentally left his wallet unattended on an open table in a dark discotheque, he could only blame himself for its subsequent and inevitable disappearance. Despite our urge to delve further into the Pingtan nightlife on our little vacation, once again we knew better, and Ben kept driving in search of the local police station to file a report.

 

Less than 2 hours after doing so, we received a call and then a visit from a pair of locals to our newly adopted fast food chicken hang-out spot. The wallet was returned! It was intact, with all credit cards, ATM cards, and difficult to replace ID cards. The cash that had once been inside was probably enough to feed a small Pingtan family for a year (judging by the prices we paid while on the island, not that much), although it was more than likely pumped into the local entertainment industry. Regardless, we were once again won over by the big heart of Pingtan, where even the thieves have some compassion.

 

After searching through the outlying areas of the city, we were thoroughly impressed by the utter simplicity of the spartan Pingtan lifestyle, as we saw it. Adobe-type structures blended perfectly with the rocky landscape, reminding me more than a little of Peru. Cliffs offered beautiful vistas of vast beaches with large craggy rocks offshore frothing up the surf.

 

We found a suitable beach on the edge of a small fishing village, whose many residents may have never seen a western face before. The first person we met became known as the Weather Man, due to his accurate prediction of the wind later that day. He was soon joined by his salty old buddies, along with about half the village's population of children. These old guys somehow managed to maintain their air of dignity while running around – they were trying very enthusiastically to help us rig up our gear. They really seemed to be enjoying themselves and we had a great time.

 

Finally, it was our chance to play. Ben and Jeff had a blast expertly working the fairly strong shore break. I was just getting warmed up and had a few nice runs shooting between the breaking waves before I had to collapse or break something rather important. We were all pretty happy and had had a good day windsurfing.

 

If you're a windsurfer or kite surfer living in Xiamen, the Pingtan Island trip is a must do. If you are just interested in seeing a relatively unspoiled and incredibly rustic piece of Southern China and meeting some beautiful, friendly folk to boot, it's also well worth the trip.

 

I would like to go back, if just to make up for the lost time we spent locating the missing wallet and to see if the kids there really received the photos that I sent them through China Post.

 

 

SOURCE: Whats on Xiamen by Andrea/Neil

 

 

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