May 1st. Also known as Wuyi. Also known as yet another Chinese national holiday I tried to travel during.
The weekend of May 1st, Alena (fun-employed traveling extraordinaire), Allison, and I made plans to return to Zhoushan, Zhejiang for 2-ish days. Instead of heading to the Dongji islands, we wanted to go find the abandoned fishing village of Houtouwan on Shengshan Island in the Shengsi islands. Shengshan is an island connected to Gouqi island. I’d tell you more about Shengshan, but we never actually got there.
Before our trip even began, Alena and I had to buy bus+boat tickets. Information online was very conflicted, so I ended up going to the bus station on the Thursday before the holiday weekend to see if I could buy tickets in advance for Saturday.
I could not. (Compromise #1, if we’re counting. We might be.)
I was told I had to return on Friday morning to get Saturday tickets from Shanghai Nanpu Daqiao Bus Station to Gouqi Island. Since the bus station began selling tickets at 6:30 AM, I got up early and got a Didi (the awful terrible Chinese version of Uber) at about 6:20.
Now, Nanpu Daqiao means “South Pu (river) Bridge”; the bus station is located under the bridge that crosses the river from Puxi (west of the Pu river) to Pudong (east of the Pu river). I live in Puxi, where Nanpu Daqiao station is, and yet I inexplicably found that my Didi driver was crossing the Nanpu bridge.
“Did you go the wrong way?” I asked the driver.
“No,” he insisted, even though we were crossing the bridge into Pudong, where the Nanpu Daqiao bus station was not.
“Um. Are you sure?”
And lo and behold, the man ended up making a huge U-turn that more than doubled the price of my fare; eventually, he got so lost he straight up told me, “Maybe you should get out and get into a different cab.”
This was too much for a pre-7:00AM coffee-less Mary to handle. I got out and got into a different cab, but only with much ill-tempered grumbling. My new cab driver (not a Didi driver, but an actual cabbie) also grumbled, but that was because we were literally 1km away from the Nanpu Daqiao station.
But of course, I thought, not yet realizing this was about how the rest of the weekend would go.
Compromise #2 (We’re officially counting.)
Alena met me at Nanpu Daqiao station while I was still in line, having just taken a very early morning train into Shanghai. We got to the counter at around 7:15-7:20 AM.
All the tickets from Shanghai to Gouqi Island for Saturday morning were sold out. We were told, however, that we could buy Shanghai to Shengsi Island tickets, and then on Shengsi Island we would have enough time to buy tickets from Shengsi to Gouqi. It added an extra step, but what else could we do? We bought the Shanghai to Shengsi tickets.
“Hey,” the lady at the ticket counter said as we turned to go. “Weren’t you the girl who came yesterday too?”
Then, of course, we got to go do the fun stuff: since Alena and I were planning on camping, we had some gear to buy. A tent, a camp stove and gas, some camp pots and pans, and some food that we could reliably prepare over the camp stove. I also wanted to take the opportunity to buy a lightweight sleeping bag for myself.
In China, the best place to buy all of your outdoor needs at relatively low prices is Decathlon, which is a French outdoors store. (It is huge). Alena, my friend Hannah, and I all went to the nearest Decathlon.
The nearest Decathlon did not have a sleeping bag in the temperatures and size that I wanted, but one of the store workers helped locate another Decathlon that did. So Hannah went home, and Alena and I went off to the Other Decathlon to buy things.
That night, we packed everything, divvying up shared equipment and 2.5 days’ worth of food.
At the port where we were to board the ferry to Shengsi Island, our small thing of gas was confiscated at the security check.
“Well,” Alena said as we considered what food we still had. “We’ve still got the avocados, bread, and peanut butter. Maybe we can eat chick peas cold.”
On Shengsi Island, we waited in line to buy tickets from Shengsi to Gouqi. Because priority is giving to Gouqi residents looking to go home, tickets for “waidi” people — or outsiders — don’t go on sale until 10 minutes before the ferry leaves. That morning, there were 3 ferries — 9ish AM, 12ish, and 2ish.
Alena and I waited towards the front of a cramped, snaking line of at least 100 people from 9 AM to 12 PM, only to be told 10 minutes before the 9ish AM ferry that there were no available tickets for outsiders. At 12 PM, it was the same story.
Then tickets opened up for Huaniao Island, which was an island we didn’t know existed more or less until they started selling tickets for it. Alena and I pulled out our phones and started researching Huaniao. We found very little information; Alena climbed the barrier to get into line for Huaniao anyway, while I stayed in the Gouqi line with our things. We were not the only ones with this idea; the Huaniao line had grown from about 5 people to 20-30.
“Huaniao tickets sold out!” the woman at the counter insisted when Alena neared the front.
But then she kept selling tickets, and Alena pressed forward (in a very literal physical way – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: national holidays are no time to be too polite in China!) to get to the counter.
We got the tickets. Quickly, I grabbed our things and climbed the barrier after Alena. We skipped the security check into the port proper, then ran towards the doors that lead out to the dock.
They were closed.
“You’re too late!” an employee said.
“We literally just bought the tickets!” Alena yelled, and they yielded; they reopened the doors, and subsequent dockhands waved us impatiently in the direction of the boat. We ran
On the boat, we were lucky enough to get seated by perhaps the only woman on the boat who’d actually intended to go to Huaniao. She filled us in on the deets: Huaniao was a small, one-street town.
“Oh good,” said another girl, who’d made the same last-minute hop that Alena and I had. She turned to her boyfriend. “We can just slowly walk along that one street until we find a place to stay.”
I thought about mine and Allison’s troubles finding a unbooked room on Dongji, and wished them luck.
And so, finally…
Alena and I made it to an island in the Shengsi islands, if not the island with the abandoned fishing village.
Huaniao was indeed a one-street town; that street, like most of the buildings, was still under construction too. There was a Souvenirs shop that lacked souvenirs and also people to work there; there was a tea shop/cafe that was devoid of anything resembling food, people, tea, or coffee.
After exploring the one-street, two(ish)-beach town for a little bit–and stopping to get lunch and a run-down of the island from a sweet Chinese family who manned a convenience store–Alena and I paid a dude to drive us up to the lighthouse on the other side of the island.
On the other side of the island, we watched the sunset.
Then camped out in the lighthouse courtyard. Alena had peanut butter and bread for dinner, and I had avocado and bread. (In the morning, Alena had avocado and bread for breakfast, while I had peanut butter and bread. RIP camp stove gas.)
And then, in the morning, we woke up at 5 to see the sunrise; saw that it was a little bit cloudy, and promptly went back to bed.
In the morning, Alena and I threw in the towel, and began the slow journey back to Shanghai.