|A trip to a small island remains a holiday fantasy for most people. But in Shanghai this dream can become a reality. In neighboring Zhejiang Province, there is a little-known destination called the Dongji Islands which are part of the larger Zhoushan Islands. The islands are so unexplored that their only claim to fame is the fact that they are the most easterly part of China.
The Dongji Islands comprise 28 islands and 108 reefs. Only four of the islands are inhabited - Miaozihu Island, Qingbang Island, Huangxing Island and Dongfushan Island. Of the four, Dongfushan Island - the most easterly - is reputed to enjoy the most beautiful scenery and is known as the first place in China to see the sunrise.
A journey to the east
To get to the Dongji Islands requires a four-hour bus trip from downtown Shanghai to Zhoushan city in Zhejiang Province. Take a bus from Shanghai South Long-distance Bus Station (666 Shilong Road, Xuhui district, 5435-3535) to Shenjiamen station, and the terminal is where the dock to Dongji Islands is located. The bus sets off every hour, and the fare is 130 yuan ($20.64).
It is advisable to arrive at Shenjiamen at dinner time and to catch a taxi directly to Binggang Road where you can taste the local seafood at a line of sidewalk seafood stalls. Here it is easy to find a hotel to stay for the night, where you will be refreshed for the early sea voyage the next morning. The ship sets sail for the Dongji Islands only once a day, at 8:30 am. The dock lies at the end of Binggang Road and is known as the Banshengdong Dock. Tickets cannot be purchased in advance, so be sure to arrive early. The fare ranges from 100 to 150 yuan, according to the cabin. If the official tickets sell out, you can join the boarding queue and buy a non-sitting ticket.
The voyage takes a little over two hours to arrive at Miaozihu Island (where Dongji town is located). At 11 am a smaller ship heads out to Dongfushan Island.
Dongfushan Island is known for its huge yellow rocks and clear green sea water. The whole island occupies an area less than 3 square kilometers, and hosts a permanent resident population of some 50 people. Walking from the dock along the sea road it takes only five minutes to arrive at the only fishing village.
Most of the local residents make a living by fishing, and the recent influx of tourism has provided another source of income by way of family hotels.
Many residents rent out rooms to each traveler for about 50 yuan a night. If you can, try to stay at a fisherman's home where you will invariably enjoy a great choice of fish and seafood. Fish dishes cost, on average, 50 yuan, with vegetable dishes costing about 15 yuan. In spring, bamboo shoots with fried meat is particularly recommended.
There are only a couple of grocery stores on the island, so be sure to bring enough snacks with you.
A misty island
Dongfushan Island boasts the highest mountain (Dongfu Mountain) in the Dongji Islands. And in spring and summer, its peak is always shrouded by clouds or mist. In popular myth the mountain is referred to as "hometown to the wind, seabed to the rain, kingdom to the mist and cradle to the waves."
Legend tells that the name, Dongfushan, can be traced back to the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC) when a warlock (a male witch) named Xu Fu was traveling in the hope of finding an elixir which would promise eternal life. He was appointed by the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang. Xu's destination was what is today's Japan, but when he and his fleet arrived here, the island's fairy-tale atmosphere was said to have entranced him.
Today the mountain features a boulder engraved with the character fu meaning "bliss" and which is said to recall Xu Fu's visit to the island, and which is also the origin of a well-known Chinese goodwill saying: "Be as blissed as the East China Sea."
Starting from the village, there are two main routes to tour the island. The first is to climb to Xiang Bi Peak (xiang bi means elephant trunk), which is located at the eastern peak of the mountain. Viewed from the sea, the peak resembles an elephant stretching its trunk out into the sea.
It takes about one and a half hours to reach the peak. Along the route, you will pass a temple, the Baiyun Nunnery, as well as the Baiyun Stone Cave.
A new dawn
The second route starting from the village is to walk east along a stone terraced road. The road has several large coastal platforms for sight-seeing. After about 10-minute walk, you will reach the landmark platform of the famous Century Dawn Measuring Point. It was from here that the first sunlight of the new century (6:42 am, local time on January 1 2001) was measured and observed by the Greenwich Royal Observatory in London.
The spot has attracted many camping lovers pitching tents outdoors in order not to miss the rising of the new sun, as well as to watch an unpolluted sky at night.
All of the scenic spots on the island are free of charge.
Apart from the amazing natural landscape, the island's biggest attraction is its fishing industry. You can bring your own tackle or rent equipment from local fishermen. There are plenty of coastal platforms to fish from, without the need for a boat. Local specialties include sea bream, sea bass and yellow croaker.
Global Times | April 16, 2012