Panjin Red Sea Beds
Up bright and early to take advantage of the breakfast that is included in our accommodation.
Going in, we had high hopes. I know, there is nothing to account for these hopes, but we had them anyway. If we could get a cup of coffee we would call it a success. There were trays set up in buffet style, a big urn and people gathered around in groups, so it couldn’t be that bad. Walking past the food on offer, we decided to pass on that, as it was already old and the quantities wouldn’t have fed an anorexic mouse. There was also nothing that I would consider breakfast. It was all unidentifiable. Not to say that it might not be nice, but just not for us this morning. The urn turned out to be filled with warm milk, but as we tried to pour a glass, a waitress came over and stopped us. Asking if there was coffee, we were told very abruptly that there was no coffee, and everything else was off the menu as well from the tone of voice, so we thought “stuff it” and left. You have to love hotel breakfasts. Even when they are free, they aren’t worth it.
The reason we are in Panjin is the red sea beds, and not the hotel breakfast (We are not in Nuremberg) so we asked how to get there. The girls behind the desk were as friendly and helpful as last night, and even gave us instructions in Chinese, along with English translations. As we have no idea on how long it would take to do this and get back, we decided to check in for another night. Back to the room to gather our things, and back down. On our way out, we were called back to the desk. Here we were given another set of written instructions to help us if we got in trouble! These girls are really nice.
So, we needed to get back to the train station and catch bus 30 to Dawa. Dawa is a suburb of Panjin, and about 20km away from where we were. The bus stop is fairly easy to find (facing the train station it is left about 200m) and we got on. For some reason there was a whole group of people waiting at the bus stop that were not getting on the bus, so we had to push our way past them, but no worries. Then it was a long trip south-ish. Eventually we got a seat, and then we were in Dawa. There was no indication of this, as the town never really ends, and is built up for most of the way. We found out that we had to get off the bus when someone started yelling. We thought they were yelling to get people to move up from the entrance and fill the rest of the bus, but in fact they were trying to let us know to get off! People in this town are nice! Even if we are slow.
The next step is finding the bus to take us out to the red sea beds. This could be a bit harder. We know there is a bus, but we have no idea where it leaves from. We decided to walk for a bit to see what we could find, but soon gave up. As it happened there was a guy near by that had been on our bus so we asked him. This was exactly the right person to ask. He rang around and found out there was no bus, but he offered to drive us. We didn’t want him to go out of his way, but he insisted. Taking a taxi to where he lived, we met up with his little sister, and jumped into his car and set off. This was a bit much for us, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer! The drive out was great. We found out that he was working in TV before being accepted for his Masters in Broadcasting in Shanghai, and was now just killing time before the course started. He kept apologising for his bad English, as we were the first foreigners he had ever spoken to, but it was very good, and we had a good drive out. On arriving he told us that as it was Mothers Day, he wouldn’t be able to accompany us at the sea beds, as he had to go home, but was worried about us being able to find our way back. He had already done enough for us, and he absolutely made our day. At times we want to hate China, as it is hard to find places to stay, customer service sucks, they charge ridiculous amounts for things that in any other country would be free, then you meet someone like him (and to be fair, the person from the hotel we couldn’t stay at last night, and the front desk people at the hotel, or the bus driver letting us know we were in Dawa. Or just arriving at a place like Panjin). People like that are few and far between in any part of the world, and we always treasure these meetings.
So waving goodbye to our saviors of humanity, we made our way to the ticket office. The girls behind the glass were surprised to say the least. When we asked for 2 tickets they wanted to charge us for a car. No car. How did we get here? Friendly people. How would we get around? Walk. Did we know it was twenty kilometers? No, we will just see a little bit then. How will we get back? Bus. No Bus. Nearest bus at the other entrance 15km away. Oh. Ok, so we have a longer walk than we expected.
Anna mentioned that we could get an electric bus ticket, but Andrew thought the walk would be nice.
Then we had to get photos taken to prove to their friends that they had met some weird foreign tourists before finding out that due to it being Mothers day, Anna could get in for free. This whole sequence was a bit surreal, but quite enjoyable before we were allowed into the scenic area.
The red sea beds turned out to be mud flats. When the tide is out there are small plants growing that are anything from a red colour through to purple. Further out at this first section there are also reed beds that are green at the moment, and another section that is brown.
September is supposed to be the best time of year to see this, although these is still a lot of colour to be seen now. The tide was out, giving us a view out over the flats.
Following the first of the boardwalks, we went out over the mud. Crabs were scuttling away into their holes to avoid our shadows, and swallows were swooping all around. We don’t know if the swallows eat crabs, but the crabs were not risking finding out. The tide had been out for a while, and the plants were moving in the wind. A few channels carved into the mud were drying up, leaving the water a hazy mirage in the distance.
Then it was the long walk to the other entrance. Unfortunately this was not that interesting. The boardwalk was at the most scenic place, and for the next couple of kilometres there was just dried up mud with brownish plant matter. Coming to the next section we started walking out into the flats. This is where there were a series of oil derricks. Most of these were stopped, but a few were still working as they slowly pumped oil to the surface, before piping it back to the shore to be processed. The sign here said that oil development and natural beauty were working together to promote a better future. It was an interesting landscape to be sure. Then back to the walk. This is seriously a very long and very boring walk. Cars were whizzing past us. Much faster than the 30km/h speed limit, as if they knew there was no point in enjoying the landscape in this area either.
About half way along, we came to the next scenic area. Another boardwalk out into the flats. This also had the red fields of growth. We can’t name the plant, but it was about 5cm tall and a bit scraggly. As individual stalks it doesn’t look like much, but taken together it does look good. Then there are the long sections of crab traps. These things stretch for hundreds of meters before ending and the next one starting. The only problem with that was that the traps have not been regularly emptied, and the ends are filled with dead crabs. In our eyes it is pointless to have them, unless they are trying to control the crab population.
The sun was out, the wind was up, and it seemed like a typical coastal walk without the beach.
Further away from the boardwalk the red disappears again to be replaced by fish farms.
This walk never ends. One thing we should mention though is that every 200m or so there was a cute animal statue on the side of the road. These were concealed speakers, so no matter where you are on your walk you have a squirrel or such blaring music out at you. Then there were the wicker animals. A few times we passed sets of these wicker sculptures. One set was in the style of animals from Kung Fu Panda, and others were unidentifiable to us. It was something to break up the monotony of the walk.
Don’t get us wrong. It was great to be out of the city walking, it just wasn’t that interesting. Well, the nature wasn’t. What was interesting was seeing the scale of development. We don’t know how many people they get visiting in peak season, as there were all sorts of mushroom shaped reed shelters for people to sit under and relax. The boardwalks were made to accommodate thousands. The four lane road was clearly designed to take way more traffic than was on it today
(and there were a few cars going consistently in both directions). Then there were the work crews. These poor people were spending all day weeding flowerbeds, replacing sections of the footpaths, or doing other maintenance projects. At least we provided them with some entertainment as we walked past.
So we were about 15km into the 20km walk, and we gave up. There had been taxis cruising up and down the road in the hopes of a fare, and we finally accepted one. He refused to use the meter to take us to the end of the walk though, wanting a flat fare of 20 yuan. Nope. Walk it is. He came around though when he worked out we were serious, and we got a metered ride to the other entrance. From the window it looked like we didn’t miss anything. All the way he wanted to take us to Panjin Railway station or our hotel, and we just wanted to go to the entrance. These cabbies don’t take no for an answer. 10 Yuan later we got to the entrance and thankfully bid him goodbye.
At the entrance we asked where to catch the bus back to Dawa. The cabbies tried to tell the girls at the ticket office to tell us there were no buses, but one girl stood her ground coming out to show us where to go. This royally pissed off the cab drivers, as they were seeing an expensive fare disappear before their eyes. And cabbies wonder why nobody likes or trusts them….
So, thanks to that brave young lady, we were able to walk up the street and find a bus stop. One of the cab drivers decided to follow. He was the one that was most adamant that there were no buses. Now he was saying that the bus was 7 yuan each, and he would only charge 20 yuan to take us to Dawa. Yeah. Right. The bus might be 7 each, but if we got in the cab we might be looking at more than 50! Anyway, he had already lied to us, so what was stopping him from lying again?
So the bus came, it was 7, and it took us all the way back to Dawa without issues, without extra charges, and without trying to push further trips on us. All in all a bonus!
So. If you come to this blog looking to find out how to get to the red sea beds: Apparently you go in September. Although we found it nice in May.
Check the tides. We didn’t bother, and it was out, but we have no idea what it looks like when it is in.
Bus 30 South from the Train Station for about 1 hour.
Go to the long distance bus station to get the bus to the red sea beds (sorry don’t know the name of the fishing village we got it back from) It is almost in the centre of Dawa.
Take the Electric Bus if it is running. Its a bloody long walk otherwise!