Article by: Christopher Bahlo
Photos by: Jaswinder Virk
Okdeal Tantou Island Beach Camping and Hiking Trip in 10-12 June 2013
My journey to Tantou Island was a once in a lifetime experience full of adventure and excitement. I am originally from Washington D.C. and this trip was my first real experience of Southeast China outside of Shanghai. We first departed from the Hilton Hotel at 7:30 am and headed towards the harbor. Along the way we crossed over one of the world’s largest bridges called the Hangzhou Bay Bridge. I originally thought that the Chesapeake Bay bridge close to my hometown was big, but this one paled into comparison to the Hangzhou. On either side of the bridge there are farmers and fisherman collecting food for the locals, which was a site to see within itself. After roughly 30 minutes of traveling over the bridge we decided to take a short pit stop and continue back on our journey to the Tantou Island Harbor.
Nearly 4:30 hours later, we arrived at the harbor and we naturally decided to get some KFC! The menu was nothing like the menus you would find back in the states, but it was a pleasant surprise. My friends and I also decided to head over the grocery store next door and load up on BUG SPRAY, small snacks, and other beverages. After lunch and packing up, our tour group was divided up and transported over to the island by three different local fishermen.
After about a 45 minute boat ride, we made it to the port on the Island and took a small shuttle over to the main part of the island.
Boat Ride View of the Harbor
After preparing our tents on the beach and settling in, I finally was able to meet up with the rest of the people in the tour group! We played soccer, jumped into the ocean, and just talked about our different background and cultures. One of the major highlights for me was hands down the people within my group! They were all great company and overall nice people who just made the experience that much better.
Landed on the Island
After a feast for dinner, full of a bunch of different seafood, including: fish, seaweed, crab, fried rice, oysters, steamed clams, noodles, and much more!
When the sun started to set, that is when the culture of the island bursted out literally into flames. There was a full on firework show for roughly 20 minutes both nights and different visitors prepared their own bonfires, sang, and drank to their hearts content! An extra plus for me especially being from the southern part of the United States, was the hospitality of the locals. All of the different groups were warm welcoming and even would go out of your way to make sure you were having an enjoyable time with them (even if you didn’t speak Chinese like me).
The next day the sun was shining and the weather could not have been any better!
In fact several of us decided to hike some of the trails on the island and journey through the jungle. It was helpful that Gary and Jesse, two other people in our tour guide had previously visited the island and had been on several other hiking trips, however, we all collectively decided to be a little adventurous and go on an unchartered route through the jungle. We even had to take several sticks and other tools and hack through the overgrown weeds and plants up the mountain. After roughly 3 hours of hiking we reached the highest peak of the island and the views were breathtaking. Truly pictures do not do it justice.
Journey to the Top
The group than made our way back down the mountain and even stumbled across some old WWII bunkers and even an abandoned town. It was something that I have never seen before and I would love to do it all over again!
After roughly 6 hours of hiking that day, we made it back to the main part of the island and pig out on a huge lunch prepared by the locals. My personal favorite part of the meal were the steamed clams and oysters seasoned with local spices.
When we finished pigging out, our group began to unwind and relax along the beach and even take another dip into the ocean. I even rented out one of the RV’s and drove up and down the beach, which was another highlight of the trip for me since I own a couple back at home.
As dinner started to roll around, I had the pleasure of cooking some burgers for the tour group. So we had a good old American BBQ along with more seafood provided by the locals. During dinner, there were more fireworks and bonfires than the previous night, which made it that much better of an experience.
Roughly an hour or two before dinner, my American friends decided to play some card games with the tour group which was even more of a blast! Teaching others a little bit of American culture is always nice for me, especially when they enjoy themselves. In fact, one of my new friends Jesse enjoyed himself so much that he invited me to a BBQ at his apartment in Shanghai for another round!
We drank, sang, and danced throughout the night making many friends along the way! Just to show you how nice the locals were, I ended up cutting my hand during the hiking trip earlier that day and one of the Chinese man noticed my hand and walked over a mile back to his tent to retrieve a first aid kit for me to properly clean my hand. This gesture meant the world to me and I have never seen this type of hospitality on any vacation I have previously been too!
Overall, the trip was definitely one of the highlights during my internship in China and I will cherish it for many years to come. The friends I made along with the sites I saw on the island are some of the reasons that my Tantou Island trip was so great!