Within a few weeks of arriving in China, the school I work at was rewarded with a staff trip. Having just gotten to China, I really didn’t know what all there was to explore here and was surprised to find out that we would be going to an island off Shanghai called Shengsi Island. I never pictured China having islands for some reason, but Shengsi, located in the Zhoushan Archipelago off Hangzhou Bay, is only one of over a thousand islands. Granted only about 100 of these are actually inhabited.
I had no idea what to expect and was only instructed to bring a swimsuit and be ready to leave at 6:30am. We had a 3-hour long chartered bus ride to the ferry terminal in which none of the foreign teachers were prepared, on time, or had snacks for. But as soon as the bus started moving, all of the local staff brought out bags of cookies, cakes and anything else edible that was quickly passed around to share. I should have known…Chinese people always seem to have snacks.
From the ferry terminal, you have two options to get to Shengsi Island: the slow ferry-which takes about an hour and a half, or the fast ferry-which takes about 50 minutes.
We were set up with a tour company that picked us up at the ferry terminal and took us to a small hotel. It was actually more of a Chinese version of a bed and breakfast or maybe even a hostel. It was hard to tell. We ate a traditional Chinese lunch upon arrival, which had an assortment of questionable looking foods. Though the table was filled with about 10-15 dishes, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I only stuck with a few that I deemed safe for consumption.
Our afternoon began with a guided tour up the mountains to see the views of the island. Once at the top, we were taken to a building that housed various pictures that photographers had taken of the impending view. The local staff seemed to enjoy walking around admiring the pictures. I stood there highly confused as to why IN THE WORLD we would be looking at pictures of the view when the actual view was right outside. I bailed on the art gallery real quick.
Shengsi has some very beautiful views of lush rolling mountains and sandy beaches below. For a brief moment, I almost felt like I was somewhere other than China.
We spent the rest of the afternoon down on one of the beaches where there were numerous beach activities to partake in. There were 4-wheelers zooming around on the beach, tubes and floats to rent and huge floating bikes that you could peddle around in the water. I don’t know what I was thinking to not have rented one of the floating bikes!
Shengsi Island is known for its seafood so we headed to a nearby restaurant for dinner to see how it held up. Nearly all of the restaurants have tanks of fish and creatures so the food is always fresh. Though I must say, with our table outside facing the tanks, it was a little weird to see what your eating floating around in the background!
Just like at lunch, our table was quickly filled with a number of dishes. The verdict? Well, I am a tough critic having lived in South Florida for the past 5 years and I have to say that is it not even in the same realm and therefore cannot really be compared to western seafood. However, it was definitely a culinary adventure because it was kind of like eating right off the boat…which is exactly what we did on Day 2!