A small beacon erecting on reefs near Dongfushan, a small island under the administration of Dongji town in Zhejiang province. [Photo by Zhang Tiaoyao and Huang Dong/For China Daily]
Dongji, a town in eastern China, is the perfect place to unwind for a few days. Xing Wen writes.
I was standing on the foredeck of a boat, witnessing the turbid sea on which sunlight shimmered. The boat had left Zhoushan's Shenjiamen port an hour or so ago.
I was heading to Dongfushan, a small island under the administration of Dongji town, located to the east of the Zhoushan archipelago, which is part of East China's Zhejiang province.
Dongji translates to "east pole", which explains why the town is mistaken by some tourists to be China's easternmost island.
As the boat got closer to the town, the secluded island looked like a hill on the sea. There were some islets in view, too.
After a two-and-half-hour cruise, the boat slowed down and prepared to dock. I saw rows of dilapidated houses line the waterfront. The gray houses were partially covered in moss.
Several blue-and-red trawlers were anchored to a large platform protruding from the island. The platform is the so-called quay of Dongfushan.
I stepped on land, followed by a group of elders who were on the boat with me. They told me the island, with a coastline of nearly 10 kilometers, was a wonderful place for hiking. So, we set out to look around the island after lunch in a village. I walked along a stone path on both side of which clusters of Chinese miscanthus flower swayed in the sea breeze.
I looked down to the left, waves lashed against the rocky shoreline, sending up fountains of water. By the seashore were pebbles of various sizes and shapes.
As we walked further, I saw to my right, ruins of abandoned dwellings with creepers on the walls, functioning windmills, cacti burgeoning through crevices in rocks, gloomy caves that we dare not to enter and goats grazing on the hillside.
As the path began to ascend, we came across a signage that read, Xiangbi Peak ("elephant trunk" peak). We climbed up the stone steps through a section of tall grass to reach the peak that was named for its elephant-trunk-like shape when viewed from one side. When we arrived at the site, it seemed like we were standing on a part of the top of the peak that now looked like the head of an elephant.
The breeze became stronger, whistling in my ears. I ran my eyes over the abrupt slope within a few feet and saw fishing boats floating on the water, a beacon erected on a nearby islet and, of course, the panoramic view of the coastal water.
My heart beat faster as I was afraid that I might fall over from the narrow path if I didn't manage to walk down carefully. But I did OK.
Although it took us more than four hours to trek around the island, which was exhausting, I really enjoyed nature without distractions.
The island, with only a few hundred residents, is indeed a place far away from the madding crowd.
But Dongji town is more than a pack of desolate islands. Lying to the northwest of Dongfushan, is Miaozihu island, the seat of the town's government, and is larger and more prosperous than Dongfushan.
A giant statue of a fisherman named Chen Caifu facing the sea, holding a torch in his right hand, stands on the south of Miaozihu, which serves as a landmark for the island.
According to local folklore, Chen Caifu was a fisherman who survived a storm and spent the rest of his life illuminating the seaway for passing boats. The statue was built to commemorate his kindness.
The island has experienced a surge in tourism in recent years as it is an ideal destination for urban Chinese to escape their hectic daily routine and relax in the weekends.
Guesthouses, hostels, cafes, restaurants, fishing clubs and bars have sprung up on the land, meeting various visitor demands.
The youth hostel I booked was a three-story house made of stone and wood on the west coast of the island. Sitting on a balcony that overlooked the quay, I basked in the sun and enjoyed the sea breeze.
The co-owner of the hostel is a woman named Shelly Wang, who is in her 40s. The Hangzhou native was attracted by the environment and scenery of the island when she first visited with her husband in 2003. The following year, the couple decided to buy a house on the island for them to spend their holidays in.
"I dreamed of living in a house by the sea," she said. "But I couldn't choose a place far away from my home as I needed to take care of my family in Hangzhou. That's why Miaozihu worked for me, an island in the same province as my home."
After renovating the house, she turned it into a youth hostel in 2014 and now spends six months on the island every year.
Over the past 15 years, Shelly has witnessed changes on the land as Dongji became better known to tourists.
She said the young residents of the island used to earn a living in cities such as Ningbo and Hangzhou and the elders went fishing for money. Now, some of the migrant workers have returned home and have started their own businesses like running restaurants.
"As tourism prospers, the island's infrastructure has improved. I seldom suffer from power cuts any longer," she said.
The island dwellers are benefiting from the thriving tourism, but I hope the environment of the place will be preserved at the same time.