Having heard so much about Qizi Bay (known as 棋子湾 Qízi Wān in Chinese), I was determined to go. I wasn't disappointed. This is a photographic introduction to what we saw at Qizi Bay, a total of 12 web pages -- if you have a slow connection, they may be a little slow to download. (To access the photos, go to Contents below).
Qizi Bay, located on the west coast of Hainan island, is a road less travelled, especially for the Western tourist. We heard that Westerners had been through, but they were few and far between. There is a website devoted to Qizi Bay, but it's in Chinese. A simple introduction in English can be found here and a brief note here.
The name Qizi Bay comes from the beautiful coloured pebbles that are found along the beach and in coves among the rocks. These stones are reminiscent of Chinese chess stones (棋子石 Qízi-shí).
There is a legend about these pebbles that goes like this: Two immortals were so engrossed in a game of chess that they forgot to take a break to eat. Seeing this, the locals brought them food. In gratitude, upon finishing their game, the immortals threw the chess stones into the bay as a gift to the local people.
Qizi Bay is noteworthy for the magnificent scenery of its rocky coastline. The beaches are also fine for swimming, etc., but if you want to do anything fancy you'd better bring your own gear. There is a coral reef off the coast that is reportedly quite beautiful. As far as I know very few people have actually dived there.
The nearest town, Changhua (昌化 Chānghuà), is a fishing port close to some of the richest fishing grounds in southern China and is known for its delicious seafood (which I'm unfortunately unable to vouch for -- see here).
To get to Qizi Bay, take a bus from Haikou to Shilu (石碌 Shílù), a nondescript town in western Hainan that, like many Hainanese towns, is strung along a long main street. The bus trip takes only about two hours. When you get to Shilu bus station, you'll have to catch a motorbike cab across to the northern bus station (北站 Běi zhàn), which costs RMB 2. From there, buses go to Changhua regularly (RMB 9). The trip is something over an hour. (It's also possible to catch a bus direct from Haikou to Changhua, departing Haikou around the middle of the day.) If you want to stay the night in Shilu, you can only stay in one hotel, the biggest and best, which would have cost us RMB 118 per night at the time.
After arriving in Changhua it's actually possible to walk to the nearest part of Qizi Bay, which is Xiaojiao.
But it's more usual to take a motorbike taxi to a spot commonly known as 'Qizi Wan', about 6km from the town. This is actually a beach adjacent to the furthest point of the Qizi Bay coastline. From this beach it's possible to access the most magnificent section of the bay. The cost is RMB 20 for a round trip, less if you're going one way.
Seeing the Sights:
When you get to Changhua, this is what the locals will tell you:
'Catch a motorbike taxi to Qizi Wan. Have a look around when you get there -- most people don't walk very far. Don't pay your cabbie up front or she'll leave you stranded and you'll have to walk back. There's a bus back to Shilu at about 4:20 in the afternoon'.
This is the WRONG WAY to appreciate Qizi Bay. You won't see much more than the beach, the Tinea Curing Brook, and a little bit of Dajiao. That's what we did the first day, and we were disappointed. Luckily, we met Mr Huang that evening. Mr Huang is an excellent local guide who took us along the entire length of Qizi Bay the next day.
To appreciate the place in a bit more depth, you need to grasp the geography of Qizi Bay. Aside from the long and beautiful uninhabited beach, Qizi Bay's main sights can be divided into three connected sections, starting with the furthest section and moving gradually closer to town:
(1) Dajiao (Large Point), an area of magnificent rocks and cliffs washed by the Gulf of Tonkin. This is immediately adjacent to the beach you'll end up at if you ask to be taken to 'Qizi Wan'.
(2) Zhongjiao (Middle Point), a beach heavily punctuated by shoals of rocks. Also accessible by road.
(3) Xiaojiao (Small Point), a rocky area on a more human scale than Dajiao and more comfortable for ordinary walking. This is close to town.
To really enjoy Qizi Bay, you can:
(1) Catch a motorbike taxi to Qizi Wan (i.e., Dajiao), look at the beach and then walk along the cliffs and beaches back to town, a good six hours.
(2) Walk from town right along the bay, through Xiaojiao and Zhongjiao, until you arrive at the far end of Dajiao and the long sandy beach, then walk all the way back to town (not having done this I don't know how long it takes, but you should budget a full day, leaving at 8 in the morning and getting back at 6 in the evening).
(3) Understandably, not everyone wants to spend a whole day walking along rocks and cliffs. Another way is to go to Dajiao by motorbike taxi and potter around for a while, as the locals suggest. If you're getting too old to clamber over rocks and cliffs, there is a path over the top of Dajiao, which is much easier going.
It would be a pity if you missed the scenery at Xiaojiao and Zhongjiao. These are both easily accessible and could be done in separate trips. Xiaojiao can be reached on foot from the town (get someone to tell you how to get through the bush). You can also catch a motorbike taxi direct to Zhongjiao.
Aside from Qizi Bay and the beach, there are two other sights to be seen around Changhua. One is apparently a mountain scenic area with views of the sea. Another is an old town dating back to the Han dynasty -- Roman times! To visit both of these places you really need to own or hire private transport. However, having exhausted ourselves at Qizi Bay, we decided, perhaps unwisely in retrospect, to give them a miss.
We went in winter when it was cool, but by midday we were taking off our jackets. The months of June-July are apparently sweltering.