events

Shanghai, China: Changxing Island

The term "non-linear" applies especially to this post. I have made 2 trips to Changxing island over a few weeks, both times armed only with black & white film. As usual, I would type out this blog post on my Nokia E71 and then combine and edit them on a Macbook when I'm back in the comforts of my living room. However, somehow I got the post on Hengsha up and I forgot about this one till March 2010. So here I am, working on getting it out of my clogged up draft box.

As I originally wrote: after Hengsha, it is only natural the next island on the Yangzi River Delta to visit would be Changxing island, a lot bigger than Hengsha and slightly to the west. Not the biggest of course, that honour would go to Chongming island, subject of a future trip which I planned but never got to carry out before this post went online. It is not too difficult to get to Changxing. Same bus or metro to Wusong port and a boat to Majiagang, which is the only pier on the island, I was told. There are a lot more boats to Majiagang than to Hengsha, and the same for the return trip, so it shouldn't be any issue to get there and back and advanced ticket is not necessary.

There are not too much information about Changxing Island on the internet, at least not the English internet that I can search for. I was told that this island contains many orange farms, of the green skinned type. Lokam, some call it. Shanghainese would go there in their car in autumn and pick them, like a novelty item as if reminding them of the agricultural origins of Pudong. As the ferry passes by Changxing Island on the way to Hengsha, all I saw on Changxing was a lot of shipyards, so I have expectations of orchards, four-stroke tractors and shipyards.

Eventually I would spend a total of two weekends to survey two sections of the island, the middle  and the far western end. It would be total nuts to walk the whole island. Changxing is at least 30km long from one end to the other.

First Survey: 15 August 2009

GPS Plot for 16 August hike

Tried to wake up early, as I expect a long long walk on Changxing. Left home at 0700hrs after packing my own lunch, as I don't expect to waste time to look for a restaurant when on the island. After a quick breakfast, it was the usual bus 952 from People's Square to Wusong port. At the Baoshan ticketing office, the next fast boat I could find was at 1000hrs. This means I have at least one and a half hours to waste at the waiting room. I plug in my iPod and Fring on my Nokia E71 and tried to get productive going through some podcasts.

I have on me my old Lowepro Rover AW backpack, which I do not use too much anymore as I have found better alternatives. Inside is crammed with a Mamiya RZ67II medium format camera with 50mm and 127mm lenses. Originally I was thinking to bring 2 magazines and both black & white and colour film, but to cut down on the weight, it will be a black & white trip this time. Lunch went on the top of the bag, and the Sony PCM-D50 audio recorder in a pouch attached to the belt.  Navigation is provided by Garmin eTrex Vista, and backup with Nokia E71 running google maps in case I need to check if a path leads to dead-end or not.

1043hrs: Arrived at Majiagang port. Took less than an hour to get here. This place is busier than google maps suggested. Leaving the port gates, we are all greeted by motorcycle taxies and minivan drivers, offering to have you anywhere on the island for a pittance. Too bad this trip is all walk for me, no cheating on any other type of transportation. Just about every car on this island is doubling as a makeshift bus or taxi. There are some roadside stalls selling dried salted fish (because you could smell it).

Everyone seems to live in houses here. Not small huts either, these are 2 storey bungalows. But it would not be fair to call these luxurious, but rather, standard houses you would find on a typical chinese rural community. Not really farm houses either. They all seem to have tiles on the outside, which brings the class down a notch or two in my opinion. But you are on an island, so maybe style is not the concern. The only minus about these houses is that the cars that travel on the 2 lane highway have their horns permanently set to honk all the time. To make things worse, they prepare to overtake half a kilometer a way.

So I set a course due north east and walked till I hit the coastline where I could see Chongming Island, cutting through villages and farms, and orange orchards. Its not east to be discrete when carrying a Mamiya RZ67 as it looks as though I'm there to hunt for wild boar. This camera is just too big! But I love the medium format negative that it produces.

1305hrs: Finally hit the coastline after having to cut through some plantation, helped by satellite maps from my mobile phone. Found a way to get to a bund, and now sitting on a ledge at N31.42274, E121.68030 having my packed sandwich while enjoying the view of the bridge that connects this island to the main Chongming Island. I have heard of a long bridge somewhere near Shanghai, and I didn't know it was linking Changxing and Chongming Island. I don't think the bridge is ready yet for traffic yet but it does look long as hell. There are plenty of wetlands plants here, swaying in the wind, with nice cooling wind blowing so that it is not too hot. Perfect peaceful time to spend half an hour on lunch and just relaxing before the trek back to Majiagang.

1421hrs: Reached km0 of Fenghuang Highway, which should lead me straight back to Majiagang. The way back is just plenty of walking. Other than large breakwaters and dykes, majority of the island is mainly farmland. Not too many shops, so do stock up on tidbits and water before you venture out here. There are no restaurants that I have seen so far. They could be clustering around the Ferry Pier.

1530hrs: At Majiagang ferry terminal. No problem getting a ticket back to Wusong Port. The large waiting room at the terminal is noisy and full of locals. I don't see any tourist today. Maybe this is a good sign.

1647hrs: Back in Wusong Port and hungry. Time to look for some dinner. It was a nice long walk today. Most of the trip was boring, but the northern shore of the island is perfect for a quiet picnic. What is better than a totally secluded place with only the occasional local and no tourists and best of all, quiet and has a great view of the Chongming Island bridge?

22 August 2009:

GPS

0800hrs: Back at wusong port queueing up for the day's ferry ticket. Weather today is again forecasted rain but very very smoggy, but not worse than the typical smoggy Shanghai day. The ticket office seems emptier than normal which is strange. Bought a fast boat to Majiagang for 18 RMB, and like routine, went straight to waiting room 1&2. Boat number is 153, and I guess I will be at Majiagang before 1000 hrs.

Packed a Mamiya RZ67 and a Nikon S2 in my small 20L Arcteryx backpack so that I don't look too much like I have heavy photographic equipment. Lunch today will be a few buns from last night. Should be enough to keep me going all day. Water will all be in a 2L Camelbak inside the backpack. Bringing a Goosen Luna Pro light meter and the Sony PCM D50 audio recorder with a 16GB memory stick, about the most modern thing I have currently. Navigation is via an old Garmin eTrex Vista backed up by google maps on the Nokia E71.

There are many boats going to Majiagang on Changxing Island, but for some reason when you purchase tickets there is only one time on the counter. Trying to fill up the next boat? The fast boats are always filled up it seems anyway. Not tried the slow boat on the way to Majiagang, with more seats it should be a lot more vacancies on those. However, time is something I do not have much of, so no slow boat going there.

0937hrs: At Majiagang. With the smog, the view at the port is quite different from last week. The dry dock named Emei Shan seems to be sinking, at least by design so that the large ship being repaired there can leave the dry dock. Smoggy but sunny day, so guessing at least sunny f/16 minus 3 stops all day long.

1021hrs: Took a local illegal bus to a place to the west end of Changxing with a name I forgot but have the coordinates for. Stopped just in front of an army shophouse. Everyone inside are dressed in uniforms but wonder what they do here. There is a bus stop across the road and I noticed there is a bus that leads back to the pier every hour on the first quarter. Took note of it by snapping a picture with my mobile phone. Its time to take a walk... To the coastline!

There are giant breakwater dykes in this end of the island, and I'll just follow it for a few kilometer. The big issue today is that it is very very hot. I wouldn't be too surprised if it got close to 40C today in the hot sun. There are not too many trees out here for shelter, and the cemented path does not help either. I must have walked more than 10km by the time I got back to the place where I started. The scenery here is less of a wetland, as I originally thought from Google Earth, but more of large desolate landscape surrounded by concrete dykes. Good potential for simple landscape photography.

Time to walk back.

1354hrs: Back to the place I was left off. A public mini bus stands idle and the driver is sleeping inside. This has to be the 1415hrs bus back to Majiagang. Bus costs 3RMB. The one sitting here seems like the right one. Once the driver sees more than a person standing outside the bus he opens the door and turns on the aircon. The buses here do not seem to have number, they go by the destination displayed at the front, which is a bit of a problem for someone like me.

1426hrs: Back at Majiagang pier. Bought a fast boat ticket back at 18RMB leaving at 1545hrs. Which is just nice as this leaves me time to roam the pier looking for more things to explore. First up would be a visit to the waterfront to try to recreate the picture I took last week but lost because of a roll of fogged up film. Left my 127mm Mamiya lens at home today so unlikely I will get the same exact shot but will try.

Feel thirsty enough to crave a bottle of ice cold beer. But figured a bottle of sugared water would be a better choice considering I've probably lost quite a bit of salt through sweating today. Then its time go go into the boat waiting room, which is a 2 storey building. As with any transport area, you are greeted by a guard and an xray machine. I see that here no one puts their bag into the machine.

The waiting room seems to smell of urine. I was wondering if the floor is the toilet, but I guess its the unkept public toilet up on the second floor where most passengers wait and board the boat. Its fine to wait here except for the chain smoking men up here. They smoke all the time, never do you see them without a stick in their mouth.

1621hrs: Back in Wusong Port. Greeted by illegal motorcycle transporters, but this is quite normal outside the big urban centres in China.

*end*