Fishing for something different? Try a homestay

Guesthouses reflecting the artistic creativity of their owners make a trip to the Shanghai seashore an unexpected delight.

Jinshanzui on the southeastern coast of Shanghai is the last remaining fishing village in the city.

Jinshanzui (mouth of Jinshan) on the southeastern coast of Shanghai is the last remaining fishing village in the city. Every weekend people flock to the area, but few are carrying fishing poles.

So what’s the attraction? Well, apart from seafood restaurants, a bustling wholesale fish market and invigorating coastal scenery, distinctive local homestay guesthouses are becoming a big draw card.

Tourism came to Jinshanzui several years ago on the back of the popularity of nearby City Beach. While local people seem pretty blase about the charms of their village, some outsiders found it a great place to both live and make a bit of money.

They rented old fishermen’s houses and then remodeled them to accommodate overnight visitors. Each guesthouse has a distinguishing style reflecting the talent and artistry of its renovator.

The Jinshan District government recently certified several of the guesthouses after they passed fire and security checks. Other applications for certification are pending.

Shanghai Daily visited several of the guesthouses to check out what they had to offer.

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Lush greenery fills the entrance to the Bamboo-Themed Inn.

The Bamboo-Themed Inn 绿竹巷

When bamboo products dealer Shu Donghua first visited Jinshanzui, he was so taken with the coastal setting that he decided to settle there.

The Bamboo-Themed Inn was originally a local residence. When the residents decided to move out of town, they rented the house to Shu, who lost no time in tapping its potential.

“I was born into a family of carpenters,” he says. “My grandfather and my father made products from wood, but I chose bamboo because I wanted to do something different. Opening this inn is my latest bold decision.”

The inn has three guestrooms, and Shu plans to add more in a side wing. He and his family will also live there when renovation is completed.

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All the bamboo furniture at the inn has been designed by its owner Shu Donghua.

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Shu hand-crafts many of the items of interior decor.

Shu designed all the bamboo furniture, including bed, chairs, tables, lamps and closet shelving. Toiletry articles and beverages provided in the rooms are also bamboo-related, including soap and canned drinks made from juice extracted from bamboo leaves.

“The house was in a poor condition when we took it over,” Shu says. “It leaked everywhere. Sometimes new problems arose when a project was half-done, and we had to start all over again.”

The public area of the guesthouse is decorated with bamboo plants, creating a shady, cool environment. Shu says he plans to offer basic bamboo-weaving lessons to interested guests.

The bamboo theme is carried to the menu as well. Guests who order ahead are treated to a specialty of the house — sticky rice, vegetables and meat cooked in hollow bamboo stems.

The outside yard shows the same meticulous designing as the guesthouse interior. An area that once served as junk pile has been converted into a bamboo copse and fishpond.

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The guestrooms at the inn offer unpretentious comfort.

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The elegantly design balcony

“The outdoor area seems to attract animals,“ Shu says. “We have frogs living around the fishpond, and one day a stray dog stopped by and has become our household pet.”

The inn obtained a guesthouse certificate after installing fire proofing and upgrading the guest registration system. It all required a lot of time and energy.

“I have heard about accidents happening in homestay guesthouses, and I never want that to happen here,” he says.

Cost of a standard double room for one night: 456 yuan (US$70)

Meals available: Breakfast, lunch and dinner, but advance booking required

Address: 83 Jinshanzui Old Street

Tel: 6729-8113 (Chinese only)

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A corner of the administrative offices-turned-guesthouse Lao Jing

The Old Well (Lao Jing) 老井

This guesthouse takes its name from a nearby well, the oldest in the village. Half a century ago, the structure housed government administrative offices.

Current manager Chen Liyi remodeled the offices into guestrooms.

“Before we decided to turn it into a guesthouse, we were renting the building as a studio for our interior decoration business,” Chen says. “Then we decided to try something different here.”

One of the distinctive features of the Old Well are the remnants of the “Red China era.” Old slogans, such as “study hard,” remain in red paint on the walls in the hallway. The wood-framed doors and windows add a similar touch of retro harking back to a time when all schools and government buildings featured the same sort of doors and windows.

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Lao Jing takes its name from this well in the yard, the oldest of its kind in the village.

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Slogans from a past era, such as "study hard," remain in red paint on the walls of the Old Well.

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In the hallway, the designers have remolded the flaking wall surfaces and repainted the bricks.

But the designers didn’t just retain parts of the past. They also added touches that give the guesthouse the aesthetics of a bygone era. In the hallway, for example, where flaking wall surfaces exposed brick underneath, the designers have remolded the flaking portions and repainted the bricks, rendering an artistic but still natural look.

At the same time, Chen and his colleagues also tried to give the guesthouse some classic traits. They collected carved-wood door lintels and window frames from nearby villages — many of them dating back more than a century — and used them as ornamentation in the building and yard.

They also made wooden furniture and used wood engravings and calligraphy as guestroom decor.

“We wanted to make everything personal and different from common hotel rooms,” Chen says. “It all reflects our own taste in art, and we want to attract people of like minds.”

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Some of the rooms in the Old Well are connected with each other by inside doors to accommodate large parties, such as family reunions, business events or student outings.

“There is only one staff member if I’m not here,” Chen says. “But we have a well-equipped kitchen to fix meals for guests.”

The guesthouse expects to be certified soon, he adds.

“We modified many things to strengthen security,” he says. “We also coated all wood items with fire-resistant material and installed fire alarms and sprinkler systems in all rooms.”

Cost of a standard double room for one night: 260 yuan

Meals available: Breakfast

Address: 32 Jinshanzui Old Street

Tel: 1831-7025-741

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Idyllic surroundings make Banduoyoulian, the largest guesthouse in Jinshanzui, a popular destination.

Banduoyoulian 半朵悠莲

The largest guesthouse in the village, Banduoyoulian, literally translates as “half-bloomed lotus,” is quite different from its competitors. Some might think it doesn’t look like a homestay guesthouse at all.

The gate to the guesthouse is small and easy to miss. But if one walks around a huge stone at the entrance, a wide space suddenly opens before their eyes.

A lakeside cafe bar is the first thing to greet visitors, who are no doubt surprised to find a lake there at all.

Zhou Yujie, a manager of the guesthouse, says the owner is a collector who loved prowling for old furniture. The tables in the cafe and most of the furniture in the 22 guestrooms were all part of his collection.

“The owner used to live in the guesthouse, but now he has left,” says Zhou. “He does return from time to time to have a coffee with the guests.”

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A lakeside cafe bar is the first thing to greet visitors.

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The cozy guestroom

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The yard

Banduoyoulian might be the best choice if one wants to make new friends in Jinshanzui. Barbeque parties, folk song performances and a convivial drinking atmosphere tend to make even the shyest, most aloof people extroverts.

“This is what the owner wants — guests socializing here,” Zhou says.

Cost of a standard double room for one night: 306 yuan

Meals available: Breakfast

Address: 30 Jinshanzui Old Street

Tel: 5724-0338 (Chinese only)

Soaking up the old culture of local fishermen

Visitors booked into iconic Jinshanzui homestay guesthouses don’t have to sit around twiddling their thumbs. The area has interesting history and culture to explore.

The area’s roots go back thousands of years, when ancient tribes lived by the grace of the sea.

The village reached its peak around 100 years ago, when nearly 40 stores, workshops and guesthouses crowded onto a main street barely 500 meters long. Every spring and autumn, visitors swarmed to this seaside to buy seafood or watch the tides.

Nowadays, many of the old locals have moved out, leaving behind a seaside that largely serves as a weekend retreat for urbanites from Shanghai and neighboring provinces.

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Jinshanzui Old Street funnels visitors toward the seafront.

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Seafood is a big attraction in Jinshanzui.

Wang Rongjiang / SHINE
Wang Rongjiang / SHINE

Local snack

Seafood is one big attraction for visitors. On the old street, several snack bars sell fresh yellow croaker noodles with seafood and radish fritters called youdunzi. The yellow croaker noodles are cooked with pickled green vegetable that brings out the full flavor of the fish. The fritters have shrimp inside, something never seen downtown.

History buffs will enjoy a local gallery that preserves much of the old fishing culture. The gallery was remodeled from a former residence. It contains fishing gear, the kind of boat used for centuries by fishermen and the methods they used to dry their catches. There is also a glimpse into what a fisherman’s cottage looked like.

The old street leads visitors to the seashore, which has an embankment reaching out into the Pacific Ocean. In the past, this was a favorite site for newlyweds to have wedding photos taken, but today the embankment has been fenced off from pedestrian traffic.

The local fish market has long been popular with visitors, but it’s only open during fishing season. But it’s still possible to buy dried sea eel, anchovies or other seafood in other shops. Salted dried fish is a common “souvenir: taken home from the village.

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A local gallery preserves much of the old fishing culture.

If you go:

Trains going to Jinshanwei in Jinshan District leave from the Shanghai South Railway Station, which takes about half an hour. In Jinshanwei, take the Nanwei bus line to Jinshanzui, and it’s an easy walk from there.

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