All posts by Vanessa Anderson

Vanessa Anderson is a global traveller living her life passionately by experiencing different cultures around the world. She travels with her partner Ian Usher, the "guy who sold his entire life on eBay". They currently live in China working as English teachers. You can follow their alternative lifestyle here at www.DivergingRoads.com. or at www.IanUsher.com.

A day at Dameisha Beach, Shenzhen

We live in Shenzhen, southern China, and from our home we gaze across Sea World in Shekou, towards Hong Kong. There are no beaches to be found here, but to the east of Shenzhen, around 12km from the centre you will find yourself in the district of Yantian. The coastline stretches for 19km with beaches, mountains, islands and reefs and this is also the closest weekend getaway for locals and visiting tourists.

Yantian district was established in 1998 and it is connected to the urban area of Shenzhen by highways and expressways that offer a quick connection by car. For tourists it’s possible to take the J1 bus all the way from Sea World on a route that meanders through Nanshan, Futian, Luohu and on to Dameisha, where you disembark at the central bus station. It takes around one and a half hours, probably much longer in rush hour and at holidays, but it’s a cheap option for tourists and locals alike.

Colourful shops on the way to the beach
Colourful shops on the way to the beach

“Soft sand and limpid sea water”

I was sceptical about visiting Dameisha, but we were keen to see for ourselves whether the beach lived up to the Shenzhen tourist brochure’s claim of having the “longest beech (sic), soft sands and limpid (?) sea water”.

We’d seen the news reports of 160,000 people crammed onto this beach during Spring Festival, and heard locals talk of an alarm that sounds when more than 50,000 people frequent the beach on busy spring and summer weekends. So we opted to visit on a quieter Monday morning.

It was an overcast day, a little stormy with dark skies but the sun was warm enough to attract a steady stream of visitors, and we followed the small procession down through the town to the sea front.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but as usual in China I was surprised. I felt as if I had been transported back to 1970s England as we passed by shop fronts full of beach paraphernalia including a mix of large floats, buckets and spades, bikinis and summer hats.

A walk around town
A walk around town

Dameisha is not a small coastal village, but a large sprawling town. It has an older, more typically Chinese area that leads to a modern mall alongside an equally modern marina with large hotels, including a Sheraton resort style property.

Sheraton-Dameisha-ResortWe ventured into a couple of smaller hotels to check out the overnight rates but were told they couldn’t accommodate tourists. This is not because they don’t want foreigners staying in their hotels.

For anyone staying overnight in China you have to be registered by the hotel at a local police station. Some hotels simply haven’t got the licence to enable them to do this. Don’t ever take it personally. There are plenty of hotels where you will be able to make a reservation, but don’t leave it to the last minute at busy times!

IMG_20150525_130241The coastal road is lined with trees and you cannot see directly to the seafront, but we found our way to the beach entrance at the more western end of town.

The entrance is masked with barriers and for a moment we thought we would need to pay as is common at some other beaches. By watching other visitors we realised these are the “people counters” used to monitor the number of people entering, and that no payment is in fact required at Dameisha.

IMG_20150525_123536OK, if you are used to five star luxury and deserted beaches then you will be disappointed. But by English standards, it really isn’t that bad. The sand is beautifully soft, and despite warnings from locals, the sea looked clean. At least there wasn’t a flotilla of rubbish as I thought there might be. In fact, there were waste bins at regular intervals and everything looked extremely organised.

Dotted along the beach were lifeguards overseeing their own small areas of netted sea for safe swimming. There are activities including diving, (off a small island that can be seen from the beach), jet skis and even paragliding.

Safe swimming
Safe swimming

Beach angel sculptures

Far in the distance we could make out some unusual sculptures rising off the beach and we made our way along to investigate. Large angel-like figures rose out of the sand providing an interesting photo opportunity.

According to TravelChinaGuide.com – “these sculptures “depict the aspirations for a better life for the “drifting generation” – the young people who had unstable jobs and insecure living conditions during the 1940s to 1980s. Now the sculptures have become a symbol of happiness.”

IMG_20150525_125413We ourselves “drifted” to the back of the beach and were surprised to see rows of lockers. What a great idea – it’s always a problem on a busy beach as to what to do with your possessions. This solves the problem in a safe and practical way. There were also changing rooms and toilets, although I can’t vouch for their cleanliness when there are more than 50,000 people on the beach!

Security lockers at the back of the beach area
Security lockers at the back of the beach area

The clouds were gathering and the sky darkened ominously, so we wandered back to the local restaurants, most offering a varied selection of fish and seafood.

IMG_20150525_143546

Seafood restaurant at the west end of town
Seafood restaurants at the west end of town

Here you can select live fish from the stacked aquariums and eat a freshly cooked meal.

Live seafood and fish on show
Live seafood and fish on show

We made it into a busy restaurant just before the heavens opened and sat undercover watching the street scenes as we ate our lunch. As we were due to fly out to Abu Dhabi the next day, we steered clear of the seafood and opted for a tasty tofu and vegetable lunch – just to be on the safe side!

Lunch at Dameisha
Lunch at Dameisha

There’s enough to do here for a day – a few activities, sunbathing, shopping and a walk around the town, but if you want to venture into a less crowded area I would suggest going a little further along the coastline to Xiaomeisha beach. It’s smaller and less busy, with an entrance fee of 30 Yuan. Camping is a popular activity here and you can rent a tent or take your own.

If you have children you can also visit Xiaomeisha Sea World  to provide some variety. You could also visit Wutong Mountain, a popular hiking spot, before arriving at Dameisha.

Dapeng Penninsula

Map of the Dapeng Penninsula (courtesy of Shenzhen Party
Map of the Dapeng Penninsula (courtesy of Shenzhen Party)

However, I have higher hopes for the Dapeng Penninsula, further to the east, which as yet we haven’t visited. Here I am told you can hike, visit smaller coves and even the historic Dapeng Fortress, built in 1394.

This is a relatively undeveloped area, by Chinese standards and you will find seafood restaurants in Nanao, as well as small bed and breakfast type establishments at Jiaochangwei. These small inns were formerly homes of fishermen and local families. They are much more characterful and many have been updated along the lines of small western boutique hotels.

Dapeng Ancient Fortress
Dapeng Ancient Fortress

As with most places in China you will no doubt hear both good and bad reports about this stretch of coastline, but we found it a pleasant escape from city life and look forward to exploring it further.

For more information take a look at some of these links:

Beaches in Shenzhen – www.shenzhenparty.com

Sheraton Hotel Resort – Dameisha Beach – www.StarwoodHotels.com

Xichong Surfing Beach, Dapeng – Secret Spot Café and B&B – http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/article/1558106/let-it-rip-surfs-shenzhen

Unrealistic Living  – http://www.unrealisticliving.com/2014/10/19/xicong-beach-pizza-french-toast-and-paradise/

Dapeng Fortress – http://www.szcchina.com/blog/da-peng-old-fortress-shenzhen.html

Getting around Shenzhenhttp://www.saporedicina.com/english/getting-around-shenzhen/

How to survive a Chinese spa

I’d heard a lot about spas here in Shenzhen and how different they were to western versions, and I was keen to see how they compared. One of my students offered to take us to D-Club, a luxury spa in the Futian district and it really was an experience unlike any other!

Read the story of how our day unfolded here:

http://www.saporedicina.com/english/luxury-chinese-spa-experience/

Lovin’ Bloglovin’

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

I’ve been wondering lately how to manage all the interesting blogs and information that I read. It seems that we all love to write and share our experiences. But as it becomes more and more easy to create stylish information based websites, I find myself drawn to so many articles.

And the problem is that I wander.

I wander through all the links and find inevitably that I’ve lost the original article I was so interested in reading! I guess I’ve been so busy getting lost deep within layers of internet searches that I haven’t had time to find Bloglovin’

After dallying briefly with Feedly I sort of gave up – but thanks to a great travel blog I was linked to last night I finally found Bloglovin’

So far so good – and here I am now “claiming my blog”. I was instructed to write a new blog and insert the relevant code but none of my latest blog posts are ready. So as I’m an impatient girl, I’ve written this short entry to test that it works!

For anyone reading these few short paragraphs, please, please take time to look at my “real” articles! I’m a global traveller living with my partner, Ian Usher, and partaking in a lifestyle adventure that I hope will see me through the rest of my life!

Two years ago Ian and I began travelling the world after a chance meeting in London. DivergingRoads.com tells our story as we meander happily through our lifestyle adventure, finding ways to make a living while experiencing as many cultures as possible.

I hope you find some inspiration here to live your life exactly as you want to.

More coming very soon!

5 Practical Reasons to House Sit (not one is a holiday!)

House and Pet Setting is a great way to find free accommodation, but it’s not only about traveling the world or taking vacations.

There are a number of other practical reasons why house sitting might be an option worth considering at some time in your life when your circumstances change.

Here are my top five suggestions:

Becoming an Expat

We don’t have to make huge, life changing decisions and long term commitments when services like house sitting allow us to test the water and acclimatise more gradually.

So, if you’re thinking of either temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of your citizenship, then house sitting gives you a great way to orientate yourself in a new environment.

It’s particularly difficult when relocating abroad to be sure that you’ve picked the best district to live in. If you organise a few consecutive house sits, you can compare the options and you’ll have immediate contacts. They might be able to give you invaluable advice about the best and safest residential areas.

House sitting is becoming popular around the world in many new previously unavailable countries. If there’s an expat community, there will likely be a house sitting community to cater for home owners who take extended trips home to visit family and friends.

Relocating to a new town or city

So you want a change of scene – a new town, city or maybe even a rural location. It’s stressful enough upping sticks and moving, so why add to the stress by rushing headlong into a long term property rental or house purchase before you know exactly what your new location can offer?

Signing up for a house sitting assignment will give you the opportunity to live in different parts of the town or city of your choice, so that you get to experience what there is on offer before committing long term.

But what about your stuff? Well remember that your accommodation will be free while house sitting so you’ll be able to afford to put your possessions into local storage. It’s likely that some of your utility bills and Wifi could also be free for a while.

If you have a dog to look after this will be a great way to meet the locals. My experience is that if you are walking a dog people will often stop and talk to you!

Completing a large project

Are you writing a book, creating a new online business, writing a dissertation, studying online or attending a long term course? Sometimes it becomes difficult to maintain focus in a familiar environment. It’s all too easy to pop round to the neighbours, invite friends over or simply cosy up on the sofa to watch a movie.

A great way to rekindle your enthusiasm and focus on a long term project is to settle into a new environment, away from the distractions of home.

This can be expensive if you turn to traditional options such as hotels and holiday rental properties. House sitting can give you the opportunity to take care of a property for an extended period of time, so that you can work on your project uninterrupted.

Lifestyle Living as a Global or Digital Nomad

There’s a growing community of people that have chosen to live a mobile, international lifestyle, travelling from one country to another without a permanent home or job.

My partner Ian and I belong to this category and we use house sitting almost exclusively as a way of experiencing different countries and cultures while making our living working remotely on the internet. It’s a liberating lifestyle and we are more than happy to give back to the house sitting community by offering our services to look after people’s properties, possessions and pets.

If you are considering opting out of mainstream society to become a global or digital nomad, then house sitting is a great way of finding free temporary accommodation within a homely environment.

Relationship breakdown

When a relationship or marriage breaks down you may find yourself in a difficult situation where both parties have no option but to continue living in one property together while trying to sell it.

When tensions are running high, it’s good to separate yourself from the situation. This gives you both the chance to evaluate the most practical options without continuing arguments or fallouts.

If one of you moves out to a local house sit, then it gives you the breathing space to deal with all the practical and legal issues, without the further expense of a rental property.

Of course you need to be of a sane mindset – house and pet sitting is a responsibility and you certainly don’t want conflicts to transfer from home to the house sit!


House sitting offers flexible options for living – if you want to find out more please check out our other articles. A great place to start is our website comparison that will help you get started, by subscribing to the best sites!

How to teach English in China

Teaching in China is big business. It’s said that if every TEFL teacher in the world went to China, there still wouldn’t be enough teachers to meet the demand!

Here’s my complete guide on how you can become an English language teacher in China. It covers absolutely everything you’ll need to know to get started in a new career in this fascinating country.

Discover how to find a job as an English teacher in my latest article at www.saporedicina:

How to find a job as an English Teacher in China