When my friend Mary first mentioned the red beaches of Panjin, I was skeptical. A red beach in Liaoning sounded a little unreal. I had seen a red beach on the Greek island of Santorini, but its color was caused by volcanic rock, and I had no idea about such geological activity in Liaoning.
I went online and looked for some pictures of the beach. My computer screen quickly glowed bright red with an avalanche of bright images. The biggest surprise was that it wasn’t exactly a beach, shattering my visions of hanging out in swimming suits playing volleyball. The landscapes are marshes – gigantic marshes. In fact, they are the biggest reed marshes in the world.
The peculiar color isn’t the sand, but a rare plant called the seepweed (Suaeda salsa). It blooms at the end of April and although it is green all summer, it becomes crimson by autumn. That is when tourists flock to the scene. Common wisdom dictated that the best time to go was September, but it was already in mid- October. Would a visit still be worth it? We decided to give it a try.
We set off from Beijing on a night train bound for Panjin and arrived early the next morning. It’s actually ideal to arrive in a new city at 5 a.m. You can witness the empty streets slowly fill up and then grab a steamy breakfast as early commuters rush to work. It’s also best to visit tourist attractions before seas of people consume them.
Surrounding the train station were plenty of drivers offering rides to the beach. Groups often take buses, but sharing a car can be just as cheap. We hopped in one and immediately headed to Panjin’s countryside, which was quite an interesting trip thanks to forests of oil drills. Oil drilling is a big part of Panjin’s economy. We reached the scenic area after a short 40-minute drive and were instantly dazzled by its immensity. As our car passed by the endless horizon of reeds, we listened to the chilling wind hum through the car windows.
The instant we opened the doors, a fantastic feeling of freedom consumed us. Seeing the sea without a building in sight for miles was exhilarating. Silently, we walked over the bridges above the marshes, overwhelmed by the vibrant colors of the seepweed. Likely due to our late arrival, the color was already more purple than red. It was still a beautiful day and the sun was bright, but the northeastern wind can always find a way into your clothes if you forget to bring a good jacket.
The beach is composed of several scenic spots, all well maintained and or-
ganized. Each one features some elevated platform to allow visitors to leave the main road and walk above the marshes without getting wet. The sea itself is hard to see as it disappears into the horizon. Small streams crisscross the wetlands like serpents.
Below the blue of the sky and opposite the red of the sea, we noticed a large stroke of yellow in the distance. The road served as a line separating massive yellow rice fields from the purple coastal marshes. Walking through the fields under the glowing sun creates a totally different atmosphere reminiscent of pre-dust-bowl Oklahoma fields, with short grain rice instead of corn. Panjin’s rice is quite famous and highly sought after for its taste.
After the long morning was spent taking in all the beauty of the red beach, we headed back to the city for lunch and tried another local specialty, the mitten crabs of Panjin. We got back to Beijing the same night – I highly recommend a trip to Panjin for a weekend autumn getaway.
Adventurous tourists wander through the muddy marshes.
Small streams run through the marshes.
Elevated platforms enable visitors to explore the red beach.