Van Life China Blog 1

Camping on Golden Beach – Beginning a Van Life in China

It was a gamble many wouldn’t take.

And a life most wouldn’t want. But it’s a dream that we share.

Wei hadn’t driven for 3 years – not since she had gotten her license, but after a few refresher lessons, she felt ready for the road.

Van parked on a deserted beach in China.
The next day, starting our van life in China – camping at Golden Beach.

I am a useless lump.

I haven’t driven for 30+ years and have let my NZ license expire.

And along with the fact of my oh-so distracted mind – I’m not a driver that I trust. Not even on a bicycle – with trainer wheels; I am a menace that China can do without. For now, at least.

So, in Tianjin, at a dealer, two auto novices bought a used van.

For both of us, our first vehicle, ever.

Luckily, it seemed mechanically sound.

Once a delivery vehicle – scooting across the city, this 5-year-old – 43,000 km on the clock – minivan became our new home (for me, my first home after 30 years of living out of a backpack as a nomad around the world).

Beginning Van Life in China.
Wei and van living at Golden Beach. (The interior ‘ lounge’ pillows house our goose-down sleeping bags and Arctic-North Face jackets; this is also our bed).

Starting a van life in China


It wasn’t the glamourous road movie of Route 66.

Rather, a trail of dirty articulated trucks rumbling much of the journey.

Wei did well.

Near accidents happened, but not because of her.

Truck drivers in China can be impatient and dangerous, to say it politely. We passed nasty scenes of flipped trailers and shattered glass, spilt cargo, rescue cranes and cops.

Once we reached the coast, past the endless industrial ports of Hebei province, their frantic container and gasoline truck tangles, the journey blossomed into sunbeams amid calm, tree-lined country roads.

Horse on beach at dawn in China.
Early morning the next day around dawn at Golden Beach as Wei slept, horses along the sands and fishing boats offshore.

Our reward the first day, as dusk approached, after some hours of motoring mayhem, was arriving at a deserted beach.


The perfect first-night for our van life in China


Somehow, with little driving experience, zero auto knowledge, hazardous highways and not knowing where we were going, we found the perfect first-night spot to begin our new van life across China.

And the next day, camping bliss blew us away on Golden Beach.

wild horses and bbq squid - Golden Beach van life scenes in China.
Frolicking in the sand, feet in the water- but way too cold to swim! BOTTOM: barbequing fresh squid with spices for lunch, washed down with beer and baijiu. Friendly horses wander over to check us out.
Fishermen + Seagull at Golden Beach living a van life in China.
Early morning scene …
Beach Cleaning Woman at Goldeb Beach in north east China
Mid-morning and the local government worker – a beach cleaning woman, came over to chat. She told Wei that mostly people come to Golden Beach to have sex (in their cars). And that often her job was to depose of used condoms amid the usual bottles and wrappings.

TOP: Later, she took Wei in her tuk-tuk to a local market, and she returned with feast of fresh squid & chicken (which we put on our charcoal BBQ), along with hen and duck eggs, lettuce, tomatoes and more beer.
van life in china and sun rise at Golden Beach

While a few others arrived at the beach, often it was empty. Yet come summer, I imagine, this place would be a stack of umbrellas, bodies and towels. But in April, this is the van life we dreamed of…

Travels in China – 2019