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Great Getaways : Times Correspondents' Course in Favorite Weekend Escapes : PEKING

October 19, 1986|Jim Mann

It is not easy to be a beach bum in China, but Lu Hong was giving it his best. One day last summer, he sat under a shelter on the beach at Beidaihe in China, waiting out the brief afternoon rain, playing John Denver songs and the theme from the Voice of America on the guitar. He said he was escaping from the hectic life he leads as a black-market money-changer in Peking.

Such is summer life in Beidaihe, the main beach resort for northern China, a five-hour train trip from Peking. Beidaihe serves as the summer resting place for China's political elite (Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping often vacations here).

If you're looking for a pristine and secluded Caribbean-style getaway, Beidaihe won't do. In peak season, the surf may be full of watermelon rinds and wet paper; huge crowds gather by the shore, and the food and accommodations are as Spartan as elsewhere in China.

And yet, despite these drawbacks, Beidaihe is a pleasant and relaxing escape from Peking or Shanghai, and a place that gives the foreign visitor a taste of summertime Chinese-style.

In restaurants, visitors sometimes consume huge quantities of seafood, and at night, those in search of entertainment can find circus tents in which snake-handlers, "apparitionists" and motorcycle stunt men run through their acts.

There is even a fast-food restaurant, and the observant visitor can find a bit of a teen-age scene that qualifies as the Chinese version of "American Graffiti."

With luck, you might find rooms (about $30 per night per couple) at the International Club's Beidaihe Diplomatic Personnel Guest House, 98 Dongjing Road, Beidaihe Beach, China. Telephone 2807. If not, try one of the guest houses along the main beach road.

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