The Abandoned Village of Gouqi Island


The moment when you see a beautiful on Pinterest (in total basic-bitch fashion) and find yourself venturing through those very vines almost two years later…                   

Yeah, I was there.

Screw the story-  How do I get there? 

Video Tour

Before I moved to China I made myself a rather aggressive bucket list (there is too much to see), and as luck would have it, in my second week of teaching in China, it was China’s National Holiday…  国庆节 (Guóqìng)

Before I moved to China I made myself a rather aggressive bucket list (there is too much to see), and as luck would have it, in my second week of teaching in China, it was China’s National Holiday…  国庆节 (Guóqìng jie, aka “National Day”).  Hello, 7 days of exploring Shanghai and the Shengsi islands!  (to hear where to go in Shanghai and what to see click here)

My main goal for the week was to see the Houtou Wan Village that was abandoned back in the 1950s and has been over-thrown by Mother Nature ever since.  However, the information on how to get to this island was a bit difficult to research, because any information I did find was very misleading.  Top off the cluster-fuck of info I gathered about the island with an act of thievery, my hostel canceling my reservation 2hrs before my arrival, and a small typhoon blowing through (leaving me stranded…twice… on two different islands) this “simple vaca” to the islands turned into a quest for peace real quick.


Route to the islands?  subway+bus+ferry+transfer ferry+taxi +@#$!&$#(@(………

It all started with a leisure walk to the subway station one early, Shanghai morning. It was the easiest way to the Nanpu Bridge Bus Station.  While walking to the subway a rather scruffy individual caught my eye. His shirt, an old white tank top,  yellowed as a result of stains layered upon one another, paired with some baggy cargo pants and woman’s flip-flops.  I observed this character, oblivious to my presence, as he went about his business of pickpocketing a young, clueless Chinese woman.  So naturally, like an idiot, I intervened.  Placing myself in front of him as a road block, I yelled for the girl to come retrieve her stolen possession (iphone6).  She ran up to him, yelling, and he reluctantly gave her, her stuff back.  Just as I was starting to feel like a good samaritan, he turned towards me and proceeded to scold me in Chinese and through a select choice of gestures, communicates that he would be seeing me again and it would not end well.  Panic started to set in rather quickly at this point…being a solo traveler was a stupid idea…oh shit, oh shit, oh shit…..luckly humanity is one force that should not be underestimated.  A Chinese man out with his family ran over to us, screaming at the thief, to what I can imagine meant, leave her alone…and that’s when the chase began.  The thief took off running with a train of my hero, the girl with her cell phone, and now, a police officer (out of freaking nowhere) all in hot pursuit behind him.  I didn’t stay around long enough to see the end result, I felt it rather wise to take this opportunity to hop in the next taxi heading my way.  This was a bit much for an 8AM stroll to the subway….a real adrenaline pumper to start out my solo trip to abandoned village.

Obviously, I was safe and sound once I was in the taxi, but for a woman in a country where the police are more of a show model than the actual product, I was pretty shaken up. Thoughts of this thief having connections with the Chinese Mafia came flooding to my mind…but I shut them out with thoughts of me heading out of the city in the next 20min to a beautiful island.  Or so I thought….

As is life when traveling… what I had planned was thrown to the wind once I got to the ticketing office.  Turns out, there is only one bus to the main ferry hub for the Shengshan Islands and it leaves at 14:30.  Too shook up to venture around the area to waste time before the bus would depart, I sat on the steps for about 20min face timing my hectic morning with my parents.  That’s when a young man came up to me and asked if I needed any help getting to my bus.  We discussed our travel plans for the island and realized we were both heading to Shengsi Island for the night. “So, to kill time, do you want to go with me to a modern art museum?”  As a girl we are told, don’t talk to strangers, don’t go anywhere with anyone you don’t know.  Yes,  I know…… however, if I did that, I would still be lost in Japan….  Sometimes you have to trust your judgment and have a little faith in humanity.  So I asked for the exact location of the museum, GPSed it and left with who would become a good friend of mine.  I told myself if we strayed off at all from what GPS says to go, I would bow out and go back.  So, please, go ahead, trust strangers, just be smart about it… and always stay on your guard.  The world is full of a lot more beautiful people than FOX News and CNN would have you believe (no matter where they come from).


The art exhibit was awesome!  The Power Station of Art is definitely worth a look if you find yourself in Shanghai! It was an old… you guessed it, a power plant that they renovated into a modern art gallery. It was not on my radar of things to do in Shanghai, but God always seems to have a way of working in beautiful detours in my life.  My new friend and I (we actually never exchanged names….weird huh?)  explored the creations of China and Japan’s up and, coming contemporary artists.  We ended our beautiful day at KFC and a mad dash back to the bus station to finally head to the ferry port on one of the Shengshan Islands.

My new friend stayed right by my side the whole day, helping me get on the right ferry (everything is in Chinese), negotiating with very aggressive taxi drivers on Shengsi Island and helping me find a new place to stay!  My original hostel overbooked itself and canceled my reservation 30minutes prior to my arrival… cool guys, real cool.  But lucky for me, my friend got me a wonderful hotel room up on the mountain, overlooking the beautiful fishing village below.


Once I was settled my friend and I headed to the shore, where mini food-truck after mini food truck lined the boardwalk, grilling an array of seafood and veggies. Grab a tray, fill it with the fresh skewers of veggies (eggplant is a must)  and a wide array of fish, octopus, squid and spiced meats.  My mouth is watering just thinking about it!  So we lifted a few bottles of TsingTao and repeated “gumba” (cheers) to the beautiful island, new friendship, finally making it there, and, of course, the yummy food before us. 

My night ended with my friend giving me directions to what port I need to head to, to get to Gouqi Island and wished me luck.  That was the last I would see of him… or so I thought.

The next morning I woke, taking in my beautiful view of the ocean and the local town.  In the day-time, I could now see how this beautiful town was littered with beautiful murals everywhere!  The pride of the locals in their little fishing town warmed my heart as I wandered around. 

So I got to the Xiaocaiyun dock only to find that my friend had arrived there before me and was holding my place in line….umm what?! So it turns out he was waiting for his ferry to leave and noticed the ticketing line was getting long so he decided to stand in line for me until I got there.  Such a generous soul.  Shortly after, he left to catch his ferry and I was a solo traveler again.

Since a typhoon was scheduled to hit later on in the week, the ferry ride was a bit of a rocky one… leaving the majority of the people turning green, while little puke baggies sliding around on the floor. Oh, joy.  The best part was arriving on the island and being told that there will be no more ferries leaving the island for the rest of the day.  So it happened again….stranded on island numero 2. Luckily for me, I saw three other foreigners trying to find hotel rooms, so I linked up with them and split a room for the night.  The British couple to one room and the Candian and I in another.  We proceeded to split the taxi fair to the Houtou Wan Village.  The island is fairly tiny and our insane driver got lost taking us to the village (lovely scenic tour of the island?!?).  After some arguing with my new travel buddies with the driver in broken mandarin we were finally dropped off at the trailhead to the village.  Nowhere in my research did it say anything about a little hike, but I was more than thrilled with this sweaty surprise.

Again, traveling is stressful and 9x our of 10 your plans/timeline is going to be altered… you can either get angry, curse, and throw a fit… because even after giving the taxi driver the directions in Chinese he still got lost.  Or you can sit back and enjoy the ride..see it as a beautiful tour and a “free” glance at other parts of the island you would of not have seen otherwise…either way, your circumstances haven’t changed. One releases stress, while the other heightens it.


So we were dropped off at some random location and pointed at a trailhead amongst a graveyard and told to hike.  It was a leisure 30min hike through a graveyard, some of the locals small farms and a beautiful Buddhist temple.  If you don’t have a drone, walking around the Buddhist temple is a great spot to get the lay of the village or a bird’s eye view.

After that, I found myself an old stick with red paint chipped off and claimed it as my selfie stick for the day.  I left my new roomies to venture off by myself through the village.  It was beautiful.  Vines and shrubbery have completely taken over everything.   Although there are a few tourists, the place was such a good escape from the craziness that is Shanghai.  Mother Nature and I are good, good friends, and it was exhilarating wandering through her spin on some 1950s man-made infrastructures.

I spent the next  4 hours wandering in and out of (stable) abandon homes and slowly made my way to the harbor.  Upon first glance, it appeared as though the ground was moving…when in actuality it is a swarm of isopods (sea roaches).   Needless to say, there was a lot of squealing during this stroll.


Due to the cracks in my original plan, I did not get to spend as much time as I wanted in the village.  Sunset was approaching fast and I was not in the mood to be stranded in an abandoned village with a typhoon lurking in the distance.  So I met up with my roomies near the Buddhist temple to begin the negotiations of our fare home. 

That night we spend the evening drinking some beers and feasting on some traditional Chinese dishes on the street.  The weird thing about being a foreigner in eastern Asia is where ever you go to eat or hang out before you know it that establishment you choose becomes the hot spot.  I have noticed quickly that having a few foreigners at our local business will draw in a crowd of paying local customers…and that night was a prime example.

The next day I caught the ferry, which just so happened to be a direct trip back to Shanghai….. So my friends, the big take away from my cluster-fun of transportation to Gouqi is that there is one ferry that leaves every day from Shanghai to Gouqi.  No matter how many people I talked to or how much research I did to get to the island, this bit of information seemed to slip everyone’s mind, until I bought my ticket for the return trip…. oh the joys of traveling in China as a foreigner.

Word to the wise… a thousand questions, as the same question 5 different ways, have them write it down in Chinese, and hope that you won’t get stranded as much as I did on this journey to the abandoned village.   




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Courtney French's Clinical Experience

Education does not change the world. Education changes people. People change the world. -Paulo Freire

Lily Ellyn

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