MeiZhouDao is a small island off of the coast of Putian, not far from Fuzhou. It is known to some of the locals as a Holy Land for Mazu, and has on the island a large temple dedicated to Mazu and for her worship. Mazu, also spelt Matsu, is the goddess of the sea, and is said to protect sailors and fisherman. MeiZhou was her birthplace in 960, and as such MeiZhouDao has become one of the foremost places to worship her. However, she is also worshipped in Hainan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Taiwan and Fujian, as well as some other countries such as Finland.
MeiZhouDao is not far from Fuzhou, however it isnt the easiest to access. First you have to take a train to Putian, which is the easy part, as trains leave from either the north or the south train station regularly. The journey to Putian is just over an hour, but if you are only going for the day, I would recommend you leave early so you can spend more time on the island.
After the train journey there is a 20 minute walk in to the town. You can get a taxi, if you know the name of the town, or the drop off point for the ferry. You could simply say ferry in chinese, or MeiZhouDao, and the taxi drivers should understand.
However, we walked, and arrived in town, where we then had to wait for a bus to take us to the ferry point. The bus was really a mini van, where everyone crowded in, but was relatively cheap at only 20RMB (one way), and took about 30 minutes to get the ferry dock.
At the ferry dock we walked and lined up for our tickets. We could only buy one way tickets, and they were 60RMB a ticket. Having purchased our tickets we went to explore, and buy some refreshments, that are readily available from little shops in almost like storage units along the dock. We didnt have to wait long for the ferry, before we boarded and started sailing across to the island.
The Ferry ride was calm, thank goodness, and very short. You could sit inside the whole journey, or go outside to take some photos. There are no refreshments on the ferry, but it is so short, you dont need there to be.
The island is a small shelter from the mainland of China. It is quiet, secluded, and peaceful. I note that I went in March, but in high season there are a lot more tourists and visitors to the island, so it may get crowded. The main attraction of the island is the Temple dedicated to Mazu, which is a sprawling complex over severl levels. There are outer walls and temples, then inner temples and towers, before reaching the zennith, a place to light incense and to ask for a wish, before looking down the steps and taking in the panoramic view of everything laid out before you. There is also a temple erected of the Goddess Mazu, which is rather impressive, and looks out to the sea, so that she can watch over all of the sailors and the fishermen.
As well as the temple and the statue to Mazu, the island has gone through a rejuvenation period, with hotels and shops being developed to make it a more tourist friendly place. In my opinion though, the island should be left in its raw beauty, with the traditional houses, and not try to strive to fit into a Western idea of a tourist trap.
You are able to either hire a buggy to take you on a tour around the island, and you can negotiate a price with the driver. Some drivers even have a party theme going with their buggys, and blast out loud dance music, either in Chinese or English, sometimes it was too loud for me to even tell. However, if you are more energetic, I would suggest walking around the coast line, and on the many beaches. There are unspoilt beaches where you can walk and wade in the sea. There are a small number of restaurants along the road, so you can stop of and eat and get a few refreshments, before continuing to walk along isolated beaches.
At some points, the beaches make way to cliffs, so you look down on the fishing bays with hundreds of brightly coloured boats floating in the sea, before seeing the larger boats all anchored in neat lines, flags flying.
We left the island around 6, hoping to make the journey back and rest after a very energetic and exhausting day. Even though it was March, it was hot and we all caught the sun that day, sapping our energy. We managed to get back onto the ferry no problem, and even managed to find ourselves the object of the sailors curiosity, and flirtations. After promising we didnt live in Putian and couldnt meet them for drinks later, we stepped on to the dock and realised we didnt know where the bus would pick us up from or where from. We didnt have the energy to panic, but instead we sat in a huddle, and decided to just get a taxi to the train station, meaning that atleast we would have our own seat in the vehicle and not be crowded in, like sardines, on to the bus. We couldnt find a taxi, but we did find a private car to take us to the train station, and managed to barter a decent price. One suggestion though from the male in our group was to offer a girl, but thankfully we didnt have to resort to that, and arrived at the trainstation, feeling a little awaken and managed to get our train tickets and catch the train without incident.
To do the journey in one day is possible, but you will feel tired at the end of it, especially if you go in high season when the weather is even hotter than it was in March, but you can choose to stay on the island for the night, there is a hotel, with other hotels having been developed and built. Make sure you go with lots of water and plans, especially for the return trip to the train station. But most of all, take your camera, and maybe even your swimwear for some fun on te beaches, knowing that you are safe with the Goddess Mazu watching over you.