Chinese metropolises are huge, constipated, and bursting with activities at every corner. Newcomers might appreciate the fact that every day brings a new surprise and a new challenge, but the greatness of China also resides in its natural attractions, in what the Chinese address in a single word composed by two ideograms together: 山水 “mountains and rivers”, which is translated as “landscape”.
Chinese are traditionally devoted to full immersions in nature, and that’s why “climbing mountains”, 爬山 (which includes hills as well ;)) is such a popular activity among people there, young and old alike.
Do you find yourself in a big city in Fujian province, like Xiamen, Quanzhou or Fuzhou, or maybe you plan to explore a bit of Fujian province’s interior? In this article, I’ll present three intriguing destinations where you can expect to find lovely landscapes, an experience of rural culture and foods, clean air and relief from the thousands of people you see every day in the Chinese city streets.
Also, foreign tourism is not very pronounced in this area, and that’s just another point in its favor!
1) WUYI MOUNTAIN “武夷山”
Served by a small but handy airport, this destination allows you to spend two full days hiking and exploring paths among lush vegetation and rocks which tower against the sky in a unique and admirable way. The locals, or any touristic pamphlet available at your guesthouse, will point out three main peaks that will certainly match your hiking capabilities: in the steepest sections, the trails are covered with stone slabs and stairs which do not steal anything from the beauty of the place, in order to grant access to even the oldest Chinese and allow them the joy of soaking their spirit in nature.
Wuyi mountain is actually a place sacred to both the Taoist and Buddhist traditions of Chinese religion. Chinese painters have been enchanted by its beauty for centuries. While you’re walking on the main path, pay attention to your surrounding: some easily missed side trails might lead you to a secluded temple!
Wuyi Mountain is also home to one of the best-selling varieties of Chinese tea, the “Da Hong Bao”, or “red tea”. Have you tried it before? You can find the most affordable brands in common supermarkets. The taste is fragrant, warm, and as the Chinese suggest, it’s the best choice of tea for those with a delicate stomach.
HAKKA HOUSES, or “TULOU” 土楼
Even if the Hakka houses are well advertised by Chinese tour operators, they still offer chances for you to have a unique experience of the Fujianese countryside, which hosts one of the 56 Chinese ethnic minorities, the Hakka or “Chinese Gypsies”.
If your schedule allows you only one or two days of exploration, but you desire to witness the local ways and to observe many of these special buildings, act wisely and do as follows:
Reach the town called Yongding by bus from Longyan. Once you get to the main tulou building, take a walk in the neighborhood and find a motorcycle-taxi driver ( it’s going to be easier than you think ) who is willing to take you around for the whole day to see the “other tulous”, the ones off the beaten path.
My friend and I went around with a motorcycle driver for 300 yuan ( yes, three people on a motorcycle is ok ) and even though it rained all day, it was still an amazing day trip! We visited many of the round and square Hakka houses and were able to walk freely in them and get in touch with the locals, mainly elders who couldn’t speak either the standard language of China or English (they have their own dialect) but were very friendly to us all the same. Once you get tired of taking hundreds of pictures of the tulous, the “communal” houses of the Hakka tribes, you can go back to the main building and walk to the panoramic viewpoint, or ask if you can spend the night in one of the tulous and experience more closely the rhythms of life in the countryside.
One of the best-kept secrets of Fujian, the 仙游九龙谷风景区 “Xianyou Jiulong Gu Fengjingqu” (Xianyou Nine Dragons Valley Scenic Area) is a paradise which can be reached by a short drive from Putian city. I came to hear of its existence by word of mouth and spent two days there as part of my hitchhiking trip from Xiamen to Shanghai.
At the core of the valley is a temple, known for being an excellent spot to pray and meditate. The ultimate experience is to spend the night inside the temple. The priest and his helpers provide mats and blankets (if you’re picky, you may want to bring your own), and the doors close at dusk, right after the evening worship. The locals visit the temple to ask favors of the divinities and throw I Ching coins to know which decisions to make in their lives, so the nights can be animated!
After a relatively sleepless night, wake up early to the sound of the rooster crowing and go get breakfast at the small monastery in back of the temple. The locals who manage the temple also offer dinner at a fixed time, usually 6:30-7pm the day you arrive. Don’t forget to inquire about what time these fresh, frugal meals are served. That’s your best chance to interact with your hosts.
Hiking the whole trail from the temple to the waterfall and up to the panoramic viewpoints and back takes from 2 to 4 hours.
The water and its song are the absolute protagonists of this place. Sit quietly, collect your thoughts, meditate, breathe. And don´t forget to bring your bug repellent.
Have any questions? Drop them below!
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