Trips and Tales: Part 121
In this last scan across the districts of Beijing, it’s now the turn of the Southern/Western suburbs and Rural Beijing, beyond the Northern suburbs. Basically, as far out as you may travel before it stops being Beijing and starts to be somewhere else.
The location of this district is pretty self explanatory. However such is the size of the designated area that it consists of three sub-districts: Mentougou, Fangshan and Daxing. Looking into the delights of Mentougou, it appears that the trek may well be worth it, subjectively at least. I would hope to find some air that I could breathe for one thing but the two ancient Buddhist temples: Tanzhe and Jietai sound fascinating too. Set in beautiful scenery, the former is 1600 years old and the latter 1400 – though features have been added subsequently.
As if they were not enough to justify an excursion, the area also contains Cuandixia: an ancient, traditional village, although restored to authenticity (if that isn’t an oxymoron). Frankly though, how would we know what is authentic or not?
It is possible to stay overnight and buy some extra time to explore the surroundings, or apparently village-hop to locations further out still, if the city centre jam has lost its appeal. One aspect of those surroundings: the Mt. Lingshan Scenic Resort might be a clincher, the mountain itself stands 2300 metres high and is Beijing’s tallest. Yes, as mentioned previously: this city is big enough to have its own mountains. Imagine the views.
There are constant reminders of the sheer weight of years that Beijing is staggering under, perhaps none more-so than Fangshan’s Cave of Peking Man dating back (by recent accounts) to an unimaginable 680,000–780,000 years. Relatively modern human bones were also found, indicating the longevity of the location as a long-standing, prehistoric area of human habitation. Although most of the original bones went missing during World War 2, detailed casts still remain, along with extant caves and modern exhibition facilities.
The Mt. Shangfang National Forest Park also has 9 caves of its own, along with 12 mountainous summits and a staggering 72 temples – count ’em. Well, it is the largest National Forest Park in North China, spreading across 300 hectares.
Daxing, by comparison, has the China Printing Museum. Perhaps not as instantaneously captivating as a Buddhist temple, but partially representative of a critical developments throughout cultural progress, nonetheless.
This blanket title describes a massive area located further north than the Northern Suburbs. It is comprised of 4 sub-districts of various designations: Pinggu District, Miyun County, Huairou District and Yanqing County.
From a tourist’s point of view, possibly the most striking aspects of this collective region are surely the two main access points to the Great Wall of China: Mutianyu and Badaling. The former apparently known for being the less congested of the two.
Badaling, however, has another ace though, in the form of of its own Wild Park; where awestruck visitors (safely inside suitable vehicles) can view tigers, lions, bears and wolves in an environment as close to natural as can be maintained by humans – probably.
Huairou District has a major feature of its own, in the form of Hongluo Temple, set in 800-hectare grounds and located within the vicinity of Hongluo Mountain. Other nearby locations for exploration are Guanyin Temple and the Five Hundred Arhat Garden.
As if in proof of China’s extreme contrasts, a few modern surprises are in store. A modern Yin to an ancient Yang perhaps? Yes, somewhat incongruous to all of the above is the modern attraction of the Goose’N’ Duck Ranch (!), sounding like something from the Wild West and offering a range of outdoor activities – including paintball, as the perfect counter-point to your Great Wall experience perhaps? In a similar vein consider the Caribbean Lagoon Waterpark, with yes; waterslides et al and finally: the International Shooting Range where you can cut loose with fully functional military-grade, automatic weaponry!
And at that point the Ming Dynasty has probably never felt so far away. It takes all sorts.
Next time: Trips and Tales (Part 122) Arrival Beijing #11
[Photo by Bernt Rostad]