May 1st is Chinese Labor Day, which meant a long weekend and an opportunity to get out of the city for a break! I decided to book a fairly last minute trip with a travel company (Traveller’s Society) to Zhejiang province for a weekend of hiking and mountain biking through rice terraces. The original itinerary involved a high speed train from Shanghai to Longyou, but I was informed that since the train had sold out the company had organised a bus instead… that should have been my first tip that long weekends in China are CRAZY.
Instead of a 2 hour train journey departing Saturday morning, the bus left at 6pm on Friday night and we didn’t reach Longyou until after midnight. It turns out that on long weekends, China also decides to make the highways toll-free so the roads are even more crowded. Fun times indeed.
The hotel in Longyou appeared to be fairly decent upon first glance, and I gained much amusement from perusing the unique items available from the bathroom minibar:
However, once I realised the hotel also came complete with a shower with no hot water, a bathroom with no door, and a power blackout and it wasn’t the best night’s accommodation I’ve ever had! Luckily we weren’t there for too long, and we departed the next morning for a beautiful scenic area at Nanjian Rock. This was a crowded, but enjoyable walking circuit with some lovely panoramic views over rice terraces and mountains. A brand new glass bridge had just opened that day, and thankfully it held up to the test without collapsing (one never quite knows in China!).
From Nanjian, it was back on the bus and another couple of hours’ drive through to a small farming village set high within terraced farmland. The area used to consist mainly of rice terraces, but apparently tea is more lucrative these days so many of the farmers have switched to those crops. We spent two nights in the village, staying with local families (and their animals!) in basic houses, eating traditional food, wandering the terraces and enjoying a bonfire by night. It was a gorgeous, peaceful area of the world to enjoy a couple of days of relaxation.
On the final day of the trip, we packed up from the village and headed towards Lishui for a mountain biking adventure! While there were plenty of paved roads (which most of our tour group stuck to), there was also an off-road track to explore. The other crazy laowais (foreigners) in the group and I decided that this looked more fun than the paved roads, so we charged through the fields and over some jumps – thankfully without mishap although we each came close to falling off at some point!
To get home, I decided to hitch a ride with my new friends who had booked a private car, figuring this would be both a shorter and more comfortable ride than the bus. Turns out, the traffic on the way out of Shanghai was nothing compared to traffic on the way back! It took us over 8 hours to finally get home which kind of took the shine of what was otherwise a thoroughly enjoyable weekend. Oh well, lesson learned. Next time it’s the train or nothing on a public holiday in China!
More photos to see on Flickr