China: where the locals go

China: where the locals go
By admin


The Chinese are embracing travel within their own country. Nowadays if you visit this vast land you will share the experience with local tourists, and visitors can expect to be rewarded with some incredible sightseeing as well as glimpses into Chinese culture.

Chinese people have been stage managed into taking holidays throughout the year. Several years ago the country’s administration focused their attention on domestic tourism. National vacation periods such as China’s Golden Week – a seven-day country-wide holiday – have significantly boosted the local tourism industry. In fact, locals clocked up 302 million trips in this seven-day period in 2011 alone. So where is it that they go?

The industrialisation of China and its large cities means that many are drawn to national parks and environmental attractions, particularly mountain ranges. Along with these natural wonders, locals travel to man-made diversions such as Dwarf Empire in Kunming as well as paying their respects at the birthplace of Confucius near Qufu in Shandong Province. It is in the places popular among the Chinese that you may find yourself to be the only Westerner – and you will feel all the more integrated a traveller for it.

THE NATURAL
The scenery of Yellow Mountain in Huangshan may look familiar because it has featured in many traditional Chinese paintings. Perfectly angled pine trees that grow out of rock look like large scale bonsai. In an architectural feat, hotels can be found built into the nooks and crannies of jagged mountains and if you pay a visit, be sure to spend a night. There are many stairs to climb and should you feel your energy levels flagging, men can be paid to carry visitors on a bamboo seat borne by their shoulders.

After all those stairs the reward is a view of life above the clouds. Perspectives are named North Sea and South Sea as they resemble an ocean expanse. Renowned for its sunrise, many local visitors make the trek uphill before dawn and often a glory appears in the form of a rainbow halo that is locally known as Buddha’s Light.

These peaks have featured in Chinese storytelling with one mountain named Beginning to Believe – legend has it that a man did not believe the tales of beauty heard about this peak but when he arrived he had his epiphany. Explicitly named peaks are a theme here and one other that shouldn’t be missed is Cloud Dispelling Pavilion, which is near Flying-over Rock. Clouds tend to wrap around the peak leaving just the top of the mountain on display.

THE CURIOUS
Western travellers may be divided on the morality of Kunming’s Dwarf Empire, a theme park dedicated to entertainment by dwarves dressed as soldiers, butterflies and break dancers. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, the dwarves are reportedly well-remunerated.

With the inhabitants living in cartoon-like mushroom castles, this park would need only a blue coat of paint to resemble a real life smurf village. Almost 100 dwarves work here and twice a day there is a staged performance which begins with a greeting from the king of the park who wears sunglasses and a yellow blazer. Visitors peek into the miniature domains when the show is not running and they can order tea or coffee from the dwarves within. If it’s a quirky experience in China you are seeking, you need look no further.

THE PILGRIMAGE
The birthplace of China’s wisest man is a place where many locals pay homage. Confucius played a central role in shaping the Chinese mentality. His teaching emphasised humility, education, family, courtesy and respect, paradigms that can be experienced in the culture to this day.

Confucius was born in Qufu, a town of more than half a million inhabitants that lies 550km to the south of Beijing. Three sites here honour the great philosopher – the temple of Confucius, the cemetery of Confucius and the family mansion.

These sites were built to foster reverence and reflection – century old cypress trees, courtyards, inscribed stone and pavilions are all to be found here. The paths wind in a way that inspires whimsy and visitors stroll in silence.
The temple complex holds 152 buildings and is China’s second largest ancient building. Modelled on the capital’s Imperial Palace, the temple allows visitors to worship Confucian thought. The cemetery of Confucius isn’t just for him either – it surprisingly holds over 100,000 of his descendants – determined by those who bear the name Kong. The cemetery is shaded, overgrown and freckled with wild flowers, the perfect place for reflecting on China’s spiritual bellwether.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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