Fleeing to a Forest Escape

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Friday, October 01, 2010 

under Travel by Ruth Waldron

The Nine Dragon Canyon in Anji is the perfect location to relax, unwind and forget about the smog-laden air and the noisy congestion of the Shanghai streets. This oasis of calm is tucked away in a quiet and beautiful corner of Zhejiang Province, a mere three-hour drive from central Shanghai.

Specializing in taking weary city dwellers into this haven, Xcape Shanghai has the whole itinerary down to a fine art. Leaving Shanghai by coach on a Friday evening, the company makes sure that the party starts on the road, offering food and drinks from the word "go" - a good chance to get to know the rest of the group, who are usually a merry bunch, especially by journey's end.

The organizers, Amjad and Jacky, have put together a package that will suit most budgets, at RMB1900 for the weekend. This price includes everything, from the transport there; to the drinks and all the food from the moment you board the bus on Friday; to the drop off on Sunday evening back in the city.

Settling into the accommodation on arrival, it is impossible to fully appreciate the landscape at night but by morning, all is revealed. The hotel and quaint wooden chalets circle an outdoor swimming pool, all nestled in a lush green valley, surrounded by tea plantations and spectacular bamboo forest. Waking to the sound of crickets and birdcall truly is a tonic for the run-down soul, and the view is a sight for sore eyes - there's not a high-rise for miles!

Saturday morning eases in over a Western breakfast and is followed by a brisk two-hour hike for those of an energetic leaning. Relaxing by the pool is also an option but the trek through the forest is a great experience. This locale is the setting for the movie Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger and the scenery matches the fantasy. The walk takes you through feathery bamboo strands, alongside cool streams and rushing waterfalls, and finally back to the hotel for lunch. By mid-afternoon, the pool and a cool drink beckon. Later, as evening falls, the barbeque is lit and the drinks are chilled for an outdoor party that usually goes on into the moonlight.

Sunday can be spent strolling around the nearby village where the famous "white tea" of the area can be bought, or wandering through the gorge and back to the hotel for lunch before the return journey. By Monday, you will be more than ready to get back into the fray.

The Bottom Line: A weekend escape where everything is paid upfront, so you can get on with enjoying the tranquility of the bamboo forest.


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