Winter is coming, and the smog thickens. Time to pack your bags and evacuate Shanghai. The only question is, where will you seek political asylum from the coming weather?
We have two prospects for you. One for those that prefer to sit around and drink in the sun, and another for those that prefer to move around and look at pretty things while drinking away the pain of moving around while drinking.
Xishuang Banna (西双版纳)
Xishuangbanna is a one-of-a-kind beauty that’ll make you forget you’re in China, at least until you see the tour guides and their beloved herds. Or maybe you’ll be in one. Otherwise, the Dai minority makes up one-third of the local population, and their simpler, relaxed lifestyle is definitely a change of pace from Shanghai.
Dai homes are also a change of pace from Shanghai, or any Chinese city. Traditional Dai-style bamboo homes mix traditional Chinese home design with traditional Thai design touches that consider the tropical climate and environment. The houses will trick you into thinking your’re somewhere in Southeast Asia, but the language is definitely Chinese.
The smell of blooming flowers and delicious grilled food will follow you throughout Xishuangbanna’s amazing scenery and tropical climate, and your work and daily life worries will melt away. At the most Southern tip of Yunnan, close to the border with Laos and Burma, the average temperature in Xishuangbanna ranges from 18-22 degrees Celsius, and the seasons are either wet (May-Oct) or dry (Nov-Apr). The only thing that makes the weather better is enjoying amazing scenery with it.
And believe it or not, wild animals do exist in China, though that’s easy to forget in Shanghai. In Xishuangbanna, Wild Elephant Valley is by far the most exciting place to see if you want to witness magnificent wildlife. After taking a 2km long cable car into the rainforest’s hills, you will find yourself surrounded by tall, beautiful trees, wild animals, and wild tourists. The valley offers scenic views over a popular riverbank for elephants to drink and bathe, while you can drink and bathe in the sun’s rays. If you don’t get to see them in the wild, though, there is a show of trained and acrobatic elephants.
Take the Jinghong (Xishuang Banna) bus, pay 65rmb for entry, and buy roundtrip cable car tickets for 70rmb.
If tropical climates are not your priority, and you’re much more a fan of hiking, with all its pains and triumphs and pooping outdoors, then you should consider the Zhangye in the Northwestern region of China.
The city of Zhangye is not particularly outstanding, but that’s not what you’re in the Northwest of China for. The areas around Zhangye hold some of China’s most beautiful, undiscovered natural wonders. They’re great for hiking and fresh air, but then amazing for bored eyes.
There’s a picture in this article’s slideshow of painted mountains. This picture has not been manipulated, and no one took a massive paintbrush to the mountainside. These are the natural colors of Danxia Rainbow Mountains (彩虹山). Seasonal weather conditions, the mountains’ red sandstone composition, and thousands of years of erosion gave the grounds the striking colors you can see today.
A 20rmb bus from Zhangy Xihuan, and a 60rmb entrance fee will get you into the mountains. Then you’ll need a one hour walk to visit all four scenic spots. There are no lazy golf carts or off-road Segway conga line tours, which is why most tourists stay away.
Binggou Park is another area around Zhangye that’ll make you sweat for, and because of, its amazing natural beauty. Binggou Park’s rock formations are not colorfully striking like the Rainbow Mountains, but are rather geometrically astonishing, thanks to a millennia of melting glaciers. The park’s spring and winter seasons make for the best times to visit. To get the most of the park, you should spend a night and day camping for a breathtaking sunset, a jaw-dropping starry night sky, and a revitalizing sunrise.
Binggou Park is 20 minutes from the Rainbow Mountains and accessible by the same bus line.
Wherever you go, remember to not rub it in your friends’, familes’, strangers’ faces too much.