As the world’s most populous country, it is hard to imagine that China would have frontier lands. Despite its vast number of residents and the hundreds of millions of tourists per year, there are still remote parts of China that are untouched by mass tourism. While visiting Beijing, Shanghai and climbing the Great Wall are absolute musts, there are other places that are far more mesmerizing.
I am entirely baffled as to why the Rainbow Mountains aren’t one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Located in the Sunan and Linze counties of the Gansu province, the mountains make up the Zhangye Danxia National Park. They are sandstones and siltstones with deposits of iron and trace minerals that created a rainbow layer cake. The northern foothills look like God’s painting palette. The underlying minerals of exposed rocks layers that have been weathered and eroded, create a surreal sight, like a kaleidoscope of multi-coloured shapes over the horizon.
In the northeast of the region of breathtaking Guangxi is the city Guilin. Floating on a bamboo raft on the Li River under rolling fog, watching the karst mountains move in the reflections of the quiet waters is a mystical experience. The Longsheng Rice Terraces very near Guilin are a must-visit. The coiling terraced rice fields look like the backbone of a dragon, which is where they get their name. The Xingping fishing village on the river feels like walking through a poem, with quaint, colourful roofs and windows seemingly preserved from the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
A historic treasure, Suzhou, has over 2,500 years of history. The city’s past is preserved harmoniously with modern additions; a symphonic exhibition of Chinese culture. It’s elegance, high culture, and exquisite arts, have inspired Chinese artists and writers throughout the centuries. The Suzhou Museum particularly stands out. The museum’s architecture, designed by I. M. Pei who also designed Paris’ Louvre, blends perfectly into the city’s modern Zen aesthetic. The sleek glass harmonizes with the canals’ gentle waters and the hexagonal shapes compliment the zigzag bridges running above the city’s meandering waterways throughout. Suzhou’s landscape is covered with classically balanced gardens. Such as the Huang Luo Temple. Lotus flowers abound, and elegant pagodas and mansions are sprinkled on the gently sloping hilly terrain. A trip to Suzhou is sure to enkindle your own creative light.
Wulingyuan, with its many national parks, forests, and reserves, is one of the most scenic areas in China. This peculiar place is hidden away in the northwestern part of Hunan. More than 3,000 narrow quartzite sandstone pillars, some stretching over 200 meters high, rise out through a dense floating fog. The mist undulates like waves around the fragmented limestone. In the mystical landscape, you will discover countless caves, streams, deep ravines, gorges, natural bridges, and waterfalls that enhance the feeling of a subtropical heaven. Traverse a cliff-hanging walkway to experience the full effect it, and look down upon the rare vegetation and endangered animal species. The layers of mist are jade during the day, as the droplets reflect the green terrain, and turn to rosy hues in the evening. How could you not visit a place that has villages named the “Black Dragon” and the “Bewitching Terrace”?
These places are all mysterious gems of nature. The accompanying towns are quaint and charming – you can wander through the old alleys, taste the local foods, and find things in the markets that were “Made in China” but could only be bought in China. The long journey is truly worth it, to explore China’s lesser-known parts, and experience the awe of the these remarkable sites.
Images courtesy of: Kashif Pathan (goo.gl/Yqqjx2); Bernd Thaller (goo.gl/3SB5l3); Yuya Sekiguchi (goo.gl/eG58cK); Julie Wki (goo.gl/m4XwTA).