Cherry Blossoms 2016: Yasukuni Shrine
ong weekends usually release a travel bug epidemic so imagine how many people there are on the road, the plane, the train, the boat - whichever remedies that itch of yours - when they come around. As plane fares usually skyrocket on these 3-4 day holidays, we opted to take the bus.
We heard of this paradise that tickled our fancy - the Shang-ri La of the East. Opposed to normal notion perceived from the luxurious chain of hotels, The Shangri-la is actually anything but luxurious and getting there was anything but glamorous. By definition, Shangri-la means a remote paradise on earth, remote it really was and a paradise it surely was.
Gongyubei or better known as the Shangri-la of the East is situated in between mountains of Linhai City of the Zhejiang Province. To get there we bought a 160RMB 5:45pm ticket from Shanghai Hongqiao Bus Station to Linhai on Friday. Blessed and surprised to have clear roads, we amazingly dodged what could have been a perilous journey and arrived to our destination in just 4 hours. We spent the night in the city, drinking cold beer and eating mutton barbeque on the side streets. It was a perfect ender to that day’s journey.
The next morning at 9am we assembled to start our trek. We boarded an 18RMB 1 hour bus ride to the town of Xianju and then hailed a 110RMB cab to bring us to Qiangkeng, the foot of the mountain. We strategically packed light for the weekend, which made the hike up manageable. The perfect sunny weather and two random pit stops to sit and enjoy the view took our minds off the exhaustion. Three hours (or so) after, there it was. Tucked in between the beautiful mountains, was a small gem of a village still stuck in the 10th century.
We “checked-in” our 80RMB/night accommodation and to describe the place as basic is an understatement. It was clearly outdated but that should be expected. Our room was on the second floor so we had to climb up the disheveled flight of stairs which seemed like they have not cleaned it for the past 100 years. Nonetheless, it was charming. In the midst of the antiquities, old vases and what seemed like hay, was an old four-post bed with modern sheets. Our room was one of the few rooms in the village that had electricity – and by electricity I meant 1 bulb that would go on and off as sporadic as Shanghai’s perfect sunny weather (only the city’s locals would understand this). Having said that, our emergency flashlights came in very handy.
Absolutely famished, we devoured our lunch. Our table was set in the middle of the courtyard. With the parading chickens and cackling geese watching over us, we enjoyed the local food. 4pm marked our 1 1/2 hour hike and mini wall climbing to the peak that overlooked the valley. With the sun setting, we watched the colors of the blue skies change to a luminescent orange. It was spectacular.
The next day started early. We had a morning stroll around the historic village, befriended the village cow and then ate breakfast consisting of packed ham, bread and cheese we brought from Shanghai. 10am was the descent from the village. We took a different route. Follow the river they said. We did exactly as told and were rewarded with three hours worth of wonderful scenery. The water was so crystal clear that we gave in to the temptation of jumping in. Was the water freezing? Absolutely but when else can you say you have swam in a random forest river in China?
As soon as we got to the foot of the mountain we took the same way back to Linhai. Upon arrival in Linhai, we made our way to our last night’s accommodation –a random 100RMB per night Caravan Park set behind Linhai Train Station. It was a far cry from our rustic accommodation in Gongyu. We had decent beds, with white linens, flat screen TV, our personal bathroom with clean toilets that had flush (you will realize what a blessing having a flush in the toilet is after you have done your first backpacking experience in China). The trailer park now seemed like the Ritz compared to Gongyu.
Since we still had time that afternoon, we decided to take a quick trip to the Great Wall of the South. It was said that this was the blueprint for the now famous, Beijing Great Wall of China.
Supper was once again set outdoors. Under a starless sky, we set a private barbeque party. Breakfast feast did not fail to compare to how delightful dinner was. We had our free dimsum and congee meal prepared by the park’s Ayi (mandarin term for Auntie).
Before heading back to the bustle of Shanghai, we decided to take one last stop to visit the East Lake of Linhai. A few pictures here and some local food there, we were all finally set to go home. Travel bug remedied until the next long weekend.