Wonders of the Wild
Enjoying all the natural beauty that Zhejiang Province has to offer
City life is exciting and fast paced, however, it also drives us weary and tired. Monotony creeps into our daily schedules and we often find ourselves stuck in a rut.
As we go about the daily hustle bustle of our busy lives, we feel the need to break away once in a while. And that’s what weekend getaways are for. They present us with the perfect opportunity to get away from the maddening crowds and answer the wild call of nature.
Weekend getaways are trips where you can pick up your pals and head to a nearby relaxing destination without a lot of meticulous planning. These destinations are conveniently located not too far outside a city.
Call of the wild
One such perfect weekend getaway where you can escape the stress of city life and get closer to nature is Hou’an village in East China’s Zhejiang Province. Hou’an village is nestled in Tiantai county of eastern Zhejiang.
Tiantai in itself has a lot of attrac- tions that one can visit, like the famous Tiantai Mountain which is known as the cradle of the Tiantai sect of Buddhism.
The Tiantai school of Buddhism is popular not only in China but also extends to neighboring countries of North and South Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
Besides these religious connections, Tiantai has soul-soothing scenic spots such as temples, waterfalls and peaks for tourists to go on a hike.
Tiantai does seem like a perfect place to find solace in Buddhist temples, get refreshed in waterfalls and hike up some peaks to feel the full force of unleashed Nature.
The scenic area of Tiantai Mountain covers more than 187 square kilometers. The entire scenic region is divided into 13 areas. Among them, the not-to-miss ones are the Gouqing Temple, Huading Peak and the Shiliang Waterfall.
Starting from the bottom of Tiantai Mountain, nestled in its foothills, is the Guoqing Temple.
It is interesting to note that the temple was built during the Sui Dynasty (581-618) in 605 and was restored many times during subsequent dynasties, the latest being during the last imperial dynasty of China, the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).
A particular plum tree called the Sui Plum that is believed to be more than 1,300 years old stands in the temple, it is possibly the largest plum tree in China.
With more than 600 rooms and 14 large imperial halls, Guoqing Temple is certainly one of the oldest temples in China occupying an important place in Sino-Japanese Buddhism exchanges.
Tiantai Mountain has many steep slopes and lofty cliffs. The highest stands Huading Peak at a height of 1,098 meters above sea level.
A hike up the mountainous path is no doubt arduous, but is wellrewarded as the views from the top are breathtaking!
The pinnacle of Huading Peak seems to float among a sea of clouds and on your way to the top, the noise and din of the cities will become a forgotten memory. The view from the top makes for a magnificent sight, as Huading and the neighboring peaks resemble a lotus pod blooming in full glory with Huading taking the center position of the pod.
Among the many cliffs on Tiantai Mountain, you will find a splendid waterfall cascading into a sublime deep pool of water at its base. This eye-catching waterfall is the Shiliang Waterfall. You could also call it the “Rock Bridge” waterfall, as shi means rock and liang means bridge in Chinese.
As the name indicates, a stone bridge between the cliffs that is less than 20 centimeters provides a walkway from which you can observe the waterfall and listen to the roaring sound of the water plummeting from a height of about 30 meters.
It goes without saying that the sight of the narrow bridge may unnerve you, but hold steady and maintain your composure and you will be able to take in the full beauty of the splendid Shiliang Waterfall.
Apart from these beautiful sights, there is a lot to take in as you move toward Hou’an village. The countryside of Eastern Zhejiang is as wild as it comes, but is also equally as peaceful.
Hou’an is a place where your senses come together as the mountain, rivers and sky all seem to blend into one.
The village is developed enough for you to rent a nice cosy bed & breakfast, or a stay in adequately furnished guesthouses with basic comforts. While sauntering through the village, you may also find the occasional convennience store where you can buy supplies. The rural folk are always happy to receive tourists and treat guests with warmth and love. If you can speak even a little Chinese, their joy knows no bounds and you can then indulge in some friendly banter with them.
While in Hou’an, you can go visit the nearby Mingyan Temple. This ancient temple is another Buddhist haven and provides good insight into past Buddhist culture. You are sure to find yourself content and at peace within the confines of this holy abode. Wooden pagoda structures with twinkling bells help ground your being and make you feel instantly at peace
One of the main reasons why city folk feel weary and wish to get close to nature is so they may breathe fresh air and get away from the pollution of the cities.
The Hou’an countryside lives up to this promise, infusing you with absolute freshness in every breath you take. A relaxing stroll in the village observing the village folk going about their daily chores is also sure to bring a smile to your face.
An easier hike
Hou’an has other sight-seeing attractions too. I recommend taking another energizing hike up the mountains there.
The Qiongtai Valley is just a few kilometers away from the village and you can start hiking from there up to the top. Your senses will thank you profusely as you run into abundant green valleys and miniature waterfalls gushing out from the rocks.
The water has a greenish-blue tint and is clear enough to see your reflection! The hike is not very challenging and for the ease of travelers, there are safety measures like support railings and well-constructed stairs that help you get to the top. There are also various structures built so you may rest along the way.
These rest areas allow you to sit down for a bit, grab a drink and get hydrated till you are ready to start again. When you do finish the hike and reach at the top of the Qiongtai Valley, you get a view of the entire countryside filled with cliff tops, greenery all around and the beautiful blue sky above. It is truly a rewarding and breathtaking sight to take in from the top!
Besides mountains, if you enjoy sitting by a lake and whiling away your time gazing at ripples in the water, Hou’an has something just for you. About 20 minutes by care away from the village is Taizhou Hanshan Lake.
The lake is a great place for a swim and you can also hike the surrounding areas of the lake. The pristine waters of the lake, along with the silhouette of the mountains shadowing it, forms a perfect picture. I bet you will not be able to resist the temptation of clicking a selfie out there to pose and preen pretty on social media!
With abundant lush green valleys, waterfalls and lakes, the Hou’an and Tiantai counties make for a great weekend getaway. The temples too provide much-needed bliss and solace from busy city life.
Living here for a few days will ground you further and make you realize the wonders of the wild countryside.
The purity of the environment will certainly leave you asking for more and I assure you that after a blissfully content trip, you will carry the spirit of the wild within you as you return home.
Qiongtai Valley in Zhejiang Province Photo: Khyati Shah Getting there: Where to stay: When to go: Tiantai county is easily accessible by road from Hangzhou and Shanghai. It will take about two hours to get there by bus from Hangzhou and about five and a half hours from Shanghai. There are few hostels and guesthouses in Hou’an which will provide a comfortable stay with blankets and temperature control. Do bear in mind, these are not five-star hotels so while all luxuries cannot be provided, basic comforts are adequately met. Eastern Zhejiang is usually comfortable all year round. The best time for traveling though is from April to October so you can avoid the harsh heat while enjoying a relaxing trip. Ru les of th u m b