H u n a n ( n a t u r e , h i s t o r y , c u lt u r e , c u i s i n e ) H i g h
by Michael Morcos
It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach; well, then I must say my heart belongs to Hunan!
Eating to your hearts content is but one aspect of this fascinating and mysterious region of China. For hiking lovers, this is a choice destination, and you can be sure to enjoy a good meal after a long day in the Yellow Dragon caves or climbing the mountains of the Bajiaozhai Scenic Area.
Throughout the trip, Hunan was a pleasure of culinary delights! The incredible variety of food found is quite extraordinary. Nearly anything you can think of can be found, and ordered spicy, including plenty of all sorts of meats and vegetables. Our visit happened to coincide with the annual crayfish catch. Our adventure started in Shaoyang.
Bajiaozhai Scenic Area
We arrived at the Bajiaozhai Scenic Area, also known as Eight Horns Village, and are greeted by a large sign stating: “1,777 stairs to reach the summit.” My legs were hurting already!
The chair lift up was broken the day we visited. It ended up being a mixed blessing, as although it was long, hard steep climb along wooden stair, there were very few tourists and by day’s end we had the mountain to ourselves. Climbing these mountains is an adventure. Some walk ways clung to the side of the cliff. There where areas where it was very narrow that we had to turn side ways to pass through. I felt like Indiana Jones, trying to find Shangri-La. The snaking stairs take us into the clouds the views are spectacular. From the summit I see eight mountain tops clustered together. Truly a spectacular site and worth every step up!
Many poets have written about this area and I understand why. The temple on the mountain is like a scene from a movie. The monks tending the grounds are courteous and friendly. It was quite calming and was the highlight of my day. Both the scenery and monks at the temple created a very mystical experience for all visitors.
Pepper Peak Scenic Area
Pepper Peak Scenic Area was very mystical Even though the day was foggy and the long hard climb on paved paths had tired me out, the view was absolutely amazing. The landscape is very unique and looks like it belongs on another planet. Peaks of mountains shrouded in fog, greens of all shades from dark to light. The mist makes the air feel damp and cool, and an aura of peacefulness envelopes in this remote place.
Tianyi Lane, meaning “the most marvelous lane in the world”, is one of the narrowest lanes in the world. Bordered on both sides by huge stone walls formed by mountains, this wall-like structure that runs over 225 meters is a naturally occurring and is about 80 to 120 meters tall. It is an oddly thrilling experience to walk through and quite unique, and I have not seen the like elsewhere in the world. It is really baffling and every step is challenging. Walking through the dark lane is a wonderful experience and is highly recommended.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and Mount Tianzi
Our 2- day long trip here was filled with amazing discoveries, and it is such a lovely place! But I will tell that this place is not for the weak of mind or body. It is an uphill climb up literally thousands of stairs and though today we took a cable car that will take you all or most of the way to the summits. It’s truly magnificent, and when we were there it was rainy and cloudy, but it just made the experience more intense. These mountains, or sandstone pillars, looked like they were floating in the clouds and my photos can attest to it. To make things even more surreal, some women visitors dressed up in rented costumes and dressed as locals for some pictures. We got lucky as the next day was bright and sunny, giving us a new view on these out-of this world vistas. One oddity? This area is very popular with tourists and there is even a McDonalds!
Baofeng Lake and Yellow Dragon Cave
The next day we continued our adventure on Baofeng Lake. This lake is very high in the mountain with a cascading water fall from high above. With clear blue skies, the lake and mountains ridges are very photogenic. There are many natural formations and many creatures to keep an eye out for. We enjoyed a long boat ride that was both relaxing and splendid.
This cave is a marvellous destination, both a peaceful area for repose and an exciting, vibrant space for exploration. These caves are immense! There are cathedral ceilings and a river runs all the way through. I really enjoyed the boat ride portion of the caves, though the walking part was quite exceptional as well.
Originating from Cat Mountain in Guangxi province, the Fuyi River flows through the whole Langshan Scenic Area. The slow, calm boat ride was a dreamy experience, and the tranquillity of the water is almost unnatural. The water of Fuyi River is so clean that you can see the fish clearly and the sand on the river bed. The shorelines are filled with bamboo forests, steep crags and beaches are covered with pure white sand. It is an absolutely excellent river for drifting quietly and rafting and each summer it draws millions of people that enjoy floating along the river.
Hunan sure packed a punch! High mountains, tall lakes, lazy rivers, deep caves, culture, history and amazing foods makes this incredible part of China a memorable positive experience for all travellers!