Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Jindao Canyon China’s best kept secret


It was expected that after our last adventure visiting the GiantBuddha of Leshan, we were a bit hesitant not to fall in another tourist trap. 

For that reason, as soon as we’d arrived Chongqing, we decided not to do the famous Yangtze River Cruise. First because it was expensive, and when I say expensive, I mean 400 USD per person, excluding admission tickets for the temples and an outrageous compulsory 150 CNY (25 USD) service charge for “tips”. Of course, this is the price for the foreign boat, including all meals. The Chinese boat costs 150 USD, with shared accommodation, no temples or meal plan. And honestly speaking, the last thing we wanted after the traumatic experience of the Buddha, was to be confined on a boat for three nights with 200 Chinese people.

So we had to think of a plan B. After a consultation on Tripadvisor we decided to try Jindao Canyon, also known as Jindaoxia Scenic Area (金刀峡), which is about 80km north of Chongqing.

How To Go There?

We woke up very early since, in spite of all recommendations we found on the internet, we decided to go by public transportation. And it didn’t take us long to understand why. Even with the names of all the destinations written in Chinese, it seemed that no one had ever heard of Jindao Canyon. On the one hand this was a good sign; the site was not too touristy. On the other, it freaked me out a little, as for several moments I thought we'd never actually get there. But after the long metro journey of 1:30 hours to Beibei Station (line 6 pink), it was way too late to give up.

The next task was finding the bus terminal. Lots of confused information, but a strong desire to help the two lost foreigners; “Follow this road, walk across the mall, turn left and you will see”. Instead, we found an old beat up minibus parked on a side street. A small circle of bus drivers told us that the next bus to Jindaoxia would leave at 11 AM, and it was only 9:30 AM. What now? Is there any other way? The way was to make one bus change. Shall we do it? Let's go!

On the bus we saw everything but foreigners. Without a doubt, there is no better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a country than in a local bus ride. Everyone was so very curious, asking for our nationality, trying to start small talk (all in Chinese) or simply smiling. The bus change was easy; the collector made sure to literally bring us inside our next bus. And the best part is that the entire stretch (including metro + 2 bus tickets) cost us only 21 CNY (3.5USD) as opposed to the 600 CNY (100USD) for the taxi ride. We made it to the park at 11:30 AM. Phew!

The Park

As already mentioned at the Xian blogpost, tourist attractions in China are very expensive, and this time was no different. The ticket costs 100 CNY (16 USD), student pays half. A very important advice is to start from the northern gate, located at the top of the mountain, which means the walk will be pretty much downhill. At the northern entrance of the park is also possible to take a cable car for an additional fee, but we preferred to descend by the "Stairway of thousand Steps". It is so high that the local people used to say that those who climb this staircase would eventually reach heaven.

Down the hill, the view did not fall short. We went through a beautiful bamboo forest (don’t forget to bring mosquito repellent!), and as the valley was getting narrower, we reached a point where we could not go further without safety helmets. Wow, I wonder what could possibly happen. We crossed a bridge, a tunnel, and the path was now literally inside the mountain. I thanked for the helmet, since my 6 feet height is completely out of the Chinese standards.

At every turn we came across a more stunning landscape than the other. The color of the water, changing from turquoise blue to emerald green, was breathtaking. Waterfalls, natural pools, and beautiful greenery, that until then we haven’t seen in China. And the best part was the fact we were virtually alone during the entire way, because Chinese people don’t like walking, so imagine doing the 10 kilometers from start to finish!

About halfway through you must take a boat or, if you feel adventurous, climb through the wall using metal steps stuck on the stone. As I’ve hurt my tomb earlier, we decided to go by boat, which costs 10 CNY (2USD) per person. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, it does! We were surprised with even more beautiful sights than the previous ones. How can be possible that no one knows about this place? Definitely the best kept secret in China.

We completed the entire circuit in about 3 hours, with no hurry and many pauses for pictures. For the return trip, we took a minivan for 12.50 CNY at the park’s southern gate (no local bus available) to the bus station, and then transferred to a minibus direction Chongqing.

We absolutely loved Jindaoxia Scenic Area and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to escape the hectic city life, the local tourist groups or simply go on a venture navigating through the public transport network.

Check it out our visit to Jindao Canyon here:

Jindao Canyon

1 comment:

  1. Such a wonderful traveling experience is shared by you and China looks so amazing in the pictures. I really loved your post and the pictures too.