10 Most Scenic Drives in China

July 17th, 2019
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With the rapid development of the expressways and highways, road tripping has become one of the most favorite ways of traveling across China. The car represents mobility, freedom with a feel of controlling your destinations.

China is a vast country, very drivable since now the roads are excellent. It has countless scenic drives with most of the stellar standouts in the northwest, west and southwest China.

In the past 10 years I have been road-tripping China on and off. But I’m still far from covering all the incredible sightseeing drives across China. Today I’d like to present our version of the 10 most scenic drives in China, an attempt to be helpful in planning your China road trip. My 10 list will inevitably leave out some of the best.

First of all, I’d like to round up some travel tips for planning your road trip in China.

Trips for Planning a China Road Trip

1) Hire a Vehicle with driver
Hiring a vehicle with driver (or just take a taxi for a short road trip ) is the easiest way to hit on the open road. Hiring a car and self-driving in China is still very much difficult for short-time international visitors.

The driving rules and regulations are quite different from those in your home country. Penalty for traffic violation is high. Almost all the expressways and highways are covered under surveillance cameras.

2) Prepare for the food on the way
Scenic drive cannot guarantee the food quality and very often you don’t find any restaurants on route. It is a good idea to prepare in advance some high protein and vitamin snacks, nuts and fruits.

3) Book your hotels on your road trip
Download a hotel booking app on your smart phone and prebook your hotel before you get to the next destination for overnight. In the remote areas or during off tourist season, you may just book your hotel on the spot when you get there. Getting ready for sleeping bags in case you are in the middle of nowhere.

4) Toilets on route
Gas stations are often the only places for you to use toilets. But the toilet general condition is not good, dirty and without any toilet paper. You should always bring your rolls of toilet paper on your China road trip.

5) Plan your road trip
You should plan your China road trip in advance. China is huge and you may do just a section for one time. Even for this section, you need to split your road trip across several days. It is a good idea to keep a loose plan because you never know when fun and interesting opportunities will arise.

 10 of my previous most scenic drives in China

1. Awe-inspiring drive to Guoliang Village
Guoliang Village is located 82km to the northwest of Xinxiang, 90km north of Zhangzhou, easily accessible by highspeed trains from Beijing, Shijianzhang, Wuhan and Guangzhou since Xixiang is on the Beijing – Guangzhou Railway Line.

From Xinxiang, you hire a taxi for a few hours’ return road trip to Guoliang Village. In 1972, 13 strong villagers from Guoliang Village wanted to change the situation of inaccessibility to the outside world and started carving a road off the east side of the cliff.  The carved tunnel is 12 or 13 feet across, about 15 or 16 feet high and  a mile long. The road was opened in 1977.

Awe-inspiring drive to Guoliang Village

Awe-inspiring drive to Guoliang Village

Praised as one of the 8 road wonders in the world, the tunneled road is now well known as “Long Corridor in the Cliff” or “Precipice Gallery”.  The east side of the carved road is the picturesque Grand Canyon with Red Steep Cliff. The Grand Canyon is more than 200 meters in height, 500 meters in width and 20km in length. The red rocks are scarlet and upright like knifed and axed. The scenic Grand Canyon is one of the highlights on your road trip to Guoliang Village.

For more information, check out:
Guoliang Village.

2. Yaxi Expressway: Ya’an to Xichang Highway
Yaxi Expressway is lauded as the most beautiful “Sky Road” in China. Yaxi Expressway starts from Ya’an and ends at Xichang,  a section of Beijing-Kunming highway, 240km long and a ladder like road “leading to the sky”.

Most Beautiful Sky Road in China

Most Beautiful Sky Road in China

The “leading to the sky” here has two meanings – 1) The 240km expressway is made of 270 viaducts,  an elevated roadway that stretches 240 kilometers, designed to minimize impact on the environment and driving on the numerous viaducts makes people feel like driving in the air; 2) For driving each kilometer, we ascends by 7.5 meters along the expressway. There are also 25 spiral tunnels used to reduce the effect on mountains.

For more information, check out:
Most Beautiful Sky Road in China

3. S313 Highway: Scenic Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba
It is an incredible 150 km drive along Highway S 313 from Xinduqiao to Danba, morphing from Muya Tibeten area  to Jiarong Tibetan area.

From Xinduqiao to Taigong, you need to slow down – this region wants to be savored, not gulped. The road is lined with
with golden meadows, crystal-clear streams, yellow poplar trees and Tibetan stone houses against the meandering mountains under the canopy of the blue sky and white clouds.

Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba

Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba

Tagong Town is well known for the same name Tagong Monastery and its surrounding Tagong Grassland that offers great views against the sacred Yala Mountain at 5820m.

For the 87km Bamei Town- Danba  road trip, there are two impressive sights – Huiyuan Monastery in Xie De Town ( formerly the ancient Tai Ning City ) of Dawu County in Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and the majestic Yala Snow Mountain at the elevation of 5820m.

For  more information, check out:
Drive from Xinduqiao to Danba

4. S217 and S216 Highways: Eye-Popping Drive from Litang to Yading
The Highway S217 runs from Litang to Daocheng (148km), and further stretched to Yading along S216  (115km). The 148km drive from Litang to Doacheng is one of the jaw-dropping drives, going over Rabbit Mountain at the altitude of 4696 meters and passing by the vermilion Buddhist Monastery, the undulating mountains, Tibetan houses and yellow poplar trees and dry riverbeds.

The highway S216 from Daocheng to Yading is surprisingly in good condition, a wide and flat asphalt road with clean iron handrails and clear road signs. The road meanders on the wide and flat valley flanked with fields, meadows, Tibetan houses and undulating hills, all coated with autumn golden hues ( best to drive in autumn ).

Bowa Lake

Bowa Lake on the way from Daocheng to Yading

For more information, check out
Drive from Litang to Daocheng
Drive from Daocheng to Yading.

5. National Highway 214:  Drive from Mangkang to Shangri-la 400km
The National Highway G214 (Yunnan-Tibet Highway) is a hidden gem,  3256 km long starting from Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province to Jinghong, Yunnan Province.

The 400km drive from Mangkang to Shangri-la has stunning views. You need to split the drive across two days. On the first day you drive from Mangkang to Deqin (219km ) and second day from Deqin to Shangri-la (181 km).

Unlike the hyped G318, G214 is quite unknown to the public though it has heart-stopping views with its varied landscapses. G214 connects the headwaters of Yangtze River, Yellow River, Lancang River and Honghe River.

Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la.

Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la.

The G214 (Yunnan-Tibet Highway ) from Deqin to Shangri-la is de facto a sightseeing avenue, which cuts through the intoxicating Baimang Snow Mountain ( also known as Baima Snow Mountain). Lying in the mid-section of Hengduan Mountain, Baima Snow Mountain runs from north to south with 20 peaks over 5000 meters and its highest peak at 5430 meters.

For more infoirmation, check out
Drive from Mangkang to Deqin
Drive from Deqin to Shangri-la.

6. Tingri to Mt.Everest Base Camp Road Trip 100km
The road trip branching off the main National Highway 318 going to the Mt. Everest Base Camp takes 3 or 4 hours for a 100km mountain road mainly due to the poor and bumpy dirt road.

The road trip is every much challenging. People have to endure endless twists and turns, and hairpin bends. But you will see heart-stopping views – dotted Tibetan settlements, nomadic herdsmen wandering across the wide arid plains, yaks, wild rabbits, wild sheep, dzopkyos (yak-cow hybrids),  and awe-inspiring mountain peaks – a paradise on earth!

Tingri to Mt.Everest Base Camp

Tingri to Mt.Everest Base Camp

Tingri to Mt.Everest Base Camp Travel Tips:
1) Better for a small group using a land cruiser instead of bus tour
2) Ready for Bottled oxygen if you are not confident about your health
3) Water and snacks
4) Sunglass, sunscreen, altitude sickness medicine
5) Good sleep the day before
6) Suggested to stay in Tingri for overnight
7) Alien Travel Permit for Mt.Everest Base Camp

For more information, check out:
 Tingri to Mt.Everest Base Camp

7. Head-spinning drive from Xining to Qinghai Lake 151 km
Qinghai Lake has long been one of the biggest draws in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province which lies on the northeast of Tibetan Plateau. At the altitude of 3200 meters, Qinghai Lake boasts great charms – Blue sky and water, white clouds and green grassland, and amazing rape flowers, a wonderful summer resort and mesmerizing landscape.

On the way

On the way

The 151 km road trip is a scenic drive, passing by massive valleys, alpine meadows, limpid rivers, historical sites and remote towns. There are quite a  few scenic attractions and historical sites on route. You can ask your driver to stop at the sites you are interested in.

For more information, check out:
How to Visit Qinghai Lake from Xining

8. Urumqi to Kanas Lake Loop Road Trip 2000 km
As you know, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region occupies an area of 1.6 million square km with a population 20.95 million, one sixth of China in size, equivalent of 160 “Beijings”, an area the size of France, Germany, Spain and the UK combined. Xinjiang has a huge number of unique natural and cultural resources and no one can digest them all.

Kanas Lake

Kanas Lake

Kanas Lake Natural Reserve is the big draw in the  Northern Xinjiang Route. Kanas Lake is classified by UNESCO as “mankind’s last piece of pure land. Not just Kanas Lake, you have more to see, to feel, to touch along the semicircle Northern Xinjiang route around the Junggar Basin touring Fuyun, Altay, Burjin, Kelamayi…

For more information, check out:
Drive from Urumqi to Burjin
Burjin – Kanas Lake – Jiadengyu
Drive from Jiadengyu to Kelamayi
Drive from Kelamayi to Urumqi

9. Lanzhou to Langmusi Road Trip 488 km
For the road trip from Lanzhou to Langmusi 488 km, you may split it into two sections for 2 days – Lanzhou to Xiahe 258 km and Xiahe to Langmusi 230km.

The whole drive distance from Lanzhou to Xiahe County, and on to Labrang Monastery is about 258 km. In between, you pass by Hezheng County and Lingxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture. The 258 km road trip will give you deep impression in terms of both different landforms and cultures unfolded on the road.

Langmusi

Langmusi

For the 230km road trip, you will drive along the National Highway No.213 passing by Hezuo City, Luqu County, experiencing mesmerizing views of alpine meadows, grasslands, grazing yaks and sheep, and Tibetan living houses, unfolding a “water colour” picture of the pristine life in Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

For more information, check out:
Drive from Lanzhou to Xiahe
Drive from Xiahe to Langmusi

10. Hohhot to Ejina Qi Return Road Trip 2080 km
The West Inner Mongolia, or Alashan (Alxa) League specifically, is a mysterious place admired by all travelers. With its capital at Bayanhot(Bayanhaote), Alashan (Alxa) League is the largest league prefecture -level region in Inner Mongolia with an area of 270,000 Square km.

It comprises three counties – Alashan Zuoqi (Alxa Left Banner), Alashan Youqi (Alxa Right Banner) and Ejina Qi (Ejina Banner), which are also the largest oasises in Alashan. Numerous striking sights are dotted around these three green lands.

Badain Jaran Desert

A Glimpse of Badain Jaran Desert

The Hohhot to Ejina Qi ( Ejina Banner), an over-2000 km crazy drive will allow you to pass by Yinshan Mountains and Kubuqi Desert, through Ulan Buh Desert and Badain Jaran Desert.

Badain Jaran Desert is definitely the highlight of the adventurous drive. Badain Jaran Desert boasts the highest stationary dunes in the world (the tallest dune over 450 meters, extending over 5 km in length) and the third the largest desert in China with an area of over 49,000 sq.kilometers.

For more information, check out:
A Glimpse of Badain Jaran Desert

 

Any questions, just drop a  line.

How to Visit Tianzifang

July 17th, 2019
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Plan your Shanghai tour? Tianzifang (田子坊) must be included on your Shanghai travel plan.  Tianzifang is an art, craft  and Shikumen (stone-door-frame houses) enclave developed from an old residential area of the former French concession,  a shikumen residential  built in 1930s in Shanghai.

In 1980s artists, designers and vendors began to set up their studios, art galleries, craft stores, design house, cafes, bars, and restaurants  a kind of creative industry precinct in an old residential area of Shanghai. 

Tianzifang was named after the same name first artist in China by the famous Chinese artist – Chen Yifei who first had a studio in Tianzifang.  Chen Yifei was one of the artists who actively advocated the preservation of Tianzifang area and its stone-framed-door houses.

Tianzifang is compact and mainly composed of three lanes along Taikang Road (泰康路), just across the Exit 1 of Dapuqiao Station (打浦桥) of Subway Line 9.  The three lanes are Taikang Road Lane 210 (Tianzifang), Taikang Road Lane 248(Tianchengli) and Taikang Road Lane 274 (Pingyuanfang).

The Taikang Road 210 is the most noted lane where the famous artist Chen Yifei once set up his studio there. Most of the visitors would choose first to enter Lane 210 in Tianzifang area.

The three lanes are interconnected,  easy to get pleasantly lost wandering in and out of the passages though this area is interspersed with with location maps. So it is a bit hard to navigate and sometimes you have many turns and bends. You will meet a dead-end and then back-track and find a new passage.  It is a fun exploring inside the neighborhood of labyrinthine alleys.

So why Tianzifang?

It is a great place to shop and dine though a bit overpriced. But you do find some original gifts and souvenirs you cannot find elsewhere in Shanghai.  If you are not a big fan for shopping and eating, just concentrate on its architecture.

Tianzifang Travel Tips

1)  The most convenient way of getting to Tianzifang is taking subway line 9 and get off at the station of Dapuqiao (打浦桥) and using Exit 1  and the Taikang Road ( where the three lanes are located) is just opposite the Exit 1.  You may start your exploration of Tianzifang by entering the Taikang Road Lane 210, then duck into the Lane 248 and 274.

2) Go there early to avoid hordes of domestic tourists. You are prepared for being pushed when this area is getting busier.

3) Learn to bargain on the stuff you are going to buy.

4) It is allowed to take pictures in Tianaifang area except the residential area where the local residents still live.

5) A  nice public toilets in the mall across the street where the Starbucks is located.

For you to have a glimpse of Tianzifang, now I just show you some of the pictures taken  of the three lanes in Tianzifang area.

Out from Exit 1 at Dapuqiao Station of Subway line 9, you turn right and see the location signboard indicating Tianzifang.

you turn right and see the location signboard indicating Tianzifang.

you turn right and see the location signboard indicating Tianzifang.

 

The entrance to Taikang Road Lane 274 (平原坊) 泰康路274弄, just left side of Taikang Road Lane 248.

One of the location maps of Tianzifang dotted here and there.  The red travel route for Lane 210, blue for Lane 248 and green for Lane 274.

One of the location maps of Tianzifang dotted here and there

One of the location maps of Tianzifang dotted here and there

 

A creative restaurant on a narrow alley between Lane 210  and Lane 248.

A creative restaurant on a narrow alley between Lane 210 and Lane 248.

A creative restaurant on a narrow alley between Lane 210 and Lane 248.

 

A western restaurant nestled on a narrow alleyway between Lane 210 and Lane 248

A western restaurant nestled on a narrow alleyway between Lane 210 and Lane 248

A western restaurant nestled on a narrow alleyway between Lane 210 and Lane 248

A cafe bar

A cafe bar

A cafe bar

A typical shikumen houses still inhabited by the local residents who still live on top of the establishments (shops, restaurants etc.) with their air-conditioning units outside their houses.

A typical shikumen houses

A typical shikumen houses

Wet clothes hanging and air-conditioning units overhead, not a totally commercial area on Lane 248

Wet clothes hanging and air-condition units overhead, not a totally commercial area on Lane 248

Wet clothes hanging and air-conditioningunits overhead, not a totally commercial area on Lane 248

Electricity cables are still  overhead, adding a residential feel.

Electricity cables are still overhead, adding a residential feel.

Electricity cables are still overhead, adding a residential feel.

A narrow alleyway between Lane 248 and Lane 274

A narrow alleyway between Lane 248 and Lane 274

A narrow alleyway between Lane 248 and Lane 274

A cafe bar nestled on the passage between Lane 248 and Lane 274

The narrow passage in Lane 274

The narrow passage in Lane 274

The narrow passage in Lane 274

Tip:  Hassle-free Shanghai Guided Tours
If you don’t want to go the do-it-yourself route and prefer the hassle-free escorted tours,  here are some options for guided tours to Shanghai:

Shanghai Highlight Day Tour from US$ 60
Afternoon Ambling & Evening Brilliant Cruise Day Tour from US$ 55
Shanghai Ancient Water Town Day Tour from US$ 65
Shanghai Suzhou Zhouzhuang Day Tour from US$ 95

Shanghai 2 Day Tour Package from US$ 145
Shanghai 3 Day Tour Pacakge from US$ 199
Shanghai 4 Day Tour Package from US$ 265 p/p

Further Readings


Top 10 Attraction in Shanghai
Top 10 Markets in Shanghai
Top 10 Shopping Malls in Shanghai
Top 10 Things to Do at night in Shanghai
Best Places for Autumn Leaves in Shanghai
Top 10 Things to Do in Winter in Shanghai
Top 10 Souvenirs in Shanghai

Any questions, just drop line.

How to Visit Xingping

July 16th, 2019
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Xingping (兴坪) is one of the ancient towns along Li River, about 27km north of Yangshuo (阳朔) and 91km southeast of Guilin (桂林). Most tourists would choose to visit Xingping from Yangshuo by bus. The buses leave from Yangshuo South Bus Station.

The current Yangshuo South Bus Station is about 5-minute’s walk from the roundabout at the southern end of Kangzhan Road (抗战路) in Yangshuo. Many local buses stop at the south bus station.

The buses going between Yangshuo and Xingping are plentiful (every 15 minutes) and you don’t need to buy your ticket at the ticketing office. You just pay your bus ticket on board due to the short distance.

The 40-minute’ bus ride allow you go through villages and one town flanked by the farmlands with the background of the karst hills, an interesting chance to look at the authentic rural life. Bus fare: 8 yuan.

On the way

On the way

On the way

Arriving at Xingping Bus Station,  you exit from the gate and turn right,  and you will be on the old street of the ancient town of Xingping.

It is a two-street ancient town in the shape of “T”, flanked by the well-preserved two-story brick and stone houses of Lingnan style with flagged stone streets.

Two-story brick and stone houses of Lingnan style

two-story brick and stone houses of Lingnan style

two-story brick and stone houses of Lingnan style

Xingping Ancient Town
The doors and the handrails on balconies were made of wood.

The doors and the handrails on balconies were made of wood

The doors and the handrails on balconies were made of wood

Most of the houses in the old towns are protected and preserved with the money generated from their house rental.

These old houses are usually renovated and decorated into fancy and trendy bars, restaurants, boutiques, shops and even bike repairs to serve the even increasing number of cyclists.

Bike Repairs

Bike Repairs

Bike Repairs

A restaurant offers the local flavors

A restaurant offers the local flavors

A restaurant offers the local flavors

At the end of the street, you will see a bar restaurant known as ” The Old Place”.  This pretty bar offers sandwiches, pizza and local flavors. You may come back for lunch here.

Photo: Xingping5
Xingping Old Street
The Old Place

The Old Place

The Old Place

Now you are at the T-conjunction and you are recommended to turn left on the way to the old opera stage. The well preserved ancient opera stage dates back to Qing Dynasty with ornate carvings

The entrance to the old stage

The entrance to the old stage

The entrance to the old stage

The ancient opera stage

The ancient opera stage

The ancient opera stage

Backtrack and exit from the ancient street,  you have two choices – 1)  Go straight and cross the bridge, then walk for 8 minutes and get to the viewing platform to see the landscape printed on the back of the 20 yuan renminbi note; 2) turn left and walk to the Xingping Pier either for bamboo rafting or take the “President Tour” for a 2-hour boat tour including the visit to Fish Village.

Landscape printed on the 20 yuan note

Landscape printed on the 20 yuan note

Landscape printed on the 20 yuan note

Xingping Dock for  President Tour

Xingping Dock for President Tour

Xingping Dock for President Tour

Xingping Dock for bamboo rafting

Xingping Dock for bamboo rafting

Xingping Dock for bamboo rafting

Xingping is the highlight of Li River cruising with the mesmerizing river running 20km within Xinping.

Highlight of Li River Cruising

Highlight of Li River Cruising

Highlight of Li River Cruising

You may take the bus back to Yangshuo or continue to go to Guilin. Guilin Qintan Bus Station operate the bus service between Guilin and Xingping.

Further Readings


Top 10 Things to do Guilin
How to Visit Chengyang Wind & Rain Bridge
Li River Cruise
Daxu Ancient Town

Visit Huangyao Ancient Town from Yangshuo or Guilin
How to Visit Xingping
Impression Liu Sanjie Mega Performance in Yangshuo
Biking through Shili Scenery Gallery in Yangshuo

Any questions, just drop a line.