Head off the Beaten Track and Discover China as it Used to be

Jan 28, 2013, 03:00 ET from Cox & Kings

LONDON, January 28, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --

When people think of holidays to China, most people imagine the bright lights of Shanghai, the Great Wall or the Terracotta Warriors; scratch the surface and you can experience a China of yester-century.

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A few hours south-west of Shanghai lies Anhui province, famed for beautiful landscapes, green tea and ancient villages of Unesco world heritage status. Reached easily by train, plane or a scenic drive via Wuyuan, from either Shanghai or Hangzhou, Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and its surrounding villages are the main reason for going to this seldom-visited province. Tunxi, Xidi and Hongcun make for a great side stop when visiting Huangshan and, if you can't spend the night on the mountain, then Tunxi has hotels to base yourself.


Arriving into Xidi, you are greeted by a typical memorial archway, now regarded as a masterpiece of the Ming dynasty's archways. Encircled by green hills and two small streams, all the streets and lanes are cobble paved, the houses are grey and white washed with little archways and beautiful paned windows scattered around the town. The town is full of exquisite wood, stone and brick carvings, evidence that art is a huge part of this town's livelihood and culture.


Twenty minutes' drive from Xidi is Hongcun which was awarded Unesco world heritage status as well as becoming famous as a location in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Artists normally line the lake in front of the village and a beautiful marble bridge is its only gateway. Designed by a feng shui master, the village is architecturally unique as it supposedly represents a sleeping ox. Extremely well preserved and with little or no restoration, the village oozes charm and the winding, narrow alleys allow sometimes unexpected glimpses of village life.


Huangshan is one of the five holy Taoist mountains in China and is known as the 'Number One Mountain Under Heaven'. Famous for its unique pines and strange geological formations, it is said to be where James Cameron got his inspiration for Avatar.  A cable car takes tourists most of the way up, followed by a long climb of steps to the summit, but the views on the way are worth every step. The most magical times on the mountain are at sunrise and sunset as the rock formations appear to change colour with the light. As the clouds come over, it becomes apparent why the mountain is shrouded in mystery.

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