Article by XIANEASE
While cities are nice, with all the cafes, restaurants, and shopping malls you might desire, during the summer months, the city becomes a bit unbearable due to the heat, mugginess, and general lack of patience that comes with it. What you need sometimes is an escape. Luckily, the mountains surrounding the city offer a variety of refuges, from camping sites to hiking trails, mountain inns and mountain springs. While getting out can be a bit difficult without transportation, it is possible.
Camping in Qinling
The Qinling mountains stretch across southern Shaanxi and offer some absolutely beautiful landscapes. In the past, it was difficult to do more than so up during the day, take some pictures, and head back home by the evening, at best staying at a little inn that had less than the best accommodations. However, several years of Covid lockdowns have led to a new appreciation for the outdoors, specifically not being stuck inside, so camping has really taken off recently, with designated camping sites available where you can pitch a tent and enjoy an evening out under the stars.
These places range from the basic, which is basically just a patch of land that you can put a tent on, to the more luxurious, including fixed facilities, barbeque equipment, and fire pits. Some places will even provide you with the tents and food for the barbeque, meaning you don’t have to show up with more than basic toiletries. Oh, and bring your own coffee.
Obviously, these places will range in price, with a place to pitch a tent coming in at less than 50RMB per person while more expensive places can range into the hundreds of RMB. If you like camping and would like to go regularly, it might be a good idea to invest in a bit of gear. You can find all the camping gear you need at Decathlon, which has several locations in the city. Tents vary according to their size and quality, with cheap ones coming in at a few hundred, (think 250-500RMB) and nicer ones costing anywhere from 1500-7000RMB, if you REALLY like camping or you’re looking to take a family.
Places in the mountains can get quite busy, so it’s best to contact them ahead of time to pre-book your spot. It’s also best to avoid randomly camping in the mountains, as there are many sensitive areas that forbid people from entering. To avoid trouble, stick to the path.
As pointed to in several other articles in this issue, biking in the Qinling Mountains is a beautiful experience, great for your health, and generally safe to do. There are many different paths you can take, and properly equipped, you can take even longer excursions out and about. This also solves the major issue of getting to some of the places that we describe, as you’ll be bringing your transportation with you. If you’re looking for some guidance, advice on trails, or just people to ride with, consider joining the Shaanxi Hills International Team (Aka Team Shit). They have bikes to lend for those looking to try out cycling and will also show you the best places to buy gear in Xi’an. (Check the other articles for Marcus’ QR)
爬山 or ‘climbing mountains’ is a time-honored tradition in China, dating back to the early periods of Chinese history when mountains were considered sacred and pilgrimages by both emperor and commoner were a regular occurrence. While making sacrifices at the top might no longer be suggested, the habit of taking the time to make the climb is still present. There are many National Natural Parks surrounding Xi’an, with the most famous climb being Hua Shan, which many people undertake by climbing at night, to enjoy the sunrise from the eastern peak. A personal favorite has always been Taiping Valley, a well-shaded, relatively gentle climb that takes you past a series of fantastic waterfalls, and tends to be much cooler overall than other, more exposed trails. Most of the national parks will be accessible by short or long distance bus, and it will generally take you 2-3 hours on the bus to arrive. Many parks will also have hotels or other lodging near the gates, so you can make it a multi-day trip to give you more time to explore the park.
Mountain Eating at a 农家乐
While outdoor activities where you get sweaty are fun and good for your health, sometimes you just want to relax and enjoy your surroundings, all while eating some delicious food. 农家乐 are countryside inns and restaurants that can provide some of the best Chinese food you’ll ever have, all while surrounded by a wonderful environment. These restaurants are often located along streams or rivers, tucked away in mountain passes that enjoy freedom from the noise of the city. Typically the loudest sounds will be other patrons, or the karaoke machine, if you stay late enough. Many of these places double as hotels, meaning that you can get a rest if you’ve had one too many dishes or one too many drinks.
A quick word of warning however. Due to the growing popularity of 农家乐 in recent years, several city dwellers have tried to cash in on the craze, opening up copycat places that provide bad food and worse service. These places may be more nicely decorated than others and are located closer to the entrance of parks or other tourist spots, sure signs that you’re about to pay too much for mediocrity. A general rule of thumb is that if the boss isn’t living there, or if it’s way too expensive looking, head on down the road. That’s where you’ll find the real deal.
OTHER OUTDOORS ACTIVITIES
There are of course many more activities than this available, depending on your price range. A few that might interest you are:
No longer for members only, you can get in a round of golf for around 1300RMB, though you’ll either need your own equipment or have to rent.
An activity that’s recently gained in popularity, boards can be rented at various places, including 长安公园. If you’d like more information on SUP activities, contact us for more info.
An outdoor activity where you can shoot your friends for fun. There are several paintball courses on the outskirts of the city. You can find one close to you by searching 真人cs on 大众点评 for a list of locations and prices.
It may seem like an odd thing to do during the summer, but a dip in the hot springs can make even the hottest day seem cooler, plus it helps you relax your muscles, maybe after a long day of 爬山.
We do hope that you have a great summer! If you have any suggestions for or questions about these or other outdoor activities good for the summer months, let us know by contacting us through our official WeChat account or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe this summer!