by Jonny Blair
The stone forest in remote Shilin
As an avid fan of backpacking round the world to off the beaten track places, it’s time for a post on China. China houses more people than any other country, but it’s the landscapes and world heritage sites that do it for me. My recent adventures in China have taken me to 12 of the country’s 29 provinces and I’ve picked out my top 5 off the wall World Heritage Sites for you to check out. These are all inspiring and still very untouristy. They attract a load of Chinese tourists, but not many foreigners. I hadn’t heard of most of these places before I went there, and I will never forget them after having been to them.
1. The Stone Forest in Shilin, Yunnan Province
Imagine a forest made of stone (see photo above). Well that’s exactly what Shilin is. Here in the remote countryside in an area known as Shilin, you can find a world heritage site just popping up out of nowhere – this place in Shilin basically consists of a load of sharp rock shapes sticking out of the ground. It has formed a complete area of its own and has been dubbed “the stone forest”. You can reach it by bus from the city of Kunming and it’s well worth checking out.
2. The Oriental Goddess and Sanqing Shan, Jiangxi Province
Sanqing Shan includes numerous forested walking paths and the natural Oriental Goddess rock formation.
Offering you the tranquility of a mountainous area bereft of smoke, smog and big city buzz lies the world heritage resort of Sanqing Shan
. Walk for hours on its many routes as you veer high and low through this forested mountain range. The highlights are the extreme views, the marvellous and natural “Oriental Goddess
” rock and a 20 minute cable car ride with one of the steepest drops
you will ever see. Getting there is a long bus ride, from either Yushan, Wuyuan, Nanchang or Shangrao.
3. Pingjianglu (“Venice of the East”), Suzhou, Jiangsu Province
Suzhou boats gardens and canals dubbing it “Venice of the East”
The city of Suzhou
has reached World Heritage Status mainly for two reasons: it’s old style Chinese gardens
and the amazing canals
. The canals have been dubbed The Venice of Asia
except they are a little less in abundance, a lot cheaper and much less touristy than their Italian namesake. Aside from the canals, a trip to one of the many old style Chinese Gardens will have you relaxing and wanting a tea in harmony. This is the China without the busy traffic you see on TV. It’s a high speed train from either Hangzhou or Shanghai to get there.
4. Fujian Tulou, Fujian Province
These ancient rounded buildings housed clans of people
These ancient Chinese buildings are exquisite. Dating back centuries, here in the countryside around the city of Yongding
, you find the “Fujian Tulou”. These are circular houses
which house entire clans of people. They are scattered all over the province and the best way to see them is on a day tour. You can literally jump in and out of lots of these buildings. The most impressive of the Fujian Tulou were the Chenqi
Building at Gaobei (also known as the King of Tulou
) and the Yuchang Earth Building
in Shuyang Town. These are really remote and off the beaten track. To get there it’s best to base yourself in either Xiamen, Longyan or Yongding. Bus or hiring a driver in a car are the best options for seeing the buildings themselves.
5. Penis and Vagina Rocks, Danxiashan, Guangdong Province
Numerous rock formations litter the Danxia Shan mountains, but two that resemble the male and female sex organs attract the most photos and lots of nervous giggling.
Imagine a national park with epic rock formations, great hikes, rewarding views for sunset and sunrise and you should head to the Danxiashan
mountains. The oddest and most photographed part are the rocks that resemble human sexual organs
. A rock shaped like an erect male member on your hike up to Fortress Hill is the most photographed part and yes, it really does look like a man’s willy. You’ll have to put up with teenage Chinese girls giggling all the way up, but the views from the top are worth it. In the lower part of this mountain range you can see a rock which looks like the matching woman’s private parts. There are also a load of activities you can do here including a cable car ride and boating on the many rivers and lakes. Danxiashan can be hard to get to. Buses run from the city of Shaoguan, but you’ll need a train to reach it, most frequent route goes from Guangzhou.
I’ve actually been to a lot more of the off the beaten track World Heritage Sites in China so there may well be a sequel at some point. But get yourself out to this five and you’ll love it. Don’t forget to take a load of photos. China has some phenomenal countryside and natural zones you’ve yet to hear about.