A Trip to Anji

06 Apr 2008

My wife’s family got their tomb-sweeping done early (apparently that’s allowed), so we used the three-day weekend for a trip to Anji (安吉), Zhejiang Province’s bamboo wonderland.

Anji Tourism Map
Anji Tourist Map [click here for another version]

It has been a while since I went on a trip like this on China, so I was reminded of an important fact: When you go as an uninformed tourist, you get the full tourist experience. We didn’t do a whole lot of research before going. My wife found a pretty nice place to stay online, and the “mountains + bamboo” scenery was great, but we ended up visiting various locations as just two more cogs in the tourism machine. If we ever go back, we’ll remember to do it a bit differently. The following are some of my observations for those of you that are interested in Anji.

Early April was a good time to go because it wasn’t too hot and the crowds were tolerable, but the mountain waterfalls are a little less full, and the bamboo a little less green this time of year. It’s a trade-off.

Bamboo Forest

The place with the most attractive name, 中国大竹海 (Great Bamboo Sea of China), was something of a rip-off. I think my wife’s observation was pretty astute: “they’re just trying to make a tourist buck off of their bamboo production land.” True enough. They also rely heavily on being the bamboo forest location in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. (See image below)

中国大竹海

The text on the billboard which greets you when you arrive reads:

> 《卧虎藏龙》、《像雾像雨又像风》等影视作品拍摄地
周润发、章子怡来了,
周迅、陈坤来了,
周星驰、刘德凯也来了,
嘿,明星们都来了,我们还等什么?

A rough translation:

> Filming location of cinematic works such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Love Story in Shanghai
Chow Young-fat, Zhang Ziyi came,
Zhou Xun, Chen Kun came,
Stephen Chow, Liu Dekai came,
Hey, the stars all came — what are we waiting for?

We didn’t go too deep in, because we didn’t like what we saw in our first hour there: truckloads of cut bamboo on their way out (which tourists had to dodge), fairly thin bamboo forest, bamboo in the forest marked for cutting in big black characters, and tourists frenziedly trying to find and dig up new bamboo shoots (which they’re told they can have if they find). Other random additions included a mini roller coaster and an alpine zipline.

We tried the roller coaster (40 RMB per person), and it was pretty fun. What was interesting is that it had a hand brake. Fortunately my wife let me man the brake, because I was determined to use it as little as possible (whereas must of the Chinese tourists seemed to be applying it right away on the initial descent). It did raise the troubling question, though: is this hand brake here for tourists’ peace of mind, or can this track really not handle us going around the corners at full speed? There was a net along the sides of the track in some places, but not others (including a few tight turns), and the end of the ride requires the riders to brake themselves.

Break now! Roller coaster car

竹博园, something of a bamboo-themed botanical garden, was also pretty lame. You get to see lots of different types of bamboo, but it wasn’t looking very beautiful. There was also a fair amount of random park-like stuff, including the inflatable bubbles on the pond, and even a stage for performances, which radiated loud annoying techno-pop (not the best thing for the atmosphere).

We stayed in the 九龙峡 (literally, “Nine Dragon Gorge”) scenic area, where we saw 白茶谷 (literally, “White Tea Valley”) and 藏龙百瀑 (literally, “Hidden Dragon Hundred Falls”), which were both pretty decent, scenery-wise. The area at the top of 白茶谷 was still under construction, so we couldn’t go all the way to the top. We only went as far as a Buddhist temple about 3/4 of the way up. We had some 白茶 (“white tea”) on the mountain, and it was tasty.

Don't pick the tea!

We didn’t go all the way to the top of 藏龙百瀑 either, because we were both a bit tired from our first mountain climbing experience that day, it was getting dark (no lights), and everyone said the best spectacle was the waterfall halfway up.

Anji in general is still rapidly developing for tourism. I talked to a worker on the way up 藏龙百瀑 who told me the mountain paths (cement/stone stairways in the mountainside) were all only 7-8 years old. (That is, probably not so coincidentally, right when Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon came out.)

Overall, a pleasant visit, but be prepared for the stuff that comes with a newly developing tourism industry, and learn from my mistake: do your homework first! We only saw a few parts of a large beautiful region. There is still lots to see.

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John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. The development of tourism everywhere in China shares the same pattern with its counterparts in country like Turkey: overexploitation. I only speak of my own experience. I didn’t find this in Peru and Mexico. anyone have thoughts on this? does Turkish mindset have common features with the Chinese one?or it’s just an economic cause?

  2. How far is this from Shanghai?

    I love those coasters…I went on one at Big Bear in California, although there it was called an Alpine Slide.

  3. It’s been a while since the last vacation story, always enjoy them (much more in person), thanks, PJ and SS!

  4. That coaster with the brake reminds me of the luge ride down from the touristy area of the Great Wall. The brake’s neutral position was slight pressure, but thrusting it forward would allow for full speed, which my friends and I made full use of. The Chinese idea of safety measures was people in the bushes around the corners shouting “SLOW!”

    Ah- and one could purchase “insurance” for one kuai . . . don’t know what that was about.

  5. On the roller coaster… Did SS scream or was it enjoyable for her? what happens if someone infront of you is braking and you are not? Do you collide? or do they provide slot times so you dont have this kind of conflict. I need to know! The suspense is torturing me!

  6. Next up: the Deadly Huashan Hiking Trail! Hours of terrifying family fun!

  7. This looks like a classic Chinese “scenic spot.”

  8. Chen kun went? Wow. He’s a hottie! I should go. 😀

  9. In a Tianjin Chinese-style park (for relaxation, not tourism) I saw a people powered roller coaster. It was flat though so no brakes were needed. It seemed to be popular with the kids.

  10. Super interesting! I lived in Anji (Dipu town) for about a year and a half. I was trodden out to the Bamboo Sea on several occasions but generally had the same observations that you did. Typical Chinese sightseeing – it’s difficult to get out of the tourist machine and that part of Anji is still fairly deserted to laowai tourists.

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