Monday, January 15, 2007

Baiyun Mountain Scenic Spot – Guangzhou

About 15 minutes drive from the Guangzhou city center you can visit the Biayun Mountain Scenic Spot also known as The White Cloud Mountain. Upon arrival at the gate you can opt to either climb the mountain by foot along paved roads winding up the slopes and a series of steep staircases or ride a cable car. We obviously opted for the latter.

The cable car does not cost much at all, 25 RMB for a one-way-ticket actually and it is quite a novelty. Being Sunday afternoon one might also expected to be confronted by large crowds but the area and atmosphere at the base of the mountain was exceptionally serene.

New cable cars have recently been installed enabling the traffic going up and down the mountain to roll quite smoothly. I have never given much thought to cable cars but after reading about these I can understand why they are such an attraction. The bureau in charge of this location has obviously invested a lot of money in the system and it sure as hell beats having to walk up the whole mountain.

The cars are very new and in spanking condition. They are imported from Italy so I felt quite secure getting in. Some people expect Guangzhou to be dirty but in fact it is quite the opposite. The facility and operation is extremely well kempt and tidy. And I must also mention how friendly the staff are.

The view going up the mountain is spectacular. It is so refreshing to get away from the concrete jungle and into nature. I did not expect to be able to do that only a stones throw away from where I live. Being winter it was also cool and refreshing to sit back and enjoy the flavor from the cable car. The ride to the top took about 5 minutes.

Looking back at the city behind me I could actually appreciate that I was getting away. I believe the cable car carries passengers up about 198 meters from station to station. The cars are also constructed from transparent plastic allowing passengers to really take in the scenery.

At the top where we alighted there is a beautiful garden, filled with people. Most of the people I saw were seemingly of Chinese decent. I am presuming there were some local tourists but mostly Guangzhou city dwellers taking a Sunday break. They were milling around the promenade talking story, sipping tea, and playing sports like hacky sack and badminton. There were many families spending time together in groups that included 3 generations and there were lots of couples canoodling in the gardens. It is actually surprising how comfortable Chinese people are with public displays of affection. I would have expected them to be more reserved and conservative.

Another popular attraction at The White Cloud Mountain is the Mingchungu Natural Birdcage. It is awkward that I have never seen nor heard a single bird in the city of Guangzhou. I have never seen one in the sky, on a building, or in a tree. I have never even seen bird shit on the side walk. It is actually quite freaky. We did not enter the Birdcage but from the map it does look like a place I would like to spend time at. It also looks like an educational place to bring your kids. And although there were numerous people around the area was wide open and filled with trees so people were smiling and friendly but minding their own business. The crowd was not unpleasant.

The Baiyun Mountain Scenic area is spread over a few ridges and valleys. We entered through the front gate and walked the entire path to the rear gate. There is a main paved road to follow and occasionally cars do go by but mostly there are just pedestrians and joggers moving across the winding street. There are various offshoots from the road that lead to secluded springs, lookout spots, and tranquil gardens. For people who get tired along the way there are also carts going up and down the hill that you could jump on.

Occasionally you will pass a small tea house or restaurant where you can have hot cup of cha or a cold beer. I opted for the latter. I am actually quite fond of Pearl River draft. It is an exceptionally light brew and great for when you need a fix and do not wanted to get planted on a bar stool.

The hill side is littered with small pagodas where you can chill and really savor the silence. These little retreats are unbelievably cozy. There are also enough of them so that you can spend time undisturbed but not too many as to ruin the scenery. The construction and placement of these pagodas are extremely unobtrusive. I love the way they are neatly tucked into the trees and rock gardens.

The views from the numerous lookouts and gardens are nothing short of breathtaking. In some directions you can see clear into the valleys around you and peaks above you.

On the other side you can gaze right down onto the city of Guangzhou. It was not a very clear day yesterday so we could not get a good shot of the skyline but none the less I had never seen the city from this angle. I was actually amazed at how tall Citic Plaza is compared to the other buildings in the area. I believe Citic Plaza is currently the 7th tallest building in the world.

The bureau in charge of managing this location have also taken precautions against messy patrons by placing trash cans and reminders to keep the area clean in random locations in both English and Chinese. Sometimes however the point might be lost in translation. For the life of me, I can not figure out what ‘Stress the Civilization’ means.

The stroll over the mountain and down the other side was roughly 7 kilometers long. I did not actually intend to spend my Sunday doing anything healthy. In fact I was planning on indulging in some serious self destruction but I guess things have a way of unfolding they way they want to. The walk was long but it was great fun. Spending time with Ro and Maria was both pleasant and entertaining. We played games, acted the fool, and talked story. There is defiantly a lot more exploring I would like to do in the area. I can only imagine how many hidden trails and lookouts there must be and I heard today actually that there is a bungee jump over there as well. Visitors to Guangzhou must capitalize on the opportunity to visit The White Clouds Mountain. It is another pearl that this city has to offer.

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