Hike the south's 'Shangri-La' and discover the 'other' Great Wall

Climb Gongyu Bei and visit Linhai for a weekend break from Shanghai

Photo: Courtesy of Zhu Liquan

While you’ll doubtless see the odd Chinese hiker dressed head to foot in North Face gear and, upon reaching your destination, buildings awash with banners from various mountaineering and camping groups, scaling Gongyu Bei in Zhejiang for a view over ‘the Jiangnan Shangri-La’ is actually easily accomplished in a day, even for inexperienced climbers. Some scrabble over rocks and take a somewhat suspect-looking rope bridge around the more sheer of Gongyu Bei’s rockfaces, and some prefer to continue the hike to other surrounding peaks, but you can see plenty – including the key view back onto the small clutch of houses nestled among terraced fields seen on this page – simply by sticking to the well-worn bamboo-lined paths.


The aforementioned houses that make up Gongyu are happy to supply refreshment (try their homemade fruit-infused baijiu) and will also rent you a tent (for 60RMB) or a bed in a basic wooden room (for 25RMB) if you want to stay longer, but otherwise you can get up and down in a few hours.


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Getting to Gongyu Bei (公盂背) from Shanghai is slightly more complicated, however. The first step is to get a train to Linhai. A 40RMB taxi journey will then get you from the train station to the bus station, and from here it’s an 18RMB ride to Xianju (仙居), a dusty scrap of a town that’s grown up to service the nearby Zhen Xianju scenic area.


You’ll find a number of business hotels here, but the slightly out-of-town Anfo Villa combines reasonably priced rooms (from 200RMB) with a relatively peaceful location and they’ll also book you a car to the foot of the path up to Gongyu and back for 200RMB (a good deal cheaper than the price you’ll be quoted at the town’s bus station). Still, you’ll want to head back into Xianju in the evening for some spicy, Jiangxi-influenced local cuisine.


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To turn your trip into a weekend break, you can spend a few hours exploring Linhai itself. The city features an ancient street running from its centre down to the pretty Longxing Temple (entry 40RMB), which is a good area to head to for sustenance, but locals will tell you that the top tourist attraction is the Great Wall (entry 65RMB).


No, not that Great Wall – it turns out there’s more than one. Linhai’s 'Jiangnan Great Wall' was first built to defend the city during the Eastern Jin dynasty, before being expanded in the Sui and Tang dynasties. Of course, you don't hear as much about it as its cousin up north for a reason, but while it's not quite as impressive as The Great Wall, in places it does bear an uncanny resemblance to China's most famous wall. There’s even a ‘Badaling of the South’ section, though the view is slightly spoilt by a modern day dormitory immediately inside Linhai’s version.


And if you’re looking to really up the kooky factor while you’re in Linhai (or you miss the last train home), you can stay the night at a site beside the railway station that bills itself as one of China’s only caravan parks.


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Despite the wheels and number plates on show, the rows of wooden cabins that comprise Feng Zhi Gu hotel (风之谷) are actually permanent and make for a cheap (from 140RMB) and clean spot to bed down. Just be warned that you will be woken by the first train in the morning.


How to get there Regular dongche and gaotie trains head to Linhai from Hongqiao, taking around three hours and costing from 135RMB one way.


The Anfo Villa can be booked through 0576 8932 0999 and Feng Zhi Gu hotel (风之谷) through 0571 8788 3333. Both are also available to book through Ctrip. To book a bed or a tent at Gongyu, call 139 5821 6116 (Mandarin only).

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