Shi Du 十渡

Trip Start Feb 27, 2013
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Saturday, September 21, 2013

It's not too bad, in your second week of classes to have a Thursday and Friday off, which is exactly what I got, thanks to the Mid-Autumn Festival.  For most Chinese people, in exchange for these two days off, they must work on Sunday instead, but, luckily for me, my university understands foreign students enough to realize that they wouldn't have a very high attendance that day if they tried to make us attend classes on a Sunday.
As I had a few days off, Ian and Emily invited me to go to Shi Du, a town right on the border of Beijing, as they had also never been there, so it was a good opportunity for all of us to experience something new together.
This town is right out into the country, around three hours from the center of Beijing.  The air was fresher, the sky was clearer, and noticeably less people.  I did think it was funny that what was considered to be a small town still had a steady stream of cars down the main road.  When I think of a small town, I think of one where you can play cricket on the main street, just moving the wicket when the occasional car comes down, but here in China, there is nothing like that at all; this is about as close as you can get.
Shi Du is a mountainous little town, surrounded by sheer cliff faces that are breathtakingly beautiful.  The views are similar to those made famous in Guilin, with the rocky mountains and beautiful lakes.  I was so blown away that such a stunning place is so close to Beijing, and is such a secret, too.   The car we hired drove us to the hotel we had booked, but when we arrived, we realized that it was quite different to the website's description.  It was located adjacent to a construction site, so was filled with rubbish and dirt.  It looked like it was the accommodation for the construction workers, not a working hotel. Deciding that we wanted something a little nicer and cleaner, we were driven closer into town, and found a cute hotel that provided gorgeous views of the mountains, instead of the earth movers and cranes we were going to wake up to.   
The afternoon we went boating.  Equipped with our little inflatable boat and a couple of paddles, we set off down the river.  There were a few parts of bumps and speedy areas, but that made it so much fun.  There were a lot of other people boating around near us, armed with water guns and plastic saucepans (to scoop up and throw water efficiently), but we did pretty well to remain dry.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the town, and watching water fights on the river. There was a pretty little waterfall cascading down one if the rock faces. After admiring it for awhile, we realized it was in a pretty unnatural place for a waterfall to be; it started mid-way down the rock face.  Upon further inspection, we saw a pipe buried in the trees nearby, and hypothesized that it was a fake waterfall pumped from the lake. Our suspicions were confirmed the next morning, when Emily went out at sunrise to take some pictures, and the waterfall had not yet been switched on. It's so funny, and hardly surprising anymore that China fakes part of its own 'natural' scenery.
The next day we woke up, and took a cable car up one of the mountains. We then decided to walk the rest of the way to get right up to the peak.  Ian and Emily weren't so keen on the height, and so I walked solo up to the top of the peak.  It was quite frightening, as the mountains were so incredibly rocky and steep, so any fall would have been quite painful on the way down.  The views up the top were incomparably beautiful, and well worth the extra walk.  It felt like I was within touching distance of the sky and looking around 360 degrees, all I could see were other mountain tops.  Living in Beijing, you really learn to appreciate such natural beauty.  Emily took the cable car down, while Ian and I tackled the steep stairs to make it back down.
Paddle boating on the lake was really pleasant and relaxing. With such pretty surroundings, it was a nice way to relax and watch everyone else.  A lot of other people were standing on wooden rafts and having water fights. They were absolutely soaked through. Luckily, the weather for the weekend was unusually hot for September, so they would have dried off well.
We walked over the wobbly suspension bridge hanging over the lake.  It wasn't very high, but, like all suspension bridges, felt quite unstable. I enjoyed walking over it, because I didn't feel like it was unsafe or scary. 
We then rode on 4-wheel bikes, which is something that I have always wanted to do.  We were riding on bikes that could only go to a certain speed, and we just did one lap of the course.  I really liked it; we rode through dirt, water and went up and over plenty of little bumps along the way.
We had lunch, and after a very action-packed morning, we sat and chatted outside at the restaurant until our car came back to pick us up.
The car drove us directly to a restaurant for dinner with some of Emily's old colleagues, where we had some very spicy Sichuan food.  The Sichuan province is famous for it's spicy cuisine, particularly the use of a tiny pepper which numbs your mouth. I'm pretty careful with inspecting my food before I put it in my mouth, to ensure that I don't get any peppers, because I hate the numb feeling. A tiny pepper makes your whole mouth feel tingly, like if you had an injection at the dentist. Unfortunately, a few little peppers slipped through my inspection, and I still got a bit numb, but the food was amazing apart from that.
This weekend was one of the best I have had in Beijing. It was perfect to spend some time away from the city, in such a pretty town. I'm so grateful to Ian and Emily for taking me out to a place I never knew existed before.
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kovacsfamily on

Beautiful views

Joan Jay on

Loved your blog Amy - I wonder if we have time for Mum and I to go to Shi Du - it looks just amazing! Miss you love nanna xx

Shirley on

Hi Amy, I am so glad to read your letter and see your photo pictures, and know you have had good time here. Great! I am looking forward to seeing you and your family soon!
Happy holidays!

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