Near and Away From Beijing: Golden Week Getaways I
    2012-09-20 14:45:16     CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: Duan
Shuiyu is one of those towns that is wonderful to visit precisely because it's not much of a tourist destination. Not only will Starbucks be 110 percent absent, but you'll be hard-pressed to find lodging or even a restaurant.

As the national Golden Week holiday approaches, Beijingers are bracing themselves for the hordes of visitors who always accompany it. The Chinese from the vast breadth of the country seize the one-week holiday to visit the capital, adding a particular crush to local life. Beijingers also seize this time to escape from the grey confines of downtown and get reacquainted with Mother Nature.

CRI presents a handful of destinations where you can avoid most of the holiday crowds, deeply inhale fresh air, and slow down long enough to fully appreciate the onset of autumn.

The town of Shuiyu is surrounded by grassy mountains. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com/William wang]

Shuiyu: Definitely Out of the City

by William Wang

Shuiyu is one of those towns that is wonderful to visit precisely because it's not much of a tourist destination. Not only will Starbucks be 110 percent absent, but you'll be hard-pressed to find lodging or even a restaurant.

A few historical sites such as Yangjia Dayuan (a Qing Dynasty courtyard home) do exist, but such destinations might be hard to track down. The gravelly voice of one local cab driver insisted, "If there was a Niang Niang Temple around here, I'd have heard of it!"

Shuiyu may be virtually unknown compared to other recreational Fangshan District spots such as Shidu (Ten Crossings) or Zhoukoudian (Peking Man site), nor is it the sort of place that will flesh out a long itinerary. What it does lend itself to is a day whiling away the hours fishing in the Yudao River or walking around until you find a trail that wanders up a grassy hill. The grassy hills morph into grassy mountains with glorious views of other grassy hills morphing into grassy mountains.

Just a few minutes of hiking will reveal how drastically the scales have tipped regarding the ratio of concrete to green space since leaving the city centre. Persimmons, dates, chestnuts and walnuts mix in with the forests, covering three quarters of the landscape with luscious greenery. Chunks of the town float in the swirl of green like tea leaves refusing to sink.

As long as the heat holds up, lizards and grasshoppers will continue to risk their lives lounging on dirt pathways, darting into the safety of the crabgrass as sneakers lumber above.

The network of trails is more than enough to fill a day. Mountain altitudes range from 500 to 800 metres, and some of the lower peaks even have accessible summits.

If you have enough time but are not inclined to cover vertical distances, you can also consider taking a brisk walk to the picturesque neighbouring town of Shihua Dong a couple kilometers away. While it's not necessarily any more dramatic than Shuiyu, it certainly provides more corners to peek around and people to greet.

For visitors who wish to spend more than a day idle in Shuiyu, lodging places may not be obvious, but they do exist. About 40 houses are registered to provide accommodations for guests and equipped to provide home-cooked meals.

Getting there: Take bus 917 from Liulichao to Hebei Zhuang, change to bus 23, and get off at Shuiyu or Shiti.

Alternately from Babaoshan, you can take bus 951 to Xinzhen, change to bus 47 (There is no sign for bus 47 at Xinzhen, but it will come.), and get off at Shiti.

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