Near and Away From Beijing: Golden Week Getaways VII
    2012-09-29 15:37:40      Web Editor: Duan
The feeling of openness in the park is as refreshing as the breeze is fresh. Huge swathes of the property are covered by lake and marsh. Grasses have height, but they don't dream to cut into the sky's territory.

As the national holiday of Golden Week races towards us, Beijingers brace themselves for the hordes of visitors who always accompany it. 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, you know, get reacquainted with Mother Nature.

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

A lone chair sits on the dock at Health Bridge Wetland. [ Wang]

Health Bridge Wetland: Not Just for the Birds

By William Wang

For nature lovers, Health Bridge Wetland is one of the best spots to really connect with a place that really does retain a sense of the wild. Covering a massive 1900 hectares, the park offers a number of different areas, but its key feature is tall, wild grasses lilting over the marshlands. The other notable feature is space. The feeling of openness in the park is as refreshing as the breeze is fresh. Huge swathes of the property are covered by lake and marsh. Grasses have height, but they don't dream to cut into the sky's territory.

The space is so large, that two feet may be a tad slow to get around. Bikes (for two or more people) are available for rent, as are electric vehicles for small groups. A variety of boats lie in wait to explore the extensive wetland waters. At times, visitors may feel they have exited the park grounds, when in fact the property extends much, much further than that. In particular, the bird-watching observatory is quite a stretch down an old country road.

Bird-watching is definitely one of the key attractions of the park, with an estimated 150 or so species of birds visiting the wetlands throughout the year. The observatory is tucked into the east side of the marsh, about 3.5 kilometers from the park center. Oddly, rental bikes may not enter, so most people hop onto a shuttle bus to get there (five yuan).

The bird-watching observatory is a comfortable building with broad windows with excellent views of the marsh. Some powerful telescopes are set up to search for and hone in on distant birds. Some stuffed birds are on display here as is a video about birds and the Health Bridge Wetland.

The limited grounds of the observatory premises also has informative signs scattered about, detailing bird-identification features. "I am proud that I have two red fine legs, and all people say that I am a sylph-like lady," begins the Black-Winged Stilt sign, accompanied by a picture.

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