A Weekend in Shaoguan

Jun and I decided to go to Shaoguan in northern Guangdong for a long weekend to celebrate his birthday. With the recent COVID-19 cases in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, we didn’t want to venture out of the province in case other provincial governments placed travel restrictions. Thus, we chose to see this situation as an opportunity to travel within the province and explore Shaoguan.

Day 1

On the day of our trip, we woke early so we could catch the high-speed train from Futian. After grabbing some breakfast at McDonald’s and going through security, we soon found ourselves waiting in line to get on the train. When we got on the train, we ate our breakfast and then rested until we got to Shaoguan.

When we arrived, we took a Didi to the Holiday Inn. Check-in at the hotel went quickly; we were able to get into our room and freshen up a bit before we ventured out into the city.

We first visited Nanhua Temple, a Chan Buddhist monastery founded in 502 AD. The grounds of the temple cover an area of 42.5 hectares in beautiful terrain surrounded by mountains and near a river. The main area of the complex houses the main prayer halls and is popular with tourists. Outside this core area, though, are more serene areas where you could walk without meeting anyone. Jun and I enjoyed this part of the monastery.

When we left the temple, we decided to have a quick lunch nearby at a dumpling and noodle restaurant. We also bought some ice cream since it was hot that day. We then walked around the plaza in front of the temple. This area was a bit more modern with more abstract interpretations of Buddhist art. I appreciated the juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary art and architectural styles.

The temperature by then was quite hot and we decided to go back to the hotel to rest. When we got back to the hotel, we took some time to relax. Then in the later afternoon, we decided to visit the area around Fengcai Tower.

The tower is located in the center of Shaoguan. It was built during the Ming Dynasty in 1497. It’s the oldest structure within central Shaoguan, which is located on a peninsula. From there we bought some drinks and walked around the area. As we walked through some of the alleys of this part of the city, we got to see smaller shops selling traditional foodstuff and wares. I enjoyed wandering around these meandering alleys. Eventually, we ended up next to the river and walked alongside it towards the tip of the peninsula where the Qu and Zhen rivers meet to form the North River. Located here is an island with Tongtian Tower built on top. You can see this tower from many different angles in this part of the city.

By this time Jun and I decided it was time for dinner and we went to a local restaurant, Meijixian, that Jun found. Jun and I enjoyed our meal and left happy. After dinner, we took a walk back to see Tongtian Tower lit up and ended our day there. We soon took a Didi back to the hotel and went to bed.

Day 2

We woke up early and went down for breakfast to fuel ourselves for the day ahead. On this day we visited Danxia Mountain World Geopark, a UNESCO World Heritage site. About an hour’s drive north of Shaoguan, we both were excited to get there.

Jun ordered a Didi and soon we were on our way to the park. When we got there the driver was unsure where we should alight. We ended up near the cable car station where we wanted to be, but we still needed to walk a bit from where the driver left us.

When we did get to the cable car station, we bought our tickets and soon found ourselves heading up to the top of the Zhanglaofeng area. This part of the park was not busy, and it was easy traversing the area. Going around Zhanglaofeng was nice. From different vantage points, you get to see the surrounding land and the beauty of this place.

After going around this area, we decided to go down the mountain and explore the Xianglonghu area of the park. This area was focused around Xianglong Lake, which was quite serene. There was a really neat bridge made of rock that was fun to traverse. Unfortunately, much of the area is under renovation and we were unable to explore this area in its entirety.

From here we decided to take a boat to the entrance of this area so we could take a bus to visit the Yangyuanshi area. Fortunately, we caught the bus before it left and found ourselves in Yangyuanshi. As we were walking through the village of Duanshi we decided to stop and have lunch at one of the restaurants there, Xiangyue. The food was great and helped us recharge for the rest of the afternoon.

When we finished, we hiked through the Yangyuanshi area. We took it slow here since it was quite hot in the afternoon sun. Happily, there were vendors throughout the park who sold cold water. This part of the park was focused on the rock formation that is reminiscent of a penis, but the rest of it was more of a hike around the central rock formation of Ximeizhai. When we got halfway up it, we decided we had no desire to climb the rest of it in the heat. We then went back down and explored the forested area around Tongtai Bridge. This area was cooler because of the dense tree canopy. The bridge itself was interesting. It’s a natural rock formation, and you can see across from it Ximeizhai. By the time we circled Tongtai Bridge, it was late in the afternoon. We decided we were too exhausted to continue. We soon got a Didi back to the hotel and enjoyed the air conditioning.

When we got back to the hotel, Jun and I decided we were too tired to go anywhere else and ordered room service from the hotel’s Cantonese restaurant, Jiang Shang Lou. Not expecting anything great, we were pleasantly surprised at how delicious the meal was. It ended up being a nice way to end the day.

Day 3

On our last day in Shaoguan, we decided we would keep things simple and visit Shaoguan National Forest Park. It’s a mix of a city and a nature park. We went there so we could see the views of the city from Shaoyang Tower. The walk up to the tower was nice and easy. The views of the city from the top were impressive. It helped us appreciate the beauty of the area and why people settled here.

The best part about reaching the tower was the moderate wind blowing. It helped keep things cool and felt refreshing. Soon, though, we had to go back down and check out of the hotel. After getting back to the hotel we packed our things, checked out, and went to the train station. While there we had a quick lunch and soon found ourselves back on the train heading for Shenzhen.

The entire trip was nice, and it was a great way to spend a few days celebrating Jun’s birthday. It left us recharged and ready for our next adventure!