With China in the grip of heatwaves and torrential rains, the Yangtze Evening News has published a not particularly timely guide to what it thinks are China’s top six romantic places, summer holiday destinations where tourists without the sufficient kuai to fly to Vegas might meet Mr or Mrs Right.
|Copping off at the Seven Immortals Mountains|
- The Wuyi Mountains. Sitting on the border of Fujian and Jiangxi provinces, 1,000 km² of eroded volcanic cones and sandstone peaks are carpeted in subtropical forest and cool groves of bamboo. The best way, they say, to appreciate the cool is to climb as high as you dare on the narrow mountain paths, offering plenty of opportunities for singletons (“bare branches”, as they’re called in Chinese) to give each other a helping hand. A raft trip down the famous Nine Bend River is the best way to see the scenery, though I fear that being squished in beside a chain-smoking middle-manager from Shanghai who constantly bellows into his mobile phone would be a sufficient turn-off for any would-be Casanovas. The Yangtze Evening News is kind enough to recommend local delicacies for tourists searching for a soulmate in Wuyi Shan: snakes, wild rabbit, mountain goat and muntjac deer lead the way, along with freshwater fish, birds’ eggs, fragrant mushrooms and bamboo shoots also popular.
- The bamboo forests of Sichuan. At 600-1,000m elevation, the bamboo forests of Changning and Jiang’an counties are blissfully cool and also the place where some of the fight scenes in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were filmed. For the romantically inclined botanist, there are 58 varieties of bamboo to lose yourself in with that girl off the coach who’s been giving you the eye, from the nan bamboo which can grow up to 20m tall in two months, to the jet-black “crow bamboo”, the dead-straight “chicken-claw bamboo” and the slightly creepy, gnarled “human-face bamboo”. Delicacies: Yibin sliced lung, Chungking hotpot, poached fish, and “hairy duck’s blood luxuriance”. The duck’s blood dish is a spicy Sichuanese street snack, with beansprouts, eel, pork, sausage, bamboo shoots and all kinds of yummies, while the “Yibin sliced lung” is made from ox cheek, ox heart, ox tongue, ox tripe and lean beef, but not lung, oddly enough.
- Yinchuan, Ningxia Autonomous Region. Bit of an odd choice, to go to the deserts of the Ordos region in the great bend of the Yellow River to escape the summer heat on a romantic break, but most savvy Chinese will recognise this as the place where the romantic comedy A Chinese Odyssey was set (Westerners might recognise the set of the 1987 Chinese film Red Sorghum). Yinchuan, guys, is where you can meet your very own Violet Cloud Immortal. The other big romantic attraction in this, the capital of a region populated mostly by China’s native Hui Muslims, is an oasis called Sand Lake, where you can see the “Big Five”, i.e. sand, water, reeds, birds and fish. Delicacies: lamb pilau rice (a big thing in this Muslim region), red-braised camel’s hump, white-poached Yellow River catfish.
- Yellow Island, Qingdao. It gets into the 30s in Qingdao in summer, but the sea breezes keep the city cool, especially after sunset. For young singletons looking for love, the Yellow Island district across Jiaozhou Bay from the city is the place to be. The sandy beaches are less visited than Qingdao’s, and bigger - for example the 3km Golden Sands Beach - and perfect for romantic walks. Then there’s Pearl Mountain National Forest Park with its clean air, a rarity in eastern China. Delicacies: the beachside stalls do all manner of barbies, fresh seafood, and local fish dumplings.
- The Seven Immortals Mountains, Hainan. Two hours’ drive from Sanya, the forests and warm mineral springs of the Seven Immortals Mountains are in the cool uplands of China’s tropical Hainan Island. They’re supposedly the spot where seven immortal goddesses descended to earth to have a bathe, a point not missed by the organisers of the recent Miss World pageant in Sanya. Delicacies: they don’t list any. Spit-roasted immortal, anyone?
- Wolmi-do, South Korea. The reporter clearly misunderstood the meaning of “domestic” when he chose a seaside resort in the Korean city of Incheon. Knowing nothing of Korean culture beyond their love of chillies, cabbage, the occasional spot of dog, and their enviably fast broadband access, I’m going to call it a day.... Delicacies: see above.