Close to nature in Tongliang 在铜梁靠近大自然

Here is a retrospective blog post about Tongliang, a satellite city around 70 kilometres to the northwest of Chongqing.

Ever the pragmatist, I love to merge the best sights and experiences any out of town location has to offer in fowl swoop.

The two Chinese characters for this city are Tong铜, which means ‘bronze,’ and liang梁 for ‘rafter’ or ‘crossbeam.’

As far as I know, there are three sites of interest that can be arranged into a two or three day trip. Without personal transport, these could well make for a slightly arduous journey.

Two daytime places I want to recommend are Anju Old Town and Dragon Hot Springs龙温泉. That’s right, yet another hot spring resort! But then again, Chongqing is hot spring capital.

 

Bayue Mountain Resort 巴岳山度假村

Sandwiched in between the two is a steep drive up Payue Mountain just by the hot springs, and at the top, hidden inconspicuously behind a bamboo fence that blends perfectly with its surroundings, is a slightly primitive looking yet highly comfortable and enjoyable mountainside resort replete with wooden cabins stilted in mid-air.

The pull mainly stems from its unspoilt environment, the fresh air, plentiful wildlife, great views, country food, and the opportunity to spend quality time with those you know away from the noise of modern city life.

A trait of the Chongqing topography is a number of finger like high mountain ridges up to a few hundred miles long, stretching generally southwest to northeast, and which carve the city and surrounding areas into sections highly inaccessible were it not for the hundreds of tunnels bored through them.

The northeastern tip of Bayue Mountain touches the outskirts of Tongliang, and it’s a long a steep but well paved road your car must climb for about twenty minutes before it levels at the top. The road narrows, you drive round a few bends, and the bamboo walls of Bayue Resort appears on the right. Blink and you will miss it!

Inside, there’s no real reception centre. You just walk in, wander about, or take a seat somewhere until the owners casually track you down. Once shown to your accommodation, you will find the log cabins are clean, and have all the amenities you’ll need for a night’s stay, including wifi and cable TV if you’d ever really desire to use them here.

There are two basic choices, there’s a dormitory style set of rooms lined up that just have a bedroom and bathroom, then there are individual cabins with a larger bedroom upstairs with private balcony, and a bathroom downstairs.

A wooden structured library with cosy furniture is available if the elements force you indoors, or a terrace with deck chairs looking over the mountainside into the country below.

The restaurant area is near the entrance that has space for about four or five cars. They can cater for basic dishes, but you can request a much greater variety if you call up in advance, as much of the ingredients have to be prepared and transported from ground level beforehand. You should bring your own beverages if you’re into alcohol, or fine teas and coffee.

 

Anju Old Town 安居古镇

There are countless newly developed ‘Old towns’ springing up everywhere, but Anju still has more than enough appeal to make a visit worthwhile.

This old town is about thirty kilometres north of Tongliang, and takes the best part of an hour to drive.

Once you’re in, it’s most fun just to walk in and explore the pretty alleyways and check out the temples, old guild halls, exhibits, shops, crafts and local specialities that are open for all. As with most of these old towns, there is no entrance fee, and it’s not difficult to park within reasonable distance.

Anju Old town can be well navigated in a morning or afternoon with plenty to keep you interested.

Just outside, there are many good ‘Rural entertainment农家乐 (Nong jia le)’ venues to stop by that offer good food and a way to unwind after walking through the old town. A stretch of road nearby has many to choose from, and you can look out over the river and far into the surrounding countryside from the terrace.

The Chinese phenomenon of rural entertainment is worthy of its own post, but it’s basically any farm building that happens to be located along a tourist trail opens its doors to the public. They offer food, tea, tables for playing cards or mahjong, and sometimes even lodging for the night, though foreigners might be refused because they have to apply for special permission to accommodate them.

 

Long Hot Springs 龙温泉

Almost perfectly situated at the foot of Payue Mountain is the hot springs.

The ride downhill will take around twenty minutes, then you will be there. The grounds are very well kept, sub-tropical looking, and a grand entrance with dragon scultured fountains welcome you inside.

Entrance fees are very reasonable, usually priced around sixty yuan per adult.

Over the winter months, you may see giant advertising boards up encouraging you to try a whole goat barbecue 烤全羊(Kao quan yang), something I will cover in a future post. These are always good social occasions, as you normally need at least ten hungry participants to finish one off. For the foreign visitor, it’s easier to have a local arrange this if you’re interested, as there won’t be any English spoken, and everything needs to be arranged at least a day in advance.

Once inside, you’ll notice the interior and some pool areas are in slight need of renovation, but certainly won’t spoil you stay. Once inside, the gentle scent of sulphur tells you that natural spring water is used. The indoor pool is decorated with smooth cream coloured goddess-like busts, with little private corners and shallow underwater waterjet beds to lie back on.

Outside, there is a larger warm swimming pool, with a path leading up the hill to some smaller private baths. Continuing round, you eventually end up at a giant cove shaped pool with cold water, and an area with tables and chairs for refreshments.

As with other hot spring resorts, it is easy to spend a day here, or even stay for the night. On most occasions, I tend to drive here on the third and outermost ringroad of Chongqing whenever I’m visiting family in Hechuan, as the fast three lane motorway is never busy, and you bypass the heavy traffic cues leaving the main city.

Upstairs in the main building, there are sometimes private events on in the restaurant, particular weddings and birthday parties, but even then, they will happily cater for you with good dishes and a view of the action. Apart from this, there aren’t any other indoor recreational facilities.

For somebody resident in Chongqing for a year, this is definitely a trip I would recommend.

 

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