An experience that many foreign residents and almost visitors vistors miss out on is the country resort.
There are a number of reasons for this, the main ones being that they are well hidden away, little advertised, Chinese orientated, and qenerally quite inacessible without personal transport.
Most country resorts are in mountainous areas, where the air is fresher, the temperature maybe a little cooler in summer, and the surroundings offer nice scenery, weather permitting.
People go there to relax, drink tea, socialise, talk business, stroll around the gardens, enjoy the scenery, have good country food, and perhaps partake in a spot of fishing, mahjong or cards.
However, there are also some getaway locations in the countryside, and it was the opening of this kind of resort that we were invited to take a look at.
Duishan Mountain Resort is not far outside the northern reaches of the main city. We drove northwards on the motorway to Guang-an for a few kilometres before turning off at San-sheng. After that, we had to drive a few kilometres through paved but very narrow roads, hoping we didn’t meet obstinate drivers in the opposite direction, ones that would force us to back up a considerable distance to the nearest lay-by, and all that without putting the wheels over the edge and ditching us into a paddy.
We ended up driving there for two days running. The first was to see the complex without any other visitors, and the next evening to attend the official opening banquet. It was only on our second trip there that we encountered a traffic jam. An HGV was creeping precariously along the edge past some cars, and it must have taken 15 minutes or so for the truck to pass us by.
What’s on offer?
The resort is made up of two main complexes, each either side of the access road that runs through between them. The most eye catching part is a high whitewashed wall with tradtional decor. The entrance and partition inside opens up to pristinely kept gardens that contain the largest collection of bonsai trees I ever seen, the only other place being on a par is the Changdeok Palace in Seoul.
At one side of the complex, there is a small lake with a wooden boat, and a farmhouse bought out and restored by the owner. This is where we enjoyed lunch on our first visit, great country food and the watchful portraits of famous communist leaders from Mao Tsetung to Lenin.
The farmhouse kept the large kitchen area in traditional Sichuanese style. A giant wok was built into a low and hollow tabletop, with plenty of space underneath for firewood.
The complex opposite is larger, and designed for overnight stays and banqueting.
You enter through a small side door, but walk through into a huge open courtyard. The banqueting halls, private rooms and reception are located to the right. Opposite is a beautifully designed wood and brick building with three floors of intricately decorated guestrooms.
The part that appealed to me most of all was the suite bedroom. The bed was fully enclosed within three walls and a circular opening, a unique experience for most overnight guests.
Before leaving on the first day, we enjoyed some Fujian tea in the office and meeting building past the courtyard and down some steps.
I was a little busy that afternoon, so we drove there again quite late, but made it just in time for the banquet, despite meeting the HGV on the narrow country road.
In my experience, the food at offer at banquets can be very hit or miss, especially weddings, but this was certainly not such an event.
The Sichuanese classics, like fish tasting pork鱼香肉丝 were all there, and perfect. The main speciality that caught my was green chili chicken dish called 尖椒鸡（Jianjiaoji).
Once we had finished, we chatted a little with one of the owners again before heading back along the country roads and motorway in the dark.
When the weather warms up, and we have a weekend to spare, we can be sure to spend more time there.