It’s a late April evening, and as I sweat it out at home in my loosest fitting shorts and vest, my mind to turns to a question that occurs to every Chongqing resident on a yearly basis.
Chongqing, along with Wuhan and Nanjing, have long been considered the Three furnaces of China中国三大火炉, but what makes Chongqing special is the particularly swift transition from the cold, wet and foggy winters into clear sweltering heat, taking barely a month this time round.
There are, however, a multitude of ways to escape the heat, depending on your means, time and mobility.
On a boiling summer’s day, you will often find old ladies fanning themselves ceaselessly all day in the entrances to supermarkets and malls. A step up is entering somewhere with seated areas, like a foot massage centre or coffee shop, purchasing something, and then hanging around in the air conditioned premises until management tries to move you on.
In my summer heat series, I will describe some of the more pleasant and even exciting ways to seek cooler climes, almost on the city’s doorstep.
In Chongqing, the mountainous topography offers the traveller a great variety of canyons home to fast flowing white water rapids. Sheltered in the midst of steep cliffs and verdant canopies, the air is refreshingly cooler, yet not to the extent the cold mountain water makes you uncomfortable in any way.
Naturally, the rafting sites can be remote, but still easily accessible by personal transport. Wherever you go, you will rest eyes upon pristine scenery, and coupled with the serenity of lying down in a raft and drifting with the current, there’s perhaps no better way to appreciate the scenic beauty of this region.
My personal experience of rafting is limited to Shenlong Canyong神龙峡 to the southeast, near Nanchuan南川, but I can vouch from many sources that other options are at least on a par when it comes to quality of the experience.
Usually, there is a entrance ticket to the canyon, as they are classed as national parks. Once inside, you walk your way up to the top, passing very adequate amenities and rest areas, before reaching the rafting facilities, where you hire an inflatable boat and queue for your turn to launch on the river.
The canyon waters take you down steep thrilling white water stretches, then reaching an almost still lake area, where you can stop as long as you wish before taking on the next set of rapids, all the way down to the bottom.
It should take at least an hour to reach the end, but you shouldn’t come here if you’re pressed for time. The best experience is for those who take their time to appreciate the surroundings, and forget about the vicissitudes of city life, at least for a day.
As long as common sense is applied on the rafts, there is no real danger to this activity. Do occasionally expect your quieter moments to be shattered by merry gangs of locals armed with water guns waiting to ambush you. Being a foreigner here might only heighten their excitement and eagerness to show their hospitality!
During weekends and the summer holiday, these areas are very crowded. I would suggest visiting midweek in June or early September for a more leisurely experience whilst still having the perfect weather to enjoy.
Below, I will leave a list of the best rated rafting canyons in Chongqing on Baidu Maps, all rated 4.5 to 5 stars by visitors’ comments. Many are around forty to fifty kilometres from the main city area, but are not necessarily close to each other.
Should you find yourself particularly enchanted with your surroundings, there are often guest houses and hotels nearby where you can extent your stay, and experience the fresh air, silence and closeness to nature we often so dearly lack.
Shenlongxia神龙峡漂流 Nanchuan District – 125 kilometres
Longxuxia龙许峡漂流 Banan District – 45 kilometres
Foyingxia佛影峡漂流 Banan District – 45 kilometres
Rulaigu如来谷漂流 Banan District – 40 kilometres
Feilongxia飞龙峡漂流 Yubei District – 40 kilometres
Ayihe阿依河漂流 Pengshui County – 250 kilometres