Our 10-day trip to China was mostly rained out. But for once, boy were we glad it rained. Grey skies almost 80% of the time, with rain and mist and fog, this would have been a dampener on any holiday except this one. The gloomy weather in fact, brought out the best of the stunning mountain scenery of Huangshan, brought into stark relief the tall white walls of the Hui villages we visited and added an ethereal beauty to the fields, the rivers and hills of the Chinese countryside. Through a veil of constant drizzle, in an almost monochromatic palette of diffused smoky greys and smudgy ash, blacks and whites, we found ourselves often in the midst of lyrically beautiful Chinese ink paintings.
This itinerary covers three provinces in China – Jiangxi, Anhui and Zhejiang. Our intent was to cover the white Hui villages scattered in the countryside of Jiangxi, widely touted to be among China’s prettiest villages. We also wanted to experience the World Heritage villages of Hongcun and Xidi of Anhui and other smaller villages in the area and finally, to cross off one item on my bucket list – to trek Huangshan. We would end our trip in Hangzhou with a visit to the nearby water town of Wuzhen.
All key highlights are within close proximity of each other, making this itinerary one that is easily accessible by bus or by bullet train from Shanghai or Hangzhou.
This post details the itinerary we followed. Others will explore each area in greater detail. Finally far as possible, we will try to be as detailed as we can in listing the cost, the logistics of travel, bus or train times that we used. Accommodation was mixed. It was a spread of small inns and 2-star local Chinese hotels with a 5-star chain thrown in for good measure.
In researching this trip, we realised that English language information on the travel arrangements and logistics were either lacking or confusing so we thought we’d share some information that we gathered while on the ground in China. We also booked accommodation and train tickets online on Chinese sites like Ctrip, which turned out to be a mixed experience – will post more on this later.
Our 10-day itinerary
Day 1 Arrived at Hangzhou at 10.30pm via budget airline Scoot.
Day 2 Took 9.35am bullet train from Hangzhou East station to Wuyuan, 3 hours away. Arrived Wuyuan at 12.35pm. Visited local villages Sixi Yancun via local taxi in the afternoon.
Day 3 Bought a day tour package from the local tourism authorities and visited 4 villages – Little Likeng, Jiangwan, Xiaoqi and Wangkou. The day tour comprised the service of a driver and a van and included only one other small family of 3, so it was quite a small and comfortable group size. Lunch was not included but the driver stopped at a farmer’s restaurant. The other family from Guangzhou treated us and the driver to lunch. Of all villages, Wangkou was our favourite – old, crumbly, mouldy, and still authentic with barely any tourism in place. Wuyuan was also where we met some of the nicest and kindest people on this trip.
Day 4 Took bullet train to Huangshan Bei station (20min away) and from there, took a bus to Hongcun. The rest of the day was spent exploring Hongcun. We stayed in the village itself which was a convenient base, but we did not like the inn we stayed at. More on that later.
Day 5 Hired a van and driver for the full day – 250yuan (about SGD$50+) and visited Xidi, Nanping and Lucun (we loved those but not Xidi – too commercialized) and the Mukeng Bamboo Forest (not worth it and it was really stupid to climb those steep hills just the day before our Huangshan hike)
Day 6 Took the early bus at 7.40am to Tangkou, the base camp for Huangshan. Left our big bags at the hotel we’d booked for the next night and then set off for Huangshan where we would spend the night.
Day 7 Woke up at 4.30am to catch the sunrise. This is probably the only reason worth paying the exhorbitant eye-watering hotel rates up on Huangshan. Spent the rest of the day hiking before heading back to Tangkou for the night.
Day 8 Took the early long-distance bus from Tangkou to Hangzhou West bus station. (Also worth considering to just take the bus back to Huangshan Bei and from there, a highspeed train back to Hangzhou East. More comfortable ride on the train than the bus – which was kind of grimy).
Day 9 Took a bus to Wuzhen but found it a wasted day because of the crowds thanks to the Labour Day holiday season. Big mistake to travel during the May 1 weekend.
Day 10 A day spent dodging the heat in Hangzhou before we caught our flight home late at night – with a bit of tension on the highway leading to the airport.
So there it is, the bare bones for now. Keep reading as I continue to put more meat on in the posts to come.