Being hikers and nature lovers, a visit to China’s Fujian Province must naturally include a visit to Mount Wuyi (pronounced in Chinese as Wuyishan), one of the top ten most beautiful mountains in China, and often considered one of the most scenic wonders in Southeast China.
With an area of 70 square kilometers, the area has one of the world’s largest and best-preserved sub-tropical native forest in the world. Wuyi’s 36 graceful peaks, most under 600 metres high, are skirted by a zigzagging river called Nine Bend Creek. This naturally endowed landscape of water and hills was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1999.
From the Xiamen North Rail Station, we took the high speed train to Wuyishan East Rail Station. Then we hopped on the K1 bus for the Wuyishan scenic area where our hotel is located. Our hotel, in the Sangu area, is on a tree lined street with pagodas, faces a nice river, but conveniently closed to all the tourist amenities. We were also within a 15-minute walking distance to the Wuyishan scenic area shuttle bus hub (referred to as Wuyi Palace temple), or alternatively, a short local bus ride away.
By the time we settled into our hotel, it was late afternoon and raining. Rain was also being forecast for the next several days. As a minimum, we wanted to complete three of the top hikes in Wuyishan, and also do the famous bamboo raft ride on the Nine Bend Creek, which required reservation at a fix time.
After talking to the helpful hotel staff, Rita, we purchased the three-day park entrance pass with the bamboo raft ride for $229 RMB, or $32 USD, which is discounted because we were both between the ages of 50 to 70 years old. The regular price is $385 RMB, or $55 USD.
In the evening, we walked around the several streets in town, full of restaurants, tea shops, bakeries, cafe, snack shops, and convenience stores. As it was off season and raining, the streets were somewhat quiet.
We had a dinner of two local stir fry dishes, rice, beer, then walked back to our hotel.
On this particular trip to China, we have been pleasantly surprised by the improved quality of the inns, guest houses, and hotels. But this particular hotel at Wuyishan was especially outstanding. The name is Ancient Street No. 5 Youth Chic Hotel. It was certainly “chic”, beautifully decorated in cute, artsy fashion, with large modern rooms, comfortable bed and bedding, smoke-free rooms, slippers, complimentary hot drinks and snacks, umbrella for guests to use, and best of all, super helpful staff. Perhaps it was off season, but the cost per night was only $195 RMB, or $30 USD.
We rose early to a grey sky but thankfully no rain yet. After a simple Chinese breakfast of congee with condiments, peanuts, boiled egg, yam, steam buns, banana, and soy milk, we walked 15 minutes to the Wuyishan Palace temple bus hub where a good number of dedicated park shuttle buses were available (included with our passes) for going to various stops throughout the Wuyishan scenic area.
We hopped on the shuttle bus to the Tianyou Peak trail head. Tianyou Peak is the number one must see spot in Mount Wuyi area. It is not a very high peak, only 409 meters. But after rainfall or when dawn breaks, the ever shrouding clouds allow only the tip of the mountain to be visible, hence its name Tianyou, which literally means “roaming in heaven”.
From the bus drop off point, we walked about 1 km to the start of the uphill climb. The stone path up to the peak is a steady upward climb of 848 steps to the summit. At the start of this climb, there is a beautiful waterfall and an area for queuing to start the climb during peak season. As the steps are narrow and steep, there would normally be a bottle neck at this section. Thankful being off season, we did not have to deal with the normal crowded conditions for this popular hike.
All along the hike, the views of the surrounding mountains and the river bend below was amazing. We would stop after several steps, turn around, and admire the views. The stone steps are carved into the mountain ridge, and it must have been very labourious to build this trail many hundred years ago.
There was a nice temple at the peak. We spent some time enjoying the scenery and the temple before heading off to our next destination, Taoyuan Cave, as recommended by Rita. Our total time to reach the peak was about 1 hour including the many stop for photos.
Further up on the hike is great view of the Nine Bend Creek.
The hike down to Taoyuan Cave took about 30 minutes. By this time, light rain started to fall so we had to put on our rain ponchos. The hike to this cave area was mystic and secluded, as there was hardly any tour groups as compared to the Tianyou peak area. The entrance to the cave is hidden amongst rocks and flora. Apparently when peach trees are in blossom in spring, the Taoyuan Cave becomes a fairyland, and that’s what its name reflects.
After leaving the Taoyuan Cave area, we had a choice to hike 4 km to visit Xingcun Village, or hike out along the Nine Bend Creek to take a park shuttle bus for another hike. We followed Rita’s recommendation and took the park shuttle to do another top Mount. Wuyi hike, the Dahongpao Tea to Water Curtain Cave loop.
The park shuttle bus took us to the Dahongpao (literal translation is Big Red Robe). Dahongpao is the name for one of the two famous tea originated within Mount Wuyi. The other one is Lapsang Souchong. Mount Wuyi is the origin of the world’s best oolong tea, enjoying a long history. Once a tribute to the royal family, and in the 17th century, Wuyishan tea was spread abroad with high reputation. The famous, Dahongpao, is a semi-fermented tea of the oolong type, and is of high quality due to its natural environment of green mountains, clear waters, and the unique techniques of the region.
After Tianyou peak, we thought this loop would not be as exciting. In fact, this loop hike, while not dramatic, was actually much more scenic. The path took us through a narrow valley with a flowing creek amidst sheer mountain cliffs and rock faces. The tea plantations along the path, or further up on terraces, are green and lush. The six original Dahongpao tea bushes are considered to be the most expensive tea bushes in the world. There is a small tea house along the trail where one can sit and marvel at the beauty and sanctuary of the area.
Just before reaching the Water Curtain Cave, we passed by the Relics of Ancient Cliff Houses, where we could see ancient dwellings with sophisticated pulley systems high up on a cliff that dates back to the Song Dynasty.
When we reached the Water Curtain Cave area, we immediately saw the tall graceful waterfall that falls like a curtain in front of the an inverse hanging cave. This was one of the highest waterfall we have ever seen, and was very impressive.
Behind the waterfall was a Hall honoring 3 Chinese sages of the 12th century.
The total hiking trail was not particular strenuous, only 3 km, but it took us over 2 hours because at every turn of the path, or even every few step, we would marvel at yet more magnificent scenery.
Our hiking for the day ended after exiting from the Water Curtain Cave area and walking back to the shuttle bus parking lot. The bus was supposed to take us back to the Wuyishan Palace temple bus hub, about 15 minutes walk back to our inn. But we were able to convince the shuttle bus driver with our simple Mandarin to drop us off before reaching the Wuyishan park entrance area so it only took us 5 minutes to walk back to our hotel.