Dujiangyan: A Perfect Day Trip
I love Chinese cities for their cultural appeal, but I often find myself needing an escape from the noise, the pollution – from that busy “city feeling.” Fortunately, Sichuan, the province where my family and I live, offers a lot in terms of nature and the great outdoors. And China’s new system of fast trains makes escaping the city even more accessible and convenient.
So, last month, my family and I decided to try out these high-speed trains and make a day trip to Dujiangyan, a town that sits a mere 63 kilometers northwest of Chengdu.
Riding on China’s high-speed trains is not like riding on other trains in China. They are cleaner than your average Chinese train. Each passenger has his or her own seat (they don’t sell the “standing tickets” like they do on regular trains), and the whole experience is quite relaxing. Boarding the train is probably the most stressful aspect of the entire journey, as it still requires navigation Chinese train stations – notoriously boisterous, disorderly places. But once on the train, the rest of the journey is a smooth ride.
Arriving in Dujiangyan was a slight let-down, as I expected to be able to clearly see the surrounding mountains. Dujiangyan sits at the base of Mt. Qingcheng, as well as several other smaller peaks. Unfortunately, the air quality was not quite good enough to offer a clear view.
My heart warmed, however, as we entered the small town. The mountains came into view. Ancient architecture, old people relaxing outside in the cooler weather, and a slower pace makes the town truly charming. Plus, once you are up close to the mountains and can see them, they are beautiful. Green and lush, they are the quintessential mountains of South China.
Dujiangyan’s main attraction is its irrigation system. More than 1000-years-old, the system siphons water from the river into the town. Touring the irrigation system is a lovely experience. It is not like visiting a museum; rather, it more of a nature-walk experience. A path that has been carved out through the nearby cliffs takes you through some beautiful scenery and offers great views of the irrigation system. You walk along sculpted trails, balance your way across some impressive suspension bridges, and finally end up in one of the areas most beautiful parks. The entire loop takes an enjoyable 2 hours to hike – an easy walk for the entire family.
Dujiangyan is beautiful in its own right, and it also offers that historical lure for those who appreciate China’s ancient appeal. If you are in the Chengdu area, definitely make the effort to get out of the city and make this easy day trip.