Monday, January 13, 2014

Autumn charm at Po Feng Lin

Autumn is a beautiful season, with mild weather and the air getting cooler by the day, a big relief from the hot, dry and dusty summer in Beijing, made more beautiful as the leaves changes color from green, to shades of yellow, amber and red.

The lovely mountains and valleys at Po Feng Lin

I don't believe that there will be no one out there who would not be enchanted and mesmerized by the beautiful artwork, crafted and painted by nature.

Unfortunately, it is rather difficult to see red leaves within Beijing city center and hence, many will throng to several well known places to witness the changing color of the leaves and one such place located near to the city center is Fragrance Hill just next to the Summer Palace near Haidian. Unfortunately, due to her popularity, getting there and back meant braving massive traffic jam and getting squeezed by hundreds if not tens of thousands of local tourists, all eager to have their pictures taken with the sea of red leaves.

We are not talking of one or two of hours of traffic jam to get into the park. We are talking of stand still jam that could be as long as three to four hours during the peak of the season, with no guarantee of getting a car park and another three to four hours to get out from the park in the evening. We were stuck at the highway interchange for over an hour one weekend, on the way to the Botanical Garden located next to the Fragrance Hill due to the massive crowd going to Fragrance Hill. We made a wise decision to detour that day because the news over the TV later that evening reported a jam so massive that it took over ten hours for people to go in or get out.

So, where could we go to experience a red leaves autumn near Beijing then without getting ourselves stuck in a traffic jam so bad or having to brave the local crowd.

Po Feng Lin (坡峰岭) is one good and still relatively unknown alternative. Located approximately 50 kilometers from Beijing with an altitude of 6000 meters, this is still currently one of the many hidden gems to see the beauty of autumn, but I believe not for long.

Unlike Fragrance Hill which has been overly commercialized due to her popularity, Po Feng Lin is still relative cheap both in terms of entrance fees and food at the foot of the hill. The air is clear and fresh and the view of layers of mountains beyond is beyond words.

One of many 'illegal taxi' driver cum friend, Seow Fei who recommended us this place took us there early November. The journey took about an hour from our apartment near Chaoyang Park. As we approached the site, we were greeted with layers of towering hills decked in colors of late autumn. There were patches of red here and there but unfortunately, we were a little late this year as the best window to view the red leaves had just past a week or two ago and most leaves had dried up and had started to fall.

We got our entrance ticket which was relatively cheap compared to some of the prices we paid elsewhere, we started our climb. The climb to the peak we were told would take approximately 3 hours or so but with my 5 year old son tagging along, the hike up would be almost impossible. To start with, I was not even sure how far he would climb before he would want us to carry him which will make the trip more difficult. Surprising, he hiked and walked over 1,000 meters of the trail up which was no small feat for a 5 year old boy.

We could go no further beyond this, as he was already tired and it was already way past noon at this point in time. However, we promised ourselves that we would be back next year (if we are still in Beijing) in late October without the kids and make the hike to the top to admire the beauty of autumn, painted by GOD ALMIGHTY Himself.

At the foot of the hill, we stopped by the rest area and ordered some noodles for our lunch. Surprisingly good and inexpensive (less than RMB5). It was indeed an experience having your meal and a bottle of cold Tsingtao beer with a clear view of the Po Feng Lin mountains right before your eyes, in a very traditional Chinese settings.

The resting place to stop for a hot bowl of traditionally prepared noodles with a view ...

Noodles being prepared the traditional way. Dough placed into the wooden contraption and being pressed into thin slices of delicious noodle, right into the boiling and steaming hot water in a big pot below ...
My huge bowl of noodles that costed less than RMB5 as at now ...
We called this fruit "Chi" in Cantonese. Back in Malaysia, all these were imported from China and extremely expensive. We can also get the dried ones. Here, we see them still hanging from the branches without any leaves due to the fast approaching winter ..
As I have mentioned earlier in one of my earlier post, photography is just only confined to the main character, which in this case, the magnificent landscape, but also the supporting casts which can be found all over the place, which offers some interesting photography opportunities too ...

All in all, we definitely believed that this is a place worth a second trip and longer drive out from Beijing to experience autumn in China.

However, given a few more years and judging from the increasing crowd that I was told, this place will soon be packed too. Hence, it would be a good idea to visit this place before that happens and gets all tainted by the tens of thousands of loud local tourists, all eager to get a piece of autumn to bring home.

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