This last weekend, new Shanghaiist intern Kirsti Jönson trekked with a group of friends to the idyllic forests of Moganshan, a mountain located in Zhejiang Province, about 200km from Shanghai. She came back with a load of pretty pictures and a run down of how she spent her time.
Finally some fresh air and green surroundings this last weekend. To trade Shanghai’s concrete jungle for Moganshan’s bamboo forests was a poetic treat for any tired soul. It’s a historic place where you can go either just to relax, throw yourself out on exciting hikings, learn about Chinese history or maybe just to fool around and party.
There are several different ways to get there, but the way we chose involved quite a lot of puzzling. We took the 7.45 morning train for 54 RMB from Shanghai to Hangzhou, which lasted about 90 minutes. After that, somewhat inconveniently, we crossed the whole city of Hangzhou to get from the train station to the bus station, a 40 minutes cab ride. From there we jumped on a 20 RMB bus to Wukang, which took another hour.
So far so good – everything was running smoothly – until…well, time for some drama! We were just gonna take the last cab ride from Wukang to the mountain top where the village is located, when we nearly got ripped off by two rabid taxi drivers.
To enter Moganshan, you have to pay an entrance fee of 80 RMB/person, a ticket which also gives you access to some of the sights around the village. These taxi drivers made a deal with us, saying that if we pay 250 RMB per car, we could go all the way to the top without paying that fee.
We agreed, to our detriment. The car suddenly stopped in the middle of the forest and the drivers claimed they knew a secret path that will take us past the ticket office. Then they began a 20 minute shouting match.
Finally, we just left some money on the roof of the car and started climbing on our own. We could hear the sound of Chinese curses fading below us as we disappeared into the bamboo. The moral of the story (and one we ought to have known): don’t go for any “special deals” with the local taxi drivers.
Thus our real journey began. Moganshan, lovely Moganshan. The village was created in 1898 by a group of foreigners looking for an escape from the Shanghai summer heat. According to ChinaTravel.net:
A little over a century ago, foreigners stumbled upon the cool, leafy breezes of Mogan Shan, where at the time rooms and houses were rented from locals. Not too long after, the news got out and a mixed batch of gentry, missionaries, foreign diplomats and businessmen pooled about 50 bucks and bought the mountain top for their own exclusive hideaway.
They then set up shop in a European manner with villas, holiday homes, public halls, tennis courts, out-door pools and churches. Many of these villas and houses and been turned into hotels and guesthouses operating today. Servants would be often seen shouldered their colonial masters on sedan-chairs up the mountain in late afternoon.
While it´s hard to get an overview of the village, since there are hills and forest around every corner and the houses lay spread out across the landscape, Moganshan does boast a village center: a small square/crossroad surrounded by some restaurants, shops and hotels. Our hotel was located just above this central square. We got double rooms for 45 RMB per person, nothing fancy but totally livable, and with an adorable mountain view from the balcony. Unfortunately, it was a bit foggy during our stay, so we could only just discern the majestic panorama stretching out in front of us.
We were surprised by the lack of tourists. The first day we arrived it felt like we were the only visitors in the whole village. Things changed a bit as the dragon boat festival started up, but there was still nary a sight of a giant camera waving crowd.
Moganshan was filled to the brim with picturesque surroundings in every direction – you could take a five minute stroll up the hills and suddenly find yourself walking in the shadows of a bamboo roof, only to stumble upon a narrow stairway which leads you to a deserted stone villa. Or you could climb down windlng stairs that cling to both sides of the mountain rift, which would then lead you to a waterfall, assuming you don’t get lost in their maze-like construction.
If you’re up for a more hearty adventure, there are a lot of sights that you can reach by different walking or biking routes. We tried out the one to Weird Stone Corner, a very enjoyable walk for about three hours with cozy paths and lots of beautiful viewing points. Among many other things you get the chance to cross an old style suspension bridge where you can let your long lost Indiana Jones dreams come true.
We were especially excited to come across The Lodge. Besides being a guest house, it was also a super cozy café with a charming staff where you could get great zips of morning coffee or an evening drink. They even had a small library inside, stocked with everything from Emily Brontë to Hunter S. Thompson. Since our Chinese is still subpar, they helped us find the places we wanted to go.
To sum things up, we’d definitely recommend a trip to Moganshan. The total cost of our trip barely exceeded 500RMB for the four days we were gone, and what’s that for a little peace and quiet?