Say it quietly but Songyang is a beautiful place that tourism is yet to tarnish.
It is located in the mountains of southwest Zhejiang and has over 1800 years of history. The whole area is dominated by medium and low hills, surrounded by mountains, and dissected by the flow of the Songyin river.
We got there by taking a high speed train from Hongqiao, it took approximately two and a half hours. We then took a pre arranged taxi to the top of the mountain.
It is best to set out early and we were able to get to the hotel by 1pm. It is certainly best to set off early and to do the journey in the light. It does make you realise what you can achieve when you wake up early. There would be some Saturdays that I would not leave the apartment until after 1pm but on this day I was at the top of a mountain drinking tea.
The National Geographic described Songyang as “the last mysterious place in the South of the Yangtze River”.
Its strength is the pure simplicity.
You can roam around the forests and sit at the numerous terraces and ponder away the day. It is an ideal place to reflect on things and there is a certain rural mystique to the village.
The village was saved by a famous artist named Mr Li, who brought a lot of publicity to the village. If he did not propose to save this village the government planned to relocate the village during the urbanizing project during 2000-2010 in which 300 natural villages disappeared leaving hundred-year-old houses empty.
Whilst a lot of the other villagers living styles and values seems to be changing in Songyang they still thankfully remain thanks to the famous artist convincing the government to build a painting centre and numerous terraces across the village.
A new road being built will make the village more accessible in the future and the high speed train has only been built recently making the village more well known. Refreshingly, the only person you may see would be an old gentleman sat on his terrace watching the day change to night. (see the picture below)
By contrast to the traditional village, the hotel, Arkadia Retreat, has a modern interior that is both well designed and comfortable.
They have a great wine selection and a host of ayis who are comfortable cooking both Western and Chinese cuisines. You certainly will get hungry after clambering up the various trails, and it was wonderful to return to a hearty home cooked meal with most of the food grown nearby.
I came here with my wife and son and we chose to stay for four days allowing us sufficient time to get acquainted with the village.
We were able to bring my son along on all the hikes and although the peaks would sometimes be challenging it was certainly beneficial for him to get away from his IPad and reduce the dreaded screentime.
我带着我的妻子和儿子来到这里，我们选择呆个四天，可以有足够的时间来熟悉这个村庄。我们带着我的儿子一起远足，尽管有时山峰会很有挑战性，但这肯定比呆在家里玩Ipad要好多了! 他在小山坡上被蜈蚣迷住了，通过这次行程，还成为了区分癞蛤蟆和青蛙的专家! 这种和大自然的互动是他在上海所没有的，这使得这次远足变得更特别了!
He would be mesmerized by centipedes and he became an expert in differentiating between toads and frogs. This natural interaction is something that he does not get in Shanghai and made the hikes that little bit more special.
The most striking aspect of the village is that it has no tourist groups, blaring megaphones or metal railings. The trails are wild and it is more exciting to explore.
If the hill trails fail to tickle your fancy, there is a waterfall close by where you can swim. You need to go on a hike and remember to bring hiking boots and waterproof shoes as the trails require you to cross the stream. The water is ideal for splashing but a little shallow.
Shen Hui in the Northern Song Dynasty once described the village in his poem The First Visit to Songyang as possessing, “the unique scenery of which can’t be seen anywhere else”.
For me the unique element was that there were no people. I could sit on the terrace or wander the trails meeting no one. The video below really gives you a sense of the serenity that exists here.
It was an ideal escape from the throngs of People’s Square rush hour. With no flights out of Shanghai for the foreseeable future – it has led to our family being more adventurous and exploring the beauty that is right at our finger tips.