Heilongtan National Scenic Area – Beijing’s Black Dragon Pond

Some 60 k out of Beijing one can visit the Black Dragon Pond, or Heilongtan, in Miyun district. The area is marked by a collection of small ponds of clear water, that are fed by a well somewhere in the mountains above. It is a nice change to the busy city life in Beijing proper, and absolutely suitable for a one day trip. We rented a car and made it a destination on our way to Inner Mongolia. Driving out of town and into the mountains took us about two to three hours, with about a third of the time spend in traffic jams out of Beijing. The street up the scenic area are steadily winding up to higher ground, passing through almost rural areas. Especially interessting on the way were the many bee farmers that sold their locally produced honey to passers-by. We might have had luck, but arriving at the entrance to the area we had no trouble finding a parking space on the comparatively small parking lot, which is located very close to the ticket office. The entrance fee is 60 RMB for adults, but if you manage to produce a valid student ID with a date printed on it, you can get a discount. A nice little extra with regards to the entrance ticket is that they come with a small postcard of the sight you are about to visit, with the postage fee already payed. In the park one walks past smaller and larger ponds of clear mountain water, and after only a few hundred meters you see the first waterfall. It hadn’t rained in some time so the water level was somewhat lower than it could have been, but the steady fall of water was still a very pretty sight to see. One small downer with all the surfaces of water is that the park administration decided to provide inflatable boats and “hamster wheels” for all of them, so it is pretty hard to take a nice picture of the beautiful surrounding nature without them spoiling the view. This is a trip for which you need a good physical condition if you plan to take the full tour. It starts unsuspiciously easy, with even surfaces to walk on and handrails to guide you over the more splippery parts. If you don’t feel your best I advise you to enjoy the sight aroud the entrance of the park and skip the rest, because it soon starts to become more adventurous, with my personal hightlight being a climb of a narrow ladder between to even narrower parts of rock. The closer you come to the top of the mountain, the more exhausting the climb becomes, naturally. In general I would say that this trip is best suited for spring or fall and not in the mids of summer, because the heat does take its toll during the climb. The reward is worth it though. Atop the trails lies a small Chinese temple that overlooks the stunning mountain tops nearby and gives a splendid look over the valley below. All in all the black dragon scenic area is perfect for a day spend in nature, with a well-balanced mix of sightseeing and physical activity.

The World’s Largest Glassfloor Viewing Platform now opened in Beijing

On May Day 2016, the world’s largest glass floor viewing platform opened in Beijing. Of course we went, and here is  how we got there:

A few Saturday’s back we took the early morning bus 635 (or 117, whichever you prefer), riding to Dongzhimen. From there, we interchanged at Dongzhimen chuniuzhan (the hub station) to bus 852 and went 60km north east into Pinggu county, where we got off the bus at the local bus station. Finally, after fighting off some black cab drivers (you really don’t need them to get to the viewing platform), we boarded bus No. 25 (or 26), which drove us through beautiful fruit and nut tree farms right up to the mountain on which the platform opended only weeks before. You will also pass a ‘small’ hydro dam and a gigantic golden buddha perched on top of a neighboring mountain, which unfortunatley we didn’t get the chance to visit yesterday (it looked like a fun hike up and down though, with a veeery long summer slide going down that was constructed dangerously close to the mountain side). The bus drops you off close to the entrance, and the trip up the mountain can either we climbed by food, or taken with a cable car. Walking up to the platform, the first kilometer(s) lead you through something like an outdoor adventure park for kids: arrow shooting, hurdle racing and crossing small rivers by hanging bridges. Soon you come to a very steep flight of stairs (I think they called it ‘Stairway to Heaven’), that brings you a good distance closer to the top of the mountain, where the glassviewing plattform was contrsucted. We were fooled into thinking that this was the hardest part, but what followed was an continuous steep climb up very narrow flights of stairways, which are definiftly not recommendable to someone who’s afraid to hights. It very exciting though and even though there was a constant stream of people going up and climbing down these stairs, its quite spectacular to watch people of all ages using their own “techniques” to make it up to the top. I wouldn’t recommend going there in the mid of summer, though, since it was already a tedious climb at the beginning of may. If you like to go, wait until fall, and then start your trip as early in the mroning as possible in order to escape the thickest masses of people.

 

Hexigten Global Geopark, Inner Mongolia, Northern China

Photo documentary from our road trip to Inner Mongolia. The second stop took us to a UNESCO geopark.