Get geared up
Updated: 2012-05-01 08:12
By Ma Chenguang in Hefei (China Daily)
Top: Cycling on a country road near Hongcun, the spring scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. Below: This old Anhui-style house in Guanli village is well preserved. Liu Donghui / for China Daily
The ancient amazes in Hongcun
For a taste of ancient China, go to Hongcun in Anhui province, which has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There, you will find a cluster of ancient villages with exceptionally well-preserved Anhui-style architectures dating back to the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties.
Visitors can walk into the traditional rural settlements, for a breathtaking view of magnificent buildings, which have largely disappeared or transformed during the past century. The scene is so picturesque that it has earned Hongcun the reputation of a "village out of a Chinese painting".
Near Hongcun sits Zilu Temple, another favorite among visitors and pilgrims. One mountain of the temple is shaped like a dragon while the other looks like a white tiger.
Another interesting site is the residence of Sai Jinhua, a famous courtesan in the late Qing Dynasty, where travelers can learn more about the legendary but very controversial figure.
Sai was sold to a brothel at a young age, but her life changed when she married a well-connected scholar, Hong Jun. She traveled to many parts of Europe with her husband and led a fanciful life. But she was kicked out of the family when her husband died prematurely.
Sai was later imprisoned for a suicide case, remarried once and died in destitution in 1936.
Liu Donghui contributed to the story.
Country roads, take me to Yangshuo
Occasionally, city dwellers long to escape from hustle and bustle, traffic jams and pollution.
If there is only one place city folks have time for, it should be Yangshuo, a small rustic city surrounded by scenic mountains, rivers and caves in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
The best way to see the precinct is by cycling along the country roads.
Start the journey from Yangshuo city and cycle for 20 minutes to "meet the dragon" the literal meaning of Yulong River in Chinese.
Along the river, one can spot women washing clothes, ducks swimming and people on bamboo rafts.
For the more adventurous, cycle about 1 km further to the famous rock climbing site of Moon Hill. The limestone pinnacle got its name because of a moon-shaped hole at its foot.
Moon village is not far away, and it provides hostels for visitors who wish to rest a night. In fact, the Moon Hill looks even more magnificent from the village.
A short distance away is Yan village, where visitors can immerse themselves with more of nature's stunning mountains, crystal waters, bridges and caves.
From there, head to Tianjia River. It is an ideal place to get off the bicycle to soak in the splendid view of the panoramic vicinity until the sun goes down.
Wang Tingting contributed to the story.
Guangzhou's great pedal power
Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou
The best way to know Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou is by cycling, and one will be pleasantly surprised by the offerings of this metropolitan city.
Newcomers must bike to the biggest manmade lake in Guangzhou, Luhu Lake, to be one with nature and be dazzled by the flora and fauna surrounding it. The water is surrounded by dense trees, which provide shade on hot days.
But this is a place for all seasons as the large thermal mass of the lake moderates temperatures, causing cooler summers and warmer winters. It is also a beautiful sight during spring with pink and white bauhinia and fiery kapok flowers in full bloom.
After indulging the senses with beautiful sights and fresh flower fragrances, cyclists could sip Chinese tea and tease their taste buds with local delicacies, such as dim sum and roast geese, at the restaurant by the lake.
Another lake worth visiting is in Liwanhu Park. It's as big as Luhu Lake. The main attraction of this park is Cantonese Opera, which can be heard from all corners. Cyclists could soak in the atmosphere or learn how to throw their voices from the locals, who gladly impart their skills and share their passion for Cantonese Opera.
From Liwanhu Park, cycle across the Longjin Bridge to the compound of Xiguan ancient mansions, which dates back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). But go slow, because the alleys are narrow and the continuous rolls of black-brick walls and redwood gates, though intriguing, give the illusion of a maze.
Not too far from the vicinity is the Chen Clan Academy, which is famous for its Lingnan-style architecture. The unique design harmoniously combines the carving of wood, stone and brick. The academy also houses the Guangdong Folk Art Museum.
Leaving ancient architecture, cycle down Kangwang Lu and Liu'ersan Lu, cross a pedestrian bridge into Shamian Island and be wowed by the European-style buildings. The territory used to be under the concessions of the United Kingdom and France.
Shamian Island is also the ideal place to put up tired feet after a day of cycling. There are restaurants and bars along the Pearl River in Shamian Park, where one can enjoy some local delicacies and beer, while gazing at the glittering buildings across the river.
"Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live." That's a quote by famous American writer Mark Twain, which aptly applies to Beijing, where most roads have designated cycling paths. The traffic lights in the city even have bikers in mind!
Apart from cycling to tourist destinations, such as the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square, also go on the unbeaten paths to explore the hutong (old alleys).
Tired cyclists can easily find a place to park their wheels, particularly outside subway stations.
Then, find a place for a cuppa or tease your taste buds at shops or restaurants, which are available throughout the city.
During summer, cyclists could consider riding in the evenings when the sun has set and traffic slows down. Evenings are the best time to explore Beijing's Olympic Forest Park to be one with nature.
For first-time riders, the Olympic Forest Park provides good training because it is less physically challenging than other long-distance routes.
A good place to stop for a panoramic view is at the crossing of Kehui Nanlu and Hujing Donglu, where one could soak in the iconic architectural achievements in the Olympic Park area, such as the National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, and the National Stadium or Bird's Nest, which sparkles in the dark.
Cycling should be encouraged to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution in the city.
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