Shine on, rising star

Updated: 2012-10-26 09:42

(China Daily)

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Shine on, rising star

Above: A moving sea of clouds in Huangshan Mountain.

Left: Sunset over Chaohu Lake. Photos Provided to China Daily

Shine on, rising star

Hefei in Anhui provinse is more than a connection point between China's eastern and central regions

Anhui province has found itself in the enviable position of acting as a link between the country's eastern and central regions, as rising labor costs in China's coastal regions push investors to move inland. Hefei, the capital of Anhui, is a fast-growing industrial city about 420 kilometers west of Shanghai that is well positioned to play a major role in the process.

With a new high-speed link October, cutting the time for travel between Hefei to Beijing from more than 10 hours to less than four hours, Hefei is on the fast track to become a magnet for investors.

Shine on, rising star

The rising star is keen to seize the opportunity to better present itself, with a new international airport being built and heavy investment allocated to build subway lines.

The city's rapidly expanding economy is driven by a range of key industries including auto-making and equipment manufacturing, as well as high-tech sectors such as IT, software and biotechnology.

Despite its economic ambitions, Hefei enjoys a reputation as a garden city and offers pleasant amenities for tourism thanks to its mild sub-tropical climate. It also provides easy access to some of the province's most important attractions.

Here are just a few of them:

1. Sanhe Ancient Town

Sanhe Ancient Town, about 40 kilometers away from Hefei city center, is a cluster of Hui-style buildings. The traditional teahouses, rice shops, bridges and grey-tiled, white-walled houses are an excellent representation of one of the major ancient Chinese architectural styles.

The town is at the confluence of the Fengle, Hangbu and Xiaonan rivers, hence the name, Sanhe, which means three rivers. It covers 2.9 square kilometers and has a history of more than 2,500 years. The town, built along the river, stretches for about three kilometers.

2. Chaohu Lake

Chaohu is one of China's largest freshwater lakes. It is about an hour's drive from Hefei city center. The lake covers more than 750 square kilometers (more than four times the size of Washington, DC) and is shaped like a bird's nest, hence the name Chaohu Lake (Nest Lake).

Gushan Island and Laoshan Island are in the middle of the lake. Gushan Island covers 0.86 square kilometers and boasts entertainment places and resort villages.

Three hot springs sit surround the lake, namely Bantang Spring, Fragrant Spring, and Tangchi Spring. The lake's great attractions also include five water-eroded caves, such as Ziwei Cave and Wangqiao Cave, which are well-known for the fine workmanship of the carved figures of Buddha within them.

3. Huangshan Mountain

If you have an extra two to three days in Hefei, you should go to Huangshan Mountain, in southern Anhui. The mountain, about five hours' drive from Hefei, is well known for its spectacular scenery, sunsets and pine trees. It is a frequent subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature.

Typically, a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage site would involve one day of climbing to the top of the mountain, staying overnight to see the sunrise and spending another day descending.

A network of trails at Huangshan Mountain offers interesting routes for viewing sharp stone spires topped with pretty, twisted pine trees and the moving sea of clouds.

All junctions and paths are well signed in Chinese and English, and with a 3-yuan English-language map, no tourist guide is needed for the visit.

There are literally thousands of steps. If you are not fully prepared for the hard work, there are also cable cars to make your tour easier.

As one of the most highly rated tourist attractions in China, visitors may find Huangshan packed with crowded tourist groups. The cost of entry, hotels, food and water can mount, but once you are immersed in the spectacular scenery this will seem inconsequential.

Eating and drinking

Hefei's signature food is crayfish, which are boiled and eaten with dipping sauces, usually spicy. The local cuisine is typically eaten outside, with beer.

Chinese are often quite selective about where to buy crayfish because they need to be cleaned and cooked thoroughly. Hefei's most famous crayfish street is Ningguo Road, and another good area to find crayfish is Hupo Dining Street.

Rather than drinking beer at bars, Hefei's drinking culture is more about tea, especially green tea. As the old Chinese saying goes, "famous mountains produce famous tea". Huangshan Mountain is renowned for producing great green tea, and its Huangshan Maofeng is considered one of the top green teas in China.

There are many attractive stores on Hefei's Huayuan Street where you can sample teas and related snacks. Apart from Huangshan Maofeng, other top-notch teas are produced in Anhui, including Tunxi Green Tea and Huoshan Huangya.

China Daily

(China Daily 10/26/2012 page22)