Updated: 2013-01-25 07:57
A view of Heavenly Pond, which is part of Changbai Mountain's stunning scenery. Photos provided to China Daily
Rising in China's northeast, Changbai Mountain offers a host of outdoor pursuits including skiing, hiking and hot springs, as well as stunning scenery
For lovers of snow and ice there are few better places in China than Changbai Mountain, whose name means "white mountain all year long".
It stretches from Jilin province in Northeast China to a part of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, near which the country's former leader, the late Kim Jong-il, was born.
The mountain's main attractions include:
The Heavenly Pond
The mountain is a dormant volcano and its crater has become a vast and beautiful lake called the Heavenly Pond. In summer the scenery is strikingly beautiful when the green mountains around the lake project shadows across it and the water is so calm that it is like a mirror reflecting the surrounding view.
Adventurous travelers should be warned though: In winter, heavy snow can block the way to the crater, and being at the top can be dangerous. Sometimes the site is closed during bad weather.
Even on normal winter days flurries of snow and mist often obscure views of the lake.
The natural ski field
As the mountain is covered by snow most of the year, it is a vast natural ski slope. A recently opened international ski resort, near the west gateway to the mountain, offers a great opportunity for skiers to experience the thrill of speed and a view of beautiful pine forests at the same time.
There are more than 30 ski runs for those who are beginner, intermediate or advanced. The advanced runs start from the top of the mountain and from a distance look like white ladders hanging from the sky.
There is a Holiday Inn hotel 200 meters from the ski slopes, so skiers can walk to them after breakfast before beginning a day of fun.
Skiing can be an expensive sport, but for those on a budget Changbai Mountain beats natural ski slopes in the Republic of Korea or Japan with the similar conditions.
A small airport serves the resort, with convenient shuttle buses running regularly to and from it.
The West Slope
Changbai Mountain itself is a huge garden of exotic sub-arctic flora and fauna. If you are adventurous, start your exploration from the West Slope, which was only recently developed and so retains more natural scenery than other areas of the mountain. A hike here takes in birch forests and rivers flowing down like white scarves wrapped around the mountain to protect it from the cold.
The mountain was formed by volcanic movement and dips into canyons at its sides, over cliffs that will make you catch your breath at the power of nature. From the top of the slope you can see the border between China and the DPRK.
While a day's hiking can be fun and exhilarating, being exposed to temperatures as low as -20 C means you might want to warm up a little afterwards. Bathing in a natural hot spring in the evening is a perfect way to do this and to relax.
About 1 kilometer from Changbai Fall there is an open-air natural hot spring covering 1,000 square meters, with water rich in minerals oozing from cracks in the rocks. The water can be hot, ranging from 60 C to 86 C. It is sometimes hot enough to boil an egg, but fear not, people are only allowed in where the water has been cooled so it will not burn.
Minerals in the water make it shimmer with colors - green, orange and blue - like a flowing painting on the ground.
With little human interference, Changbai Mountain is known for its indigenous mountain herbs, nuts, and mushrooms. The mushrooms grow from rotten leaves and wood and are among the few varieties that cannot be artificially cultivated.
The region is known for a local stew of chicken and wild mushrooms gathered locally. The price of the mushrooms varies depending on the season and climate, and preserved mushrooms are always cheaper than freshly picked ones.
The mountain is also the perfect place to buy herbs used in Chinese medicine, including ganoderma and schisandra.
Hot spring water is used to boil eggs and corns to make local cuisines special.
(China Daily 01/25/2013 page22)