After so many months of spending almost all of our time at our apartment in Beijing, we needed to find something to get us out for the day! Last September, we went on a trip with FCN (Foreigner China) to a campout on the Great Wall. It was great and we intended on joining more of their tours in the future. They had been shut-down due to the coronavirus spread for months, but were finally given permission to take guests on tours again this week! We joined their first tour back to Longqing Gorge or Lóngqìng Xiá, a reservoir flooded canyon which is popular for day trips for Beijing locals.
We signed up for the trip and paid our 300 rmb ($42) for all three of us that covered the 1.5 hour bus ride from Beijing, insurance, etc. We had some concerns about packing ourselves on a bus with other people since the coronavirus pandemic still isn’t over. Luckily, the Chinese government had some rules already in place and FCN was careful not to risk spreading the virus. For example, they were not allowed to go over 50% bus occupancy and everyone had to wear a mask. This helped because there was so much room (they didn’t reach 50% full) that they had groups and families spread out from others. We chose the same pickup spot that we used for our Great Wall camping trip and enjoyed another jianbing. It was made from flour and egg making the tortilla-like shell, and stuffed with bean paste, chili oil, cilantro, scallions, and a large cracker. This is one of Korey’s favorite breakfast treats and always put him in a good mood. Once the bus showed up and took our temperatures, we began our trip to Longqing Gorge. Our tour guide was so excited because she also hadn’t left her apartment in months and was ready for some hiking.
While our other trip seemed to be mostly college students, this trip was almost all teachers. Some were newer expats but almost all had been living internationally for many years. It was interesting to see how each’s live was effected by the pandemic and how they were dealing with all the changes, etc. I was happy to hear that none of them had any plans on moving out of China or leaving expat life. In fact, some of them have been emergency evacuated out of other countries during the Arab Spring and said that this was nothing in comparison. Times are tough now, but it is much worse elsewhere in the world and they were all happy here. The talking didn’t last long though, soon everyone was sleeping peacefully on the bus because it was still early in the morning. When we woke up 1.5 hours later, our bus was pulling up to the entrance of Longqing Gorge. Before we were allowed in through the entrance, we all had to file off the bus, get our temperature taken again, and file back onto the bus. I noticed that the parking lot was completely empty, there were no cars that I could see. The bus drove us up to the front and we were the only people there! We had to prove we had been in Beijing the past 3 weeks using a health app that we previously downloaded and were then permitted to walk half a mile to the ticket booth. We had to walk down the side of a river and through what seemed like a deserted ghost town. The shops were empty, the hotel had a lock on the front, and the carnival outside was almost creepy from disuse. Korey said he felt like he was in an old Western and expected a gunslinger to meet us at the end of the street. The decorations from Christmas and New Years were still up, making it very apparent that like other tourist spots, this place had been closed for months.
We finally got to the ticket booth and paid for our entrance tickets (40 rmb/adult and 20 rmb/child). The group continued to walk and saw abandoned stages/areas for the annual Ice and Snow Festival. Our guide told us that the Ice and Snow festival was a famous icon the past 30 years in Longqing, but this year it was closed after being open a few hours. Another side effect of the coronavirus spread, unfortunately. Since then, the park hadn’t been open and most of the stages/advertising was still up. Anyways, we began to descend down a little bit until we reached the bottom of a man-made waterfall flowing out of the dam. Next to the falls was a giant, yellow dragon, which comes from the word ‘long’ in Longqing Gorge. You will see the words longqingxia all over the are, carved into rocks and mountains. The dragon is huge and goes up all the way the side of the dam. You need to walk into the dragon’s mouth and the inside of the body is actually a long series of escalators to the top of the dam. People are able to get out and take pictures of the falls from the dam.
We exited the tail of the dragon escalator and walked through a tunnel carved into the mountain-side. This where we found the boat dock and paid the 100rmb/person to take the boat through the gorge. In all the literature you find about Longqing, there are always pictures that show all of the boats passing one another as they take passengers to and from the end of the gorge. I was a bit amazed, because the park was so empty that all of those boats were roped up to each other right there on the dock. We had to cross the decks of several boats to get to the one farthest away and take our ride down the gorge. The boat ride was so nice because there is no roof and you are able to see the river and gorge walls so easily. It wouldn’t be great if it was raining, but the weather was great and even a little chilly with the breeze off the water. Bring a jacket if you plan on going! We were lucky to sit near the front and got some great pictures of the gorge. My only regret was we came too early in the year and the trees were still grey/pale green from wintertime. I am told that the summer months are best (and most crowded) because the surrounding vegetation is a deep, dark green.
We passed Moon Bay dock and continued down as far as the boatsman was allowed to take us. Apparently it gets too narrow after awhile and he turned the boat around once we reached a certain point. Going back, we saw a bungee jumping platform and a zip line that crossed the river. We disembarked and followed our guide up the docks to the Diamond Temple. The temple was not larger or as fancy the other temples we have seen in China, but it is one of the oldest. This temple was built in 1065 and unlike other temples, hadn’t been destroyed by Anglo invaders. We looked around and took some pictures of the beautiful mountain background. Our guide showed us around to the other boat dock and instructed us to look around and enjoy ourselves. The last boat was leaving at 3:30pm, we need to be out on that boat or any boat before then. Everyone went on their own way and we sat down for lunch.
Our guide told us that there were amazing views from the top of the mountain and one of the best parts about coming to Longqing Gorge. We began going up a trail (we thought it was the right trail) and found a scenic look-out point that had no other visitors there. It wasn’t very far up from the where we began, but the views were already awesome. We had a little more trouble finding the right trail, but eventually got going the right way! The hike was much tougher than our post-quarantine bodies were prepared for. When we began, a couple from our hike said it was a quick 20-minute hike and I thought I could handle that no problem. So we began climbing. And climbing. And climbing. We had been hiking a fairly steep stone staircase for over 20 minutes and it didn’t seem like we were getting any closer to the top. I have handled many difficult hikes before, but after being locked up so long for quarantine, it was tough on all of us. We even accidentally walked past the dream pavilion and kept going up. Eventually we came across another couple and they said, “Good job guys, only another 20 minutes to go!” WHAT?!? I was tired, sweating, and we were all struggling with our backpacks. Eventually we got to a sitting area and I told the boys to continue on without me. They gave me their backpacks and continued on for another 10 minutes. They took some pictures from farther up but discovered that it was still a significant walk up and weren’t up to it either. We will have to conquer the gorge another day!
As we headed back down, we decided to go and have some fun over the water! We really lucked out because this was the first day that all of these activities were open since the area had closed. We paid 100 rmb ($14) for both Calvin and I to zip line across the river near the bungee platform. It was so exhilarating to see Calvin yelling in excitement as he zipped across the gorge. I had a great time but I was bummed that the girl that I asked to get photos didn’t get any good ones! I am a dot in the picture and it sucks haha. But what was cool was that we needed to get back across the river and they did that by throwing us into a speedboat! Since there were no boats in the river and it was just Calvin and I, he drove around a little bit and at a very high speed for fun. I tried to get Korey to bungee jump for 250 rmb but he wouldn’t go for it. It was a little bit before the boat had to leave but we took the next boat back anyway since there was a bit of a walk back. We discovered that the same dock where the boats end their journey, there is also a cable car that can take people to the top of the gorge to visit caves and another temple. Unfortunately we did not have time to go up and see anything because we were not made aware of it before then. As we headed out through another cave tunnel, we found there were also slide carts that could slide you down for 30rmb per person! We were actually going to do that but they were out of carts by the time we got there at 3:00pm. 😦
We finally walked out of the park and made our way to the bus in the parking lot. Overall, we really enjoyed our day at Longqing Gorge. I do think we will be back though because I need to make it to the top of that mountain and want the chance to go up the cable cars and see the caves. Maybe next time! Tune in a week or so from now when my family and friends go with FCN to Gubei Watertown!