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The Caishiji Scenic Area in Maanshan (Anhui Province) does indeed appear to live up to the promise of being scenic. If I were in Anhui I'd visit I think, but there are a lot of competing similar sites and it doesn't stand out too much from the others either.

Continuing our ride around Anhui Province tonight we’re going to make it to Maanshan, Lu’an and Tongling. Given that at least one person thought Huangshan sounded like no fun, I suspect that the trend is going to continue here.

Maanshan’s a really small place for China with just over a million people hanging out there. It’s on the border with another province (Jiangsu) and that’s exciting for Chinese tourists because it means a fusion of cuisines to try. For Westerners it means more to complain about when the food hits the table (Two sets of cooking I don’t like? Give me strength…)

Sadly the town of Gushu which has been around for 1,400 years has been levelled to make way for a brand new and iron and steel manufacturing area, so as you can imagine it’s not very pretty any more.

That said the Caishiji Scenic Area looks promising, lots of mountains (it’s a key theme in Anhui) but with some striking historical buildings breaking up the monotony. Whereas the Putang Landscape Zone appears to be yet more bloody trees.

The Bao'En Temple in Lu'an - note the careful photoshopping to make it look lots nicer than it probably does up close and personal.

Lu’an on the other hand is a thriving place and it’s the place to go in China if you’re into waterfalls – the “Stocked Village of Paradise” (Thiantang Zhai) has a hundred waterfalls to see in amongst the mountain peaks. It might be nicer still if the water didn’t have that brownish hue of pollution that seems to beset all water courses in China. All told it’s jolly pretty and spread over a big enough area that you might be able to get some fabulous scenery all to yourself – a big deal in China.

There’s also the Bao’en temple another one of those striking Buddhist places to check out, and it appears to be in reasonably good condition compared to some of the other sites in China. The ancient city wall of Shouyang County remains a mystery though, I could find a couple of references to it but not a single picture.

The Yangtze River Dolphin sadly now well and truly extinct. For those who don't know the Yangtze is the third longest river in the world (after the Amazon and the Nile) sadly it's so polluted that it's unlikely any species could thrive in there for long.

Tongling really is small there’s less than a million people there, and it’s home to the “River Dolphin Nature Reserve” which sounds lovely, until you read Douglas Adam’s and Mark Carwadine’s book and realize there are no longer any dolphins left in the Yangtze. In fact Douglas and Mark ate one of the last living specimens at a dinner held in honour of their project to umm… save and catalogue endangered species. If you haven’t read “Last Chance to See’ you really should, it’s touching, fascinating and heart breaking all in the same breath.

The only other thing of note in Tongling is a very ordinary looking lake park that wouldn’t be worth travelling to if it was on your doorstep, let alone thousands of miles in country. I’d skip Tongling altogether if I were you (and I will).

P.S. For those who really want to travel to China to experience “real China” check out our amazing offer – coming in only a couple of hours.