Our virtual tour of Anhui province ends today, and I think it’s fair to say that one of my readers summed the place up quite well by saying; “It all looks very pretty but I’m not sure I’d make a special trip to visit.”
I think that’s a fair reflection of a province that relies on scenery in the main to draw in the visitors. Whilst the Chinese will (and do) travel for food, the fussy Westerner tends to want a little more for his (or her) money.
Suzhou doesn’t offer a whole lot more than scenery either, you have Huangcanyu Nature Reserve another pretty place with some more of the obligatory temple sites. Impressive they are, but there’s nothing really to differentiate it from any other site in Anhui either. That’s also true of the Wuliu Scenic Spot, pretty enough but after wandering round the whole of Anhui there’s nothing that really sparks the enthusiasm either.
Full marks to the Suzhou tourist bureau for the most redundant travel advice ever too. They sincerely advise that when it’s raining, you should have an umbrella. I suppose it could have been worse they could have listed every obvious opportunity to act like a normal human being alongside this – “It is strongly recommended that you wear clothes in public and eat when you are hungry.” They also have a message from a local, which says “Suzhou’s my home town and I haven’t been back in years!” a resounding endorsement if I ever heard one.
It’s a shame that Wuhu has nothing much more exciting too, I like the idea of getting off a train there and shouting “Woo hoo we’re in Wuhu!” the locals would appreciate the pun, and given that it’s not on the main tourist route they may not yet have heard that joke more than a thousand times or so.
Wuhu is home to Zheshan Park which rather reminds me of Alexandria Park in Oldham that my granddad occasionally took me too when I was small. I’ve never been tempted to return to Oldham to re-experience its joys in real life, and I suspect that no-one’s ever gone to Wuhu for this “major tourist destination” either.
As with most of Anhui there are plenty of mountains nearby – in particular Tianmenshan and Ma Renqi. Neither of which appear to be particularly inspiring but the former is much harder to spell so I recommend visiting the latter. You know that a town is in trouble when its main “special local product” is melon seeds…
Right at the end of our alphabetical line is Xuancheng which is tiny by Chinese standards with less than ½ million people in the district. Xuangcheng is slightly more interesting than the other two places in that its a center for the Hui culture and has quite a bit of architecture that’s styled by this ethnic minority. Sadly as you can see from our picture the center of this movement is in Jixi County and it looks like rural Devon but somewhat dirtier.
Other highlights include the Enlong World Woodhouse Village which doesn’t seem to have any wooden housing and also looks dirty and run down. There’s also Taiji Cave which is of the “seen one cave, seen them all” type and I couldn’t find a single image of the interior which suggests that by the time people get there – they just want to go home. Jingting Mountain looks marginally more promising, offering more scenery and temples to the exhausted Anhui traveler who must be at least part goat by the time they finish in the province.
So that’s it for Anhui, I fervently hope for the province’s sake that they invest in some marketing people who know how to take a photograph of the good stuff before they spend all that money on new cities and villages. That’s because at the moment there’s really no compelling reason to go for more than a brief visit, and that’s only if you find yourself on a long train journey heading somewhere more interesting. And that’s where our next stop in this series will find us – Beijing Municipality the second largest city in the world by population, and the capital of China.