One of eight major cuisines in China is from Sichuan, a place definitely worth visiting for all the spice-lovers and adrenaline junkies out there. Here lies one big adventure as heart-racing as the hot, peppery kick from Sichuan cuisine: the Jianmen Pass.
This mountain pass on the 3,000-year-old Shu Road, between Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, will give even the bravest heart a good beating. It is located near Guangyuan city in Sichuan province, spanning around 900metres, with the highest point perched at 1,000metres. The road was listed as a candidate for UNESCO world heritage classification in 2015.
Daredevils should watch out that no one is coming the other way, because the carved stone path is so narrow that two slim people would barely be able to squeeze through. An iron chain is all that separates the path from a plunging precipice, and some inclines are nearly vertical with very steep steps.The gate to the pass was strategically built by the famed Three Kingdoms-era strategist Zhuge Liang and has been rebuilt several times—most recently after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Hiking along the Shu Roads is a much calmer alternative with a stunning, tranquil view of lush green forests, winding blue rivers and skyscraping grey mountains—all shrouded in mist due to the quick-shifting weather in the region. This view can also be enjoyed by driving on the nearby, 150-kilometre Cuiyun Corridor, part of the Shu Road, in which towering cypress trees as ancient as 2,000 years old shade the path and soothe the mind.
For a more laid-back Chinese travel experience, Hubei Province has a beauty other than the famous Three Gorges Dam and the tribe in Sandouping town, part of Yichang prefecture. Drive carefully from Sandouping for around an hour through zigzagging mountain roads to access Muyang village. The fresh air at altitudes of 300 to 850metres above sea level truly breathes new life into visitors from faraway cities even before they reach the pristine Muyang Brook, with its clear, mirror-like water reflecting the green around and blue above.
Stay for a few days away from fast-paced, modern city life and experience a more relaxing existence in Muyang village's nongjiale, or happy rural homes, in which suburban and rural homes are converted for agri-tourism. Farmers would convert their houses to restaurants and inns while still doing farm work during the low season—this provides homegrown vegetables and free-range chickens for the guests. Other local products also see a sales boost, which, in turn, yields more income than farming alone.
From hiking mountains and exploring forests around the village for herbs to playing around and fishing for dinner in the brook, Muyang has plenty of choices for all ages. Breeding silkworms is another long-standing profession in the village and a 67-hectare mulberry plantation is planned for both the worms and the tourists. Picking fruits, peeking at the worms' mealtimes and watching silk-making processes will be on offer—aside from helping around your host's farm, perhaps?
(Photo Credit: Thinkstock)