A bird's eye view of Xixi Wetland Park in Hangzhou. [File Photo]
In a press conference held in Beijing on January 9, six scenic areas in China were added to the nation's AAAAA scenic spot list; among them is the Xixi National Wetland Park in Hangzhou, the capital city of Zhejiang province praised as "paradise on earth".
AAAAA is the highest rating of China's tourist destinations, an evaluation made by the National Tourism Administration as based on services, popularity and the quality of cultural or natural heritage.
Unlike Hangzhou's West Lake which has an enduring reputation among international travelers, the Xixi wetland is young but rose to fame rapidly. Eight years ago, the region was nothing but fish ponds and farmlands connected by crisscrossing waterways. Then the wetland enjoyed a sudden boom after being chosen as one of the background settings for veteran Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's romance film "If You Are the One" in 2008.
Within five miles of West Lake, the park is a large natural wetland situated inside the densely populated city. It is nicknamed "kidney of Hangzhou" for its pristine air and extensive green vegetation. The wetland reduces the temperature of its surrounding 15-square-kilometer premises by more than a degree, a considerable contribution to the city's eco environment.
Another reason the wetlands have been promoted is that the local service sector has improved considerably.
For the past two years, the park's administrative office has implemented a series of modifications such as the introduction of hot water to its public toilets to larger constructions like the expansion of a theme village where tourists can relax in a café or visit art exhibits.
During the upcoming Spring Festival season, a series of celebrations will be held in the wetland park to attract visitors including a lantern fair, an opera performance and a night market.
Other scenic spots upgraded to AAAAA status are Shennongjia Nature Reserve in Hubei province, Juzizhou scenic area in Hunan province, Jiguandong scenic area in Henan province, Huanglong scenic area in Sichuan province and Danxiashan scenic area in Guangdong province. China has over 120 AAAAA level scenic areas currently.