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In search of spring flowers
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Nature always make the earliest announcement of a change of seasons, and what could be a better messenger for spring than flowers? Thanks to the latest amendment to public holidays, the Pure Brightness Festival, also known as the Grave Sweeping Festival that falls on April 4 this year, is now a public holiday. The festival, together with the following Saturday and Sunday, forms a long weekend that allows a short trip to neighboring areas to chase the messenger of spring — flowers. Here are some places in Guangdong where you can enjoy the beauty of spring blooms without traveling too far.

Peach blossom in Huaiji

Located in the northwestern part of Guangdong, Huaiji tops the list of “the home of flowers in Guangdong” for a natural grove of peach trees in an ancient village known as Taoyuan Village, village of peach blossom.

The 1,700-year-old village resembles an imaginary ideal world depicted by Tao Yuanming (365-427), a prominent poet in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), and earned its name from the title of the story “Peach Blossom Land.”

In this story, the great poet Tao tells of the adventures of a fisherman who happened to find a beautiful place where peach blossom covered the whole mountain and people lived in peace and quiet in a different time. That was supposedly Tao’s imagination, reflecting part of his ideal of paradise. People found, however, that what Tao had depicted in the story was true in this ancient village in Huaiji.

Connected with the outside world by a tunnel that requires a short trip by bamboo raft to the village, Taoyuan Village greets visitors with thousands of peach flowers in full bloom in March and April. Situated in a valley surrounded on three sides by hills, the village is divided by a stream with fish farms and fruit fields criss-crossed with dykes. Other than peach flowers, the village also grows lavender and there’s a lush bamboo forest.

Before the village was opened to tourists in October 2006, villagers led a quiet and simple life for thousands of years. The village holds the record in Guangdong as a village of longevity. The long life span of villagers is usually attributed to the green environment and a healthy lifestyle.

Adding to the charm of Taoyuan Village in spring is a kite competition in neighboring Yanyan, which means Cliff of Swallows in English. Edible bird’s nests are also a special attraction in Yanyan. As the name suggests, the place is renowned for attracting large numbers of swallows to nest on the cliffs, making it one of the most productive places in Guangdong for edible bird’s nest, a sought-after health and beauty tonic for Chinese. With prices ranging from less than 10 yuan to over 100 yuan for 50 grams, visitors have a wide choice of the delicacy in Yanyan.

Transport: Shenzhen — Guangzhou — Sanshui — Sihui — Guangning — Huaiji — Yanyan

Around 350 kilometers in total, less than five hours’ drive from Shenzhen to Huaiji.

Accomodation: A hotel in Taoyuan Village has eight double rooms of the standard of a four-star hotel. There are many hotels to choose from in Huaiji.

Lavender in Panlong Canyon

Travelers don’t have to go to Xinjiang to see the largest lavender fields in China or to Provence in France. Guangdong can satisfy one’s desire for the aromatic purple plant. What is even better is that March is the best time to experience the fragrance of lavender in Panlong Canyon, a natural forest park in western Guangdong where one of the largest fields of lavender in the province is found.

The lavender valley lies at the end of a kayak route in the canyon. The purple plant masses from the valley to nearby hills when in full bloom. The plants were imported from Hokkaido, Japan, and each is more than one meter tall. Cottages have been built in the valley for people who want to spend a night immersed in the fragrance of the plant. With swirling windmills in the distance, the lavender fields in Panlong Canyon comprise a dream-like land in spring. The place was chosen as one of the outdoor scenes for Miss Hong Kong in 2007 for its stunning spring views.

Other attractions in Panlong Canyon include the largest group of waterfalls in Guangdong, hot springs and spas in the forest and Jinlin Village which has architecture dating from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

Transport: Shenzhen — Guangzhou — Sanshui — Zhaoqing — Deqing — Panlong Canyon

Around 300 kilometers in total, or less than four hours’ drive from Shenzhen.

Accomodation: Cottages and hotels are available in the canyon, with prices ranging from 200 yuan to over 1,000 yuan.

(Shenzhen Daily March 24, 2008)

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