For the average tourist, Chongqing is a place to kill time before a Three Gorges Cruise. A pity, because there is so much more to the region – carved rock grottoes, natural splendours, and ancient towns. Featured here are three – excluding the Ancient Walled Town of Laitan – of the amazing world Heritage sites we explored from Chongqing.
The journey to Wulong County through so many of the longest tunnels we had ever travelled through – one 21 kms long – was an experience in itself, and the stalagmites and stalactites in the Furong cave were surreal!
You can also zip line across the river Wu or catch a raft at the base of the cave & cruise along the river for three hours past beautiful scenery.
NATURAL THREE BRIDGES
The Natural Three Bridges, a rare geological wonder, is a karst stone arch bridge cluster said to be unrivalled elsewhere in Asia in terms of height and the breadth of the bridge surface.
There have been a number of movies shot here as the scenery is so amazing. You descend to the bottom of the gorge in a glass elevator!
From there it is a two hour trek through breathtaking scenery and then a thirty minute climb up some steps to reach the top again.
Even the drive back to the entrance – you travel into the reserve in a shuttle bus – took us to the top of the mountain past little villages and farming communities providing a glimpse into ‘real’ rural China. Have no doubt these farmlands will eventually get sanitised once foreign tourist footfalls begin to increase
DAZU ROCK CAVES
The Dazu Rock Caves – another UNESCO world heritage cluster – are located within the steep hillsides throughout Dazu County (located about 60 kilometers west of Chongqing). The more spectacular in Mount Baoding and Mount Beishan.
At Baodingshan, you walk into a wooded area, just past the entrance and suddenly come upon this marvellous tableaux of vividly painted images carved into the mountainside!
The images are from Buddhist scriptures based on Confucian and Daoist beliefs used as graphic moral instruction and as a code of conduct for illiterate masses.
Carvings such as the ‘Wheel of Life’, the ‘Eighteen Hells’ and the 102 feet long reclining Buddha, are part of a treasure trove of about fifty thousand images beautifully illustrating the daily life of the Chinese between the ninth and thirteenth centuries.
Until as recently as 1975, only a muddy path connected the town of Dazu with the main cluster of carvings. The isolation helped keep them unharmed during the massive anti-religious vandalism of the Cultural Revolution. The carvings were granted World Heritage status in 1999.
We were reluctant initially, to hike up several steps to the temple in Baoding, but the stunning golden statue of the 1000 hand Guanyin (Bhodhisatva, usually represented as a female) in the innermost sanctum was well worth the climb.
China’s man made structures, throughout history, have been grand in scale. But her natural landscape is equally magnificent: Huanglong, Huangshan, Jiuzhaigou, Wuligyuan…the heritage list is long and we know that we have not begun to scratch the surface of what there is to see in this amazing country.