Travel Inspiration: Explore Qiandaohu

By Melissa Dawson 2020-09-21 10:46:20

Lakes, life, and the parallels of the two

I stepped lightly onto the platform of Qiandaohu station. My husband and I pondered the surprisingly easy two-and-a-half-hour train ride, a respite from the ever-so demanding metropolitan life of living in Shanghai. A cool breeze, infused with the scent of forests, brushed past us. Finally, a breath of fresh air. The city called, welcoming us to our first child-free weekend since our daughter was born. 


For my husband and I, we needed a break from our world. Sometimes, things become overbearing and something as simple, as spending a weekend of grabbing some rest, in a city full of charm and comfort, can give you the perfect amount of ‘charge’ to return to your home. After a gentle Didi ride through the lush, green countryside, we arrived at ‘Read Wood’. This resort is situated right on the edge of the sprawling man-made lake, and since its creation in ‘59, the area has been gradually developed into this well known haven for city dwellers. It is a calming escape from the hustle and bustle (and pollution) of the metropolitan life.



This stunning retreat offered us so much: casual sunset walks along the perfectly manicured paths that encircled the lake, visits to the various seafood restaurants and shops in the famous downtown ‘Fish Street,’ and even hammock relaxations, where we swayed gently together as we watched the sunshine dance through the leaves above us. Taking in the view of the expansive lake, with islands scattered across its surface, proved to be refreshing experience. This place was like a ‘balm’ for the soul. The residents of Qiandaohu were dedicated to the well-being of their community, you know, one of those common small towns of only 400,000 PEOPLE! (Only in China.) The environment was pristine. The infrastructure was maintained. The downtown area was full of green public parks, bike routes, and winding walking trails. Talking with locals revealed they hold pride in the sanctitude of their community and are committed to sustainable eco-tourism.



One stunning example was our visit to the Oxygen Bar. The name is misleading, as there is no actual bar, but instead a calming oasis of greenery, waterfalls, and hiking trails. Scaling the mountainside was the perfect return to nature, to the present moment, and to each other. This forest park boasts over 1,500 species of plants and provides a habitat for plentiful wildlife. At a leisurely pace, the trail took slightly more than three hours to complete, ensuring ample time for people to take photos, enjoy a picnic, have a chat, or even calmly observe the many wonders of nature. For those inclined for a more novel experience, there are several unique ways to get back down the mountain, such as a mini rollercoaster or grass tubing. 



One highlight of our weekend trip surprised the two of us. We were affected in such a profound way. The Piaoliu, or commonly known as whitewater rafting, was designed to be relatively controlled experience where can expect a lighthearted adventure down a mountain stream, taking in the gorgeous scenery. The water follows a clear, prescribed course, with rocks and barriers built up strategically to ensure that there was safety and smoothness of the ride. Workers are situated throughout, just in case any mishaps occur. My husband and I clearly expected that the ride would be fun, relaxing and safe, with not even a slight hint of danger. We were wrong, and instead, our expectations were surpassed. We had gained so much more.



First of all, just the two of us and our oars, stuck on a raft, navigating the sometime-meandering-sometime-thrilling river, discovering a new meaning to the word partnership. We found ourselves slamming into unforeseen rocks, facing huge drops sideways or backwards, getting stuck rather frequently, and laughing at ourselves at the general ridiculousness of the predicaments. In the midst of this chaotic journey, were also moments of utter serenity, moments when the river spread out and we simply relaxed, listening to the trickling water and the birdsong, holding hands and stealing kisses before the next ‘battle’ began. 



Afterwards, as we were collecting our photographs and attempting to dry off, my husband remarked that our 45-minute adventure downstream had been the perfect mirror and metaphor for married life. We begin optimistically, but rarely do things go as planned. We face multiple challenges that force us to rely on each other and communicate more effectively. We can only laugh through all the ups and downs and twists and turns, and make the most of the calm moments. And no matter what, we are all in this boat together. 



Heading back to our tranquil resort, with a new appreciation for each other and ourselves, I knew we would return to Shanghai, to our children, to all the stress and complications of daily life, with renewed gratitude and commitment. Qiandao Lake proved to be just the reinvigorating weekend escape we needed.