Nestled at the westernmost edge of Hangzhou lies a hidden gem waiting for the adventurous traveller to explore. It is Xixi National Wetland Park (Xixi Guojia Shidi Gongyuan 西溪国家湿地公园), a 3.46 square mile wetland preserve, the first and only of its kind in China.
Here you can experience lush, verdant terrain that evokes an earlier age of China, before the bulldozer and crane became the most celebrated creatures of the countryside. From the cheerful call of birds, to waterways festooned with deep green vegetation so thick that the water can only be imagined below, to radiant red hibiscus, you will find here the escape from modern China that eluded you as you dodged through the crowds at West Lake.
Xixi is also a historical site, lying at the terminus of the longest and oldest shipping canal in the world, the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand canal (京杭大运河). It has been a centre of Buddhist gatherings since the Eastern Han dynasty around 226 AD, who believed the waters had special therapeutic properties. It has been home to countless Buddhist temples over the ages, and is still the site of one of the most famous Dragon Boat festivals in China, established over 500 years ago. The site has been an inspiration to poets and artists for over 4 millennia.
To get to the park, walk, ride a bike, or take a taxi to the western limit of Wensan Xilu, where you will find the main entrance to the park. It is important to note that there is another public park not too far away called just "Xixi Park (西溪公园)". This is not the same place. Be sure to ask for "Xixi Guojia Shidi Gongyuan (西溪国家湿地公园)".
Park admission is 80 RMB per person, including a short boat ride. If this seems a bit steep, you can still enjoy walking the miles of wooden walkways that surround the paid portion of the park in either direction from the main entrance. These free paths sadly don't benefit from the efforts of the groundskeepers to any great extent, and do contain the garbage and debris of those sad souls who can't appreciate how much their thoughtless mess detracts from what would otherwise be a glorious nature walk. The free paths are also not quite removed enough from the street noise for you to fully appreciate the natural ambiance.
The best times to go to the park are early morning or just before dusk (this an especially good time if you're with that special someone, as there are many secluded benches ripe for romance). Much of the flora and fauna is seasonal, but you'll be sure to find something of interest any time of year.
For more information visit http://www.xixiwetland.com.cn/en/sdgy.htm.
Xixi National Wetland Park 西溪国家湿地公园View In Map
Add: Tianmushan Lu, Hangzhou 杭州市天目山路
Tel: 0571 8810 6789
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