You don’t need to go far to get away from the obnoxious crowds and noxious clouds of Shanghai. Here we’ve rounded up three of the best places to escape, none of them more than a few hours from the city. Three famous mountain retreats – Moganshan, Putuoshan and Sheshan - all with their own unique charm.
A quiet, bamboo-forested region only a few hours from Shanghai, Moganshan was popular as a summer retreat for foreigners as early as a century ago. In recent years its peaceful charm has won over a new generation of fans, looking to escape the bustle of the city. It’s a great place to come to relax, and simply wander among the old European style villas, though it’s possible to run, hike, mountain-bike, and fish too if you’re so inclined. Other popular activities include swimming in the reservoir and visiting the nearby tea plantations.
To learn more about the resort’s history, take with you a copy of China Cuckoo, Briton Mark Kitto’s tale of how he came to China to find a fortune, lost it thanks to meddling officials, and ultimately found happiness in the hills outside Shanghai: Mark is the owner of the Moganshan Lodge, which, among other things, does the best breakfast in town.
Where to Stay?
At one of the old villas, such as The Cottage (run by Mark Kitto and his family) or House 23. Or perhaps at one of the beautifully restored farmhouses belonging to Naked Retreats. A cheaper alternative is the Chinese-run Songliang Hotel.
How to Get There?
Moganshan is three to four hours drive from Shanghai. If you don’t have your own car, you can hire a driver to take you there. Mr Shi (134 8272 4935) charges 1000 RMB, plus 450 RMB in motorway tolls, for a return trip in a minibus that seats up to 10 people.
Another, cheaper option is to take the train to Hangzhou (the express takes little more than an hour) than a taxi or bus/taxi combo to the mountain. For comprehensive travel details have a look here.
Because this car-free island, with its long unspoilt beaches and Buddhist sanctuaries, is a world away from Shanghai. With over a hundred shrines and many working monasteries, it remains one of China’s most sacred sites – with visitors from all over the country coming to pay homage to Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. But out of season – October and November are great times to come as it’s neither too cold nor too busy – it’s a great place to come for unspoilt hikes, fantastically fresh seafood, and sunsets over the water. For specific attractions, have a look here.
Where to Stay?
If you want to go native, it’s possible to overnight in one of the island’s monasteries: ask around when you’re there. The nicest (and most expensive) option is the Putuoshan Hotel, though there are a variety of decent choices, with the Purple Bamboo probably the best of the budgets. (Be warned: neither the sand nor the sea are quite the colours represented in that photo.) For a more comprehensive list, check out the Putuoshan Hotels site in full. There’s also a hotels counter close to where the ferry docks, whose staff can help arrange somewhere for you to stay.
How to Get There?
There are several routes, but all involve a boat at some point. The most exciting is probably the overnight ferry from Shanghai, which costs between 100 and 400 RMB, and leaves from the Wusong Port, close to Songbing station on metro line 3. Ferries depart at 6pm, and arrive at 8.30 the next morning. There’s also a fast ferry which leaves at 8am and takes around 4 hours.
Further options include buses to either Shenjiamen or Ningbo, and a short ferry ride across to the island (15 minutes and 20 RMB from Shenjiamen, 2 hours and 70 RMB from Ningbo) or even a 30-minute flight to nearby Zhoushan Island (return tickets 1200-1600RMB: see ctrip.com), followed by a quick minute hop across the water. Entry to Putuoshan (it’s a protected national park) costs 160 RMB.
Because it’s like having a holiday without leaving home – Sheshan actually falls within the city limits, but couldn’t be more removed from all the downtown drama. Set amidst a beautiful forest park in the southwesterly Songjiang district, Sheshan is a great place to get some fresh air without trekking too far from town. It’s perfectly possible to visit on a day trip, though to really wind down it’s worth spending the night.
While you’re there be sure to check out the Church of the Holy Mother in China, as well as the Sheshan Observatory, built by Jesuits in the late 19th century, and the adjacent Astronomical Museum. (Shanghai-based journalist Adam Minter has some nice detail on the history of the observatory here, and on the church here.)
Another attraction is the Shanghai Sculpture Park, which features more than 30 contemporary art installations in a quite remarkable setting. You can even play golf at the nearby Sheshan Golf Estate Country Club, home to the leading Asian golf tournament, the HSBC Champions, to be held at the beginning of November (for tickets click here).
Where to Stay?
If you’re spending the night here you might as well splash out. Budget options don’t make much sense when you could just hop on the subway home. Look to Le Meredien Sheshan for five-star splendour and killer brunches by the pool.
How to Get There?
Sheshan is a 80-100 RMB, hour-long cab ride from downtown Shanghai (French Concession). It’s also on metro line 9, though getting there involves a couple of changes (if you’re coming from the vicinity of People’s Square: at Shanghai South Railway Station and again at Yishan Lu) and can take up to 90 minutes. You could also take the Line 1, Route B tourist bus, which leaves from Shanghai Stadium every 35 minutes starting at 7.15am. Return tickets are 81 RMB.
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