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Flights of fancy at a weekend wetlands getaway

07-15-2010 11:47 BJT

BEIJING, July 15 (Xinhaunet) -- The wetlands of southern Hangzhou Bay are now within easy reach of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Ningbo, since the opening of the Hangzhou Bay Bridge two years ago, making the area an ideal weekend getaway for walkers and bird watchers.

The wetlands of southern Hangzhou Bay 
The wetlands of southern Hangzhou Bay (File photo)

In May a new park, funded by the World Bank Global Environment Facility, opened to the public following a $5 million investment. The 43.5-square-kilometer park is now home to more than 100 species of birds including five of the rarest in China. Its mission is to raise public awareness of environmental protection and make the wetlands more accessible to the public.

Walking the wooden pathways that cut through the park and listening to the continuous chorus of birds makes an excellent escape from the city.

The Hangzhou Bay Wetlands are one of the eight largest in the country. Flocks of migrating birds pass through the wetlands throughout the year making it a great place to watch, listen and learn about different species of Chinese birdlife.

For those interested to know more about the function of the wetlands and the birds that live there, the Wetlands Center has a spacious education center and an exhibition zone.

I spent a day walking around the park, loosing myself in the matrix of paths and stopping at the numerous bird hides to watch and listen to the wildlife. I followed one wooden path for an hour, as it wound deeper and deeper into the heart of the wetlands, never reaching the end.

It's a peaceful place to walk and I would recommend skipping the golf cart guides in favor of striking off by yourself. There is no need for a map as the area is flat so you are always in sight of the large main pavilion however deep you wander.

Bring a lunch and water with you, as I found no place to buy refreshments. Once you enter the main gate, you can easily spend a full day there if you are a keen walker.

For the more adventurous the wetlands stretch well beyond the new park that only occupies about one sixth of the total nature area.

I spent a second day walking along the narrow roads that run along the bay. It's a less sanitized experience than the manicured paths of the Wetlands Center but equally tranquil.

Along the bay the skies are filled with a constant hum of egrets moving along the salty sands to new feeding grounds. As the tide went out, so fishermen set off in their boats and mussel pickers arrived to wade out into the bay in search of a fresh catch. They were extremely friendly and clearly not used to tourists.

Walking the shores of the bay made the experience all the more memorable.

Getting to the wetlands is easy by car and if you don't own a car it's recommended to rent one for the trip. Just a two-hour drive from Shanghai and Hangzhou, and 45 minutes from Ningbo it puts the park in easy reach for a short break.

Public transport links are not so easy. The nearest train station is Yuyao, from there it's a 20-minute taxi ride, after which you will need to rely on hotel taxis to ferry you to and from the wetlands (around 130 yuan, or $19.2, to drop off and pick up).

The newly built five-star Hengyuan Hotel is currently good value at under 500 yuan a night for two people including breakfast (if booked through a travel agent) and at the moment is one of very few choices in the area. The hotel has excellent recreation and spa facilities to help relax after a day walking in the park.

Entrance to the Wetlands Center is 38 yuan per person.

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Editor:Yang Jie |Source: China Daily

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