Family Travels: Chengde

Friday, 20 March 2009

Travelers: Turkish couple Murat and Zeynep Yelda Telek, and their daughter Yasmina (3) who was eight months old at the time.

The Plan: To drive to Chengde with a group of eight people for an ideal summer weekend getaway. The history of Chengde attracted the family and their friends, as did the close proximity to Beijing.

The Drive: The Jingcheng Expressway via Hairou is two-thirds finished and takes around 4 hours. The group stopped at the magnificent Jinshanling Great Wall on the way; taking the chairlift to the top would add another two hours to the journey.

How to do it: Yelda booked the trip through a friend’s online travel agency in Tianjin. The 800RMB fee (this was in 2005) covered all transport by van, the hotel, meals and entry fees (except cable car to Sledgehammer Peak). Having an air-conditioned van was a luxury, especially as they were able to stop wherever they liked along the way.

The Resort: The magnificent Mountain Resort is a UNESCO World Heritage site, ringed by a mini great wall. Take an open bus around the hilly trails to enjoy a series of pagodas with fabulous views over Chengde. Kids will love chasing peacocks, riding boats on the swan-studded lake and spotting deer (90RMB, 8am-5.30pm daily).

The Temples: The Eight Outer Temples were first commissioned during the Qing Dynasty to strengthen the relationship with China’s minority groups. Surrounding the resort like stars around the moon, they showcase Han, Tibetan and Mongolian architectural styles. Standouts include Putuo Zongchengzhi Temple (a mini Potala Palace) and Puning Temple, which holds a mammoth woodcarving of a 1,000-armed Buddha. Many temples have a lot of stairs and are not very pram-friendly, so a kiddie backpack may be in order (20-50RMB, 8am-5.30pm daily).

Rock on: The group really enjoyed Sledgehammer rock, a vertical formation standing at least 20 meters high. The rock is reached via a nerve-wracking cable car ride and a rather narrow walkway. If you don’t want to brave the walkway and touch the rock for luck, the surrounding views are still worth the cable car trip to the peak.

Where to eat: The Teleks enjoyed dinner at Xin Qianlong restaurant. Local dishes include deer meat, eight treasures rice pudding, nansha cake and steamed jiaozi (Dijingyuan Building, Xinhua Lu).

Weather tips: Even though Chengde is cooler in the summer, the days still get very warm – remember the hats and sunscreen and carry lots of water.

First published, in part, in beijingkids magazine and on the beijingkids website.

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