Daming Mountain: Resort Sanctuary in the Clouds

Daming Mountain is virtually unknown to foreign travelers By: Christopher Batin
Evergreens line the trail to Daming Mountain’s summit. // © 2011 Christopher Batin
Evergreens line the trail to Daming Mountain’s summit. // © 2011 Christopher Batin

The Details

China Century Tours

New & Noteworthy

New & Noteworthy

Finnair to Open Route to Chongqing
In May 2012, Finnair will introduce a direct route to Chongqing, one of the largest and fastest-growing cities in China. Finnair is the first airline to open a direct flight route from Europe to Chongqing. The new route will include services to Chongqing four times a week with Finnair’s Airbus A340 aircraft. The flight from Helsinki to Chongqing will take 8½ hours. The Chongqing Airport’s growth potential is at a high with 140 routes to more than 80 cities in China and Asia while simultaneously undergoing an airport expansion. When the expansion is complete in 2015, the airport will be capable of receiving 45 million passengers per year. In addition to Chongqing, Finnair flies to Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong with a total of 26 weekly flights. www.finnair.com

Ideal Itineraries

Ancient & Modern China Tour
Pacific Delight Tours’ 10-day Ancient & Modern China itinerary visits Beijing, Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

The tour includes a visit to the Great Wall, Buddhist temples, the 2008 Olympic National Stadium as well as popular museums. Prices range from $1,599 to $1,799, depending on departure date and are per person, based on double occupancy. www.pacificdelighttours.com

Beijing Botanical Garden
Clients staying in Beijing will want to visit the Beijing Botanical Garden located in the Northwestern outskirts of the city between Xiangshan Park and Jade Spring Mountain. The Beijing Botanical Garden is filled with various exhibition areas and halls. The latest attraction is the rare twin lotus flowers — two lotus flowers that grow on one stalk. Such a phenomenon only happens once out of 100,000 blooms. www.visitbeijing.com.cn


“Reverie of an Empire” – Visit the Hong Kong City Hall Theater in Central for this event. The play tells the story of Yuan Shi Kai, the first President of the Republic of China and is a special production commemorating the centenary of the 1911 Chinese Revolution. (Now - Sept. 11)

Hong Kong International Jazz Festival – Featuring world-renowned musicians and local performers, this jazz-themed music festival will comprise a series of indoor and outdoor concerts, workshops and seminars and is a must for jazz lovers. (Sept. 25 – Oct. 2)

“Bats at Wetlands” Exhibition – Experience the world of bats with the whole family. Interactive games, videos and activities are offered to learn about these fascinating creatures. The exhibit takes place at the Hong Kong Wetland Park, Wetland Park Road in Tin Shui Wai. (Now - Oct. 31)

Local Favorites

Hainan Island
Clients looking for a tropical getaway should head to Hainan Island. A separate province of China, Hainan lies off the south coast of the mainland, in the South China Sea. Because of its location and tropical climate, some have referred to it as China’s Hawaii.

Liulichang Street
Historically known as a famous gathering place in ancient times for scholars, poets and artists, Liulichang Street in Beijing is now a surfeit of books, calligraphy suppliers, galleries and curio sellers where visitors can spend a day finding antique treasures. The market is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Hongqiao Pearl Market
For off-brand electronics, fashion, jewelry, shoes, luggage and other miscellaneous items, the Hong-qiao Pearl Market is a shopper’s paradise in Beijing. Clients can peruse the inventory for hidden gems, away from the mainstream crowds.

Feng Shui Tour
On this 3.5 hour tour from Lung Cheung Road Lookout Point, Nine Dragons Wall in Wanchai and Statue Square, Central, learn about the principle of man living in harmony with nature that is Feng Shui. Explore how the principles of this ancient philosophy influenced the landscape of major commercial areas as well as what it offers.

Destination Resources

Beijing Tourism Administration

China National Tourism Administration

China National Tourist Office

Hong Kong Tourism Board

Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administrative Commission

Hotel Packages

The Peninsula, Beijing
The Peninsula, Beijing is currently offering a special room rate, starting at $248 per night. Value-added benefits include airport transfers, spa vouchers, use of the fitness center and swimming pool and daily buffet breakfast for two served in Jing. www.peninsula.com/Beijing

Greening at Peace
Greening at Peace provides guests with an eco-savvy trip by donating trees to offset their travel emissions and helping to slow desertification, sequester carbon and fight global warming in the desertified lands of Inner Mongolia.

For each guest who purchases the Greening at Peace room package, Fairmont Peace Hotel will donate 10 trees on behalf of the guest — including planting and maintenance of the trees for 10 years.

The package includes a one-night stay in an art deco-inspired Green Room or a Green Suite, an organic welcome fruit plate, an organic breakfast in the Cathay Room or in-room dining and a donation certificate and Green Gift Pack upon arrival.

Prices begin at $326 per night, and the package is available through the end of the year. www.fairmont.com/peacehotel

Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Families can enjoy Mandarin Oriental’s A Family Affair package, starting at $425 per night, for a minimum two-night stay. With a variety of activities to enjoy — from taking a ride on the Peak Tram and a fun-filled day at a nearby theme park to relaxing with a complimentary children’s movie — there’s definitely something for the whole family. www.mandarinoriental.com/hongkong

Hop On and Off Package At JW Marriott
Clients can discover Shanghai through the Big Bus tour with the Hop On and Hop Off package at the JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square.

The package includes daily breakfast for two and two, 48-hour Shanghai Sightseeing Tour tickets per stay. The package is available until Jan. 10, and agents should use booking code PX3. Rates start at $355 per night. www.marriott.com

Daming Mountain is a popular destination among local Chinese but, like many of this country’s grand attractions, it is virtually unknown to the foreign traveler. However, as I discovered, this natural, scenic attraction is certain to become a popular destination on the international travel market — and for good reason.

At Daming Mountain, resort planners have created an engineering marvel that allows visitors to take in the scenic beauty with specially constructed walkways that run alongside the area’s precipices, luxury dining and beautiful accommodations. The destination also offers an opportunity to take in the plants and geographical beauty in order to experience the “harmony in nature” philosophy that is prevalent in Chinese culture.

“This is a destination not widely sold on the international market, and it is booked only as a special request,” said Min Yu of China Century Tours. “Because of its Ming Dynasty history combined with its status as a national park in China, Daming Mountain is quickly growing in popularity.”

I arrived at the entrance to Daming Mountain, where its introductory exhibits and vendor booths hocking crystals and assorted precious gemstones from the mountain. Buses regularly depart for the 15-minute ride up the winding road to the hiking trailhead that leads to the mountain. This hike requires climbing stairs and walking paths uphill for about 1½ miles. For clients who prefer to bypass the hike, there is a chairlift up to the more scenic mountain walkways.

Daming Mountain is surrounded by 32 rugged peaks — the tallest is 4,886 feet — along with 13 streams, eight waterfalls and three alpine meadows. There are more than 94 picturesque spots from which visitors can enjoy the natural beauty of the more than 38-square-mile area.

During my visit, we traveled to the trailhead by bus. Our hike began at the Moon and Sunlight Trailhead, with the first 1,500 feet leading to Dragon Gate Gorge Narrows, followed by Distinctive Stone, Sleeping Stone and Jumping Dragon Waterfall, to Frightened Horse Hillock, located about 1½ miles from the trailhead. There are many stops along the way for photographic and contemplative purposes, each uniquely created to offer some insight into the Buddhist-themed harmony of the spot. Visitors should bring walking sticks, as the steps are all uphill.

The upper trailhead takes in scenic waterfalls, cliffs, canyons and mountain peaks, which have played a rich part in Chinese history and culture. Zhu Mian Rock is named after Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang who frequently visited the area and wrote poetry here.

While walking through the dense woodlands, the trail winds through a section of concentrated summer calyx canthus. The plant is on the Chinese national protected species list. According to the trail guides, there is only one type of summer calyx canthus in all of China and 99 percent of it grows in the Daming Mountain area at 1,500 to 3,000 feet above sea level. The flowers, which bloom in May, produce big, beautiful blossoms and are integral in Chinese medicine. Visitors can also experience next year’s Daming Mountain Calyx Canthus Festival that runs from late May through mid-July.

The greatest attraction in this destination is the concrete walkway that has been bored into the faces of several precipices, which not only allows tourists to enjoy the area’s scenic beauty with minimal impact, but also provides visitors with an eagle’s-eye view of some of the most scenic and mystical areas in this region of China.

Other attractions at the summit include a well-lit tunnel that leads from one side of the mountain to another, a suspension bridge that spans a gorge and meadows that offer a variety of plant and animal life. A chairlift takes clients down to the staging area for the bus ride back to the park’s main entrance. To avoid summer vacation crowds, suggest that clients visit on a weekday during the off-season, from February through April.

Yu stressed that visiting Daming Mountain requires a private car and that the tour takes at least three hours, one-way, from Shanghai. I strongly encourage a private, English-speaking guide and a driver to accompany clients. To do the tour right, schedule the trip as an all-day event or suggest that clients stay two days. This will allow enough time to take in all the sights. A visit can be arranged as a FIT tour through many travel agencies.

Daming is one of the great hidden natural wonders of China that surely won’t disappoint your trekking or adventuring clientele.