5 Great Reasons To Experience Autumn In China
Mooncakes, baby pandas and nature at its finest.
This feature is brought to you by Qantas, who are proud to play a part in bringing travellers together with the people they love from around Australia and across the globe.
Never been to the world’s most populous country? Now’s your time. In autumn (our spring), China comes alive with festivals, lush scenery, and crisp weather perfect for venturing beyond the tried-and-tested. Why not scoff some mooncakes at the Mid Autumn Festival, play with baby pandas, or camp atop a cloud-ringed mountain?
#1 Party like a Luna-tic at the Mid Autumn Festival
We’ve all heard of Chinese New Year, but the Mid Autumn Festival – AKA the Moon Festival – gets equal top billing on the Chinese calendar. The moon is regarded as a symbol of unity in China, so when it’s at its brightest and fullest, a national holiday is held for families to gather and gaze upwards. It’s an excuse for the locals to go slightly stir-crazy – doing fire dragon dances, draping pomelo rinds on their heads (as you do …), and swinging lanterns, whether they’re handcrafted and traditional or SpongeBob-shaped. The best bit? Those totally mad mooncakes – round pastries traditionally filled with a paste made from red bean or lotus seed. For an exotic twist, go for ones filled with green tea leaves or made out of ice cream. Now that’s amore.
#2 Explore Jiuzhai Valley National Park and visit the panda sanctuary in a neighbouring province
Pictures don’t do the stunning Jiuzhai Valley National Park justice. And when you get an eyeful of said pictures – go on, get thee to Google images now – you’ll begin to realise just how stunning we’re talking. With year-round flowing waterfalls, deep-forested canyons and turquoise lakes, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is even prettier in autumn: think blazing reds and yellow leaves that make for striking contrast. Move over, Yellowstone. Not too far away (well, in China’s terms!) in the province of Chengdu, is an awesome panda sanctuary. The spot mimics the animals’ natural habitats so you can even see rare wild and endangered species like red pandas, black-necked cranes, giant pandas, and golden monkeys. And baby pandas, oh my!
#3 Sleep on the peak of Yellow Mountain and wake up early to see the sunrise over a sea of clouds
This ancient mountain has been the subject of countless poems and paintings for good reason. It’s breathtaking, with rings of mist, thermal springs, strikingly strange rock formations, and gnarled pine trees up to 1500-years-old. During the day, the mountain swarms with tourists, so your best bet is to camp on the peak. That way, you’ll wake up to total tranquility, with the rising sun peeking through a sea of clouds. Mystical much? In autumn, it’s warm enough to camp but cool enough to climb, the maple forest looks like it’s caught alight, and the whole place is scented with flowers and ripening fruit. Plus, its wildlife is more diverse than some zoos. Keep an eye out for the monkeys and deer.
#4 Take a river cruise through the Yangtze
At over 6000 kilometres, the Yangtze River is one of the largest in the world (coming just short of the Nile and the Amazon), and no trip to China is complete without sailing down it. October is widely considered the best time for a cruise, with its crisp clear air and spectacular red leaves tumbling down from craggy cliffs. The Three Gorges Dam – which takes out the honour for the largest dam in the world – is particularly worth seeing, with over 200 plants species turning to red at different points of the season. While you’re there, head to the Three Gorges Museum for a culture dose. The sleek museum showcases the history of settlement in the region, plus clothes and art from southwest minority groups.
#5 Celebrate Red Leaves Festival at Fragrant Hill
Beijing’s Fragrant Hill is covered with red smoke trees, and when autumn comes around, the entire mountain is covered in a blanket of red. Red Leaves Festival, held from mid-October to early November, is when the tree’s leaves are at their most vivid, and thousands of people trek up to the hill to take in its beauty. You can also hop in a cable car if you can’t be bothered with the climb. Either way, make sure you get to the top. On a clear day you can see Beijing in its imposing entirety – and, in case you didn’t know, the nation’s capital is massive.
(Lead image: “1 jiuzhaigou valley wu hua hai 2011b” by chensiyuan. Licensed under GFDL via Commons.)
To celebrate China’s Mid Autumn festival, Qantas will be offering traditional mooncakes on September 26 and 27 on international services departing Hong Kong, Shanghai and Singapore. They’ll also be celebrating in both the Hong Kong and Singapore Lounges with lanterns throughout the Hong Kong lounge for the month of September and a mooncake and Jasmine tea offering in both lounges on September 27.