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It's time to revise everything you think you know about the world's factory, starting with these stunning photos
By Tracy You 30 October, 2012
Chan's camera tells her where to travel in China.Photographers make great guides for scenic trips -- they have a knack of finding places with stunning views but minus the crowds.
This is especially helpful when traveling in China.
"Many photo tours are going to the places that are not very common for regular tourists," says Chan, who is an air traffic control officer at Macau International Airport.
From her fat photo album, Chan picked out 11 favorite landscapes in China.
The list below is arranged in no particular order.
What's your favorite Chinese photo op? Let us know in the comments section below.
1. Xiaodong River, Chenzhou, Hunan Province (湖南郴州东江湖小东江)
More poetic than a water painting.
Thousands of photographers descend on the 12-kilometer-long Xiaodong River every summer to capture the atmospheric fog.
The surreal scene is created by differing water temperatures between the cold Xiaodong River, which flows from a dam
The fog creates poetic water painting-like photos, says Chan.
She recommends photographers hire a local fisherman to row a boat along the river for better shots.
The best time to observe the fog phenomenon is around dawn between May and October.
The Xiaodong River is part of the 160-square-meter Dongjiang Lake scenic spot in Hunan Province in southeast China.
Getting there: Dongjiang Lake is
Trains from Guangzhou (广州) bound for Changsha (长沙), Chengdu (成都), Shanghai (上海), Jinan (济南), Tianjin (天津) and other cities all pass Chenzhou. From Chenzhou, take a long-distance bus from South Bus Station to Dongjiang Lake. The journey takes about one hour and should cost less than RMB 20.
Admission to Dongjiang Lake costs RMB 52 (US$8).
An earthly rainbow.
In deep inland China, some
At the Danxia Geological Park in Gansu Province, wavy sandstone features in an area roughly the size of Manhattan spread out in more shades than a box of crayons.
Most areas are covered with red, yellow and orange stripes, but some hills are also tinted with green, magenta, black and even turquoise.
Getting there: The park is located near Zhangye, a city about
From Zhangye, take a bus from Zhangye Bus Station to Danxia Geological Park. Buses leave every 30 minutes from
Admission to the park is RMB 40.
3. Saihanba, Inner Mongolia/Hebei Province (内蒙古与河北省交接塞罕坝)
Autumn snow on former imperial hunting grounds.
Occupying 940 square kilometers in south Inner Mongolia bordering Hebei Province, it's now the largest national forest park in northern China.
Chan traveled there with friends in October 2010 to capture the golden scenery, but "we met with a sudden weather change."
"Instead of a golden view, we got this amazingly beautiful snow shot," says Chan.
The park has 800 square kilometers of grasslands accompanied by larch and birch forest that provide an ideal background for horse riding, archery and photography.
Getting there: Take a long-distance bus bound for Saihanba (sometimes known as "Weichang") at Beijing Liuliqiao Bus Station. Buses leave every hour or so. The journey takes seven hours and costs RMB 104.
Admission to Saihanba costs RMB 130.
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4. Yuanyang, Yunnan Province (云南省元阳)
Farming goes artistic.
These rolling, mirror-like rice terraces can be found in China's southwest Yunnan Province.
Mountain-dwelling Hani minorities converted the steep slopes into rows upon rows of rice stairs, stretching as far as the eyes can see.
In Yuanyang, rice terraces run continuously for 113 square kilometers with a maximum vertical span of
According to Chan, dusk and dawn are the best times to photograph the view, when the water-filled terraces have the most shades of color.
Getting there: Yuanyang County is about
Religion and scenery meet in one little town.
The remote but holy town of Langmusi (population 3,000) is a great getaway for culture-loving backpackers.
Standing on the border of Gansu and Sichuan provinces, the plateau town is surrounded by alpine forest and lush mountains and is populated by Tibetans and Huis, a Muslim ethnic group in China.
The town's landmark is its namesake Tibetan Buddhist temple. First built in 1748, Langmusi's temple has for centuries been a sacred site for Tibetans from south Gansu, north Sichuan and West Qinghai.
Chan witnessed a Tibetan ceremony during her journey to Langmusi in July 2011.
"They paraded with instruments, and it was interesting to see the monks with traditional costumes," says Chan. "It was like a scene from a movie."
Getting there: Langmusi is some
6. Moon Bay, Kanas Lake, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (新疆喀纳斯湖月亮湾)
Located in the deep forest of Altai Mountain, this lake is best known for its extremely clear water, which changes color throughout the year as its reflection mirrors the surrounding environment.
Early autumn is the season to go because golden leaves along the bank create "fairy tale-like scenery," according to Chan.
She recommends going in late September and walking along Moon Bay.
"The river is so clear and it has a lot of golden reflection," says Chan.
Getting there: China Southern operates four flights from Urumqi (乌鲁木齐), Xinjiang's provincial capital, to Kanas. The flight takes about one hour.
Admission to Kanas Lake costs RMB 150.
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7. Larung Gar Buddhist Institute, Seda, Sichuan Province (四川省色达县喇荣五明佛学院)
Thousands of red wooden dormitories in the lush mountains of rural northeast Sichuan form one of the world's largest Buddhist monasteries, Larung Gar Buddhist Institute.
Sprawling across approximately four square kilometers at
Located in the Tibetan-inhabited part of Sichuan, the secluded Buddhist campus can be reached only after hours of bumpy riding on mountain roads. Nevertheless, Chan considers it her hands-down favorite destination in mainland China.
Getting there: Seda County is about
The Chengdu Chadianzi Bus Station (成都茶店子客运站) has one bus bound for Seda every day at
International travelers to Seda do not need a Tibet Alien travel/PSB permit, but regulations often change regarding permits to enter this region. It's advisable to consult a China state-owned travel agency before planning a trip.
8. Zhouzhuang, Kunshan, Jiangsu Province (江苏省昆山市周庄)
Canal charm in eastern
One of the most iconic water towns in the country, Zhouzhuang provides a window to eastern
Canals lace the millennium-old town, marked by late Ming Dynasty architecture and batik-clothed gondoliers (most of whom are middle-aged women).
Don't expect this view in daytime -- the 2.7-square-kilometer town gets swamped by 25,000 tourists on an average day.
If you stay the night, you'll be able to experience the peaceful side of the town in early morning and after sunset.
Getting there: Zhouzhuang is some
Admission to the mountains costs RMB 100.
9. Flaming Mountains, Turpan, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (新疆吐鲁番火焰山)
The hottest place in
Near the Taklamakan Desert and stretching about
Average temperatures in July and August boil to at least
Fissures on barren rocks can make the mountains look like solid flames.
The living hell, however, is one of Xinjiang's most popular tourist spots due to its connection with the Monkey King. In the classic novel, "Journey to the West," China's very own superhero is said to have put out an immense fire with a palm-leaf fan.
Getting there: The Flaming Mountains are
From Turpan, either hire a private taxi or join a day trip to the Flaming Mountains. There is little public transport available between Turpan and the mountains.
Admission to the mountains costs RMB 60.
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An oil painting by Mother Nature with rapeseed and wheat farms.
Chinese call this view "heaven's environment" (天境). "God's country," if you will.
The country's best landscapes seem to assemble in this multi-ethnic plateau county: snow-capped mountains, sweeping grasslands and thick forests.
Rapeseed and wheat farms alternate in the fields, creating a bright oil-painting-like pattern when viewed from the highlands.
Located at the foot of Qilian Mountains and on the former Silk Road, the area is home to ethnic minorities, including Tibetan, Mongolian and Hui.
Getting there: Qilian County is about
Stone spectacle above the
These awe-inspiring rock pillars can be found along the banks of the Yellow River in northwest
Formed approximately 210 million years ago, the columns originally stood as high as
Chan says the stone forest park is one of the least-visited tourist destinations in China, making it ideal for travelers who like exploring China off the beaten path.
She recommends touring the rock posts via donkey cart, the preferred local mode of transportation.
Getting there: Yellow River Stone Forest Geological Park is located in Jingtai Town, about
Admission to the park costs RMB 110.