Spring and summer should be the seasons of life, but Beijing’s hazy and dusty air tends to keep people inside or hidden behind filtration masks.
If you’re up for braving the air, this is the best season to take a wonderful weekend trip to some of the vast prairies of northern China where the temperatures are pleasant and the air is fresh.
One of the nearest is the Fengning Bashang in Chengde, Hebei province. It’s a short 260-kilometer trip from the Dongzhimen bus station.
The Bashang Prairie is often praised as the “first prairie” of the north. It offers beautiful views and abundant flora and fauna from May through October.
Wild flowers decorate the green meadows and serve as food for the many wild animals that make their home on the prairie. During the Dragon Boat Festival, the meadow is an important stopover for migrating larks.
Horse riding is one of the most popular activities. It costs about 50 yuan per hour to rent a horse. For people who live in the city, riding a horse across the meadows is the closest one can come to returning to a more natural pace of life.
Local riders occasionally use the meadow for races. If you’re confident enough in your equestrian skills you can sign up to compete with them.
Source of the Luan River
The Lightning River Wetland Park is about an hour’s driving from Fengning Bashang Prairie. Admission to the park costs 60 yuan.
It is the source of the Luan River, a natural ribbon that cuts across the green land and softens the wide prairie. Scenes of the river are a popular topic for photography fans in the capital. The scenery varies significantly throughout the day and offers a lot of opportunities for anyone with a good understanding of lighting.
Palace of Genghis Khan
In spite of its name, this palace was built in memory of Genghis Khan rather than used by the famous Mongol ruler. The palace marks a stopover before the Battle of Zhongdu, where Genghis Khan led his horde to victory over the Jurchens in Beijing. The battle marked the beginning of his conquest of Han China.
The palace is designed according to Mongolian culture. Scattered yurts, campfires and Mongolian dancers add to the experience.
The Palace of Genghis Khan lies midway between the Bashang Prairie and Lightning River Wetland Park. It’s about 18 kilometers from the prairie and tickets cost 90 yuan.
Aside from the Palace, the surrounding fields are a good place to snap photos of the blooming cole flowers.
way and leave from Yanqihu. Exit to G111 North and continue to Tucheng Town, then turn left onto provincial road S244. Continue straight ahead until you arrive at Fengning Bashang.
Take a long-distance bus from Liuliqiao Station to Fengning Station. Switch to the bus to Datan when you arrive at Fengning.
- Fengning Bashang Prairie has an average altitude of about 1,800 meters. The wind is strong and the temperature varies between extremes. Bring warm clothes.
- You will need thick trousers and socks – possibly even riding boots – if you want to avoid hurting yourself when riding a horse.
- The sunshine is strong and lasts late into the evening. Come prepared with hats, sunglasses and sunscreen.
- Prairie weather is unpredictable. Bring an umbrella.
- Pack some foods and drinks so you can have a picnic lunch with your family or friends. You can also pack a small kite if you want to try flying one on the grassland.