Just right before the holidays, in December, I took my very first trip to China. December?! Yes, China in December. I know, I know....In my head I always imagined my first China trip during the summer or fall, inevitably to somewhere well know like the Great Wall or Hong Kong. Instead I got something special, something that was truly unexpected....and I couldn't be happier about this first encounter.
Off the beaten path and away from mainstream tourism (at least for now...who knows what happens as a result of this blog-post ;) lies Jilin province. Located in the North-Eastern part of China, Jilin transforms into an winter wonderland between December and February.
If I had a penny for every time I heard "I hate winter, I hate cold" I would be a millionaire. Quite understandably shoveling snow and walking through the slushy streets is nobody's favorite, but after visiting Jilin those no longer will be the first things you associate with winter.
Winter is magical and serene and there is a place in Jilin that proves this. It's Shennong Hot Springs. One of the most romantic places I ever had the chance of visiting
Shennong is about a 2hour drive from Changchun city and nestled in a peaceful remote area. The resort welcomes you with beautiful rooms, but it's most wonderful feature is a set of indoor & outdoor natural hot springs. There aren't a lot of resorts that I would visit in the wintertime rather than summer, but Shennong is definitely one.
When temperatures dip as low as -17Celsius/-1Fahrenheit, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting in the outdoor hot spring enjoying the 40Celsius/104Fahrenheir waters. The ambiance couldn't be any more perfect - lanterns lit up in the evening and white frost covering the trees from the swirling steam omitting from the hot springs. True magic!
After ample time of relaxing in the hot springs, we headed out to see one of Jilin's unique sights - the rime on Wusong Island. The rime is a beautiful frost that covers the trees and mountains as a result of ice crystals forming from moisture in the air. It paints the landscape white and creates a dreamy winter wonderland. Even if you are novice to photography gorgeous winter photos are guaranteed, that will btw make your friends at home super jealous wishing they traveled instead of sitting on their couch.
Our next stop was Dunhau City where we visited the beautiful Liu Ding Shan Temple and watched the sun set over the snowy landscape. Liu Ding Shan has one of the largest sitting buddha's in China and the temple itself is intricately detailed. And if you want to make a wish, just buy a red silk ribbon and tie it to the temple's railing.
We traveled further into Jilin province to visit Laolike Lake, a very popular winter destination with Chinese tourists. Laolike Lake is the place where one can experience the tranquility of nature blanketed in snow. Upon arrival you can grab breakfast or a hot refreshment in the cafeteria before heading out for a 4 mile roundtrip walk in the snow. Wearing the proper shoes and winter clothing is very important as you'll be walking/playing in sometimes knee deep snow.
The 2mile trek to the lake winds through a snow covered forest with some stops along the way like a post office log cabin or a yurt turned into gift shop. For those not feeling up to the exercise, they can opt for a horse pulled sled from about halfway through the path.
Along the way you will meet mostly Chinese or Korean tourists who are actually very sweet. If you have green or blue eyes like me, prepare yourself for some selfies. I was asked at least 10 times to take a selfie with people :D And that is how I got this lovely photo of a Chinese lady who's winter outfit was absolutely stunning. She was dressed in layers decorated with traditional Chinese patterns and believe it or not she was super excited to pose for me.
At the end of your 2mile hike through the forest, you are rewarded with the beauty of the frozen Laolike Lake.
Before returning to Chanchun city, our last stop was Fushong Lushuihe Resort. This peaceful resort is in the Fushong Lushuihe National Forest Park. It's a tranquil setting nestled between the woods allows you to relax and enjoy the outdoors. The resort offers 2-3 log bedroom cabins and fantastic Chinese cooking.There are also fun activities for both winter and summer, one of which I was super excited to try. It was winter rafting on the ice-cold river. The resort also has gorgeous parks you can stroll with Chinese pagodas and koi-ponds.
In our last morning in Fusong, I woke up early and took a sunrise stroll to find this gorgeous pagoda floating on the lake in golden mist. It's one of my favorite moments from the trip. It felt like I was in a magical winter dream and it was the perfect ending to an unexpected and truly special visit to China.
Check out the short video from my new YouTube channel. Enjoy!