- Weishui scenic spot
Original title: Taking the road less traveled
Weishui National Forest Park
Hubei now has dozens of auto camping sites and is looking to set upmore as it strives to become a leader in this field
Xiong Shaoqing, 72, drove four hours from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, to the Weishui scenic spot in Songzi city late October.
Xiong and his wife wanted to get a taste of the thrills at the third China Auto Camping Assembly in Weishui over Oct 21-26.
The event, initiated by the China Automobile and Motorcycling Sports Administrative Center affiliated to the General Administration of Sport, aims to boost the integration of sports, leisure and camping.
Xiong was impressed by the camping site, China's first five-star auto camping facility accredited by the state automobile and motorcycling center.
"It's totally different here compared with when I visited several years ago," says Xiong.
"The scenic spot now has water and electricity for self-drivers."
The camping site, which is based on a forest theme, can accommodate 8,000 people.
Taking the road less traveled
It offers bathing, laundry and toilet facilities. Visitors can take in the 10-kilometer Weishui Dam, believed to be the longest one in Asia, and more than 500 islands in the Weishui reservoir.
You can go camping, fishing, play cage football or enjoy real-life role-playing with the video game Counter Strike. You can also choose to read while sipping coffee or tea if you wish.
The couple watched a cross-country motorcycle race, a live performance, a rock music carnival and caravan exhibitions in the vast natural environment.
Xiong and his wife spent roughly 300,000 yuan on a caravan three years ago. "This was because we found it hard to keep up with the pace of things on trips arranged by travel agencies," says Xiong.
The caravan enables them to take road trips near and far whenever they fancy. "We usually drive to one or two places off the beaten track every week," says Xiong.
"Getting in touch with nature also feels great and we find we are always in a great mood after a road trip."
Xiong has been to 11 camping sites across Hubei and is looking forward to new ones as the province strives to become a leader in auto camping site development in the country.
"We will develop a series of auto camping sites featuring mountain, lake, valley, forest and rural backgrounds in the near future," says Liu Jungang, general manager of the Eco-cultural Tourism Investment Co (ECOTIC), a state-owned company in Hubei province.
ECOTIC was a major force behind the five-star camping site in Weishui. It now owns 30 tourist attractions across the province.
Camping sites are expected to be built in the province's major tourism hot spots, including Shennongjia, Wudang and Jiugong mountains, the Chaibuxi Grand Canyon and the Zhanghe Reservoir.
"All (the sites) will take advantage of local elements," says Liu. Leisure, skiing, marathons and hot-air balloon experiences will be added to spice up self-drive experiences. In addition, a card will be issued to visitors to allow them to visit all the camping sites in the province, says Liu.
An ideal location and abundant natural resources have made Hubei's Weishui an ideal place for auto camping. The Weishui scenic spot sits at the center of the golden tourism triangle of Yangtze River's Three Gorges, the Jingzhou ancient city and Hunan's Zhangjiajie. It features lush forests, wetlands, dam, reservoir and islands.
"So, hosting the auto camping meeting here offered diverse experiences to the participants," says Shi Ping, deputy secretary-general of the assembly's organizing committee.
Meanwhile, the authorities hope that camping development in Weishui can gradually expand to the whole Yangtze River Delta region. As of now, eight routes from the Weishui scenic spot have been developed for self-drive enthusiasts to enjoy the local culture, history, natural scenery and hot springs.
The routes all lead to well-known scenic spots within one to three hours by road from Weishui, such as the Jingzhou ancient city and the Suizhou Dahong Mountain and Jiugong Mountain scenic spots.
So far, Xiong and his wife been to pretty much every major camping site in Hubei. They have also trekked a lot with friends from local self-drive clubs.
"It's very interesting to be on the road with friends," says Xiong, who hopes to drive from his home to the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region soon. He also hopes that more camping sites along the way will make things easier for him to take a break whenever he wants.
"It (the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region) is one of the few places I have not been to, and I am really looking forward to it."
Self-drive routes from Weishui scenic spots:
1. Weishui scenic spot-Jiangnan highway-Jingdong highway's exit at Buhe town-G207-Yaojin road-Beizha scenic spot:The route runs 117 kilometers and is two hours by road. Beizha offers a treat for fans of Red tourism and water conservation.
2. Weishui scenic spot-Jingzhou-S225-Hebingyan road-Yueyi highway-G318-Changyang road-Qingjiang gallery scenic spot:The route runs 150 kilometers and takes roughly three hours by road. Visitors can enjoy views of a mountain, a river and a lake.
3. Weishui scenic spot-Yueyi highway-Jingdong highway-Huyu highway-Suiyue highway (S49)-Mazhu highway (S28)-Dahong Mountain scenic spot:The route runs 350 kilometers and takes about four hours by road. It offers a taste of Buddhist culture.
4. Weishui scenic spot-Jiugong Mountain scenic spot:The route runs 402 kilometers and takes roughly six hours by road. Jiugong-shan offers a perfect view of the night sky.
5. Weishui scenic spot-Yangzhi road-Zhichanghe town-Wangyangxian-Jiangnan highway-Jingzhou ancient town:The route runs 85 kilometers and is two hours by road. Visitors can enjoy shows on the Three Kingdoms period (AD 220-280) at Jingzhou that has a history of more than 2,000 years. The ancient city also has a well-preserved ancient wall.
6. Weishui scenic spot-Yueyi highway-Shihua highway-Hangrui highway-Suiyue highway's Bailuo exit-S103-Yuexi peninsula hot spring resort:The route runs 300 kilometers and takes about five hours by road.
7. Weishui scenic spot-Yueyi highway-Erguang highway-Jingyingxian-Horse and chariot array of the Chu State:The whole route runs 162 kilometers and is three hours by road.
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