Head to cooler retreats to beat the scorching heat

Shanghai Daily takes a look at four places just outside Hangzhou where you can chill. These places offer a respite from urban pressures and scorching heat.

It is shaping up as one of the hottest weeks of the year in Hangzhou with temperatures hovering around 39 degrees Celsius. But the heat is also a good reason to look for retreats that offer cooler environment and fresher air.

Shanghai Daily takes a look at four places just outside Hangzhou where you can chill. Just a few hours' drive from downtown, these places offer a respite from urban pressures and scorching heat.

Yuhuang Hill


Yuhuang Hill is popular with hikers although it rarely feels crowded. It used to host a Taoist abbey enshrining the Jade Emperor, the highest god in heaven, according to Taoist beliefs. Therefore, people named the hill Yuhuang, which literally means Jade Emperor in Chinese.

The hill stands between West Lake and the Qiantang River, giving visitors splendid views of both waterways. Its serene creeks with several interesting spots charm the visitors.Zilai Cave is one of the coolest places in Hangzhou during summer. Compared with the high temperatures in the urban areas, it is usually 20 degrees Celsius at the entrance of the cave. Temperatures in the innermost area of the cave drop to 10 degrees — so don’t forget to get a coat.

The cave is not a natural cave but was created during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) by priests from a nearby Taoist temple as a summer retreat for meditation.From the cave, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of the eight-trigram field, planted with vivid, different-colored crops and surrounded by a moat. In traditional Chinese culture a group of eight symbols — known as bagua or trigrams — are seen as representing the fundamental elements of everything in the universe.

Ti Gong

Shuangxi River 


Many Hangzhou residents seek leisure activities that offer respite from high temperatures. But the scorching weather hasn’t dampened people’s enthusiasm for heading outdoors, especially in cooler watercourses.

Rafting down Shuangxi River is popular among locals. Its pastoral landscape and idyllic villages attract streams of visitors from Hangzhou and other cities.The rafts are made of bamboo and open without compartments, so passengers who stand or sit on bamboo chairs can enjoy sweeping views of the landscape.

The river runs through Shuangxi Bamboo Forest. Bamboo on either side and tea plantations bring down the temperature and ensure a peaceful retreat.

The river ripples, while its sides are flanked with hills, lush vegetation and villages. The tranquil environment, bluish-green water and passing clouds give us a feeling of a Chinese ink-wash painting.

Professionals take care of the steering, so safety is guaranteed. The trip lasts around an hour. For adventurers, they can take a canoe along a narrow, swift and winding stretch that extends 2,500 meters and features five barrages, two of them around 3 meters high. Everyone gets drenched. The trip usually takes half an hour.

Sipailou Air-raid Shelter 


From 8:30am to 9pm, residents around Sipailuo neighborhood flock to the subterranean refuge for cooler environment. Many senior citizens bring their grandchildren with them.The shelters have televisions and free drinking water. Ventilation system has been upgraded for people cooling off in the shelters, which offer benches, chairs and water.

Originally built as shelters for wartime, they were later transformed into air-raid shelters before being converted to their current peaceful use. They are open every day until August 31.

Hangzhou began to open air-raid shelters to the public in the summer of 2003. To date, millions of people have used the shelters in summer.

Gaoting Hill 


When the waterfront and the surrounding areas of West Lake are packed with tourists, Gaoting Hill remains a quaint paradise for farmers who live a relaxed life among temples and a naturally tranquil environment.

The mountain is situated in the northeast of Hangzhou and is known for its peach blossoms for centuries. Here, the air is clean and fresh, making it a real joy to take a deep breath while listening to tweeting birds. Relax in the garden, enjoy freshly prepared tea and burn some incense in the centuries-old temple.

Throughout history, the mountain’s picturesque scenery drew poets and writers here, including Su Shi, Bai Juyi, Lu You and contemporary author Yu Dafu.The mountain was also the first frontline when Hangzhou was under attack from enemies. Today, military relics here remind people of the turbulent past.

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