By Yulia Bakhtina (Russia)
“We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.” Pico Iyer
I waited impatiently for this trip, although did not know for sure the list of participants and route details. But all factors had formed so well, that I never regretted the decision to take part in this expedition. A lot of photos, smiles and jokes will remain in my memory. I accumulated positive emotions for years to come.
We started our journey on Friday, 7 November, by bus tour from Changsha to Chenzhou. Although it was a long drive (about 6 hours), but we did not waste time. It was a great opportunity to get to know each other. Altogether five foreigners have participated in expedition tour, accompanied by special team from Hunan Official Web Portal (www.enghunan.gov.cn).
The first day we arrived late, but still managed to enjoy the famous hot springs in Rucheng (汝城). Rucheng hot spring is famous as “the first hot spring in south China” which is a natural hot spring with the highest temperature, largest water flow, best water quality and widest hot land area. Its normal water temperature is about 91.5℃, while the highest level can be 98℃. This transparent, low mineralization, low hardness hot spring water is really healthy for people. The impression of bathing in hot springs late at night in the rain was exhilarating. The next day I felt rested and full of energy.
On the morning of the second day we took part in the opening ceremony of the Chenzhou International (Hot Spring) Leisure Tourism Festival 2014. Many guests enjoyed colorful performances on stage, while we enthusiastically started to do photography. We managed to stand on a par with professional photographers and make several successful shots.
After lunch we moved to Jiulongjiang National Forest Park (九龙江国家森林公园). It is incredibly green and full of life place! The forest coverage is over 97.4%. We enjoyed the spectacular view of mountain waterfalls and winding path above the river. Along the way we were amazed by unusual plants and stones. That place has extraordinary fresh air, which you can’t breathe enough. I wanted to put a little bit in a special tank and take home with me. But, unfortunately, you may carry only memories and photos.
Next day was full of events. First we visited Yiliu Hot spring Town（一六温泉小镇）. It’s a unique place, carefully preserved by local people, who are members of one big Zhong family. The central part of the town is devoted to the ancestral temple and hot springs at its base. Local people are very respectful of their own history and heritage of their ancestors. Keeping the tradition, they grow specific species of fish in the thermal waters. People are hard-working, friendly. Local children were confused by our persistent attempts to photograph them, diligently covering their faces from our cameras.
In the afternoon we got to Mangshan Mountain（莽山）. Mangshan National Forest Park has the most intact subtropical primeval secondary forest and evergreen broad-leave forest in the world. They discovered a lot of rare species of animals there, which are under first-class state protection.
The day was foggy, and when we arrived to the top of the mountain, the fog began to thicken stronger with each passing minute. Indescribable feeling, like you are in a fairytale. And if you jump up, you would be able to soar among the clouds.
On the same day we had another hot springs experience. Living in Mangshan Forest Hot Spring Hotel, we plunged into thermal water pools, which are the most comfortable for people that want to spend long time bathing. With each passing day my skin became softer and softer!
The fourth day we also spent in Mt. Mangshan. Tourist guide told the story of the park’s creation and its features in great details. It was rainy and foggy day, but still we enjoyed climbing to the top of the hill to see an old Buddhist monastery. I experienced an extraordinary spiritual elevation. The evening again was dedicated to hot springs, but in a new place. Because we had one hour of bathing, we talked a lot, sang songs, and spent pleasant time together. The foremost benefits of hot springs bathing are that they warm the body and impart physical and mental relaxation. But for me it was a place where we warmed our hearts and formed a friendly relationship.
The last day we moved to Dongjiang Lake（东江湖）. It was the last spot, but so many different places to visit. We started from Stone Museum, which evoked nostalgia for home. My region is also very rich in precious and semiprecious stones, but that museum was able to surprise even me. Some stones were unique in shape and size. We continued the trip to the lake, admiring the purity and unusual color of water sitting in the bus. Incredibly beautiful color of the water did not leave me indifferent, I wanted to go for a swim and drink it. When we moved to another area of the lake, it changed its color to a milky blue. The hills covered by fog, waterfalls, precipitously falling from the misty heights, plunging into the mysterious depths of the lake, - the description of most beautiful place in China that I have ever seen.
This trip left a lasting impression. 5 days filled with pleasant discoveries, turbulent emotions and friendly atmosphere. New thoughts, new people, new horizons. New experiences which will help us become better.
Our Earth raised a lot of human communities with their cultures, traditions, worldview and way of life. Looking in different cultures is a chance to get to know yourself. Plunging into the different traditions helps to appreciate the uniqueness of your own life pattern. Getting acquainted with the different fates you can suddenly realize that we are all - one big family, despite the fact that we live in different countries, on different continents and speak different languages.