For many youngsters, China would rarely be included in the list of travel destinations when planning for the next holiday. So, when I was tasked to go on Tigerair‘s inaugural flight to Zhengzhou, I was clueless on what to expect.
Having been to both Shanghai and Beijing, two of the most vibrant and thriving cities in China, I was rather doubtful that Zhengzhou would be exciting — especially when I couldn’t find much information on the internet about it.
Boy, was I proven wrong. The trip turned out to be unexpectedly amazing! I’m a little sheepish to say, it’s even better than the two popular cities of Shanghai and Beijing people would rather choose over when going to China.
Zhengzhou is the gateway to some of the most well-hidden treasures in China, its proximity is very close to a few other nearby cities and capitals, including Kaifeng and Luoyang, which we had the privilege to visit too during our six days long trip.
So buckle up, you’re about to have a glimpse of the top six reasons why Zhengzhou is for everyone, from the adventurous to sporty, history buffs to aficionados of Shaolin kungfu, and the gusty daredevils.
6. Picturesque painting-like valleys & natural landscapes
Holding the title of ‘World Geologic Park’ from UNESCO, Yuntai Mountain is situated near Jiaozuo City, Henan Province, which boast a total of 11 scenic spots to discover — of which we uncovered two within a day. Something you’d definitely not expect to find when visiting a urban city.
True to its name, the Red Stone Valley has huge, towering stones that flaunt deep reddish-brown hue, which contrast beautifully against the glistening, jade blue water.
Taking a hike in the valley is almost like wandering through a Chinese painting, undoubtedly pretty and breathtaking. While it takes about two hours to complete the full hike, it is definitely worth every drop of sweat and aching muscles.
We walked atop a couple of waterfalls, observing people making pit stops to refresh themselves with the natural spring waters from the streams and pools. Albeit exhausting, it was truly an eye-opening experience for a city girl.
If scaling up and down a valley is too much of a feat, perhaps you could consider giving Tanpu Valley a go. It reminded me of Singapore’s Little Guilin at Bukit Batok. Needless to say, this is a hundred times more enchanting.
The mountains and the golden sun rays form the backdrop, making it all the more alluring. You could choose to take a short hike up to enjoy the fresh, cool breeze as you soak your feet in the pool, or hop onto one of these wooden rafts and row away.
5. Walk on a glass bridge 3,500ft high up in the sky
Opened in October 2015, the U-shaped sky glass bridge around the ridges is the latest attraction in Yuntai Mountain, with expansion in works just opposite the current one.
Petrified as I was, the sights of the amazing canyon soon took away my fear of heights.
From clinging to the sides of the mountain edges, I was soon walking and sitting on the glass bridge to get a perfect bird’s-eye view of the panoramic scenery – the glass flooring allows a clear view down and gives perspective on how high we actually were. I didn’t want to leave!
4. Visit 包青天 Bao Qing Tian’s temple
The reputation of judge Lord Bao, aka Bao Qing Tian (包青天), travels far and wide; even us Singaporeans have heard stories and seen TV shows of this righteous official from the Northern Song Dynasty.
Reconstructed on the original site of the Lord Bao Temple that was destroyed by a flood from the Yellow River, the people of Kaifeng built several halls along the west bank of the Lord Bao Lake to commemorate and remember his contributions.
Unlike what the media portrayed, Lord Bao isn’t tall or has an intimidating physique, and most surprisingly did not wear a charcoal black face.
Amongst the artefacts retrieved from his tomb and hometown, this picture above is an original portrait from the Qing Dynasty of what Lord Bao really looked like. Fun fact: Did you know, he stands only at 162cm tall?
And if you’re into the Three Kingdoms period, herein rests the head of the famous general Guan Yu, where many devotees come to Guanlin Temple in Luoyang to worship him. It’s where the chapters in the Romance of the Three Kingdom book come alive.
3. Take a hovercraft tour down the Yellow River
Overlooking the Yellow River are the majestic stone figures of Yandi and Huangdi (former emperors of China). You can take a trip down the yellow river in a hovercraft to explore life along the river banks.
A herd of cows were seen lazing on an island in the middle of the river, locals from the nearby village were earning fast bucks by renting out ATVs, and a short horseback ride for 10RMB (approximately S$2).
While the activities were not anything noteworthy, it was quite nice to finally be able see the famed Yellow River right before my eyes.
2. Enjoy acrobatic Shaolin Kungfu performances
Located near the base of Songshan Mountain, you can get up-close and personal with Shaolin monks that reside in the premises of the temple.
Greeted by a row of odd-looking trees, many would assume that these holes in the trunks are made by insects or some sort of tree disease. Interestingly, they are puncture marks made by the fingers of the Shaolin monks when practicing their one-fingered strikes. Fear the man who practices a thousand of the same punches!
The monks put up a show for visitors – I was immensely impressed by the performance, which showcases the flexibility, strength and determination these Shaolin monks have perfected in their martial arts and zen meditation.
The Shaolin Zen Music Ritual is not to be missed! Set in the valley between two mountains, I was totally blown away by the extensive light systems and complex stage settings, which blend both nature and manmade choreography harmoniously together.
1. Unique Local Chinese Dishes & Delicacies
And of course in any overseas country, the wide array of unique foods are not to be missed.
Carp on Noodles is a fish dish created in the 1930s by a famous chef in Kaifeng, which tastes like the sweet and sour fish we have in Singapore.
It is blanketed in a layer of fried thin noodles that soaked up the gravy really well, loaded with protein and carbs, this clever creation could be eaten as a meal on it own.
灌汤包子 (soup steamed stuffed bun) is Kaifeng, Henan’s version of xiao long bao. It is larger in size, and has eight different varieties of fillings, from mushroom, mutton meat to vegetarian.
Don’t be disappointed as the skin is meant to be thicker with less broth than a regular xiao long bao that we’re all too familiar with.
Another speciality dish of Kaifeng, the Mashed Sweet Potato is made of sweet potato, sugar, honey and peanut or sesame oil, which tastes like Teochew yam paste. It’s sprinkled on with rainbow rice to make it a little more festive and colourful.
A little taste of Luoyang’s famous Water Banquet (水席), which essentially consists of a total of 19 cold and hot soup, broth-based dishes.
The one pictured above was piquant in taste, slightly sour like Tom Yam, and spiciness from the black pepper that packs a punch.
There’s really too many dishes you have to try in Zhengzhou!
Tigerair is offering direct flights to Zhengzhou from Singapore with promotional one-way prices starting from $188++; Flights to Zhengzhou will operate 3 times weekly and shows Tigerair’s commitment to expanding travel options between Singapore and China.
Take this opportunity to explore the city while it is not yet swarmed with tourists. Because the ratio of locals to tourist is almost 6:1, the locals are relatively friendlier as compared to that of Shanghai and Beijing, who are more more cutthroat.
Curious locals will even try to make small talks just to find out where you’re from, which reminded me a little of when I was in Taiwan. The life there is slightly laid-back, less cluttered and easier to move around without being bumped into.
Are you convinced now?