Daytripper is a regular column that aims to help people get the most out of their PRD experience by proposing fun excursions that can be made in a single day to explore the local culture and nature of the region.
Let’s face it. Staying dry in Guangzhou in midsummer is no easy task. Between the soup-like, humid air and the ever-threatening typhoon rains, even leaving the apartment can seem like an invitation to get drenched. With wetness an all-but-guaranteed component of daily life in July, we at That’s contend that the best solution is to simply get it over with and jump in a lake.
Just a short 20-minute saunter from the semi-industrial sprawl of Baiyun District’s truck-choked highway-scape lies a 400-square-meter sheet of clear, cool water surrounded by looming cliff faces and fragrant eucalyptus groves.
Part of what makes a visit to this luscious reservoir so appealing is that, despite its incredible accessibility from the city center, it remains a little hard to find. The inglorious trailhead begins near a dusty driving school off the northbound lane of the Guangcong Highway. As the unmarked, garbage-strewn path works its way east into the sharply rising hills of the Baiyun Mountain Primeval Forest Park, you’ll pass such scenic natural splendors as a hydrocarbon gas depot and a delivery logistics sorting facility.
As potholed paving gives way to gravel, then to mud, you’ll come upon the Dashantang Reservoir, a key landmark to let you know you’re on the right track. The fenced-in, dammed-up lake is pretty, but the true treasures are still to come. Keeping the reservoir on your right, follow the path as it curves south, and as you come upon a crumbling farmhouse, turn sharply left down a disused driveway.
The body of water that comes into view as you crest the next sharp rise is one of the cleanest we have ever seen on the Chinese mainland – the greens of the swaying trees and the blues of the summer sky all reflect on its pristine surface.
A narrow line of roughhewn steps hugs the nearest cliff, carrying you down to a muddy bank with a tiny crude shack erected for changing. No ticket-takers. No souvenir hawkers. No nosy bao’an. Just pure, unharried outdoor bliss.
The lake-bottom plunges sharply to a depth of more than 3 meters, offering endless opportunity for extravagant dives from the temptingly climbable cliffs. Daredevil visitors might try their hand at some deep-water solo, though we obviously encourage readers to test the depth themselves before trying anything too risky.
For more peaceful fun, swim across to the south bank, where large boulders rise high enough to sit upon in silent quietude. Be still long enough and tiny ‘doctor fish’ will soon surround you to nibble on your dead skin and any remaining city filth. Because the only thing better than a great summer swimming hole is a free spa treatment to go with it.
How to get there:
From Exit B2 at Metro Line 3’s Yongtai Station, take the 833 bus seven stops north to Dongping Lukou. Then walk 20 minutes east into the hills. (Reservoir coordinates: 23°14'57.7"N 113°20'02.3"E)
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[Photos by Matthew Bossons, Daniel Plafker]