Beautiful Ganzhou, Jiangxi Province

Culture | by Amber Mizerak
Posted: March 2nd, 2012 | Updated: September 6th, 2012 | Comments
China travel_Chinese cities_China travel destinations hard at work China is a gargantuan nation where even the smallest municipalities can have larger populations than many a European or American city. With so much space to cover and so many stories to tell, it's all too easy to just focus on the next big adventure and trying to discover the "real China," but sometimes the real China is what's right in front of you, down the alley where you might head out to buy water and toilet paper every other day, and not on that 12-hour hard seat trip through the jungles of Guangxi. In City Watch we strive to uncover some of these little-known cities with a lot to offer, if only you know where to look. >>

Been in Shanghai too long? Ready for a weekend away? I've got the perfect place for you. Beautiful Ganzhou (Gànzhōu, 赣州), Jiangxi Province. Have you ever heard of it? That's okay, no one else has either. I learned that the hard way the first time I traveled outside of the city. More on Ganzhou after the jump....

Where is Ganzhou?

River in Ganzhou Surrounded by mountains and rivers, Ganzhou is a small city (by Chinese standards) in the south of one of the poorest provinces in China, Jiangxi. As you may know, rivers are a big deal in China and Ganzhou sits where the Gòng Shuǐ (贡水) and Zhāng Shuǐ (章水) come together to form the Gàn Jiāng (赣江). This strategic location has been used as a port connecting southern and central China since way back in the day. The province itself is west of Fujian, north of Guangdong, east of Hunan, southeast of Hubei, south of Anhui, and southwest of Zhejiang. You probably have never thought twice about this place, but 8,969,900 people call this city and the surrounding counties home. With that many people it is still a three-KFC-and-no-McDonald's type of town.

Why I'm an expert on all things Ganzhou...

I picked up and moved to this town in the middle of China for the hell of it. And I ended up staying there for two years. Now that I look back on it, I am not sure how I did it, but I did and loved it. Now I'd like to encourage you to head there for an adventure.

Why go to Ganzhou?

bridge that floats I've met plenty of people who have lived in Shanghai for years and haven't ventured very far outside of the city. If you are one of these people, my advice to you is to buy a seat on the next flight to Ganzhou. Tickets can be found as low as RMB 200 each way on Ctrip English and they take you directly to the Ganzhou International Airport (which is definitely not international). Oh, semantics. Once you are there you can hop on the bus that takes you into town or grab a taxi. A few of the many reasons to go... Ganzhou is home to the Guinness Book of World Record's largest mechanical clock, the Harmony Clock Tower (Héxié Zhōng Tǎ, 和谐钟塔). The clock definitely stands out, as it is currently in the middle of a rice paddy. Built in 2010 by the family-owned British company Smith of Derby, the clock tower is a symbol of time and how not to waste it (precisely what I perfected after two years in Ganzhou). Do you like kumquats? Do you even know what they are? Because I didn't. They are a lot like oranges, and Ganzhou is famous for them. The best part of kumquats isn't eating them, it's picking them. With a bucket and a pair of clippers in hand, you hike up the terraced hills to enjoy the fruit of your labor. It's a town worth exploring—the city wall along the river makes for a nice stroll. You'll pass Ganzhou's two floating bridges which are worth a look, but on the way keep your eyes peeled for a very dangerous rope bridge that leads to a deserted island. This took recruiting two friends to move to Ganzhou and a year to discover, but if you're lucky, you'll pay the RMB 6 to cross the bridge and explore this weird place inhabited by horses, goats, abandoned go-karts, a shoddy playground and a few huts. It's eerily entertaining. Amusement park rides Last but not least, my favorite place in Ganzhou is Bao Hu Lu Farm (Bǎo Húlu, 宝葫芦), an old amusement park. It's basically the greatest place on earth and it's impossible to see it all in a day. It may be the only place in the world where you can find rickety old rides like the one my friends and I named "the Tooth Chipper." Dangerous? Oh yes. But so much fun. It spins in a circular motion while abruptly jolting its passengers who are hanging on for dear life. And where else can you strap into a harness, have an old Chinese woman yell something at you in local dialect, blow a whistle, and then shove you off a platform ziplining across a lake? Pure thrills, I tell you, especially once you've gained momentum and realize the only way to stop is by slamming into a dirty gray mattress. That is, of course, unless the guy at the other end catches you in the nick of time. Aw, the memories. This leads to me to....

Where to stay in Ganzhou?

There is a hotel... wait for it... in the amusement park! I don't know about you, but the idea of grabbing a few friends and a few Sedrins and having the entire amusement park to yourself after hours appeals to me greatly. With sights like the mini Great Wall and the mini Giant Buddha and the Magical Sliding Machine where can you go wrong? There is also a 5-star hotel in Ganzhou called the Jin Jiang Hotel, which is enormous. I'm not sure who stays there generally, but it is lovely and has western food, an indoor pool and CNN. There are plenty of other hotels in Ganzhou for you to choose from if this is too extreme on the comfort-spectrum.

When to go?

There is really no bad time to go to Ganzhou. It is second only to Ningbo on my top places to see in China. Kidding, but really, venture there and report back to us at China Travel, ASAP. We want to hear your stories.

Other places of interest

While Ganzhou itself is not necessarily famous, many spots in Jiangxi are worth mentioning. Ruijin (Ruìjīn, 瑞金), referred to as the "Former Red Capital" is a neighboring town of Ganzhou and is where the Chinese Soviet Republic was formed in 1931. The Long March to Yan'an began in Jiangxi and was led by Mao Zedong, thus beginning his climb to power. Wuyuan (Wùyuán, 婺源) is a lovely little collection of villages in the northeast of Jiangxi. Plenty of Chinese tourists on megaphones are traipsing through the area, but it is easy to get away and feel like you and the water buffalo are the only living creatures in the area. Longnan (Lǒngnán 陇南) is to the south and is full of Hakka houses. I spent Christmas there one year and enjoyed every minute of it. Lushan (Lùshān, 安禄山) is a mountain in the north of Jiangxi near the largest fresh water lake in China, Poyang Lake (Póyáng Hú, 鄱阳湖). Nanchang is the provincial capital and is not worth visiting. Pass right by. Also, you've heard of China before—you know, not the country, but the fancy stuff you eat off of. Visit Jingdezhen to see where it's all made. As always, happy travels!

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