An Introduction to Moganshan

It feels like our weekend away in Moganshan was ages ago, especially since the weather has warmed up so much since then. I’ve honestly never been that cold before, and definitely don’t have the correct clothes for sub-zero temperatures. You can’t really blame me being from Cape Town, where people freak out if it’s less than 15 degrees. I was literally wearing two pairs of socks, two vests, a long-sleeved t-shirt, jersey, body warmer, jacket, gloves and a beanie, two pairs of leggings, jeans, boots, and I was still cold.

Moganshan is located in Deqing, a county of the Zhejiang Province, 200km West of Shanghai. As it’s a lot cooler there during the summer months, it’s a very popular getaway for people living in the city, who either stay in the local inns, guesthouses or villas that were built in the early 20th century. The first people to settle in this area were missionaries, who went there in the hotter season to escape the unbearable heat and disease that summer brought to Shanghai. It then became a playground for the elite, firstly foreigners, then gangsters and prominent politicians. Whilst researching the history of Moganshan, I also read a story about one of these gangsters, who ran the Shanghai opium trade, that kept pet tigers at his villa and apparently fed one of his mistresses to them. Super.

The area luckily managed to escape being completely decimated during the Japanese invasion during the 1930’s but the Communists rolled in, kicked everyone out and took over all the villas for themselves. It has taken a very long time to get the mountain back to its former glory, but things are happening there. It’s absolutely beautiful, considered to be one of the China’s top resort locations, with scenic hiking trails, bamboo forests and tea plantations.

There’s a book I want to read called “China Cuckoo” written by British journalist Mark Kitto, who was the first foreigner to return to the mountain in the mid-2000’s, where he and his wife converted a few of the old villas into guesthouses. He’s documented a lot of history about the area in his book, which should be an interesting read.

We were lucky enough to stay on a new resort that’s currently under construction – naked Castle. We have stayed at their other resort, Stables, which is close-by, but Castle is a project which includes restoring the original castle of Moganshan. Our weekend included a walk up the mountain and on to the site of the castle, as well as climbing up to the roof, overlooking the forest and lake. It was absolutely magnificent and I’m really looking forward to hopefully visiting again when it’s all completed.

The snow was also really incredible, albeit overwhelming! We’ve never experienced snow like that, besides seeing it on the highest mountain-tops in Cape Town during winter. I definitely need to spend a bit more time in conditions like that to get used to it, after realizing that it’s a lot trickier to navigate than one imagines. Suppose that’s indicative of my time in China so far. It gets easier with practice.

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