Sunday, Oct. 19, 2008

Mount Putu

During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, religion was a no-no. Today, if members of Shanghai's growing Buddhist population want a respite from the city's turbo-charged pace, they head to Mount Putuo, a mist-swathed island that's a four-hour bus-and-boat ride from Shanghai. One of the four holy mountains of Chinese Buddhism, Mount Putuo boasts monasteries and nunneries galore, as well as temple restaurants with tasty vegetarian fare. There's not much to do except wander the temples and find your inner peace — if the battalions of domestic tourists don't distract you. If worldly discomfort does intrude in the form of tired feet, you can always take the cable car up to Huiji, one of island's most famous monasteries.


Sometimes you want China to look like it does in ancient ink paintings, a place of arched bridges, narrow lanes and sun-dappled pavilions. Nanxun, one of dozens of canal towns just a couple hours' drive from Shanghai, allows you to indulge in an imagined China, without the hordes of tourists that plague other Yangtze Delta villages. Hire a boat for around 100 yuan and drift past 18th- and 19th-century villas built by silk and salt merchants. Many incorporate European design elements that hint at the global reach of these Qing-dynasty entrepreneurs before communism severed their trade ties. You can hire a car and driver or even a taxi in Shanghai to take you here.

Fuchun Resort

Shanghai may be on the sea, but when rich locals want to really unwind, they head three hours inland. A five-star retreat for the city's captains of industry, the Fuchun Resort is nestled in a tea plantation on the outskirts of Hangzhou, one of China's ancient capitals. There's golf, there's tai chi, there's Himalayan yoga. Best of all, there's quiet, the one commodity missing in Shanghai. Rooms start at $400 per night. Get here by train or hire a car and driver in Shanghai.