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Chongming ramps up for tourists

A scenic island with fresh air and charming countryside, Chongming County has a lot to offer visitors who want to get away from hectic downtown Shanghai.

Getting there is easy with the Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge.

In addition to its famous bird-watching sites and nature preserve, Chongming offers folk culture, delicious food, places to bike and ramble and farmhouses for spending the night.

It has expanded tourist facilities, planning resorts and generally ramping up for a surge of World Expo and other visitors.

Although the Dongtan eco-city planned for 2010 has been stalled, there are many environmentally friendly activities, eco-villages and organic farming.

Expo farmhouse sightseeing is a new attraction specially for the World Expo. It integrates accommodation, dining and entertainment.

By the end of this month, Mingzhu Lake Clubhouse will become a hub for a collection of farmhouses that have been renovated with modern amenities to accommodate Expo visitors.

The Dongtan Bird Science and Education base offers a place for bird watchers not only to get out their binoculars and explore, but also to learn about the many migrating birds that stop offers.

When the Changjiang Tunnel-Bridge opened on October 31 last year, there was a surge of tour groups seeking low-price short trips. Now many people want to drive themselves, seeking pleasant getaways, good accommodation and authentic countryside kitchen cooking.

"More than 80 percent of visitors drive their own cars to the island, leading to heavy traffic at some hot scenic spots and around some parking lots," says Shen Yongping, director of the Chongming County Tourism Bureau.

In the next phase, electric vehicles will be offered for rent and bicycling will be encouraged.

"We will have stricter management and better organization at tourist locations," Shen says.

The May Day holiday saw a surge in visitors.

The most popular scenic spots included Xisha Wetland, Dongping National Forest Park and Dongtan Bird Nature Reserve. Each of them received more than 400,000 visitors during the holiday.

Visitors from April 30 to May 4 increased by almost 600 percent over the same time last year before the tunnel-bridge opened.

The tourism revenue during that period reached 5.23 million yuan (US$765,860), an increase of 300 percent compared with the same period in 2009.

The county's hotels and restaurants received 20,290 tourists, generating revenue of 5.16 million yuan.

The local government is making efforts to open more restaurants and hotels around scenic spots.

Dining in farmhouses is the most popular experience.

Famous for authentic country cooking, Qianwei Village and Yingdong Village are magnets for hungry tourists.

"Festivals, cultural activities and sports during the holiday contributed greatly to the diversity of tourism," says Shen.

Barbecue and camping at Dongping Forest Park, art shows, intangible cultural heritage exhibitions and fishing contests drew visitors for several days more.

As bikes are easy to rent, cycling is popular. Over May Day week, 1,020 bicycles were rented out, mostly by office workers, students and expats.

The best hotels in Chongming are rated three stars, so the government plans to build top-quality resorts, dining and entertainment facilities.

Parking is being expanded at Dongtan and Xisha wetland area, the two most popular sites.

Sanitation and hygiene are being strengthened in dining places.

Around 380 million yuan has been invested by the government to improve tourism infrastructure. Most projects were completed by the May Day holiday, doubling its tourist capacity.

Through these projects, dining seats increased by 10,000, beds by 1,500, buses by 550, parking spaces by 2,000 and public toilets by 20.

Chongming now can host 50,000 to 80,000 visitors daily, compared with 20,000 to 30,000 before the upgrade.

"As the tourism market is shifting from sightseeing to holiday-making, Chongming is trying to meet tourists' high expectations," says Shen. "As one of top tourist destinations for Shanghai residents, the eco-island will never fail you."

Recommended venues

Nanmen Tourism Distribution Service Center

Covering 23,106 square meters, it's the biggest on Chongming Island and integrates dining, shopping and parking.

The 2,500-square-meter dining area can seat more than 600 tourists at a time to enjoy local cuisine.

The 2,300-square-meter agricultural products mall sells more than 400 organic products. Tourists can watch on-the-spot processing of famous Chongming rice cakes.

The center offers 230 park spaces for both buses and cars.

Tel: 6961-5123

Qianwei Ecological Village

Those who want to appreciate pristine countryside and local customs can visit Qianwei Ecological Village in the north-central area of the county. It's very close to Dongping National Forest Park.

Strolling about, visitors can enjoy forests and wildlife and appreciate the close ties between man and nature.

Visitors can try their hand at traditional weaving on old looms, working water wheels, pushing a wheelbarrow and working in the fields.

Tel: 5964-9261

Dongtan Wetland Park

Opened last month, Dongtan Wetland Park offers a tranquil getaway.

It's a 24-kilometer swath of reclaimed wetland adjacent to Dongtan Bird Reserve and is only an hour's drive from downtown.

Bird watchers have always loved the place. It is an important stopover for migratory birds, such as white storks, tundra swans, hooded cranes and black-faced spoonbills.

More than 150 species of birds live there.

Tel: 3936-7000


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