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March 21, 2012

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Flower appreciation in full swing

AS the weather warms up, flowers begin to bloom. Travel agencies take advantage of this by arranging flower appreciation tours around the country.

Of course, the weather is not always so predictable, so do some research on your destination and plan accordingly.

Those seeking a little adventure can head to a more remote area with mountains. Others looking for a quick trip that is easy to organize can simply opt for an outing to the suburbs of Shanghai.

Travel service companies have recommended the top eight destinations for this spring.

Shanghai: peach and cherry blossoms and cole flowers

People living in Shanghai don't have to go far to enjoy spring as several festivals focusing on spring flowers will take place. Peach blossoms will be a sight for sore eyes in the Pudong New Area while Fengxian District hosts a cole flower festival. Meanwhile, Gucun Park in Baoshan District will welcome visitors to the biggest cherry tree forest in Shanghai. This was a popular draw last year with massive crowds turning out. If you go, be prepared for the swarms of people.

How to go: Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center will sell package tickets to all flower festivals in Shanghai. Metro lines also reach some of the venues, such as Gucun Park.

Wuyuan, Jiangxi Province: cole flowers and azaleas

Wuyuan is praised as "the most beautiful countryside" on the Chinese mainland. Spring there is often described as "heaven on Earth."

It's hard not to relax walking through a golden sea of cole flowers with a bright red azalea forest on the mountain while gazing up at the sapphire sky and listening to streams murmuring under bridges.

Wolong Valley is also worth visiting in spring. Here the waterfalls, primary forests and mountainous flowers provide a lasting impression.

How to go: Visitors can go to Quzhou by bullet train, then transfer to a bus to Wuyuan. The trip takes about five hours.

Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province: peach and cherry blossoms

Shaoxing is a traditional destination for those who enjoy looking at peach blossoms and is a newly emerging spot for cherry blooms. Houshan Hill looks like it has been painted pink when the peach blossoms are in season. Every year peach blossoms bloom in late February, and the blooming period lasts about 45 days.

Shaoxing will hold its first cherry blossom festival this spring. It has one of the biggest cherry tree forests in east China. Visitors can enjoy tea, sake and a dance show during the festival.

How to go: Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center provides buses to Shaoxing, or you can take train at Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station which takes around two hours.

Yinzhai, Guizhou Province: plum blossoms and cole flowers

The spring scenery in Yinzhai is described as "the golden sea under the snow mountain." The "golden sea" is thousands of hectares of cole flowers while the "snow mountain" is the white plum blossoms. The scenery resembles a painting and includes pink peach blossoms and bluish green trees.

Yinzhai is also a place for fishing, bicycle outings and sunbathing.

A tourism festival is held annually in March. It includes authentic music, dance and food of the local minority ethnic groups.

How to go: Fly to Guiyang, Guizhou's capital city, and take an airport shuttle bus to the long distance bus station in Guiyang. It takes about one hour from Guiyang to Yinzhai.

Wuhan, Hubei Province: cherry blossoms

Wuhan and Wuhan University in particular, are the most well-known spots for cherry blossoms in the country. Hundreds of cherry trees create a magnificent scene similar to what can be seen in Japan, where cherry blossoms are cherished by many. The university's cherry tree forest dates back to the 1930s, when the invading Japanese army planted nearly 40 trees when they captured the city. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China, Japan gave the university more cherry trees as a symbol of friendship.

Every spring, thousands visit the university campus to gaze at the cherry blooms. To control the visitor volume, the university charges 10 yuan (US$1.5) per person for admission, which has generated many complaints.

How to go: Take a direct flight from Shanghai to Wuhan, and take a taxi or bus to the university.

Luoyang, Henan Province: peony flowers

Peony is praised as the "national flower" of China as ancient poets described their beauty and heavenly fragrance. The blooms in Luoyang are known as "the finest under heaven." April is the best time to see these flowers as the city becomes a sea of peonies.

From April to May, Luoyang will hold its 30th annual peony festival. More than 1,000 cultivated varieties of peonies will be exhibited.

Luoyang is close to other tourist attractions such as Shaolin Temple, which makes a longer trip worthwhile.

How to go: Shanghai has direct flights to Luoyang.

Yangming Mountain, Taiwan: giant taro flowers, cherry and plum blossoms

Native to South America, giant taro flowers are not frequently seen on the Chinese mainland. In the Yangming Mountain area, which is known as "Taipei's backyard garden," vast giant taro fields paint the land white every spring.

This year, however, is rather special as several different types of flowers, such as cherry and plum blossoms, as well as camellias are expected to bloom at the same time. Experts said the cold winter delayed the blooming period by several weeks this year.

How to go: Transport to Yangming Mountain is rather convenient. People can find buses to the area in Taipei, or rent a car.

Japan: cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms will bloom later this year in Japan because of an unusually cold February. They are expected to bloom nationwide by the end of this month and continue until the end of April.

In some cities, such as Kyoto and Ueno, cherry blossom appreciation is taken to new heights. People can enjoy all kinds of snacks, sake and play games with cherry blossoms all around.

How to go: Shanghai has direct flights to Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and other Japanese cities. Tourists can follow the Japanese news to ensure they go at the right time.


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