Hilarious pun, I know. But it’s true! Just an hour outside Chongqing, the tropical rainforest environment of Jindao Gorge (金刀峡) provides a stark contrast from the city’s skyscrapers, pollution and noise. It will make you feel as though you’ve been transported to a South American jungle. Jindao Gorge is gorgeous!
We arrived at Chongqing’s Hongqihegou bus station at about 9am and spent a good half hour wandering around, telling various people in broken Chinese, “We want to go to Jin Dao Xia.” After a nice little tour of the station, we finally realized that we simply needed to go sit on the bus and pay after we departed, instead of purchasing a ticket from a booth in advance. We prayed we were on the right bus, but figured we’d at least have a good story to tell if we ended up somewhere crazy.
The bus drivers here always seem to be accompanied by a boisterous, overbearing, country-looking woman. Sometimes, this woman can be your key to travel success if you enlist her help. In our case, we made sure to tell her we wanted to see Jindao Xia, so after a 90-minute ride, the bus stopped and she told us to follow her to a sketchy minivan. She said something to the driver and about six of us took off on a wild ride up the mountain.
The best time to visit Jindao Gorge is probably late spring or summer when they offer caving, rafting and camping. In November 2014, the water levels were really low, so we didn’t see quite as many of the aqua pools Jindao is famous for, but we still weren’t disappointed. I’ll definitely be back to camp here next year and I imagine the experience will be extraordinary. One advantage to coming during the off-season – the entrance fee was ¥60 (about $10) instead of ¥100 ($16).
Along the way, you’ll see a lot of monkeys. I was excited to see them until I got up close and personal. I’m no animal rights activist, but I couldn’t help feeling bad when I saw how obviously unhealthy they are. And they’re really aggressive – they’ll take food right out of your hands and they’re not afraid to charge and swat at you.
Have you ever seen the movie Outbreak? For some reason, I think I watched that movie at least ten times in the 90’s and I couldn’t help recalling parts of it when I came face to face with these creepy creatures.
If you’re brave enough to feed them, come prepared with something small like sunflower seeds, but please be careful and for God’s sake, wash your hands when you’re finished! I saw one Chinese hiker feed them from the palm of her hand and eat a bag of chips literally two minutes later on the trail. We hadn’t passed any washrooms, so fingers crossed she was packing some very potent hand sanitizer.
Due to communication issues, we actually started at the top of the gorge instead of the bottom and I’m so glad we did. If you do it that way, my advice is not to take the cable car. The most impressive part of Jindao Xia definitely lies at the bottom and middle, but you’ll miss some really cool stuff at the top if you don’t take the walk. However, if you’re hiking up from the bottom, you may need the break.
This hike is soooo cool. On many parts of the trail, you’re suspended on a very narrow wooden pathway along the side of a cliff. If you’re above four feet tall, you’ll have to crouch down to fit through parts of the path. They will actually provide a helmet that you are required to wear for part of the hike.
At the bottom of the gorge, you can take a river boat for 10 RMB. I’d say it was worth every penny.
To see more photos from our visit to Jindao Gorge, watch the video below. Or you can watch it on YouTube.
Getting there from Chongqing:
Take the subway’s line 3 (blue line) to Hongqihegou station. As soon as you exit the subway, you’ll see the bus station. From there, you’ll take a 90-minute bus and then a minivan or taxi to the gorge. Don’t forget that buses often stop running after 6pm, so you’ll want to get back to town to catch the bus into Chongqing no later than that.