Linhai and the Pretty Good Wall of China

Linhai is a small city that seems to be off the radar of most Westerners. It’s a mere three hours on the fast train outside of Shanghai, between Ningbo and Taizhou. The summer rainy season left the surrounding mountains full of bright vibrant emerald green that stood out against the grey sky. So much green, that parts of the hike around Linhai’s wall felt like some sort of fairy tale wonderland.

Linhai's wall goes down the mountainside with the city, river and mountains in the background.
It’s the Pretty Good Wall of China.

The wall is probably your best reason for visiting Linhai. It’s not exactly The Great Wall of China, but it is a great wall in China. A pretty good wall, anyway. It was built around the same time as the actual Great Wall and supposedly shared an engineer. If you’re the dishonest type, you could probably just post pictures of Linhai’s wall on Instagram and your family and friends back home likely wouldn’t know the difference.

The entrance to the wall is up a steep flight of stairs just across from the East Lake. it’s about a three-hour hike to walk the entire distance. You’ll go up and along the ridges of mountains, with excellent views of the even higher mountains nearby. With the summer rains, everything is just so damn green.

a street view of Taizhou Ancient City in Linhai, Zhejiang, China.
Taizhou Ancient City, complete with ancient Starbucks.

Later the wall dips down back into the city. You can stare out at the tiled rooftops that guard over the narrow alleyways of Linhai’s old town, which is confusingly named Taizhou Ancient City. Unlike other ancient streets or old towns in the area (such as Suzhou and Hangzhou), Linhai’s old town is still very much a town. There are only a couple of tacky souvenir shops and almost no crowds. The shops generally supply people’s day to day lives. The crowds are likely going to be groups of pajama-clad locals who will stare and possibly snap photos of you. It’s a refreshing change from the crowds and commercialism in other ancient cities in Eastern China.

A pagoda next to a lake in East Lake Park, Linhai, Zhejiang, China.
East Lake park.

The East Lake park area is also worth a few hours time. Much as Linhai’s wall is a smaller version of Beijing’s wall, East Lake is a smaller version of Hangzhou’s West Lake. It’s got some old Qing dynasty buildings, some nice garden areas, and in general is a very nice, crowd-free place to relax. Walk out onto the zigzag bridge, sit in the pavilion and watch grey misty clouds lounge on the tops of green mountain peaks.

Mist around rocks and vegetation in the mountains near Linhai, Zhejiang, China.
The view was probably fantastic. I wouldn’t know.

Outside of town, there’s numerous scenic areas that are all about an hour away. Nobody seems to know the bus schedules, so you’ll have to take a taxi. Bring something for nausea as the driver speeds along the rough roads that twist up and down the mountainside.

We opted to go to the Yangyanshan tea plantation. Those misty clouds that were all so beautiful down below turned the mountaintop to a wall of grey. There are probably some amazing views to be had up there, and a slippery hike to the top of the peak let us imagine what those might be. It’s worth hiring a driver to bring you around, since the tea plantation is huge. Later, our guide brought us into a tasting room, where we drank, and then bought, some tea for a reasonable price. Later the clouds cleared just a little bit, and we got a view of tea plantations rolling gently down the mountainside.

Clouds over tea plantations on mountainside. Linhai, Zhejiang, China.
Just enough clearing to get a glimpse of how pretty things might be

Linhai is only three hours from Shanghai, and makes a lovely little weekend trip. The Yangyanshan tea plantation is another hour or so up in the mountains. The only English is spoken by the tweens, and it’s just enough to ask for your picture, so bring along a friend who knows Mandarin.

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