For the past three years, I’ve tried to capture some of Beijing’s beautiful autumn colours, but failed each time. You can see some of the failed attempts here and here. Last year’s experience was especially painful because our excitement kept growing stronger and stronger as we left the city; with each passing kilometre after leaving Beijing city, the colours were getting more and more saturated. Glorious reds and yellows exploding onto the scene along the drive up to the Great Wall of China.
Unfortunately, about an hour away from the Great Wall of China, we could see those colours progressively slipping through our fingers as we got closer and closer to our destination. What we found at the Great Wall of China was a pretty barren landscape, devoid of most any colour, let alone the reds and yellows we so eagerly coveted. It appeared that we missed the colours by a week or so, maybe even a day or two.
Hongluo Temple (Red Shells Temple)
For 2021, we decided to try our luck in the Yanqi Lake area. We would start the day by visiting the Hongluo Temple, and then make our way over to a park near Yanqi Lake. Our goals were to hike up the temple and then setup some day camping gear in a park, hopefully away from people where we could enjoy the colours and nature. Upon arriving at Hongluo, we were not surprised to find thousands of people waiting to go inside, with cars backed up for about 500 metres!
The wait to get inside was worth it as the temple is beautiful with more than enough space to find your own area to connect with your spirituality and nature. There were many funny moments too, where people were throwing leaves to capture them mid-air in selfies, and kids having a blast flying head-on into piles of beautiful leaves.
Day camping has become a popular activity in China these days due to COVID and from the popularity gained from seeing others do this interesting and relatively new activity. As with all things in China, it’s always “go big or go home”, so we often see elaborate tents with working windows, pull carts that would look right at home in a Range Rover and full-on cooking gear.
I once saw an entire family seated inside a tent with windows, proper dining chairs, table, and hot-pot boiling on a stovetop! Our setup wasn’t as elaborate, but we still took a few cars worth of gear to the park, and a ton of food. While I think we were still a few days late, at least we captured some of the spirit of what autumn in Beijing looks like. There’s a joke here that Beijing has two seasons, hot summer and cold winter, and I think it’s accurate. Autumn this year lasted a bit longer, but it’s still pretty short at a few weeks.
After our morning at the Hongluo Temple, we drove 20 minutes to arrive at a park near Yanqi Lake. Not surprisingly, there was a large queue to get into the park, with the parking lot jammed full. Fortunately, since we had come to see sunset, some cars started to leave, and spaces opened up for us. With our cars inside, we could unload the prodigious amount of day camping gear we’d brought, complete with pumping battery-operated speakers!
Once inside the park, we actually found lots of space to setup our table, chairs, and hi-fi. We even managed to get a nice spot along a waterway, with a beautiful view of the sunset, and no noise from the cars leaving the park grounds.
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It’s always intriguing for me to see how western and eastern cultures come together to create something new altogether. With every day camping trip I’ve done this year, I’ve witnessed people getting more and more sophisticated in their approach. I was even asked to join a Mercedes G-Wagon day-camping group. You of course need a Mercedes G-Wagon to start, then you can be admitted to the WeChat group, and then are welcome to join their many elaborate day-camping events.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short glance at Beijing’s autumn colours. While it’s a short glance it’s actually representative of what we experience living here, because if you blink, you’ll quickly miss the extremely short autumn! Given that we’re now in December, I should note that the images were taken on October 31, 2021.