We are so grateful to have a resident travel blogger on our Exec team! Sarah Krasicki, writer of the travel blog Adventuring We Go, shares recap of her recent journey to Arkadia Retreat in the Zhejiang province, a beautiful escape in the mountains. Thanks for allowing Shanghai Mamas to repost and please check out the Adventuring We Go blog for more!
We would love to hear of your travel itineraries, experiences, and recommendations. If you would like to feature a recent family trip with the Shanghai Mamas community, get in touch.
By Sarah Krasicki
Nestled amongst the clouds, pine trees and towering bamboo in mountainous southern Zhejiang Province is Arkadia Retreat, a beautiful bed and breakfast. With stunning views of the ancient mountain village of Yan Keng Ling Tou Cun, Arkadia Retreat is the perfect place to escape for relaxation, art and adventure.
I met Vicky, the owner of Arkadia, at a Shanghai Mamas coffee morning in early March. We got to chatting and she told me about her bed and breakfast in an artists village only 4.5 hours from Shanghai. It sounded idyllic and with Spring Break coming up I decided it would be the perfect ‘off the beaten track’ weekend getaway.
With kids in tow, we set off for a three-night stay at Arkadia Retreat early on Friday morning catching the 9 am high-speed train from Hongqiao Railway Station arriving at Lishui Station in Zhejiang Province 2.5 hours later. The team at Arkadia put us in contact with a driver who met us at Lishui Station and took us the remainder of the way.
I have to admit, the two-hour drive through the countryside and up onto the mountain was a lot more interesting than I’d expected. The drive took us through deep valleys with bamboo covered mountains on either side. Tea terraces stepped into hillsides, vivid aqua-blue rivers and long dark tunnels through the mountains kept us guessing for what would come next.
The most surprising moment was when an enormous dam levy came into sight only meters from the road we were driving on, and I could only imagine how impressive it would look with water spilling over it.
We arrived at Arkadia Retreat just in time for lunch and checked into our rooms before making our way to the dining room where Namo, the housekeeper and chef, prepared a delicious Chinese meal for us. After lunch we retired to the terrace to relax, soak in the sun and take in the stunning scenery.
Expect to eat all your meals at Arkadia during your stay. Breakfast and a coffee are included in the room price, and there is a common kitchen you can use to prepare food, however, for a fee you can have the lovely Namo prepare your meals. We chose for her to cook Chinese cuisine for the majority of our time there and a BBQ dinner of steaks, sausages and salads one night. The Chinese meals were prepared using local produce and fresh bamboo from the forest – it was so delicious, I definitely recommend her cooking!!
In keeping with local architecture, the main buildings of Arkadia Retreat are constructed using the traditional Tuhang method of rammed earth blocks which act as wonderful insulation keeping the rooms cool in summer and warm in winter. Reclaimed wood from the village was also used in the construction to ensure nothing went to waste.
The main house comprises six architecturally designed rooms with multiple bed configurations to suit families, couples and solo travellers. Each of the rooms has floor to ceiling windows looking out over the lush green valley. The rooms are well-appointed with comfortable mattresses and pillows and quality cotton bedding and a Western-style bathroom with a shower. Fluffy white towels are provided as well as a hairdryer and lovely shampoo, conditioner and shower gel. The room is equipped with an air conditioner, heater and kettle. Two more rooms with a private sitting area and balcony sit above the kitchen and dining room.
The 400-year-old mountain village of Yan Keng Ling Tou is found only a few minutes walk from Arkadia. The ancient village was saved from destruction by local painter, Mr Li, whose paintings of the stunning scenery have made the area famous. Mr Li petitioned the government to have the village listed as a historical sight and succeeded. Now artists and photographers from all over China flock to the village to capture the same beautiful scenery made famous by Mr Li’s paintings.
Adding to the beauty of the scenery, 100-year-old wild Persimmon trees dot the landscape and are believed to be the largest ancient Persimmon grove in Zhejiang Province.
The village is also now known as The Painters Village, and walking along the winding streets it’s easy to understand why. At every turn we found painters with their easels and oil paints, and even though we believed many to be students their paintings were amazing.
After walking through the village we continued up the winding road until the sealed road ended. We made our way down onto a mud track that looked fairly well worn and walked through the forest, somehow finding ourselves back in the village and only meters from where we were staying.
There are many hiking tracks around the village and beautiful waterfalls only 20 mins drive from Arkadia. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to visit the waterfalls, but hope to go back soon and do some more hiking and exploring.
No matter how many times I looked out at the mountains and over the valley during our stay I was constantly blown away at how beautiful the area is, but the early morning cloud sea is what took my breath away.
On our second morning, I dragged my daughter from bed at 5.30 am and out into the cold drizzly morning. We walked the 100 meters up the street to the viewing platform that looks out over the valley and saw our first cloud sea. It was beautiful. After taking a few photos, the light rain started soaking through our clothes so we made our way back to Arkadia. On a whim, I coaxed Liv past the entrance to Arkadia and followed the road around to the left for about 40 meters. Here we found an uninterrupted view of the valley and mountains stretching across the horizon with the cloud sea looking even more magnificent.
Arkadia Retreat really has something for everyone. Whether you want to hike, cycle and swim or just relax and read a book in silence – you will not be disappointed. My family and I want to continue exploring this beautiful region and we can’t wait to go back to stay at Arkadia Retreat.
Pro Packing Tips:
- There is a very basic convenience store in the village, but if you want bread, tea, coffee or snacks I suggest you bring them with you.
- Wine, beer, coffee and juice are available to purchase from Arkadia, however, we had a box of wine shipped to the shop at the bottom of the mountain where they held it for us to pick up the day we arrived. (Speak with Arkadia staff prior to your arrival to help arrange this)
- Joggers/sneakers and flip-flops are the only shoes you’ll need. Unless you hike to the waterfalls, in which case I recommend hiking sandals, bathers and a spare towel.
- We went during Spring Break and the weather was cool in the mornings and evenings but warmed up in the middle of the day and it rained a little – so best to dress in layers.
- I only saw two mosquitoes the entire weekend, but when the weather warms up it would be advisable to pack insect repellent.
- There are some French and English novels in the dining room and some children’s picture books, but I would recommend if you’re staying a few days you might like to pack some playing cards and games. (There are no TV’s but the WIFI signal is good)