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Pure land of Kanas in the northwest

The Kanas Nature Reserve in the northern part of Xinjiang is a 5A national scenic spot and under consideration as a World Natural Heritage site. Situated on China’s border with Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia, Kansas features scenic attractions like Kanas Lake, snow-capped mountains, grasslands and birch forests that are world renowned and reputed to be among the purest places on Earth.

Surprising scenic lakes and mountains

Nestling at the heart of the nature reserve, Lake Kanas is the subject of many old legends and the most famous of which is that it has huge ‘strange fish’ living in it. Lake Kanas is surrounded by primeval forest made up mostly of Siberian larch, in addition to birch, spruce, fir and others. Lush green trees grow in summer and fall presents a colourful sight with gold and crimson leaves forming an interesting complementary contrast with the snow-capped mountains in the distance. Autumn transforms Kanas into paradise for photography lovers. Follow the boardwalk along the lake or take a tour to appreciate the clear, serene emerald green of the water, which is said to see its colour changes according to the season. People can also climb 1,068 steps to the fish viewing outpost for a bird eye’s view.

Heavenly paradise at Moon Bay

Water from the lake flows out to the valley and meanders forming inlets including Fairy Bay, Moon Bay and Wolong Bay. Moon Bay is the most famous. The river flows through the valley and mountain peaks on each side seem to overlap each other. Ancient trees grow densely. The water is moving but looks as smooth as a mirror, and the crescent shape gives this spot the name Moon Bay. Two soft thick green patches of turf grow on the forest side of the crescent and they resemble footprints from afar, so they were dubbed by locals ‘fairy footprints’. Get to the river bend and breathe the fresh air from the virgin forest; when you see ducks frolicking and diving for food in the lake you will feel one with nature.

Rustic old Baihaba village

Baihaba village, only separated from Kazakhstan by a river, is one of several in Kanas and known as China’s first village in the northwest. One can see vast ranches with cattle and sheep grazing on the grasslands and galloping herders driving horses on the approach to Baihaba. The landscape with large contrasting forest, snow-capped mountains and the blue sky is like a magnificent picture, and in this vast world one cannot help but feel insignificant.

Baihaba is a traditional old village and the inhabitants are mainly Kazaks and Tuvas. They live in wood cabins dotted among the birch, which provides a beautiful peaceful setting with cattle and sheep and smoke rising from cooking fires. In autumn, Baihaba becomes a fairy-tale world set in a kaleidoscope of colours. Don't forget to stop over for a night in one of the wood cabins to savour the beauty of the rustic village and watch the sunrise and sunset. From a high vantage point one can even look down on the scenic trees and valleys of Kazakhstan.

Travel tips

Transport: Fly from Hong Kong to Urumuqi then transfer to a flight for Kanas
Currency: Renminbi
Sights: Kanas Lake, Moon Bay, Fairy Bay, Wolong Bay, Baihaba, Hemu
Climate: Wet and cold, so take warm clothing

(By Kori Song, winner of the fourth Young Writers’ Debut Competition)

Moon Bay and the fairy footprints
Wolong Bay gets its name because it is shaped like a sleeping dragon
White birch forest
Kanas Lake’s crystal-clear water flows through the valley
The flock returns home at sundown
Wood cabins housing Kazaks and Tuvas
Baihaba village borders on Kazakhstan