Friday night we drove to Moganshan, a small town high up in the mountains of Zhejiang, not far from Hangzhou. There were no traffic jams, so the drive over from Shanghai took us only about 2.5 hours. Moganshan is quite famous because it used to be a resort for rich foreigners and Chinese in the early 1900’s. The mountaintop is covered with more than one hundred old Western style villas, most of them in a dilapidated state. Instead of one family, most now have several families living in one building, and none of them seems to care to spend a penny on paint or a new roof. Actually, that is not completely true, as most villa’s roofs likely collapsed after half a century of neglect, and now have bright blue corrugated iron roofs. An ugly contrast with the green bamboo tree covered hills.
Mark Kitto, former media-entrepreneur in China (That’s magazines, Voyage), has been coming to Moganshan for 7 years, and is now living full-time here. He and his wife have two villas high on the mountain in the middle of the woods, and they started to run a restaurant/bar in town called The Lodge. Our hotel was next to The Lodge, so it was the first place that we checked out. It is a nicely decorated, with wooden floors and classical furniture, hundreds of books and DVD’s, and a well-stocked bar. They serve dinner here as well, but you have to order in advance so they can make sure they have enough supplies. And not unimportant, there is free wifi, so you can keep on working if you really want to (this time I managed to keep my laptop unopened).
We spent most of the evening (and night) in The Lodge. Mark had invited three friends from Shanghai, John (who is in the medical supplies business, and decided to become barkeeper for the night), Philippe (who brought some great cigars, and coincidentally used to work with my wife about 6 years ago) and Scott (who runs an M&A company in Shanghai). All of them are old-China hands (on average 9 years in China or so), and we had lots of stories to swap. Mark and I talked about doing business in China, and as it turned out some of our experiences are quite similar. After two bottles of wine during dinner, and several whisky’s after the meal, Mark decided to mix some martini’s for us. He is pretty good at that, and it was a nice nightcap!
The next morning Mark cooked us an excellent English breakfast with tea, coffee, eggs, bacon, fried tomatoes and toast. A great way to start the day after a short night. Then we went for a hike to the ‘Queer Stones’, which took us about an hour. The views from the (odd-looking, therefore the name) stones is fantastic, and I realize there is still much to be discovered in the area. From there we walked down through a tea plantation, had a drink at a farm restaurant and then hiked back up the mountain. We finished ouir hike at The Lodge, where Mark and his friends were enjoying a bottle of champagne. Because we planned to spend the night in Hangzhou we only had a quick drink, said good-bye and drove down the winding mountain road back to the plains of Hangzhou.
Moganshan is a very nice place to spend a weekend. It’s a bit cooler than Shanghai (and it even seems to have quite some snow in winter), and the nature there is beautiful. The only downside is that there are no decent hotels yet. There are many Chinese hotels that are OK if you just need a bed, but it’s not more than 2-star quality (at least not the ones that I saw). Radisson manages two old villa’s here, but they did not do a very good job at the renovation. The one we looked at (Priest Villa) had cheap decoration and had a dusty (almost dirty) feel to it. But The Lodge compensates for this (too bad Mark did not start a hotel yet), and it’s a great place to relax after a day of exploring the hills. So if you need to get away from the big city for a day or two, head over to Moganshan.