The industrial town of Qīngyuǎn, about 70km northwest of Guǎngzhōu, sits on the northern banks of the Beijiang River and serves as an important transit point for those heading up to northern Guǎngdōng. Qīngyuǎn itself, a jumble of warehouses and factories, holds little interest. The main attractions lie in the surrounding river valley, a peaceful refuge of pine forests, mountains and deeply eroded canyons. Tucked in the hills about 20km upstream from Qīngyuǎn are the secluded temples of Fēilái () and Fēixiá (), both accessible to visitors and well worth visiting.
Ferries to the temples run from Qīngyuǎn’s Bei River dock (; Shuǐlù kèyùn zhàn), east of Nanmen Jie in the southwest part of town. The ferry costs Y50 per person, though boats don’t leave until they’re full. To rent a whole boat costs about Y350. The boat schedule varies – it’s a good idea to arrive at the dock before 8am to see when boats are leaving that day. The entire trip, from Fēilái onwards to Fēixiá and the return takes about four hours. If the ferry is not available, it’s possible to take a bus to Fēixiá.
The first part of the trip takes you along the river past some mountain villages and ancient pagodas to the stately Buddhist temple of Fēilái (admission Y18), nestled at the foot of a steep mountain. Though Fēilái has been around for over 1400 years, the current structure dates from the Ming dynasty. The temple is serenely located in a pine forest; follow the narrow path through the forest to the mountain-top pavilion that offers terrific views of the river gorge below. You’ll be given about an hour to look around before your boat heads further upstream to the more modern Taoist temple of Fēixiá.
When your boat arrives at Fēixiá (admission Y45), about 4km upstream, you’ll be dropped off at stairs that lead upwards from the riverbank and onwards to the temple. To get to the temple, follow the stairs from the riverbank through the woods for about 20 minutes. Founded in the late 18th century, it’s actually a complex of different halls, courtyards and pavilions connected by tree-lined paths. The entire place, with its imposing walls, low ceilings and mazes of dark corridors feels more like Dracula’s castle than a place of refuge. For those who love spooky things, this place will delight.