Although Lutusi itself is definitely already off the beaten track, visitors are encouraged to take one further step off that track and explore the old town of Liancheng. The town has many old buildings and at least one disused temple behind the main street. Most of the town walls have crumbled, but the Ancient Government Centre was at the very northern end of town, with the north gate behind the temple. The town in front of the Government Centre is the old town: exploring is just a matter of walking south and heading off the street to the side. Even the 100 metre street to the Government Centre from the metalled main road (where all the stalls form a small roadside market) have plenty of interesting buildings - again, ask to see the buildings behind which may be difficult to see from the front.
The Lutusi Ancient Government Centre is currently being restored by cultural heritage conservation specialists from the Gansu Cultural Heritage Bureau. It is always open but at any one time certain buildings may be closed during the restoration. I am finding out more about this old complex, which seems to have been a palace for a local Mongolian warlord, vassal of the Chinese imperial dynasties. The obvious explanation is that the local warlords, often Mongolian and often Muslim, acted as a buffer against the unfriendly Tibetan tribes on the Qinghai and Tibetan plateaux.
During the Cultural Revolution part of the complex was used as the main school for Liancheng, but this has now moved out. The authorities are specifically preserving a large wall mural praising Chairman Mao. But for the rest of the complex, one half secular palace and government offices, one half Tibetan lamasery is always peaceful. It may be possible to see some awesome frescos in one of the smaller temple buildings that line an incredibly narrow corridor around the building. However, as it is almost impossible to properly protect them in such a narrow space, the Cultural Heritage Bureau is considering closing them off permanently except for researchers.
Some 15km north of Liancheng along the Datonghe valley is the Tulugou National Forest Park. The entrance is signposted at a bridge where the valley narrow to a real gorge. The forest park actually starts straight away, although the main visitor centre - using the term in it loosest sense - is some kilometres up the valley, where two valleys meet. This point really cannot be missed as there is a huge, grim concrete hotel in the most beautiful part of the valley. Surrounding it is all manner of somewhat dejected looking buildings, structures and collections of wiring, fencing, furniture, paving and other odd street furniture. It has all been carefully positioned so that man's inability to leave nature alone in evident in any photograph taken in any direction.
The valley to the south-west apparently continues for 10km, and winds wildly through a deep gorge over at least the first kilometre. The slopes are thickly wooded with a mixture of coniferous and deciduous trees. The Chinese love of grotesque rocks is in evidence here, and these are considered a much more important feature of the park than the overall landscape or the trees and plants.
Eighteen spots have been listed, and I do mean listed: there really is no information available about where they are or even the history of the names: Yingbinshi (Greeting Lion), Shanlong Xishi (Cedar Dragon Playing on the Rock), Yougu Qing Yin (Musical Sounds Coming from the Deep Secluded Valley), Mileshi (Rock looking like Maitreya Buddha), Tong Tian Meng (Gate Leading to Heaven).
No.56 Zhongshan Road, Liancheng County, Liancheng County, Fujian, 366200, China
Guanzhi Scenery District, Liancheng, 366200, CN
At the Foot of Guanzhi Mountain, Daping Village, Liancheng County, Fujian, 366200, China
Good for: Couples
No.32 Huanbei Road, Liancheng County, Fujian, 366200, China
Transport up and down the Datong He is an unknown quantity. I saw buses but have no idea how far they go up the valley. As I am hoping to get from Liancheng to Zhangye or even to Jiayuguan across the Qilianshan this summer, I am hopeful that there are some through buses!
To be honest, the whole Tulugou Forest Park is off the beaten track. So much so, that there is absolutely no information about the park and certainly no maps of trails. I don't even know if there are any trails. The valleys leading up to the main centre from the main road and the centre south west would occupy a whole day for walking, but without maps it's best to do it as an out and back trip.