When you hear the words "Red Tourism", the first things that come into your mind may be "boring and political". But, if you drive along the route of the Long March through the provinces and autonomous regions, most of which have been well connected by highways that snake through the endless mountains in Southwest China, you will find splendid mountains, great rivers, green views, clear blue skies dotted with clouds and diverse ethnic cultures.
Additionally, this year is special because it marks the 80th anniversary of the end of the Long March.
On a sticky summer day recently, Zhou, a 69-year-old demobilized soldier from Yunnan province, was visiting a memorial to the Red Army at the Maotai Ferry on the Chishui River in Zunyi, Guizhou province.
Eighty-one years ago, the Red Army crossed the river four times to evade encirclement by the Kuomintang army.
His wife, who accompanied him, then told their 8-year-old granddaughter to carefully read the plaque on a wall of the monument which gave details about the crossing.
Revealing why his wife made their granddaughter read the plaque, Zhou says: "When we were young, we learned a lot about the Long March at school, but our granddaughter knows very little about that historical period. It's important for her to learn history, so we hope she will learn something through visits to these memorials."
The couple's visit to the memorial was part a trip they undertook with family members from Yunnan to visit Zhou's hometown in Sichuan province.
On their way back, they visited major cities along the route such as Chengdu, Dujiangyan and Leshan in Sichuan, and Zunyi, to see not only scenic spots, but also historic sites, especially those related to the Long March.
One of these was the more-than-300-year-old Luding Bridge in Sichuan province, which people crossed using wood boards laid on nine thick iron chains that stretched 103 meters across the rapidly flowing Dadu River below.
In May 1935, 22 Red Army soldiers crossed the river using the bare chains and captured it, braving bullets rain from the opposite shore, one of the most critical moments of the Long March.
"Had the Red Army failed then, it is quite possible that it would have been decimated (by the Kuomintang army)," Edgar Snow wrote in his bookRed Star Over China.
Meanwhile, among the other historical places you can visit is the Ruoergai Wetland on the Tibet Plateau.
Although the area has been facing desertification in recent years, it is still a nice place to visit.
In August 1935, the Red Army walked through this swamp-ridden wetland without food supplies, and within a week many soldiers and animals had died.
But on the sunny day at the end of August when I visited the area, herds of sheep and yak were grazing on the grassland as white clouds floated low and cast shadows on the hillsides.