Published: July 1st 2009June 5th 2009
Passed it on the bus!
This weekend we decided to go to Huangshan - Yellow Mountain - a very famous scenic/cultural location for a majority of Chinese people and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We would leave Friday, stay in Tunxi (an hour from Huangshan) for the night, then hike up Huangshan, stay at a hotel on the mountain, and then hike down. We had 4 guys and 4 girls (more inclined to use the cable-car). Groups of four make transportation and accommodations, SO much easier! Oh and as you'll notice in the pictures, I got my first haircut in China, they tried to charge me 85Y, but I bargained them down to 30Y (who knew you even had to bargain for haircuts!?). It was decent, but had to finish it when I got back to my room with a razor, haha.
Alright, a bit of history:
The mountain range is host to several legends, including one about the Eight Immortals, and is said to be one of the most beautiful mountains under the heavens. The area is well known for its scenery, sunsets, peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, Huangshan Pine trees, and views of the clouds from above. It contains over 50 peaks, the three
Bus Stop to Huangshan
First look at some scenery outside Shanghai
highest being Lotus Peak (closed for ecological preservation), Bright Peak, and Celestial Peak. The mountains were formed in the Mesozoic, about 100 million years ago, when an ancient sea disappeared due to uplift. Later, in the Quaternary Period, the landscape was shaped by the influence of glaciers.
During the Qin Dynasty, Mount Huang was known as Yishan (Mount Yi). In 747 AD, its name was changed to Huangshan (Mount Huang) by imperial decree. The name was coined in honor of Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor), a legendary Chinese emperor and mythological ancestor of the Han Chinese, who supposedly ascended to Heaven via Huangshan. The first use of this name is attributed to Chinese poet Li Bai There are more than 60,000 steps along the paths, the earliest dating 1,500 years back. It has been a point of inspiration for art and literature thorought Chinese history. Overall, from the Tang Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, over 20,000 poems were written about Mount Huang, and a school of painting named after it. Huangshan is also a site of wild-life preservation. I really hoped to see some wild monkeys and indigenous birds!
One writer quoted that:
Hotel in Tunxi
the magnificence of a mountain, you have to look upwards in most cases. To enjoy Mount Huangshan, however, you've got to look downward". Very true, it was amazing to see the mist turning the 3-D mountain range into 2-D layers and to see the entanglement of greenery surviving amongst the granite. Additionally, Mao feng cha ("Fur Peak Tea") is a very famous tea that is made from the downy of tea leaves on the mountain.
Our trip was partially planned out with dicey online reservations and a conversation Cherry (a Taiwanese GT student who can speak Mandarin naturally) had with a supposed travel agent. The one thing that did go as planned was our bus trip to Tunxi. There are 3 towns around Huangshan that we could have chosen, but Tunxi had the best hotel prices and was nicknamed "Huangshan City". We made it there in 5 hours (4 faster than a train!) and were viciously haggled by "taxi drivers" trying to take us to "our" hotel. We went with a legit looking taxi and stopped at our hotel, then decided to go to where the drivers said a cheaper hotel was....it was decent (only 20Y cheaper, but
still saved money). We visited the bank and passed by several haircut shops, each with guys sporting outrageous side-mohawks or emo-laying cuts. It seemed like the town was split into gangs by your preference of hairstyle and barbar, ha! At the bank, Cherry painstakingly tried to put a deposit down for our hotel on the mountain, but failed and luckily the bank manager hooked us up with a legit travel agent who worked out our hotel (hostel) for us. It would be on Bright Summit, the second highest peak - a good location for sunrise.
In Tunxi, the only tourist attraction is the pedestrian Tunxi Ancient Street "Lao Jie" which contains old Huizhou style architecture and several hundred year-old buildings - the "Tongderen" (Medicine Shop), "Tonghe" (Steelyard Store), and "Chengdexin" (Sauce and Pickle Shop). The street starts in the west at Zhenhai Bridge, a stone arch bridge built during the Ming Dynasty, and ends in the east at the "Memorial Archway." It's construction dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) with buildings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368-1911). Many of the shops aren't legit, but several still do produce authentic works without modern methods. We enjoyed a decent
lunch in a place with no English menu or pictures (Cherry translated for us), took some fun pictures, and then headed back after visiting a convenience store for more snacks to stuff in my backpack and a poncho (just in case). The A/C in our hotel turned on and off randomly and remained off after a storm passed that night, but I didn't mind - it was 50 yuan per person and the rain helped put me to sleep. Though, a bit of advice, NEVER sleep on a hard mattress on your side...
We had worked out that morning for the two taxi drivers to meet us in front of the hotel and take us to the mountain for pretty cheap. We arrived a little bit late, due to some trouble with having to switch taxi's cause city taxi's aren't allowed on the weekends in Huangshan and then couldn't get our bus tickets back to Shanghai verified by the travel agent despite already having paid...sketchy (Joey panicked a bit). But we pushed forward and made it to the entrance of the mountain regardless. We passed several terracing rice fields and small towns that seemed to be teeming with more
Cherry translated and picked for us, but still good eats, ha
culture (at least a bit less commercialization), but didn't have any time.
It is very interesting to see all the old and "rundown" buildings in Shanghai and other areas in China among newer buildings, both in stark contrast with a generation of people who respect their past and culture, but who also understand the need for growth and development ("urbanization"). There is a very small, but growing middle-class in China stretching the enormous gap of rich and poor, defined very much so by location.
...now on to Huangshan!
There are more photos below