From Yellow Dragon to Yellow Mountain (Huang Shan, Anhui Province, China)

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August 14th 2008
Published: August 20th 2008
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(Day 132 on the road)According to China Daily (the Chinese government-owned English language propaganda newspaper), 862 million Chinese watched the opening ceremony of the Olympics. A good week later, it seemed like those same 862 million Chinese had chosen to climb the Yellow Mountains at just the same time that we were climbing it. The masses of people and the noise on the mountain were just unbelievable, and completely destroyed the experience for me. They were like ants on the mountain, and their sole purpose for being up there seemed to be in making as much noise as possible, as opposed to enjoying the scenery. So if you are contemplating about going to Huang Shan, thing twice. Even if I had the chance, I certainly would not go back.

Getting to Huang Shan involved an epic 50 hour journey across China, all the way from Sichuan Province in the Northwest to Anhui Province in the Southeast. After a long distance bus to Jiangyou, two nights on a train to Nanjing, another long distance train to Huang Shan and a finally minibus to Tankou at the base of the mountain, we arrived in Huang Shan worn out but ready to go out and do some hiking. As even longer train journeys are never boring in China, this one was especially memorable: About half-way through, an elderly Chinese woman started to do some exercise in the passage-way. As by now we were the major attraction in our carriage and everyone was looking at us anyway for most of the time, Karen and I joined the old woman in her movements, much to the delight of everyone else. What was amusing at first soon became very relaxing, and after twenty minutes of jumping, bending and circling our hips we felt much better, ready for the next 24 hours on that train.

Weather was not on our side, however, and we made the ascent in pouring rain the next day. On the bright side, there was hardly anyone doing the climb, which led us to - foolishly - believe that it was rather quiet at the top. We could not have been more wrong, and having been in China for over two months by now, we really should have known better: Four cablecars ensure that even in the most severe weather conditions anyone can make it to the top without getting their hair wet. Good for them, pity for us.

Anyway, we stayed the night on the mountain in a completely overpriced hostel and got up at the crack of dawn to watch the sunrise. Sunrise was nice but not spectacular (and certainly not secluded), but the way down afterwards was where the torture began: The whole mountain was full of people, even normal walking was impossible. It was getting better the further away we got from the cablecars, but we were still relieved when we finally made it off the mountain and away from it, leaving Huang Shan far behind us. If you want to share our experience and hear the noise for yourself, have a look at some of the videos I took on my Flickr page (see the link below).

Since I mentioned the China Daily newspaper at the beginning of this entry: When it comes to China Daily, reading is believing really. Some of the propaganda and the censorship is very cleverly done, other parts are just too obvious. A typical edition looks like this: The front page is full of Chinese-related and some major foreign news, typical headlines reading for instance "Nothing but blue skies from now on" (relating to the heavy pollution typically found in Beijing) or "Globetrotters impressed in Beijing". On the inside of the paper in the international news section, the stories dominating here are almost always stories that make the west look like immodest and immoral places. Typical headlines I have seen here were "British women face trial in oral sex competition in Greece" or "Head of child prostitution ring arrested in Germany". Hardly ever is there any in-depth coverage of foreign politics or business (unless it is a major event, like a war broke out or a head of state resigned etc), which seems odd for a newspaper geared at the international community living in China.

My favourite part however is always the "Opinions" section. Have a look and just read any story that takes your fancy, they are all well worth it: . The best one I have seen recently was apparently written by a British national, and the story had apparently appeared in the British newspaper "The Guardian". Ridiculous as it seemed after I had read the article (The Guardian would have never published such blatant propaganda), I still double checked if it did indeed appear in the The Guardian - rest assured, it did of course not, just a vain attempt by China Daily to make its propaganda look legitimate. The author was writing about what the Western World could learn from China, and in rather poor English (certainly not the native English the author was trying to appear as) was, amongst other things, going on about how China had long ago set the standard for environmental protection in the world, leaving countries like Japan, Germany and Holland far behind. This is indeed a very typical article for the China Daily: It always seems to be "Us" against "Them", always comparing things or rebuking things "The West" has said or written. And of course China always comes out as the winner.

Next stop: Hangzhou (Zhejiang Province, China).

To view my photos, have a look at And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon (and most other online book shops).


26th August 2008

Noisy Pollution long-standing
Hi you understand my feeling about the long-standing noisy pollution in China. It was so hard to find a nice and quite place. Even Chinese people have forgotten it. For instance, a friend of my mum astonished that she could hear a bird singing through the phone when mum was chatting with her by an international call from Aussie to China. She envisaged that my mum must be seating in a peaceful place. Mum told her that she was in the room of a block, that is my rent unit. "Can't believe you could hear the bird in the city like yours. I haven't heard a bird sing a decade." said she. About China Daily, perhaps for all State-owned publishers, it is a crying shame, and personally it is a crime. What on earth they have been trying to do is to brain-wash my countrymen. And you should not worry about it too much since Chinese intellectuals always read them with doubt,:) You know, there are many people know the truth in this lonely planet. "Dear is my tutor, dearest is the truth." Carry on your journey and left unhappiness behind.
24th February 2009

Why you there
If you don't like it, why you there. No one is forcing you to be there. So, hope you don't go back because without you, China will still be China. Stay back in your own country and assess it as I'm sure you'll find many problems also.
7th April 2009

Huang Shan
Hey Ben, i just read your article of huang shan, i get the impreesion you enjoyed it just as much as I did last year. Today I my last day of my 6-week travel through south america. we are leaving from lima tomorrow back to berlin. I had an awesome time here. if you need some information about peru, bolivia, chile and argentina, contact me any time. all the best for your further travels around the world. niels

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