60,000 Stairs

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June 23rd 2015
Published: July 1st 2015
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Finally did arrive here at Huangshan Mountain by bus from Hangzou and had my first experience with the Whatsapp of China, WeChat. The owner of the hotel I booked in Tangkou, the town just outside of the South Gate to Huangshan, volunteered to pick me at the bus station on arrival. Our contact had to be through WeChat.

(A technology digression. Whatsapp is pretty good, but generally isn’t used in China. WeChat is the Chinese equivalent, but so much better. Let me count the ways: 1) it can translate incoming messages. The hotel owner only spoke Chinese, but we carried on conversations fairly successfully on WeChat, even when we were having dinner together; 2) as I approached Tangkou, the hotel owner could follow my location real time through WeChat when I allowed it; 3) you can make video calls; 4) you can trade your contact information through personal QR code scans; 5) you can discover other WeChaters nearby, if you don’t already have enough people to talk to.)

Returning to the trip. The mountains are the main draw for tourists in Huangshan, but the area is well known for many reasons. 1) It was where the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed. There’s now a theme park somewhere in the area. 2) There are a number of what China calls “Ancient Towns” around, which are particularly attractive villages that have been transformed into tourist centers with a paid admission. 3) Natural hot springs are at the base of the mountain that once drew people with specific maladies. Now they draw people with no specific maladies. The most famous has pools of wine, coconut, ginseng and more. 4) Bamboo forest.

Tangkou is not a draw at all, except that it is the closest concentration of hotels to all these areas. It is ugly and kind of a depressing entry point into an otherwise beautiful area. The only redeeming value was the owner and staff of the hotel who worked so hard to make me feel like a friend, not just a guest. The pick up from the bus station was only the start. Meals, drives to the bank, the mountain bus station and more.

I’m visiting the main tourist area of the mountain, which has a considerable tourism infrastructure. After a night in Tangkou, I was driven to the bus station since only buses can enter the park itself. The bus dropped me at Yungu Temple, the access point for one of three cable cars that ascend the mountain in various places. Hiking up is an option, but I took the 10 minute cable car with plans to hike at the top.

A few points:

• This mountain doesn’t have trails like we think of trails. Instead, it has well constructed stone and cement trails, some built into cliffs, along with over 60,000 stairs, many very steep. I would have loved to watched them build some of these trails.

• While I was on the mountain, it was generally shrouded in fog and there were a few hours of rain. Luckily, it cleared somewhat each afternoon. There are something like 248 days a year of fog on the mount
• There are several hotels on the mountain. I stayed in an 8-bed dormitory in one of the 4-star hotels. The dorm was clean and had its own bathroom. There were all ages of Chinese staying there and they were all very welcoming.
• In addition to the 60,000+ stairs and the scenery, what’s amazing is that all the food brought into the hotels and shops on the mountain has to be portered by men from the nearest cable car station. This involves many steps up or down.
• The mountain is a very popular destination for vacationing Chinese, with many just coming up for the day. Many dress as if they’re going on a walk in the park on a Sunday afternoon. Many women were wearing dresses and very dainty sandals and taking the stairs just fine.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest.

Additional photos below
Photos: 21, Displayed: 21


A Friend for a Few MinutesA Friend for a Few Minutes
A Friend for a Few Minutes

Throughout my hike, Chinese would say hello and many wanted a photo with me. This 23 year old said hello and that was all, but I talked a little more. He confessed he was afraid of people. After a few minutes, he asked for a photo with me.

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