Earlier this month, John and I hit the mountains– Huangshan to be exact. Located in the eastern province of Anhui, Huangshan (meaning Yellow Mountain) is another one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites in China. Before climbing the mountain, John and I eased ourselves in, spending day one, whch was humid and rainy, visiting the nearby ancient villages of Xidi and Hongcun. Back in the day (about 1000 years ago), wealthy merchant families built such communities for their clans. Xidi belonged to the Hu family, Hongcun to the Wang family. Today only about 1000 people live in Xidi (not sure about Hongcun).
On day two, John and I got an early start. Headed down to the bus station to catch a ride to the main gate at the eastern steps (LP’s term– the local’s actually call it the backside of the mountain). I dunno what the deal was, but we ended up waiting for 45 minutes. Finally, the embarassed ticket booth operator hailed us a taxi and we were on our way. Good thing we didn’t walk it– the ride was far and we definitely needed to conserve energy for the hike. Admission fees, by the way, were ridiculously high: 200 yuan/person ($25 USD) and no discount even for the nearby residents! Totally sucks. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met from Anhui who have never been to Huangshan. A real shame.
Anyway, like Taishan (which we climbed last year), the paths at Huangshan are all paved with concrete steps. But before you start ragging on me, I’m telling you, the hike was a workout. And yes, I still call it a hike. We pretty much busted our asses for no reason: ascended in 2.5 hours (LP says 3). I’m a cranky be-otch when I’m hot and bothered. Poor John, I wasn’t interested in conversing. At the summit, we stayed at Xihai (East Sea) hotel. Apparently, they have foreigner and Chinese sections (discrimination). Was probably the nicest place we stayed on the trip in terms of amenities, but damn, I got no sleep. The other guests decided to hang outside til god knows when, drinking, shouting, and keeping me up. We checked out around 4am and headed out for the sunrise. Climbed Purple Clouds Peak, but the view wasn’t the best. Still cool, but not the best. From there, we hiked for hours and even climbed Huangshan’s two highest peaks– Lotus Flower Peak and Guangming Peak, 1862m and 1841m above sea level. We then trekked another few hours to the cable cars. We were sore and I needed the lift. No regrets though. The western steps are an 8-10 hour hike down the mountain. Pass!
So all the places we visited are well-known in China and worldwide. That means, there are plenty of professional pictures you can find of them online. I was all excited about our pictures, but given the zero response from my students who saw them via email, I assume they weren’t that convincing. Oh well. John and I had a good time and enjoyed the breathtaking views. Pictures (even good ones) never do a place justice. You just have to go and see the sites yourself. No way around it.