Mountains Galore - Huang Shan, Mogan Shan, and Putuo Shan and a bit of fun in Shanghai
09.06.2009 - 21.06.2009 14 °C
Armed with the latest edition of the Lonely Planet (coincidentally released the day before we left), we began our journey in China with a bang! We climbed 3 mountains in the first two weeks of our time in China, I went by far the longest so far without showering...5 days (and that was during our 2 day mountain climbing with our backpacks!). And we met two lovely women from Beijing, Cindy and Melody, on our first day in Huangshan and then spent the next two days with them, so had pretty much total immersion in Chinese for our first 3 days in China.
This guy was getting a little exercise outside the train station in Huangshan. Very impressive and helps pass the time I guess.
Emerald Green Valley - where they apparently filmed the bamboo fighting scenes in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon (though we discovered there are several places in China apparently with that particular claim to fame...!).
Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain)!! We spent two days climing up and down these mountains, which was a lot of fun. Thankfully this came at the beginning of our China trip when we were fresh from our break in Hong Kong because it involved some serious hiking! However, the reward was one of China's most beautiful and pristine (apart from the ubiquitous paved paths) natural environments, full of unique rock formations and mountains, which were often enhanced by the rapid changes of weather and clouds flowing in and out of the peaks. We made our way on the first day out to the Western Sea area, which involved a 6 hour hike first down and then up and out of a large canyon. It was incredible and somewhat disconcerting to walk along the stone paths which were somehow attached to sheer rockfaces with 100m+ drops! We also had our first night camping of the trip. We were told that the only permitted camping spot was a cement basketball court, which didn't seem in the spirit of things to us...so after it was getting dark, we ventured a ways up the mountain to find a flat bit of ground in the forest - although still next to a path, it was much better than a basketball court! And unfortunately for this reason, we were awoken at 4:00am by the hordes passing by on their way to view the sunrise while commenting (loudly) in Chinese about our tent and how cold it must have been to sleep there (it was quite chilly)!
Shanghai - of course it was a must visit place on our itinerary to go back to our old stomping grounds and visit friends who still live there. We had a very relaxing time, and even walked by Plaza 66, where we met at the gym...unfortunately the gym is gone, but we're still going strong!! It was also great catching up with Dinny and Lei and enjoying their hospitality in their new apartment which is directly across the road from where Andrew used to live in Shanghai.
Mogan Shan! Our second mountain. This began as a retreat for the European expats living in Shanghai to escape the brutal summer humidity of Shanghai, and it was definitely cooler and drier than Shanghai, but still hot nevertheless! Getting there also proved a challenge for us as we jumped into a 3-wheeler taxi which agreed to take us to the top of the mountain, but upon arriving at the base suddenly started making excuses and said his car wasn't allowed to go up...After the inevitable argument over how much we should now pay him, we ended up getting out and attempting to walk up leaving our driver with about half the original fare and cursing bitterly because the mountain top was just around the corner a few minutes away. Of course, he was lying! We started hiking up and soon discovered it was far far further and after about 30 mins of tough climbing in the dark we managed to hitch a ride with a Chinese guy for the 15 minute (and at least 1.5hr hike up the steep road!) drive to the top! One good thing that came out of it though was that the driver was able to get us in without paying the exorbitant entrance fee of RMB80 (US$12) each. We then had another 30min walk to get to the part of the mountain we wanted to stay in, but were very relieved to finally eat our lunch/dinner at 10pm and crash into a hotel room. After that, we had a much better time of it, finding the secluded naked retreat resort the next morning (though this also took about 1.5 hrs of hiking all over the mountain with all our luggage and directions like "find a gap in the guard-rail with some initials carved in it" which we never found because they were so small!). From here we went on a beautiful walk through the surrounding bamboo forests and tea plantations as well as enjoying the peaceful surroundings where we had some well-earned rest and ate some great food (including sampling the local very fresh bamboo shoots!).
The third mountain: Putuo Shan. it is actually a Buddhist island off the coast of Ningbo, but they have a mountain as well that we climbed up of course! This has obviously also been designated as a special tourist destination - everywhere, paved roads/paths were again ubiquitous and the entrance fee of RMB160 (US$25) each very high for China - perhaps necessary to maintain the hundreds of speakers disguised (poorly) as rocks all over the island repeating the same chants over and over?! As foreigners though, we were certainly doing something relatively unique as we only saw a handful of western tourists during our 2 days here.
Of course, some very interesting reading on some of the signs around here...including the "old Chinese saying: "The overturned cart ahead is a warning to those behind"." and "Dear visitors, don't be too brave to show your courage, or you may have a lifelong regret"!
We also had our second night of camping here - right on the beach, which was fantastic to sleep to the sound of the ocean.
This old man was mesmerised as we packed up our tent into the small bag (especially the poles which collapsed into 30cm lengths) in the morning! Earlier we were woken about 6am by the sound of one of our zippers opening and closing and then on the other side of our tent the zipper was suddenly pulled wide open and a Chinese man stuck his head in saying loudly, "Ah, shuijiao le!" ("Oh, you're sleeping!")...not anymore though! Wary of drawing too big a crowd we decided it was probably time to start packing it up.
Although dorm style, our transport between Shanghai and Putuo Shan was reasonably comfortable in these bunks which were simple but clean - unfortunately, it was really only the toilets that as usual are what lets it down...(we spared you and us from any photos of this though!)
And finally a quick lunch with Del, my old boss back in Shanghai before we caught a plane back to Hong Kong to meet my client.