Visiting Yellow Mountain ( Huangshan 黄山)
August 30 2001
The Slow train to Hefei was indeed slow. We left had Chengdu on the 28th of August some 47 hours earlier.
Hefei station was modern but had a sleazy feel to it at night. We immediately got hassled by a guy about taxis and hotels. Adam decided to enquire about tickets first – the hassle guy followed – I was watching him / and Adam’s money belt like a hawk. Next thing you know, Adam has bought 2 hard – sleeper tickets on a night train to Tunxi – now renamed Huangshan City: our third consecutive night on a train without a proper wash or a change of clothes! A record.
A friendly young man who studies in Chengdu helps us find our waiting room: there are several beggars and peasants who really stare at us and make comments. This is the first time it has happened on this trip.
We seem to have the only 2 free berths on this packed train which is going all the way to Xiamen. They are uppers unfortunately, it’s quite a long steep climb up and Adam barely fits in. The train is actually cleaner and better, the little mattresses and white sheets are back. Anyway, I’m off to sleep immediately.
Up at 6.00 a.m, Adam precautions so as not to miss our stop, which is at 7.30 by the way! Manage to change my undies in the toilet, feel quite clean.
At Tunxi / Huangshan City station we get approached by a taxi-driver who offers to take us all the way to Tangkou for only 30 Yuan! We are a bit suspicious but figure out that he’s probably in a hurry to get back there. The landscape is gorgeous: prosperous – looking villages with tiled roofs with eaves, patchwork fields, a clean river with wallowing water buffs and ducks. All surrounded by woolly green mountains.
We pass a buffalo and a cow market and see lots of people taking there animals there.
Since the taxi-ride takes over an hour and the driver’s been very nice to us, we feel guilty about having haggled him down from Y40 to Y30 and actually pay him Y40! Are we mugs or what? Anyway, he helps us explain to the rather stupid receptionist at the Tangkou hotel what we want: to reserve and pay for a room for tomorrow and leave our backpacks there. In the end we manage.
We put on our mountain gear, get shoved into another minibus that’ll take us from Tankou to the actual mountain. There are the usual tacky souvenirs, raincoats, sticks ans maps for sale, but no food! You have to haggle for everything, even you water. Entry to the mountain is now a steep Y80! (Even more now).
Well, by 10 o’clock we’re actually climbing. How’s that for efficiency?! There are very few other walker, lots of porters. Those we do meet are all going down – probably took the cable-car up anyway.
After Emei Shan the Huangshan eastern slopes are a breeze. For once, L.P is right, they can comfortably be climbed in 3 hours, less in fact. The weather is good, it’s green and lush, there are some peaks but I wouldn’t call it spectacular.
Once at the top we first try the big Beihai Binguan for rooms. They offer us beds in dorms for about Y100 each. Nobody seems interested in showing us the dorms, we wander around aimlessly and see a rat go into what might be one of them… no way, not after 3 days on the train!. We continue to the Xihai Binguan, the supposed real mountain hotel.
Adam bargains a room down form a ridiculous Y980 to a still ridiculous Y700! Just buy asking for a discount. The good news is, we can pay by credit card: Amazing really (not so common in 2001)!
The rooms are quite nice and comfy and we finally get a nice clean up. From our window we have views from time to time, depending on the mist / clouds.
The railings are full of locks again. We try to avoid the flag- following tour-groups and enjoy a private (extortionate at y10) beer in a corner. Our path is actually quite demanding and scary at times: it goes between big boulders, through small tunnels, along steep abysses, over wooden walkways, down incredibly steep steps.
Nature, in the sense of beautiful gnarled pines, bamboo plants and flowers, is incredible. The path itself is incredible and everything again immaculately clean! The views however are only moderate, a mist has come rolling in. To me it doesn’t matter but Adam keeps pining after his peaks.
On curious cultural note . A young man, wanting to practice his English, asks us to join his tour group and listen to their guide explaining the stories surrounding the naming of each of Huangshan’s most famous peaks in.
When Adam points out in Chinese that we can’t see the peaks due to the mist, the unperturbed young man replies that it doesn’t matter, the guide will point to where they should be and describe them. We decide, much to the young mans disappointment, to continue on by ourselves.
After the walk we try to identify some cheap eats in this overpriced place. We find some lovely little sesame buns with pork and mushroom ( for me obviously). Then we get some supplies of pot noodles and beers in a little shop opposite our hotel – por si acaso (just in case). Finally, we – and all the tour- group Chinese – eat in a canteen like place below the hotel. Unfortunately, Adam doesn’t specify that we want our noodles fried and we get soup – again! After 3 days on the train!
When we ask the receptionist what time the sun normally rises, she just says “meiyou没有” – tomorrow apparently “meiyou sunrise没有日出” because it’s going to rain…..
The beds are comfy anyway……
Friday August 31st
Huangshan in the Rain
The night before the receptionist at the hotel had said that “mingtian meiyou”. What she was saying was that tomorrow there would be no sunrise as it was going to rain.
Adam wakes me up just before six because he thinks he can see some light. We leave the hotel in a light drizzle, getting heavier. Everything is shrouded in thick mist. We carry on to ‘Refreshing Terrace’ anyway, you never know – nada (nothing)….
After a refreshing hour’s walk in the rain we have breakfast in our room with pot noodles and a “pi jiu啤酒” (beer). All right, it’s getting only 8 o’clock but we’ve already been up for two hours. The rain is getting heavier out there….
Anyway this is our opportunity to try out our rain capes. I wear mine over my actual raincoat. I hate getting wet. We are not the only mad people going down the longer more difficult Western steps in the rain. In the beginning I actually find it quite beautiful and mysterious. From “Bright Summit Peak” onwards however, we keep coming across groups of “screaming binliners” (Chinese tour groups wearing plastic bin liners as their raincoats) who really know how to shatter the peace. At the summit a group of yellow binliners actually get into a fight – perhaps over queue jumping for the inevitable photo.
It doesn’t cease to amaze me how unprepared some of the people are: e.g an extremely overweight women in a pink shiny dress with little panty-socks and high heels in a flimsy bin liner! They must be so uncomfortable! One thing to be said in their favour: they remain cheerful and uncomplaining, everything is “piaoliang” (beautiful) even though you can’t see a f……g thing!
This western walk is really quite demanding, you have to go up a lot before you finally can go down. We admire the ‘steep and exposed’ stairway to yet another invisible peak from a safe distance but decide to give it a miss.
Then the path really starts to go down, at a little shop the clouds lift for a moment, offering a glimpse of walls of sheer brownish rock with trees tenaciously clinging to them. We can see little cable cars go by threes. We manage haggle a beer down to 7 Yuan. Now our peace is only disturbed by a group of shouting louts making their way up. Especially obnoxious is a fat guy who keeps slapping his naked belly and hawking. Then they’re off…
The rain which had relented for a while is back with a vengeance and won’t leave us anymore until the bottom. It’s down, down and down, through dense greenery and along a river. Little waterfalls appear here and there. We bump into a group from northern China (Harbin) complaining and joking about how wet they are and how much their legs hurt. Not all Chinese have legs made of elastic, thank god. By the time we get to Banshan Si temple – we’ve had just a few steps too many and are beginning to get pretty wet! The temple is now a shopping centre where they show a video of what Huangshan could / should look like in all seasons. They get snow in winter apparently, that looks pretty good. Must get Adam out of here before he starts pining after his invisible peaks again.
Outside, we spurn the 15 Yuan minibus leaving immediately and stubbornly sit on the normal 10 Yuan one. The Conductor – lady only has to hassle u 10 more passengers. Once our group of northern friends arrives, things start moving quickly. As soon as a Chinese bus looks as if it’s ready to leave, passengers suddenly appear out of nowhere. This seems to be the golden rule.
Our reserved hotel room is pretty comfortable and offers great views: of Huangshan, of wooded hills on the other side of Tangkou and of the brook that runs beside it. We’ve got plenty of clothes to wash and spread all over the room.
In the evening everything clears. The light is lovely and so are the surroundings of Tangkou village. This plunges Adam in depression because he is convinced that the people who’ve climbed up today will get to see the peeks! (sigh)
Tankou actually has a pretty street, running along the river between two stone bridge. There are loads of small restaurants, souvenir shops and artisans, including two old gentlemen who make finger paintings of the typical Huangshan landscape for the incredible price of !0 Yuan! The only drawback of this area is that you have to run the gauntlet of “hassle – women” who want you to eat in their restaurant. Many pride themselves on having a ‘Yinglish Menu’. The worst however is a really ‘pesado’ (annoying) man who speaks English and just won’t leave us alone. Obviously, we don’t eat in his restaurant.
We finally go for two nice determined ladies in one of the mid-range restaurants. They have cold beer and pretty good fish.
End of day
No cold beers can be found to take home
Adam s sulking over his peaks again
Laundry hasn’t dried
I retire with a cup of tea
Huang Shan Tips
Coming and Going
Tunxi (Huang Shan City)
The railhead for Huang Shan is Tunxi. Tunxi is connected t most of China’s major cities by rail including Beijing and Shanghai. There are also plenty of buses and new highways have reduced travelling time considerably. A useful bus goes to the beautiful Jiangxi region of Wuyuan.
There are also local connexions to the stunning towns and villages, Shexian, Hongcun and Nanping.
There is a daily bus from Tangkou to the marvellous sacred mountain of Jiuhauashan. It is a beautiful ride through gorgeous rural countryside.
Food and Accommodation
For Huang Shan plenty of buses ply the route between Tunxi and Tangkou where you will find plenty of accommodation before you begin your climb. We stayed at the Tangkou Binguan (hotel) which was pretty nice for 120 Yuan (2001).
Tangkou has loads of restaurants. If there aren’t any prices on the menu you must haggle and agree a price before you eat.
It is easier to climb Huangshan from the Eastern Steps and descend by the Western Steps. Buses run to both entrances throughout the day from Tangkou. Join the queues for the cable car if walking doesn’t appeal. Human porters are also a available.
On the mountain. It’s possible to escape the crowds simply by walking. There are some absolutely magnificent trails. You can actually spend days wandering through he valleys and hardly meet another soul.
Accommodation on the mountain summit is either expensive and comfortable or cheap and grotty. Take your pick. Outside the high season discounts are the norm.
Eating options depend on your budget. But food at both ends of the market is over-priced and nothing special.