Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds

Hi Everyone,

While the Chinese authorities have been busy dealing with earthquakes, repressing minority groups, censoring the Internet (Facebook was recently added to the long list of web sites banned in China) and detaining Australian business leaders for political reasons, I’ve been visiting lakes, climbing mountains and going on long train rides.

After Shanghai I took a night train to Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) a city near one of China’s most famous tourist mountains.  I took a cable car up the mountain and then went walking along the trails.  Huang Shan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
The only downside was how crowded it was, there were tens of thousands of Chinese tourists on the mountain trails.
The various rock formations have been given plenty of grandiose sounding names (although I suspect some of them are a bit lost in translation).

Some of the places marked on the map of the mountains:
Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds
Nine Dragons Peak
Bookcase Peak
Watching Fairy Peak
The Flower Grown Out of a Writing Brush Rock
Immortal Solarize Boots
Zhubajie Eating the Watermelon
Heavenly Dog Watching the Moon
Beginning to Believe Peak
Immortal Overturns the Desk
Wusong Catching the Tiger
Immortal Walking on Stilts
Former Dissident Submitting to the Will of the People
(Okay, I made the last one up).


Huang Shan
Huang Shan
Huang Shan

Huang Shan

Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds

Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds (It Wasn't Cloudy When I Was There)

Lots of people on the trail

Lots of people on the trail


Enjoying a rest

Huang Shan

Huang Shan

Huang Shan

Huang Shan

Huang Shan

Huang Shan

The Easy Way to Climb the Mountain

The Easy Way to Climb the Mountain

How To Make Yourself Very Tired (And Smelly)

05:30: Get up and have a shower.  Pack and check out of hostel.
06:15: Take minibus to bus transfer station.
07:30: Take bus to mountain cable car.
08:00: Battle hordes to buy cable car ticket (no one wants to wait in line) only to find out that I’m required to buy mountain park entrance park as well.
Mercilessly trample Chinese tourists underfoot to regain my place in the queue.
08:30: Take cable car up mountain.
09:00: Walk up and down mountain trails for 7 hours.
16:00: Line up for cable car down the mountain.
17:00: Get on cable car.
17:30: Get bus back to transfer station.
18:00: Find out that the minibuses back to city seemed to have stopped running.  Share taxi with other tourists.
19:30: Back in city.  Time to eat.
21:30: Take taxi to railway station.
22:30: Get on cheap-ass night train ($5 for 7 hour trip).  There are no separate seats, just bench seats.  People are getting on and off all night, which makes it hard to get much sleep.

06:00: Arrive in Hefei.
06:30: Put luggage in left luggage area and curse woman at the train station who sold me tickets with such bad connecting times.
08:00: Have breakfast and then wander around train station.
Fulfil prophecy of the coming of the white man.  At least I assume that is what I must have done given the amount of people that stared at me.
Since Hefei is not renowned as a tourist city and I didn’t I see any other foreigners in the city, I’m guessing that a white man walking down the streets wearing a t-shirt with Japanese writing on it, is not a common occurence.
All within thirty minutes of wandering around the train station:
Grandmothers pointed me out to their grandchildren, mothers introduced their children to me, several people asked me if I was Japanese, people took photos of me, beggars showed me their wounds, people wanted to practice their English with me, ladies of ill repute invited me to sample their wares, and a gang of pickpockets followed me. (Fortunately I spotted them straight away and they went in search of easier prey.  Then they fled when the police arrived).
Spend rest of the day hanging around the waiting lounge and various restaurants.
22:30: Get on night train.  This is a more expensive train and has separate cabins with beds.

Still on the train.  Share cabin with Chinese doctor that speaks barely any English.  He is reading a book in Chinese about Rommel (the German World War II general) and is very excited because despite my attempts to convince him otherwise he thinks that I am German.

08:00: Arrive in Chengdu.
08:30: Take taxi to hostel.  Time for a shower!

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13 comments on “Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds
  1. Adam says:

    That sounds like the coolest thing ever. I bet you loved bookcase peak!
    I trust you did not try to turn water into wine or walk on water whilst in Hefei?

  2. Phil Pringuer says:

    Hi Aidan – only you could send an email with the Subject line: “Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds” – didn’t even need to check who sent it, it could ONLY be you.

    Family and I are (am?) off to Vietnam for 3 months starting end of next week (authorities and registration permitting) – Lianne’s got work and I’m househusbanding.

    To be based in Tuy Hoa, about 100k north of Nha Trang – so that’ll be an adventure! Think I’ll be the travelling tall white freakshow for a little bit. Hoping to improve on my non-existant Viet language skills.

    We’ll be in the same corner of the world for a little bit – drop me an email and perhaps we can meet up over a ca-phe (with condensed milk!)

    Cheers mate,


  3. Alex says:

    Sounds like a busy few days, will have to sit back and reflect on all your saw.
    How has the food been?

  4. Ging says:

    They thought you were Japanese?! 🙂

  5. Aidan says:

    I don’t think they had met many foreigners. 🙂

  6. Aidan says:

    Food hasn’t been anything special. Often it’s difficult to find anywhere with English menu.
    I can read some of the characters (because they are similar to Japanese), but not many.

  7. Aidan says:

    Hi Phil.
    hope you have a great time in Vietnam.
    I spent about 10 days there a couple of years ago. Hue An was a nice place. I enjoyed Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh as well.

  8. Aidan says:

    Hey Adam.
    I didn’t actually make it to Bookcase Peak. That was further up the mountain.
    The water isn’t safe for drinking in parts of China. Not sure about walking on it.

  9. Boris says:

    You’re having quite the time in the Middle Kingdom.

    Sunday sounds especially diverting. I take it your ninja training gave you that extra awareness that let you pick out those pick pockets.

    I’ll look forward to more of your adventures.

  10. Deepak says:

    Hi Aidan, great photos! Pls remind which camera you use again??

    Perhaps the people who thought you were Japanese might have been asking if you were “turning Japanese” like in The Vapors song…never underestimate the impact of 80s music, even in a non-touristy Chinese town!


  11. Aidan says:

    Hi Boris.
    Yeah have been enjoying China. Not the easiest country in the world to travel around. Not many people speak English.
    Even without my ninja training, I’m pretty good at spotting dodgy looking characters.

  12. Aidan says:

    Hi Deepak.
    I use a Canon Powershot G9. (The G10 is out now).
    It’s about the best camera you can get that can fit in your pocket.
    A SLR is better, but not nearly as convenient to carry around.
    You know the “hidden” meaning behind Turning Japanese?

  13. Deepak says:

    Re: Vapors song hidden meaning…of course 😉

    Anshu and I will be going to Fiji for three weeks from next Friday. We are commemorating one year since her father’s passing, but we’re hoping to have some relaxation time.


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