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
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).
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!