A Travellerspoint blog

China - Huang Shan (Day 9 to 12)

Cable-cars, step aerobics and stilettos

Huang Shan – “The Yellow Mountain”. A pilgrimage site trodden by emperors. Famous for its spectacular scenery and 18 kilometre hike up stone steps to its summit. According to the Rough Guide – Huang Shan is regarded as sacred in China, and it's the ambition of every Chinese to conquer it at least once in their lifetime – complete tosh! The lazy buggers take the cable car!! (For those of you that read about the Great Wall you will remember that the Stilettos and finery were on full show, Huan Shan was no exception.)

The epic journey to Huang Shan took 5 hours on a bus, and 50mins on a local shuttle bus. This seems pitiful now but at the time it felt like a real mission. I expect that it would still seem epic should we have to repeat it as the language barrier consumes more energy and inevitably more stress. That said we were lucky to meet a lovely Malaysian lady and her American partner as we got off the bus in Tunxi (Huangshan City) which helped greatly as she spoke Mandarin. Unfortunately the canny bus driver dropped us off at the back of the bus station where a pack of pushy taxi drivers were there waiting to pounce! So after shaking off the hyena's (taxi drivers) we found the bus station and navigated our way to the next shuttle bus to Tangkuo (Huangshan scenic area). With a bit of help from our Malaysian friend we were loaded on to a hot and cramped minibus and off we set on the second part of the journey. At Tangkuo we were collected by the hotel to spend the night before the big climb.

We checked in at the Pine Ridge Lodge. The accommodation was situated outside in a hut with an adequate room. Dinner was outside in the courtyard/bar area and had to be ordered via telephone to the owner Wayne, who then translated our order to his staff.

The big adventure up Huang Shan Mountain (18km of steps to the summit and transverse to the Beihai hotel for the night) began at 5.30am with breakfast Chinese style (stodgy bread dumplings, a boiled egg, plain boiled rice still in its watery starch, a warm milky liquid and condiments of sugar, chilly and a bitter cabbage substance....mmmmm), thankfully we took cups of tea with us! Still, this appeared to have all the base ingredients of proteins and carbohydrates. Everything you need for a 4-6 hour climb up a mountain.

Fuelled up, checked out, big ruck sacks in left luggage, and wee rucksacks containing change of clothes, nuts for Monkey-Steve, water and a hip-flask of whisky to toast the mountain. We were off.

Jen and Steve usual style; there is a route up the mountain and we want to do it backwards according to the recommendation by the hotel but the correct way as per the Rough Guide! To get to the start point of the mountain there are 2 buses one that serves the East cable car and the other the West. Most people take the East bus so we went West along with a few others, all Chinese. Off the bus and walked the short distance to the Entrance gate.

The Start - West entrance gate to Huang Shan

The Start - West entrance gate to Huang Shan

Surprisingly (or not) the crowd died and we were the only ones that bought entrance tickets without the cable car!

Video - coming soon

Our initial reaction to the climb was: wow! we are doing this with 2-3 litres of water on our backs plus overnight kit! However it's sobering to see Chinese porters setting about their days work to a walk of 18km of steps whilst carrying scaffolding poles or tall gas canisters and other building materials to the top! Some of the loads were double the body weight of the person doing the carrying. I believe I have now met the most mentally and physically strongest men in the world. On the East side they carry hotel and shop supplies (drinks, food, linen, etc). What goes up must come down so they also carry rubbish, washing etc back down the mountain that in some places you need your hands to help you scrabble to the top or at the very least the handrail if there is one!

There was a strong sense of camaraderie as we climbed, passed people and rested. The common goal for many was the summit or for those descending the understanding of the struggle with the steepness of the steps and strong sense of vertigo for some. So enough typing, here follows a series of pictures and videos of our climb...

Steps

Steps

and more steps

and more steps

It is a tradition to attach a padlock to the various chain railings of Mount Huang Shan if you climb it as a couple. This symbolises a couples strength and commitment. So we took a padlock and attached it half way up the mountain at a point only reached by walking (Note the only Virgin Active padlock on the mountain. Drop us a comment for the combination if you want to get this to a higher point!)...

Virgin padlock

Virgin padlock

Video - coming soon

Yes I know what your thinking, wallys! We realised in the video only at the top that unlike a camera you cannot turn a video camera in portrait! Ok so that was only realised later and so you will have to put up with a few more wonky videos on this blog!

From here to the top of Lotus peak.

Lotus Peak - Fresh as daisies!

Lotus Peak - Fresh as daisies!

From Lotus Peak to the Beihai Hotel for check-in, lunch, survey of surroundings for sunrise and dinner.

Dinner is a tale to be told, it was like the hut that we had checked into, expensive. It was also a buffet, great - all you can eat, and that is what we did! We had a great time chatting to a couple from New York and eating our buffet that contained no meat, only veg. Ok mustn't grumble the love handles are melting away! The couple that we were chatting to finished and left the restaurant and we continued our loading up after a strenuous day walking. All going well when Steve shakily says- Jen, lets move from the table, I'm either hallucinating from the malaria tablets or I just saw a... at which point a rather fat 4 legged friend ran out from under our table across the restaurant, was witnessed by 2 waitresses (looking shocked) and under the table of other diners that felt the creature (didn't see it). So Steve and I left the table and walked briskly out of the 4 star hotel restaurant. Steve had originally seen the 4 legged creature run across our table, just off to the side clinging to the table cloth and was unsure at first if it was a child's head, cat or something else. Grim.

After a disturbing end to dinner and a restless few hours hearing funny squeaky noises we had a very good nights sleep before sunrise. Wow sunrise was beautiful...

Sunrise over the Yellow Mountain

Sunrise over the Yellow Mountain

Sunrise over the Yellow Mountain (higher...)

Sunrise over the Yellow Mountain (higher...)

Sunrise over the Yellow Mountain (...and higher)

Sunrise over the Yellow Mountain (...and higher)

Our day from here took in the amazing sights of the West Canyon views...

Ohh-errrr

Ohh-errrr

Don't jump!

Don't jump!

A trip to the East side to head down the steps took in many more amazing sights and a 3 hour descent down the rather steep and vertigo inducing steps....

Well worth the effort to see this. We retreated to the Pine Ridge Lodge and one of their main rooms for 2 nights of rest relaxation, blogging and photo uploading.

Posted by Monkey-Man 23:50 Archived in China Comments (1)

China - Shanghai (Day 6 to 8)

Deep fried custard and psychedelic tunnels


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Whooooooosh! - the Beijing to Shanghai bullet train

Whooooooosh! - the Beijing to Shanghai bullet train

All aboard the 305kmph bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai. This journey was nothing as exhilarating as our taxi ride to the Rock and Wood hostel in west Shanghai. We thought we were goners. During the experience Steve looked me in the eyes, all serious, and said – I'm ok, I'm ok to go now, at least I have found love... I swear this was the most frightening experience of our lives. Still, the view of Shanghai at night was breathtaking (well, the parts of it where we didn't have our eyes closed).

Taxi so fast and so lost! The driver had to ask for directions and still charged us the full fare. It's times like these that we wish we knew Mandarin. These guys are not a patch on our London cabby’s.

The Rock and Wood hostel was excellent. On arrival it looked like a mini 5-star hotel, complete with fish pond, terrapin, outside seating and bar. Checked into a great and spacious room. Now time to hunt for food again.

New shiny city, new restaurants, new neighbourhood to explore by night with hungry bellies and very little patience. Cash was holding us back so a quick trip to the nearest hole in the wall and we were set for the first restaurant with pictures. Easy! Or was it? 30 page picture menu no English only heads, trotters, spines and things that go bump in the night! So ordered by Braille and waited tentatively for our noodles, rice, veg, 2 meaty looking dishes and the wild-card to come. (The wild-card being the unknown dish that we order every meal so that we try something new, this time it was a fried something). Looking pretty edible and good, the Tiger beers have shown up and they are 3 large bottles for 2, Nice :-) The wild-card looked a bit pudding-like so we left it until last and sure enough it was (we think) deep fried battered custard with a custard dip. The Chinese version of the fried Mars Bar!

Deep fried custard and custardy dip

Deep fried custard and custardy dip

Bargain meal, all that for £8.50!!!!

Well rested and ready for a full day sightseeing so we headed to the subway and towards the famous Bund. A street of colonial buildings facing a familiar Shanghai skyline:

The New Bund from the (old) Bund

The New Bund from the (old) Bund

The stroll towards the Bund took in the sights of the river running East to West. The shear size of the buildings is greater than anything we have ever experienced even in London or New York, the greatest likeness is to that of Singapore with its mix of colonial architecture and giant neon skyscrapers.

With a visit to the tourist area comes the usual stares and requests for pictures with Monkey-Steve and Blondie-Jen, so not much sightseeing for us before we head back into the thick of the centre for food. Just to clarify, a tourist in these parts is of Asian origin, I guess mainly rural Chinese and therefore a westerner is possibly quite alien (description given to us in their guidebooks). At this stage in the journey (Day 7) we believe that a picture of Monkey-Steve and Blondie-Jen is sitting above the coal burning fireplace of at least 1% of the rural Chinese population.

Chinese fast food was our choice of lunch, again a Russian roulette on the picture pointing game, however no bullets this time only a weird creamy jelly chicken soup that accompanied our rather nice choices of meaty main. Steve's came with baked beans in it! Yum.

Down at the bottom of the garden, with all the birds and the bees, there are a lot of shouty people. Unfortunately there is never a peaceful moment in China. Anywhere. Not even in an authentic Emperors' garden. A visit to Yuyuan Garden will set you back 10 Yuan. Aside from the din it was very pretty.

Yuyuan Grrrrrrrrden

Yuyuan Grrrrrrrrden


Yuyuan Garden with Monkey-Steve

Yuyuan Garden with Monkey-Steve

As with every city it is a great idea to see it by night...

The New Bund at night

The New Bund at night


The New Bund at night (again)

The New Bund at night (again)

A trip to the New Bund for dinner (like the old colonial Bund, but newer, see pictures above). Unfortunately we decided to take the tourist tunnel across the river. Steve is still being treated for a mental disorder that was triggered by this experience. I now understand why the kiosk lady was reluctant to sell us tickets (at 55 Yuan a pop). We believe the Shanghai city planning authority gave a small simple sadistic child handfuls of fibre-optics, a torch and a tunnel to decorate. The longest five minutes of our lives. It took away our souls. Here's a link to some pics - read the reviews as they are funny. I couldn't take any pics myself as I had lost all muscle control and Monkey-Steve started dribbling. A wet camera = a dead camera.

So after all that excitement the guidebook led us on a bogus trail for a restaurant that was miles from where the map said it should be. Instead we ended up eating lavishly in a Michilin Star Chinese restaurant with beer for £15 each. A surprisingly inexpensive evening for western standards given that the food was beautiful. Altogether a great night and we got to experience the sheer scale of the buildings of the New Bund.

New Bund - World Financial Centre

New Bund - World Financial Centre


New Bund - Jinmao Tower (complete with Zuel on top - who you gonna call?)

New Bund - Jinmao Tower (complete with Zuel on top - who you gonna call?)

With Shanghai explored we were booked on the 5 hour bus early next morning set for Huang Shan (Tunxi) and then a transfer by local shuttle bus to the scenic area, Tangkou. Huang Shan literally means the Yellow Mountain and the intention was to conquer it as every Chinese person aspires to do so as a right of passage (or so we are told).

Posted by Monkey-Man 09:10 Archived in China Tagged shanghai Comments (1)

China - Beijing (Day 1 to 5)

Long walks, great walls and Beijing Draft


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Beijing skyline

Beijing skyline

In the beginning there was Jen and Steve the intrepid travellers, bold, excited and naive as to what lay ahead in China's vastly over populated city of Beijing. After 5 days we have experienced hustle and bustle, food of unknown origin and Chinese customs of snorting and spitting (Not convinced it will catch on in the UK!). Advice to all fellow travellers that start in China; embrace the food, never trust the police to help you cross road and have a detailed map in Chinese script to show to the taxi driver!

It's plain and simple - Beijing is huge. You cannot expect to walk everywhere and it would be silly to attempt to as you soon discover your map is 1 kilometre per cm. So naturally true to form we attempted the grand orientation on foot only to spend hours sweating and going nowhere on the map. Lesson number one learnt, use the subway, it costs 2 Yuan, that's only 20p, per journey! So with that sussed by day 2 we were sorted. Next came the “How do we eat?” question because damn, walking makes you hungry! The first night saw us embrace the night food market, a great way to pick your food and watch them cook it. But don't be fooled, the Chinese are cheeky - what they say the food is and what it actually is, is somewhat debatable. That said however the food was great, you just need to ensure you take tissues and wet ones for your fingers as this is oily food on a stick or in a cardboard box eaten whilst standing at the side of a busy road.

So we have the basics understood: use the subway, eat when hungry and don't think to much about what you might be eating. If it tastes good then what's the problem? However as Steve would say “if it tastes good but it gives you the shits then we have a problem”.

In Beijing we have had exciting encounters with:
1) Dodging the street sellers
2) Pandas (we recon as a result of Kung Fu Panda) See pic below.... “I love Kung-Fuuuuuuuuuu”

I love Kung-Fuuuuuuuuuu!!!

I love Kung-Fuuuuuuuuuu!!!

I love Kung-Fuuuuu!

I love Kung-Fuuuuu!

3) Dodging Rickshaw drivers
4) “The Tea Scam”- luckily wise to this before arriving in China we encountered the very thing that the Rough Guide had warned us about; Chinese approaching you and asking if you can teach them English, where upon they lead you to a Tea House of their choosing, you order tea and then when the bill comes the price is huge. The introduction of a tough looking Chinese bouncer means you are forced to pay these prices based upon an alterntive and more expensive menu - you have been scammed! When the guy approached us we lied and said we lived in Beijing, didn't teach English and hated art in response to all his attempts to get us to follow him. We then found a vantage point and watched him and his friend attempted to coax other likely takers to their trap.

So let talk about the sights, we visited Tiananmen Square on the first day of sight seeing. This is probably half the size of Glasgow City centre (greater than 40 Hectares), amazing architecture however exceptionally busy with tourists. The other tourists are somewhat mesmerised by the western skin colour, look and in Steve's case, his hairiness. So much so that they at any and every opportunity will take pictures of us or request to have a picture taken WITH us!!!! How embarrassing! See pictures of Tiananmen Square below.

Tiananmen Square - Where's Wally?

Tiananmen Square - Where's Wally?

Victims of the Revolutionary struggle.

Victims of the Revolutionary struggle.

The Forbidden City (Imperial Palace) lies across the road and due North of Tiananmen Square and witnessed the reign of 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties who commanded absolute authority over the millions of people. The ordinary folk during this time were forbidden to go near the walls of the Palace, hence the name. This was a must to visit and we are glad we did, however it became pretty boring after a while. As Steve said “once you've seen one dressing room you don't really need to see the 6 they had for the other days of the week”.

Where's Wally?

Where's Wally?

Check the size of this place.....

Check the size of this place.....

After 3 nights in a plush hotel without the plush price (good old www.booking.com), we moved on to the Happy Dragon Hostel, which I found on Hostel World with great reviews. This was the happiest place to stay ever, great staff, bar, beer and food. From here we managed to plan our escape from Beijing with the hostels help and also the trip to the Great Wall. This also put us in a more convenient place to go up to the all popular areas such as the Hutongs around the Drum and Bell Towers with a visit to a pampered park (Beihai Park) just south of the Hutongs.

Beihai Park

Beihai Park

Sunset kite flying over the park

Sunset kite flying over the park

The Hutongs are like a maze and as the Rough Guide said are easy to get lost. (small alleys with eating places and shops scattered throughout). Parts of this did resemble the only too familiar buzzing atmosphere of Upper Street, Islington on a Saturday night. We finally found our way out of the ever confusing Hutongs and stumbled across the Drum and Bell Towers (15th century Ming Creations). A few pics...

Bell Tower

Bell Tower

Drum Tower

Drum Tower

And then to the pub to quench our thirst, eat and use the ever lovely squat...

Beijing Draft - Gives you the Shits!

Beijing Draft - Gives you the Shits!

View from the Drum and Bell roof garden

View from the Drum and Bell roof garden



THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA: Well what can we say, “Amazing, brilliant, breath-taking views, fun etc etc” See below for the pictures. We went to the Jinshanling area for the hike that would take in the best vantage points and be a little exerting for the aging body! After a 3 hour drive in a minibus design for circus midgets folowed by a lecture about how we must be careful and be back for the lunch by 2pm by our tour guide, we were set free on the Great Wall. Yipeeeee! The engineering is unbelievable considering where it is! Safely say the best day in China so far.

Scary cable car ride, loads of ventillation that seemed to indicate to Steve it was ok to fart! Phew!

Scary cable car ride, loads of ventillation that seemed to indicate to Steve it was ok to fart! Phew!

Breathtaking views of the Great Wall from the Great Wall

Breathtaking views of the Great Wall from the Great Wall

P1020598.jpg

The furthest point, finally someone to take a pic of us both together :-)

The furthest point, finally someone to take a pic of us both together :-)

We did however go further than we were advised to because we got to the turning point 1 hour earlier than estimated by the guide (she decided not to join us). We did at the beginning have a good laugh about the people that showed up for the hike in heels or flip flops and a towel to keep them warm (it was raining). This soon petered out when we passed Chinese ladies on the rockiest most uneven parts wearing stilettos that I wouldn't be able to walk across a dance floor in.

Upwards and onwards!

Shanghai on the high speed train. 4 hrs 45 mins averaging 300k/hr with 1 stop - weeeeeeeeeee! Blink and you'll miss a kilometer or two! Destination the Rock and Wood Hostel on the West side just out of the city centre.

Posted by Monkey-Man 22:38 Archived in China Tagged beijing Comments (1)

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