Amid the Huangshan mist..

By @Saravana |
On a chilly Tuesday morning i boarded the K45 train bound for Huangshan. The journey from Beijing to Huangshan is a little over 1500km and takes around 20hrs by train. It was a perfect opportunity for me to catch up on some of my reading (never seem to be able to read at home these days.. Damn the internet!!), take long naps, snack and chat with the other passengers on the train. It is almost as if time slows down and you have that extra bit of time to do everything that you want to do.

At around 7:30 next morning the Train pulled up at the Huangshan station. From the station you have these mini van shuttles which take you the remaining 60 odd km to Tunxi. Tunxi is a small little town situated at the foot of the mountain and it is from here the trial starts. On the van i met Dursely.. a Malaysian Chinese guy who is living in Suzhou and was traveling solo just like me. Dursely spoke fluent chinese and he told me that all the hotels up in the mountain were supposedly booked out (thanks to the new year holiday crowd). He said that he managed to find a hotel having dorm beds and suggested that i book along with him. And i did..

There are two routes to hike up to the Huangshan mountains. The East Route is about 7km long and takes around 4 hours to get up and then there is the West Route, which i supposed to be twice as long and no less tiring. We decided to go up the East route and come down the west side. The starting point for the east route is at the Hot Springs area, it is where we had to buy our entrance tickets and head up the mountain. At the entrace to the trail we came across a map, with the following instructions in Chinglish. Its pity that there are less and less of such signs these days.. :D

Notice to Tourists.
  1. 1. Please do not enjoy the views while walking!
  2. 2. Smoking is prohibited on the way!
  3. 3. Don't flirt monkeys by feeding. (lol.. i've heard that the surest way to a mans heart is through his stomach.. but apparently it holds true for monkeys as well :D )

The hike up the mountain was pretty uneventful and unspectacular. It was misty all the way through with clouds looming above us. We were hoping that on the way to the top that we'll punch through the clouds and come up above them. It is what the Huangshan mountains are famous for.. the sea of clouds below the craggy peaks combined with a play of light during sunrise and sunset makes for an unforgettable experience, or so i heard. Unfortunately for us that day the clouds were all around us.. we were.. in all aspects well and truly in midst of the mist.

But if nature disappointed me, the people didn't. The Chinese people are always a merry bunch, especially when out on a holiday. There were smiles all around.. surprised whispers of "Laowai.. Laowai" on suddenly seeing a foreigner in their midst, futile attempts to communicate using sign language.. giving up with a smile and waving goodbye to each other. There were all types of people going up the mountain.. the young with all the enthusiasm of youth, the spirited old determined to go up on their own two feet and then there is the decadent few who prefer to be carried up the mountain on a palanquin chair carried up by two porters. And most of the commodoties are ferried up and down the mountains in the same manner as well.

I was told that the hotel we'd be staying at is the Behai hotel.. close to the sunrise viewing area. It was a big hotel, one of the biggest in the area and i was a bit surprised that we managed to get dorm rooms here for so cheap. So i went in.. showed my receipt to the receptionist and she promptly turned over to me said, in english.. and i quote.. "Please get out." I was surprised.. "Isn't this the Behai hotel.. I booked a room here" i said.. She then pointed me to some small buildings outside and asked me to go there. Apparently our rooms are not at the Behai hotel but 'near' it. So i went over.. to the 'other' side. I've been at many dorms before.. but nothing could ever compare to this place. The place had some four 8X5 (ft) rooms and each with around 6 bunk beds and rooms smelled exactly like socks. Sweat and socks... this must be some sort of workers quarters which these people are renting out to unsuspecting tourists who are scared into thinking that everything is sold out.

I cannot write much about the views in Huangshan as I could really see anything through the mist. But just to be in the mountains and among to clouds was refreshing in itself. After a while i returned back to our 'hotel' to find Dursely.. who was just as angry as I was. I checked my Lonely Planet for other alternatives and it said that the dorm rates at the Behai hotel is between 100to 150RM per bed. We decided to try our luck there. Sure enough.. they had dorms for 100RMB and it was so much better than the other place for exactly the same price.  We shifted..

Dinner was frugal, just a pack of readymade noodles. Infact since the start of the trip.. all i've been having is those damned readymade noodles. They are a bit bigger than the Cup-O-Noodles but essentially the same (just pour hot water) and not as tasty. After dinner, i took a stroll outside looking up at the sky hoping to see stars and hoping the weather would clear by the next day morning.

Got up at around 5am the next day and we set off for the nearest sunrise viewing area. It was misty but still we were hoping against hope that somehow magically out of the blue we'd be able to see the sunrise. But it did'nt happen. The crowds came.. waited and left. I hung around for a while.. enjoying the relative calm and wishing i had travelled here a couple of days back (it was snowing then).

It was then time for me to decide.. whether to stay one more day and hope for the weather to clear or pack up and leave. My initial plan was to stay here two days, exactly for this type of bad weather scenario. But the lack of proper food and plumbing swayed it for me and i decided to leave. On the way down we took the west route, as planned. And it was a lot more fun than the east route. You go up and down and sometimes through the mountain on narrow stairs hugging the mountain sides. At times, through the mist, i could see glimpses of the beauty of the moutains and the valley. On a clear day, i belive that it would be an absolute treat for the nature lover to walk these paths. But on a clear day... not today.

For the last stretch of the hike we took a cable car down and reached the bottom. Took a shuttle bus to Tunxi, had a proper lunch (finally) and said our goodbyes. Suddenly I had an overwhelming urge to get back to Beijing.. I'll decide on reaching Huangshan city.
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