Moving forward with my last trip to China in 2011, our next destination after Shanghai and Hangzhou was Huangshan (黄山), a mountain range located about 3 to 4 hours from Hangzhou, our destination before that.
Literally translated as “Yellow Mountain,” Huangshan is a popular tourist attraction, as it’s an UNESCO World Heritage Site and has inspired many paintings and photography of its rich, natural scenery.
Interesting fact: its location inspired the background for Canadian director James Cameron’s 2009 sci-fi epic Avatar. That said, all of those sharp and impressive cliffs and trees in the aerial scenes were based on those from Huangshan! 🙂
In any case, we began our visit with a trip to the countryside within the mountains; I don’t remember exactly what the place was called, but it was a rather remote village that was surrounded by a lake with ancient relics and old houses. I did recall that it was sweltering hot that day, which shouldn’t have surprised me since it was in the middle of summer and in the countryside.
After lunch, we started our trek to the mountains, where we would spent the day and the following one hiking. Now, my family and I don’t usually do these kinds of activities when vacationing somewhere; most of the time, we opt for leisure tours to the important sites and monuments, nothing too strenuous. Hiking in Huangshan was probably the first time we were actually getting exercise while traveling, and back then I was athletic and keen to do so.
We took a bus, then a cable car to a certain level on the mountain where most tourists gathered to begin the hike. Our first destination was just a matter of hiking up to our hotel (no sweat) where we dropped off our belongings before heading out again and continuing with a 2-plus hour hike.
By hiking, it didn’t necessarily mean rugged, dangerous cliffs, but rather *relatively-safe* stairs (lots of them) alongside the crest of the mountains. Lots of uphills, lots of downhills, and some parts were uneven and narrow. Nevertheless, we got really good exercise, and not to forget that the weather was absolutely perfect: it was cool and breezy, which I much preferred over hot and humid at ground level.
My legs and butt were definitely sore afterward, but we still had a second day of hiking to look forward to! Therefore, I needed to get good rest for the following day.
Second day rolled around, and after breakfast we began our 2 to 3-hour hike up. It was a refreshing morning, as it was filled with fog and a light sprinkle of dew. Many, many stairs to ascend, but eventually we made it up to what is known as “Brightness Peak,” which was the 1860-meter point. Since it was so foggy, we couldn’t see any good views, unfortunately! In any case, the breeze up there was nice and we had gotten in a good workout.
However, we stopped hiking shortly thereafter, even though we were planning on continuing for another one to two hours. My mom was feeling tired, and furthermore we wouldn’t have been able to see anything else since it was so overcast that day. We returned to the hotel, packed up, and descended the mountain. It started raining, so we donned our ponchos (one of the very few times that I’ve ever worn one in my life) as we went down to the cable car. Things got pretty humid after the rain stopped and I was sweating as I walked.
We took the cable car down, then the bus back to the entrance of Huangshan. Our tour guide took us over to a foot massage place, which was much needed after two days of intense hiking. Personally, I didn’t find the massage I received as soothing or effective as the one I had in Beijing two years before (which you can read about in my Beijing post). Perhaps it was because my masseur this time massaged too hard, which counteracted the effects of relaxing my muscles (and instead making them tenser), but any case, it was a nice gesture after the hike.
Our stay in Huangshan ended shortly after that, as we left the area for our next destination in China. In the end, I found Huangshan to be the highlight of our 2011 China trip since that was one of the first times I explored a truly nature-y area in which I actively participated, i.e. hiking. Other visits to nature spots (e.g. Guilin, Hangzhou) were idle in comparison, and so hiking in Huangshan opened me up to “active traveling,” which I credit for inspiring me to backpack in Europe five years later. Perhaps I’ll take my backpacking/”active traveling” to China (let alone Asia) again in the future as well. We shall see!
Coming up: Wuzhen, China!
— The Finicky Cynic
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