China’s Yellow Mountain: Huangshan
Fast forward to 5 months from the time I decided to leave my shelter in Manila and get lost in the jungle that is Shanghai, swinging through vines of uncertainty and chaos. New life. New friends. No job. It did and still does push me to fall off my cliff but I try my very best to hold on. The struggle of all the unknown and instability could be draining so the explorer in me always believed to take short escapes to clear the mind and just find peace. To breathe. As my usual escape was always the beach, China had none that would par that of the Philippines, unfortunately.
I resorted to planning a trip to the mountains. I heard this country had one too many beautiful ones.
I found myself once again doing a last minute research. First thing that popped up was Huangshan - or in English, The Yellow Mountains. It was said to have inspired poets and philosophers back in the day with its majestic peaks that would reach beyond the clouds and… I heard, Avatar. They got me with Avatar. After buying the tickets, that’s when I found out, I was given false information. This wasn’t where the movie was based from. But who cares. The pictures were still beautiful.
There are three 3 ways tote to Huangshan. A 6.5 hour bus ride, a 12-13 hour sleeper train or a 50 minute plane ride. Of course, I took the plane. With my backpack and broken Chinese, I went. No detailed itinerary planned as in every vacation I’ve taken, I just wanted to let go. As soon as I landed, I decided to spend the night in what they call the Old Street in the town of Tunxi.
The history geek in me kicked in. I checked in a place called Huangshan Old Street Boutique Hotel. I was never a fan of massive hotels. The smaller, the quainter - the better. It was a newly refurbished 500 year old house. It was beautiful.
I got an instant upgrade to the best room in the house. Also found out I was the only one checked-in in this 10 room antiquity. It was then I decided
I would surely be sleeping with all the lights and TV on. The house was smack right at the center of Old Street, getting around was easy.
I didn’t bother much walking around for trinkets, I just got my book, wandered and landed at the cafe street. I found my spot at this quirky cafe called The Lazy Cafe - a name so fit that I didn’t leave the whole afternoon and just sank unto their sofas. With just my book and two cups of their unbelievably delicious hazelnut latte, I was consumed the whole afternoon.
By 8 o clock I went for a stroll. Ended up at another cafe nearby with al fresco setting. 3 glasses of local Chinese Wine, blues music, cold breeze. It was a perfect night.
Second day, I decided it was time to head up the mountain. With my absolutely basic mandarin, I managed to ask where to buy bus tickets and prayed to God I got on the right one to the town of Tongkou, the town at the foot of the mountain. It was an hour and a half ride with just beautiful country side scenery and vast tea plantations. It was breathtaking. As being the only girl and foreigner in the cramped up shuttle, I managed to befriend some - if not all local passengers who then helped me get off at the right station and talk to the Tongkou ticket counter to reach my final destination in the mountain.
Best Western Huangshan Resort and Spa was my pick. It was at the scenic point of the mountain, right beside a bus station and just a couple of meters from the famous Huangshan hotsprings. After checking in and a quick nap, I decided to take a dip. It was quite interesting.
A bunch of little pools with drinkable water and locals bathing each other using wooden cups. Made most what could have been the last good weather of the weekend as there was a storm approaching the whole of China the next day. I was praying it would spare Huangshan, unfortunately, it didn’t.
The next morning, I woke up to a cold and stormy 6 o clock morning. I decided the night before that today was the day I go for that famous Yellow Mountain hike. China was under typhoon alert, but the stubborn child in me said it was still time to come out and play. The drop off point was the cable car that would lead you up to the mountains. I thought the rain would dampen the spirits of most tourists, but I found myself seeing truck loads of tour groups from all over China. The line for the cable car took me about an hour. 90Rmb for a one way ticket up and a 200Rmb entrance fee to the mountain. As soon as I got my map, I bought a cheap 10Rmb raincoat and a 10Rmb map. I decided to hike by myself. I was never known for my sense of directions and my map reading skills. I eventually threw the map, because it didn’t make sense - to me. So it was expected that I got lost. In the mountain.
During the storm. Alone. The hike took me about 6 hours. I didn’t see any of the majestic views all the poets lavishly talked about in their poems or those that everyone raved about. The mountain was completely engulfed with fog and rain. Was is still worth it? Definitely.
Being around nature was enough for me. Rain or no rain. View or no view. It still gave me the feeling of being grateful. That peace I came here for. I could not take much pictures as it was pouring and all I had was a ziplock to protect my belongings. I had to alter the few pictures during the hike. These were based on how I saw them in my imagination. Every blink of my eye, every breath I took, That was what I saw in my heart. That was how beautiful I saw my surroundings. I felt like a 5 year old let lose in a fantasy. I was drenched and freezing but it was an experience well worth it.
The next day and my last day in the mountain, I surprisingly woke up to a sunny day of bright blue skies and birds chirping. No trace of yesterday’s storm. I could have felt a tinge of frustration for not having that weather the day before, but I didn’t. I smiled and continued greeting the morning. People expected for me to see the views. To experience something I have read a million times in the internet to see exactly what those pictures
I've seen slapped in numerous websites. But I didn’t. I believe the best experiences are those that are unplanned and out of the ordinary. It makes it more authentic. It’s my experience and no one else’s. I had the privilege of experiencing something that’s mine and touched my soul in ways people may not understand. And for that
I am grateful.
Then it was time to head back to Shanghai. With my plane ticket in my hand and absolutely recharged, it was time to get tangled up once again in the vines of chaos of my new home.