Since our last trip to Hangzhou, Sophia and I had been itching to get out of town and see more of China. On the recommendation of a co-worker, we looked into Huangshan Mountain, also known as Yellow Mountain. It is a little bit confusing without a guide book and we were having trouble finding much information online. We weren’t even sure if we should take a train or a bus. Turns out the bus is definitely faster, about 5 hours getting there and 6 coming back (in traffic). We originally planned to go during the Labor Day holiday weekend, but that turned into our first lesson. If you want to travel during the holidays, buy your tickets in advance! The South railway bus terminal was a madhouse! They literally had soldiers in fatigues keeping people from jumping the lines! We waited over an hour and by the time we got to the ticket window our bus was long gone…we decided to purchase tickets for that following Tuesday to take advantage of Sophia’s days off work.
Turns out that Huangshan city is about 45 minutes from the Yellow Mountain area. Staying near the Yellow Mountain area is certainly convenient for accessing the different natural attractions. It also makes the early morning hike or cable car ride to the peak of the 1800 Meter (5,940 ft.) granite mountain top more accessible. If you don’t have too much time, 2 nights or less, I would recommend staying close to the mountains.
Staying in the city is also quite nice if you have time. We booked a room in “Tunxi town”, an old town district. All the architecture is ancient Chinese style, the streets are cobblestone and you can spend hours just wandering through the different shops and restaurants. On one end, Tunxi town borders a big river that runs through the city and makes for some really nice views. Our first night we found the perfect beginner Chinese restaurant. This place had one of every dish they offer on display, so cool to see what you’re going to get before you order it! For a nice looking restaurant the prices were fantastic! We ordered a bottle of wine with our meal for only $8 dollars (Domestic wine).
If you ask people around the city how to get to Yellow Mountain, then they will all suggest you take a taxi. We were quoted prices around 150CNY ($23USD). I suggest you arrange transportation directly with your tour company in Yellow Mountain. Yes, you will need a tour company. The attractions are spread out and all accessed from different entrances, so you need to book a tour and 2 days to see everything. The guide will drive you from place to place at specified times. We paid a flat rate that included our transportation and entrance fees to three attractions. All 3 of these entrance fees included a guide that walked with us and pointed out points of interest along the paved trails. Can’t say we picked up a lot from the guides as they only spoke Chinese…haha!
Of course Sophia and I are not like most tourists and didn’t want to spend the 150CNY for a taxi ride, nor did we know how to get a hold of any tour companies in the area. We took the city bus for 15CNY (less than $3USD) each. Getting on the bus was easy, it was the knowing where to get off part that was challenging. We really lucked out and happened to be sitting next to a bi-lingual Chinese college student that was going to the same place we were! His assistance really made things easier. We all got off the bus together and he arranged a tour and lunch for all of us. Unfortunately, it was too late and too cloudy to go the top of the mountain that day, but we got to see 3 other great spots.
First, we saw the 9 dragon waterfalls. Can you guess how many waterfalls there were? To try to put this place in perspective, all of these attractions are similar to hiking trails you would find in other parts of the world, except at every trail head there is a big admission building, all the trails are paved and inclines are built with steps. There are maps along the trail, but they only show you what lies ahead in the next quarter mile or so, so you really have no idea how far any of these trails go. Once you get to the first set of steps on the trail, you will come across guys with chairs attached to rods that will carry you up the hill for a small fee. Sophia really wanted to go for it…but I wasn’t having it. You’ll have to check out the photo album to really see how cool this place was.
Next stop was pretty chill. It was called Phoenix something or other. We walk along a slow moving river that has been known throughout history to bring good luck. Because you can never have enough of that, we washed our hands and faces in the water. I drank a little bit too for good luck on the inside. Along the way, the guide pointed out rock formations that looked like different animals. After that, we were on our way to the Emerald Valley.
Here we found pools and lagoons of beautiful emerald green water, dozens of perfect swimming holes (no swimming allowed) connected by a river running down from high in the mountains. It was a great spot but our time was cut somewhat short as the last bus to town was leaving soon.
Our driver rushed us to a gas station parking lot, where we assumed we should wait for the bus. While we were waiting, a very nice guy named Mr. Hu came along to see if we needed help. Turns out that Mr. Hu is the guy to know in Yellow Mountain! He owns a hotel and restaurant not far from the mountain and helps to set up tours for English speakers. He took us over to his hotel so we could check it out. The rooms are simple but nice and very affordable, around $20USD/night. The restaurant has a mix of Chinese and western dishes and he can arrange fairly priced tours and transportation. He got us a ride back to the city in a private car for only $8 (versus the $23 everyone else quoted). We will definitely be staying with Mr. Hu next time we’re in town. Feel free to contact me if you want his information.
The next morning, we were back on the bus at 8am and headed back to Shanghai…another awesome teach abroad experience! Now, where to go next...?