Friday, September 11, 2009


I just got back from a trip from an area called Huanghsan...literally translated, it means Yellow Mountain. I went with a group of girls...some I new, some I didn't. It is always nice to get out of the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, especially to "zen" in a beautiful and scenic area. The chinese say that if you are to experience China, you MUST visit the five major mountain areas...Huangshan included. It is a very popular area among the chinese. However, it's not a cheap experience for many of them. The mountain area is expansive, and includes several peaks, streams, waterfalls, lakes and trails...up and down the mountain. For those of us lazier folks, they have a few cable car routes up the mountain as well. Of COURSE, we took the cable car up!

The mountains are steep. I mean...STEEP! Once we arrived at the top, we realized that the hotel "at the top" wasn't exactly right next to the cable car area. And then we realized that the "top" is a subjective term, depending on who you're talking to about it. Sure...the hotel IS at the top...of ANOTHER peak, from the cable car station. Interestingly enough, I have finally found a place on earth that is actually uphill BOTH ways. Serious. It was uphill to the hotel...and it was uphill back to the cable car station. How is that even possible???

Needless to say, this little trip up, around, over and through the mountain, kicked my pregnant booty - TWICE!! A few more details online, from those who have been there, would have been extremely helpful! We finally arrived at the hotel after about a thousand stairs later - exhausted. We all had our backpacks filled to the max. While we knew we had to carry it all up and in, we didn't really understand the topography of the mountain. We had to have our stuff to stay overnight and I had even more weight because I came more pregnant, bringing lots of snacks and extra water. C'mon...a pregnant woman needs to eat and drink more often than "others." We all knew we were entering chinese territory and none of us were sure IF we could find suitable food for us, even at the hotel. All I have to THANK GOODNESS I brought snacks. While the hotel was at the top (which is what you pay for), the food lacks in quality - for sure. And it was all chinese options. They have chinese men with long sticks across their backs carrying supplies in and out all day long...traversing those stairs all day long!!! THOSE are the men who live to be 100+ years old...I'm SURE!!

Anyway, we finally arrived at the hotel and oddly enough there is a Bank of China, a police station and a full basketball court with uniformed men playing on it...and spectators on the side! What!??? This IS in the middle of what's the deal here? We checked our heavy bags in and barely had the strength to find food at the restaurant and wobble our way outside before the sun set. Once outside, we explored the area a little further, walking different trails. I have to was good to see that we were not the only ones struggling with the topography. Most of the stairs were steep...and looong. So, you would often see people sitting on one of the numerous benches they had lined up for just that thing. We found some of the highest areas and committed ourselves to going back to those areas the next morning, to view the scenery and possibly the sunrise.

The hotel, being a chinese hotel, had beds as hard as nails again. Most unfortunately...for the preggo. We all had overpriced foot massages, in which we endured, yet again, a good beating, rather than a relaxing experience. Good thing the area was pretty.

Most of the chinese who choose to go up the mountain, want to see the sunrise. This event is a VERY big deal to them...go figure. A very BIG deal. So, three of us decided to wake up early (as if it was hard with those beds) to participate in the "local" tradition of watching the sun rise over the majestic peaks in the area. We filed out of the hotel...with about a thousand other chinese people. Seriously...where did they all come from??? The previous night, the hotel seemed empty. DROVES of chinese people made their way to the highest and best places to see the sunrise. By the time we got up the hill, there were tons of chinese people packed onto every available spot of rock for the "viewing." We were out of luck.

So, one of us waited in one area and the other two, myself included, climbed even higher to try and find SOMETHING. Nope. All spots were taken. During the months of August and September, it is common for this area to be covered over with mist and clouds and even thunderstorms. The day we had arrived, we got lucky in the first hour or so, but then the mist rose from the valleys and started to cover everything. The day we were attempting to view the sunrise, it was supposed to be a day of storms. So, we weren't even sure IF we would be able to see anything. When I looked out into the horizon from one of the high viewing areas that morning, I could see that it would take a little bit longer for the sun to show it's face, due to a few layers of mist already accumulating in the distance. Me and my friend were prepared to wait it out. The chinese were not so patient. They seemed to decide (in a wave of thought among each other) that they had better head down to the hotel restaurant if they wanted to find a seat. So, many of them began to file out after they considered the sun to be a "no show." My friend and I found ourselves alone all of a sudden, on the highest and best viewing point, looking into the valley. So, we hung out for about 5-10 minutes...alone on the rock, taking some pictures. And then it happened...we heard screaming.

Off to our left, women were excitement. My friend and I looked towards the sky and saw a TINY speck of orange coming over the layer of mist in the horizon. A TINY speck! We looked at each other and thought..."cool!" 1) We were going to see the sun earlier than we expected and 2) We were in the best possible spot to see it - without a hundred chinese people in front of us, blocking our view. As the sun rose in the sky, we could hear the murmur of excitement blanketing the entire peak. The next thing we know, as we are taking pictures, is that the hundreds of chinese people are once again on the same rock we are, but now are behind us, clicking away. One guy, who could speak english very well, was frustrated and admitted that he had been there for over TWO hours, where we now stood, waiting for the sun to rise...before he left to seek some breakfast. When we had taken all the pictures we wanted, we headed toward our other friend below us and found out that it was a recurring theme...people had been waiting for hours, hoping to see the sunrise. You could hear hundreds of cameras clicking away a mile a minute from every angle.

While the actual sunrise wasn't the most spectacular sunrise I've seen, I walked away knowing that this particular one may be one of my most memorable. I loved how the chinese people could get SOOOO excited over something as simple as a sunrise. They truly were ecstatic. Makes you want to re-evaluate your own priorities and think about shifting some of them. It was well worth getting up for that day.

After heading back to the hotel, we sat and chatted over coffee and breakfast snacks. We ended up walking around the area, taking pictures. The hotel is located on the northern side of the mountain. This particular area is well known for the "Sea of Clouds." The Sea of Clouds is where the mist/clouds are settled in the valleys, before they start to rise throughout the it looks like a sea of clouds, floating around the highest peaks in the area. Even though it was supposed to storm that day, the morning was clearer and we did get to witness the sea of clouds for a brief time. However, it wasn't too long before the mist began to rise and cover up some of the peaks.

The mist. I have been in fog a ton of times in my life. But, I have never encountered a mist like this. It was different from your typical fog. The fog I'm used to tends to roll in with the wind and settle in thick layers. We saw this mist both days we were at the top of the mountain. It is like a living, moving entity. It's incredible! It swirls and moves in both wisps and thick layers...constantly moving. It moves towards you and wraps itself around you, like it's hugging you, before moving on somewhere else. It was one of the neatest things I have experienced. I LOVED it! I climbed to the highest areas and looked down into a sea of pure white. PURE white. You couldn't see anything beyond it. You could watch it swirl around a peak in front of you and within seconds, the entire rock/peak would be completely gone from your vision. In a few more minutes, it would thin out again and you could see the peak again. It moved up from the valleys, over the peaks, through the trees. It was sooooooo cool!

The day we were leaving, we were [again] climbing uphill towards the cable car station. The "storm" was encroaching the area and the mist rose rapidly within minutes. I had been struggling with the steep topography before this...however, once the mist completely enveloped the area, it was like being in a cold sauna. It was suddenly difficult to take a deep breath in and I began sweating like a pig underneath my clothes and even my hair. This is something I don't normally do, even when I have hiked all morning long. Needless to say, climbing the next 1 km or so UP the steep stairs, to the cable car area, was suddenly a lot more difficult to traverse. I had to take a lot of breaks.

Riding the cable car back down the mountain...the mist was so cool. You couldn't see anything! All we could see while travelling down was several feet of cable lines above our heads...nothing else! It was so neat! Once we arrived at the bottom, we made our way to our final hotel. We stayed at the Best Western Hot Springs Hotel and Spa. The price of the room included the hot springs and spa area a few hundred feet down the road. This was BY FAR one of the best experiences of our trip!

It turns out this hotel had the BEST chinese food I have ever had in China. That's saying something since I've eaten a LOT of chinese food while living here. We even discovered some fantastic local (Anhui) cuisine as well. That night, we decided to use the spa and we ALL ended up getting the BEST massages any of us had ever had in China. You know...the kind where the endorphins flood your brain and make you loopy!? Instead of the usual beating. After our struggles hiking the mountain, this was fantastic! My massage person completely took away ALL of the stress from my shoulders (which had been carrying the weight of my bag) and completely erased all the pain from my feet. It was amazing, especially considering we were still in China.

The Best Western also had the very best service I have ever gotten in China. Everyone...and I mean every single person...actually smiled and went out of their way to try and help you. The manager was absolutely great...he helped a lot with translation and directions. The front desk guy could also speak english and he was very helpful with tips of the area. For many of you who have never been to China...the aforementioned items are PRICELESS because you NEVER get that kind of service, especially in Shanghai. It was wonderful. And the very best part?? This hotel had soft, luxuriant WESTERN beds!! Ahhhhh.....

We finally decided to head home via Hangzhou. Hangzhou is a gorgeous little town with lakes and parks and temples and pagodas, etc. However, we were on a mission. The german girl in our group absolutely HAD to have Burger King. Go figure. No other place would do. So, we HAD to find the Burger King in town...which we eventually did...thank goodness. When she spotted the TINY logo on the front of the railway station, she screamed in excitement...and the rest of us just about pooped our pants from the startle her scream gave us. By that time, we were ALL very hungry, so we all enjoyed our burgers a lot, before heading home to Shanghai.

The only thing I didn't enjoy on the trip was, what seemed like, a constant barrage of complaints and comments about Americans from a couple of the other girls. While they MAY not have realized what they were doing, I personally think it is in poor taste (and is certainly bad form) to discuss such strong opinions, on vacation, while in the presence of someone who happens to be an American. While I realize, and have experienced first hand, how many people have a poor opinion of Americans...did these girls really think it appropriate to have these types of discussions with me while I was trying to "vacation?"

Especially so close to 9/11. It was the day before. I mean...I'm ONE American. Do they really think venting to ME, about the actions and philosophies of OTHER Americans, is going to help them? No, of course not. So, again, I felt it was in really bad taste that they would say anything, when 1) we are all trying to get to know each other better, 2) we are all trying to have a good time and 3) there is nothing to gain from it. Oh well...if I've learned anything while living here, it is that the world is FULL of different folks...with different strokes...what might not be right for one...might be right for some. hahahaha

1 comment:

  1. I'm listening! And I have really missed being able to "view" a little glimpse of your life. Thanks for posting again. Sounds like you had a great little vacation. Good for you baby. We really miss you guys here in Hawaii, and feel so blessed that we got to have you with us this summer.