FRIDAY, JULY 7, 2006. HUANG SHAN (YELLOW MOUNTAIN), CHINA. After a five and a half hour bus ride from Hangzhou to Tankou, a ten minute taxi ride from Tankou to the Cloud Valley Temple Cable Car, a ten minute cable car ride, and a 15 minute walk, my parents and I arrived at the top of Huang Shan, and checked into the Behai Hotel late yesterday afternoon.
Huang Shan is considered to be one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in China. It has a 1200-year history as a tourist attraction. Numerous painters and poets have been inspired by the spectacular, oftentimes misty, views from the top of the mountain. Today, mostly Chinese tour groups crowd the paved pathways throughout the mountain trying to find inspiration themselves.
One of the highlights of Huang Shan is the sunrise. Early this morning, my parents and I woke up for the sunrise at 5 a.m. With clouds covering the valley below, the sun made its debut in usual spectacular fashion.
As the mountain trails are steep, with many stairs, I let my parents explore at their own pace. I headed off on my own to Bright Summit Peak (Guangming Ding), followed by Lotus Flower Peak (Lianhua Feng), and the base of Heavenly Capital Peak (Tiandu Feng). The trails are all paved with rock and signed in Chinese and English, so getting around was easy. The difficult part was trying to avoid all the Chinese tour groups. (The people in a typical group all wear the same hat/shirt/button/badge and follow the tour leader, who holds a flag and speaks through a portable loudspeaker.) The weather was cloudy and misty for most of the day. The rain came poring down in the mid-afternoon as I reached the base of Heavenly Capital Peak, which I had intended to summit (one kilometer of stair climbing). The rain did scatter all the tour groups as I walked back to my hotel. As the mist dispersed from the rain, water came cascading down the mountain sides forming numerous spectacular waterfalls. For a brief period, Huang Shan showed me a facet of its beauty that has inspired painters and poets for over a thousand years.
Tomorrow is a travel day. We plan to head to the Buddhist island of Putuoshan, southeast of Shanghai. There we hope to find some remnants of traditional China--temples, pagodas, fishing villages, monks--and to escape the crowds that characterize modern Chinese cities.